Pollock Heads Up Close and Personal
I remember this time of year (pollock season) when we used to handle fish. Frankie and I would steak (chop the heads off) so many pollock that we could barely lift our arms and the cleavers we used would feel like they weighed 100 lbs at the end of the night.
We would unload the pollock and dump them into vats because there would never be enough fish totes to hold them. Then we would steak them and pack them in 100 lb boxes for shipping to New York.
We would beg Jerry Olsen to hold the New York truck for us til the very last moment to try to get as much pollock steaked as possible.
Going home trembling, arms numb around 9:30PM. Its a wonder we never lopped off a thumb accidentally. You would grab each fish in it’s eye socket and try to get as close to that eye socket with the cleaver to get the highest percentage of fish to ship. The further from that eye socket the more gets left on the head and is loss. Coming down and splitting through the fishes head with the cleaver sending blood all over. At the end of the night you would be covered in pollock blood and scales.
When you finally get home shaking you get under the shower head and let the hot water beat down on you cleaning away the blood and scales and massaging the throbbing muscles in your arms, shoulders and back. Get out of the shower, stuff something down your throat and get to bed as soon as possible knowing that in a few short hours you were going to have to be back down the dock loading the truck at 3:30AM with the pollock you couldn’t get through and load it on the truck for the Boston Auction.
You know that sleep is critical because you’ll be on the road at 4:30 to get the fish to Boston to make that day’s auction. Grabbing multiple cups of coffee to try to stay awake on the road into town.
Once you get into town the Auction would take place at 6:00AM and when it ended you would go to unload all the fish from the truck at different fish houses in South Boston.
Generally with pollock you didn’t have to battle with the fish houses as the fish was all super fresh. So by the time you get done delivering the fish you get back to Gloucester around 11:00AM and prepare to unload boats for the rest of the afternoon and get to steaking that pollock and cod and packing them up for the next day’s market. Rinse, lather, repeat every day.
I remember wishing so badly for bad weather to try to get some rest and recovery for my aching body.