Bernice Calnan’s story includes many of the themes about fishing families that we’ve heard about at the festival: how kids stick together, how fishermen protect their families from worry, and how wives stood up for their community while their husbands were out to sea.
This story was produced by the Working Waterfront Festival for the NOAA Voices from the Fisheries oral history project.
“My name is Bernice Calnan and I’m married to Donald Calnan who is a retired fisherman right now. Daughter, wife, mother, grandmother of fishermen and scallopers.
You’re bringing up your children you see yourself, you know. And sometimes, with six children, they’d kind of gang up on me. You know how kids are. They’d stick together. But every night I used to cook a big meal, it was just one of those things that we grew up with. And when their father came home, oh my goodness he was the world. And uh, my kids were very, very close. And they are to this day.
And then my husband, I didn’t, he didn’t tell me this, but he fell overboard while they were out to sea. And they picked up the net, and he was in it. The brought up the net, and he was in it. When he came home that trip, he was all black and blue, but he told me he fell on the deck. And not till months afterward, we were out with some fishermen and their wives. One of the men that we were with said to him, “Boy you had quite a bout a little while ago, didn’t you Donald.” I said, “What, what was that about?” He said when he was washed over, when he fell overboard and they put, brought him up in the fishin’ net. Now those kind of things, our husbands didn’t tell us, because they were, didn’t want us to be upset over it.
Well I think it would be nice if the fishermen’s wives now helped more and got together. I think that it is a nice, nice to have an organization. We used to have great Christmas parties, it was called, it was Gaudet’s Pavilion, it’s now, I think it’s Century 21. And we’d have Christmas parties for the fishermen at night. You know an evening party. We’d have as much as a hundred people there, you know or 125. We’d have a big group. They would show up and really it was very, very nice. We’d have a good time and everybody was social. Never had any problems or fights or things like that. It was really quite a thing. . . See lots of times, the wives have to do things like we did, because the men were out to sea. That’s like when we walked in front of the state house for the 200 mile limit because boats were out to sea and you couldn’t, you know enough men couldn’t go, so the wives took over. So I think it’s good to keep in contact with one another like we did, it kind a helps in case things were needed.”