Clayton Hoyle was more interested in fishing than women’s shoes

Harding’s Store, 1920. L-to-R: Eva Phillips, Lucy Thomas, Mary Harding Hoyle, and Clayton Hoyle.

W.D. Harding’s clothing and shoe store stood on Circuit Avenue roughly where Reliable Market is today. Mr. Harding, a Vineyard Haven native who opened his shoe business as a young man in the 1870s, sold dry goods, clothing, and Queen Quality Shoes here until his death in 1917. Afterward, Mr. Harding’s daughter Mary and her new husband, Clayton Hoyle, took over the business. Mr. Hoyle, a well-to-do Connecticut native remembered for his smart outfits and strong opinions, added a line of toys and children’s items (including toy boats and firecrackers) to their stock.

But Mr. Hoyle was more interested in fishing than he was in women’s shoes and toys. One of the founding members of the Rod and Gun Club, Mr. Hoyle was one of the fishermen credited with organizing the 1946 tournament that would later become the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby. (The Rod and Gun club, located originally above Mr. Hoyle’s store, is also remembered for the lively gambling sessions held there.)

Mr. Hoyle’s homemade wood-and-leather fishing poles became a much-sought-after item among Vineyard fishermen. He is credited by many as the inventor of the first surfcasting reel, designed for fishermen to efficiently haul big fish in to shore. Soon after Mr. Hoyle’s rod became a local hit, a very similar rod was released by a large New York firm which became nationally popular. Mr. Hoyle was never credited.

After Mrs. Hoyle’s death in 1952, Mr. Hoyle closed the store, and opened an Oak Bluffs tackle shop, where he built and repaired rods and reels and sold his popular surfcaster.

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