When I saw the word bluff my mind went directly to Oak Bluffs, my favorite town on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. It’s the town my mother grew up in, the town where I spent all my childhood summers, where my grandmother is buried and where you can wander amongst gingerbread cottages, take a flight of fancy on the Flying Horses the oldest carousel in the US, where you can party hearty, enjoy great food, enjoy the beach, or sit quietly by the Tabernacle in the Campground. Can you tell I love this place 🙂 If you’re wondering how it got its name of Oak Bluffs, The first inhabitants of Oak Bluffs were the Wampanoag people, who have lived on Martha’s Vineyard for approximately 10,000 years. … The town re-incorporated in 1907 as Oak Bluffs, named because the town was the site of an oak grove along the bluffs overlooking Nantucket Sound.
Bluff: a cliff, headland or hill with broad steep face.
Ocean Park – The Flying Horses – Methodist Campground gingerbread houses.
My choice for action series are photos of the Flying Horses Carousel in the town of Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard.
And they’re off…. whooosh
The Flying Horses are the oldest platform carousel in the United States. It was made in 1876 by early American carousel manufacturer, Charles Dare. The Flying Horses Carousel was originally built for the Coney Island amusement park in Brooklyn. In 1884 after eight years there the Flying Horses Carousel moved to the town of Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard where it still remains in operation as one of only two surviving carousels fabricated by Dare. The carousel became a National Historic Landmark in 1986, the same year it was acquired by local conservation organization the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust.
There are two ring dispenser arms situated next to the carousel that offer gold rings and the lucky rider who grabs the coveted brass ring gets a free ride. I flew on these beautiful horses every day when I was a little girl.
The last time I flew on the Flying Horses a few years ago my granddaughter Tiffany was with me. I thought it might be my last time ever to ride them (I think that every time anyway)… and as my horse came around to the arm shooting the rings out I could see that the next one, the one waiting for me was the GOLD ring. What a fantastic way to possibly end my Flying Horses ride…
But I missed it … my fingers slipped and I couldn’t grab it. But… right behind me was my granddaughter and she got it. She offered me the free ride but it meant more to me that she should have it. Perfect ending, if indeed it was.
Top photo is Route 80 in New Jersey heading west to Pennsylvania and the Delaware Water Gap.
Bottom photo is Plimouth Plantation in Plymouth, Massachusetts
Below are photos from the island of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
It all began with this little snippet in the Vineyard Gazette 29 years ago in September of 1990. My daughter Deb liked Harry Connick Jr and I’m a huge fan of Carly Simon, I have been even before I knew of her Vineyard connection. This seemed like a perfect weekend getaway for us but how could I manage to get tickets when I live in NJ and they were only on sale on the Vineyard !
I did it. I was determined and when it involves the Vineyard my determination is un-stoppable. So off we went. There were a few glitches along the way concerning MV accommodations and ferry reservations so we decided to stay in Falmouth on the mainland and just go to the Vineyard for the day of the concert.
It was a spectacular September Sunday afternoon on the Vineyard, the Campground was filled with happy concertgoers bustling around..
Before the concert began we were talking with a woman sitting next to us who was going on and on about how excited she was to be seeing Carly Simon. She said she had chatted about it with her seat mate on the small plane she had flown over to MV on that afternoon. She told him she had no idea who Harry Connick Jr was but that she was mainly there to see Carly.
When Harry stepped onto the stage she gasped and said ‘oh my god, that’s the young man I was talking to on the plane.’
At 3pm the concert began. Harry’s band was fantastic and Harry’s voice velvety smooth. After about an hour or so of great music the lights were turned off. The only illumination was the sun shining through the stained glass windows around the perimeter of the Tabernacle. And then… out stepped Carly.
I was beside myself, in actuality though the person beside me was Carly’s mother. I have seen Carly in concert several times since then but seeing her on the Vineyard and at the Tabernacle was something special for me.
Harry and Carly sang a few songs together, their voices meshed beautifully. Carly did a few songs alone and then way too soon it was over. What a fantastic day, one we’ll never forget.
The reviews of the concert were glowing, much like the talents of Carly Simon and Harry Connick Jr as they stood side by side on the stage of the Tabernacle.
After the concert we had ‘drinks’ with the band at the Oyster Bar in Oak Bluffs.. us and about 100 other people. Afterwards we headed to Edgartown for dinner.
Too quickly our lovely day on the Vineyard was coming to an end. We drove back to Oak Bluffs for one last look at the now darkened Tabernacle.
We had booked a late ferry and it’s one of the few times I’ve sailed at night. The sky was star filled, a cool breeze was blowing and a young man on board was strumming his guitar and singing softly. Perfect day.
I’ve seen Carly 6 or 7 times but this was the first time and there couldn’t have been a more perfect place.
February 1989 was the first time back to the Vineyard in winter since I was a child. Following are excerpts from my travel log about that trip and also pictures taken with a non-digital camera… which does have relevance in this post. So come join me in a trip down a cold, snowy very wintry memory lane.
Picture of the Islander in dry dock in Woods Hole from aboard the ferry, Eagle.
One of my favorite places is the Campground in Oak Bluffs. I love the gingerbread cottages but most of all I really really love the Tabernacle… every time I’m on the Vineyard I take a few moments…or hour… and sit quietly there and enjoy just being. Winter is no exception and cold as it was it was warm in my heart.
Let’s wander through Oak Bluffs a little … notice Christmas tree is still in the Bandstand.
Christmas trees along the dunes at South Beach/Katama where they are brought after the holidays.
Then to Aquinnah to see the Gay Head cliffs.
excerpt from travel journal : ‘it was cold on the cliffs, maybe 26 degrees…but off I went to see them anyway. Down the road I traipsed over the dunes and onto the beach… what a sight. Thousands of rocks all shapes and sizes, and there in the distance… the cliffs… I was very excited. Took some shots and scurried back to the warm car. Noticed camera had opened a bit, closed it and didn’t think much about it. After lunch in Edgartown I rode out to the ‘bend in the road beach’ to take some pictures and noticed that the picture counter on the camera said #1 !!!! When I had gotten in the car in the morning it had said #16 !!! Something was wrong. I turned around and headed for the camera shop. Everything seems to be okay with the camera but maybe it got too cold and lost its memory and reverted to #1… or perhaps when the camera opened just that little bit it caused it to revert !! At any rate I’m having what was in the camera developed.’
The following day I picked up my photos and not only were they all fine, there was this one…. actually, these two…
shot of the cliffs taken before camera opened …
shot after I closed the camera … I’ve always kind of liked it… can’t do this with a digital camera …
After a long first day headed back to Edgartown but not before stopping at Sengekontacket Pond for the sunset…
I love the Vineyard no matter what the season but there’s a quiet, ethereal beauty in the winter.
36 years ago in August 1982 was my first trip back to the Vineyard in too long a time. I was excited, anxious and also looking forward to showing my family the place I love so much. Both my teenage daughters were supposed come, however, my older daughter Patty decided she didn’t want to, so that meant my younger daughter, Deb would have to face the vacation alone with her parents. Not a situation a teenager really looks forward to, especially when your mother turns into a crazy woman for most of the trip. Talk about embarrassing, I was the definition of it in her eyes… and quite frankly, I was a tad embarrassing once in awhile. Deb survived the trip mainly by escaping into her books… she can tell you what she was reading and where we were at the time… she still does that.
Aug 1… We drove to Falmouth and stayed there overnight. Why, I don’t know. The fact of being so close to the Vineyard and not actually on it seemed like torture. We actually drove to Woods Hole that evening just so I could look at the ferries and see the Vineyard.
Aug 2 – 6… I awoke early, okay, not really awoke since you can be sure I didn’t sleep much at all. After a quick breakfast, we drove to Woods Hole to await the arrival of the ferry. I was thrilled to be landing in Oak Bluffs, the town I grew up in as a summer kid.
(The pictures from 1982, the originals are 3×3.. they are somewhat blurry and the colors are not vivid. I took pictures of them with my digital camera today and have not altered them).
We drove into Edgartown and checked into the Kelley House. The Kelley House hasn’t changed much at all.
Unpacked, rested maybe 10 minutes and then back to Oak Bluffs to see the sights and maybe do a little reminiscing… maybe a lot.
Oak Bluffs – Lower Circuit Ave… and Circuit Ave
2009 (below) lower Circuit Ave Circuit Ave 2017
Ocean Park… the Flying Horses.. and yes, I did take a ride on them 🙂
Then into the Campground where seeing the Tabernacle for the first time in so many years was kind of emotional for me. Anyone who reads reads my blog or knows me knows I have a deep attachment for the Tabernacle.
dragging leading my little group around town for quite awhile I took pity on them and back to the hotel we went to relax. It had been a long first day and there were still 4 more to go. Yippee.
The next morning we headed Up-Island to see Gay Head. Look closely at the pictures to see the difference in the cliffs from 1982 to 2010. There’s been erosion and the colors have changed but they’re always an awesome sight to behold.
On our excursion the next day out to Menemsha we drove past my mother’s relatives house in Indian Hill. This is where I unknowingly at the time, embarrassed my daughter Deb. I wanted to get a picture of the house and while doing so notice a man in the backyard I thought I knew. To get the picture of the house I was standing half in the car and half out… I thought I was being inconspicuous. The man in the back yard didn’t see me but my daughter did and buried her nose deeper into the book she was reading. I can safely say she laughs about it now, but back then, major mother embarrassment.
On arriving on the Vineyard I was thrilled to find out we’d be there for Illumination Night. It had always been my favorite event of the summer (still is) and I was beyond excited to be there for it. (Cue another embarrassing moment or two) When the community sing began I was amazed at how quickly the words to all the songs came back to me. I sang, clapped my hands, and was 8 years old again… and my daughter sat as far away from me as she could get… can’t say I blame her, I was a little on the excited side. I cannot believe I only took ONE picture.
Our four days on the Vineyard came too quickly to an end. I was sure that I would never get back again… I still feel that way after each trip.
Was I a little on the frenzied side? Yes. I had dreamed about being back on the Vineyard for a long time and the reality of it was intense for me. Quite frankly I still get a touch of it each trip. My heart still beats quicker the closer to Woods Hole I get and try as I might I just can’t not burst into smiles.
Has my daughter Deb gotten over the embarrassment of her mothers behavior? Yes she has. She and I have made more than 20 trips to MV by ourselves and she smiles at, and enjoys my Vineyard persona.
Did my daughter Patty ever make it to the Vineyard? Yes, finally in 1996 she, her husband Mike, their daughter Tiffany, and son Tyler joined me on the Vineyard. I loved showing them everything and passing my love of the Vineyard on to my grandchildren.
But I truly cannot believe the paltry number of pictures I took in ’82… I mean really. ONE picture of Illumination Night. ONE picture of the Tabernacle. ONE picture of Gay Head. Well, things have definitely changed and now with digital cameras I can snap up a storm… and I do… and sometimes with two cameras.
In the Campground in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard sits the Tabernacle, and across from it is Trinity Methodist Church. Trinity Methodist was built in 1878, a year before the Tabernacle was erected. They have shared the same grassy circle known as Trinity Park for over 140 years.
I spent my childhood summers on Martha’s Vineyard and many of those summers I spent my mornings at Bible School in the Tabernacle. As was the custom a girl and a boy would be chosen each morning to walk from the Tabernacle to Trinity Church and ring the 8 o’clock bell. I waited almost all summer to hear my name called, I didn’t think it was ever going to happen. Finally it did and off across the lawn my partner and I scampered.
Inside the vestibule tied to the staircase railing was the thickest rope I’d ever seen.
The rope was attached to the bell way, way, way up in the steeple and the longer we stood there and pondered the situation the higher up the bell seemed to get.
First though we had to untie the rope, it did not go well, we fumbled along and finally the rope was free from the railing. Time was ticking but neither of us were aware of how close to 8 o’clock we were coming.
Now all we had to do was pull the rope and the bell would ring and … well, that did not go well either. Neither one of us had enough weight to pull the rope hard enough to ring the bell. Rope burn was the least of our problems though as now we were sure it was after 8 o’clock and we’d failed our mission. With what strength we had left we both grabbed the rope, stood on one of the steps and jumped. Just as our teacher walked in the door to see what the problem was, we heard… bong, bong, bong… it was ringing, the bell was peeling loud and strong, we had succeeded, we were saved … we had only missed the 8 o’clock bell by… oh 10 or so minutes. Who would notice!
When I got home at lunch time the first thing my mother said was “the 8 o’clock bell was a bit late this morning, do you know who was ringing it this morning?” I said it had been me… she shook her head slowly and said nothing but I did notice a little smile. By the way, I was never asked to ring the bell again.
After arriving on the Vineyard each summer of my childhood one of the first orders of business was going to the Flying Horses the oldest carousel in the United States, they came to the Island in 1884 from Coney Island.
The Flying Horses are not a carousel, or a merry-go-round, they don’t go up and down just round and round. They are flying horses, like Pegasus, and fly to wherever you can imagine . They don’t actually have wings, but as you make the first circuit you feel like you’re about to fly out the open windows.
I flew on these beautiful horses every day when I was a little girl. The ticket taker was a young man who would never take my tickets ! We tried everything to get him to take them… we brought him candy and cookies and tried slipping the tickets in with them… nothing work. At the end of the summer I said I wanted to buy him a gift, so off my mom and I went to purchase what I thought was a novel idea .. a tie. I was 5 years old, what did I know about buying gifts for men… he, by the way was about 13 but in my eyes he was a grown up. We put the tie in the box with all of summer’s uncollected tickets. As he came around to NOT collect my ticket I handed him the box. He smiled. Ah ha, success… or so I thought. As we were leaving the Flying Horses he came over and thanked us for the tie and as we turned to leave he handed us the tickets. I won’t say who he is, just that he turned out to be an official in Oak Bluffs in later years… and someone I’ve never forgotten.
The picture below was taken during the autumn when the Flying Horses had closed for the season but it didn’t mean I didn’t get a picture of them though. I positioned my camera close to the window and clicked…I got the horses… I also got the reflection of the camera and the reflection of the building across the street. I think it’s pretty neat.
The last time I flew on the Flying Horses my granddaughter Tiffany was with me. I thought it might be my last time ever to ride them (I think that every time anyway)… and as my horse came around to the arm shooting the rings out I could see that the next one, the one waiting for me was the GOLD ring. What a fantastic way to possibly end my Flying Horses ride.
But I missed it … my fingers slipped and I couldn’t grab it. But… right behind me was my granddaughter and she got it 🙂 She offered me the free ride but it meant more to me that she should have it. Perfect ending, if indeed it was.
Rings of gold are good luck I’m told…
as for riding Flying Horses you’re never too old 🙂
I’ve been to Martha’s Vineyard around Christmastime many times but to my recollection there is only one time in my life that I actually spent Christmas on the Vineyard. I was probably around 5 or 6 and my mother and I went to MV to be with my godparents.
Edward and Gertrude Norris (Nana and Pop) were my godparents. They lived part of the year in their house in Oak Bluffs which is where I spent my childhood summers. The other part of the year they lived in Newark, NJ downstairs in the same house we lived in. They were the most important people in my life besides my parents. They never had children of their own and they thought of us as their family. When my mother graduated from high school on MV she moved to Newark, NJ to live with them and to find work.
One Christmas, in the early 1950’s, when Nana and Pop were elderly, having health problems and living year round on the Vineyard and missing us, my mother decided she and I should go and spend Christmas with them. I was too young to realize this might be the last Christmas for one or both of them, all I knew was that I was going to wake up Christmas morning ON THE VINEYARD. How great would that be. The only glitch was that my dad couldn’t get off work to come with us but he insisted we go. Talk about being torn.
I seem to remember there was a dusting of snow on Christmas morning… even if there wasn’t I like to think there was. There were presents… one in particular I remember because I asked for it every year. A nurses kit. It was a white square box with a red cross on the side. Inside were band-aids, gauze bandages, a wooden thermomenter and a stethescope, a name tag… and the most important article.. a nurses cap. I spent the most of the morning bandaging people up whether they wanted to be or not.
All of a sudden I heard a faint knock on the front door !! I ran to open it and let out a shriek… it was my dad standing there with a big smile and a shirt box. A shirt box !! Yes indeed that’s all he had with him. No suitcase. No duffle bag. Just a shirt box with a couple of clean shirts and other essentials inside it. He liked to travel light.
It turned out to be one of the most wonderful Christmases of my childhood.
I am blessed to have the memories of that one Christmas on Martha’s Vineyard and of Nana and Pop, two people who were such an important part of my life.
….and happy holiday memories to all. ❤