Volume 13, Issue 15 ~ April 14 - 20, 2005
 
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    Burton on the Bay
    by Bill Burton
    In old photographs and new and old words, Lois Nutwell paints a vivid picture of Bay Country life before slow boats and slow living gave way to fast boats and fast living.

    Southern Maryland Style
    Lois Nutwell’s A Ripple on the Wind tours a vanishing way of life

    In retrospect, I would say I could advise someone more on what not to do — than what to do.
    —Lois Nutwell, ~ author of A Ripple on the Wind

    ’Tis long been said one should never argue with a woman, but I’ll take exception. Lois Nutwell says she learned via experience, so she can advise one what not to do in writing and publishing. But after spending a couple of interesting evenings with her book, I must say she can better tell an aspiring writer what to do.

    She can because she did it.

    I’ve not had a wealth of association with Deale, her subject in this local history, since I arrived at the Sunpapers in ’56, but I found A Ripple on the Wind fascinating. All 80 pages of it not only tell the story of one community on the Bay but also give the reader an insider’s look at the cherished heritage of Chesapeake Bay Country.

    Of course it’s not possible, but after reading this mini-tome, one wistfully ponders why can’t things still be like that. Alas, we can never go back, but we can look back and better appreciate what was. In old photographs and new and old words, she paints a vivid picture of Bay life before slow boats and slow living gave way to fast boats and fast living.

    Contrary to what many not of the Bay Country assume, one needs not cross over the Bay Bridge to gain insight into the tradition of the Chesapeake and its hard working, independent, resilient, native citizenry. It’s all along the Western Shore from north of Deale to Point Lookout.

    Perhaps because that giant peninsula on the other side of the bay was accessible until the 1950s only by ferry, a long drive via Cecil County or by boat, the mystique of the Eastern Shore lives on pretty much to this day. Get down to the nitty gritty, and one realizes the folks of what is commonly referred to as Southern Maryland are pretty much the same as those of the Shore.

    The names are different; nothing else: The same Bay, the same tight-knit families and communities, the same flat land, the same work ethic and the same pride of tradition. The only real difference is that Southern Maryland was closer and more accessible to Baltimore and Washington. Thus it was at first the more vulnerable to city folks looking for an escape from the city — and what better place than on the shores of the Chesapeake?

    Once upon a Town
    I fished out of Deale nearly 50 years ago. Not long after I arrived in Maryland, I hooked up with the Manifold clan, charterboaters, and I fished with them; later the Chesapeake Beach fishermen; then the Scheibles of St. Mary’s County. I found the Manifolds of Deale — like others on this side of the Bay—- could catch as many fish and make as good a crab cake (though a bit different) than their counterparts across the Chesapeake. So I was hooked on Nutwell’s book soon as I noted a photo of a charterboat.

    In more recent years, my association with Tri-State Marine of Deale and this newspaper, with its original office in Deale, spurred interest in things thereabouts.

    In retrospect, I have come to better understand (though not appreciate) how things change and will continue to do so. There’s nothing I, nor you, can do about it. Nutwell’s book is an avenue to appreciate what was but in the larger sense is no more.

    Nutwell takes us back to when her town, Deale, was quiet. In 1936, Bernice Ford wrote in her diary: “Got a new oil stove, five burner and built-in oven. Paid $24.85 for it. Had it come by the Betterton and Solomons Transfer Co. to Deale in care of J.S.W. Parks store. Freight was 75 cents (??!!), so all together it cost $25.60.”

    Yet the town, and the region, was busy in a different kind of way. You’ll be surprised at how many country stores there were. Deale was also busy with regattas. Take a gander at all the old sailing craft, the powerboats with one-lung engines or the charterboats, some skippered by the Manifolds. Did you know Drum Point got its name because of the many “drumfish” (black drum) that were once taken thereabouts? I never imagined.

    Capt. Ed Crandall “charged $5 a day, all day, for fishing parties.” Capt. Virgil Rogers sailed to Baltimore to get things for his store. Cecil Marshall hand-tonged in ’38 when oysters sold for 50 cents a bushel; in ’39 they went up a quarter. Cecil Marshall sold three dozen hard crabs for a buck in 1940, and he “thought that was pretty good.” In the old pictures of schools and churches, you’ll note many familiar names still common in the area. Notice Joe Phipps so proud in his ‘primitive’ policeman’s uniform, nightstick upright in his hand.

    Look at the old homes, hotels, boarding and seafood houses, autos, stores and the prices for hauling a boat at a boatyard. There’s one bill from Chesapeake Beach Railway Co. in 1889 for $5.09 plus 46 cents for an address change. Relive the days of the old baseball leagues, the family, church and school picnics, ice boating, the ferries, the bathing beauties and the $2,250 fire truck.

    Only the Bay seems the same. But we know it isn’t.

    Making a Book
    Next to family, places where one lived early in life (or maybe still lives today, especially in small communities) are of the most interest. In the beginning, it wasn’t really a book that Nutwell had in mind. There were interesting old photos, many with no information, of family people and people of other families. After retiring from the Department of Defense she sorted them out. She didn’t realize it at the time, but a book was in gestation.

    There was much exercise of the memory, interviews with old timers and more long-forgotten pictures from them, lots of leg work, three years of research and continual amazement at what came up by digging.

    In the end, it all came together so nicely, these voices and pictures from the past. It’s a great read-look-see.

    Enough said.

    Find A Ripple on the Wind ($14.95) at Barnes & Noble or order from Nutwell: 410-867-4688; llnutwell@verizon.net.


    © COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.