Point Lookout, Long Island, New York, U.S.A.

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Bob Doxsee Recollections - The Sea Clam Industry
Courtesy Community Outlook Jan-Feb 2009

In 1944 the Doxsee Brothers, Bob Doxsee Sr., and Spence Doxsee, formed a partnership with Ted Rauscher, and the Hogstrom Brothers. On my website, Bob Doxsee.com, click on Long Island Sea Clam Company. The very first icon tells of the partnership of the five men and the formation of Long Island Sea Clam Company. The second icon is a picture of Fred Snow and the third is a letter from Fred Snow to Sportsman Fish Company, AKA Gus and Ellis Hogstrom, cementing a promising business relationship and the launching of an industry. Go to the home page and click on “ORIGINS OF THE SURF CLAM INDUSTRY”. In it, Jim Westman of the N.Y. Conservation Dept. details the origins of the industry in its early days including Fred Snow, the Hogstrom Brothers and Long Island Sea Clam Co.

Let’s back up to 1943. I was twelve years old. My father, Bob Doxsee Sr., took me to Sportsman Ave., Freeport, to Gus Hogstrom’s place. It was a two story frame building fronting right on the sidewalk and backing up on the canal. The first thing I saw when we exited the car was about four or five old bay men shucking clams in the garage. Gus and Elsie’s living quarters were on the second floor while the garage area was on the ground level. They were using ordinary table knives to open the clams with, the handle built up with rubber tape. It was very primitive. The shells would go back in the burlap bags to be stacked around the outside of the building. When the boats came in, live clams would be stacked there and the bags of shell loaded aboard the boats to be dumped at sea. Five bushels of live clams would be wheeled in at a time and five bags of shells brought out.

Mounted on legs was a cylinder or drum about eighteen inches in diameter made with a sort of chicken wire material into which about ten or fifteen pounds of clams were deposited. A crank handle was attached to one end of the cylinder. One man would rotate the cylinder and another wash the clam meat with water from a garden hose. The clams were then put in wooden barrels and iced as described in Fred’s letter. No plastic bags in those days. Then they were shipped to Maine by Railroad Express.

My most lasting impression of that visit was the click clack sound of clam shells dropping on each other as the shuckers let them fall into the bag. I was to hear that sound many, many times in my future.

Ted lived across and down the street. Later he moved up to Long Beach Avenue, also in Freeport.

Snow Canning Co. was looking for a steady supply of clams but the Hogstroms could not supply it from that location. Besides, they were probably in violation of every village, town and county code in the book. But it was wartime and the country needed protein.

It was decided to form a partnership and move the operation to our place in Point Lookout on Reynolds’ Channel. Sam Bowers’ Bar and Grill next door was purchased and a shed roof connected the two buildings. One memorable day is embedded in my mind. We were living in Point Lookout, next door to the fish house; Pop and Spence were still fishing then. Old Man MacPhee, the contractor, was framing the roof between the two buildings He shouted something to me about the war but I did not know what he was talking about. I found out when I got to school.

It was that never to be forgotten day, THE SIXTH OF JUNE, 1944.

We started shucking that August. The following month, the hurricane of 1944 wiped out all of our fish traps, relegating Bright Eye Fish Company to the history books. From that point on, to the end of World War Two, we had twenty-two boats landing clams at out dock, fifty shuckers, and a plethora of other workers. We shucked and packed up to eighteen hundred bushels of clams per day and Snow Canning wanted more. The clams went out and the money came in. It was a great relationship.

Fred Snow was a self made man and very extroverted to say the least. In his younger days he was a bricklayer. His night job was digging soft clams out on the mud flats. His wife, Cora, would go with him and hold the lantern. One night, Cora fell face down in the mud. “That’s it”, she exclaimed. “Either you make clamming your full time occupation, or give it up. “ That’s how the F. H. Snow Canning Company was born. Fred Snow loved horses. He owned several. I remember one trotter named Television. He told Cora that he wanted to build the track at Scarborough Downs. He said he would do anything she wanted. He thought she would say a trip to Hawaii. Instead she said “Anything?’ Fred said “Yes”. “Alright then, “she said, “I want you to go to church with me.” Fred thought the roof might fall in.

After the war, sales fell off and clams were becoming scarce. Pop, Spence and Ted bought Gus and Ellis out. They moved to Criehaven, a Down East island well off the Maine Coast also known as “The Island of Lobsters.” They went lobstering and I heard somewhere that Elsie became Postmaster. I would work on Saturdays in the processing line and Ted was my boss. One winter Saturday a big old deserted building, Savage’s Hotel, caught on fire and, of course, I had to be there. Ted was very unhappy with me. Over time, Ted developed a strong connection with the Snow family. When Snow expanded their operation to South Jersey, Ted decided to make the move. He was one of the founders of today’s mammoth surf clam industry. Borden owned Snows for a while. Then it was owned by a company called Castleberry. Now it is part of Bumble Bee Tuna.

I see Fred Snow’s son, Harold, every now and then and we exchange cards. We go back a long way.

— Bob Doxsee