Coastal Conversations 8/28/20: The Stories of the Sardine Industry

Producer/Host: Natalie Springuel

Sardine canneries created jobs for generations of Mainers living near the coast for more than one hundred years, and cultivated values centered on hard, honest work and community. Sardines gave many Mainers an income during the Great Depression, presented opportunities for women to enter the workforce, and ingrained life-long bonds and stories in Maine communities that are still visible today.

On this edition of Coastal Conversations, we feature nine interviews centered around Maine’s historic sardine industry. These interviews span the entire process of creating a can of sardines, from late night weir-tending, to cutting off fish heads with scissors, to “cartoning” and shipping out truckloads of cans. The interview clips we featured today explore the history of the industry, from its humble beginnings to its eventual death, when Stinson Seafood, the last sardine cannery in Maine, closed down in 2010. In this show, we explore the lives of people deeply connected to the small silvery fish, and their impact on Maine and its communities.

Special thanks first and foremost to Camden Hunt for his near-total leadership on production for this show! We also appreciate the help of Ela Keegan, Hannah Robbins, Galen Koch, and Molly Graham, for production support.

The following people are featured on this show:

Arlene and Pete Hartford, age 73 and 76, from Gouldsboro, interviewed by Keith Ludden in 2011
Susan Knight Calder, age 84, from Whiting, interviewed by Keith Ludden in 2013
Willard and Peter Colson, age 88 and 56, from Southwest Harbor, interviewed by Keith Ludden in 2011
Lela Anderson, age 80, from Corea, interviewed by Keith Ludden in 2011
Diana Young, age 66, from Prospect Harbor, interviewed by Keith Ludden in 2011
Myrtess Harrington, age 80, from Steuben, interviewed by Keith Ludden in 2013
Clell Genthner, age 75, from Damariscotta, interviewed by Keith Ludden in 2011
Al West, age 62, from Steuben, interviewed by Keith Ludden in 2012
Robert Dyer, age 82, from Chebeague Island, interviewed by Joshua Wrigley in 2013

Citation for the Oral History collection

We are grateful to the archives that have helped protect this important facet of Maine history. Though the interviews clips we used on our episode of Coastal Conversations have been edited for clarity and length, the original nine interviews are archived at the NOAA Voices Oral History Archives. Robert Dyer’s interview is part of the Maine Coast Oral History Initiative – the other eight are all from The Last Sardine Cannery Collection, also housed in Oral History and Folklife Research, Inc.

Specific Links for each interview are as follows:

Arlene and Pete Hartford
Susan Knight Calder
Willard and Peter Colson
Lela Anderson
Diana Young
Myrtess Harrington
Clell Genthner
Al West
Robert Dyer

About the host:
Natalie Springuel has hosted Coastal Conversation’s since 2015, with support from the University of Maine Sea Grant where she has served as a marine extension associate for 20 years. In 2019, Springuel received an award for Public Affairs programming from the Maine Association of Broadcasters for the Coastal Conversations show called “Portland’s Working Waterfront.” Springuel is passionate about translating science, sharing stories, and offering a platform for multiple voices to weigh in on complex coastal and ocean issues. She has recently enrolled in audio production training at Maine Media Workshop to dive deeper into making great community radio.