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.
85 years ago today on June 27, 1936 my parents Maude Louise Littlefield and Joseph Albert (Al) Freeman were married in Baltimore, MD. They sort of eloped although apparently everyone knew. Sadly there are no wedding pictures although in my minds eye I have created one.
These are my parents on their 25th anniversary in 1961 and their 30th in 1966.
And here is the story of my mother’s engagement ring.
This is the beach in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard, this is where we always went when I was growing up. I remember one time in particular when I was there with my parents when I was about three or four years old.
After playing in the water with my dad and digging in the sand with my mom we started gathering up our blanket and things to leave. All of a sudden my mother gasped and yelled for my father… “my diamond ring is gone” she said in alarm. My dad immediately took charge of the situation by telling me NOT to move, just stay put. I quickly rushed over to the people nearby and told them my mother had just lost her ring in the sand and my father was going to find it. So much for listening. They, along with other beach goers who had heard me, started to get up to help my father look for the ring. “No” he said.. “don’t walk on the sand, if the sand is disturbed any further the ring will sink lower, I think I might have only one chance to find it.” We all held our breaths as he surveyed the situation and then after what seemed like an eternity (especially to me who was staying still) he scooped up a handful of sand. Miraculously there, shining out from the sand was my mothers diamond engagement ring.
I’m still amazed that he found it, how did he know where to look, how had my running through the sand not made it sink lower? I’m sure that ring was being watched over somehow
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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.
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 (there weren’t any to be had) and ferry reservations which we managed to get, but we made it and you can read the rest of the post by CLICKING HERE to find out more, like who we sat next to and how I reacted to seeing Carly for the first time and at a venue that couldn’t have been more perfect.
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.
The Martha’s Vineyard Gingerbread Houses and Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs.
The Tabernacle is a unique structure, with wrought iron arches and supports, two clerestories with dozens of colored glass windows, and an octagonal cupola, it is the physical and spiritual center of the Campground. This magnificent iron structure was built in 1879 and in 1979 was listed in the Natl Register of Historic Places… in 1999 a major restoration began, in 2000 it became a project of Save America’s Treasures, and in 2005 it was recognized by the US Dept of Interior along with the rest of the MVCMA site as a National Historic Landmark. Those are some of the facts of the building but not necessarily what constitutes the heart and soul of it.
**The original layout of Wesleyan Grove was a simple formation of a circle enclosing the preaching area and the society or church tents. In 1859 a road, now known as Trinity Circle, was built which encircled that area. In 1864, the Association purchased the 26 acres it had been renting. As the area continued to expand (additional grounds were purchased in 1866), it developed in a radial-concentric pattern which was little used in America at that time. The smaller circles, some surrounded by larger circles, had small paths radiating from them leading to other circles or parks. The method of the grounds layout was an additive one of discrete neighborhood units, each built around small various shaped parks.**
The whimsical Victorian cottages found in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard are an exceptionally well-preserved collection of Methodist camp meeting houses.They are laced with fanciful gingerbread details in an array of shapes and colors.
This is the first cottage on Martha’s Vineyard Methodist Campground ~ 1864
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.
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