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Hollywood on the Chesapeake: "The Clam-digger's Daughter" PDF Print E-mail
Written by Fran Severn   
Tuesday, 11 January 2011 20:05


Long before Hollywood discovered Berlin and Ocean City as backdrops for their movies, film crews traveled to the Eastern Shore to create timeless films. Or at least what they hoped would be cinematic classics.


One of them is “The Clam-digger’s Daughter” AKA “The Story of Mr. Hobbs.” It was shot in and around Cape Charles in 1947 by the Canadian director/actress Nell Shipman.


The plot is a wee bit over-the-top. It involves an embittered clam digger who blames a New York banker for the destruction of the barrier island that was his home and location of his shellfish bed in a storm. Said banker refused to approve a loan to build a breakwater around the island because it was a bad risk. (Insert joke about bakers, mortgages, and bad loans here). Now the banker is returning to the area to meet with a beleaguered Latin-American president who is battling communist insurgents in his country. (I told you it was over-the-top.) Hobbs arranges to ferry the banker to his secret rendezvous with the president, but instead takes him to an abandoned cottage on the eroded island where he’ll be drowned by the incoming tide. It’s up to the clam-digger’s daughter and her fiancé, a returning WW2 vet who works for the local newspaper and is supposed to interview the banker, to reach the island and rescue the banker before he drowns. (I know what you are thinking. Be nice.)


How does it end? Nobody knows. Once the filming was over and the cast and crew left Cape Charles, the movie by any name (at one point it had a working title of “Tides, A Tale of the Tidewater”) vanishes. It’s unclear if it was even ever released.


But people in Cape Charles remember it. The local paper is full of photos and articles documenting the excitement generated when the production was in town. One of the local people was hired to type the script, but she doesn’t recall the ending.


A local film buff went looking for the movie. In a piece of detective work worthy of its own movie, he tracked it down in – of all places – the British Film Institute in downtown London. But the Institute can find only seven reels of the movie which was apparently eight or nine reels long. They’ve checked the archives on either side of the copy they found in case it had been misfiled. They checked any film with any title even remotely similar but without luck. They cross-referenced with the cast and production members to see if there was yet another name or possible location. But the fate of the banker, the Latin American president, Crad Hobbs, his daughter, and her fiancé remain a mystery. (OK, we know the girl and her boyfriend live happily ever after. Cue the romantic strings. Fade to black.)


After the film was discovered in 1996, it was shown in Cape Charles. Frances Helm, who played the key role of “Timmy Hobbs,” the clam-digger’s daughter, revisited Cape Charles for what may have been the film’s world premier.


You can see the film and debate the ending this weekend. It’s being screened on Sunday, January 16 at 3 p.m. at the Palace Theater in Cape Charles. Arts Enter Cape Charles and the Friends of Cape Charles/Northampton Library are co-sponsoring it. Admission is free, but a donation to the cause is most appreciated. You can also buy a DVD of the film. Proceeds benefit the library. 757-331-2787.

Harrison's Chesapeake House Oyster Orgy PDF Print E-mail
Written by Fran Severn   
Tuesday, 11 January 2011 18:53


Oyster lovers rejoice! Yea, verily, the Friday night oyster orgy is back at Harrison’s Chesapeake House on Tilghman Island.


I’m told the oyster population is low and that the possibility of oysters vanishing altogether is not unthinkable, but you wouldn’t know it to see the feast spread out every weekend in months that are graced with the letter “R.”


Weathered bushel baskets heavy with bivalves that were happily sucking up the waters of the Chesapeake Bay that morning are dragged to a bench where a large man with a sharp blade and nimble fingers shucks them as fast as the waiting line plucks them from the ice-covered raw bar. It is a pleasure to watch an artist at work, especially when you can so thoroughly enjoy the results of his labors.


But wait – there’s more! The waitress brings steaming oyster stew from the kitchen. If you want a second or third bowl, she’ll bring that, too, but most people don’t. It would look too gluttonous. And this is not an episode of Man vs. Food, but a celebration of Crassostrea Virginica.


Besides, there’s this long buffet table covered with everything else. “Everything” in this case means: oyster pot pie, fried oysters, steamed oysters, oyster fritters, oysters Rockefeller, and oysters Chesapeake. There are probably more ways to prepare oysters, but there’s just no more space to put anything else on the table. For variety, there’s also fried chicken and baked ham. And since you are supposed to eat your vegetables, there’s cole slaw, stewed tomatoes, lima beans, fresh biscuits kept warm in a basket covered with linen napkins, and some very fine mac and cheese with a toasty crust and gooey interior. Dessert (as though there’s any room left) is a tray of homemade bread pudding. If there are non-oyster lovers or someone who’s just not that hungry at your table, Harrison’s extensive regular menu is available. It’s a treat in itself, but to quote Alton Brown, “That’s another show.”


Harrison’s is about as down-home and unpretentious as they come. The staff all lives locally. And so do most of the customers – half of them are cousins, in-laws, school buddies, or co-workers to the other half – so there’s a lot of bantering between the tables as local news is updated and local gossip passed on. It’s more like a family picnic than a restaurant meal. Show up twice and you’ve become a ‘regular’ and included in the conversations.


It’s a long, dark ride from Rt. 50 down Rt. 33 through Easton and St. Michaels to Tilghman Island, but with the first oyster being shucked at 4 p.m. you can indulge yourself to satiation and still be home by bedtime.


The oyster buffet is every Friday night from 4-9:30 p.m. $31.99 per person. Reservations aren’t necessary, but are a good idea. 410-886-2121.

Planning Chincoteague's Future PDF Print E-mail
Written by Fran Severn   
Friday, 07 January 2011 15:36


One of the more sobering displays at both the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and the Assateague National Seashore Visitors’ Centers concerns the future of the barrier islands. Whether the result of man-made global warming or the natural cycle of the earth, the waters are rising. The displays show the contours of the islands and mainland as it was in the past, where they are now, and what’s predicted to happen.


The US Fish & Wildlife Service is charged with developing conservations plans for all of the lands under its control. The Chincoteague Refuge is one of them. It’s in the middle of developing its mandated 15-year Comprehensive Conservation Plan, which will set the direction for how the Refuge will operate during that time. It’s not just how to protect the wildlife and waterfowl as the climate and terrain change but practical things like managing traffic and balancing increasing tourism with ecology.


The FWS is hosting public scoping meetings where people can talk directly to FWS staff about what they see as the problems, concerns, and possible solutions at the Refuge. The next one is January 13 at the Old Train Station, 200 Belt St., Snow Hill, MD from 6-8 p.m. It’s an informal Open House style meeting. If you can’t make it, but want to comment, write to CNWR, attn, CCP Coordinator, Box 62, Chincoteague, VA 23336. You can also e-mail comments to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Put “Chincoteague” in the subject line.

What's hot, What's Happenin' on Delmarva, Jan. 10-16 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Fran Severn   
Friday, 07 January 2011 15:10


Jan. 14

Second Friday Arts Stroll, Berlin, MD. Shops and galleries open late from 5-8 p.m. www.berlinmdarts.org


Jan. 15-16

North American Craft Show & Nautical and Wildlife Art Festival, Ocean City Convention Center. Huge show with upper-end crafts in one hall, nautical and wildlife art in the other. One price covers entry to both shows. $5 adults, $4 kids 13-17, under 12 free with paying adult. Sat. 10-5, Sun 10-4. www.donaldsduckshoppe.com


Jan. 15

History Hay Ride, Trap Pond State Park, Laurel, DE. Snuggle up and burrow into the hay for a ride through the park, and learn about the Native Americans, colonists, and farmers who lived here in the past. Ride is about 90 minutes, Hot chocolate and refreshments after. $5 adults, $3 under 12. Reservations required. 302-875-5153.


All-You-Can-Eat Ham & Oyster Dinner, Galena Fire House, Galena, MD. The foods that make living on the Shore worth living. 3-6:30. 410-648-5104


Kent Chamber Music Concert, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Chestertown. 7 p.m. Charm City Baroque – made up of students from Peabody institute – present music as heard in the 17th and 18th century. 410-810-2805


Burning Bridget Cleary, Caroline Central Library, Denton. The girls front the band with their fiery fiddles; the guys play bass and guitar; there’s stepdancing, too for a lively Celtic evening. $10 adults, $5 students. 7:30-9:30. Tickets at the door from 6:45. Light refreshment following. 410-479-1343.


Jan. 16

Eat (and drink) your way across Delmarva today, Hon!!!


All-You-Can-Eat Breakfast, Millington Volunteer Fire Company, Millington, MD. Bacon, pancakes, scrapple, eggs, chipped beef & gravy, biscuits. You need these carbs to deal with the winter cold. Benefits the volunteer fire department. Calories do not count when consumed in the name of good deeds. $8 adults $6 kids under 6.


Fried Chicken and Oyster Dinner, RT. 50 Linkwood, MD. 12-4. These are the guys with the great friend chicken from their roadside operation in the summer. They keep their cooking skills sharp and their ovens hot with this AYCE festival of food. $15 410-221-0169


Blending Trials – Bordeaux Style and more. Holly Grove Vineyard, Franktown, VA. Be part of the experience of blending wines. Learn a lot and taste even more. 2 p.m. $20. Seating limited. Reservations a must. 757-442-2844


Beachcombing in Delaware Seashore State Park. 1-2:30 p.m. Bundle up and see what the waves wash up. Winter storms usually bring in things not seen in the summer. $3. Meet at Indian River Life Saving Station. 302-227-6991.

Eagle and Osprey Cams on Delmarva PDF Print E-mail
Written by Fran Severn   
Wednesday, 29 December 2010 22:27


For ecological voyeurism, few things can beat peeking into the private lives of Delmarva’s bald eagles and ospreys. At Chincoteague and Blackwater National Wildlife Refuges, that’s what’s happening thanks to carefully placed cameras. You can peek while the birds repair and rebuild their nests and sit on the eggs, watch as the fledglings hatch and their parents feed them, and share the pride of the avian adults as their children take their first tentative flights.


Eagle Cam and Osprey Cam operate at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, courtesy of the Friends of Blackwater. The lens looks directly down on the nest, just high enough not to bother the birds. Every 45 seconds, EagleCam refreshes, so you get as close to ‘real time’ avian action as possible. Right now, the eagles are preparing their nests for the eggs. Excitement is high, since the eagles have been busy sprucing up their nest. That’s a good sign of impending parenthood. The site archives particularly exciting shots. Right now, there’s a fabulous photo of both bald eagles working on the nest.


The osprey nest is not active right now, since those birds have not returned from their annual winter sojourn to warmer climes. But the camera at Blackwater is operating so it’s ready when they return. It’s caught some feathered visitors; both an immature bald eagle and a Great Horned Owl have both visited the osprey platform.


You can watch both Blackwater cams at home on your computer. http://www.friendsofblackwater.org/


Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge also has an Eagle Cam set up by the Chincoteague Natural History Association. Technical glitches prevent live feed, although they’re working to fix that. In the meantime, if you visit the refuge, you can peek at what’s happening on a monitor at the visitor center. That’s open from 9-4 every day. Chincoteague is excited because they have two pair of eagles and it looks as though they are past dating and talking about setting up house together.


A few years ago, there were a total of maybe 500 pairs of eagles in the country. Now there are around 8,000. The largest population is at Aberdeen Proving Ground, of all places. The habitat is right and there is so much acreage that is off-limits to human activity because of lost and buried ordnance that goes back as far as WWI that the birds have the land all to themselves. It’s nice to see – really see – that some of that success here on the Shore.


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