During my primary and secondary education and throughout college, I’d never been a nose-in-the-books type of student, but I surprised myself. My freshman year at a community college had been off the charts successful, and now it was summertime in 1979.

Seeking to do something completely different, a trip was planned to southern Maine with a girlfriend to line up some work and a place to stay over the summer break. I wanted steady work, and found it at Preble Fish at Cape Porpoise in Kennebunkport. We’d found a room overlooking Goose Rocks Beach, and I’d be riding my bike back and forth to work, seven days a week. It was a chance to integrate with the locals, get in shape, and make some money in Maine, a place I’d only known from afar.

The work involved all kinds of things. As the story goes, Bob Preble (now deceased) started out by providing locally caught fish out of his garage to a growing number of restaurants. He also sold to the public too, and had moved everything to an old motorcycle repair shop across from the water tower in Cape Porpoise. Business was growing. It was the year before George H.W. Bush would get elected Vice President.

In Massachusetts where I’d come from, we had no bottle bill at that time (but Maine did). Riding my bike each day, I could clearly see why it was such a great thing. There was no trash to speak of on the shoulders of Route 9. When the Bottle Bill appeared on the ballot in Massachusetts, I enthusiastically cast my vote for it.

The work at Preble Fish allowed me to connect with many people. Fish cutters, Lobstermen, restaurant workers, and fellow employees were people I got to know. It was a real-life introduction to an honest, wholesome way of life I remember 40 years later.

Speaking at a memorial service for my mother in 2016, I recalled something she’d said to me and my brothers and sisters. “Are you gonna fish or cut bait?” She’d grown up in Gloucester, Massachusetts and the work involved with fishing was in her background. My summer in Maine helped me clarify its meaning. Fishing and cutting bait are both jobs, but ‘fishing’ means subjecting oneself to the sea and to the surrounding elements, making it more challenging. It’s really a question that asks about your attitude, approach, and desire to getting something done.

The work itself involved rotating stock in the walk-in freezer, shucking clams and lobsters, providing fish cutters with fish to cut, and hoisting an occasional swordfish on my shoulder. At the end of the day, I’d ride home with the freshest food on the planet to cook and enjoy.

Today the bike I used, the girlfriend, and Preble Fish are gone, but the greatness I found in Maine continues. All of this comes to mind when visiting Goose Rocks Beach, something I’ve shared numerous times with my wife and son.


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