A Trip Down Memory Lane

Martha’s Vineyard 1985
Thinking back to the summer of 1985, I was 17 years old and going to be a Senior in high school that coming year. My brother, Bob would be going to Duquesne College in the fall and my sister, Debbie would be a Junior in high school. Tommy would have been nine years old. And Aunt Mary, my Mom’s sister came with us, who in addition to being our Aunt was also a good friend.

I have so many fond memories from that vacation in Martha’s Vineyard — and I have wanted to return ever since that year. I think that vacation was bittersweet — not knowing at the time it would be our last big trip as a family.

Martha’s Vineyard 2015 — What had changed?
I’m glad we ended up going the last week of September over my birthday — during off season. It was probably about as busy as it was in 1985 during peak season. I can’t imagine what it would have been like in peak season if we had gone in June! I would think there would be traffic gridlock on the island and in the towns. We had a hard time finding parking almost anywhere we went. Of course, they recommended alternative forms of transportation, such as biking, but that’s kind of hard to do on crutches!

We noticed lots of contractors — I mean at every turn. Maybe everyone hired contractors at the end of the season. But these guys had big trucks with ladders over the top and buckets hanging off the back. And they didn’t stop at stop signs or yield to other vehicles whatsoever. The streets were narrow around Edgartown, and you could barely get by their vehicles. Thank goodness I had mirrors that flipped in, because I swiped a telephone pole more than once.

I can only imagine the Millers of 1985 coming into Edgartown with our big truck camper! It’s quite a different atmosphere today. The shopping in Edgartown is only for the luxury shopper. There would be nowhere to buy a water purse filled with glitter or pop beads today. Most of the stores were clothing stores and were exclusive and expensive — and we all know that’s just not us. They cleaned up the docks in a bad way. Gone were the birds — the cranes and the seagulls. I used to sketch those birds on the docks in Edgartown. They even built a restaurant where the fishing boats came in. It was so clean and there was no fishy smell. I’m sure that was part of the island’s tourism plan. Sometimes forward progress makes me sad.

I couldn’t wait to get to Chappaquiddick Island! I wanted to see what had changed and what had stayed the same — I have such vivid memories there. The Dike Bridge has been repaired and expanded — obviously a tourist destination — and you had to pay $280 to drive your vehicle across your bridge and out onto the beach. I remember the carefree day that we spent as kids crossing the bridge, watching our step so we didn’t fall through and going out onto Leland Beach. Deserted. Just us. It was amazing. We carved messages in the driftwood. Today, it is a nice touristy thing to do, but I’m so thankful that we had that day back in 1985.

Martha’s Vineyard had become a true tourist destination in every sense of the meaning. Regardless, we had the best vacation we could ever imagine.

Tom and I went somewhere everyday, despite the rain that had moved in on Wednesday and the fact that I was on crutches. We found great bar & pub restaurants — and even tried new food choices. We didn’t have fast food for an entire week, because it’s not allowed on the island (except for a Dairy Queen that was grandfathered in before it became law) . The fact that it was next to the last week of the season — almost everything in Oak Bluffs was 50% off. Oh, did I mention Oak Bluffs? I don’t remember that town at all from 1985. And wow, was I missing out!!!

Oak Bluffs was my kind of shopping! One entire street was dedicated to typical tourist souvenirs. And everything was 50% off. My favorite shop was Craftworks, a store that had artist works from all over the country (not 50% off)! I love glass work and bought the most beautiful bird plates and platter. I also purchased handblown glass pumpkins just in time for the holiday!


This town was nothing like I had ever seen before. There were rows of “gingerbread houses” — all with slightly different architecture and colorful paint. Some of them were bed & breakfasts, but we’d never stay there. We found plenty of parking in Oak Bluffs — maybe it was just the time of day or the fact that it was cold and raining, but we loved it.

Going to the Gayhead Lighthouse was a challenge for me that I refused to give into! You had to climb stairs, then a gradual climb to a steeper climb where we could finally get photos of the lighthouse and cliffs. Coming down was more of a challenge. I was afraid of losing my balance, so I asked Tom to walk in front of me! That night I had to use the ice pack!

We went onto South Beach the same day we arrived. We knew rainy weather was coming, and I was determined to see the ocean! It was tough-going on crutches— sinking in about 10″ — but I figured it out. There were probably about 10 people on the beach. Nobody was in the water that I can remember, even though Tom said it was really warm. I could see vehicles out on the beach about two football fields away. We found the entrance to that area, and I tried to talk Tom into taking my SUV out there. But he was too afraid we’d get stuck in the sand and have no experience with what to do. He was right.

We wore shorts on Monday, because it was so warm and even considered going swimming. Tuesday, we wore jeans with a light jacket and by Wednesday, we dug out anything we brought that resembled winter clothing! It was COLD.

Even our ferry ride back to the mainland was an adventure for us! We moved our trip up to 8:00 am (from noon), because our family in Pittsburgh was worried about the hurricane and the weather. They wanted us to get off the island while we could, and we didn’t have anything planned for Friday. After all, we heard that Hyannis had already canceled their ferry transports. We got there about 7:30 am and were second in line. A freight ferry had just unloaded and the crew asked each of the cars that were lining up for the 8:00 am ferry if we wanted to get in early and catch a ride on the freighter. We were like, “Sure!” Tom said, “Can we get a spot near the elevator, because my wife is on crutches.” The guy laughed and said, “There is no elevator and you stay in your vehicle.” And that was that.

Of course, every time we boarded the ferry, both in Woods Hole and now in Vineyard Haven, we got harassed about our Steelers license plate on our vehicle. Tom would always talk scores with them and it was all in good fun. Once we boarded, we realized after about 15 minutes that we were the only vehicle facing out to the ocean, and the gate they closed was some kind of mesh net. Are you kidding me? The ferry was already rocking from the rough water. It turned out to be terrifying and exciting all at the same time! I was texting with my sister the entire time, and Tom was keeping his foot on the brake and emergency brake. We actually talked about what to do if our SUV plunged off the backend of this freighter. I mean — the water was rough! The waves were crashing over the sides at times. And it was rocking! But, we got to the other side safely and got an early start home.

I’m sure that Tom got sick of hearing the phrase, “30 years ago…” as I must have said that a hundred times, remembering all kinds of small things as we toured the towns in Martha’s Vineyard. But, that was 30 years ago, and I love the trip we took this year. It is now my new Martha’s Vineyard with Tom. So maybe one day we’ll be saying, “10 years ago when we were here…” and remember those days fondly.

Always  B E L I E V E !

4 thoughts on “A Trip Down Memory Lane

  1. Debbie

    I remember the kite store. It was this cute little shop full of kites — all shapes and sizes, so colorful! They were hanging everywhere. And they had a store with nothing but teddy bears.

    Mom let us go to the movies one night by ourselves. It was Bob, Tom, Aunt Mary, you and me. The theater was in the town hall or something. The movie they showed was the Goonies. Tom was small and he thought it was so funny when the statue broke. I remember him telling mom and dad about that.

    I remember taking bike rides along the road near the water. We also drove to the other side of the island to swim in the ocean. The beaches were nice and had large waves. Bob and Tom played with a Portuguese Man-O-War and it stung Tom. Remember how the waves would knock us and Aunt Mary down? So much fun.

    That was a really fun beautiful place.

    Reply
    1. Pam Believes Post author

      I remember the Portuguese Man-O-War incident! Bob told Tommy to pick it up to see if it was a weather balloon. Tommy was crying because he got stung everywhere. Mom and Dad told him to stop whining, because they didn’t realize what had happened. After he kept on crying, Mom finally went and found the lifeguard who treated him immediately with meat tenderizer (or something like that). We had to leave after that so they could get some of the meat tenderizer and care for him at the house.

      The Goonies movie was so fun. I tried to find the town hall where it was held and that’s gone or not used as movie theater anymore. I did find the town hall and I did find a separate movie theater. There was no parking, so I don’t know how they could ever fill a movie theater today.

      The kite and teddy bear stores are gone and replaced with expensive clothing. Too bad, because those stores were so fun!

      Reply
  2. Aunt Mary Post author

    I asked Aunt Mary to share her memories of Martha’s Vineyard. Here was her response to me:

    So many. I always remember the oak, winding staircase. It was so fancy to me at the time. Others were bike riding, walking the beach, seeing an outside shower so people didn’t get sand in the house, the upstairs bathroom with two showers, the inflatable birthday cake I got at one of the shops, mint chocolate-chip ice cream in an ice-cream parlor, beach at Chappaquiddick, toured the submarine (the next morning it left so who-ever didn’t tour it that day, they were out of luck, it was gone the next morning). I forget who toured it with me, the others said “they’d tour it the next day”, but they were out of luck. Fancy cars, boat ride over to the island, your mom saying “had to be quiet because there was a funeral at the church right next to the house”, policeman on the street corners. Souvenirs.

    Reply
    1. Pam Believes Post author

      I must have been one of the procrastinators, because I don’t remember the submarine. It’s funny what we each remember. I don’t remember the funeral either or your blow up birthday cake! But that sounds awesome, do you still have it?

      Reply

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