2018 Annual Guide: Yarmouth
Bass River • South Yarmouth • West Yarmouth • Yarmouth • Yarmouth Port
Bass Hole Boardwalk at Gray’s Beach on the north side of town is known for fabulous sunsets. The boardwalk itself sustained some damage in an early 2018 winter storm that may take the town some time to repair, but even if you can’t walk out to the end, it’s still a gorgeous scene to shoot.
The Cultural Center of Cape Cod is a constant draw, with concerts, gallery shows, classes and more. Located in a renovated old bank building that in itself is worth a trip to see. Nestled in South Yarmouth’s historic district across from the library, this vibrant nonprofit lives up to its motto of providing arts for all.
Mom & Pops:
Keltic Kitchen in West Yarmouth is known for its traditional Irish breakfasts and lunches for good reason. With a cozy, hometown ambiance, it’s been family run since 1994, when the Dempseys opened it to share a taste of their native Ireland.
The annual Yarmouth Seaside Festival, held Columbus Day Weekend, has plenty of variety, from a craft fair, parade and pumpkin decorating to fireworks and the ever-popular bed race. Doing some spring cleaning? The Yarmouth Senior Center wants to help you with their Giant Indoor Yard Sale. Rent your own table or shop around for some great bargains.
A day in the life of: Duncan Oliver, local historian and member of the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth
By Allyson Plessner
Yarmouth is a town guided and characterized by history. All it takes is a walk down “Captains’ Mile”—a winding stretch of road, shaded by grand trees, that takes visitors back in time past stately Colonial homes—to make it obvious that this area is of remarkable significance. Perhaps no one understands this better than Duncan Oliver, who has dedicated his days to the loving preservation of Yarmouth’s history.
Oliver and his wife, Carol, retired to Yarmouth from Easton in 2000, and he was immediately recruited to be a part of the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth. “As the moving truck was backing in to unload our things, the lady from across the street came over and asked if we wanted to be a part of the historical society. She got us before we even had our stuff moved in,” he explains with a laugh.
Oliver spends much of his time among the sea of books, files and vintage photos that creep up the walls and cover the desks in the old cobbler shop that the historical society has adopted as its headquarters. “It’s nice when people who know a lot about the town want to make sure other people know about it too,” says Oliver. “The more you educate people about their town, the more they’ll like and appreciate it.” A former high school principal and history teacher, Oliver’s passion for sharing his wealth of knowledge has brought him all the way to the White House when his school was recognized as one of the best in the nation, and he now gives back to his community by teaching various classes on Cape Cod history.
Oliver has made it his mission to use his passion for teaching to ensure that the townspeople of Yarmouth are educated about the area. “I can usually get someone to say, ‘Oh wow, I didn’t know that,’ and we also have some fun. That’s what life’s all about,” he says.
One of Oliver’s favorite spots in Yarmouth is Bass Hole. He says his grandsons loved playing there when they were young, and claims wryly that he hoped to become an avid sailor and fisherman in his retirement. “I wanted my epitaph to read ‘The stripers feared his coming,’ but in truth, they show utter disdain,” he jokes.
Oliver dedicates a lot of time to historic research. He’s currently helping someone format an Arcadia book full of historic photos of Yarmouth, and he puts his knowledge to paper in other ways too. “I met Jack Braginton-Smith, a local restauranteur and historian, soon after we moved to Yarmouth, and together we started researching and writing local history,” he explains. “After writing two books together, Jack got sick, and now I carry on his memory with a monthly history article in The Register. We’ve had more than 30 people write historical articles about Cape Cod, and I end up writing four or five a year myself.”
Every morning, Oliver and his wife go to the local Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee, which they take to Bayview Beach to watch the ferries, a daily ritual for the couple. They met in fourth grade, and the rest of their story is, in a fitting turn of phrase, history. “My wife is the thing I’m most proud of,” Oliver says.
Oliver celebrates those who have left their mark on Yarmouth, and in doing so, he leaves his own mark, making a difference that will forever be remembered by people fortunate enough to experience Yarmouth and its vibrant history.
Allyson Plessner is the staff writer for Cape Cod Life Publications.
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