A Name for an Island

Names of places can be quite confusing if you are looking through this country’s maps. Rhode Island is no more an island, than Hawaii is attached to the mainland. We have a hard time naming islands consistently. Oh what fun. Hawaii is an Island, Puerto Rico is an island too. Our favorite islands aren’t called Island with the exception of Staten Island. Manhattan, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard stand alone without any evidence they are surrounded by water. Rhode Island isn’t an island.
Block island is an exception in a world of odd named islands we know about.
It is a rare place that has the name island in its moniker. You wouldn’t dare call the place “Block” and leave out that extra word. And no one is suggesting that Rhode Island be renamed. What would you call it if you had the choice?
It is too late for us to go and rename geographic locations, though I’ve seen only one place in my community that recently was renamed. Aquinnah was once called Gay Head. The earlier name was spoken with authority and it went on for more than a century with not much quibbling. But beginning in 1998, we’ve got a different and hopefully more appropriate name.
I live in a town called Vineyard Haven. Well, it isn’t its only name. On the Town Report it is called Tisbury. The whole town is Tisbury, but the part near the water and downtown is affectionately referred to as Vineyard Haven. More than a century before it was called Holmes Hole.
Yes, my town has two names.
Not too many years ago, maybe a decade, I was standing in front of the Tisbury Town Hall when a station wagon loaded with children pulled up. The driver looked frantic. The children inside were crying and noisy. That wasn’t the only reason why the driver seemed upset. Obviously at the edge of his rope, he shouted at me. “Can you please tell me how to get to Vineyard Haven?”
I said: “You are in Vineyard Haven.” That is a true story.
God bless the lost visitor who is driving through Vineyard Haven looking for Tisbury, or driving through Tisbury and hoping to stop in Vineyard Haven.
Drivers going through Vineyard Haven and looking for Tisbury, will be deeply disappointed when they cross the town line on State Road into the next town, and see the West Tisbury town road sign. What happened? A poor confused driver will only understand what happened and get a pleasant surprise if he looks in his rear view mirror and sees the sign behind him.
If he turns around and comes back, he’ll be pleased to see there it is in clear English: Town of Tisbury.