This is a collection of stories as told into a friends tape recorder
in the 70’s. It was rough typed onto manuscript paper and laid dormant
for many years until resurrected and rewritten in a computer format.
We have made an effort to retain the personality of the story teller and
reproduce the candid conversation just as it was originally.
It starts quite simply and progresses through some hair raising adventures on the sea off the coast of Northern California. Adventures that will make you think twice before getting on a boat.
Betty Roberts and her husband Vernon were commercial fishing in the days when Salmon were plentiful and women stayed home with the kids. It is told from the viewpoint of a hard-working woman who risked her life time and again to be with her husband. Had it not been for her he may not be here today.
This is a book to be listened to, not read. To make it easier imagine yourself at Betty’s kitchen table listening to her stories. Notice her pauses to think, to light a cigarette, to pour you another cup of coffee. Notice her country girl accent, her struggles to find the words to describe her emotions at the time.
“You should talk to Elmer, Janie, he was a Japanese prisoner of war for 3 ½ years. His stories need to be documented.”
I heard that several times from the sports fishermen that spent their summers in the campground by the Albion harbor. They knew I liked writing about people’s adventures.
One day I was down there trading fishing stories and asked where this Elmer person was. I assumed he would be pretty incapacitated, being 83 years old and having had such a traumatic near death experience. “Here comes his boat now”, they said. I watched as he walked up the ramp from the dock with his cane followed by a friend carrying a box of fish. “We’ll clean your fish Elmer, you can go talk to Janie”, and that’s how it started.
We walked over and sat down in his little RV trailer. He’d heard enough about me to trust me I guess. I told him about the things I remembered about my childhood during world war II, about all the rationing of supplies, the shortages of sugar, gasoline, rubber, copper, (we even had non-copper pennies in 1943). I told him how scared we were on the California coast, about the black outs, and camouflage, about all the sailors and soldiers, and how I idolized the P38’s and B17’s. I told him how my brothers and I played war with toy guns and model planes. He was a prisoner during most of the war and had no idea whatsoever about what was going on at home.
Elmer’s hands shook from Parkinson’s Disease, his tongue quivered also
from the same condition. That doesn’t stop him from driving his truck,
pulling his boat and RV, launching and taking that boat out into a sometimes
rough ocean and catching as big of a fish as anyone in the fleet. That
same gumption is what probably saw him through those days as a prisoner.
He started to tell me his story. I turned on my little tape recorder.