Monday, April 2, 2012

100 years ago

A tradition was born.  Just below the (recently totally dismantled) hydro electric damn on the Penobscot River in Bangor, Maine is a wide stretch where the water slows a bit and curls towards the bank.  As a kid growing up not too far from there, we all knew that the first salmon caught at the 'salmon pool' went to the Whitehouse for the President to enjoy.  Above is a picture of Herbert Hoover holding the first salmon from the Penobscot in 1931.  I never really thought about the origins of the tradition when I was young.  It turns out that the tradition actually started as a bit of an homage to William Howard Taft in 1912.  The fish was sent by one Karl Anderson.  Mr. Anderson, a house painter, was a member of the Penobscot Salmon Club.  He left his house before dawn on April 1, 1912 so he could be on the water at first light.  The angler rowed a pea pod boat that he had made himself from wood and canvas just like the boats he remembered a child in Norway out from the banks where other anglers were already casting into the flowing spring melt waters that still had ice chunks drifting by.  On that first day of the season in 1912, Karl Anderson was the only successful salmon fisherman--and he got two.  One beauty, a sixteen pounder, he fought for an hour before he landed it with his bamboo rod.  He sold that one to Campbell Clark, President of the Clark Thread Company in Newark, New  Jersey, who routinely paid the top dollar for the first salmon of the season landed in Bangor.  The other fish was an 11 pounder.  All of the Bangor delegates to the Republican State Convention had just cast their votes in favor of reelecting President Taft.  So Mr. Anderson thought it would be a great way to "show the city's honor and respect for the President" to send along the fish to the Whitehouse.  He took it to Oskar Fickett's fish market, packed it in straw and ice, and sent it off at Union Station to Washington, D.C.  And thus was born the tradition that I suspect was more about providing a testament to Bangor as a premier destination for salmon fisherman than it really was about paying respect to the highest office in the land.


Borepatch said...

Just not the same in Bangor without the dam.

2cents said...

Yeah. Now the salmon can actually get upstream to spawn. And why not wax nostalgic about the discharges from the paper mills that are now a distant memory. "Smells like money to me."