Pot Luck

Laurel Tarantino

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I will never have a formal dining room.  You know the kind I mean, a room with a long handsome table that seats ten or twenty people, with water glasses, stemmed goblets for wine, fine china and fingerbowls.  The kind of table where I would have to question, “Which fork is this, my salad fork, or is it for the main course?” A room where there are old fine art oil paintings that adorn the walls, lit by brass lamps that reflect the mastery of the artist.  Oh, and candles, how they’ll set the mood for an exquisite evening.

No, I may never know what it’s like to dine in such a formal setting, but I do know fine dining.  I’ve found a dining experience that fits into my life just perfectly, and I can’t imagine a month without one.  Pot Luck dining: I don’t know where these dinners originated, I like to think they started right here in New England.   I’m not going to “Google” them on line to learn their history, but one thing I do know, whoever came up with the concept was a genius.

I can’t remember my first, perhaps it was at the Fire Station in Lovell, Maine, where it seemed the entire town showed up to socialize.  I’m always tempted to stop at those suppers you see advertised on a hand painted board “Church Supper Tonight, All Are Welcome,” but it’s usually last minute that I see them and I was brought up never to show up empty handed.  So I smile instead for those inside enjoying their community gathering.

I have a small group that gets together to play what we call “Extreme Croquet,” mostly during the not-so-perfect weather days, hence the name “Extreme.”  One Saturday a month, at High Noon, weExtreme Croquet meet for the fun and the bragging rights of taking the win on the course.  There may be briar, knee deep grass, waist high snow, rain, or other obstacles on the course.  Always, there is friendly ribbing…   “Watch him, he cheats!  Send Him, Send Him Long.”  And always, always, there is laughter in abundance and a great variety of food in between rounds.  A quiet comes over the room as folks warm up with some of Helen’s chowder, a mound of Shepherds’ Pie, or a slice of Tracy’s extreme lemon cake.Extreme Lemon Cake

So, I may have only won bragging rights once in 20 or 30 games, but I surely come out on top each time I go, from the friendship, fresh air filled with the sounds of friend’s voices, and that wonderful, ever present “Pot Luck” meal.

Fast forward now, to a boat building shop on Harbor Loop.  The building itself is part of Gloucester’s Maritime Heritage Center.  Why they took the word “Heritage” out of the name is beyond me and a whole other story.

Anyway, when I bump into Geno he’ll say, “Hey, we’re going to be cooking this Saturday, you should come by if you can.” Or: “We’re getting together this weekend,” and the one I’m always sad to hear: “We’ve been getting together, I haven’t seen you in a while, where’ve you been?”  Life.  Why is it that life sometimes gets in the way of being somewhere we’d like to be, doing what we’d like to do?

Back to the Dory Shop.  There’s usually a boat in the process of being built on any given Saturday afternoon you step through the old wood sliding door.  Hopefully, for our purpose, it’s at the stage where it’s upside down and we can use the bottom for our table.   One of my fondest memories was hearing someone yell from inside the shop “Hey Geno, we need a bigger boat,” as people kept arriving with more food.   There’s plenty of sawdust, boat building tools and warmth from the wood stove that will surely have something good cooking on it.

Cooking on the wood stove at the Dory Shop

Cooking on the wood stove at the Dory Shop

Remove the lid from the cast iron skillet and catch a fine mouth-watering aroma taking the chill out of a November day.

Tom will most likely arrive with rosy cheeks, a bucket of steamers and a few lobsters he hauled just that morning.  Someone may bring Finnan Haddie, home baked beans, a salad, sweets… Ever hear of a “Gloucester Lollipop?”  We have those too, when Joe comes in with his Mackerel on a stick and what a treat when Geno makes his fish cakes and calls from the wood stove to get ‘em while they last.  You never know what you’ll get, but a guarantee is that you will be welcomed, you will be well fed, and you’ll have such a grand time that you’ll want to return again and again.

An added bonus to Saturday afternoon’s at the Dory Shop would be the music. Someone is bound to bring an instrument or a pretty voice to entertain for a spell.  Want to dance?  Go ahead, no one judges you here.

Music at the Dory Shop

Music at the Dory Shop

Perhaps others will join you, or try and sing along. It’s okay if you don’t know the words.  Just don’t sit in the rocking chair if it’s empty. That’s Joe’s chair and he’s too much of a gentleman to tell you so.  It’s just a given for those of us who’ve been around a while.  The way I hear it, Geno started these Saturday afternoon “Pot Lucks” so he would have something fun to do with his uncle.  How wonderful for us that we benefit from these kind souls.



I bring you a bit away from the waterfront, to a two-car garage that houses no cars, behind Burnham’s Field.  I call these pot luck meals “Sunday Dinner at Joe’s Garage.” I have an entire photo album just for these meals.  Some of the photos include Joe gathering mussels off theGathering Mussels seaweed beds of Ten Pound Island with his daughter, to be later photographed in a pan of garlic, fresh tomatoes and wine.  Oh, and the fresh bread!

Bread is always warm at Joe's Garage

Bread is always warm at Joe’s Garage

Joe makes loaves every time.  Hot from the industrial restaurant style ovens, smothered in sesame seed, a true gift for your taste buds.  How many pictures of food can you take?  I don’t know yet, I’m still working on it.  I know for sure, there’ll be more delights coming from Sunday Dinner at Joe’s Garage.  Homemade sausage, pizzas, linguini with the clam sauce, countless photo ops.

Today I’m at another friend’s house for “Patriots Football.”  I’m among some of my dearest of friends and they all know I’m not here to watch football.  Oh, I do hope the Patriots continue with their winning streak, but it is certainly not the foremost reason for being here.  It’s the nourishment of friendship, good eats and conversations, before, during half time and after the game that feed me.  Even the dogs are happy to be invited.  Maybe someone will toss them a scrap; in the meantime, they run and play in the autumn sunshine.    This group of people take turns each time there is a one o’clock game on a Sunday.  One week it might be at Maria’s or June’s, perhaps a Harvest Meal at Lenny and Ricks, wherever it may be any particular week is the place I want to be.

I can hear cheers from the other room, the Pats must be winning.  From where I sit, we have all won for this day we’ve been given together.

There are so many ways we enjoy ourselves.  I find for me they generally involve food.  The Fort Gang feasts at different friends’ homes during St. Peter’s Fiesta, celebrating the Fourth of July with the same crew and then some in Rockport.  Bringing a dish to the Orchard Street Parade where the famous “Hat Ladies” debut their incredible work.   St. Joseph’s Feast at Auntie Emma’s, which starts before most are out of bed to make the pasta.  All memories that make forever stories to be told time and again.

So folks, if you’ve never experienced it, I highly recommend it…   call it what you will, “Pot Luck Dinner, Pot Luck Lunch, Sunday Dinner at Joe’s Garage.” Make up your own excuse, just do it.  Get together with your friends, share in the making of the meal, and eat it together, be it leaning on a porch railing or the bottom of an overturned boat.  Rain, snow, sunshine or under the stars, simply enjoy each other’s company.

If you want to “Google” the origins of Pot Luck, please let me know what you find.  I imagine they’ve been around since time began.  Surely, because of them, I dine on the best food on earth, in the finest settings, surrounded by the laughter and love of friendships old and new.

It doesn't get any better than this...



Laurel TarantinoLaurel Tarantino, writer, is happy to live in her hometown, Gloucester, with her husband, James,”Jimmy T,” daughter Marina Bella, and the family dog, Sport. She is known for “stopping to smell the roses” and loves to photograph and write about her beloved waterfront community.




Tear It Down or Save It- A Tale of Two Cities

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Leading by Example

We accept the fact that Gloucester is America’s oldest seaport but it is easy to take this distinction somewhat for granted.  In addition Gloucester has a rich history in the art world.  The list of painters who came to Gloucester, drawn by the scenery and the special light, is a who’s who in art. Throw into the mix the history of the granite industry, the uniquely ethnic neighborhoods and last, but not least, the architecture.

What are we doing to respect and preserve our eroding collection of old buildings?  Not enough!

We do not have a much needed demolition delay that would slow down the demolition of old buildings with a shot at saving them even if it’s a long shot.  In the most historic and oldest towns in eastern Massachusetts most have long since embraced this tool.  Gloucester has rejected this process several times since the late 80s.

There is a small historic district including part of Middle Street, Pleasant Street and the West End of Main Street.   Those who buy property in this area are aware of the restriction imposed upon the district.  If the guidelines for an historic district bother a potential buyer and they find the rules too restrictive, perhaps they should invest in another neighborhood.  If a buyer does purchase in this neighborhood they enter into the deal with eyes wide open.  However, it is almost inevitable that sooner or later there will be changes that a new owner might like to make to the property and a good chance that the changes will be contrary to basic preservation guidelines.  Unless there is a serious hardship the commission involved must stand their ground and uphold the preservation guidelines.

Just last week it was shocking to see what appeared would be the total demolition of a stately house on Pleasant Street in progress.  Known locally as the Blatchford house it is located in the historic district.

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This dignified house in recent days. Known as the Blatchford House, it is on Pleasant Street, on the same block as City Hall.


This extensive demolition to the building was allowed to happen legally because the façade and the gable ends were preserved saving the streetscape but the back of the house is gone and the interior is gutted.  All of the approvals are in order.  But it sure looks like serious demolition to me!

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The house has no back and the interior is gutted.


At the present time two antique houses on the Boulevard are threatened with demolition,  with no way other than perhaps public pressure to prevent the action that will permanently alter this scenic stretch of roadway overlooking our beautiful harbor.  The Man at the Wheel is an iconic feature of this neighborhood.   (Please see story in Gloucester Daily times here:  http://www.gloucestertimes.com/news/local_news/western-avenue-inn-plan-draws-worry/article_b70bf423-ff06-5e44-95ee-ec2b2d9fdca2.html )

Switching gears, let’s talk about the City of Peabody.  Peabody?  Of all the town and cities on the North Shore what’s historic about Peabody?

The City of Peabody was separated from Danvers and was the scene of leather workers and tanneries.  The tanneries are mostly gone and although that city is proud of its history few would compare it to Gloucester on any level.  It is the city of malls, old factories, busy highways and a central square that is sometimes under water.  Above all it doesn’t have a harbor and any comparison to Gloucester, Le Beauport, would seem to be ludicrous.

Although Peabody doesn’t have much going for it compared to Gloucester,  in one respect it has Gloucester beat hands down!  Here’s why.

In the late 1890s J. B. Thomas built a house for his grandson.  He spared nothing to create a beautiful house smack dab in the middle of the city on the corner of Main Street and Washington Street.  It also had a fabulous carriage house in the rear not to mention an enormous and beautiful beech tree in the front.

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The J. B. Thomas-O’Shea house in Peabody


The Thomas family lived in the house for 15 or 20 years before selling it to the O’Sheas.  It then became known as the O’Shea house until sold around 1970 and converted into a furniture store.  After the furniture store owners retired the house was sold to a social agency.

In recent years the house has fallen on hard times and was foreclosed.  Bank owned, it was available for sale.

In a scenario that is far too familiar,  a developer from our own City of Gloucester eyed this high visibility site for redevelopment and negotiated to purchase it.  He made it known that his intent was to demolish the old house. He was so taken with the site he had not initially looked at its wonderful interior. This is when the story takes a remarkable turn.

Unlike Gloucester, this community, Peabody, has a demolition delay ordinance and has had one since 1986, almost thirty years.  It was invoked in an attempt to save the O’Shea house.  But when the City realized that the delay was not long enough to be effective the city council boldly extended the ordinance from 90 days to one year, 365 days, to buy more time; a lease on life for the old house in question.

The trend is for longer delay periods as towns where demolition delay has been tested understand that in order to be effective, longer delays must be enacted and are addressing this finding.  (Meanwhile, remember, Gloucester doesn’t even have a demolition delay ordinance, still rolling out the red carpet for developers who care little for the historical value of the properties they would demolish.)

Determined not to lose this historic house, the City of Peabody, led by the mayor and supported by the Peabody City Council, made a second bold move.  They announced they would take the house by eminent domain!  The house will be saved and it will be interesting to see what happens next.  The City can potentially recover their fair market value purchase price and will have the option to sell it with preservation covenants or easements to protect it into the future.  That is what anyone caring about the house hopes will happen.

Perhaps eminent domain is a tool that Gloucester should invoke from time to time when a historic building is in jeopardy.  How is it that Peabody can take such a decisive step while Gloucester languishes, totally vulnerable with no demolition delay and only a tiny historic district?

Who would think that Peabody would have the foresight and courage to act so decisively?  Why is Gloucester so indifferent?

Is it because Peabody has so much less to save that they are galvanized in making such a bold move?

Regardless of what motivated them,  I say “Kudos to Peabody”.  May they lead by example!


Pru's photo for book (2)


Prudence Fish, of Lanesville, is a published author and expert on antique New England houses.

Read Prudence Fish’s blog, Antique Houses of Gloucester and Beyond.

Please see this related story from the Gloucester Daily Times:

Private residence proposed for the ocean side of the Back Shore












Dogtown College-The Learning Endures

by Martin Ray


My recent reminiscences on Dogtown College stemmed from recollections of a field tutorial on Tree Identification that I enjoyed under the auspices of the College, back in the early days of my landscape gardening career about 1979. Currently I am engaged in discoveries of natural and social history  that I present in a blog series  Notes from Halibut Point    http://halibutpointnotes.blogspot.com/.

The idea for this endeavor came to me after seeing Cape Ann Museum’s 2013 retrospective on Marsden Hartley that combined his writings and paintings of Dogtown. I thought, I know a nearby place to get to know and share….Halibut Point.  My weekly blog series in this place, Halibut Point, now numbers over one hundred.  I  would like to share this post from the blog, April 23, 2015, on the topic of Dogtown College:


Dogtown College


In the last posting I remarked on taking an eye-opening class through Dogtown College. Three Board members of the group have helped me this week to recall its flavor and direction: Peter Anastas, Nancy Goodman, and my (now) wife Kay,  who was treasurer.


Besides Tree Identification I remember participating in Natural History with Ivy LeMon – “the butterfly lady” – and Life Drawing at Jane Robbins’ Thousand Hands Gallery in East Gloucester Square. The cost was $24 for 8 sessions.

. . .

Dogtown College shimmered and pulsed on Cape Ann for a few years, beginning in 1979. It drew on many of the same community strengths, aspirations, and talents that energized other innovations of the period, such as the Cape Ann Cooperative School, the Food Coop, and the Gloucester Folklife Festival. All these expressed themes from the Sixties rooted in American arts and enterprise. They resolved to reach for the best and not wait for established institutions.

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Steve Heims Alicia Quintano photo

Physicist Steve Heims resided here then, pondering a more rewarding teaching environment than he customarily found as a college professor. He explored possibilities with his friend Jonathan Bayliss, a corporate and government administrator with deep literary interests. The conversation drew on discussions that Jonathan had had with Charles Olson and Peter Anastas on creating free universities based on Olson’s years as rector of Black Mountain College. Olson imagined a local center of learning called Dogtown College, the geographic and mythic Dogtown from which Maximus emerged in his epic poem, Dogtown the protean core of Cape Ann.


Dogtown College: a word-pairing delicious with ironies.

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Gloucester Daily Times, April 4, 1979 Courtesy of Catherine Bayliss



Mention of Steve Heims’ name these days invariably brings an affectionate response. Nancy Goodman recalls a brilliant man who “introduced me to the concept that advances in technology aren’t without consequences….I think of Steve as the visionary, more than the person to carry things out.”


A core of organizers got to work. Says Peter Anastas, “We never expected that we’d have a bricks-and-mortar operation. It was going to be like the free universities of the Sixties that were kind of floating, that never had physical locations. Josh Brackett jumped in. He was a terrific organizer. The first thing Josh did was put together a curriculum as a newsletter. We had a public meeting, a sign-up. Dozens and dozens of people came. It was amazing. People wanted to learn, and they wanted to teach.”


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Josh Brackett standing, second from right. Cover photo of literary publication, courtesy of Peter Anastas



Nancy Goodman brought “a faith in people’s natural curiosity and desire to learn, if they’re given a rich environment to explore.” She had met Josh in the Clamshell Alliance opposing the Seabrook nuclear power plant. “Josh was the playful one, compared to Jonathan who was intellectual and very sincere. Josh was able to see the humor in things. He didn’t take it quite as seriously, though he was equally passionate.”


Peter Anastas: We felt that there were incredible resources in Gloucester. Why go out of town when you had somebody like Steve Heims, a theoretical physicist who worked at the highest levels of physics, to sit down with people, explain to us particle physics and relativity? People loved it. Jonathan Bayliss had been reading Melville for 25 years. He had been yearning to share everything he was thinking about. He’d been Leo Alper’s mayoral assistant. He gave a course on City government. I wanted to teach writing.

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Peter Anastas North Shore Magazine, May 19, 1979 Sawyer Free Library files




I had an incredible experience working with all these folks who were interested in writing. The course I taught – but I didn’t really teach it, I was a facilitator – we called it The Writing Voice. The attempt was to have people find their own voice on the page. Almost everyone who was involved in it came through saying they learned something about themselves and about writing.


At other times we had seminars on Jack Kerouac and Henry David Thoreau. Joe Garland was involved, talking about Gloucester history.


Coming from the academic world, we really had to learn a new way of being. I had been in graduate school where the professor was king. His opinions were the received opinions. In Dogtown we opened ourselves to being challenged, and it was a terrific learning experience.


Writing seminar


We did a twenty-four-hour Charles Olson marathon at Hartley Ferguson’s apartment. We read Olson at different times. We left the apartment to go out and actually look at places in Gloucester that he had written about. People were exhausted, but they came away saying they had an understanding of Olson they’d never had before.


We got a lot of support from the newspaper. The newspaper seemed to be very interested in what we were doing. The kinds of people who became involved went beyond the arts, or writing. A lot of folks came and took courses who were never involved in the artistic community.


We raised money by having dinners, in the basement of the Unitarian-Universalist church. Chris Barton did the cooking. A wonderful person. She was running a vegetarian restaurant, The Garden of Eatin’. She cooked these enormous dinners. People would come and pay a  small amount. We would have entertainment. It was a way to keep the community alive.


Eventually it wound down. We knew it was time. We knew we’d done what we set out to do. Like a lot of post-Sixties kinds of enterprises, the attempt wasn’t to try to create something to last forever. The attempt was to bring people together. When people felt the time had come to move on to something else, that’s what we did. And that’s how it ended. 


MHR at Halibut Point (2)

 Martin Ray, of Lanesville, is the creator of the blog Notes From Halibut Point. 



Nice Place to Visit, But…


Photo courtesy of Document Photo/Morin

Well, my first week or so back in the city was an event filled one – not the least of which was the close race between Sefatia Romeo-Theken and Paul McGeary, as they vied to prevail as the two final mayoral candidates in November.

On September, 29, the voters went to the polls and decided it would, indeed, be a Romeo-Theken/McGeary mayoral contest on the first Tuesday in November.

The city and its people are fortunate in that both candidates have a lot of experience, and they both have demonstrated a deep commitment to, and love for this wonderful but rapidly changing city by the sea.

They may differ on some of  the details on how to best help the city and its people navigate the changes that are coming, but nobody, whether you support Romeo-Theken or McGeary, should doubt the commitment both these capable candidates have to the city and its future.

That said, having just returned from working the summer tourist season in Provincetown, something that would not have been economically feasible had it not been that I rented at a reasonable rate from an old friend; I worry that, as the fishing industry continues to be regulated to near extinction, there are too many people in Gloucester who believe that waterfront related tourism in the form of high end marinas,  ever more chic restaurants and bars, and luxurious accommodations of one form or another, will somehow offset the loss of the relatively good paying jobs the fishing industry and related businesses so long generated here in Fish City.

If the economic focus in relation to how best to use the waterfront in the wake of fishing’s decline is too heavily dependent on that high end tourism, Gloucester is setting the stage for another economic crisis a few years down the road from now. That crisis will revolve around the harsh reality that the people employed in those almost strictly seasonal, tourism and service industries will not be able to afford to live here any longer.


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Ernest Morin photo of Jeff Weaver mural at Harbor Loop, courtesy Document Photo/Morin

That is because as the waterfront is gentrified, the term is a bit of a cliché but I use it for lack of a better one, one can be sure the gentrification will spread out from the waterfront and up into what are still working class neighborhoods like “Portagee Hill”, the area in and around Middle Street, and all around and above Washington Street heading out toward Grant Circle.

As the gentrification spreads, already rising rents in the city will spike still higher.  It is all but guaranteed, yet the wages most of the jobs in tourism, even high end tourism, pay will not be enough to compensate for the ever increasing costs of housing .

Now, I know Provincetown and Gloucester are very different communities. But they share numerous demographic traits that, when looked at holistically and historically, make it clear that Gloucester can learn some lessons from Provincetown and, hopefully, not make the same mistakes Provincetown did as high end tourism replaced the once vibrant fishing economy there. As the fishing industry declined in Provincetown, old local Portuguese fishing families sold their multifamily  homes and moved away. Investors from Boston, New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco bought up those homes and transformed those once reasonably priced apartments into luxurious condominiums that are rented out by the week for two, three, even four thousand dollars during the high tourist season, only to be left vacant through the winter months – despite the fact Provincetown is experiencing a genuine housing crisis.

So acute is the housing shortage in Provincetown, people my age who have lived and worked there for years in the arts, in galleries, shops, and restaurants are leaving in droves. Even those who were fortunate enough to have bought something before prices went into the stratosphere about fifteen years ago are leaving. Why? Because their property taxes and assorted other fees have been raised to levels they can no longer afford.

The housing crisis is so severe that, increasingly, the employees in the shops, restaurants and galleries are Jamaican or Eastern European migrant workers who live four and five people to a room in bunk house style conditions for which each person pays two hundred dollars a week for the bunk – and little else.

Now, some will say such a development could never happen here in Gloucester, I beg to differ. In fact, a year ago this past summer I overheard two members of the management team at the establishment I worked at for two seasons talking about the need for the owners to start thinking about building dormitory style housing on the property because they understood that, as the economy of Gloucester changes and the city gentrifies, it is going to become ever harder for workers in the tourism and service industries to find housing here.

Gloucester, as Newburyport did twenty five years ago, is at great risk, especially in the wake of fishing’s decline, of becoming little more than a chic, coastal, bedroom community of Boston where most residents work off island for good wages; of seeing multi-family homes bought up and converted into high end condominiums, perhaps even to be rented out only in  the peak summer months at exorbitant rates as has happened in Provincetown, while the jobs created on island in the tourism and service sector industries  don’t pay enough to allow a single person, let alone someone trying to raise a family, to live here anymore.

People who don’t think that could really happen are kidding themselves.

That is why, as this municipal election cycle plays out, it is important for voters to find out where all the candidates stand on these all- important issues pertaining to the city, its people, and the future that awaits both.

Because the future is coming to the city, the only question to be answered is “What kind of future will it be?”

Michael Cook


mike_cookMike Cook  is a long time liberal and gay rights activist who saw the uniqueness of Gloucester from the first moment he drove over the bridge during his move from Cambridge to Cape Ann in 1991 to run NUVA’s AIDS education and services programs.

Voting My Values

Please make time to vote

next Tuesday, September 29



Winslow Homer, Gloucester Harbor and Dory, 1880

A Letter to the Editor of the Gloucester Daily Times, September 24, 2015:

Romeo Theken reflects voters’ values

I’m a “transplant.” I was not born here. I moved to Gloucester just two years ago from Newburyport because I found a community here that welcomed me even though I don’t have a lot of money. I found in Gloucester a city that is proud of its heritage. I admire the working waterfront, the Fort community, and people such as the Parco family of Ocean Crest and Neptune’s Harvest, who are finding innovative ways to grow their Fort-based business, and help to maintain the focus of the local economy to be primarily about fish and the ocean, and not just about shopping and gourmet dining.

The people of Gloucester work hard to take care of their families and their homes, their small businesses, their boats, and they always find time to help someone in need, teach a skill or share a meal. That kind of humanity just does not happen so much in a tourist-based town. I believe that Gloucester’s people are the way they are not just by chance, but because Gloucester has always been grounded in the unique culture of fishing, where values such as cooperation and sharing, and taking care of the ocean are crucial. Lose that, and Gloucester loses its soul.

This is the kind of community I want to be involved in, and contribute to. When it comes time to choosing our representatives in City Hall, I look for people who reflect my values. In Newburyport, I watched (and objected, often!) as, over the past 35 years, city government blatantly rejected the will of the people in favor of selling public waterfront land to private developers who wanted to turn it into an upscale mall. The “leaders” of that city did not represent me at all, nor did they represent the majority of residents. City officials, without asking voters, were only too happy to hand over public land to private condo and retail developers who had no interest in the town, its history, or its culture as a clipper ship building port, other than to provide them with attractive background images for their marketing efforts. The interest of most developers is fundamentally in building their own wealth. I couldn’t stick around and watch it any more. Newburyport has become, for me, a cautionary tale.

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Gloucester City Hall © 2015 Bing McGilvray

Gloucester – the country’s longest operating fishing port — is at an economic turning point, and it has much more at stake than Newburyport does. We do not have to let what is happening in Newburyport, and other places like Newport and Nantucket, happen here. The tourist economy is not inevitable.

City government holds such important power at this point in Gloucester’s development. Because we have no current Master Plan, we rely solely upon the values of the people in City Hall to determine which way Gloucester will go. Will the city accept the challenge to keep seeking innovative and sustainable businesses and projects which support its ocean-based economy and culture, such as Ocean Alliance? And will it materially support its artists who need affordable places to live and work … or will it sell out and become just another banal, anonymous tourist town?

As a new resident, I want Gloucester to remain true to what it is — a proud, creative city embracing the future, not a humbled, defeated city offering its youth nothing but low-wage, dead-end, service industry jobs. In the upcoming mayoral primary, I will vote for Sefatia Romeo Theken because she reflects my values. I trust her to work hard to honor what Gloucester always has been and can still be — a city that is true to itself, too smart to sell out to greedy, selfish developers who come here for all the wrong reasons.





Lois A. McNulty,  Enduring Gloucester’s managing editor, lives in Gloucester. She has made her living on the North Shore over the past 40 years as a public school teacher and newspaper reporter/feature writer.


Humbled by Hoops by Lori Sanborn

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Coach Joe Billante with Lori Sanborn at 2015 GHS Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

sanborn- fishermen logo

Humbled by Hoops

by Lori Sanborn

I still remember the first drill I did with Lisa Olson my freshman year in the old gym at Gloucester High School.  Coach Olson stood at the baseline and rolled the ball out towards half court.  Battling one another, Erika Brown and I charged for the rock looking to score on the other end.   Junior versus freshman. All was fair game.  I loved that drill.  I loved that gym, with its amazing hardwood floors and local history.  I loved how many people crammed into that small arena to watch our boys and girls play basketball.  Khris Silveria and Paula Ryan were my hometown heroes.

But my love for the game did not start here. In fact, it came much earlier.  Somewhere between having CYO practices in the tiny Magnolia Library and going to open gym with all the boys at the Cape Ann YMCA, I fell in love.  To me there was no better feeling than blocking an opponent, finding a wide open teammate on the opposite block or making an unexpected steal that led to an easy lay-up off the fast break.  Although, my all time favorite feeling was the sound that echoed from the hoop after making a “nothing but net swoosh.” That WHITHTHTHTHPPP.  Some of you know the exact sound that I am referring to.  And hearing a swoosh on a chain net, well forget about it….

Simply put, I felt good playing basketball.  So I played whenever and wherever I could get gym time.  The size of the court did not matter.  Nor did the gender or age of my opponents.  I shot my heart out whenever I could.  But my personal drive could only take my passion for the game so far.  I was blessed to be supported by an extraordinary family and an equally dedicated and diverse group of coaching influences.

My mother and father brought me to every practice, game, and AAU tournament in Massachusetts and beyond.  And they did so with smiles on their faces. They supported my wishes to attend camps all over New England and most importantly, talked me off that ledge when I had an awful game.  Their unwavering support for their daughter, would help number 21 to score 30 points after only netting 3 in the game before.

While there have been countless individuals who influenced me during my basketball career, three definitely stand out for helping me to take my game to the next level. Rich Langan, pushed me to become a better post-player, first as my AAU coach and later here, in the gym of the Benjamin Smith Field House as head coach.  Not all players clicked with Rich, but I am one of the lucky ones who did, and his influence motivated me to play this game far beyond its winter season.  Alex “Pep” Borge had a profound influence on my life.  In 6th grade I played for Pep in the Cape Ann YMCA boys league.  Pep’s positive outlook and joyous attitude were infectious.  He made this game fun for me, a gift that every coach should give its players.  I credit Pep for helping me to become the optimist that I am today.

Anyone that is close to me knows how much I love to get yelled at by “old men.”  Why else would I torture myself with the presence of Joe Billante for so long?  All jokes aside, Joe is one of the greatest coaches I know.  No one knows more about the game than Joe B.  And his philosophy is simple.  Fundamentals first and practice makes perfect.  He values the player that works hard.  He values the player that hustles.  Most importantly, Joe B. gives his heart to every player that he works with.  Joe B. has taught me the true value of passion and that if you love what you do, than life will always be worthwhile.

The confidence and courage I found on the hardwood has transferred over to college classrooms, interviews, and eventually parenthood.  Ball taught me how to think quick, be strong, and trust others.  My parents and coaches, like Joe B., reinforced the value of preparation, practice and positivity.  So having my name hang in this gym, and now on the Hall of Fame Wall means more to me than you can imagine.  I want future generations of girls who have hoop dreams to see the name “Lori Sanborn” and hopefully believe that they can be better than me if they really work hard. This should be the mentality of all aspiring athletes, not to be ‘as good as’ but rather, to be ‘better than.’  And if I am really lucky, maybe my own daughter will be able to out-perform her Mom one day.  We just need her to choose sneaks over heels first.

sanborn - HOF class of 2015

GHS Hall of Fame Class of 2015 at September 20 Induction Ceremony

From the bottom of my heart, thank you to the Hall of Fame Committee for choosing me to be among this talented group of male and female athletes and coaches inducted into the 2015 Hall of Fame class.  I will never forget the four years that I played for the Gloucester Girls Basketball program or the teammates that helped me to reach such an accolade. Once again, I have found myself completely humbled by hoops.

sanborn- bio

lori schaefer

Lori Sanborn was born in Gloucester and returned to live permanently in our seaside community three years ago. She has been a public educator for 12 years,  teaching eighth graders.  Lori is most proud of her role as mother to her children, Emerson and Ryder.

The Value of a House



old postcard 53 western

by Prudence Fish

Since 1923 when the Leonard Kraske statue of the Gloucester Fisherman, the “Man at the Wheel” was dedicated on Gloucester’s newly constructed Stacy Boulevard this iconic portrayal of a fisherman looking out to sea has become part of Gloucester’s identity.  It is a rare visitor to Cape Ann who doesn’t go to the Boulevard to view the landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places and perhaps have their picture taken in front of it.

In fact, thousands upon thousands of photos, including postcards and even paintings depict this famous statue.  Just look online at sites such as eBay and the endless images of the Man at the Wheel. Its importance is immediately apparent.

In the background of these pictures stands a long row of old houses lining the inland side of the Boulevard.  Some go back to the 18th century; many are from the 19th century.  Over time they have changed as old houses do but all are still standing, forever recorded in these photos.


The Inn at Babson Court, 53 Western Avenue/Stacy Boulevard, is an important element in the iconic streetscape of Gloucester Harbor’s Boulevard


Babson’s History of the Town of Gloucester, 1860, says that at the close of the Revolutionary War there were only three houses between the “Cut” and Tally’s corner.  The “Cut” is the canal connecting the Annisquam River with Gloucester Harbor.  When Babson wrote about this neighborhood in “View of the Town at the Close of the War”, only two of the original three 18th century houses remained. The “close of the war”, by the way, means the Revolutionary War.

One of the two has not been identified but we know that the old house at 53-55 Western Ave. now the Inn at Babson Court, was one of these 18th century houses.  This mid 18th century house had to be one of the two remaining houses. It was owned by Samuel Stevens. Samuel Stevens was the owner of the Pine Tree Tavern built on land purchased by his ancestor, William Stevens.

inn at babson

Photo courtesy of Cape Ann Museum  (House numbers can change over the years. Now 53 Western Ave.)

In the 18th century it is hard to believe but there were nearly 300 slaves in the Town of Gloucester owned by the wealthiest merchants and sea captains.   Once each year these blacks were given a day off.  They congregated here in this neighborhood at the Pine Tree Tavern on the Boulevard for a day of fun and games and conviviality.  Clearly, the Pine Tree Tavern occupied one of the three houses that were extant at that time.  It is not certain which one was the tavern but there is the distinct possibility that it was the Inn at Babson Court.  The location of the Pine Tree Tavern was some 300 feet from the bridge bringing it into the immediate neighborhood.  It is nice to think that the hospitality given out so generously by the modern day innkeepers at the Inn at Babson Court is a continuation of the hospitality shown by Samuel Stevens at the Pine Tree Tavern so long ago.



The Inn at Babson Court, 53 Western Avenue/Stacy Boulevard, stands directly across from the Fishermen’s Memorial

But now, that familiar backdrop of old houses standing as they have for centuries is in peril of changing.  In the near future that familiar scene on the postcards and souvenirs may never look the same. Why?  After trying to sell the Inn at Babson Court off and on for several years the innkeepers received an offer; the only one the eager sellers have received.  They have long wanted to retire and here was their chance.  There is a catch!  The offer comes with the terrible news that the new buyer’s plan for an eight unit condominium project calls for demolition of the Inn at Babson Court.



This is sad news for all of us and especially the present owners.  I know personally how much of themselves Paul and Donald have put into this house, especially Paul with all his artistic surprises and delightful details that have charmed their guests for many years.

Gloucester has no demolition delay ordinance or demolition review of any kind whatsoever and no historic district covering the Boulevard.  There is nothing to stand in the way of the demolition.  If this happens the view from the Man at the Wheel with the familiar background, will forever be changed.



But that is not all the bad news!

Just a few doors down the street another antique house, a survivor from the 19th century is facing imminent demolition.

This house at 73-75 Western Avenue is a dignified center entrance late Federal period residence.




3. George Davis, brewer

Photo courtesy of Cape Ann Museum. (House numbers can change over the years. Now 73-75 Western Ave.)

I have not been inside and do not know what antique features are left but I know the façade well and have admired the integrity of its exterior and front façade including the long side ell on the left side.  Old photos portray this house painted white with shutters and a tidy fence surrounding the yard, not unlike so many on the Boulevard over one hundred years ago.

The house was built on land owned by Joseph Procter, just one of a long line of Joseph Procters.  It may not have been his homestead but was the homestead of his son, Joseph Johnston Proctor followed by Joseph Osborn Proctor.  The Procters’ role in the history of Gloucester is huge.  They were heavily involved in the fisheries and many local organizations.  Ultimately they owned a number of houses along the Boulevard including the Inn at Babson Court as well as the stately house at 73-75 Western Avenue.

Joseph J. Procter was born in 1802 and married Eliza Ann Gilbert in 1826.  This couple had eleven children before Joseph died unexpectedly in September 2, 1848.  His death was followed by the death of a one year old son just two weeks later.  Eliza Ann lived in the house until her death in 1887.

At this time the house was sold to Hiram Rich, a poet (1832-1901), who worked at the Cape Ann National Bank.  Hiram Rich was widely published in many periodicals including the Atlantic Monthly.  Not too long ago in the Gloucester Times John Ronan called Hiram Rich an underrated poet who was important to Gloucester.

The stories of the people who occupied these two houses and what they meant to Gloucester are extensive.  It is sad to think that soon, in a matter of hours, all traces of these historic houses can be obliterated.


If this bothers you, please attend the Demolition Review Workshop and voice your thoughts.

Regional Demolition Review Workshop

 Open to the public. Free.

Hosted by the Gloucester Historical Commission

Monday, September 28, 7-9 pm

Kyrouz Auditorium, Gloucester City Hall, 9 Dale Ave.


Find out what a Demolition Delay Ordinance would mean for you and your community.
See how demolition review is working in nearby cities and towns.
M. E. Lepionka, Co-Chair, Gloucester Historical Commission


EDITOR’S NOTE:  There is now a lively discussion of this issue on the Enduring Gloucester facebook page.


Pru's photo for book (2)Prudence Fish, of Lanesville, is a published author and expert on antique New England houses.

Click here to read Prudence Fish’s blog, Antique Houses of Gloucester and Beyond.



Sailing with Alex

Sailing with Alex

By Thomas Welch



Growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, you’d think Alex Thomas would be passionate about cheese….or beer….or the Green Bay Packers.


22 years ago Alex met and fell in love with his wife, Diane, whose dream it was to live on the coast of New England. So by “dumb luck” (as Alex describes it) they landed in Gloucester, settling in Bay View and raising their two children, Emma and Isaiah.

Alex quickly discovered his other great passion…Gloucester Harbor! Already an experienced sailor (he was a Sea Scout on Lake Michigan), Alex now keeps his 26-foot Typhoon sailboat moored off Rocky Neck.

It was blowing about 10-15 when Alex picked me up to go for a sail, but 20 minutes later, by the time we put in at Stevens Landing on Rocky Neck, the wind had come up to 20-25 mph. “No problem”, says Alex.

alex 3


alex 2


With a confidence only years of experience can provide, Alex sets the tiller hard to Port, knowing she’ll fall off that way, he lets the mooring go. As if eagerly following some unspoken command, the vessel quickly brings her bow about, fills her sails and takes off, skipping over waves toward the western shore. Though it’s early August, this much Northerly wind not only invigorates the senses, it requires a light wind breaker to protect against the cold spray off the bow.

We enjoy an afternoon ripping back and forth from Niles Beach to Stage Fort Park, passing just south of the big rock off Ten Pound Island on every tack.

One of the many special gifts of spending a lot of time on Gloucester Harbor is the camaraderie you share with the other “regulars”.  Even if you’ve never been formally introduced you “know” them by their boat, their seamanship and their reputations. Alex offers a smile, wave and nod to Capt. Heath Ellis and his passengers on the schooner “Thomas E. Lannon” as we fly by each other, starboard to starboard. The same pleasantries are exchange with the happy passengers aboard the Charter fishing boat “WEJACK”, anchored on the fish at one of Capt. Joe Arsenault’s “sweet spots” in the Outer Harbor.

What a great way to spend an afternoon. Bonding with Nature. Reading Wind and Wave and reacting in accordance and respect of their power, enriching your Soul.

Alex is a perfect example of the thousands of residents who have settled in Gloucester over the years and embraced it. He makes a valuable contribution to the community by not only appreciating the Heritage and the amazing natural resources, but, more importantly becoming part of them.


By the way, if you know, or get introduced to, Alex Thomas in the next few weeks,  wish him luck. He and his dorymate, Donnie Favalora will be representing the U.S. in the Senior Division of the International Dory Races in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia on August 29th!


alex 1


The Blackburn Was a Challenge!


Gloucester, July 25, 2015

Enduring Gloucester Contributor  Jimmy Tarantino completed the 22-mile Blackburn Challenge today, rowing alone in a Grand Banks dory, as a tribute to the great Gloucester doryman Howard Blackburn, for whom the race is named.

Tarantino said, before the race, ” I am one of hundreds of rowers and paddlers blessed with the physical ability to be able to compete in the Cape Ann Rowing Club Blackburn Challenge tomorrow. In tribute to Gloucester’s maritime heritage and the great Howard Blackburn himself, I choose to row alone in a Grand Banks Dory. Should Mother Nature smile and provide a fair wind, lifted by the love and support of friends and family, I aspire.”

Rough conditions this morning forced almost 50 of the over 200 registered rowers and paddlers  to forgo the race or turn back within the first few miles.  Tarantino not only completed the course,  but stopped to help two paddlers floundering in the water after their 20-foot outrigger canoe was swamped by the five-to-six-foot waves a few yards from the rocks at  Andrews Point, just before the 8-mile mark at Halibut Point.

“I threw them my stern line and told them to grab it if they didn’t want to get slammed up against the rocks. ” Tarantino said. ” I was thinking of coming in myself,  but then I saw my friend Chad Johnson coming up in the Harbormaster’s boat, and he took care of them from there. I saw five or six boats capsized out there. It was pretty sloppy. The Harbormaster was busy.”




Tarantino rounds Halibut Point, at approximately mile 8, with 14 miles to go.

Lanesville’s Damon Cummings, helping out with the race in his motor skiff at Lane’s Cove, as he does every year, reported that 34 people in all were pulled from the water today.

After the race, Tarantino, who chose to row alone to honor Blackburn, the “Lone Voyager” said that what kept him going was not so much his solitary will, but the support of all the people- friends, family and acquaintances- who wished him well, and encouraged him, who came out to cheer him on.  “If they could believe in me, I had to believe in myself, ” he said.

“And all the other rowers out there alongside me today. They were inspirational. Two men older than myself really impressed me. Fenton Cunningham and Russell Atkinson are in their 60s. They  came down from Clarke Harbor in Nova Scotia to row with us today, and they finished in an amazing four hours and nine minutes- an hour faster than men half their age. that’s the kind of enduring spirit I’m talking about. That’s tradition. That’s community,” Tarantino said.

From the website of the Cape Ann Rowing Club, sponsors of the race:

The Blackburn  Challenge- History

The event both celebrates and helps to keep alive the story of Howard Blackburn’s desperate mid-winter 1883 rowing of a small fishing dory from the Burgeo Bank fishing grounds to refuge on the south coast of Newfoundland. Blackburn and his dorymate Thomas Welch had become separated from the Gloucester fishing schooner Grace L. Fears during a sudden squall and found themselves nearly sixty miles from the nearest land. Over the course of the ensuing five-day ordeal, Welch would give up and succumb to a merciful death, whereas Blackburn would allow his bare hands to freeze to the shape of the oars, and row until he reached land.

Though Blackburn survived he ultimately suffered the loss of most of his fingers and toes due to frostbite. In spite of his handicap, he later went on to twice sail solo across the Atlantic Ocean, earning himself the title “The Fingerless Navigator”. His story is told in Joseph E. Garland’s “Lone Voyager”.

Lone Voyager - Story of Howard Blackburn Lone Voyager :
The Extraordinary Adventures of Howard Blackburn, Hero Fisherman of Gloucester by Joseph E. Garland Paperback – 320 pages Rev Ed edition (July 2000) Simon & Schuster (Paper); ISBN: 0684872633From the Back Cover of “Lone Voyager””Like countless Gloucester fisherman before and since, Howard Blackburn and Tom Welch were trawling for halibut on the Newfoundland banks in an open dory in 1883 when a sudden blizzard separated them from their mother ship. Alone on the North Atlantic, they battled towering waves and frozen spray to stay afloat. Welch soon succumbed to exposure, and Blackburn did the only thing he could: He rowed for shore. He rowed five days without food or water, with his hands frozen to the oars, until he spied the coast of Newfoundland. Yet his test had only begun.So begins Joe Garland’s extraordinary account of the hero fisherman of Gloucester. Incredibly, though Blackburn lost his fingers to his icy misadventure, he went on to set a record for swiftest solo voyage across the Atlantic that stood for decades. Lone Voyager is a Homeric sage of survival at sea and a thrilling portrait of the world’s most fabled fishing port in the age of sail”

-Lois A. McNulty