The Working Waterfront Festival Community Documentation Project is an ongoing oral history project documenting the history and culture of the commercial fishing industry and other port trades. The project was begun in 2004 in conjunction with the Working Waterfront Festival, an annual, education celebration of commercial fishing culture which takes place in New Bedford, MA. Interviewees have included a wide range of individuals connected to the commercial fishing industry and/or other aspects of the port through work or familial ties. While the majority of interviewees are from the port of New Bedford, the project has also documented numerous individuals from other ports around the country. Folklorist and Festival Director Laura Orleans and Community Scholar/Associate Director Kirsten Bendiksen are Project Leaders. The original recordings reside at the National Council for the Traditional Arts in Maryland with listening copies housed at the Festival's New Bedford office.
Janice Gadaire Fleuriel
Alan Cass, a 60-year-old male, is a retired fisherman with a diverse ethnic background of English, Irish, and Portuguese heritage. He spent his career as a fisherman based in the home port of New Bedford, where he primarily engaged in scalloping. Alan has a deep connection to the sea and has experienced various aspects of the fishing industry, from working on fishing vessels to being involved in the fishermen's union. Over the years, he has navigated through challenging conditions, weathered fishermen's strikes, and witnessed significant changes in fishing technology and regulations. His experiences have given him a comprehensive understanding of the fishing trade, both locally and in distant waters.
Scope and Content Note
The interview with Alan Cass, conducted by Janice Gadaire Fleuriel, delves into the life and career of a retired fisherman with rich cultural heritage. The discussion encompasses his early fishing experiences, including scalloping trips and vessels, as well as his involvement in the Alaskan fishing industry during the early 1970s. Alan provides insights into the diverse ports he visited, from Seward to Aleutians, and recounts the impact of the Alaskan earthquake. He discusses fisherman's strikes, challenges posed by bad weather, and his decision to remain in the fishing profession. Alan's talks about buying a boat, dealing with divorce and loss, and exploring different avenues of work, such as logging and marine research. The interview sheds light on the changing dynamics within the fishing community, including the role of fishermen's unions, benefits, and support systems. Alan's experiences extend beyond fishing, including boat delivery work to locations like Galveston, Bequi, and Haiti. He reflects on the evolving technology in the New Bedford fleet, the significance of the Magnuson Act, and opportunities beyond traditional fishing, such as oil rig work. Throughout the interview, Alan discusses the intricate details of the fishing trade, from scallop cutting to addressing injuries and drug-related issues on fishing boats. The interview also touches upon the evolution of fishermen's unions, the council process, and the connection between fishermen and the water.
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