Fish Tales Of A Gloucester Fisherman

Hi Joey, I recently joined the Gloucester Writers Group.
On Jan. 17th I attended my first meeting, The Inaugural Meeting of
Fish Tales, Live Story Telling. I would like to share my story and pictures
with your readers. Virginia (Frontiero) McKinnon

Michael Frontiero 19580001F V Little Flower0001

Fish Tales
My Dad, Mike Frontiero, was a Gloucester Fisherman My Dad had many fish tales to tell. I remember my Dad taking a big piece of paper and with pencil in hand he would draw and explain the process of catching fish to me. He would draw a picture of his boat, the winch, doors and net and explain how the drag net is set by lowering the doors with the net into the ocean. The doors  are at the end of long steel cables attached to the boat and the winch. The net is shaped like a big stocking. The doors keep the top of the stocking open to scoop up the fish. After several hours of towing  the doors and the net are hauled up, closing the doors in the process.  To do this a strong winch coils up the cables. With the doors secured at the side of the boat, the net is then hauled up high above the deck. The bottom of the net is pulled open, like opening a purse, dumping he fish on the deck for sorting. Then it’s all hands on deck, as the junk is thrown back into the ocean. All the ground fish is dressed (guttered) before going down into the fish hold and iced. This process  continues until the decision is made when to bring the fish to market. Whiting is very fragile and had to get to market in two days, When fishing for haddock and cod the trips would last longer.

I never  realize how dangerous my Dad’s occupation could be until one morning my Mom was listening to her ship to shore short wave radio, when she heard the voice of the skipper, Busty Serio “May-Day, May-Day the fishing vessel America was taking on water and sinking.” With her rosary beads in hand later she heard a fishing boat was near by and rescued the crew. My dad was the engineer, and the skipper remained on the boat, pumping the water desperately trying to save the America, until the Coast Guard arrived. They explained to my dad that the America could not be saved and they had to abandon ship. My Dad said as they were leaving he witnessed a huge funnel hole appear and the America was sinking into this hole. The current was so strong the Coast Guard boat was having difficulty from being drawn into this hole.

My dad and the skipper had a new fishing boat built in South Bristol Maine. Harvey Gamage Boatyard was in the process of building a yatch and he accommodated them by turning this into a beautiful fishing boat, as time was money. I remember spending many wonderful weekends in Maine watching the boat building process. Soon the boat was launched and christened “Little Flower: in honor of St. Theresa. My dad was fishing again on the beautiful fishing boat. She was the pride of the Gloucester fishing fleet.

On December 13. I believe the year was 1952. the Little Flower was at sea, when a hugh storm appeared from out of nowhere. My Dad stated the waves were over 12 feet high.  My Dad said a huge wave was heading toward the Little Flower. He and the crew gathered into the pilot house. They were on their knees in front of the little religious shrine. They made a sacred promise to God to never go fishing on  Santa Lucia’s day, December 13th. The boat broached  the wave and the Little Flower was spared from impending disaster.  I believe fishermen’s faith in  God is tested time and time again. I pray to God to bless our fishermen and keep them safe.

Virginia (Frontiero) McKinnon                                 January 2013 

11 comments

  • Pingback: Fish Tales Of A Gloucester Fisherman by his daughter, Virginia (Frontiero) McKinnon | fisherynation.com

  • Thank you for this wonderful piece! It’s great that you are writing your memories of your dad’s life as a fisherman as well as his fish tales and I know it will all make for very interesting reading.

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  • Thank you so much for sharing your memories of your Father’s experiences performing a job that was, and still is, as dangerous as it is exhilarating. I have profound respect for the men and women who’s lives revolve around this “Beautiful Industry.” I am always at a loss for words when I hear the stories that are made upon the water and I am proud and humbled just to be rubbing elbows with such a strong community. Gloucester is like no other place on Earth…

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  • Yes, thank you for adding the story of the Little Flower and your dad’s life as a fishermen. It is important for all of us who have the history to document such information about Gloucester’s past and you’r doing a fine job of it. And, Joey through GMG is doing a great service in providing a repository for it

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  • I agree with everyone above. Thank you so much for sharing this story. I’m always moved by the love of the sea that fishermen have. I have it too! Respect and prayers to all who work on the water. (my son is in the Coast Guard).

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    • Paula, Virginia is my mother thus Mike Frontiero my grand father. He was the nicest man I have ever met. All the kids called him Uncle Mike and he always had his suit coat pockets full of candy for them. He took me everywhere with him. You noticed how she says the fish was guttered, she meant gutted I don’t know what grounded fish are but she may have meant ground (as bottom) fish. English was not the primary language when he grew up in the North End of Boston and in his house they were bilingual but they tried their best to asssimilate into the American culture because as my grand mother put it once she stepped off the boat at Ellis Island they were Americans. I thought ticket was spelled tiget up until about Jr. High and there are many more examples. I wish they had kept more of their heritage intact (as I could have used it) but that was the way they thought of things, not to divide the country by making it bilingual but to become on with it through the great smelting pot. I am answering you as I too was in the Coast Guard and partly out of respect for him and went to sea for a while in other roles as well but never got to sail with him. He promised to take me when I turned 12 but hurt his back shortly before that. We ended p working together anyways but that’s another story. There is a lot I’d like to say but just wanted to rush this out as I have lots to to, the CG thing caught my eye. Tell your son good luck from me. I was a Radio Man from 1973-1979.

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  • What a beautiful story, memories and photos. Thank you for sharing them. I assume they kept their promise and never fished on Santa Lucia’s day again.

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    • Hello. Busty Serio was my father-in-law, and to the best of my knowledge.. Yes, they kept the promise they made to Santa Lucia and never fished Dec 13. And even today, Sebastiano’s (Busty) children and family STILL observe the day by preparing and sharing a traditional wheat dish.

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  • I spent 8 years from 1st through 8th grade at St. Therese of the Little Flower Parish grade school in Bethesda, Maryland (graduated 1975) and truly enjoyed this story! I emailed this link to the school to share with all of the students and faculty. Thank you & to Joey for GMG!

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  • Dear Virginia. Thank you for sharing this story of your Dad’s life at sea. Busty Serio was my father-in-law and I have heard some of the stories of your Dad, the America, and the Little Flower

    To this day, on Dec 13, our family still celebrates the day of Santa Lucia, in memory of the day that our fishermen were spared.

    We also very much enjoyed seeing the photograph of the Little Flower, as our family has no pictures.. I will be printing your story and photographs to share with rest of the family.

    Thank you again
    Robin Serio

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  • Virginia I remember your Dad and your family I grew up in the house next door. You are a beautiful family thanks for sharing…. What a beautiful story

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