Russell Boynton

Location of Interview
Collection Name

Ellsworth High School - Maine


These interviews were conducted as part of Ellsworth High School's participation in the NOAA Fisheries Service  (NMFS) Local Fisheries Knowledge Pilot Project 2003-2005.  All 10th graders participated in this interdisciplinary project that involved English, History, Social Studies, and Biology classes. To read about the LFK Project, go to

Date of Interview

Joyce Whitmore 


Russell Boynton, born on June 4, 2005, is a resident of Ellsworth, Maine. He has been involved in worming for nearly 50 years, starting during his high school years in 1957. Russell's interest in worming sparked when he observed people carrying buckets of worms and realized its potential for earning money. Initially balancing worming with college and a grocery store job, Russell soon discovered that worming was more lucrative. He gradually transitioned to full-time worming during summers and part-time while teaching and coaching. Russell's typical day involves digging for worms during specific tides, separating and packing them for sale. He now travels to North Blue Hill, which takes about 40 minutes each way. Being an early riser and adapting to weather conditions are key aspects of success as a wormer, according to Russell. He also highlights the financial responsibility of being self-employed. Over the years, Russell has witnessed individuals who started worming as a part-time job and went on to successful careers in other fields. Russell's dedication to worming spans almost five decades, and he encourages others to explore this unique and rewarding occupation.

Scope and Content Note
This oral history interview provides insights into the life and experiences of Russell Boynton as a wormer, someone who gathers bloodworms and sandworms from the coast for commercial purposes. Boynton explains the intricacies of worming, including the dependence on tides and the different techniques for gathering bloodworms and sandworms. He discusses the tide schedules, the approximate number of worms he gathers in a day, and the value of different types of worms. The interview also touches on the method of packaging and preserving the worms for sale. Boynton shares anecdotes about his experiences as a wormer, recounting humorous incidents involving fellow diggers and the challenges of working in the mud. He highlights the importance of learning to navigate the muddy terrain and describes how individuals, including doctors and lawyers, have used worming as a part-time job to support their education. Boynton contrasts his earnings from worming with his previous job at a grocery store, emphasizing the financial viability of worming. Throughout the interview, Boynton offers practical advice for aspiring wormers, such as starting with a trial period to determine suitability for the job and the importance of keeping accurate records for tax purposes. He reflects on his personal journey, from being involved in clam digging due to his father's business to discovering worming as a more profitable and manageable alternative. Boynton's passion for basketball and coaching is mentioned as an integral part of his life, paralleling his philosophy of finding joy in one's chosen pursuits. Finally, Boynton encourages those interested in worming to give it a try and highlights the potential for it to be a rewarding part-time job. He underscores the importance of finding work that one enjoys, and he shares his own experiences of balancing work and play throughout his life.

Please Note: The oral histories in this collection are protected by copyright and have been created for educational, research and personal use as described by the Fair Use Doctrine in the U.S. Copyright law. Please reach out to let us know how these interviews are being used in your research, project, exhibit, etc.  The Voices staff can help provide other useful resources related to your inquiry. 

The NOAA mission is to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts, to share that knowledge and information with others, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources. The Voices Oral History Archives offers public access to a wide range of accounts, including historical materials that are products of their particular times, and may contain offensive language or negative stereotypes.

Voices Oral History Archives does not verify the accuracy of materials submitted to us. The opinions expressed in the interviews are those of the interviewee only. The interviews here have been made available to the public only after the interviewer has confirmed that they have obtained consent.