Oyster Boats & Lobstermen from the Past
Here’s what Linda Wedmore Caballero wrote:
The Catherine M. Wedmore originally belonged to my great-grandfather, Charles Wedmore, who operated an oyster business in the New Haven area, and was named for one of his daughters. (Kate lived to be 101.) According to my father, now in his 70s, and who remembers her well, the Catherine was sold when the oyster business, then operated by his father, George (Dewey) Wedmore, was dissolved in the early 1950s; he has some old photographs of her but had no idea that she is still afloat. I know my sister, also a Catherine Wedmore, would be thrilled to see her as well.
She asked if I knew who owned the boat. The best I could tell her was that it was docked near the Norm Bloom & Son shellfish company’s headquarters in East Norwalk, that Bloom used to own Tallmadge Brothers oyster company, that Tallmadge Brothers had an operation in Port Norris, New Jersey, as well as in Norwalk, and that the Catherine M. Wedmore had the words “Port Norris, N.J.” on its hull, and so I figured Norm Bloom and Sons owned it. I suggested she give them a call. Here’s how she responded:
You could not have been more right. … Norm Bloom operates the Catherine. She continues to be a working oyster boat, goes out six days a week, and was coming into dock as I was speaking with one of the guys in the office. That was just an amazing moment. Thank you so much. I am very much looking forward to sharing this information with my father, and with making a trip up to Connecticut (from Baltimore) to see the Catherine with him.
And later she wrote again:
This is almost like discovering a long lost relative. The guys at Norm Bloom's were great, as well. They were going to try to fill in some gaps on the Catherine's more recent history. My dad gave me some further details …. The Catherine was captained by his uncle, Chauncey (Chan) Wedmore (1880-1968) who was Kate's (1885-1987) brother. My dad has great memories of helping out on the boat as a young boy and later as a teenager. I'm sure those with a greater understanding of all things nautical could probably date the boat, but my dad (b. 1929) ... remembers it being around from as early as he can recall. He is going to make some copies of the old pictures he has of the Catherine, and I would be happy to share those with you as well. I am working on getting him to make the trip from Canton, Connecticut, where he now lives, to East Norwalk sometime soon; it may have to wait until spring, though, I am told.
I told her I might be able to get to East Norwalk and, if the boat happened to be docked, take some photos. I haven’t managed to do so yet, but I did find this photo on another website.
On another recent morning there was a message waiting for me, on one of those pink sheets of paper labeled “Important Message,” that a woman named Alice Salvatore had called and wanted me to call her back (I knew this because there were check marks in the boxes next to “telephoned” and “please call”). A few minutes later, when I was on the phone talking to someone else, another Important Message was dropped in front of me, identical except for the words “John Fernandez” written on the lines reserved for “Message.”
Alice Salvatore, I learned when I called her back, lives very close to where I work. She had been visiting a cousin one recent day and the cousin handed her a copy of a book she’d never heard of (she and a few million others) – namely, This Fine Piece of Water. The cousin flipped to page 130 and showed Alice a picture of a lobsterman named John Fernandes, posing back in 1987 in front of a stack of lobster pots in Port Chester.
Alice Salvatore was thrilled to see this because John Fernandes was her father. She remembered that he occasionally would mention that a reporter had been interviewing him, but that was almost 20 years ago and she hadn’t given it a second thought since. She certainly hadn’t known about the book or that it talked in more-than-passing fashion of her father. She said she read it and loved it, and that as far as she could tell the parts about lobstering in the Sound were dead-on right.
To say the least, this made me feel OK. I had heard back in 1999, I think, that John Fernandes had cancer, and since she talked about him in the past tense, I asked if he had died. She said he had, four years ago, of colon cancer. She said she was planning to buy six or so copies of the book and to give them to others in her family for Christmas.