Every family has a saga, and ours is of the sea. Our genealogy is typical for the early settlers of America. The Mayflower's difficult voyage across the Atlantic brought the first of our ancestors in 1620. Subsequent religious wars, famines, and plagues motivated our families to migrate from England, Ireland, Scotland, and the continent of Europe. Our ancestors gave us an insight as to why anyone in their right mind would choose commercial fishing as an occupation today. Several of them went to sea to earn a living. A few of them were fishermen."
Four generations of fishing are behind the Papa George Gourmet Seafood products. Follow along as we share with you the amazing heritage of Steve & Holly Lovejoy.
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Chapter 1: Steve's Fishing Heritage
The story of Steve's great grandfather, Norman P. Hodgson, begins our seafaring tale. Originally, Norman P's parents, Charles and Mary lived in Canada. They moved to Iowa in order to farm but the pestilence of grasshoppers and locusts caused them to look farther afield. Some friends and relatives (Wilsons & Grahams & Cousins) suggested Washington State's San Juan Islands. Norman P's father, Charles, died in a well accident, and eventually his mother, Mary, was remarried to William Graham. They homesteaded a section of Lopez Island near Jones Bay in 1878.
Norman P. had already headed for San Francisco and shipped aboard a sailing schooner bound for Japan and China. Many trans Pacific crossings later he married the ship owner's daughter, Charlotte "Lottie" Schmalling who was born in New York Harbor on one of her father's ships. Eventually, Norman P. and Charlotte moved to the farm on the southern coast of Lopez Island where they raised their three children Rita, Norman W., and Gertrude (Steve's Grandmother). The kids helped out on the farm and in the store (the "Richardson Store").
Norman P. still went to sea, and had many an adventure. In one episode he was captain of the Western Star, one of the Moran's fleet of twelve stern wheelers. These boats were built for the Yukon River Gold Rush. In June of 1898, all twelve of the stern wheelers were waiting out a storm up in Shelikoff Strait (Alaska). The gusts were strong in Katmai Bay and several of the stern wheelers were in trouble. Norman P. was busy saving all the others when his own Western Star began dragging anchor. The Western Star wrecked on the beach up in Katmai Bay. All its lumber was salvaged and a church was built. The remaining eleven stern wheelers made it through Unimak Pass, across Bristol Bay, and up the Yukon River to Dawson City.
In the years of 1925 through 1927, Norman P. skippered the Azalea, a sister ship to the Wawona which still floats in Seattle's Lake Union. Built in Eureka, CA in 1890, the Azalea was a three masted bald headed schooner, 156 feet long, 344 tons, masts 105 feet overall, and decks 80 feet to crosstree.
The Azalea hauled men and supplies to Zacher Bay, (an arm of Uyak Bay) on Kodiak Island, AK. Upon arrival, the sails were stored and she became a floating cannery, putting up number 1 tall cans of salmon. Meanwhile, Norman P. embarked on the 65 foot cannery tender, the Starling, and collected salmon from the nearby Kodiak traps. At the end of the season, he'd bend on the sails to the Azalea and sail her home with tons of canned salmon and tired cannery workers on board. The Azalea came to an end in Sausalito in 1946.
While Norman P. was in Alaska, his Lopez Island farm was under the care of his wife, Charlotte and their adult children. Gertrude had married Lowell Lovejoy and they helped on the farm. Later on Gertrude would become one of the founders of the Lopez Historical Society. Her son, Clark Lovejoy, joined the Coast Guard in WWII.
Clark spent some of the war stationed on Santa Catalina Island where he instructed new inductees in marlinspike seamanship. He later served on the Hunter Liggett when it became an amphibious training ship. Clark prepared the men for the next assaults on Leyte, Iwo Jima, Okinawa. The Hunter Liggett was an APA-14 Harris class attack transport of 535 feet with a full speed of 17.5 knots and brought home many of our soldiers from the pacific theater of WWII.
After the war, Clark married Phyllis Vogt, and moved to Seattle. Over time he found his life's work as a ships carpenter and later became the foreman of the Washington State Ferry's carpentry shop in Eagle harbor, WA. Clark and Phyllis raised three boys, Steve, Dan, and John. All of the sons became commercial fishermen. In retirement, the Lovejoy's live on Lopez Island, near Richardson. Their home rests on the foundation of the Hidden inlet cannery which was active in the early 1900's.
Going back a little, we find that Phyllis' father, Elmer Vogt, was also a seafaring man as well as a farmer. In 1920, he ran the City of Anacortes, which carried mail around the San Juan Islands. He worked on the salmon traps at Point Roberts, WA., (owned by John Troxell) until the terrible storm of 1934. Their trap cabin blew away in the hurricane force winds. He and his partner barely survived by tying themselves to some of the pilings. They were rescued by a crew on the Karluk who defied orders not to go out into the storm. Later, Elmer ran the Elk, a salmon trap tender which maintained the pilings and supplied the trap keepers. Elmer also purse seined and reef netted for salmon.
Before WWII, Elmer worked on a dredging crew in Woman's Bay, on Kodiak Island, Alaska, contracted by the Navy. Interspersed with all this work on and around boats, Elmer and his wife, Lucille raised five children, one of whom was Phyllis, Steve's mom, and ran a farm in Mt. Vernon, WA. They retired to the shores of Skagit Bay (Washington State) where Elmer built a home looking out at Hope Island and the approaches to Deception Pass, the famous gap between Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands.
Two of Elmer's sisters were married to Lopez Island fishermen. Phyllis' Aunt Ethel fished with her husband Amoe Fagerholm and during the war they targeted dogfish for the oil in the livers. Her Aunt Violet was married to Art Norman who also had captained the Azalea for one cod fish season in 1920. Art built his own boat the Lone Ranger and spent the rest of his fishing career gillnetting in Washington waters.
Steve was regaled all sorts of sea stories by his father and grandfather Vogt. Every summer was spent around his grandmother Gertrude's beach on Lopez Island, where his parents live today. Off in the distance stretches the Strait of Juan de Fuca which runs WNW out to the Pacific . Head north and your ship will eventually run across the Gulf of Alaska to Kodiak Island. Turn south and six days of solid running in good weather will take you to the "Butterfly", a tuna fishing spot off of San Diego, CA.
Steve's fishing career began on Lopez Island. He and brother Dan made their own wetsuits and speared fish around Rabbit Island. They also collected marine creatures around Puget Sound for their saltwater aquarium. At 17, he helped fish the reefnet gear at Iceberg Point on Lopez Island. The next summer after high school he purse seined on the Seafarer, a 58 foot purse seiner in Southeast Alaska salmon fishery. Steve fell in love with fishing. He ended up running the Seafarer at the end of the next season. Every skipper in training is a pest, therefore he was urged to get his own command. He did and Alaska became his second home. His fishing career so far has spanned 30 years and many boats.
Here the F/V Miss Juli draws up a seine full of herring in Wide Bay, Unalaska Island, AK (1993). She fished from Mexico to the Aleutian Islands for salmon, herring, crab, pollock, swordfish, squid, and sardines. In 2001, she sank off the coast of Santa Barbara, CA in the line of duty with a load of sardines.
Chasing fish for a living requires a seabag full of skills, from mechanics to meteorology, and biology to business management. A skipper must think like a fish and keep an eye on the bottom line. One talent in Steve's bag of tricks is with radio. A ham radio operator since childhood, he has built some pretty oddball antennas which listened in on the competition. Most of Steve's fishing expertise comes from years of experience, and of being observant and patient. He learned how to turn calamity into innovation. His next challenge will be to transform the F/V Papa George into a combination seiner/troller.
Chapter 2: A Yankee misses the Marquesas but arrives in Alaska.