Blog Schedule

I post on Monday with an occasional random blog thrown in for good measure. I do my best to answer all comments via email and visit around on the days I post.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Ones That Didn't Get Away - A Fishy Handshake

It wasn't long after I caught my first fish that I got to go on my first solo, that is, it was just me and Dad. Erva, being older had already been out with him several times. Now it was my turn. If I recall she was a bit jealous, but as with most things in our lives, it didn't last long.

Dad and I had a great time and we each caught a fish, but mine was bigger. He got a Blue Runner and I got a Bonito.

As you might recall, Dad was working at Caneel Bay, Laurence Rockefeller's (LR for short) private resort hotel. One of the benefits of working there was that housing was provided for the staff. It may have been small, in fact we called it the Bee Hive, but the house we lived in had the best view on the place.

Anyway, because Dad was the head of maintenance and because the F. D. O. was small, neat, and clean, we were allowed to keep her pulled up on the main beach. She fit under a large Sea Grape tree where she was out of the way and we could keep her tied.

One has to try to picture the main beach, which is Caneel Bay. There was a concrete pier where guests and their luggage were loaded and unloaded. The pier turned into a concrete walk-way which lead right into the lobby where guests signed in and checked out. To one side of the lobby was a comfortable airy lounge with couches, chairs and tables where guests could...lounge. To the other side of the lobby was the main dining room. Realize that all of this is open to the air. Fifteen, twenty feet away from the lobby and dining room is the beach where guests can swim and sunbathe. Despite the fact it is a luxury hotel (or maybe because it is) one could see guests walking around in anything from silk and mink coats to swim-suits and sandy bare feet.

So there we were. Dad and I had pulled the boat up and tied her securely to the tree. While Dad got ready to transport the motor, gas can, fishing gear, and boat cushions, I had the fish, one in each hand, carrying them by their tails. I headed through the lobby on my way to the parking lot where I would unload the fish and return to help Dad carry cushions and fishing gear.

As I passed by the reception and check-in desk a large man stopped me. He asked me about the fish. I explained I'd been out fishing with my father and that I'd caught the big one. "Are you John Denham's daughter?" he asked. I answered that I was. "What is your name?" I told him. "I'm Mr. Boyer," he said. "There's someone I'd like you to meet." He disappeared into a room and returned moments later with a tall handsome man.

"This is John Denham's daughter, Bish, " he said to the tall handsome man. "She caught the big fish. Bish, I'd like you to meet Laurence Rockefeller." Having been taught to be polite, I slapped the one fish into my left hand and stuck out my right. Mr. Rockefeller, having been taught to be polite, shook my fishy hand.

It was just about then that Dad walked up. Further pleasantries were exchanged, employer to employee and vise versa. Then we went our separate ways.

At eight years old I didn't realize I'd just shaken hands with one of the wealthiest people in the world, the man who owned Caneel Bay, the man who had bought up three quarters of the island of St. John and donated it to the National Park. So it was my fishy handshake became one of those famous family stories.

As for Mr. Boyer, he was LR's lawyer. He had this gift for remembering faces and names. Although he had never met me, he had met my father, so it didn't take him but a second or two to figure out who the little girl carrying the fish belonged to.


  1. Great story!

    I've shaken Bobby Kennedy's and Bill Cosby's hands (at different times, of course). And I once held the door open for Angela Davis because she was right behind me (I only noticed who she was as she said a very polite 'thank you'.) But greeting Rockefeller with a fishy handshake is a story I'd love to be able to tell!

  2. You have so many beautiful experiences! Thanks for sharing them.

    BTW, on a personal note, I wanted to thank you for always being a source of encouragement to me. It means a lot.

    XOXO, CJ

  3. That's a great fish story! And how sporting of Mr. Rockefeller.

  4. Mary, Those are some interesting people to have had "contact" with.

    CJ, Thank you. Encouragement is one of the few things left a person can give that's free. The world needs more of it.

    Indeed, it was quite sporting of Mr. R. I imagine he was quite happy to get away and wash he hands.

  5. I think truly great people are humble and don't mind shaking fishy hands. Great story, Bish.

    Me thinks you have a memoir waiting to take shape ...


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