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  • MLCA

From the Dock: Time leads to appreciation for those who came before

As I get older I’ve learned to appreciate the generations before me more and more. In being a fisherman this holds especially true. I remember being young and hearing all the old-timers tell their stories and although I loved to hear them, they didn’t really sink in until years later. The hard work and dedication these men had was epic. Cutting the wood and having it milled to get the stuff you needed to build traps. Knitting your own heads, hour after hour. I remember all this stuff going on when I was a kid but didn’t think anything of it. When you got older, if you mentioned it to the guys doing it they would shrug it off like it was nothing compared to the guys before them. I remember asking my Uncle Doug when he started fishing. It was when he was a kid and went with his grandfather. When I asked him how much money he made he explained to me that back in those days it wasn’t about money as much as it was about survival. Many times his grandfather would trade whatever they caught with somebody else who had something he needed. Meat, vegetables, lumber, etc. It was hard to fathom such a thing but it made perfect sense. He told me how over the years lobsters started to become more sought after and the state decided to form a Department of Sea and Shore Fisheries and appointed a man named Horatio Crie to be the Commissioner. It sounded like most agreed he was the guy for the job so when he made the decision to have every fisherman come to Augusta to get a license number, they all headed that way. Five fishermen from Winter Harbor all jumped into the only vehicle they had that would make it to Augusta and left to get in line early. The numbers they received were #8 William Gerrish, #9 Morton

Torrey, #10 Elmer Torrey, #11 Elwood Sargent, and #19 Gilbert Gerrish. Lobstering was now officially a licensed fishery and guys were fierce. Many changes have taken place since then, both good and bad. Lobstering grew and families and communities up and down the coast thrived because of it. Boats changed and boat builders were turning them out as fast as they could. And when they couldn’t turn them out fast enough they started to make them out of fiberglass to speed the process up. Eventually a fishery that started as a way of survival exploded into a multi-million-dollar business. We’ve lost a lot of the old-timers along the way; some got to see the changes and some didn’t. I miss them. I never got to meet Elmer Torrey who stood in line to get the #10 that day in Augusta; he died in 1930. His son Philip kept the number until 1954 when it was handed down to my uncle, Douglas Torrey, who kept it until 2008 when, at the age of 83, he handed it down to me.


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