I’ve been writing easternshorebrent.com since 2012. The blog was originally conceived to be a place to share not only the transcripts of the oral history interviews I’d conducted over the decade prior, but also the occasional personal essay or pop culture piece that I’d written. Stuff that wasn’t even completely dressed really, much less dressed up and polished, but stuff that was looking for a place to go nonetheless.
The blog has matured, and is now primarily a depository for stories focusing on regional Chesapeake Bay history, concentrating on Eastern Shore character and my mid-Shore home county of Queen Anne’s. More personal stuff sneaks in only once in awhile now, the pop culture editorials even less rarely, but eaternshorebrent is always evolving and I’m happy that so many readers seem to enjoy my work.
The most popular easternshorebrent postings so far this year are:
1. Part of a 17th-century land grant, the Queen Anne’s County waterfront estate that came to be known as Pioneer Point became international news just as 2016 was careening into 2017. In response to spying and election interference, President Obama evicted Russian diplomats from the grounds of the property once owned by the famous industrialist and builder of the Empire State building , John J. Raskob, but had functioned as a soviet retreat for over forty years.
After I posted my 4-part history of Pioneer Point many readers reached out to me to share stories about the Russians or even from as far back as the Raskob days.
A lady from Maine named Karen Houts Witham wrote me a wonderful note about growing up on Pioneer Point while her dad was the principal of Centreville High School in the mid-1950s. In an essay she included in our communications, Ms. Witham remembered the joys of her childhood on the water, swimming, crabbing, and fishing during the summer, and ice skating in winter.
And my longtime friend, Billy Sewell told me, “Back when we lived at the jail (his dad was the sheriff), one night we were eating dinner at the table and all of a sudden the door from the office came flying open. Two men came barreling in and one asked with a heavy accent, “You police chief?” and dad said, “Yes…?” It was one of those Russians with his bodyguard. Then he reached in this bag and pulled out a fifth of Russian vodka and handed to dad for Christmas. Then he turned around and he left, and we still have that fifth. Unopened. And this was 1980!”
The link below will connect you to the first part of the Pioneer Point story: https://easternshorebrent.com/2017/01/12/pioneer-point-part-1/https://www.jfklibrary.org/
2. The second most popular posts in the first half of 2017 have been installments of the Heritage of Hospitality series. Since beginning easternshorebrent, I’ve posted many stories about local restaurants and hotels of the past, and this new ongoing feature has proven so popular, I intend to expand my scope to include more hospitality nostalgia from not only Queen Anne’s, but also Kent, Caroline and Talbot Counties.
If you have any old pictures or stories you’s like to tell about marinas, restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, or anything of the sort, please feel free to contact me here or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After two recent posts in the Heritage of Hospitality Series. one about restaurant advertising of the 19760s and 1970s,
and one about The Stevensville Pool Hall, aka No Place,
my friend Melissa Dafnis sent me this business card from the early 70’s when her dad ran Portside, which was located where The Jetty is now on the southeast side of Kent Narrows in Grasonville:
To honor the anniversary of D-day I ran a 4-part series about Mr. Jimmy Ewing, a D-day survivor, as well as a purple heart and bronze star recipient, who for many years after the 1952 completion of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, was known as the proprietor of the Circle restaurant on Kent Island.
Claudia Jewell, the daughter of Jimmy and Isabel Ewing, forwarded the following pictures which she describes this way:
“Here’s my grandmother,Katie Ewing, and Ethel Fleming at the Circle, 1965. If you ate there after 1:00, you saw these ladies.
“Jim Ewing behind the counter at the Circle, Eat, Restaurant. Not sure of the year it was taken but not much ever changed.”
You can read part one of Mr. Jimmy Ewing’s World War II story here: https://easternshorebrent.com/2017/06/05/mr-jimmy-ewing-d-day-survivor-part-1/
Robert Lowe of Stevensville responded to the No Place story with this photo depicting his dad, Harry “Cliff” Lowe, Sr., working at his first job in front of what became No Place. Circa late 1930’s.
My friend Sordy Pippen set me the pic below with a note that said, “(No Place owner) George Grimes gave me this a long time ago, in the early 1980s. It came outta No Place when, Stewart Palmer owned it (c.1930s). The seat was in three pieces, (builder) Frank Clark put her back together with biscuits (joints and glue).My cousin Mike Thompson gave me these photos awhile back and I just found them in an old file. These are pictures from the Shamrock Inn, which later became Old Cove, Bootleggers, and Dezes Restaurant before being demolished in the late 1980’s. In the bar picture I can identify Mike’s dad, Wes Thompson, and Mr. Eddie Cook from Centreville, but if anyone can identify the other men in the photo please let me know.
3. Waterman’s Story Swap. Our remarkable February event held at the VFW Post 7464 in Grasonville, Maryland, brought out an audience of over 200 from around the region. We featured authors and photographers, artists and craftsmen, found Chesapeake Bay artifacts, and a wonderful musical performance by Harry Davidson, an 88-year old Eastern Shore native and longtime waterman, and Harry’s accompanying guitarist Shea Springer. The primary feature of the evening, however, was the actual story swap session spotlighting nine local watermen, some retired, and some who are are still out there every day continuing to follow a traditional calling essential to the spirit and economy of the Chesapeake Bay region.
You can see the video and pictures here: https://easternshorebrent.com/2017/03/03/watermens-story-swap-video/
We’ll be hosting another similar Watermen’s Story Swap session at the 2nd Annual Chesapeake Storytelling Festival on September 16, 2017 at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills. Along with our panel of watermen, there will be many other storytelling presentations and entertainment options.
Click here for more info: http://chesapeakestorytelling.com/index.html
or here: https://www.facebook.com/events/436285693417837/
Read more about Harry Davidson here: http://www.myeasternshoremd.com/qa/spotlight/article_9e025c2e-2ce4-5bc1-aede-ceb99e56d3e2.html
4. Scenes from past Kent Island Days helped prepare folks for a successful 40th annual celebration of all things pertaining to our country’s third oldest permanent English settlement:
and a follow-up on this year’s festivities also attracted a number of visitors to the blog:
5. Funny headlines. Gets ’em every time.Headlines – https://easternshorebrent.com/2017/04/20/headlines/
One of the blog’s all-time most popular stories is one I wrote about Black Captains of the Chesapeake
and posted in April 2013. The story solicited a very nice response from Joan Denny Searles about her memories growing up on Kent Island.
“Brent,” Joan wrote me, “I have had this photo of another Black captain on my desk for about two years with the intention of sending it to you.”
This is on the back of the photo:
“I don’t remember how I got this picture,” Joan told me. “I think Frank Riley was a man who had a cottage on my father’s shore but maybe he had a house at Love Point. I’m amused that Josh apparently called Frank’s daughter “Little Girl” as that is what he called me. I think he may have called my brother “Little Boy.””
“Josh lived in a tar paper shack on my father’s Chester River Shore with his wife, Leah, and her sister, Pauline. He fished, oystered, crabbed, and took out fishing parties. His rent was seafood once a week, which gradually became seafood once a month and then about once every six months until none at all.”
Thanks to Joan for helping to remember the historical and cultural importance of not only the Chesapeake Bay’s Black Watermen, but also to the personal connection that people who live on the Eastern Shore have for one another.
Thanks again for letting me know you enjoy the efforts taken to provide tales of the Chesapeake Bay area that you may not get anywhere else, or that might provide a spark of nostalgia and memories for you. My goals for easternshorebrent are too expand the audience by continuing to provide what I hope are compelling and entertaining stories.
I hope you’ll stick with me for future installments, and for the evolution of easternshorebrent.
One forthcoming change: I want to start recommending books by other regional authors. I have a pile of them I need to get to, and intend to start that feature as soon as possible.
If you’d like to show support for easternshorebrent.com, it’s free and easy.
Here what you can do:
Contribute pics and stories.
Guest blog. If you have a story you’d like to tell or photos you’d like to share, please contact me. We’ll make arrangements for you to post a guest blog about your own personal Chesapeake Bay recollections or Eastern Shore topics. It’s a perfect opportunity if you’d like to post something on occasion but have no desire to start our own blog, or it could be a way to dip your toe into the blogosphere without having to make a big commitment.
This one is very important. If you like the blog, just click FOLLOW on the bottom right-hand side of your screen. You’ll get e-mail notifications each time there’s a new post, and with upcoming stories like Kent Island’s War of 1917, the controversy in the 1970s over the pressure to develop historic Wye Island, and more of your favorite Heritage of Hospitality locations, you know you won’t miss anything cool.
#2. Tell your friends about easternshorebrent.com. Share the site with people, particularly if I post a blog on a topic that someone you know has a passion for, or could add something to the conversation.
#3. Let me know if you like something. Drop me a message, e-mail me, say hello on Facebook or Twitter. One of the best and most inspiring parts of working on easternshorebrent for the last five years has been your response to my efforts.
Thank you, and I look forward to telling you many more stories.
Wow. Catalogued and organized. What a body of work!!! On with the evolution!
hey, Helen! Hope you’re having an excellent summer.
Amazing and interesting history, Brent! Thanks for making this a part of the work you share.