In the Sept. 21, 2012 column I wrote about a June 1953 article entitled Oak Bluffs Was Definitely an Island Once by Joseph Chase Allen. The piece posited that an ancient passage from the head of Deep Bottom Pond to the head of the lagoon was a water basin that may have been hundreds of yards wide at some points with a swift current.

Forgetting that things too good to be true usually are, especially given my jingoistic views of Oak Bluffs, I didn’t bother with any fact checking. Well, I recently had the pleasure of meeting David R. Foster, author of the outstanding A Meeting of Land and Sea — Nature and the Future of Martha’s Vineyard. His book is a lifetime achievement, a paean to our Island, and the first and last word on the geological history of the Vineyard.

Tom Dunlop reviewed the book back in December, saying: “Thanks to a glacier, Martha’s Vineyard was the last piece of ground to be created in all of New England. Thanks to the rising sea, it will be the first to go.”

I was honored to meet Mr. Foster and the first thing I asked him was if Oak Bluffs had once been an island. Of course not, he said.

Circling back to the article, I discovered that Joseph Chase Allen was the Gazette’s first full time reporter. Born in Chilmark on New Year’s Day 1892 he was a character who didn’t, but should have, lived in Oak Bluffs. From a Vineyard family of 300 years, Allen had been a surveyor, soldier, commercial fisherman, motorman, farmhand and sailor. Spending little time at school he learned to read on his own and “read every darn thing I could get my hands on.”

Joseph Chase Allen sometimes wrote the news in rhyme and created a column of incidental quotes and overheard storefront conversations called Cutting Cross Lots. He also wrote about ironic events and commentary first called Vineyardana and later, Things Insular.

I learned some interesting things from one of Allen’s articles in the July 29, 1941 Gazette. Two teenagers had experienced a tough passage sailing from the mainland to Oak Bluffs harbor to participate in the Edgartown Yacht Club regatta. Drenched from head to toe and with no money, the proprietors of a local hotel allowed them an overnight stay, with dry clothes and victuals on the word that the father would reimburse all expenses (which he did).

The young men slept in Room L at what was the Ocean View Hotel, which was owned by Joseph A. Sylvia, the state representative the beach is named for. I didn’t know he once owned the Ocean View, where I once worked washing dishes and making salads and desserts. One of the young men was named Torbert Hart McDonald, who later became the congressman for the Massachusetts eighth district. And the other young man was John F. Kennedy, the future 35th President of the United States.

Oak Bluffs once having been an island? Joseph Chase Allen made that up. He got me and now I have 50 some years of his wit and marvelous writing to catch up on.

The director of the Worcester Youth Philharmonic orchestra is performing a free concert at the Union Chapel on Saturday, May 6 at 1:30 p.m. in support of arts education programs.

On Thursdays, beginning May 11 from 6 to 8 p.m., the Oak Bluffs Library is hosting a sewing school with its new sewing machines. Folks will learn how to make things like shopping bags, potholders and toys. The shopping bags should come in handy with the approaching new bag regulations reducing our consumption of plastic bags. You must register in advance; call 508-696-9433.

In his obituary on the front page of the Vineyard Gazette’s May 22, 1981 edition, Henry Beetle Hough acknowledged that Allen had written for the paper for over 55 years, with a “free-play blend of fact and imagination, Yankee humor and joy…”

Joseph Chase Allen died on May 21, 1981 in a hospital in Falmouth and is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Vineyard Haven.

Keep your foot on a rock.

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