Music Street and a Puff of Smoke

Music Street. Wonderful Music Street. Even today it would be recognizable to a West Tisburyite from sixty or eighty years ago. Not much has changed on Music Street. Music Street is the street of my childhood and has been the street of my adult life. Novels could be written, histories could be assembled, about this quarter mile of road. With any luck, my last ride will be in a homemade box, down Music Street, on the way to the graveyard across town.

This turn-of-fence at the West Tisbury Congregational Church is where Music Street begins.

The elms which lined most of the street are almost gone, but other trees have replaced them. David McCullough has planted new disease-resistant elms in front of his house, hoping that when grown they will tower over the center of Town.  There’s a big patch of bamboo now, where Gig Reynolds’ horse used to graze. Tom Craven’s barn burned down. That barn was living on borrowed time, anyway. It would have fallen down, before the fire, but Jack Mayhew put a cable and big turnbuckle between the eaves, and pulled its spreading roof back together.

I remember reading a Gazette article about Music Street, years back, which headlined with the fact that the average age of those living on the street was sixty-five.  Elmer and Elizabeth Athearn and their four children brought that average down considerably. As a child, I noticed that Music Street contained house after house of gray haired old ladies, who did gray haired old lady things. They stood in their doors. They gardened. They went to church. They did a lot of gardening. Some of them had cats.

Taking the sun, taking the view, of Music Street.

Betty Knox, in her tiny little house with a tiny little garage, had a beautiful garden in what is now a tangle of bushes, bittersweet, and young maple and wild cherry trees. That garden introduced me to the range of colors an iris can have. Every spring I pick a forcing bouquet from some remnant forsythia bushes that still maintain some territory, between the garden and the street.

Elizabeth Knox house, lights on, in the evening.

Mary Borders, round and diminutive, gardened maniacally, when she wasn’t reading tomes or playing longhair music. Back then, longhair music was what we nowadays call “classical”. That lady sure did love Bach. I was her house painter until she died, and for many years afterward was house painter to her son, who inherited the place, until he died. Mary’s tombstone is one of the finest in the West Tisbury Cemetery. Casimir Michalczyk carved that stone. If you don’t mind digressing, see: http://www.mvgazette.com/article.php?13426

And there was Ruth Brown. Ruth Brown lived in an ancient house next to the driveway to Burt’s barn, Mayhews, and Mazer’s. She worked at the hospital, and she for work at the same time we waited for the school bus. From our vantage point at the end of the street, we eagerly anticipated her daily departure for work, particularly during the period when she owned a push-button automatic transmission automobile.

Ruth began her daily trip to work by backing out of her driveway.  I don’t think she could bend her neck very well, and she may not have had a rearview mirror, because her signal to change direction of travel seemed to be the rear of her car rising up when it encountered the berm on the far side of the road. Having received this cue, she’d put the car into forward, and cruise up towards State Road.

Even though the car was automatic, Ruth had a manual transmission mind. She’d come to a stop at State Road, and punch the neutral button. Then she’d hit the gas pedal, and the engine would rev, higher and higher. Once the motor got loud enough (so she could hear it?), she would push the “Drive” button.

Off she’d go, with a lurch, a puff of smoke, a squeal of tires. Some days, she’d leave a little patch of rubber at the foot of Music Street.

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