My grandparents came here somewhere around 1915. My father’s brother was born in Portugal and he came over with my grandfather. My father was the first to be born here in Provincetown. My grandparents came from the Algarve, and they were fishermen like all the other Portuguese people that came. They got a house on Washington Ave and my father grew up there. My mom was born and raised here as well. Her mom and dad were both born in Provincetown as well.My dad started Art’s Dune Tours in 1946. Before that, there was a company out here called Mitch’s Beach Taxi Service. He worked for Mitch’s, then he went to war, came back, bought a ’36 Ford Woodie, started his own business, and we’ve been doing it ever since then. We’ve been doing this since long before the park service was established—they came in 1961. They trailed it, permitted it, put in a lot of rules and regulations, but the public access was still there.
A lot of people over the years just continued to do a lot of destruction, so the government decided to close more and more of the dunes off to preserve their natural beauty. More and more were cut back. Starting in 1981, they still allowed public access, but they restricted it to the dune tour companies and the people who owned shacks out there. Currently, we’re the only ones left doing it, the only surviving company.
My father had a passion for doing this. It was what he loved to do. He said to me a long time ago, “You know what, Robert, if you love what you do, it’s never really work.” That’s why we lasted so long: It’s what he loved to do and it wasn’t really his work. Other companies came and went, but you always saw Art’s down on the corner there.
I think he wanted everyone to enjoy the scenery, the history, and the spirit of the whole area. I think he wanted them to enjoy it as much as he did. And I think it worked, and that’s why people kept coming back. Some of the stories he would tell, you could just keep hearing them year after year.