Celebrating 50 years of Hospitality
Long before it became Arend's Samoset-on-the-Sound Bed and Breakfast, Valgerd "Val" and her late husband Stanley Arend's house was known as a popular guesthouse among summer friends and family. After spending the day on Pay Beach (now the Oak Bluffs Town Beach), everyone would climb up the beach stairs and rush across the street to the Arends.
"This house was like a gathering place for all teenagers in this area," recalls Ed Charter, longtime friend of Ms. Arend's son Stanley, and part of the group's Pay Beach Gang. "Every night in the summer there would be 15 to 20 young people here," he says. "There would be live bands and good entertainment. The house would be shaking. It was famous for always having a party."
Last Friday, under the spectacle of the fireworks display, the Arends had a party to celebrate the bed and breakfast's 50th year, along with Ms. Arend's 80th birthday. The Pay Beach Gang was there, as were family, friends, and regular guests.
While reminiscing about the late-night parties at the inn that started after a day on the beach, and of hanging out at the Sea View Hotel and Lover's Rock (to the left of the town beach jetties), the guests took turns praising Ms. Arend for her hospitality through the years.
Ms. Arend's niece, April Anastacio, who started working for her aunt as a chambermaid when she was 14 years old, remembers the parties.
"From what I remember, they called this house the Animal House of Martha's Vineyard, because Stanley went to Dartmouth, where the movie was filmed," says Ms. Anastacio, who still works for Ms. Arend as the bookkeeper. She quickly adds, "But it was really the opposite."
Ms. Arend always prided herself on her zero-tolerance rule for illegal drugs, as well as the fact that party-goers were kept busy with the games that were provided: ping-pong, cards, various board games, even roof-top tag. And then there was the music that including performances by Island-favorites like Johnny Hoy.
"There was zero tolerance for illegal drugs," Ms. Arend emphasizes. "They played ping pong, they played piano, they played guitars."
Photos by Eleni Collins
Her son, Stanley Arend, says, "In the 60s, there was social upheaval, the hippie movement, and there were a lot of runaway kids. We took in some troubled kids of our generation."
As a result of her caring nature, the home became a haven that many could call their summer home away from home.
"Val was very nurturing," says Mr. Charter. "She was always ready to give advice, and she was very opinionated."
Says her son, "My mother was sympathetic to people who needed help. If they got kicked out of their mother's house, they'd come stay here for a week."
Ms. Arend says, "Each and every one of them came over to tell me how wonderful it was to be here with us, with me, and that I was always understanding. If they needed someone to talk to or to be with, they'd come over here."
The Arends started the bed and breakfast at a time when there were few guesthouses in Oak Bluffs, and when the current guesthouses along Seaview Avenue were private homes.
"There was the Circuit House, managed by Kerry Scott, on Circuit Avenue," recalls Mr. Arend. "We opened the following year, then a horde of guest houses opened up."
Not realizing they were starting a trend, the Arends started Samoset-on-the-Sound as a means to be able to own the house and pay for upkeep.
"It was so expensive to keep it, so we went into the bed and breakfast business," recalls Mr. Arend. "The idea was to maintain it. It was getting run down, and we used the income to keep it maintained."
Ms. Arend's main focus now is for the building to remain unchanged - as she says, "to hold onto the real Island." Built in 1873, the house retains its original charm. She walks through the rooms and points out the old doorknobs, the slanted floor, and the original furniture, as well as gifts she has received from clientele throughout the years.
The bed and breakfast has many returning guests each year. This past weekend, Mike MacKinnon came for his fifth year in a row, and a couple returned on Sunday and stayed in the same room they were in several years ago. Other regulars include professional piano players, who frequently book rooms to play on the famed old oak upright that Ms. Arend's father repaired using fishing wire, 50 years ago.
"We've had several people coming here since we've opened," says Mr. Arend. "One person has come since she was three, and still comes with her own family now."
Amidst much change elsewhere, much has remained the same at Samoset-on-the-Sound. As noontime approached last Sunday, Mr. Arend packed his beach bag to go boating with George Valentzas, another member of the Pay Beach gang. They anchored off the Inkwell beach jetties and swam as they did 50 years ago, and then returned to the house to relax on the porch and watch the life on Nantucket Sound.