Oral History – Earl Page – Part 8: ‘Oysters and Clams’

Compiled and edited by Ann Hertzler

Before they’d even start oystering, they’d eat a full bate of oysters, raw. A full bate is a full bellyful. They were getting $2.00 a bushel. They would oyster around Buzzard’s Bay, the same with clams. They’d go on the shoals, at low tide when the shoals fall out flat. We didn’t dig like they do now. If you know what the spit sign looks like, all you do is take a potato hoe. You’re looking at a spit sign that looks like a streak. It’s a hole in there; it’s kinda raised. You don’t see the clam, you see the hole and then it spreads out.

That’s what you’ll see first. Now we’re talking about 3 or 4 feet and you follow that back to the spit sound and there’s your clam. Take that potato hoe and go down, there’s your clam! Pile ‘em up cause they were on land, they’d make pyramids. We were on land, and when the tide came in, we’d float the boat up and load the clams in the boat.

It gets wider as it goes out. The clam is spitting. All you do is follow that back to this point with your potato hoe. They’ll sell you a clam rake, but all you need is a potato hoe. They chartered Earl to go clamming. One time Earl could hear another guide say “Here’s one and he was letting them dig ‘em. “Earl says, put your fork right there and come up. And there was a clam. He was looking for the spit signs. He says, “I’ve got xray eyes.” Earl is dying laughing.

The market doesn’t want chowder clams because they are too big. The restaurants want the little cherry clams cause they’re sweet. They’re good for soup. They come in all sizes and they get graded. A large chowder clam is not the Quehog. Margaret made the best clam chowder out of those chowder clams. You have to cut them up. We were getting $2; now they’re $40.

Earl had many boats and lost em. He and his daddy had a canoe off Ft. Fisher. They could go out and catch trout, but never come back in without turning over. He had everything tied down, including the baling can, but he had fish. He could go out beyond the Modern Greece in a canoe and go southeast of her, that’s going out further, about a thousand feet to a huge shell bed where the gray trout lived. Earl would come in and turn over because of the breakers.

Earl got a bigger boat but without a motor. Three rowed with a 10 foot oar through the breakers to catch the mullet. He lost one boat in a storm and busted the bottom right out of it. When the mullet were running., you look at ‘em as acreage. Acres of them. The water’s just black – Solid, and they’re jumping. They don’t have those kinds of runs anymore.

With all the beach renourishment and the things that have happened, the fishing has changed and is still changing. You used to see the Menhaden running and you could smell em everywhere.