First published in Landings, March, 2014.
“I joined the Maine Lobstermen’s Association the next year after it got started. It just made sense – people sticking together to get a better deal,” explained Vinalhaven lobsterman Doug Hall, 84. Hall said that a part of his motivation in joining the MLA in 1955 came from his family background and part simply from his friendship with MLA president Les Dyer, a fellow islander. “My grandfather was part of the granite workers union and my father was a union man. I wanted to be part of it [the MLA]. Plus Les Dyer – what a character!” Leslie Dyer, a Vinalhaven lobsterman, was the dynamic first president of the MLA. The association had been formed late in 1954 at the close of a season when lobster prices dropped to 25 cents per pound.
Hall started out life as a commercial fisherman, “longlining, everything!” he said with a laugh. As a young man, he fished for hake around the island from a rowboat. “I’d go down to Otter Island, Brimstone, you know. My brother had a power boat and we were fishing the same grounds. One time I missed the tide and had to row back against the wind. That was tough.”
Eventually Hall bought a 26-foot vessel known as a Smithy boat. Flash drew 4.5 feet and had a 9-foot beam. Built in 1918, Hall’s boat was a stylish vessel, “like a sloop,” he said. He installed a 6-cylinder Chevy engine and set up a little gaff rig, and once again turned his hand to fishing.
But within a year he entered the Army. It was the time of the Korean War. “Me and my friend went in to Camden to talk to the officer there,” Hall recalled. “We knew we’d be drafted. We wanted to be in the amphibious engineers because we didn’t want to get shot at.” Instead he was assigned to the combat engineering corp. After a year in battle zones, Hall rotated out of Korea and eventually ended up in Germany.
“I was there so I thought I should learn German. I didn’t like not knowing what they were saying about me,” he explained. “I swiped a beginning German book out of the library. Got to remember to take that book back one of these days!” That interest in the German language stayed with Hall after he was discharged from the Army and took up his studies at the University of Maine. In fact, he ended up becoming an assistant professor of German, eventually teaching at his alma mater.
Hall retired as an assistant professor twenty years ago and returned to the island to lobster. But lobstering is not the only thing he does: Hall writes poetry. “When I was a boy during the Depression, my grandmother had the big house across from the church [in Carver’s Harbor]. She read poetry to me every day. It gets to be a part of you,” he said. He is a strong supporter of the Vinalhaven Public Library and served as a library trustee for many years.
Hall continues to lobster and row his peapod in the waters around Vinalhaven, much as he did when he was a young boy. He remains a staunch supporter of the MLA. “It’s pretty simple. I believe in people banding together to get their rights,” he said.Category: People