Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Chesapeake Journal: Rock Hall of Fame

watercolor by Hallie Cohen
Rock Hall is a legendary fishing village down the road from Chestertown. Tullalah Bankhead the famous actress (she had a starring row in Hitchcock’s Lifeboat ) and enchantress (“If I had to live my life again, I’d make all the same mistakes, only sooner,” is one her famous quotes) is buried in the local cemetery which sits beside St. Paul’s Church. But the town is less known for its celebrities than its Watermen, whose seafaring existence is memorialized at the local Waterman’s Museum. When you ride Bayshore Road to the four way intersection at the center of town, you will come upon a tiny white shack dedicated to Stanley B. Van Sant 1908-1990. In front of it stands one of the ubiquitous wooden statues of watermen that dot the town. If "Tintern Abbey" was Wordsworth’s definition of the sublime this small little portable home for watermen like Van Sant epitomizes the Chesapeakian version of sublimity. Next to is a sign commemorating  another local legend Captain Lambert Wickes, an officer in the continental navy whose sloop the Reprisal was responsible for many successful raids on the British. He was the first American naval officer in European waters at the time of the signing of the Declaration of  Independence and he died when his ship sunk off the coast of Newfoundland in l777. Fishing was and is not only an industry, but a way of life, with its own heroes and mythologies which infuse the landscape of Chesapeake Bay towns like Rock Hall.

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