Page 9 - March 10, 2021
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{ 8 }  SNJ Today  |  MARCH 10, 2021                                                                                MARCH 10, 2021  |  SNJToday.com   { 9 }
                                                                                                                       If any reader knows of other
                                                                                                                     resource materials on Stretch Garrison,
 Truth or Stretch?  stings, but much to Delbay’s chagrin he                                                          when you were young, please e-mail J.
                                                                                                                     or if your family told you the story
       She did end up with a few jellyfish
                                                                                                                     Morton Galetto, forrivers@comcast.net
     spotted no sharks after nearly nine hours
     of due diligence.
       When I asked Delbay about his                                                                                   ... the imagination that
     mother’s famed swim he simply shrugged                                                                            goes into folklore is not
     and said sadly, “Well, we didn’t see any
     sharks.”                                                                                                        only farfetched fun but can
 J. Morton Galetto, CU Maurice River  Meghan just laughed, clearly more                                                link us as a community.
     relieved than disappointed.
       Five years ago two other kayakers and I                                                                     the labors of a rooster. “A finer rooster
     were paddling just north of the mouth of                                                                      there wasn’t in all the country wide. His
     Fortescue Creek in Beadon’s Cove when                                                                         comb was red as the rising sun, and when
     two fins arose from the water parallel                                                                        he crowed, pigeons fell off their perches
     to one another. One of my companions                                                                          (Jagendorf).” Placing feed incrementally
     said, “Shark.” To which I replied, “Skate,”                                                                   higher on objects—a box, a barrel and
     since the fins flared inward and were                                                                         finally the porch—his rooster “Big Boy”
     parallel as opposed to in-line. There were                                                                    jumped and stretched until he became
     quite a few and then they were gone.                                                                          enormous, so massive he could be hitched
       A few minutes later I said, “Shark.”    When the shark was exhausted Stretch outfitted him                  to a farm plow. “That rooster was famous
     And indeed there were a number of not-        like a horse, with a saddle and bit. He trained                 from NJ to California, and Stretch was
     so-shabby sharks, rounding our kayaks                                                                         mighty proud of him (Jagendorf).”
     like racing buoys. Sharks will predate on   the shark ... enabling him to deliver the U.S. Mail up and          However, Big Boy’s appetite became a
     skates so possibly they were lured in by   down the Maurice. The famed delivery was considered                challenge so he decided to add cement to
     their presence. Going forward this is one           the “eighth wonder of the world...”                       augment his feed. One day this meal plan
     of the few truths in the story I shall relay:                                                                 turned him to stone, so Stretch gifted him
     Delaware Bay does have sharks.                                                                                to the City Fathers and they placed him
       Many years ago Phil Correll from the                                                                        on top of a power plant and outfitted him
     National Park Service called me regard-                                                                       with a siren. Jealous of his size or sound,
     ing the Coastal Heritage Trail and the   to Stretch Garrison in a AAA travelers’   had a farm on the Maurice River not far   the other roosters crowed at him night
     Bayshore Heritage Byway. As an aside he   guide and through fleeting mentions in   from the Delaware Bay. He was also a   and day and he was finally retired.
     asked if I was familiar with Stretch Gar-  newspaper articles. Thus far we have not   hunter, fisherman, and woodsman. One   I tell this tale to help give it renewed
     rison; he was seeking more information   found primary materials that link him to a   day he caught a shark and fastened his   life, for the imagination that goes into
     about him. But alas, I had never heard of   real individual named Garrison. However,   anchor line to the beast, which pro-  folklore is not only farfetched fun but can
     this character of local legend. Apparently   in the Historical Atlas of Cumberland   ceeded to take him on a Jersey-style   link us as a community.
     in the 1930s, and for some years before,   County, NJ 1876, D.J. Stewart, the Garrison   Nantucket sleighride through the oyster   Folklore is often born of real feats
     he was well-known.                   name exists on maps of the area along the   beds, destroying a 100-foot swath up the   by legendary heroes. Possibly someday
       In at least two books Stretch Garrison’s   Maurice River. In Commercial Township   river. Evidently it was low tide and the   Meghan will have crossed the Bay in an
     story appears—Upstate Downstate: Folk   the name appears on many properties   ambitious critter sped through the mud,   hour with the assistance of a shark that
     Stories of the Middle Atlantic States by   south of Mauricetown and into Port Nor-  digging a new channel with its tail for five   her son Delbay trained prior to the jour-
     M. Jagendorf (c. 1949) and New Jersey, A   ris. Today there remain many Garrison   miles, right up to Garrison’s landing.   ney. And her newly opened store in For-
     Guide to Its Present and Past, Compiled   descendants in our region.       When the shark was exhausted Stretch   tescue will be famous for selling oysters
     and Written by the Federal Writers’ Project   The WPA Guide is one of my favorite   outfitted him like a horse, with a saddle   shucked by a pet stingray. But whatever
     of the Works Progress Administration for   reference books about New Jersey. In the   and bit. He trained the shark, directing   invented stories may evolve, her guidance
     the State of NJ (1939).              section devoted to Folklore and Folkways   him by the reins to “gee and haw,” en-  in the transformation of the AJ Meer-
       In 1935 the United States Work Progress   it discusses some famous Jersey charac-  abling him to deliver the U.S. Mail up and   wald back to its former glory as an oyster
     Administration (WPA) sought to employ   ters. It begins with the preeminent Jersey   down the Maurice. The famed delivery   schooner, and ultimately NJ’s Official
     people to get a depression-ridden econo-  Devil but reveals that the Maurice River   was considered the “eighth wonder of the   Tall Ship, will be an exploit never again
     my back on its feet. Historians, teachers,   has its own tall tale of Stretch Garrison.   world,” and spectators, including sena-  matched or duplicated by mere mortals.
     writers, librarians, and other white-collar   Most American tales start with a “real”   tors and congressman, came to view the   Hats off to the many people who keep
     workers were hired and tasked with the   individual who becomes larger than life   strange twosome until he retired the old
     Federal Writer’s Project. Most of us have   in the retelling. One would suspect that   shark to sea to be with his finned cohorts.  our heritage a living history.  n
     heard of the WPA blue-collar workers’   there once existed a Mr. Garrison who   Stretch had other inventive schemes.   Sources:
     many infrastructure contributions to our   was an enterprising farmer and an excel-  For his cows he developed a treadmill   Cited throughout article
     state and federal parks, but there were   lent fisherman but who was also known   attached to a churn, such that the cows   Recommended; Upstate Downstate,
     many jobs for researchers as well.   for his tendency to “stretch the truth.”     would walk in place at night, turning   Folk Stories of the Middle-Atlantic States,
       Local historian Linda Hruza-Jones as-  So we have set the stage now for the   their own milk into butter by morning.   M. Jagendorf for a more detailed and fun
     sisted me by identifying other references   LORE. Apparently Stretch Garrison   He also decided that he should employ   account of Stretch Garrison.
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