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From the Susquehanna River headwaters to the lighthouse at Cape Charles, and from the Bay Bridge to the Atlantic Ocean, the Chesapeake Bay’s Eastern Shore is a place alive with stories.

Technically Oral History is a recorded firsthand spoken word account of a life, an event, a time, or place.

To me Oral History is storytelling at its most ancient and most personal level.

It’s history with tradition.

It’s history with emotion.

It’s history with a voice.

For over 10 years, I conducted an oral history program under the auspices of the Kent Island Heritage Society. Supported and inspired by the Heritage Society’s mandate to “discover, identify, restore and preserve the heritage of Kent Island,” I interviewed scores of senior members of our community, among various walks of life, all who I came to think of as friends, and many who have since passed away. I collected the personal stories of all kinds of local people, watermen and farmers, of course, but also those of business leaders, preachers, music teachers, and volunteer firefighters, to name just a few of the perspectives covered over the course of the project.

The inhabitants of the Chesapeake Bay region, particularly those on the Eastern Shore, are known for the unpolished candor and eccentric saltiness that sometimes comes natural to people whose livelihood is connected directly to earth and the sea.

I’ve been honored to be able to help record a people’s history, a history that otherwise might be lost, washed away from any hope of posterity like an eroding Chesapeake shoreline.

One of the things I like best about oral history is the fiction of individual perspective, the element of embellishment, of the teller improving the story, not letting the facts get in the way of a good story. Facts don’t always tell the whole truth.

For instance, an accomplished local tall-tale raconteur once told me that when he was discharged from the Army after World War II, “The guy at Fort Meade came along and said reenlist, and we’ll make you a corporal.”  The local character, his voice all 12-grit sandpaper and distilled crick water, replied “If I get back across this bay and get to my boat I’ll be a captain.”

Since I first heard that story, at least two other friends have laid claim to it.


One of my favorite quick stories, one that always reminds me to lighten up, is what Mr. Jimmy Ewing, one of the Island’s favorite sons,once told me about worry:

“The Circle (restaurant) wasn’t always a success. I spent many sleepless nights, and more than once decided to close the place and go to work for somebody else. One man changed my mind for me, and I’ve been grateful to him ever since. Dr. (Theodor) Sattelmaier stopped by one day for a sandwich. I told him some of my troubles. He listened until I had finished pouring out my heart and then in his familiar accented English said…”Stick it out Jimmy. It won’t always be this bad. Tomorrow is going to be better, you’ll see.” Though I still had my doubts, something about his encouraging and sincere remarks stuck with me. And from then on things kept getting better and better. I’ll always be glad for the day old Doc stopped by and gave a worried man a much needed shot in the arm. He taught me not to worry. “Worry,” Doc Sattelmaier said, “is a bad disease.”00bstry -jim

Some of the other friends I’ve interviewed over the years include:

Joe Thompson (1926-2006)

 Wes Thompson (1924-2014) & Bobby Thompson (1926-2014) IMG_0154456321

Mary Jones White (1914-2011)Scan0001MARY WHITE

Capt. Melvin Clark (1922-2008)blog 006

Wilbur Garret (1914-2016)Wilbur-Garrett-1455526016

Capt. Billy Harris (1922-2006)c4b6bc5e-634f-4262-9de6-cd85585bcf87

Capt. Billy Hoxter (1922-2010)0

Capt. William ‘Billy B’ Baxter00

Dr. Gill Dunn (1918-2015)gil

Dr. Harry Rhodes (1914-2014)51183a0f213be.preview-3009b25b936-7e92-5253-a53d-16960f339894.preview-300

Rev. Roy Phillips (1927-2008)3d2835b6903c40b1811ddada0e15e42d

Capt. George Walters (1920-2012)3cf69e78-491c-497b-b941-cf9b719bd605

Capt. Guinea Legg (1937-2014)Guinea-Legg-1414858823

Roger Lewis (1927-2016)Roger-Lewis-1468056018roger55 (2)

Elizabeth Reamy Haddaway (1908-2013)erh3

Billy Denny

Reggie Jones

Capt. Gordon Crouch

Clara Davidson 

Capt. Eldridge Meredith

Curtie Chance

Albert Stant

Sonny SchulzyScan0005 (3)cdx

Alvin ‘Babe’ Grollmanb9

Capt. Harry Davidsonscan0004-3

Capt. Charles Bryan0cbcharles bryan

Jack Coursey scan0004

100_1544Cousins Jack Coursey and Capt. Charles Bryan with family

Karen Harris Oertel58b5bc27ed2f0-image

Capt. Jerry Harris

Capt. Montro Wright

Capt. Lewis Carter

Capt. Bluey Thomaspanel

Capt. Bobby Timms & Delores Timmsb1

Ray Baker (1933-2014)749e36bb-1f5e-47f7-b472-53653a6c9e34

Billy Lane (1921-2011)1014ab64727c417295315e26ede5f13dcarnival1_DSC1456




4 thoughts on “NATIONAL TELL A STORY DAY 2017

  1. He Brent, Its Ricky Timms. What a great collection of stories you have put together. You should go and talk to my Dad Wilbur Timms. That man has more stories then you’ll know what to do with. Plus he has a ton of pictures too. Give him a call 410 820 8301. Keep up the good work and take care my friend !!!

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