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Origins: Tiny Fish For Japan - What's it about?

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BARRETTS PRIVATEERS
CAPE ST.MARY'S
HARRIS AND THE MARE
LOOKOUT HILL
MICKEY'S MOUSKETEERS
NORTHWEST PASSAGE
SAFE IN THE HARBOUR
SCARBOROUGH SETTLER'S LAMENT
STRINGS AND DORY PLUG
THE FLOWERS OF BERMUDA
THE HOUSE OF ORANGE
THE IDIOT
THE JEANNIE C.
THE MARY ELLEN CARTER
WHITE COLLAR HOLLER


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GUEST,Texas Guest 01 Aug 03 - 10:54 AM
Mark Dowding 01 Aug 03 - 11:59 AM
Steve-o 01 Aug 03 - 01:59 PM
Joe Offer 01 Aug 03 - 03:26 PM
Barry Finn 01 Aug 03 - 08:13 PM
Sandy Mc Lean 02 Aug 03 - 12:44 AM
mg 02 Aug 03 - 02:01 AM
Joe_F 02 Aug 03 - 10:31 AM
GUEST,Texas Guest 04 Aug 03 - 07:40 PM
DonMeixner 04 Aug 03 - 11:06 PM
mack/misophist 05 Aug 03 - 12:08 AM
GUEST,MichaelM 05 Aug 03 - 10:58 AM
Joe Offer 05 Aug 03 - 01:32 PM
Mark Cohen 06 Aug 03 - 02:27 AM
The Fooles Troupe 30 Dec 03 - 09:25 PM
Simon G 01 Feb 08 - 03:57 AM
Q 01 Feb 08 - 12:06 PM
Midchuck 01 Feb 08 - 12:33 PM
GUEST,Terry McDonald 01 Feb 08 - 12:41 PM
Q 01 Feb 08 - 01:01 PM
Simon G 01 Feb 08 - 01:05 PM
Arkie 01 Feb 08 - 04:08 PM
Joe Offer 01 Feb 08 - 11:56 PM
GUEST,DonMeixner 02 Feb 08 - 12:36 PM
Q 02 Feb 08 - 01:26 PM
The Fooles Troupe 10 Mar 11 - 09:46 PM
W y s i w y G ! 11 Mar 11 - 09:50 AM
Mr Happy 12 Jun 11 - 10:07 AM
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Subject: Origins: Tiny Fish For Japan - What's it about?
From: GUEST,Texas Guest
Date: 01 Aug 03 - 10:54 AM

Can someone provide information on what specific social, environmental, and/or legal happenings that Stan was referring to in this song. What happened to cause the fishermen to no longer be able to eat their catch. Why are they working in food plants now instead of fishing. Thanks.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Tiny Fish For Japan - What's it about?
From: Mark Dowding
Date: 01 Aug 03 - 11:59 AM

Have a look here:

tiny fish

One explanation is that the pollution in the lake was taken up by most of the fish but not the smelt which was caught and canned for export.

Cheers

Mark


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Subject: RE: Origins: Tiny Fish For Japan - What's it about?
From: Steve-o
Date: 01 Aug 03 - 01:59 PM

If you want to hear a closely related song, check out John Hiatt's beautiful and touching "Do You Want My Job?" It's great.


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Subject: Lyr Add: TINY FISH FOR JAPAN (Stan Rogers)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 01 Aug 03 - 03:26 PM

Here are the lyrics and notes from the Stan Rogers album From Fresh Water.

TINY FISH FOR JAPAN
(Stan Rogers, 1984)

Where Patterson Creek's muddy waters run down
Past the penny arcades, by the harbour downtown,
All the old Turtlebacks rust in the rain
Like they never will leave there again.

But leave there they will in the hours before dawn,
Slip out in the darkness without word or song;
For a few more years yet they will work while they can
To catch tiny fish for Japan.

No white fish or trout here, we leave them alone.
The inspectors raise hell if we take any home.
What kind of fisherman can't eat his catch
Or call what he's taken his own?

But the plant works three shifts now. There's plenty of pay.
We ship seventeen tons of this garbage each day.
If we want to eat fish, then we'll open a can,
And catch tiny fish for Japan.

In the Norfolk Hotel over far too much beer,
The old guys remember when the water ran clear.
No poisons with names that we can't understand
And no tiny fish for Japan...

So the days run together. Each one is the same.
And it's good that the smelt have no lovelier name.
It's all just a job now, we'll work while we can,
To catch tiny fish for Japan.
And we'll catch tiny fish for Japan.

[This song is not intended as a slur of any kind on the countries who import food products that our government won't let us eat. It is Stan's sadly ironic way of describing exactly the status of the Inland Fisheries as seen through the eyes of many a fisherman out of a job. There IS a Norfolk Hotel - Stan played there years ago. The village was dying then. Now they have one of the best Summer Theatre houses in Ontario, but that's little consolation to the men
with the boats.]


When I was a kid in the 1950's and 1960's, we caught perch in the Great Lakes, and they made for terrific eating. For perch, we fished from the breakwater with a "power line" of surgical elastic with a brick on one end, a bell on the other, and a half-dozen baited hooks in the middle. When the smelt were running, we caught them by the hundreds from the breakwaters on Lake Michigan, attracting them with gas lanterns and pulling them up with square nets suspended from a pulley on the end of a two-by-four. People would smoke the smelt, and they tasted great with beer. My home town of Racine, Wisconsin, had a fleet of strange-looking fishing boats that looked like Dutch wooden shoes - built so they could survive when the treacherous waters of the Lakes washed over them..

In the late 1960's, the lamprey eels killed off many of the fish people used to eat, and then we learned that the Lakes had been poisoned by all sorts of industrial pollution. I left Wisconsin in 1970, when the Lakes were at their worst. By the time Stan Rogers wrote this song in 1984, the Lakes had started to improve, but it still wasn't safe to eat the fish. Commercial fishery was almost completely dead in the Lakes, although I gather from the song that some pollution-tainted fish were being shipped to Japan but were illegal to eat in Canada.

-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Origins: Tiny Fish For Japan - What's it about?
From: Barry Finn
Date: 01 Aug 03 - 08:13 PM

Very interesting backround, thanks Joe.

Barry


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Subject: RE: Origins: Tiny Fish For Japan - What's it about?
From: Sandy Mc Lean
Date: 02 Aug 03 - 12:44 AM

Not only tiny fish for Japan but large ones as well.
Atlantic swordfish had too high a mercury level to be sold on the domestic market , but Japan wasen't so strict, if I recall correctly.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Tiny Fish For Japan - What's it about
From: mg
Date: 02 Aug 03 - 02:01 AM

I am from the smelt capital of the world, I think...I'm from Longview but it is smack next to Kelso, which is actually the smelt capital (I think). Indians used to use them for candles and called them candlefish. mg


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Subject: RE: Origins: Tiny Fish For Japan - What's it about?
From: Joe_F
Date: 02 Aug 03 - 10:31 AM

Oh why does man pursue the smelt?
It has no valuable pelt,
It boasts of no escutcheon royal,
It yields no ivory or oil,
Its life is dull, its death is tame,
A fish as humble as its name.
Yet -- take this salmon somewhere else,
And bring me half a dozen smelts.

-- Ogden Nash

Perhaps ttto "Deutschland ueber Alles"?


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Subject: RE: Origins: Tiny Fish For Japan - What's it about?
From: GUEST,Texas Guest
Date: 04 Aug 03 - 07:40 PM

Thanks guys for all the help. Cheers.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Tiny Fish For Japan - What's it about?
From: DonMeixner
Date: 04 Aug 03 - 11:06 PM

The Turtle Backs are a great lakes boat that is unique to the waters.
They look almost like a hull with another turned upside down on top of it. The Dutch shoe boat that Joe described is almost certainly a TurtleBack. Doors on the sides of the boat, about midships would open and nets and trawls could be hauled abourd where the crew could work the fish out of the weather. Built this way they could withstand some heavy weather and wave action.

And anyone who thinks "They are just lakes, what kind of weather can they have" can stand on the wall at Oswego, NY when its blowing forty from Toronto. The North Atlantic has nothing to show us that the Great Lakes hasn't already seen.

Don


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Subject: RE: Origins: Tiny Fish For Japan - What's it about
From: mack/misophist
Date: 05 Aug 03 - 12:08 AM

It's good that a smelt
Has no lovlier name.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Tiny Fish For Japan - What's it about?
From: GUEST,MichaelM
Date: 05 Aug 03 - 10:58 AM

I heard a long intro to Tiny Fish during a live performance in Kingston. If I may paraphrase...
Stan talked about his trip out on a turtleback to catch smelt "fish that we aren't allowed to eat so we ship them off to foreigners. Now the one thing no-one had told me about turtlebacks is that they were totally enclosed, no deck outside to get a breath of fresh air just the smell of dead fish...old dead fish...long dead fish. So when I unpacked my limburger and onion sandwich the crew invited me to go up to the bridge and help the autopilot to steer the boat. And if the little red light should stop blinking I should come and tell them. I noticed a small t.v. set built into the bulkhead above the controls and turned it on. And there amid the stench of dead fish and the heaving boat and the horizon doing things I didn't want to think about I watched in full panoply and splendour... the wedding of Charles and Diana, also known as Chuck and Di... or in this case Upchuck and Die."


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Subject: RE: Origins: Tiny Fish For Japan - What's it about?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 05 Aug 03 - 01:32 PM

Gee, I guess I didn't look closely enough at the page on this song at the Steve Briggs Website. Steve has lots of information on this song and its background, including photos of turtlebacks. Yes, those are the boats I recall from the 1960's, but I didn't know the name for them. I thought they had disappeared, but I saw a number of them in 1998, when I explored the Canadian shore of Lake Huron and the Huron River.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: Origins: Tiny Fish For Japan - What's it about?
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 06 Aug 03 - 02:27 AM

You're right, Joe, that is a wonderful page, and does help me understand that song much better--I've always loved it.

Speaking of smelt, I remember Suzy McAleer of Washington State singing this ditty one night at the Seattle Song Circle (apparently after a day of smelt fishing), but I can't fill the holes in it--any help from Mary or others?

The smelt were running thick as thieves
We rolled our pants up to our knees
We _____ _____ and _____ long
And as we _______ we sang this song
Repeat until asked to desist...

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: Origins: Tiny Fish For Japan - What's it about
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 30 Dec 03 - 09:25 PM

refresh


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Subject: RE: Origins: Tiny Fish For Japan - What's it about
From: Simon G
Date: 01 Feb 08 - 03:57 AM

Its funny how one makes assumptions and ignores all evidence. I thought a song about fish being shipped to Japan, its by Stan Rogers so it must be Canada, nearest Japan is BC so must be BC coast.

How wrong could I be, and all the evidence is in the song. After reading the thread I went off looking for turtlebacks on the internet without success. The Steve Briggs page mentioned above is no longer up, eventually went on the web archive to find the page.

Old Steve Briggs Website

Discovered the boats are called fishing tugs and here are a load of pictures, admittedly south of the border.

Fishing Tugs

The Canadian onse look similar from a hazy aerial photo of Port Dover -- home of the song. They still have some, are they actively fishing or just museum pieces?

Port Dover Harbour

I wonder why there is so little information on Great Lakes fishing on the internet.

More importantly to this forum why is there relatively little Stan Rogers information out on the web. There must be many thousands of us who sing his songs and we would love to know more about the background to them. This year is the 25th anniversary of his death; I hope someone out their is collecting memories of him before they completely fade.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Tiny Fish For Japan - What's it about?
From: Q
Date: 01 Feb 08 - 12:06 PM

I don't recall ever hearing the song; thanks for renewing the thread.

The cd "From Fresh Water," 1984 date on "Fogarty's Cove" label, (post by Joe, above) is still available and I have ordered a copy.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Tiny Fish For Japan - What's it about
From: Midchuck
Date: 01 Feb 08 - 12:33 PM

Does anyone know if the melody was original with Stan? When my wife first heard it, she commented that it was a pretty enough waltz to be worth playing as an instrumental.

As far as I know, most of Stan's melodies are original, although "Watching the Apples Grow" is "Cherokee Shuffle." There may be other appropriations that I didn't notice.

Peter.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Tiny Fish For Japan - What's it about?
From: GUEST,Terry McDonald
Date: 01 Feb 08 - 12:41 PM

I chaired a session at the 2002 British Association for Canadian Studies' Conference were Dr Nick Baxter-Moore Of Brock University,Ontario, gave a very good paper on the song's origins. I'm pretty certain it's been published in a relevant journal. One thing I remember his his assertion that the fishermen of Port Erie don'tlike the song, particularly the line about 'poisons with names that we can't understand' - they found that patronising.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Tiny Fish For Japan - What's it about?
From: Q
Date: 01 Feb 08 - 01:01 PM

In his transcription of the lyrics, Joe's title is wrong, should be 'for,' not 'from.' I have PM'd him.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Tiny Fish For Japan - What's it about
From: Simon G
Date: 01 Feb 08 - 01:05 PM

If Joe's had been right it would have been along swim for them. from Japan to Lake Eire.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Tiny Fish For Japan - What's it about?
From: Arkie
Date: 01 Feb 08 - 04:08 PM

One of my personal favorites of Stan Roger's songs(but I have a lot of personal favorites among his songs)and I appreciate all the information. This kind of thread lured me to Mudcat initially and is the reason I keep checking in from time to time.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Tiny Fish For Japan - What's it about?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 01 Feb 08 - 11:56 PM

Brain fart. Fixed it.
Thanks, Q. I wouldn't have wanted that to go into the Digital Tradition that way.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Origins: Tiny Fish For Japan - What's it about
From: GUEST,DonMeixner
Date: 02 Feb 08 - 12:36 PM

People still go smelting in Lake Ontario on the US side every spring. I have had many great nights out with my Dad, Dippin' Smelt. Two white plastic buckets full wasn't unusual or difficult. Cleaning them was. Scissors and a few hours work. I don't fish the big water much any more.
I prefer the cleaner water in the Finger Lakes and even that is a bit problematic.

There are land locked smelt in some of the Finger Lakes as well. Along with catch restrictions that the Big Lakes don't have.

The issue about chemicals is different depending on the lake and which side of the water you are on. The Lake Erie Fishers could well be miffed by the song but they aren't singing it based on Canadian laws and Canadian sensibilities.

Don


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Subject: RE: Origins: Tiny Fish For Japan - What's it about?
From: Q
Date: 02 Feb 08 - 01:26 PM

Stan Rogers was born in Hamilton, Ontario, on Lake Ontario and a whoop and a holler from the Welland Canal to Lake Erie.
All of the Great Lakes remain under threat despite actions to protect them.
According to the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission, the lamprey reduction is 90% but they cannot be completely eliminated.
Pollution remains a problem, although some control efforts are meeting with success.


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Subject: RE: Origins: Tiny Fish For Japan - What's it about?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 10 Mar 11 - 09:46 PM

Plenty more small fish in the sea: expert

:-)


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Subject: RE: Origins: Tiny Fish For Japan - What's it about?
From: W y s i w y G !
Date: 11 Mar 11 - 09:50 AM

On the general precedent that we paste in long music info in case its source site disappears, here's the stuff off Briggs'-- because I was so frustrated when the first several links to it, upthread, were dead links. I wanted it to be there for me, and for time!

~Susan

====

Subj: Turtlebacks and Tiny Fish Date: Tue, Jul 16, 1996 9:12 PM EDT From: adalmyn@man.net X-From: adalmyn@man.net (Tony Dalmyn) Sender: owner-cdnfolk-l@io.org To: cdnfolk@io.org
I have found part of the answer to my own question: what is a turtleback. But it leads to other questions.

I visited the library again and checked Barry's "Ships of the Great Lakes". He discusses the history of whalebacks - with several old photos and explains that the turtleback is a variation on a unique Great Lakes ship design. The first whaleback was built in 1888 on a design by Alexander McDougall. In total, 43 whalebacks were built, the last one in 1896. Whalebacks were iron ships, with a flat bottom and rounded sides. The rounded sides curved inward on the top. This design tended to shed water, and it helped these ships right themselves carrying bulk cargo. The rounded sides came to a snout, rather than a bow at the front. The normal steering house and forecastle were replaced by turret structures. The photos suggest U-boats - riding high in the water. These were big vessels, capable of ocean voyages. The main drawback was the size of the hatches, which were not big enough to accomodate the large clamshells used by many ports.

The turtleback was a variant on the whaleback. Barry says turtlebacks had rounded forward decks. Barry doesn't say how many were built, or in what sizes. Whalebacks were freighters. The turtleback design wasn't necessarily limited to large ships.

In "Tiny Fish for Japan" Stan sings about a specific place which has a Norfolk Hotel "Where Patterson's Creek muddy waters run down" which has a fleet (? how many boats) of rusting turtlebacks that are still fishing.

I get a vision of Stan watching the boats in the harbour and having a few beers with some sailors to get the story that inspired the song. The references to place and the very specific refererence to this type of boat indicate there is a real man who shared some knowledge with Stan.

So, some questions that I'm not sure I'm going to answer:

   1. what's the town
   2. are there still turtleback fishing boats - how big are/were they
   3. any info about the collapse of the Great Lakes fishery
   4. any info about a fish export market in Japan

Once again, Stan has used an interesting and obscure detail to authenticate his story and connect him to the working men he sings about.

PS thanks to Rob Brady who shed some light on modern usage; the technical terms for the freighter designs seem to have been applied to smaller fishing vessels.

Tony Dalmyn

"It is the nature of idea to be communicated: written, spoken, done. The idea is like grass. It craves light, thrives on crossbreeding, grows better for being stepped on." Ursula K. LeGuin, "The Dispossessed" (Harper & Row, 1974)

* * *
Subj: Turtlebacks Date: Tue, Jul 16, 1996 11:35 PM EDT From: marti102@gold.tc.umn.edu X-From: marti102@gold.tc.umn.edu (George B Martin) Sender: owner-cdnfolk-l@io.org To: cdnfolk@io.org
I heard Stan in concert perform Tiny Fish at the old coffee house Extempore in Minneapolis. Garnett reported that Stan, in his quest for authenticity, spent time "turning green" on an old turtleback out on the lake. He apparently did much more than just observe from the shore.

* * *

Subj: turtlebacks Date: Wed, Jul 17, 1996 7:09 PM EDT From: twells@mail.coin.missouri.edu X-From: twells@mail.coin.missouri.edu (Thomas P. Wells) Sender: owner-cdnfolk-l@io.org To: cdnfolk@io.org
All of the info on whalebacks is great, and good background. There are still one or two whaleback museum ships on the Great Lakes. However, the TURTLEBACK bears no relation whatsoever to the whaleback.

A Turtleback is a very specific type of fishing boat, with a round hull form and completely enclosed deck and work area..under a shell, hence the nickname "turtleback" applied to them by the fishermen. You can still see them working in some areas. Stateside, Bayfield, Wisconsin is home to several which tend gill nets, pond nets and such in Chequamegon Bay and the Apostle Islands. They are small..usually 35 to 40 feet. They have larger opening doors on the sides, used to pull in and let out the nets. They have a small raised pilothouse astern, so the helmsman can see. The fishermen actually work inside the boat, under the "shell", which keeps them out of the weather. (Important on the Great Lakes!) I am sure there must be places along the Canadian shore with active turtlebacks.

I have to believe that Stan Rogers knew or talked to fishermen when he wrote TINY FISH.. from what I've learned on this list, he was usually very careful to "get it right." His reference to turtlebacks could only have come from the fishermen.

Turtleback returning homeWhen I listen to TINY FISH, I remember seeing a lone turtleback coming in one evening to Bayfield. The fishermen were actually cleaning their catch, and throwing the scraps overboard for the gulls. That boat in the sunset with the clouds of gulls around it is worthy of song.

Back to my quiet observation. I don't usually pipe up like this, but felt I should share.

Tom

* * *

Subj: Re: Turtlebacks Date: Fri, Jul 19, 1996 11:25 PM EDT From: gerry@freenet.hamilton.on.ca X-From: gerry@freenet.hamilton.on.ca (Brian Morton) Sender: owner-cdnfolk-l@io.org To: marti102@gold.tc.umn.edu (George B Martin) CC: cdnfolk@io.org
On Tue, 16 Jul 1996, George B Martin wrote:

I heard Stan in concert perform Tiny Fish at the old coffee house Extempore in Minneapolis. Garnet reported that Stan, in his quest for authenticity, spent time "turning green" on an old turtleback out on the lake. He apparently did much more than just observe from the shore.

I've heard this story from Valarie and it is true.

    Stan spent the day on a Port Dover perch fishing boat, crewed by a High School friend of Garnet's. The punchline of the story usually goes:

    "So what did you learn about Fishing Stan?"

    "Not to throw up into the wind."

* * *
Subj: Tiny Fish from Port Dover Date: Thu, Jul 25, 1996 8:36 AM EDT From: adalmyn@man.net X-From: adalmyn@man.net (Tony Dalmyn) Sender: owner-cdnfolk-l@io.org To: cdnfolk@io.org
I had asked if anyone knew the Great Lakes fishing port that Stan Rogers described with the lines "Where Patterson's Creek's muddy waters run down ... past the Norfolk Hotel ... " etc. The consensus was Port Dover, and the story of Stan's research - his trip on a trawler out of Port Dover was recounted. Thank you.

I looked at some detailed maps in the library to identify the creek or river that runs into Lake Erie at Port Dover. Patterson's Creek runs down and joins the Lynn River above Port Dover. I looked in Bell Ontario's rural directories and found a listing for a Norfolk Tavern in Port Dover - that's 1995 of course.

My old Canadiana has an entry for Port Dover which mentions the large fishing fleet - which is suggested to be the largest freshwater fleet in the world. It has a picture of a couple of vessels. Canadiana does not identify the type, but courtesy of Stan Rogers, I can identify them as turtlebacks.

Port Dover is in Norfolk County. The telephone directory lists several businesses and government agencies with the word Norfolk in the title.

Some geography books comment on the fishery and the decline of the fishery. The modern fishery is primarily for perch - a small sunfish that does not grow above about 1 1/2 pounds. The books refer to pollution of Lake Erie, destruction of shoreline spawning habitat, and perhaps overfishing as the causes of decline in the fishery.

The books don't mention whether there are exports to Japan - but I don't doubt Stan's accuracy. It's funny how Stan was able to catch that detail and use it as the heart and soul of the song.

The maps and geography books appear to indicate that Patterson's Creek flows into the Lynn between Simcoe and Port Dover - Simcoe is inland, about 9 miles away. It is not clear if Patterson's Creek is navigable and if any boats tie up that far inland. The use of the name indicates that Stan was completely familiar with the area. It may be that local usage calls the Lynn River Patterson's Creek - or perhaps Stan used the name of the tributary because it worked better in the song.

Also of interest - Port Dover featured in some incidents in the War of 1812. General Brock sailed from there to Amherstburg and Detroit in the summer of 1812 - on board the schooner Nancy. Port Dover was burned by the Americans later in the war, and Canadians retaliated by raiding and burning Buffalo.

Note: For more info on Stan's music in regard to the war of 1812 and General Brock, see Tony Dalmyn's treatise:
Stan Rogers and General Brock's War After learning those details, I realized how well Tiny Fish is connected to the other songs on FFW and to Stan's earlier music. It's not just that it's about the Great Lakes and has old fishermen hanging around. Port Dover is a community with a long colourful history, and a long tradition of honest work by working men and women. It is in decline; or at least has not grown into a Halifax or Toronto.

Another one of the best of the best.

Tony Dalmyn adalmyn@man.net

* * *

Subj: Re: Tiny Fish from Port Dover Date: Fri, Jul 26, 1996 5:28 AM EDT From: gerry@freenet.hamilton.on.ca X-From: gerry@freenet.hamilton.on.ca (Brian Morton) Sender: owner-cdnfolk-l@io.org To: adalmyn@man.net (Tony Dalmyn) CC: cdnfolk@io.org
Tony:

I missed your post asking about Port Dover, else I would have responded sooner. Stan was without question writing about this little town on Lake Erie.

I spent a summer (1986) working in Port Dover at a small professional Theatre there called the LIGHTHOUSE FESTIVAL THEATRE which operates out of the old town hall on Market Street. They put on 5 plays a summer there. (In fact in Ariel's liner notes to the song TINY FISH in the FRESH WATER lp insert makes reference to it).

The Norfolk Hotel (circa 1880) is right across the road from the theatre, and is the waterhole for the fishfolk of the town (also the tobacco farmers.) It is a real working class joint and the tourists that sweep into the town every summer wouldn't be caught dead there. Stan played at the Norfolk a few times in the early days. But I don't think that he would have been too well liked as C&W music is the rage.

The touristy part of town starts right at the T junction where the Norfolk sits. This leads to a lovely Beach and passes right by half a dozen "amusement arcades" with video games in them.

The main fish industry in town is Lake Erie Perch. All of the restaurants in town feature it as their speciality. In recent years P.D. has become something of a sports diving centre, there being several noted Shipwrecks discovered near by, most notably the 1850s paddle steamer ATLANTIC which has been the centre of much legal wrangling between a US salvage firm which bought the stock of the original shipping line and thus claims to "own" the wreck, and the Ontario Government which asserts that as the ship is in Ontario waters and has been declared a historic site it should be off limits to salvage.

Cheers

Brian

PS Winnipeg's Dave Clemant should know more as he grew up in Port Dover.

* * *
Subject: re: turtlebacks & tiny fish Date: Sun, Jul 28, 1996 9:04 PM EDT From: owner-cdnfolk-l@io.org X-From redgreen@io.org Mon Jul 22 21:19:09 1996
Hello all:

I've been enjoying the discussion of turtlebacks lately. I grew up in Port Dover and my grandfather, uncles, and brother worked on the fishing fleet based there. I had never heard the term "turtleback" until I heard Stan sing, "Tiny Fish for Japan". I only knew them as fishing tugs. Tony Dalmyn had asked for some background about the fishing situation and about tiny fish. Here are my memories which span about 45 years (no pun intended). My apology if this gets a bit rambling.

First, re some references in the song. Port Dover is a small fishing town on the shores of Lake Erie. When I was young it boasted the largest registry of fresh water fishing boats in the world. At one time over 300 tugs were registered with Port Dover as home port. From here they spread out over all the great lakes to actually fish. In Port Dover itself the boats kept three large fish plants going all year round and provided work for about 500 people. (Dover is about 30 miles from Hamilton. Just drive down highway #6 and you will eventually get there. On the way, stop at Hewitt's for the best ice cream going. It's just about half way there. Once there, stop at the Arbour for a foot long hot dog.

In the 1950s I recall that the catch was varied. I remember my grandad bringing home white fish, blue and yellow pickerell, lake trout, perch, and other species I don't recall right now. But, by the time I left Dover in 1966 this had dramatically changed. I don't know if it was pollution, over- fishing, or the silting up of Lake Erie (a shallow and sandy lake) but by the mid sixtys, perch and smelt were the only fish being brought in in any quantity. This decline had its ripple effect of course. When I left, only one of the fish plants was still in operation. The fleet had dramatically shrunk.

Yes, and those "tiny fish for Japan" were the primary fish export. As a kid I remember going smelt fishing at night on the beach. Bonfires and bushel baskets, wading in the shallow water when the fish were "running", scooping them up in the baskets (actually, they were "peck" baskets, 1/2 a bushel, they drained much easier), and then back to shore and into the large fry pan. I never would have guessed that they would become the main stay twenty years later.

Smelt was the main catch my brother caught. They would net them, haul them in, dump the nets in the back of the boat, and then shovel them into flats along with ice. Once back in port the flats were taken out and the fish simply frozen into larger blocks of ice. These were then shipped out to customers in Japan. To them the smelt were a fine eating fish. As far as I know this is still the situation.

When I was last home in April I was talking with some friends. It seems as though the lake is slowly coming back. Certainly the perch catch is improved and they are even catching some pickerell again although I don't believe they are supposed to actually bring these in. I believe Stan mentions something about fishermen not being allowed to keep what they catch in one of his songs although I don't think this was a reference to the Lake Erie situation. But, the fish plants are still silent, the giant net racks (the few that are left) are rusted, and the shanties along the creek are mostly now craft shops.

Oh yes, I grew up next door to the Norfolk Hotel and my mom still lives in the same house, the little white one next to the Dairy Bar for any of you who know Port Dover. There are still a few amusement things down by the harbour although far fewer than there were when I was a kid. But, as far as I know, the creek is named Black Creek not Paterson's Creek. I asked a bunch of the old timers around and none knew the creek as anything other than Black Creek so perhaps Stan found a reference that I never knew about.

Times have changed the harbour quite a bit. The Stelco and Hydro plants built just three miles down the shore from Dover have led to the construction of a totally new marina area. The skeleton ribs of the old burned barge that I swam around as a kid (don't tell my mom) is now ten feet beneath the new ground level. And, the fishing boats hardly ever birth along the banks of the creek. But these things exist in my memory still and one day I'll put them all into song or story. I guess this is why Stan's music and the music of the maritimes reaches out to me as strongly as it does.

Dave Clement Port Dover (yesterday), Winnipeg (today)

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Subj: Thanks - Port Dover Date: Mon, Jul 29, 1996 8:32 AM EDT From: adalmyn@man.net X-From: adalmyn@man.net (Tony Dalmyn) Sender: owner-cdnfolk-l@io.org To: cdnfolk@io.org CC: d.clement@genie.com
The information about turtlebacks and Port Dover from several sources - Rob Brady, Tom Wells, Brian Morton and Dave Clement has been appreciated. I know there were a couple of others as well who posted on this topic but I didn't save all the messages.

Tony Dalmyn adalmyn@man.net

* * *


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Subject: RE: Origins: Tiny Fish For Japan - What's it about?
From: Mr Happy
Date: 12 Jun 11 - 10:07 AM

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