This was then: Ole Borgen

Ole Borgen. Courtesy Chris Baer.

Norwegian-born Ole Borgen operated a general store and gas station out of the old post office building in North Tisbury, where “Bananas” is today. Borgen’s store is mostly remembered for its ice cream, penny candy, and impromptu accordion performances.

Borgen immigrated to the U.S. about 1903, and became a West Tisbury farm laborer, boarding first with Luther Norton, and soon after employed by Mrs. Maud Call, wife of Wilbert Call of the Bodfish & Call grocery in Vineyard Haven. When the grocery folded and the Calls’ marriage fell apart, Borgen moved in permanently with Maud. In the late 1920s, they opened the store together, with Mrs. Call in charge of the ice cream and Borgen in charge of gasoline. It was a North Tisbury fixture into the early 1950s.

In an interview for the Dukes County Intelligencer, summer resident Margot Wilkie of Seven Gates remembered, “Across the road, a man called Ollie Borgen lived ‘in sin’ with a Mrs. Call. Nobody paid any attention to the fact that they weren’t married. I mean that was one of the nice things about the Island. He played the accordion very well. Norwegian folk music mostly. North Tisbury was a place of sin, we were told.”

Chris Baer teaches photography and graphic design at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. He’s been collecting vintage photographs for many years.