shrimp Roll.

April
By naïve emmet

I had an excuse. I was the new kid in town.
My life in Mass. was still smoking when I drove over the border into Mainein the early 1970s, mostly to register my fading BMW. Massachusetts had compulsory insurance which was quite expensive. Maine had none. That was how the decision was made to move to Maine.
The plan, if there was one, was to hang out until the posse grew tired and went back to town, then return in the dead of night to some crummy apartment in Somerville, or maybe a three decker in Roslindale.
Then, the Bangor Daily News reporter was murdered by her husband (honest to God) and there it was, a job opening.
Ted Sylvester, one of my very people in the entire world, hired me after a brief interview at the Spudnuts coffee shop in Rockland, the current site of the Camden National Bank. I had daily newspaper experience from the dear old Gloucester Times, thank God.
The job paid minimum wage, $3 a published photo and mileage. Naturally, I drove all over the place and took as many pics as I could. Every old barn, every fishing vessel every horse in the field was fair game. I was rich! Honest to God, I was putting money in the bank.
Different times, different places.
In those days I was an enterprising lad, anxious as always to get a story on the front page with a byline and photo (which was better than money). The BDN offices in those days were in rented space in the old Courier Gazette building, so we read every edition as it came off the basement press.
Different times, different places.
There was a front page Courier story by the late and very great Pat Mitchell of Port Clyde. (This is still embarrassing 40-plus years later). In a breakthrough in the fishing industry, someone had developed a whistle that attracted shrimp. A shrimp whistle!
It had an accompanying photo from the Maine Department of Fisheries with a hand holding the whistle in a boat crammed with shrimp.
What a story!
I brought the paper to Sylvester and suggested an update on the amazing breakthrough. This could go national. Ted was a naturally patient, understanding human being. He had this funny look on his face and pointed to the calendar.
The calendar? What did the damn calendar have to do with this great story? He had just changed the page from March. That meant it was April.
So?
The always patient (you cannot imagine what he put up with) Sylvester explained that Maine newspapers (and a lot of others) had a tradition. They always competed to have the very best April Fool story, which was totally made up to catch the very gullible.
Guilty.
Hey, I knew nothing about fisheries (still don’t) and knew nothing about the April Fool deal.
Imagine if Ted was a mean boss and let me call the state agency to ask about the shrimp whistle. Imagine the added humiliation.
I always avoided Pat Mitchell after that incident. He got me (and I suspect a few others) real good.
A few years later, the Camden Herald ran a front page story that Joe Namath and the New York Jets were coming to train at the Samoset Resort. I jumped for 1.6 seconds before I looked at the date. It was April First again.
Not this time. Now, I was a veteran Maine newspaperman. I didn’t need Sylvester to tell me again.
Once bitten, twice shy, baby.
A shrimp whistle. I am still embarrassed.