Thursday, March 28, 2013

Gerald Crosby, the Genius and Jason Crosby

Of course, here at the Harbor History Museum we are all following the restoration of the Shenandoah project quite closely for several reasons.  First and foremost is probably because it was built here in Gig Harbor in 1925 by the Skansie Brothers Boat Building Company.  Second, it was one of the fishing boats which served longest on the water; the license still showing on the pilot house is for the term 1997/1998.

So what does this have to do with Gerald Crosby and the Genius?  Well I would like to say that Jason Crosby was influenced by the Harbor History Museum's restoration of the Shenandoah which was gifted to the museum in 2000 by Tony Janovich.  Is this what got Jason thinking about purchasing his uncle's boat "Genius" and restoring it?  Both boats are well known in Gig Harbor, both were built at the Skansie Boatyard; Genius in 1920 and Shenandoah in 1925 and both had a very long active life.

Gerald Crosby moved to Rosedale, Washington in 1922 when he was about 10 from a little place called Plentywood, Montana.  Fishing boats were not common sites in Montana.  However in little more than seven years, he found himself on his way to Southeast Alaska.  Eventually his father Jim and his brothers Walt, Leonard and Babe all became commercial fishermen.  Even his sister Mildred married into a fishing family when she married John "Buddy" Bezich.

At age 10, Gerald earned money by cutting cord wood for the steamboat "Florence K", piling the wood up near the Tides Tavern.  He made $2.50 per cord which as you know is 4 ft X 4 ft X 8 ft.  Each individual piece had to be cut to a 4 foot length so that it would fit into the boiler on the steamboat.  He would just go out into the woods and in the wooded 10 acre part of his family homestead in Rosedale.

when Gerald was still a student at Union High School he was one of three drivers hired by the School Board to operate the high school buses for a monthly salary of $30.  There were three routes - Rosedale, Arletta and Elgin.  His first route was the Rosedale route and he picked up riders at the Rosedale schoolhouse, Rosedale Hall and various stops along the main road to Union High, now known as Harbor Heights Middle School.  Later Gerald was given the Arletta route stopping at Arletta, Warren, Cromwell and Midway.  The Fox Island students caught the bus at Warren.  He also drove the bus to the football games in Roy, Vaughn or Kapowsin where upon arrival he would change into his football uniform.  He played all positions except quarterback and center.  After the game he would drive the team home.  Although the bus drivers were the same age as their passengers they had the authority to "maintain strict order and take care of scholars while enroute."  And Gerald; on one occasion he kicked some disorderly students off the bus.  He also on occasion pulled over to a stop and waited for the disturbance to settle down.

Crosby began his fishing career in 1929 with John Elliot.  John owned a converted World War I US Navy 42-ft. hull built entirely of Port Orford cedar named R.D.  Elliot was referred to by Crosby as " a tough skipper.  He was a retired Navy man and was hard-nosed, very frugal and looked a lot like John Barrymore.  He wasn't really a bad fellow though."

Fishing in Alaska was much more primitive when Crosby first went to Alaska.  Although the season was just as long, June to end of August. the food supplies were not the same as today.  They would take a barrel of butter in salt brine, 3 or 4 cases of eggs which were kept in the lazaret(a space in a ship between decks used as a storeroom), and they would also take canned goods and hard tack.   They would shot a deer every week for meat and also eat a lot of fish., but they never had fresh vegetables.  They got ice by chipping it off the icebergs that floated ashore.

When his father-in-law, Nick Skansi passed away in 1939 he took over as skipper of Genius operating as buyer\packer, and bought fish for the Friday Harbor Canning Company. He also operated as a seiner and a dragger of the Washington coast during World War II.  As well as being a buyer for Friday Harbor Canning, he also bought for the New England Fish Company, Whitney Fidalgo Inc., Washington Fish & Oyster Company as well as others.  He had a long association with Washington Fish & Oyster Company as their fleet superintendent, head fish buyer and 'outside man'.

Crosby also ran a number of other boats and packers besides the "Genius".  Some were "Over the Top", Rosalie", "A. F. Rich", "Uwanta", "Silver Mist", "Sonia", "Flamingo", "Oceania", "Frostland", "Eskimo", "Yankee Maid", "SeaComber", "Verona", etc.  Gerald worked on boats from 1926 (age 14) until 1980 (age 68).  

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the Great blog on My great uncle Gerald. I enjoyed reading about the great life he lived. Yes I was inspired by the Shenendoah restoration project and also the need and desire to keep these great Skansie boats around. Thanks again. Jason Crosby. Please check out our website