Jack Saunders

Location of Interview
Collection Name

The Working Waterfront Festival Community Documentation Project


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.

Date of Interview

Janice Gadaire Fleuriel

Biographical Sketch

Jack Saunders is an 80-year-old male who was born in 1927 to a Newfoundland fishing family. He is the owner of Pier Oil in New Bedford. Saunders' father owned a couple of boats, one of which was requisitioned by the government during World War II and lost at sea. Saunders began working on the docks at the age of fourteen, lumping during the summer while attending high school [3]. After graduating, he served in the U.S. Navy and then fished with his father for five years. He later worked for his brother's oil tanker business and eventually started his own business. Despite the competition from larger companies, Saunders' business has survived and thrived, serving many long-time customers.

Scope and Content Note
This interview with Jack Saunders, conducted by Janice Gadaire Fleuriel on September 28, 2008, provides a detailed account of Saunders' life and work in the fishing and oil industries. Saunders discusses his family background, his early years working on the docks, his time in the Navy, and his transition into the oil business. He also shares insights into the changes in the fishing industry over the years, including the shift from wooden to steel boats, the impact of government subsidies, and the influence of the seafood coop. The interview also touches on Saunders' brother's illness and death. The interview concludes with Saunders reflecting on the challenges and rewards of running a small business in a competitive industry.

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