As I watched Serena Williams use her skill and determined will to play her last hurrah on the Arthur Ashe Courts in Forest Hills, N.Y. this past week, I couldn’t help but think of our own U.S. Open here on the Vineyard.

The Oak Bluffs Tennis Club organized the Oak Bluffs Open that was also held on Labor Day weekends. Founded by Ed Brooke and others, Shearer scion Lincoln Pope Jr. served as its first president. Our Open was initially played on Niantic Park tennis courts. As it grew, playing spread out to the Island Inn and the Tucker courts. The evenings featured cocktail parties, moonlit boat rides, jazz brunches and dancing at Lola’s and more. For decades, this was the weekend!

The club flourished under the leadership of Larry Smith, who took over as president in 1985. In 1999, more than 100 players competed in men’s singles, doubles and mixed doubles. In 1994 Governor William Weld issued a proclamation declaring August 28 through Sept. 3 as Oak Bluffs Tennis Week in recognition of the club’s thirty-fifth anniversary tournament.

You will recall that Althea Gibson preceeded Serena Williams in tennis history. She won Wimbledon in 1957 and 1958, and visited the Oak Bluffs town courts in August 1960. She was the guest of Dr. and Mrs. Kenneth McClane in their cottage on Dempster Park in the Highlands.

Tennis was the social activity and was played in the Mary Tucker Invitational Tournament, on weekends with Tommy Rabbit at the Island Inn and Farm Neck, eventually at the East Chop Tennis Club and elsewhere. Many thanks to Bill Hayling, Laura Hayling, Hilton Davis, Bernice Davis, Winston Burnett, Lincoln Turner, Stanley Jackson, Doris Preston, Lewis Downing, Barbara Loatman, Tony Santos, Joe and Doris Mitchell, Michael Underwood and Mel Patrick who for so many years sponsored the trophies and prizes.

But today Niantic Park, like so many other recreational venues, has traded tennis for pickleball! And the fun and enjoyment of the summer is spread out over much of July and all of August. We miss the people and their spirit of play and innovation even as Oak Bluffs has grown and prospered since those days of old with new forms of recreation, culture, art and more.

Martha’s Vineyard Museum has a magnificent exhibit, The Bureau: Grow, As We Are, curated by Bobby Rogers and his team. It is a photographic portrait exhibit that is the culmination of a three-year residency with the Inkwell Haven Foundation. The inaugural residency brought together five artists and centered around a series of late-nineteenth century photographs depicting Black residents and visitors to the Island. You will also be delighted by portraits of Kahina Van Dyke and other local subjects. Stop by; you will love it!

Paradise on earth is living the Vineyard experience. Enjoy it as life is fleeting!