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Friday, July 24, 2009

The Allard

Last Tuesday's Blog dealt with the Cramer Oyster House. In that article we posted a 1994 letter from Arnold Nathan Cramer, the grandson of Arnold "Bisquit" Cramer who founded the family oyster and clam business in Tuckerton, New Gretna, and Townsend's Inlet.

Arnold's letter, reprinted below, was a response to an article in the Fall 1993 "South Jersey Magazine" article entitled "Townsend's Inlet in the Twenties" and gives some interesting insight into the Cramer family business. The photo has been added for the Blog.

Dear Mrs. Bailey:

It is with much interest I read the article concerning my grand­father - Capt. D. Arnold Cramer and his catboat "ALLARD". Grandpop would sail fishing parties in the summer from Townsends Inlet and oyster and clam the remainder of the year in the Tuckerton/New Gretna area (Great Bay, Little Egg Harbor Bay and Barnegat Bay) (his permanent home was in New Gretna). In the off season the ALLARD would be converted to oystering by changing the cabin and installing a winch for dred­ging. Grandpop also had two permanent oyster boats named the "JESSIE-G" and the "DREAD­NAUGHT".

The oyster/clam business was later run by my father (Harold F. Cramer) and my uncle (A. Pratt Cramer). In the spring and summer Uncle Pratt would move to the Townsends Inlet/Sea Isle City area and sail fishing parties with boats named the "CAPT. CRAMER". Both brothers are now deceased.

A. Pratt Cramer, son of Arnold "Bisquit" Cramer, operated the party boat, Captain Cramer, from VanSant's Pier on 86th Street at Townsend's Inlet, Sea Isle City.

The ALLARD was sold following Grandpop's death in 1944 (the only portion I know that remains is the winter cabin that lays on the bank of Tuckerton Creek). The last I ever saw the ALLARD was in Gardner's Basin in Atlantic City, minus its mast (approximately 1950).


Arnold M. Cramer

P.S. A model of the ALLARD can be seen in Allen’s Clam Bar in New Gretna.

South Jersey Magazine, Winter Issue 1994

The model of the Allard, made by the late Don Helfridge from Tuckerton, located in Allen's Clam Bar. Stop in and take a look and, while you are there, try Allen's famous oyster stew. You'll be glad you did.

Allen's Clam Bar on Route 9 in New Gretna. The gps coordinates are N39.35.521/W074.27.191. (April 27, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

Reading Arnold's letter whetted my appetite for addition information on the Allard, the first boat used in the Cramer shellfish and fishing party business. I located the Fall, 1993 issue of "South Jersey Magazine" at the Bass River Community Library and thought I would share that portion of Jim Doyle's article that dealt with the Allard. It really brings history alive! The rest of his article is worth reading, but it was not connected with the New Gretna area, and I thought it too long for the Blog. You are welcome to stop by the Bass River Community Library (Located in the Bass River Elementary School and open Wednesday & Friday evenings from 6-9 PM) to read the entire article. I am there during those hours and would be glad to meet you and talk about New Gretna history. The library also has a good selection of local and New Jersey history and genealogy books.

Townsend’s Inlet in the Twenties

by Jim Doyle

Through the efforts of Michael Stafford, President of the Sea Isle City Historical Museum, South Jersey Magazine presents this memoir written by Jim Doyle who first came to Townsend's Inlet in 1926 and his memories of those times are vivid. Jim went to sea early and became a professional merchant seaman. After retiring from the sea, Jim discovered he had a talent for the theatre as an actor, director and writer. He has been active in the theatre in New York for over the past twenty years particularly as a playwright. He is currently working on a play about Sea Isle City.

Following is an excerpt from the article.

Photos have been added by the Blog.

The Allard

Every morning before 8 o’clock, people would begin to congregate out near the end of Vansant’s Pier. They were mostly men, though there would usually be a few women amongst the men, they were almost all white, though there might be three or four African Am­ericans who had taken the dollar excursion train down from Cam­den — the only blacks ever seen, or probably, even tolerated in the Sea Isle area in those days. All were dressed casually, even roughly dressed, quite a few wearing foul weather gear, black or yellow sou'westers and rain caps, some in shoes or sneakers, some in short rubber boots, called "gum boots.'' and almost all with rods and reels in one hand and tackle boxes in the other. These were the fishermen and they had come for their days fishing out in the ocean, or, as we said. ''outside."

About the same time the party boats would start to arrive and tie up out at the end of the pier. When I say “party, I don't mean to imply that kind of event where the word, `'party", is preceded by the words, ''birthday" or "card". "Party" here had a much more profound mean­ing. It meant that for a couple of dollars you could join in with the above group and with others of a like mind assembling out on the pier, resolved to enjoy the day out on the ocean, rocking and fishing. The price included bait and a hand line to fish with for those few who didn't bring their own.

I can only remember two party boats working out of Townsend's Inlet in the late twenties, though I think there might have been more, maybe a third. There were Captain Cramer and his sail boat, the Allard, and another party boat, the Eunice, which was a very large, open boat of the type that they called a "whale boat". It was sup­posed to be a former life boat from the U.S. Navy left over from World War I. A man they used to call "Shoutie" owned and ran it and named it for his niece, Eunice, whom I knew, and who was a few years older than I. The Eunice had an inboard engine, a big one, from an automobile like a Cadillac or a Packard that Shoutie seemed to have to work on every afternoon, "To keep her f'in' goin' ", Shoutie once shouted at me when I had the temerity to ask why they were always working on it. I'm pretty sure there was another party boat, but I can't remember what it was.

The Allard sailed out of Townsends Inlet in the summers.

An excursion on the Allard, circa 1916, out of Townsend's Inlet. (Photo courtesy of Arnold Nathan Cramer.)

As I've said, these boats fished "outside", that is, out in the ocean, which was very different from fish­ing ''inside'', i.e., in the bay. I'll explain why. First, when you got outside and the boat started to roll, you could experience that queasy sensation known to the people who also used the phrase, "up chuck", as "mal de mer". I per­sonally didn't get sea sick, but a lot of people did. Another thing about fishing outside is that the fish caught out in the ocean could be very different from what you caught in the bay. Outside the fish were usually much bigger and there were more of them. Also there was much more variety. Sea bass, porgies, kingfish and weak fish, croakers, mackeral and floun­der were all caught, and in quantity! It was nothing to fill three big pretzel cans full of fish in a day!

Now Captain Cramer — rather "Cap'n Cramer" — we locals never called him anything but "Cap'n" —only the city people from Philadel­phia addressed him as "Captain" — Well, Cap'n Cramer sailed the Allard out of Vansant's Pier every morning during the summer. The Allard was a large boat with both a sail and a powerful inboard engine. It also had a cabin with benches inside it and a toilet which flushed its contents directly into the water below. It was painted white and had lettered in black on each side of the bow its name, ALLARD, fol­lowed by a number which was its registration number as required for all motor boats in the state of New Jersey. Across the stern was let­tered, ALLARD, NEW GRETNA, N.J., which I discovered, to my surprise, was its home port and not Townsend's Inlet as I had sup­posed. It was berthed there in New Gretna during the winter. I believe Cap'n Cramer berthed there during the winter also, but I don't know. I never learned what ''Allard'' meant. Probably because I never asked. I should have.

The Allard operated out of Townsend's Inlet in the summer and wintered at the Cramer Oyster House on the Bass River in New Gretna. (Photo courtesy of Arnold Nathan Cramer.)

Cap'n Cramer's son, and my friend, Pratt Cramer, was the mate. Besides Pratt, The Allard usually carried a youngster or two, a bit older than I, to do what I did too. when I got older, that is, to perform the menial chores, to give out fishing lines, cut and pass bait, to sell the soda pop, and to assist in extricating fish hooks, and trying to comfort the sea-sick. These kids would also clean fish for the lucky fishermen when the boat was coming back in after a good day's fishing, and then clean the boat itself when the day's work was over.

The pay for the day's work was a dollar. A dollar was a lot of money for a youngster, especially in those days. But you didn't crew on the Allard for the money. No, you worked there for a lot more than money. There was pride in it, and real status to be a member of the crew of the Allard. You knew it when you were the subject of the envious stares of the other kids who stood on Vansant's Pier and watched as, at the end of the day, you tossed your galvanized pail in­to the bay, hauled up a bucket of bay water with the rope tied to the handle and sloshed the clean bay water along the deck, washing away all the grime and gore left from a'day's fishing. And, though you knew by name every one of those kids standing there, en­viously watching you from Van Sant's Pier, you kept on scrubbing the deck, and never once looked up at them from your job!

As I said, the Allard had both a sail and an engine, though the sail seemed mostly a decoration, Cap'n Cramer knew how to use it when he wanted. When all the customers were on board, the lines would be cast off, and away she'd go, motoring down the bay, with her sail up.

When she got to the inlet, the railroad bridge would swing open, Cap'n Cramer would steer her through into the channel where she'd start to roll. Then he'd navi­gate her very carefully across the sand bars that partially blocked the inlet. Waves broke acorns the bar and she'd start to pitch, too, as we crossed the bar. Then, pitching and rolling. we'd burst out into the ocean! Ah. what a feeling! I guess that's why most of us kids later followed the sea. I know it's why I did!

Then Cap'n Cramer would sail the Allard to some submerged wreck that he knew about and everybody would fish. But, if the fishing was not as good as he felt it ought to be, he'd hoist the an­chor and away we'd sail to anoth­er place that he knew about until he found the right spot. Then he'd have a bottle of Coca Cola — no beer permitted on the Allard in. those days — and let himself relax while the customers hauled in the fish.

I can see Cap'n Cramer yet, in his soft yachting cap and dunga­rees, and his ever-present gum boots, sitting there at the helm, as the Allard, graceful as a gull, luffed lightly in the wind, Cap'n Cramer, sunburned and squinting, his hand on the wheel, every inch the mari­ner. He even walked bowlegged when he was ashore.

South Jersey Magazine, Fall Issue 1993

Jim Cramer, Harold Cramer's oldest son and Arnold "Bisquit" Cramer's grandson, holds up a photo of the model of the Allard before it was placed in Allen's Clam Bar. Jim is also called "Bisquit" which shows that nicknames sometimes traveled down through families, sometimes even skipping generations. (July 24, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

While taking the above photo, I had an informative and entertaining chat this afternoon with Jim and his brother, Arnold, in Jim's West Creek kitchen. We'll be talking more about what I learned of the Cramer family and Oyster business in future Blog issues.

Pete S

PS- Sorry about being late with the Blog today. I got confused regarding when it was due. Oh well, they say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. I hope that is the case with the Blog.


  1. What is the Cramer Oyster house used for today?

  2. Today, the Cramer Oyster House is a private residence. Most of the surrounding meadows have been sold to the State of New Jersey.

    Pete S