As my wife Eileen tells it. She has been coming to Fishermen’s Memorial State Park since her childhood. Chivalry prevents me from saying how long ago that is. Suffice to say that it was many years ago when families would load up the station wagon (the original SUVs) and trudge to their destinations while the kids pestered each other, jockeyed for the best seat and whined, “Are we there yet?” That part has not changed. As she tells it, there were no reservations back in those days. Your family, complete with the dog, and Grandma possibly tied to the roof, would take your place on Friday afternoon in the line of cars that stretched out of the parking lot and down route 108 hoping that you would get a site for the weekend.
When you see and experience Fishermen’s Memorial you can understand why someone would risk a 90 minute trip from CT and the rath of a family possibly scorned to get a site for the weekend. The sites are spacious, the landscaping is beautiful and the proximity to beaches, seafood and room to run and play would be attractive to most families that camp or RV.
Our family has been camping at Fishermen’s for at least 25 years. We first arrived with our Jayco pop-up tent camper and through the years continued with our 30 foot trailer and our 31 foot class C motorhome. Several times we invited other family members or friends to share the experience. Even those who were not ardent campers or RVers had to admit that the beauty and peacefulness of the campground, and its proximity to great beaches and seafood, were worth the stay.
Our fondest memories of Fishermen’s involve our old friends and fellow RVers Sue and Joe from Waterbury. I remember the first time we met Sue and Joe. We had scored a great site in section one right on the channel. Across from us was the best site in the park. It sat right on the channel and was attached to a long stretch of grass that spread out some 60 yards. We watched with awe as a tall and broad man was flying a tandem kite. I do not recall how many kites were attached but my memory wants to make it almost a dozen.
Our three kids were mesmerized. We tentatively made our way over not wanting to interfere with the event. Sue immediately welcomed us and the kids and made sure that they had a front row seat to the spectacle. Joe patiently explained what was happening to our precocious and active young son. From that moment we were included in Sue and Joe’s circle of friends of which there were and are many.
A highlight of our friendship was the annual October “seafood” rally. 30 to 40 of the camping friends that Sue and Joe had made throughout the years would descend on Fishermen’s for a weekend of fun and eating. Each family would chip in money loosely based on number and appetite. Late Friday afternoon or early Saturday morning the money would be taken down to the adjacent fishing port of Galilee and a couple thousand dollars of seafood would be purchased off the boats. 80-90 lobsters, 50 lbs. of muscles, a couple hundred oysters, pounds and pounds of steamers.
Saturday morning would be set up. Shucking oysters, getting several pots ready for lobsters and steamers. And Sue would make what seemed like several gallons of the best clam chowder I ever tasted sure to provide many that weekend with a good head start to coronary disease.
The rest of the day would be spent in a bacchanal of seafood. Kids would run about and play while the adults over-indulged on a variety of seafood. And just to be sure that the beef lovers did not feel left out, a large fire was stoked all day slowing cooking a 30 – 40 pound steamship round. I am sure there was other food as well. Possibly even some vegetables or desserts. For me to say I can’t remember desserts is full testimony to the overwhelming nature of the seafood.
One of our best memories is spending New Year’s Eve in 2000 in section 4 with Sue and Joe and four to five of their friends. Fishermen’s used to leave section 4 open year-round with the bathrooms and showers heated and still functional. If memory serves we were all supposed to suffer the Y2K breakdown of our computers, banks and power grid being thrust into darkness and chaos at midnight. We decided if that was going to happen, we would suffer through it in our home on wheels with friends. If we had to hit the road like Cormac McCarthy characters and fight zombies for food and fuel, we would have some fun first. Much like other media-generated hysteria, society still existed on January 2, 2000. We did not care one way or another. We were enjoying ourselves at Fishermen’s.
As Eileen and I sit here in 2017 in section one once again enjoying the beauty and peacefulness of Fishermen’s Memorial we appreciate the constant that it has been in our lives. We think about Sue and Joe who for many years have enjoyed their permanent sites down in the Florida Keys. They recently suffered the ravages of Hurricane Irma and are struggling to rebuild. It is one of the injustices of the universe that bad things happen to good people. Knowing them, they will survive and rebuild. Hopefully we will be able to reconnect and share some fond memories of Fishermen’s.