Looking through my inherited collection of old issues of the Bay Times, the newspaper I grew up thinking of as my hometown paper, I found a treasure trove of baby-boomer nostalgia from Maryland’s Land of Pleasant Living.
I found a 1965 picture of my brother-in-law’s dad, Warren Coursey, preparing gill nets for fishing with friends Clayland Clark and Buck Hoxter.Used primarily to catch rock (striped bass) and white perch for the commercial market, gill nets are a passive capture technique, which means fish swim into nets that are not physically being moved by man or machine. Gill netting has been part of the Chesapeake Bay culture for almost two hundred years, and along with stationary pound nets, were a vital part of the robust regional seafood production for generations.
They were popular because they worked, and netting allowed watermen to harvest tens of thousands of tons of fish from the Chesapeake over the years. Anchored and staked gill nets are so effective they were banned in the mid-1980s and early 90s. Today the commercial gill net fisherman is only allowed to use weighted nets and follows strict laws and guidelines as to the whens, whats, wheres, and hows of the fish they catch and bring to market. When we read of poachers catching astounding amounts of illegal fish, enough to affect the entire season for all other fishermen, contraband gill nets are often their tool of choice.
But 1965 was a different, simpler time.
Warren Coursey was born on Kent Island in December, 1923. He attended Queen Anne’s County Schools and as a young man worked in his father John’s ice and oyster business. During World War II he served in the U.S. Army in action E.T.O in Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland. Following his release from active duty in 1945 he went to work for the State of Maryland with the Department of Transportation and Toll Facilities.Mr. Warren retired in 1976 and, at the age of 79, passed away on May 9, 2003.
The first span of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, connecting the Eastern Shore to all points west, was completed and dedicated in July, 1952, and four months later, a man from Baltimore became the first person to commit suicide by jumping from it.
In March, 1968, a Bay Bridge patrolman named William E. Comegys saved a man, a man who had a bottle of whiskey and a pocket full of rocks on him, from taking the final leap:
With many locals still making their living on the Chesapeake Bay in 1970, a “There but for the grace of God” feeling must have surged through the community after three watermen died when their 40-ft workboat, the Esther Jane, was struck by a freighter off Worton Point in Kent County:
Seedlings from the 400-year old Wye Oak, the largest white oak in the United States and the official Maryland State tree until it was felled during a thunderstorm in 2002, were sold to the public in March of 1973. My grandmother bought and planted one and I ran over it on my minibike by mistake once.
Of course, then , as now, what really sold papers was:
From a bizarre kidnapping…
…to arson attacks on the same house twice in one day (if at first you don’t succeed)…
…to even guns in schools, sometimes we forget our peaceful little Eastern Shore wasn’t even all that peaceful back in the day.
Not to worry, though, because in 1973, there was a new cop on the beat:
Yessir. Crime sells newspapers.
And newspapers sell ads.
But thankfully, in the Bay Times, reminiscing about the good old days was always one sure fire way to stir up interest among the target audience:
And sometimes, even cheap marketing techniques were utilized to entice the reader to anticipate the next week’s collection of news and nostalgia. Like this unidentified old time photograph from a long-gone one room school in my hometown of Grasonville:
See anybody you know?
Come back next week for answers!!!
You know, cheap tricks like that.