Life on the Bay

Lar­ri­more re­calls ca­reer as a water­man

Sunday Star - - FRONT PAGE - By KATIE WIL­LIS kwillis@star­dem.com

TIL­GH­MAN — Stan­ley Lar­ri­more, 87, of Til­gh­man said he has lived on the is­land most of his life. He also is a life­long water­man, hav­ing dredged, crabbed and caught eels for 51 years.

To­day, Lar­ri­more said he lives in the home he was born and raised in on Til­gh­man. He said the lo­cal doc­tor used to tell him there was a ter­ri­ble thun­der­storm the day he was born.

“I was born right there in the liv­ing room,” Lar­ri­more said. “The doc­tor come to the house in them days, you know.”

He started work­ing on the wa­ter with his fa­ther in 1947, af­ter leav­ing St. Michaels High School in the 10th grade. He said a school ad­min­is­tra­tor had told stu­dents not to go to a farm team base­ball game in Eas­ton or they would end up in trou­ble.

“I re­ally wanted to go, so I went,” Lar­ri­more said. “And so, the next morn­ing, when I got off the bus, they were lined up to (the ad­min­is­tra­tor’s) of­fice. I walked out the other end and never went back.”

The school ad­min­is­tra­tor told Lar­ri­more that sum­mer he could come back to school, but he said he de­cided not to, even though he would have grad­u­ated that next year, in 1947, as school at that time only went up to the 11th grade.

Lar­ri­more said he was 17 the year he be­gan dredg­ing for oys­ters with his fa­ther, Glendy, on his fa­ther’s boat, the Laura J. Barkley.

“She was 36 feet on deck. She was re­ally small, and she had a for­ward cabin, which not many skip­jacks had for­ward cab­ins,” Lar­ri­more said.

In ad­di­tion to his fa­ther, Lar­ri­more’s un­cle and brother also worked on the wa­ter. All four men fin­ished their ca­reers as wa­ter­men on the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, Lar­ri­more said. He said his fa­ther wanted him to go back and fin­ish school be­fore de­cid­ing to de­vote his life to the wa­ter.

“Course, (my dad) give me all the bad jobs on the boat be­cause he wanted me to go back to school,” Lar­ri­more said. “I wouldn’t go. I was as stub­born as he was, I guess.”

He said, in those days, the boat ran two an­chors, and some­one would have to get in a lit­tle sk­iff and row out to get one of the an­chors.

“Course, he’d pick me to go get it, be­cause it was cold and you had to do it bare-handed. He done a lot of things try­ing to get me to go back (to school), but I wouldn’t go back,” Lar­ri­more said.

An­other job his fa­ther would give him would be row­ing out to the skip­jack each morn­ing, he said.

“We rowed from the Fair­bank dock, and we al­ways kept our boats out­side in Black Walnut (Point) ... So we’d keep them out there, and we’d an­chor them. It would be maybe five or six an­chored out there — all the peo­ple that had skip­jacks around Fair­bank.”

Lar­ri­more said he went into mil­i­tary ser­vice with the U.S. Navy in 1950, the same year he mar­ried his late wife, Loretta, who passed away in 2012.

“I got mar­ried in July, and I went into the ser­vice in Novem­ber,” Lar­ri­more said.

He said he served four years with the Navy. He com­pleted boot camp at the U.S. Navy Train­ing Cen­ter in Bain­bridge, Md. Be­fore join­ing the Naval Con­struc­tion Batal­lion, also known as the See­bees, as a me­chanic, the Navy lost his records, and he ended up in the train­ing cen­ter’s mess hall, cook­ing and clean­ing.

Dur­ing that time, he got to know the other cooks, and they wanted him to be­come a cook, as well, so he said that is what he did. He said he spent nearly 30 months as a night cook in Bain­bridge, feed­ing 4,000 peo­ple a day at the boot camp.

Af­ter leav­ing Bain­bridge, Lar­ri­more said the Navy sent him to cook aboard ship, the USS Cone, which he said he picked up in Nor­folk, Va.

“It had just come from a trip around the world. I’m sorry I missed that,” Lar­ri­more said.

Dur­ing his time aboard ship, Lar­ri­more said the crew trav­eled to Cuba, Eng­land, Ire­land, Spain and Gi­bral­tar. In ad­di­tion to cook­ing, he han­dled the pow­der for a 5-inch U.S. Naval ar­tillery gun. Lar­ri­more said the ship worked fre­quently with air­craft car­ri­ers, pick­ing up squadrons, and fol­low­ing air­craft car­ri­ers as they were send­ing planes off, in case a plane crashed and the pilot needed to be picked up.

“In them days, he­li­copters wasn’t as much at the time, and they de­pended on the ships to pick them up,” Lar­ri­more said.

Lar­ri­more said he re­turned home to Til­gh­man af­ter fin­ish­ing his ser­vice with the Navy in 1955 and built a house di­rectly across the street from the child­hood home where he was born and raised. He said he again took up work­ing out on the wa­ter, dredg­ing, crab­bing and catch­ing eels, as well as, for a short time, driv­ing seafood trucks and trac­tor-trail­ers.

“We done what­ever to try and make a dol­lar,” Lar­ri­more said. He said he bought his own boat, Reliance, for oys­ter dredg­ing in 1956. Lar­ri­more said he owned Reliance un­til about 1979, when he had the op­por­tu­nity to buy the Lady Katie. The skip­jack was built by Bronza Parks, a Dorch­ester County boat­builder from Win­gate, be­tween 1955 and 1956.

Ac­cord­ing to the Last Skip­jacks Project web­site, Parks com­pleted the 46.2foot skip­jack, along with two other “sis­ter” skip­jacks, the Rosie Parks and the

Martha Lewis at around the same time. Both Rosie and Martha were sold, but he kept the Lady Katie for him­self af­ter the orig­i­nal com­mis­sioner passed away. The boat was named af­ter Parks’ wife, Katie Lewis Parks.

Parks dredged with the Lady Katie for a few years be­fore he was killed, ac­cord­ing to the web­site.

Lar­ri­more said he dredged the skip­jack for 15 years and sold the boat in 1994.

“It’s re­ally one of the nicest boats I’ve worked on or been on,” Lar­ri­more said. “You know, we con­sider boats, ‘smart boats’ and ‘dumb boats’ — the way they work, you know. She was re­ally an out­stand­ing boat. I don’t know why, maybe it was the way (Parks) rigged her.”

Lar­ri­more said he en­dured many storms dur­ing his time as cap­tain of the boat, some with win­ter winds of up to 100 mph.

In 1984, Lar­ri­more had Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan aboard Lady Katie dur­ing Rea­gan’s trip to Til­gh­man to talk about con­ser­va­tion and clean­ing up the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay.

“They wanted a boat to hold the press con­fer­ence, so they picked me,” Lar­ri­more said.

He said those in­volved with the event, in­clud­ing him­self, had lunch with Rea­gan at the Til­gh­man Is­land Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment fol­low­ing the press con­fer­ence, and he rode in the pres­i­dent’s limou­sine on the way to lunch.

Lar­ri­more said he was able to catch as many bushels as he and his crew could catch when he first started dredg­ing for oys­ters. He said the lim­its be­gan around the same time power dredg­ing be­gan.

Power dredg­ing is a con­tro­ver­sial but ef­fi­cient method of re­mov­ing oys­ters from the Bay. Power dredg­ing is reg­u­lated by the state to a spe­cific time pe­riod, on cer­tian days, within the oys­ter sea­son, and banned in parts of the Bay. State reg­u­la­tors claim it re­moves a lot of oys­ters from the Bay and breaks up oys­ter beds, as well as the Bay’s bot­tom. Many wa­ter­men main­tain the method has ben­e­fits, as well.

Lar­ri­more said he was un­der sail most days, and skip­jacks were al­lowed to run power only on Mon­days and Tues­days. He said he and his crew worked six days a week, work­ing a half day on Satur­days.

“We used to have county lines,” Lar­ri­more said. “When I first started dredg­ing, you bought a li­cense for the Chop­tank River, and you bought one for the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay. But you still had places you couldn’t go.”

Lar­ri­more said when he re­tired from dredg­ing in 1994, the lim­its for the oys­ter haul were 150 bushels. Some years were bet­ter than oth­ers, he said, and he re­mem­bered one year, while dredg­ing with his fa­ther, that the Chop­tank River was com­pletely dry of oys­ters.

“We had to leave the Chop­tank and go into the Bay,” Lar­ri­more said. “There wasn’t no oys­ters. Seven or eight bushels is all we could catch. We had to leave the river and go in the Bay, and go up the Bay, above the Bay Bridge, up that way. And it wasn’t much bet­ter, maybe 30 bushel. The Chop­tank was bad. It runs in cy­cles.”

There were about eight to 10 other skip­jacks dredg­ing dur­ing Lar­ri­more’s ca­reer, he said, and com­pe­ti­tion some­times could run high.

He said he re­mem­bered about four pack­ing com­pa­nies from St. Michaels to Til­gh­man. He said he sold to Til­gh­man Pack­ing Com­pany for a long time and also to a com­pany in Knapp’s Nar­rows. Most of the time, Lar­ri­more said, he got $1 to $4 a bushel, and the most he ever got for a bushel was $31 in a year when oys­ters were scarce.

“Now they get $50,” Lar­ri­more said. He said this is due to scarcity and de­mand.

Lar­ri­more said he and his crew, which in­cluded him­self, one cook and six peo­ple to cull the oys­ters, of­ten worked away from home, down Solomon’s Is­land, Tolch­ester, Deal Is­land and other parts of the Bay.

“It’s still hard work, but (wa­ter­men to­day) got it eas­ier. They’ve got bet­ter equip­ment, of course,” Lar­ri­more said. “They’ve got these depth fin­ders and all that. We done it with a pole. We sounded the bot­tom with a pole.”

Dur­ing those years, cell­phones were nonex­is­tent, and he was not able to stay in touch with those on land.

“And nowa­days, you know, the ra­dios. When we left home, if you left home at 4 o’clock in the morn­ing, you didn’t talk to no­body un­til you got back to the buy­boat that evening ... as far as know­ing what was go­ing on,” Lar­ri­more said. “I can re­mem­ber, when Pres­i­dent Kennedy was shot, we didn’t know it un­til we went to the buy­boat. That buy­boat that evening told us.”

Lar­ri­more said the lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion was hard for his wife, Loretta, es­pe­cially if the weather was bad. He also had two chil­dren at home — a son, Steve, and a daugh­ter, Rhonda.

He said his son worked with him for a short time dredg­ing oys­ters, about two or three sea­sons, and his daugh­ter worked with him for sev­eral years, as well, mostly crab­bing.

“We got along great, too,” Lar­ri­more said. “Lot of times, you know, that don’t hap­pen. But we did.”

Lar­ri­more said Steve also worked for him dur­ing win­ter 1977, the year most of the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay froze.

“I said, ‘Steve, you bet­ter find a bet­ter job than this,’” Lar­ri­more said.

Lar­ri­more said it was im­por­tant to him that his chil­dren fin­ish school. He said he prob­a­bly still would have let his son go to that base­ball game, though, and he is glad he had the chance to work with his chil­dren on the wa­ter.

Af­ter selling the Lady Katie, Lar­ri­more said he con­tin­ued to crab for sev­eral years, un­til he re­tired in 1998.

To­day, the Lady Katie, un­der new own­er­ship, still is work­ing, dredg­ing the Bay for oys­ters. Ac­cord­ing to the Last Skip­jacks Project web­site, a restora­tion project was com­pleted in 2015.

Lar­ri­more said he wouldn’t change a thing about spend­ing his life work­ing the wa­ter. He said those who work on the wa­ter have to love it to make it as a water­man, and al­though he re­mem­bers his time on the wa­ter fondly, his great­est achieve­ment was and is his fam­ily.

“It’s a great job, re­ally,” Lar­ri­more said. “(The Ch­e­sa­peake Bay’s) get­ting closer to the bot­tom be­ing leased out (dead/empty). They talked about it all my life, but I think it’s get­ting closer to it. I don’t think there’s any way around it.”

Lar­ri­more was one of four men who was hon­ored Sun­day, Aug. 13, by the Tal­bot Wa­ter­men’s As­so­ci­a­tion and Gov. Larry Ho­gan for his years work­ing as a water­man on the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay.

Stan­ley Lar­ri­more of Til­gh­man said he pur­chased the Lady Katie in 1979. The skip­jack was built by Bronza Parks, a Dorch­ester County boat­builder from Win­gate, be­tween 1955 and 1956.

In 1984, while Stan­ley Lar­ri­more was cap­tain of the skip­jack Lady Katie, he met and had Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan aboard his boat dur­ing Rea­gan’s trip to Til­gh­man to talk about con­ser­va­tion and clean­ing up the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay. Rea­gan, right, is pic­tured sign­ing Lar­ri­more’s, left, Cap­tain’s Log.

CONTRIBUTED PHO­TOS

Stan­ley Lar­ri­more, 87, of Til­gh­man said he has lived on the is­land most of his life. He also is a life­long water­man, hav­ing dredged, crabbed and caught eels for 51 years.

“It’s re­ally one of the nicest boats I’ve worked on or been on,” Stan­ley Lar­ri­more said of the skip­jack Lady Katie. “You know, we con­sider boats, ‘smart boats’ and ‘dumb boats’ — the way they work, you know. She was re­ally an out­stand­ing boat. I don’t know why, maybe it was the way (boat­builder Bronza Parks) rigged her.”

CONTRIBUTED PHO­TOS

When Stan­ley Lar­ri­more of Til­gh­man first started dredg­ing for oys­ters, he said he was able to catch as many bushels as he and his crew could catch. Lar­ri­more and his crew are pic­tured on Reliance.

Stan­ley Lar­ri­more said he was 17 the year he be­gan dredg­ing the wa­ter with his fa­ther, Glendy, on his fa­ther’s boat, the Laura

J. Barkley. In ad­di­tion to his fa­ther, Lar­ri­more’s un­cle and brother also worked on the wa­ter. All four men fin­ished their ca­reers as wa­ter­men on the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, Lar­ri­more said.

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