Jazz

Peter Anastas

Tom and Peter © Bing McGilvray

             One day during my junior year in high school, a short kid with slicked down black hair and a flashy yellow linen sport jacket stopped me in the corridor between classes.  His name was Eddie Silva and his father was a fishing captain.  Eddie told me he was starting a nine-piece orchestra to play for weddings and dances and he needed a pianist.

             At our first rehearsal, we named ourselves the Modernaires, after the Glenn Miller vocal group.  The saxophone section consisted of Eddie himself and Bob Brayman on alto sax with Pat Maranhas and Jimmy Call on tenors.  Jimmy, who had a trained voice and sang in all the high school glee club operettas, doubled on vocals.  Gil Brown and Frank Domingos, who was in my class, played trumpet, and Ron Brown, who not only looked like Glenn Miller but played like him, was the trombonist.  I played piano, with Bud April, who lived in Essex, on drums.

             During the years in which the Modernaires came into being, Gloucester was a town full of musicians and music lovers.  There was the high school marching band, two American Legion bands, a swing band called The Starlighters, and a host of small dance and jazz bands that played everything from general business gigs, like weddings and parties, to dances in the many bars on Main and Rogers streets.  Dives like the Paramount Café, became storied venues, where Jerry “Pack ‘em in” Quinn presided over the drums, and a slew of great trumpeters like “Babe” McCrae and Herb Pomeroy, with Vern Niemi on sax and “Cap” Thomas on bass, blew the roof off every Saturday night.

             Musicians like Herb, trumpeter Bud Irving, Ray Bentley, who played sax and clarinet, drummers Ron Gilson and Danny Bloomfield, and trombonist Shorty Perry became role models for my brother Tom and me, along with our piano teacher Don Oakes.  We sneaked into the bars to hear them play and we pestered them with questions between sets—What chord changes were they using?  Who were they listening to?

             Our place of rehearsal was the Gloucester Fraternity Club on Webster Street.  With Eddie leading the band we got off to a promising start.  There was no piece of music the Brown brothers couldn’t sight read.  Together we created a library of stock arrangements, which Eddie picked up at the Boston Music Company—“Blue Velvet,” for slow dancing, Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” for up-tempos.  We had thick, corrugated cardboard music stands made with our name stenciled across the front in contemporary script, and for uniforms, we all ordered blue-gray gabardine suits from Robert Hall.

             What we played was not strictly jazz, unless we were covering Ellington or Basie tunes.  Nevertheless, once we started playing on our own, music became a way of life for Tom and me.  As soon as we got home from school, we tuned into Bob “The Robin” Martin’s early evening radio jazz program on WBZ Boston.  During nights and long summer afternoons we listened to “Symphony Sid” Torin, on whose program we first heard Bird and Diz’s breathless “Bloomdido,” Bud Powell racing through “Boplicity,” or Fats Navarro’s plangent “Ladybird.”  The intricacies of bebop came to excite us more than the Dixieland and Chicago jazz we had first cut our teeth on.  Who on piano could compare to Lenny Tristano or Oscar Peterson, except, years later, for Bill Evans?  Sid’s taste was for New York style bop, while Bob “The Robin” favored West Coast “cool” jazz—Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Shorty Rogers.  But we listened to it all.

             Our piano teacher Don Oakes, a young and newly married local musician, taught both classical and jazz. Don was an amazing pianist.  His hands fairly flew over the keyboard, whether he was playing Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini” or “Prelude in C# Minor,” both of which he insisted all of his students master or a straight-ahead version of “Foggy Day.”  After he decided we had a feel for the basics, it was boogie-woogie, then blues and jazz improvisation.

“What do you hear in the melody that you’d like to build on?” he’d ask, keeping time with the bass chords and lightly single fingering an improvisation as he sang it to us.

             Working with Don we began to understand more fully how the jazz we heard on radio was constructed, not only in terms of the melodic lines but also in the ways the musicians interpreted those melodies.  Instead of the chaos, our parents claimed to hear—“All that noise!”—we heard and apprehended form, infinitely complex and subtle at times, or direct and strong and emotional: “I didn’t know what time it was, till I met you!”

             It was jazz that taught us how to feel—truly to inhabit our emotions.    We were both sensitive kids, who had been read to during our childhood.   But it was the songs themselves, heard on the radio, often in the dark of night, emanating from the vast spaces of America, songs about highways (“Get your kicks on Route 66”), about relationships gone awry (“Detour, there’s a muddy road ahead”); songs like “Midnight Sun,” certain phrases of which have the polish of a poem by Wallace Stevens; Billy Strayhorn’s haunting “Lush Life,” or, much later, Michel Legrand and Alan Berman’s “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life,” as sung by Frank Sinatra, that still entrance me.

             Once the Modernaires got off the ground, our parents worried that we might be neglecting our studies; but they were also proud of our accomplishment in having created an orchestra together, one that paid its own way, allowing us to get out of debt pretty quickly for our equipment and to earn twenty-five or thirty dollars apiece per gig (after we joined the local chapter of the American Federation of Musicians, we could demand union scale).  Our parents were also relieved that while rehearsing once or twice a week and playing at least another night, we could “keep out of trouble.”  Which we did, for the most part.

             When Bob Brayman went away to college the next year, Tom came on the band playing clarinet and tenor sax, both of which he’d studied with Andy Jacobson, one of Gloucester’s legendary musicians, who’d played with the John Philip Sousa band.  Practicing a couple of hours a day, Tom learned quickly how to improvise, beginning with a Lester Young pre-bop style and progressing rapidly through Stan Getz and Richie Camuca, the great tenor soloist on the Kenton band.

             After Eddie Silva entered the Maine Maritime Academy to begin training for a career in the merchant services, the Modernaires broke up into small groups.    For the remainder of my high school career, Tom and I usually played in a small group with Ron and Gil Brown and Bob Shoares on drums—high school parties, weddings on Portuguese Hill, dances at the Annisquam and Eastern Point Yacht clubs: whatever general business came our way.

             By then I had stopped studying piano to concentrate on preparing for college; but Tom continued working on the reeds, and he commuted to Boston every Saturday for a piano lesson at the New England Conservatory of Music with classical pianist Miklos Schwalb.  After I’d left for college, Tom, who had two more years in high school, formed another big band, one for which he did a lot of the arranging himself.  When I came home on summer break, I played piano with this band and with the smaller groups.  I also played in college at parties and dances at the fraternity house, and weekends in the bars of Lewiston and at the officers’ club at the Brunswick Naval Air Station.

             For several summers, between 1957 and 1959, we performed weekends at the Hawthorne Inn Casino on Eastern Point Road.  Tom would be playing tenor sax or vibes, with me on piano and Joe Moceri on drums.  Tom had taken up the vibraphone at Berklee and, like every other instrument he tried, he had soon mastered it, playing in the manner of Milt Jackson of The Modern Jazz Quartet.

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             During the summer before my senior year, I found myself torn between music and writing.  I’d become editor of the Quill, the Bowdoin literary magazine, and I spent two summers editing the Cape Ann Summer Sun, a seasonal supplement to the Gloucester Daily Times that appeared as an eight-page weekly.  I threw myself into journalism, writing feature articles, book reviews and art criticism with the abandonment I’d never experienced on piano.

             Tom brought his own group into the Hawthorne that last summer of 1959 before I sailed for Italy.  It was a wonderful hard-bop influenced group with Boston’s Phil Welch on trumpet, Tom on piano, vibes and baritone, Dave Schrier, who was breaking out of hard bop to follow in the footsteps of John Coltrane and Archie Shepp on tenor, and Joe Moceri, as always, on drums.

Tom Anastas orchestra, summer 1958, Cape Ann Festival of the Arts. Tom solos on tenor, Peter leads the band

             Tom and I worked on the waterfront during the day, lugging fresh fish to the cutters, running loads of trash to the city dump, even doing some carpentry.  At the Hawthorne Casino, the excitement generated by Tom’s new band created a large following.  There were parties after the gig, where we met new people, most of them students like ourselves working in Gloucester for the summer.  On the Saturday night after Labor Day weekend, just before the casino shut down for the summer, the band played better than ever.  That night the Hawthorne Inn, which had closed for the summer immediately after Labor Day, burned to the ground, taking with it the casino and the deli in a conflagration that was described by the state fire marshall as having a “suspicious origin.”

             By then my brief career as a jazz and cocktail pianist had ended.  Tom’s life in music was just beginning.  Shortly after I left for Italy, Tom enlisted in the army in order to attend the U. S. Navy School of Music, in Washington, which was considered one of the finest in the country.  For two years in Hawaii, when not playing with or co-directing the Fort Shafter marching band, he formed his own fifteen-piece jazz and dance orchestra, writing the entire book himself.  He also played baritone sax and piano in several Honolulu clubs.  After his discharge, in December of 1962, Tom returned to Boston, where he joined a group of Berklee classmates to play in the city and at several clubs in Essex County.

             I was teaching high school English, having come back from Italy to avoid the draft.  For most of the winter and early spring, we spent every weekend on the road together, while Tom performed in Newburyport, Lowell, Hampton Beach and Haverhill.  Before leaving for the service, Tom had purchased one of the early Karmann Ghias.  After he returned, “the Ghia,” as we called it, was our transport as we drove from city to city, in rain or snow, on icy roads, always aiming to end the night (or morning) with breakfast at the Agawam Diner on Route 1 in Rowley, which remains today one of the last of the great old diners, open day and night.  There we’d sit, together or with some of the other musicians, quarterbacking the gig—who played “good,” who needed more work on what tunes—and swapping stories of the road.  It was then that Tom and I felt closest to each other and to the writer who meant so much to both of us, especially if we found ourselves in Kerouac’s town of an early morning, tasting one last Johnny Walker Red on the rocks (Jack’s drink), or a wake-up coffee with our breakfast of two eggs over easy and homefries.

             After a stint in Denver with the Bud Poindexter Quartet, Tom flew East to New York, where he set out on the road with the Elgart band, led by brothers Les and Larry, who had merged their separate orchestras.  By then Tom was mostly playing baritone and reeds (he’d learned flute at the Navy School of Music and he soon added soprano saxophone and bass clarinet to his repertoire).  The Elgart stint ended when Tom got the call he had been waiting for from Woody Herman to join him in Toronto.  Nick Brignola, Woody’s baritonist, wanted to leave the band, and two of Tom’s Berklee classmates, Bill Chase, Woody’s lead trumpeter, and trombonist Phil Wilson, recommended Tom to Woody.  Tom would remain with Woody for ten years, filling the baritone seat of his idol Serge Chaloff and touring with the band through Central and Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Africa and, naturally, the length and breadth of America.  The band played at the Palladium in London, at the Montreux and Monterey jazz festivals, at Newport and at Birdland—once opposite Miles’s sextet and another time with Bill Evans opening.  In 1954, we had listened raptly to Woody’s Third Herd on Symphony Sid, the band with Stan Getz and Serge Chaloff soloing on “Four Brothers.”  Ten years later Tom was recording the same chart with Serge’s name still on the baritone part.

Tom, far left on baritone sax, on the road with the Woody Herman band, 1965

             During those years on the road, Tom and Woody became close, Tom driving Woody from gig to gig in Woody’s classic Corvette.  Life was hard on the road.  There were no vacations and most of one’s salary would be spent paying for hotel accommodations and eating out, often late at night. During those itinerant years, Tom had no permanent home, though for short periods of time he sublet apartments in LA and San Francisco.

             Finally, Tom himself had come to the end of the road.  It was hardly exciting to play before audiences who no longer knew the band’s book, its history, or the musicians who played their hearts out each night, whether it was at one of the diminishing number of jazz clubs or a county fair, where the band was in competition with hog calling and prize cattle contests, often coming out on the bottom.  Reluctantly, he gave Woody his notice during a week of performances in Las Vegas.  Tom stayed in Las Vegas for two years, playing for entertainers as varied as Frank Sinatra, Diana Ross and the Supremes, and Elvis Presley.  He even went on the road briefly with Elvis, shaking his head as he recounted the sad story of “The King’s” own demise.

             While in Las Vegas, Tom managed to save some money.  But he missed the jazz life.   When he got an invitation to return to Berklee College to teach full-time, he accepted it.  The college also offered Tom a home for his own music, a place to rehearse the big band he had dreamed of forming during his years with Woody, along with the musicians and teachers to play in that band.

             As soon as Tom moved back to the city he called home, he put the band together, writing most of the music himself.  He began a regular schedule of teaching saxophone, arranging, and small group and ensemble playing.  Settling into a spacious apartment on Boylston Street, along the Fenway, Tom taught by day and played by night, driving between gigs in a bright yellow Volkswagen bug.  We saw a lot of each other in Gloucester and Boston, just like in the old days when we’d shared Tom’s pads on Newbury and Marlborough streets.  Tom became a gourmet cook and he found time to read, as he hadn’t on the road, putting together a library on the Second World War, the history of which had fascinated him since high school.   He also resumed his favorite non-musical pastime of walking all over the city, especially at night after a gig, when he felt Boston was at its quiet best.

             On May 21, 1976, after Tom had been back in Boston for a little more than a year, he invited our mother and me and my friend Emily to a benefit concert he was playing at Masconomet Regional High School, in Topsfield, MA.  It was to be the band’s debut, and it was a special event because Herb Pomeroy, Tom’s old teacher and current colleague at Berklee, would also be appearing with Tom and the band.  The audience consisted mostly of old jazz buffs, so Tom knew that he could do no wrong in pulling out all the stops to great applause.

             The next year was a busy one for Tom, whose energy seemed limitless.  Along with teaching, he rehearsed the band one night a week, adding several new arrangements, including a ballad he’d written in memory of his old friend Bill Chase, who had lost his life in an airplane crash, and “City Sweet,” a composition for jazz orchestra, incorporating some of the dissonances and syncopations of Charles Ives, whose music Tom loved, while paying tribute to the city Tom had so happily come home to.

             Tom even found time for love, having met a talented young singer who’d been a piano and vocal student at Berklee and was now making her way in the jazz world.  Tom and Adrianna performed together, and they would often come to Gloucester for dinner with Emily and me, after which we’d listen to the latest jazz records while smoking some of the good dope Tom was always able to cop.

             On April 26, 1977, Emily and I had just arrived home from work and were starting to prepare dinner, when Adrianna called:

             “It’s Tom,” she cried into the phone, “Something’s happened to him.  You’ve got to come!”

             Emily and I jumped into my VW bug, Emily driving.  We raced into Boston, parking illegally in front of Tom’s apartment building.  There was an ambulance already there and two police cruisers.  When I rushed up the stairs, an officer was comforting a sobbing Adrianna.  Another officer took me gently aside, asking if I were the brother.  When I said yes, he told me Tom had died, apparently of a heart attack.  He asked me if I would identify the body.  And he accompanied me into Tom’s bedroom, where Tom lay face up on his queen size bed.  He looked as if he were asleep.

             “It’s my brother,” I said, while the officer explained to me that Adrianna, returning to the apartment from a vocal class, had found Tom unresponsive on the bed and called the police.

             The coroner arrived.  He was an older man with a neatly trimmed beard and topcoat, even though it was a mild April day. Inviting me to remain in the room, he said he wanted to ask me some questions once he had examined Tom’s body.

             “He has all the signs of having had a massive coronary,” the doctor said, indicating a series of livid purple marks extending from Tom’s underarm on the heart side down below his abdomen.

             As I looked at Tom, still believing that he was only asleep, I saw that next to him on the bed was a new Charles Mingus big band album, alongside of which lay its cellophane wrapper.  Tom had obviously picked it up on the way home from school.  He’d unwrapped it and was doubtless reading the liner notes before he dropped off to sleep.  From years on the road, there was nothing Tom liked better than an afternoon nap.

             When the doctor asked me if there was a history of heart disease in the family, I told him that after several heart attacks, beginning at the age of thirty-seven, our father had died two years before of an acute coronary.  Tom was exactly thirty-seven.

             Everyone left the room so I could say goodbye to my brother.  I stood at the foot of the bed, still unable to believe that Tom wouldn’t wake up smiling lazily, as he often did, from those brief naps of his.  I looked around at Tom’s meticulously clean and neat room.  On the bedside table was a copy of On the Road, along with Liddell Hart’s history of the Second World War.  His yellow Oxford cloth shirt and knife-pressed black slacks were neatly arranged on the chair, his black soft leather Italian shoes, side by side under the chair.  Tom had folded down the beige comforter on the bed just below the pillow, but he hadn’t gotten under the covers, so you had a sense that he was just napping, his head on a clean pillow, black silk socks still on his feet.

             Whispering goodbye, I kissed Tom on his cold forehead and turned to leave.  I felt that I was leaving behind everything we had shared, not only the jazz but the nighttime confidences over the telephone from wherever Tom found himself on the road; talks about the music he was playing or the “cats,” as he called the other players, the humorous or dour things they often said.  I felt suddenly and deeply alone, as I prepared to return home to tell my mother that her son, my brother, was dead.

(“Jazz” is a chapter from Peter Anastas’ recently completed memoir From Gloucester Out).

 

Peter Anastas, editorial director of Enduring Gloucesteris a Gloucester native and writer. His most recent book, A Walker in the City: Elegy for Gloucester, is a selection from columns that were published in the Gloucester Daily Times.

How Did Gloucester’s Founding Shape Its Future?

Blyman Bridge. 1923
Edward Hopper (1882–1967)

by Mary Ellen Lepionka

As a municipality, Gloucester historically was regarded as poor compared to other seaside towns in Massachusetts. I wondered why and found answers in our early history. Massachusetts Bay Colony policies destroyed the productivity of the first comers to Cape Ann, and the newcomers who followed them were farmers who could not turn a profit on Cape Ann’s soils. Gloster Plantation was underfunded from the start. Its harbor never received enough investment to achieve its potential as an international port of trade. Later, the wars of the 18th and 19th centuries benefitted other towns but left Cape Ann depopulated and depressed. Historical circumstances shaped Cape Ann’s prospects, just as early childhood experiences can shape us in ways we may come to understand but find hard to change.

John Endecott (1588-1655)

In 1628 the New England Company, which became the Massachusetts Bay Company, sent John Endecott to govern the Old Planters at Salem Village (relocated members of Rev. John White’s failed Dorchester Company plantation on Gloucester Harbor) and to oversee Cape Ann. The next year the Company obtained a royal charter to start a colony and sent a fleet to Salem with 350 settlers, the so-called Higginson Fleet, named for the minister who wrote an account if it. Then in 1630, they sent John Winthrop with a much larger fleet to govern the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Masquenominet (Masconomet, Pawtucket sagamore) and his entourage canoed out to Winthrop’s vessel as it lay at anchor (in Beverly Cove or Mackerel Cove) and went aboard to welcome him. Winthrop gave trinkets to the Indians, relieved Endecott, and moved the capital from Salem to Dorchester. The Massachusetts Bay Colony then established a General Court.

The General Court promptly declared null and void all deeds of land bought directly from the Indians without the Court’s permission! Anyone living on such lands were squatters! They were to be evicted and the land redistributed to newcomers! This ruling (missing from what we are taught about the history of Massachusetts) had a devastating effect on all first comers. William Jeffreys, for example, lost his holdings at Jeffrey’s Creek and Jeffrey’s Neck and his lucrative fishing grounds on Jeffrey’s Ledge at Ipswich.

John Winthrop (1588-1649)

Independents and ex-Plymouth fisherfolk in Cape Ann’s nooks and crannies—Kettle Cove, Lobster Cove, Pigeon Cove—quickly added themselves to the rolls of the plantation or became part of the new town by gifting their land to it on condition of getting it back through redistribution or being allowed to live and make a living on it! In a long letter called The Planter’s Plea, John White begged the General Court to let the Old Planters in Salem-Beverly keep at least the land on which their houses stood, which was granted. First comers at Jeffrey’s Creek also were permitted some acreage for a town (renamed Manchester-by-the-Sea).

The four ships John Winthrop brought to New England, 1630
William F. Halsall (1841-1919)

The scale of this disaster makes one wonder if the plight of first comers—some of whose descendants still live here—is the deep-time source of local distrust of state government, prevalent in Gloucester and other coastal Massachusetts towns down to the present day. The earliest settlers and entrepreneurs had been disenfranchised, displaced, and potentially pauperized overnight. If they lacked ownership of their land, they lacked the chief means of upward mobility—other than participation in the slave trade by supplying corn, barley, and fish to the Bermuda and Caribbean slave plantations.

The fur trade was no longer a source of income. After a hundred years of dealing with Abenaki middlemen in the French fur trade, the Native people of Essex County were no longer interested and in any case, had already hunted beaver to near extinction. And the domestic shipbuilding and maritime industries had barely begun. The sketchy Cape Ann economy, interrupted, was soon thoroughly regulated and taxed, although to encourage maritime industries, the General Court excused fishermen from military training, duties on salt, and tithes on their catches.

The General Court redistributed the land first comers had borrowed, bought, or taken from the Indians to fleets of newcomers during the Great Migration, in which an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people emigrated to New England between 1630 and 1642.

Newcomers to Newbury, Rowley, and Ipswich included prosperous North Country weavers and woolen manufacturers and gentlemen farmers. They flourished on the rich alluvial soils of their broad floodplains and built country estates. Beverly and Beverly Farms likewise had large expanses of prime agricultural land.

First comers to Cape Ann (Gloucester, Rockport, Essex) had been fishermen from the West Country—Devon, Dorset, Hampshire—but most newcomers were illiterate and even less well-off farmers from Gloucester, Warwick, and Worcester. On Cape Ann, they were homesteading on marginal land unconducive to large-scale agriculture and easily damaged by over-grazing. Over time, first cattle and “rother beasts”, then sheep and pigs, and finally goats were all the land would support. Harvesting pole pines for the Royal Navy and salt marsh hay for animal fodder became the leading export industries.

Plantation proprietors petitioned the General Court for clear legal title to their lands, becoming towns with selectmen or aldermen. They were required to pay (or repay) the Indians to obtain quitclaim deeds. Gloster Plantation, established in 1638, and then the Town, incorporated in 1642, complied by renting land from Masquenominet! This is a little-known, possibly hidden, fact that you will not find in local archives. Gloucester rented to buy, paying the Indians over time. Over the next 50 years, they paid in kind—bushel baskets of Indian corn—in lieu of cash. The last recorded installment was paid in 1682. Gloucester paid its taxes and military dues the same way—in Indian corn, barley, and peas, with frequent requests for quota reductions and abatements.

In 1700/1701 Samuel English and Masquenomenit’s other grandchildren sued Gloucester in General Court—another little-known/hidden fact—and they won their case. The General Court ordered Gloucester to pay the balance owed in cash—£7 for the 10,000 acres, including Essex.

The newcomers to Cape Ann were farming among the rocks in sandy, acid soils, and after centuries of inshore overfishing, fishermen were having to sail five miles out to Stellwagen or Jeffrey’s Ledge (or 60 miles out to George’s Bank in the Gulf of Maine, and later even farther) to find market fish in any quantity. More important, the start of the English Civil War in 1641 put an abrupt end both to mass migration and to aristocrats’ investment schemes for making Gloucester Harbor into a prosperous international port.

In 1642 the General Court had invited a wealthy merchant prince in the tobacco trade, Maurice Thompson, to oversee Gloucester Harbor and to create and regulate shipping through a canal between Ipswich Bay and Massachusetts Bay. Such a canal—the Cut— would make shipping between Canada and Virginia both shorter and safer by avoiding the Cape, which was already littered with shipwrecks. The port also would serve as a distribution center for transatlantic trade. Thompson had a great flow of capital to invest from wealthy landowners in England, such as Richard Rich, the Earl of Warwick, who had a special interest in developing coastal New England.

The relationship between the Indian Village, Gloster Plantation, and the planned port at Duncan’s Point.

Governor Endecott had houses, docks, and warehouses built for Thompson at Duncan’s Point, where Harbor Loop is today, but the merchant prince did not accept the offer. He sent agents to check it out but never came. Greater riches were to be made in the Caribbean and South America. In 1643, in an effort to develop Gloucester on its own, the selectmen employed a Puritan from Plymouth, Richard Blynman, to make the Cut and serve as the town’s minister. Per usual, they paid in kind in lieu of a salary, offering some land and a free hand to profit from running a ferry or toll bridge across the Annisquam.

Things didn’t go well between the strict new pastor and the people of Gloucester. In 1650 he and his party, including the first town clerk, left for Connecticut Colony. The Cut was abandoned and soon filled in. It was dredged from time to time, but opportunities to salvage the dream were passed up again and again. By the time the Cut was reopened—in 1823 and again in 1907—it was too narrow and shallow to serve the international shipping industry, and steamships had less need of both the shortcut and the safety.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, Cape Ann men were out to sea or at war most of the time. Population declined. Provisioning fishing vessels became Gloucester’s main industry. Vessels were prey during the Anglo-Wabanaki and French and Indian Wars, the Revolutionary War, the Napoleonic Wars, and the War of 1812. It’s said the British replenished their ships’ stores by raiding sheep pastures in Dogtown. Other coastal towns capitalized on home front industries that could provide war materiel—soldier’s uniforms, canvas for sails and tents, gun parts. Gloucester, in contrast, provided service as privateers, troop transports, and merchant marines. Later, men left for the California gold rush even as the granite industry was starting. But exploitation of immigrant labor meant that the quarries enriched their owners and corporate chiefs more than the towns. Men who did not fish left Cape Ann for jobs. The fishing industry became hugely successful, but dependence on fishing had given Gloucester a risky, undiversified economy—a kind of monoculture gradually leavened by summer resorts, artists, retirees, tourists, and (we can only hope) new industries.

History is a great teacher. As individuals and as municipalities, historical circumstances shape our prospects, but they do not necessarily determine them. We make ourselves, and we are not poor. That things are hard to change doesn’t mean they can’t.

 

Mary Ellen Lepionka lives in East Gloucester and is studying the history of Cape Ann from the Ice Age to around 1700 A.D. for a book on the subject. She is a retired publisher, author, editor, textbook developer, and college instructor with degrees in anthropology. She studied at Boston University and the University of British Columbia and has performed archaeology in Ipswich, MA, Botswana, Africa, and at Pole Hill in Gloucester, MA. Mary Ellen is a trustee of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society and serves on the Gloucester Historical Commission.

Olga Lingard & Cape Ann: A Great War Enigma

World War I Poster    by Sidney H. Riesenberg (1885-1971)

By Holly Clay

Olga Lingard was known as a recluse. There’s more to her story, though. She lived on the hillside above Annisquam’s Lobster Cove, on the Dogtown side of Washington Street. Her brother Eric took on heroic missions as a WWI aviator, dying in Action. In his memory, Olga gave a parcel of land for “Soldiers’ Memorial Woods,” where Annisquam’s WWI war memorial stands in a peaceful grove alongside the Cove.  A plaque honors soldiers who lost their lives in that “Great War.” Three men’s names are etched there:  Eric Lingard, John Gossom, and Bertram Williams. All had strong Cape Ann ties.

“Soldiers’ Memorial Woods.”
A plaque in Annisquam honors soldiers who lost their lives in the “Great War.”
The three men’s names are Eric Lingard, John Gossom, and Bertram Williams.

Olga wanted to pay tribute to her brother and establish a memorial. He died in October 1918 in the aftermath of a successful aerial retaliation against a German U-boat threatening a South American freighter. Ensign Eric Lingard died of pneumonia at the Naval Air Base at Chatham, shortly after a plane on which he was “gunner,” crashed. He and his co-aviators were spotted and saved after 27 hours in the freezing, October waters off Cape Cod. Eric had stayed partially submerged, tending to his comrade and holding up the left wing of the plane. The encounter was one of the rare home-coast incidents in which a U.S. Navy plane successfully diverted a German U-boat.

Eric Adrian Alfred Lingard, Navy Pilot

In 1923, Olga, along with an Annisquam memorial committee commenced discussion. She hoped the Grove would bear Eric’s name. She had cause. Hollis French, a committee member, explained Olga’s point of view in a letter to Professor Charles Frederick Bradley. (Bradley would ultimately deliver an address at the unveiling.) Hollis said that Olga noted the custom of naming Legion posts after their most prominent member, and believed the same protocol was afforded war memorials. He continued, “he [Eric] was, she thinks, the only one who was lost in actual defense of his home land and particularly of his home section…She feels, therefore, that if the land in question is to be used as a memorial, it should be named after him, although it could be used as a memorial for all the boys who went from Annisquam.“

By 1929 the committee and Olga had resolved to dedicate the Wood to all those who fought, highlighting the three Annisquam men who died. Preparing for the July 7 dedication, Olga eagerly shared memories and highlights of Eric’s life and career in a letter to Professor Bradley. “Those Naval Patrol Fliers were pioneers of the air in the tradition of 1776. A meager handful – with shaky planes, scant equipment, worthless compasses and no ammunition – they set out against the odds of storm and deadly fog, to see their enemy. They too met death barehanded for the sake of the land they loved.”

Her words reflect an aching heart, as she goes on to describe Eric’s roots in Annisquam, “This Wood, these trees, and rocks, this cove, were part of Eric’s childhood.  Here he played Indian and learned to swim. And beyond all official data, there is one fact of particular significance to the people of Annisquam: The fact that Eric’s special service – the thing he individually could give – was his exact knowledge of this coast, gained from a boyhood spent cruising these waters. After he won his wings, his orders to France were issued but were delayed….as the Germans sent submarines over here.  Our coastwise shipping, even the coast itself was attacked. Pilots familiar with these shores were needed. And so it happened that Eric was chosen to guard this very spot.”

“Those of us who were in Annisquam during the summer and fall of 1918 could hear, almost daily, the throb of his plane as he flew over us on patrol. And death came to him as the result of his volunteered response to an SOS from a submarine attack.”

“Truly, and directly, he gave his life in defense of this Wood which you now dedicate,” she wrote with the passion of one who has lost the person most dear to her. She never fully recovered. In later years, she could be found sitting in Eric’s tomb in Annisquam’s Mt. Adnah Cemetery. Perhaps, she tried to reforge the bond that his tragic death severed.

Olga also had a role in securing the hull of the downed plane, H.S. 1L.1695, for Gloucester.  It was to be placed in Stage Fort Park as a tribute to the Gloucester men who fought in the Great War.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, then Acting Secretary of the Navy, wrote to Olga, “Your letter concerning the hull of Seaplane 1695 has been received, and I am very glad to be able to tell you that the request you make in your letter has already been complied with.

“….I have given orders that the hull of Seaplane 1695 be turned over to the Park Commissioners of Gloucester…

“Knowing what a splendid young man your brother was, I can realize what a great loss you have suffered. Your brother lived up to the best traditions of the Navy and I cannot speak too highly of his gallant work.”

Lingard seaplane, Gloucester Harbor, 1919.     

Olga, like her brother, had backbone. Their childhoods could not have been easy, but certainly fueled loyalty to one another. Though newspaper accounts say Olga was born in Switzerland, ships’ manifests list Hungary.  It is not clear when they emigrated, but in 1900 Olga, Eric, and their mother Adele, this time claiming birth in Germany, were boarding with a family by the name of Boehme in Los Angeles.  Their father Henry R. Lingard’s birthplace is listed as Russia. The census form lists him as deceased, around 1898. In 1900 Olga was 13 and Eric was 10.

By 1905 the family had moved to Boston.  Eric attended Middlesex and Harvard, entering Harvard Law School in 1913. Then in January 1915, Adele died. Eric left law school to care for Olga. He was only half way through his second year. Coming home to Annisquam, to “Highland Cottage,” he established an ice business. Eric’s official Navy Registration card (May 1917) listed Olga as his sole relative. He wrote, “Yes. Am sole relative and guardian of invalid sister, …”

Olga Lingard.     Courtesy of the Annisquam Historical Society

Olga Lingard lived until August 1970. Her GDT obituary says she was educated in Europe and spoke several languages. The obituary speaks of her contributions, most notably of the WWI Memorial here in Annisquam. Though solitary up on the hill with her dogs, she maintained links to the community.  Below, she appears in a photograph of the cast of the Annisquam Village Players (first row, second from left).

Later in life, Olga sold the family house to the Crouse family (Sound of Music lyricist Russel Crouse) and moved into a smaller house on Bennett Street.  In December of 1964, a fire ravaged her home. Olga lost everything, including the manuscript for a book she had written about her brother. Not long after, she moved to an apartment in Rockport and ultimately to a nursing home. An eccentric, or not, Olga Lingard made her mark, dignifying the family name and drawing attention to the ultimate sacrifice paid by her remarkable and loyal brother Eric.

 

**********Postscript************

The hull of HS 1695 has disappeared, its fate a mystery. One clue surfaced. In 2012, Gloucester resident Bill Hubbard responded to a Good Morning Gloucester photograph of the seaplane Eric regularly piloted.

The photo jogged his memory. In regard to the other plane, the one that crashed, Hubbard said, “For years before and during WW-II, the hull of a similar plane was in the lower level of the Twin Light Garage on East Main Street. The garage was owned by the late Ray Bradley who lived on Rocky Neck. As kids, we often played around it and I remember Ray telling us that it had been a WW-I airplane – I believe it was an old Coast Guard bi-winged seaplane. There were no wings or rudder, just the hull which was shaped very much like the one in the picture. Not long after the end of the war, they dragged it out to the flats on Smith Cove and burned it.”

In response, Bodin confirmed Hubbard’s memory. “Thanks, Bill. I had heard that Eric Lingard’s aircraft was stored in the DPW barn on Poplar Street for years, and then went to someone’s basement or garage.”

Hubbard replied, “Fred, maybe that was Lingard’s plane in the basement of Twin Light Garage.”

What else could it have been?

Gloucester’s VFW Post 1620 ultimately took Eric Lingard’s name, now known as the Doucette-Lingard Post.

******************

To learn more visit:

The Annisquam Historical Society Exhibition at the Annisquam Firehouse

Annisquam in World War I

4 July 2017 – 30 September 2017

 

 

Holly Clay is settled in Gloucester after many years of living overseas and in Washington, D.C. Holly is a member of the Gloucester Historical Commission and the Annisquam Historical Society.  With a background in education and writing, her professional energies are currently devoted to studying and teaching yoga and meditation.

 

 

 

Oarmaster 2016

By Jim Tarantino

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At 7 a.m. on October 1st, it was raining and blowing 15-20 mph out of the NNW….and the forecast called for intensifying. Perfect weather for the 8th Annual Oarmaster’s Cup, the solo race for Gloucester dory rowers who are brave enough to face the elements and each other to determine who is the best Grand Banks dory rower on Cape Ann.  John Francis left no one questioning the answer, crushing the competition by a full minute, with a time of 17:53, over the roughly 2-Mile course around Gloucester’s Outer Harbor!

The first heat featured Francis, former Seineboat Champion Jim Looney, newcomer Wally Mears, and myself: defending, two-time Oarmaster Champ. The wind and rain were coming hard when the gun went off and Francis wasted no time powering off the starting line to an early lead. Not to be easily defeated, Mears torqued up the power, but broke an oar, bringing his dory sideways.  I then broke an oar, pulling a hard right to avoid a collision, and ended up on the deck causing a great deal of commotion, and almost a call to the Coast Guard by officials Joe Novello and Gus Sanfilippo on the Committee Boat! Once it was determined I wasn’t injured and had no spare oar, the Committee boat gave me an anchor to keep me from blowing to Boston and left to continue monitoring the course, which John Francis was now destroying. Mears had a spare oar and, after checking to make sure I wasn’t seriously hurt, powered his way to an impressive second-place finish!

The second heat brought less rain and higher wind! Gloucestermen Vincenzo Terranova, Mike Harmon, Erik Dombrowski and Bill Edmonds were up to the challenge! All dories got out strong. By the first turn it was a two boat race between experienced champion rowers Dombrowski and Harmon. They battled close but after the second turn Harmon turned it on and pulled ahead. But the strong Northerly winds forced him and Dombrowski toward the rocks before the finish line at Half Moon Beach, and young Vincenzo Terranova was coming on strong over the last quarter mile. Harmon scraped the rocks and Terranova powered up for a photo finish, both men finishing with a time of 18:55!

What an honor to compete with these men who can skillfully navigate 450-pound workboats in a gale of wind on America’s most storied fishing port. What a great Maritime tradition! We should all be grateful to the men and women who keep these events going, and keep our Community so genuine…so special… so Gloucester!

 

jimmy-tarantinoJames Tarantino (Jimmy T.) is an exemplary outdoor enthusiast who heralds his love of family, his friends, and his passion for all things Gloucester.