As Oak Bluffs characters go, William Melvin Davey (1844 to 1949) may have escaped attention save a foolish highly visible marriage.

After making a fortune in California real estate, he was able to buy his home at 24 Temahigan avenue in what many call the Eastville neighborhood of Oak Bluffs in 1943. The December edition of the Vineyard Gazette that year reported that the retired real estate broker had also acquired Cedar Tree Farm in order to raise squabs, and that he planned to ship his 34-foot cruiser from New York for him to enjoy at the new residence after some alterations.

The tall, blonde-haired man was a player back on the West Coast and once considered Hollywood’s “No. 1 Catch” having dated Clarke Gable’s ex-wife Rhea. In New York he ran with another pretty young thing named Peggy Hopkins Joyce, a blonde bombshell and actress, known for six marriages to wealthy men, subsequent divorces, a series of scandalous affairs, a collection of diamonds and furs, and a lavish lifestyle (according to Wikipedia).

In 1929 Mr. Davey married a 20 year old silent film actress named Alyce Mills; a dark haired, light eyed beauty. They were divorced in 1937.

William M. Davey’s weakness for a certain type of woman eventually led him to the famous actress Gloria Swanson—and the inspiration for this column. Gloria May Josephine Swanson (1899 to 1983) had already had four husbands (one of whom was a Marquis). During one of the marriages, Ms. Swanson had a widely known, multi-year, torrid affair with the also married Joseph P. Kennedy, father of the future President John F. Kennedy.

Joe Kennedy took over the management of her finances, which, like the relationship, didn’t fare well and Ms. Swanson was said to have lost over a million dollars in failed investments, perhaps fueling her multiple marriages to wealthy men. Mr. Davey wound up the fifth of her six marriages when he sent her a note of his affection after one of her shows on New Year’s Eve, 1945.

On Jan. 29, 1945 the two were married in New Jersey, mid-way through her performing in a show entitled A Goose for a Gander, which tanked in New York early that February. It wasn’t long before Mr. Davey found out Ms. Swanson was in debt, and she found that his health was often impaired by his imbibing. The two found themselves in a (not unexpected) public, contentious divorce in December of 1948 that included accusations of infidelity.

In the end, Mr. Davey’s gifts of two star ruby rings valued at $11,000 were not returned and, for his “abandoning” her, the court awarded her $300 in weekly alimony that lasted until her next marriage. Excluding her from his will, William M. Davey died on the West Coast in 1949 with an estate valued at $300,000 (about $3 million today), the bulk of which, from 200 shares in General Motors, was given to charity.

Mr. Davey was cremated and his ashes scattered over the Pacific Ocean. Gloria married William Dufty, her sixth and last husband (who outlived her). Mr. Dufty was the co-author of Billie Holiday’s autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues.

The Davey-Swanson house on Temahigan was sold at auction to Oak Bluffs attorney Henry Corey for $15,100 in August, 1950. It is still often referred to as the “Swanson” house. That’s not the only story the house holds either.

The Polar Bears closed an exciting season of record breakers highlighted on August 19 when 148 folks participated in the exercise circle. There were over 1,500 different total people for the year. Popular screen and standup comedian Cedric the Entertainer officially joined the Polar Bears this year and there are high hopes for Michelle Obama to join in years to come. Martha’s Vineyard Museum had a Polar Bears exhibit this season and the group is included in the new National Museum of African American Art and Culture that opens officially in Washington Monday, Sept. 26.

A large contingent of Shearer descendants led by Lee Van Allen attended the preopening ceremonies of The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American Art and Culture for the media and contributors last week. The early reports of the museum and the Oak Bluffs exhibit were all euphoric.

Congratulations to the Martha’s Vineyard Museum for receiving a grant of $109,040 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ Museums for America program to move the historic 1854 Fresnel lens to the new museum at the former Marine Hospital.

A recent nostalgic conversation has led to the question; does anyone recall what was in the Cozy’s Cooler?

Keep your foot on a rock.

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