Island tour

A tour of Block Island | Block Island Time

May reading these pages provide an inspiring thought about American survival on an island frontier where self-sufficient settlers, dependent on their own independence, bequeathed this spirit to their descendants. What heritage!
Maizie’s books find us. For various reasons, they are written, published, distributed and sold. Then they begin their journey through hands-on homes and then to local, regional, national and, in some cases, international destinations. (There’s nothing better than holding a worn, battered, flipped book.) Throughout their book tour, what lies within the pages of the writer’s endeavor will entertain, inform and, in some cases will influence the reader’s point of view. look at their view of the world. Books can enlighten, uplift, and lead to more questions. Books are grounded and can give an open mind a new perspective on understanding the world as it was and is. More importantly, reading a book takes effort and makes us think. We need to exercise our brains like we would a muscle.
The book of which I speak began its tour-travel on Block Island in 1957, and this copy, autographed by the author, has now found its way into my hands in the Standby cabin at Point Judith; it’s been a long tour – do the math. “Block Island Scrapbook” was written by Maizie Rose. The inscription of this collector’s item foreshadows what is contained in the context of the historical narrative. It is an informative, direct and evocative quote from the author. As I read this book, it became apparent that the person who wrote this story paid close attention to his home, hearth, and surroundings. Moreover, it was clear that the author had written all this for posterity. Besides raising a family on the south side of the island called Lewis Farm, Maizie Rose was also a taxi driver who used to do tours of the island. This book offers the reader an old-fashioned, winding tour of the island steeped in personal, local, and historical anecdotes. It’s an entertaining ride.
Several weeks ago a friend was in town from San Francisco and stopped by the Standby cabin. Debbie Doctor is a local woman whose late father, Dr. Wilbur Doctor, was a revered college journalism professor.
of Rhode Island. Debbie knew about my columns and my connections to Block Island and wanted to pass the book on to me. Debbie told me she found it at a garage sale with an old postcard of Old Harbor inside the book. Subsequently, the book ended up on my sailboat where I did a short job leafing through the pages. My familiarity with Block Island made for a quick read. Then, a few weeks after reading
Maizie’s book, I got my hands on Keith Lewis’ book “The Old Man, A Block Island Sea Captain And the Woman He Loved”. These two books ended up being read on my sailboat, Reverie. I loved those titles and inhaled the ink from the pages of both books. What I didn’t know while reading these books – until it was revealed in the pages – is that Maizie was Keith Lewis’s grandmother. Go figure how it all intersects. I guess that’s just life, that’s all.
In 1957, Payne’s Dock was where Block Island ferries docked. Ferries from New London and Point Judith docked there and passengers disembarked and dispersed. This is where we would have seen Maizie in
his taxi, and that’s where his book begins. A woman, who was visiting the island for the first time, describes the carnival atmosphere of Payne’s Dock. “Taffee”, “Clamcakes and Chowder”, “Lobster Dinners!” “Taxi! Taxi!” “Above the city?
“Take a taxi to the beach?” The newcomer describes the chaos of a busy summer day as she walks down the dock and meets Maizie for the first time. As she approaches a car bearing a sign that reads Island Tour, the woman was surprised there was a woman behind the wheel.
“Excuse me, are you driving this taxi?” she asks.
“Yes,” she smiled amiably, “I am one of those drivers.”
“I see,” then I asked hesitantly, “Would you please tell me what an ‘Island Tour’ is?”
“Certainly,” she answered. “It’s a tour of the island; it takes about an hour and ten minutes, longer of course if you want to stop and take pictures; up to five people and the fee is five dollars; or the car can be rented by the hour….
“Five dollars!” Not rudely but skeptically, I interrupted the obviously well-rehearsed speech: “Over an hour! What is there to see in this small town?
After that little chat, Maizie and her new fare descend to the end of Payne’s Dock, turn right, and head out to the west side for a winding tour of Block Island.
Maizie’s book has a unique structure, and because I have an inquisitive mind, I wondered if Maizie had built the narrative using a combination of new fare she encountered over time. And perhaps she expanded the questions of a variety of these tariffs to fit into the narrative, which contains facts about: fishing, farming, the War of Independence, self-government, the education, shipwrecks and Elizabeth Dickens. Miazie gave this woman a great tour of the island and it was worth every penny of five bucks. Additionally, Maizie’s book contains a series of photographs that help the reader understand the history of Block Island.
the local nobility and the “furriers”, as people who were not “islanders” were called. Maizie was born in Nebraska and moved to Block Island when she was four years old.
My dad’s adoptive brother was a childhood friend who was also a guy from Pawtucket, Rhode Island. His name was John Cunningham. He was a doctor. My uncle knew Leo McAloon – Vin’s father – who was also from Pawtucket and was Block Island’s undertaker. In 1957 I witnessed the very scene at Payne’s Dock which is described in detail in Maizie’s book. And, I remember my uncle and my dad taking three of us kids to Block Island for a little visit one summer day. I remember my uncle telling my dad about a taxi driver named “Maizie, who looked like a character.” My uncle John must have heard of Maizie from Leo McAloon. Maizie’s name has been on a file in my head since I was seven; my long-term memory is solid. I also remember we all piled into a big cruiser with a lady at the wheel that took us to the southeast lighthouse. I vividly remember seeing, as the sand blew the cliffs into my eyes, Jack and Esta Gray’s house, which was located very close to the cliffs. I remember the taxi driver came out with us to the cliffs. Finally, I can see all of the above as if it happened yesterday. However, ahem, that’s all my seven-year-old head remembered from Tour de l’île de Maixie.
Nota Bene: I will give this book to the Lewis family for their archives.