I picked up a new book at the library that should be of interest to all our town’s founding families of Portuguese descent. The Portuguese, by Barry Hatton, an English chap, I believe. (Try calling an American guy or dude a chap and watch out for the blank stare.) Mr. Hatton has served on the journalism beat in Lisbon for decades, and has raised three native Portuguese girls — the only sure way to learn that very difficult language; yikes, the pronunciation! — so he knows his stuff. He also wrote a biography of Portugal’s first female prime minister, Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo.

What I know of our town’s original Portuguese families is this: They arrived here in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Coming from the Azores, they were already experienced farmers and fishermen, so they supplied abundant produce, flowers and seafood to the Gilded Age tourists who flocked to these shores every summer.

This early training in seasonal business gave the Azoreans a huge advantage over earlier settlers who’d relied on other ventures, such as whaling. We know how well that worked out. Nowadays in Oak Bluffs, the oldest established businesses, lodged in buildings whose mortgages were retired some six or seven decades ago, descend from these enterprising families.

The crown jewel of this heritage is the Portuguese-American Club, where in the darkest nights the lights are always on. One of the great accomplishments of the club is to award generous scholarships to graduating seniors of all P.A. Club members. Back in 2002, our Charlie received this $1,000 prize. I remember this distinctly because, as the sole Jew in his graduating class, we assumed our boy would be the beneficiary of the Hebrew Center’s scholarship. But no, they awarded it to the class valedictorian (as if that’s any reason!), so the grant from the P.A. Club struck us as particularly poignant. Thank you! You like us! You are in our hearts for all time!

Mr. Hatton describes the Azores as “dreamscapes for anyone looking to flee a crowd.” That was putting it mildly considering the archipelago is some 995 miles across the Atlantic from the Mother Country. “Stuck on a rock in the ocean there is limited scope for betterment, and mass emigration has been a trait of these islands’ history.”

So how smart was it to settle here on another stunningly beautiful island with an added advantage of having only a few miles of water between it and the rest of civilization (so-called)? No wonder those early families sniffed out opportunity like mad, got busy catering to the summer crowd and, over the years, buying up property when it was cheap and plentiful. These were also people who, like so many other exiles to the New World, defined themselves by old customs and burdens of which they wanted no further part. Mark Twain wrote during a visit to the Azores, “The donkeys and the men, women, and children of a family all eat and sleep in the same room, and are unclean, are ravaged by vermin, and are truly happy.”

Actually, personally, I would have stayed there. Aside from the vermin and maybe sleeping with the donkeys, it sounds divine! And by the way, I know a number of descendants who’ve expressed a desire to visit their ancestors’ original islands, having heard the stories about their unsurpassed beauty. Add forested mountains to the seascapes we have here and you’ll start to get the picture.

In other news, artist and craftswoman Ayn Chase will be celebrating her 85th birthday on Dec. 11. We know her work from the pierced and painted lampshades on display at the Secret Garden. She also has a loom at home and weaves everything from place mats to pot holders. In honor of this watershed birthday, the shop will be offering discounts on Ms. Chase’s objets d’art.