I would have loved to have known Stuart MacMackin; you probably would have, too. Born Oct. 2, 1914, he died 30 years ago at his Edgartown home on March 27, 1983. Edgartown was his winter home; his summer home was at Sumner Park in East Chop — but he grew up during the summer on Circuit avenue on the second floor of the building then called Greene’s block, which today houses Craftworks, Sanctuary, The Lazy Frog and B Tru.
The Greene building was owned by Stuart’s grandfather, Hamilton J. Greene, representative to the General Court, superintendent of the water works, a carpenter, a butcher and an officer of the Vineyard Grove Company, successor to the Oak Bluffs Land & Wharf Company. A Dartmouth and Cornell Law School graduate, Mr. MacMackin went on to become corporate counsel for General Electric’s Aircraft Division until retirement in 1980, when he came home here to live full-time.
You may know of Stuart MacMackin from his writings in the Martha’s Vineyard Museum’s Dukes County Intelligencer. In the August 1982 edition, he wrote a sweet and loving story about the Phidelah Rice School of the Spoken Word, reviewed in last week’s column. He wrote the article with first-hand knowledge, having performed at the Rice Playhouse as an extra when he was young. Days before he died, he edited From the Tivoli to the Ocean View, accompanied by Taxi, Anyone? Taxi Mister? These fond remembrances of people and times gone by were published in the May 1983 Intelligencer.
To me, though, Stuart MacMackin’s piece de resistance was the Intelligencer’s February 1983 feature article: I Was a Circuit Avenue Street Kid, a story I’ve read so often I’ve lost count. In it, Mr. MacMackin diagrams the Circuit avenue of the 1920s, describing in minute detail the stores, the characters, the sights, smells and sounds of a time gone by. From a purely historic perspective, the article is simply priceless. Several of the buildings still exist: Norton’s Drug remains in the same place but with a new name, The Corner Store, and the Eagle Theatre is now the Island.
The Street Kid article can be enjoyed for its literary value, carefully-crafted and articulate enough to read a second time in that light alone. But Stuart MacMackin was hysterical, in my mind rendering J.D. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield droll. His humor was subtle enough in places that you may read an additional paragraph before laughing aloud. Here’s a sample — the third sentence of Street Kid: “My first visit to Oak Bluffs was in the summer of 1914, some months before I was born in October.” Interspersed with fascinating pictures of the places he writes about, it’s easy to see how difficult it is to absorb the 26-page treatise at a single sitting. I’ve had to replace my copy as a result of walking through town with it attempting to identify all the places that once were. One of the easiest is the former Deon’s, formerly Pomodoro, formerly Papa’s Pizza, once the Unicorn and once the A&P, as evidenced by the tiled logo still lying in front of the store’s front door. Mr. MacMackin may have loved Oak Bluffs more than anyone in history — and his writing is proof. I Was a Circuit Avenue Street Kid, The Dukes County Intelligencer, Vol. 24, No. 3; February 1983, is available at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum for $10.
On April 5, 2005 the Tabernacle was declared a National Landmark.
Today is also selectman Walter Vail’s birthday. We hope it’s a happy one indeed.
Martha’s Vineyard Community Services is once again disposing of electronic things that don’t work tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on their campus, opposite the high school. Fees are modest, ranging from $1 to $30
While you’re reducing clutter, the Oak Bluffs Library is happy to accept books, CDs and DVDs from 12:30 to 2 p.m. tomorrow.
The annual townmeeting on Tuesday, April 9 at 7 p.m. at the high school promises to be one of little drama, much accomplishment and better reports than from years past. The finance committee voted unanimously in favor of the highway department’s street repair plan. I hope you will too.
Deborah Mayhew hosts a celebration of the life of her partner Todd Follansbee with a memorial service followed by a potluck and music by local bands the Stragglers and the Bodes at the agricultural hall tomorrow at 5 p.m.
MV Gourmet Café and Bakery opens for the season Thursday; Back Door Donuts opens Friday at 7:30 p.m. and the bakery will be open day and night during the school vacation. Fritters!
Keep your foot on a rock.