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HIS FATHER WAS A FISHERMAN
Do you believe the great DiMaggio would stay with a fish as long as I will stay with this one? He thought. I am sure he would and more since he is young and strong. Also his father was a fisherman.
"WHAT A FISH! Man Hooks 784-lb. Tuna, Tows It to Cape"
— The Boston Globe (Monday August 10 1964)
"Tuna Tows Angler 8 Mi."
"Record Tuna Hauls Boat 8 Miles -- Backward"
— Boston Traveler (Monday August 10 1964)
On a Sunday afternoon in August, August the 9th, 1964, a day that celebrated the 69th birthday of Dr. Louis Lewis culminated in the catch of a lifetime. Dr. Lewis, aboard the Rebel with his sons Dr. Clyde Lewis, captain of the 25-foot fiber-glass boat, and Wright Lewis, the angler who made the catch, along with Ted Belastock and Al Nemrow, had to be tied down and positioned to help balance the boat against the tuna that "weighed a fantastic 784 pounds, and measured 9 feet long, with a 79-inch girth." Further headlines questioned the alarm "Did a Tuna Break the Bookies of Boston?" when winning combinations of the fish's vital numbers hit big in the betting pools, Dr. Louis Lewis among the gamblers who got lucky.
The unsuspecting tuna put up a whale of a fight straight through the night, sending the small vessel fishtailing, doing all it could to snap the line or empty the reel, wrapping around underwater crags, slowing to trick the angler with a sudden pull, swimming back toward the boat and beneath it.
Clyde Lewis radioed Charlie Mayo, the seasoned seaman (subject of a Sports Illustrated profile two years prior "In Search Of Giants") and charter boatman, who had taught the crew what they knew, to alert the Provincetown docks they'd be bringing in a big one. "They won't open up at this hour, Doc, how big is it? Can you get a measure?" Al Nemrow, the tallest of the fishermen on board, was hoisted over the side to get a rope around the girth and an arms-length.
"Couldn't be, Doc. He made a mistake. Try again."
This time held by his ankles and holding his breath to get a better measure.
"All right, Doc, if it's as big as that they'll be there."
"A poet and philosopher by training, a scientist by instinct, Charlie Mayo is a fisherman by birth and chance and choice."
"Charlie Mayo is a charter boatman and a good one, perhaps the finest tuna skipper on the Atlantic coast, although this is not a statistic that lends itself to the same precise measurement as Mickey Mantle's batting average, being more on the order of how many clams make a chowder."
"Charlie Mayo could no more escape the sea than a squid. His family, on his father's side, were Grand Bankers and whalers; on his mother's, Yankee ship captains and Azores Islanders. An ancestor named John Atkins once toppled from a whaleboat into a whale's mouth. Spit up faster than Jonah went down, the old man was back fishing next day. A Mayo brought his schooner to port singlehanded, surrounded by the bodies of passengers and crew, every man jack dead of smallpox. The family goes back in America to Governor Prence of Plymouth Colony, and an early progenitor was the Rev. John Mayo, first pastor of Boston's Old North Church and a man who could fish as well as he could preach. 'Maybe better,' says Charlie."
At Dartmouth Mayo "became a disciple of Sidney Cox, an authority on Robert Frost. There was a time when Mayo thought that he might become a writer himself....'but, Lord, how I missed the sea.'" When World War II ended Charlie Mayo returned to the Cape, "converted his old catboat to power, built a flying bridge and installed outriggers. The Boston newspapers began to write about his catches, and business boomed....in 1948 ... Dieter Dix, then of the University of Chicago, caught a 751-pounder that is still the largest tuna ever brought aboard one of Mayo's boats."
Mayo didn't guess that his disciples, fishing from the ill-suited Rebel, had reeled-in the biggest blue-fin yet, but he was convinced they'd caught a big one.
Every fisherman in town and then some turned out to see this fish. But the fishmongers refused the catch (presumably on the principle that these "wet-behind-the-ears city-slickers" shouldn't be so rewarded — in Provincetown they paid 5 ¢ a pound at the time) and the crew had to haul the tuna from Provincetown to Boston where the newspapermen, tipped by an A.P. insider, friend to the Lewis family, were waiting while the sun rose (an all night journey, slow-going due to the weight of the fish keeping the boat off-balance running on half the engine with a cavitating propeller). The Boston Fish Pier accepted the fish and the fishermen donated the proceeds to the Home for Little Wanderers. Captain Clyde kept the fish's tail nailed to the gatepost of his place by the sea.
The newspaper clippings of August 1964 and original photographs of the fishermen and their big fish, along with a first edition, 1952 Charles Scribner's Sons New York (marked A), of The Old Man and the Sea from Daisy Nemrow's library, are among the Un-Gyve Archives and always a reminder of the hook, line and sinker.
It takes a rebel crew on a rebel boat to catch a rebel fish — the Rebel and the five men on board, Wright (Lefty) Lewis the man on the hook, had some serious angling to do to take on the record tuna, not only on account of the fish's scale but also the fish's unpredictable rebellious wit.
"The only thing predictable about the Un-Gyve Imprint is its unpredictability"
— Christopher Ricks, Un-Gyve Literary Advisor
Un-Gyve understands that real rebellion also resists progress — so a good part of our unconvention is in honouring convention as traditionalists that ain't about to take a dive into the glass tablet, chase the bait and swallow it hook line and sinker, at the same time staying out of the net of predictability.