Every year in September, Oak Bluffs hosts its annual street fair and block party known as Tivoli Day. Where did the name come from… and where can you find the Tivoli ! You can’t, only memories of it remain.
The two story, full block Tivoli Dance Hall stood from 1901 until 1964 where the Oak Bluffs Town Hall is today. The bottom floor housed shops and an ice cream parlor. My godmother worked in the ice cream parlor and I always enjoyed visiting her there… one time in particular jumps to mind. I was 3 years old and had newly mastered winking and was anxious to put it to use. Sitting at a table behind my mother and facing me was a sailor. Being that I was wearing a sailor dress I figured we had something in common and so I began winking at him… it did not take long for my mother to notice. She turned around and as she did the young sailor headed for our table. He smiled and said he was alone on the Vineyard for the day and wanted to tell my mother how charming he thought I was. (Blushing here). Not only did my mother invite him to join us at the table but she invited him home for dinner (this was the mid 1940’s). I was amazed at how powerful this winking thing was. I don’t know if we ever kept in touch with him but obviously I’ve never forgotten him… but I do keep the winking thing to a minimum.
The entire second floor of the Tivoli Dance Hall was just that, the dance hall. It was huge, at least in the eyes of a 4 year old being dragged there against her will for a dance lesson. I loved all the windows and how far you could see out of them, I liked the clicking noise my shoes made on the floor, I liked the brand new sundress I had on… but, I did NOT like the group dancing part. I remember reluctantly getting in line with the other victims, er children, but my feet did not move, they planted themselves firmly in one spot and stayed there. Everyone danced around me but I did not care to join in. My mother was not happy with me… not only didn’t I dance or even talk… but we didn’t even come home with a sailor for dinner.