By Sheila Dassatt
This is the “First Day of Summer” and the Fourth of July is fast approaching, so I thought I had an appropriate title for this article. How does this fit into the fishery? What does it mean to you?
Well, it is beyond coincidence, but my great grandmother, and my grandfather were both born on the Fourth of July, which was kind of neat when we were kids. We had quite a birthday celebration along with the festivities of the holiday. My great grandmother was born in Norway, so we ate quite well at our picnics! Then as time marched on, my sister-in-law, Cathy’s birthday is the Fifth of July, so the celebration lived on. What fun it always was, especially after our kids were born!
Back at that time, there were only three boat races, Jonesport, Stonington and Winter Harbor. Imagine that! It was a lot easier to get them all in because there was a little time in between to get your boat ready if you had any problems along the way. I can remember going to the Jonesport races when I was just a kid. My brother, Glenn lived for going to this race, so it became part of what we did, traditionally. When we had the boats up and going, Jonesport was the first race of the season. I think the first boat was the MARGUERITE G., which Glenn acquired from James Preston. She was quite a popular wooden lobster boat that won quite a few races in her day.
During this time, the RED BARON was in the making, so the MARGUERITE G. was sold back to James Preston. She had a lot of sentimental value to Jim, and Glenn wanted him to have her back if he wanted. Also, it was time to move on to the newly built fiberglass boat, which was a newer concept at that time. The industry was fast moving from wood to fiberglass hulls. According to the new theory, the fiberglass boat was easier to maintain and could be readied for the water a lot quicker and easier.
This was all the beginning of the new challenge for the World’s Fastest Cup Race in Jonesport on the Fourth of July. Glenn and Dad had the RED BARON and the Young Brothers of Corea had the SOPWITH CAMEL. So began the saga of the Charles Schultz cartoon, the Ballad of Snoopy and the Red Baron. The SOPWITH CAMEL was the name of Snoopy’s World War I fighting plane of England and the RED BARON was the fighting plan of Baron Von Richthofen of Germany. And this was how it all began! Along the way, there was also Benny Beal with his famous BENNY’S BITCH, which was also an interesting story. I don’t know the exacts. At that time, Andrew Gove had the LOVE BOAT, and later on had UNCLE’S U.F.O. which was also a great addition to the original Heyday. What fun it was to watch Dad and Andrew in a race with each other! They were the oldest “teenagers” on the course at the time. There was also Richard Duffy with the MICHELLE, which was also a contender.
Another great contender was Sidney Eaton with LI’L JAN. I believe Sid was the one that would go out to haul and show up at the races full throttle and finish his haul on the same day! (so they say). Always on the throttle and having fun doing it. There were plenty more of these guys, I don’t think I can name them all, but this is how the Lobster Boat Racing Hall of Fame came into being. I am so glad that they did, so these guys will never be forgotten.
So, the Fourth of July was very special to all of us. The family would pack the coolers and get ready to head to Jonesport in hopes of the “Title.” Then Stonington Races came along, which was also a big blast from the past. One year the dance at the Legion Pavilion was so crowded and heavy with dancing that the floor broke. That was also one of those memories. It was a great place for us to always have a family gathering, being that we’re all from Stonington. I have always been pretty fortunate that the race would fall on my birthday, which it does this year too. That was always cause for a celebration picnic.
Then the last race of the season was the Winter Harbor Lobster Festival Race. If you hadn’t won your race by then, this was your last chance and final hurrah for the season! This was always a special race to us. Keith Young put his all into preparing for this race and the festivities were always great. One morning, Dad decided to wake up the whole town, all was quiet, the boats were all nestled in from the festivities of the night before and he started the RED BARON. He always said, “When I’m awake, everyone is going to be awake.” People came crashing out of their boats to see what the noise was, which was the BARON. I don’t’ know how popular he was that morning, but we all got quite a chuckle out of it. This was one of those wake up calls to end the season on a fun note.
I don’t know how you all celebrate your Fourth of July, but it is still a very special time to remember what it is all about, Independence Day. Please enjoy your families and friends on that holiday and make sure that you make your own memories. Have a heyday of your own and love doing it. Those days don’t last forever, but we can make new memories for the next generation! Enjoy the season and have a safe and prosperous one!