Max Zwicker: Fishing
Max talks about his father
“My father was born 1868. He was nineteen years on the one vessel. The vessel’s name is Uda R. Corkum. He was the same as first mate would be today on the vessel. But then when he reached sixty, he felt he couldn’t keep his end up with the younger men, so then he stayed ashore and fished in a small way from home and then farmed.
But the same vessel that he was on, they had a brand new vessel built in 1927. It was the first year that we had that big August gale. And the one that he was on, the Uda R, that one was lost – that’s where my sister’s husband, two brothers, Lloyd’s two brothers, a whole grist of them right around, father and son back in the Narrows there – yeah, all lost that time. And the Bluenose, the original Bluenose, she went across the northwest bar that went out about seventeen miles on Sable Island. She made it, but a foot of sand was on her deck when she got across the bar.”
Max tells about drying fish
“There was nine places that the vessels come in and disposed of the wet fish and then they had to wash them all out and dry them. I’ll start from Zwickers Island. There was Robbie Young, and then there was William Cross. He went always as “Honey” and I only found out this year through his son Dale. I said “Dale, your father always had a name of ‘Honey.’ He must have had some other kind of a name.” “Yes, his name was William.” He said, “When he was a little boy, his mother said, ‘honey, will you pick up that.'” So he always went as Honey. So then, there were two there. St. Hiltz is three; Will Wentzell, four; Stan Mosher, five; John Andrews, six; Elam Langille, seven; Freeman Whynacht eight: Russell Langille and Charles nine.
And what they did when you had them dried, you stored them in your building, what they called kenchin’, head and tails. You kenched them all up in nice piles. Then when September came, when you struck a nice cool sunny day, you got them all out. They had as many as six wheel barrows each place. And the men, they’d wheel them all out on these flake yards and re-dry them. And then they were ready for market. They were so dry you could grab them by the tail and there was no bend. You could almost shave them if you wanted to. This same coastal vessel from Oakland, Captain Charlie Ernst. I made two trips into Halifax. Helped to load the dry fish on and then in there load them on pallets and hoist them out in Halifax years ago. When they were drying them and first green, well the salt was so heavy, you’d never seen so many flies. And it never hurt the fish with the salt.
And all that fish went to the West Indies. A lot of the ships took loads of dry fish down to the West Indies and then they’d bring back a load of salt. And then it was all hoisted out for storage for when they wanted to reuse it again. Well, the salt was measured a bushel – a bushel salt. It was eight bushels to the hogshead. And these proper little carts they had; that’s all it would hold. We went out to wheel it. The vessel would dump it down the hold for re-salting the fish. Well a kettle of fish dried is 102 pounds. Now what it is wet I don’t know. I imagine almost double that.
My uncle, where Tim Johnson lives there, Uncle Howard, he was the main saltin’ man for saltin’ the fish down. Now at times he worked… We had one… I remember my father saying a Hamm man, George Hamm from Oakland, a hundred quintals of fish one day he hauled the backbones out of that many fish. Pa said he had wrists on him like a fence stake, they were that big. Yes, very strong in the hands. Them big steak cods they had quite a back bone into them. On the vessels you had a man which was called a “flunkie.” He looked after the tongues and the sounds and the cheeks in the fish. You had a man called “throater.” He split the fish and took the stomach out, saved the liver and that went into oil, the liver. That fish was all ready then for the splitter to take the back bone out. And then from there on, it went down in the hold of the ship and then it was salted. And it was salted, like I told you, head and tails the way they laid and built it up.
Then, they most generally did that on the Grand Banks – the 3-month trip in the summer time. And they watched, ’cause there were no engines sometimes, just plain sail, and they watched when the wind was the right way, easterly or westerly, to come on the journey up. And that’s when they struck. And there was no more tackin’ or anything – just straight through. And a swampin’ load with 3,000 quintals. Boy, the vessels was down in the water, yeah, quite deep.”
Max talks about lobster fishing at Indian Point
“See this [Indian Point] wharf had been renewed in 1954. The old one that was there, it had a beautiful slipway on the eastern side. Oh, a beautiful spot… a nice walk up, wide… and that’s where the girls used to swim off of that. And then it had great big spiles, logs that were cruded up about three or four feet all around the wharf for tying up to when you wanted to come in. And then it was built with keys into it [openings]. And when I was lobstering, in them places, with my dory, I’d go in them keys and set lobster pots. You should have seen the lobsters. That was from the original old log. Now with this creosoted stuff you get creosote in the lobster if you ate one from there. And they’ll still be lobsters underneath that wharf here, ’cause I know of some fellas that got them and tasted them. The creosote was right in the meat.”
from: Zwicker M. Indian Point Remembered (2004) (DVD #1)