LOOKING BACK: My Long Life on Martha’s Vineyard. By Shirley W. Mayhew. Music Street Press. Illustrated. 246 pages. $25.

Longtime West Tisbury residents will want to read Shirley Mayhew’s affectionate recollections of their town. Her essays chronicle the years from 1947 — when she arrived as a bride to a community of 239 residents — to 2013, when this book was written. By then West Tisbury’s population had grown to 3,000.

Life was simple, if basic, in those early days when she and her husband John, a direct descendant of the Vineyard’s original settler Thomas Mayhew, arrived. The couple met at Brown University, where John had enrolled after completing service as a World War II Navy fighter pilot. Shirley, a young woman from Crestwood, N.Y., was enrolled at Pembroke College, the women’s college of the university. They became engaged in a duck blind on Tisbury Great Pond during a Thanksgiving visit to John’s mother. They were married the following fall and moved to the Vineyard.

Although book concentrates on West Tisbury life, there are also tales of school teaching and the author's travels.

Their first permanent home was a chicken coop on the farm of the late Everett Whiting, a cousin of John’s. The young bridegroom’s first employment was growing oysters in Tisbury Great Pond where Everett Whiting, his brother John Whiting and their friend Willy Huntington had decided to establish the Quansoo Shellfish Company.

None of the three was a fisherman, but John Mayhew was and was eagerly pressed into service to run the operation. Of course his bride from the New York suburbs was pressed into service, too, washing the farmed oysters to make them look more presentable and becoming secretary-treasurer for the fledgling operation.

Neither the oyster company nor the chicken coop home remained part of their lives for very long, however. It soon became clear that chicken coops were for chickens, and after nine years and three children it became equally clear that oyster farming was not going to be profitable enough to support a family. By then the Mayhews were living in the West Tisbury parsonage across from the Whiting farm. John decided to go back to school to study for a teaching career on the Vineyard. Summers would still be free for the fishing he loved.

As it turned out, both Mayhews became teachers, with Johnny teaching mathematics at the regional high school and Shirley teaching English at the Edgartown School.

Shirley with Johnny in 1949. — Courtesy Shirley Mayhew

Although the book concentrates on West Tisbury life, there are also tales of school teaching and of the author’s adventures as a traveler once her children were grown and she had retired. With Johnny happy fishing and hunting at home, Shirley became free to see the world. And she did. There are touching and thrilling chapters about her experiences in Peruvian villages, an amusing story of having tea with the animals at Tree Tops in Kenya and accounts of visits to Tisbury and Chilmark in England, and to Wales — the land of her forebears.

But the loveliest parts of Looking Back deal with the author’s life after she and Johnny Mayhew had built their own house on Look’s Pond. A devoted naturalist, she was inspired to chronicle a year on the pond in her book Seasons of a Vineyard Pond. The book, which she wrote and illustrated, is filled with her close observations of painted turtles, muskrats, frogs and dragonflies. In this memoir she describes the children of her West Tisbury neighbors, young Murphys, Whitings, Athearns and Hodgsons, Albie Scott and Roger LaHarte who swam in the pond among the turtles and frogs. They are shown in a photograph readying for a swim.

Two especially charming chapters deal with a friendly mouse with whom she shared a Chilmark getaway cabin one summer, and with Andrea, the Canada goose that for a time was part of the Mayhew family.

Looking Back is illustrated with Shirley Mayhew’s photographs of the Island taken over the years and more recent ones taken by her photographer daughter, Sarah Mayhew. The book is lovingly dedicated to the memory of her late husband John and to their children Jack, Deborah and Sarah, and their granddaughters Caroline, Lucy and Katie. “For making my long life so rich,” she writes. The author is now 88.