Woodrow Wilson was President in April 1917 when we declared war against Germany and Oak Bluffs was 10 years old following our secession. In 1917 the Sankaty steamed to Nantucket on a long 14-hour trip due to its having to break ice the whole way. The year before, in 1916, the largest wild fire in Vineyard history on the great plain consumed a fifth of the Island’s acreage and in 1918, the year after, the electric railway between Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs was discontinued. The Old Variety Store’s owner, Jane Peters, who worked there since she was four, has a picture of the store and her grand-aunt from 1917 when it was the Boston Herald building. One of the top movies of 1917 was The Poor Little Rich Girl starring Mary Pickford and the seventh of the year’s top ten male names was Charles – like Charles H. (Cee Jay) Jones.

Cee Jay was part of a group that was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President Barack Obama acknowledging the segregation of African American Marines at Montford Point, Camp Lejeune during the Second World War. For 20 years Cee Jay held court at the information booth just down from the Old Variety Store. He visited the Island first in 1942 and moved here after retiring from the U.S. Postal Service. Bon vivant Cee Jay became a popular celebrity around town with kind words for all, twinkling eyes, and favorite expressions that always included the smile inducing “ta ta and apple pie” instead of goodbye. Now living with his granddaughter in Winston Salem, I spoke with Cee Jay via telephone last week. He still has that sense of humor but his short term memory is not what it once was. He misses all his friends on the Vineyard and wishes you well.

Earth Day, this Saturday, April 22, will be widely embraced, ironically, by the folks of Noepe, the land amidst the sea as the original people called it before discovery by Bartholomew Gosnold and gentrification by the Mayhews as Martha’s Vineyard afterwards. The Island Grown Initiative, the Dukes Soil Conservation District, Polly Hill Arboretum and the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society have combined to invite you to the Ag Hall on Friday, April 21 from 7 to 9 p.m. for a discussion by experts on atmospheric carbon and ways to increase soil carbon content in fields and gardens to improve productivity and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide greenhouse gas which contributes to rising water and the shrinking of the Island. The event is free to the public.

The Oak Bluffs Library encourages visitors to come and plant flower and vegetable seeds at the library from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday to take them home to sprout and transplant into the garden.

The Martha’s Vineyard Film Society hosts the first of its kind Spectrum Film Festival, featuring a world perspective on LGBTQ stories, people and issues with a variety of films, speakers, discussions, and a special event focused on LGBTQ youth. The festival is from Thursday, April 27 to Sunday, April 30 with nine different programs over the course of the four-day festival at the film center in Vineyard Haven. Check the website for more information, mvfilmsociety.com

Giordano’s will be open next Thursday, weekends only initially, and the restaurant opens May 25.

Condolences to the family and many friends of Al Carter, a long time trustee and former president of the trustee board of Union Chapel, who died in Sarasota. Plans are being made for a memorial in August at the chapel.

How special is Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard? Nantucket avenue’s Naina Williams recently visited the Smithsonian’s Oak Bluffs exhibit at the new Museum of African American History and Culture and the Newseum in Washington, D.C.—and sent me a picture of the first page of the Vineyard Gazette’s July 31, 1857 edition included in an exhibit about the importance of small town newspapers.

We’re a big small town comprised of unforgettable people. “I believe you should enjoy life and stay positive” is something Cee Jay is well known for sharing. Born in Winston-Salem on April 22, 1917, I hope he has a wonderful time Saturday to celebrate his 100th birthday.

Keep your foot on a rock.

Send Oak Bluffs news to sfinley@mvgazette.com.