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Hub Italian Fleet

 

Tuesday, March 31, 1914

Hub Italian Fleet is in a Quandary

Whether the Italian boat fishermen will go to the new Boston fish pier is problematical. A place has been provided for them there, but they cannot sell at retail. Genario Riccia, a barber on Atlantic avenue, has been chosen to look after the Italian fishermen, and has leased the eastern packed pier between T and Commercial wharves, with the intention of renting privileges to the fishermen.

With "T" wharf moved to South Boston, these small fishermen are threatened with extinction. Their business has worked up from small dimensions to one of great magnitude. But is largely dependent upon the trade of the North End retailers.

These fishermen are all Sicilians. Like all other islanders, they are born boatmen, and their fishing and the marketing of their catches call for different methods than those of the big fishing vessels. The fleet is composed of motor dories, varying in size from 16 to 40 feet in length. They fish the shore waters of Massachusetts Bay form Thacher’s Island to Plymouth. Their catch, being brought in fresh every day, commands the highest market prices for their cod, haddock and pollock. However, a very large part of their catch is "small truck," which the dealers will not handle, little flounders, tomcod, shiney hake, rays, etc. These are sold by the fishermen to peddlers from the tenement districts, and sometimes in small quantities at retail.

The fish dealers do not want this traffic carried on at the new South Boston mart, and Riccia has leased the old Eastern Packet pier, with the idea of making it a berthing place for the fleet and a market for their small truck.

Now, however, it looks as if the Board of Health will refuse to permit the marketing of fish in any of the old fish houses that have been abandoned. T wharf and its environs have for a long time been tolerated only because the dealers were doing the best they could under the circumstances, and were making all the speed possible in getting away from there.

The Sicilian fisherman all live in North End tenements, handy to T wharf, and they are in and out at all hours of the day and night. The whole family helps out in the matter of baiting trawls. They will be under pains of moving in a body if Riccia’s plan falls through.

The rise of this fleet of small fishing craft has been one of the romances of Boston. Ten years ago two brothers, Tony and Frank, who had been fishermen in Sicily, saved enough money form their pay as day laborers to buy a second-hand fishing dory and a couple of tubs of trawls. With a little lateen sail about half the size of a bed sheet when the wind blew and a "white ahs breeze" in calm weather, they made daily trips to the graves, Nahant or Minot’s ledge, taking big fares, all of which were sold to peddlers.

Their success attracted others of their race and soon there was quite a fleet of little dories and the aggregate of their daily catches, especially when the off shore fleet was storm or fog bound, made the T wharf dealers sit up and take notice.

 

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