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{ 8 }  SNJ Today  |  MARCH 2, 2022                                                                                                                                                                                                                             MARCH 2, 2022  |  SNJToday.com  { 9 }
              THE GREAT OUTDOORS


     A Book Launch                                                  Newly released book causes our columnist to reflect on the launching

                                                                       of two bayshore initiatives and how each has grown and thrived.



     NATURE AROUND US                                                                                             J. Morton Galetto, CU Maurice River

          ometime between December of     McDaniels, had bought it for the clam-                                   of our past, present, and prospective
          1989 and March of ’90, CU Maurice   ming license that accompanied the craft,                             future. BCB’s Museum Curator Rachael
     SRiver assembled a work crew         recognizing the hull to have outlived its                                Rodgers Dolhanczayk, along with educator
     to erect an osprey platform near the   usefulness. But Gandy was enthralled by                                Constance L. McCart, have just written a
     Mauricetown Causeway Bridge. Prior to   the old sailing schooners and had a vision                            book—The A. J. Meerwald and New Jersey’s
     the great infestation of phragmites this   of returning the it to its former glory and                        Oyster Industry. It does a marvelous,
     was likely our most viewed nest. (Today   port. Today, I marvel at the visionaries                            detailed, yet succinct job of covering the
     our members monitor 40-some).        who led the restoration process.                                         history of the industry and restoration of
        I remember the day as chilly but warm   As we toured, there looked to be more                              the A.J., including important timelines for
     enough to be muddy underfoot. Osprey   water in the hull of that ship than in the                             both. It is a must-read and a super gift.
     platform installations had to be com-  river. We tried to be polite and hide our                                 During its six decades of history the boat
     pleted before the mid-March return of   skepticism, but I think our smiles likely                             had many uses and incarnations. Early days
     migrating osprey.                    gave us away. They explained that this                                   of the A.J. Meerwald, its service in WWII,
        The entire time we were constructing   forgotten vessel had not always been a                              and its return to oystering are described.
     the nest we could hear the steady drone   motorized craft but at one point in its                                Captains often referred to their ships
     of water pumps. Aboard the deck of what   glory days was an oyster schooner, travel-                          in human terms. “Well, wooden boats
     resembled a sunken or grounded ship,   ing only with the wind. They planned to                                they creak and they groan, do all the same
     a small number of spectators curiously   remove the pilothouse and restore the                                kinds of things as humans do. That’s one
     watched us from time to time. We went   low-profile entrances to the galley and                               of the reasons they talk of the boat as being feed, and mulch. They were also prized
     about our business of erecting the pole and   berths, equip it with masts, and sail it as a                   alive,” Captain Fenton Anderson told Rita  by our predecessors, and half-buried oys-
     when we completed the task at hand, we   floating classroom.                                                  Moonsamy in a 1983 interview.     ter shell middens show us where Lenape
     decided to see what they were about.   Eddie DiPalma was with our crew and        Get On Board                   The building of ships and prep work   encampments once stood.
        We inquired, “Hey, what are you folks   his father had been an oysterman for a   To buy the book, book a sail or learn   such as half models and floor sketches are   Aspects of the industry’s oyster lease
     up to?”                              number of years. He was familiar with   more about the oyster industry visit the   discussed. The Delaware Bay oyster schoo- grounds, harvest methods, and the many
        With levity intended, they replied, tit   shipbuilding and he shook his head in   Bayshore Center at Bivalve’s website:   ner’s shallow draft and wide beam are   ancillary enterprises that supported the
     for tat, “What are you up to?”       amazement at the task ahead of them.          bayshorecenter.org         especially designed for our local waters and  oyster business are part of the text. Trains
        We said we had just installed an osprey   We offered our best wishes: “Good   Further, check out the Bayshore   the task of harvesting oysters. Since these  were used to deliver oysters to restaurants
     nesting platform. They thought our goal   luck.” And their reply seemed to have a   Center museum at 2800 High Street,   bivalves live in shallower depths, piling   all over the east coast. The advent of can-
     was optimistic; after all, New Jersey had   trace of equal uncertainty, “Good luck   Port Norris, NJ. It’s a great way to   them onboard takes a wide craft.   ning led to the shucking of oysters and
     once had 500 osprey pairs and was prob-  with the birds.” Our mutual skepticism   spend a morning or afternoon. Reopens   People’s age-old love of oysters is also  huge piles of shells. Thus sprang up the
     ably down to between 25 and 50 pairs,   was justified.                       for the season on April 8, 2022.  described in the volume. Oysters are espe- riverfront villages of Shellpile and Bivalve.
     very scarce in those early days of recovery.   Ultimately Wren and Gandy agreed                               cially nutritious and have been prepared in   For many years oysters could only be
     Likewise, during the heyday of the oyster   that a non-profit, then called the Schooner                       endless ways. In their heyday, beginning   taken under sail, but during and after the
     industry, 590 vessels called the ports of   Project, should be established to take the   millionaires per square mile than any other   in the mid-19th century, menus would   war motorized crafts were permitted. The
     the Maurice River their home in 1903, but   helm in the restoration process. In 1992   town in New Jersey, all because of the oys-  include such fare as oysters on the half   evolution of the industry as each of these
     there were fewer than 20 in 2020.    they received an Historic Restoration   ter industry. Growing up I remember old   shell, followed by oyster patties, turkey   modifications took place changed the face
        We returned to our original inquiry,   Grant and the boat was hauled out in 1994   timers saying that oystermen lit their ciga-  with oyster stuffing, Oysters Rockefeller,  of the business landscape and the health
     “What are YOU up to?”                for land-based construction. A professional   rettes at taverns with 100-dollar bills and   and broiled oysters and rolls. There were  of the harvest.
        They responded, “We’re restoring a 1928   crew augmented by highly skilled volun-  traded in cars when the ashtrays were full.   all manner of implements like silver oyster   Prior to spread of the disease MSX in
     oyster schooner; want to come aboard?”   teers and greenhorns proceeded to restore   Back then, sails filled the Maurice River   forks and fancy Haviland Limoges porce- the late 1950s, millions of bushels of oys-
        We looked around at our work crew   the A.J. Meerwald. It was estimated that   Cove and bayfront as they went in search   lain oyster plates with individual cells to   ters were harvested each year from 50,000
     to see if folks were game and the head-  about 10 percent of the vessel was extant.   of oysters. The Meerwald’s launch in 1995   accommodate each shucked oyster.   acres of oyster beds. By 1957 the disease
     nodding seemed to show interest, so we   After seven years of blood, sweat, and   was followed by 30-odd years of hard   The book is also filled with interesting  had reduced the harvest to 10,000 bushels.
     were soon on tour, with Meghan Wren   likely some tears, on September 12, 1995,   work while the Bayshore Center at Bivalve   facts about the oyster and the industries  In recent times the harvest has rebounded
     and Greg Honachefsky as our guides. I   the ship was christened with a bottle of   (BCB) restored the ship as well as the   surrounding it. Oysters filter up to 50   to around 100,000 bushels annually.
     knew that John Gandy had purchased a   champagne by Wren in front of a crowd of   shipping sheds where they established a   gallons of water each day, thus playing a   With shucking came the shuckers. The
     schooner with the intention of restoring it,   onlookers.                 museum and ventured to keep people edu-  critical role in the health of the bay. They  Afro-American contribution to the industry
     but little else. He purchased it for a dollar,   Recently, I had time to reflect on this   cated about the importance of this mollusk   are sessile; they do not dig or move like   is both striking and poignant. The sharp,
     and by my estimation he paid $500,000   day and the many years leading up to and   to our region, both yesterday and today.  clams, but remain fixed and immobile.   rhythmic sounds of many workers open-
     too much. This was clearly going to be   following it, as I completed this recounting   This history is part of our regional heri-  Their shells have been utilized for centu- ing the shells to release the meat inside
     expensive if it were ever to happen.  of the story. These were the days when the   tage, and in my humble opinion it is impor-  ries as money, roadway material, utensils,  are described by those who worked there.
        The previous owner, Donnie        bivalve was king and Port Norris had more   tant to give generations an understanding   decorations, a component in glass, chicken  From the ramshackle housing to the joys of
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