Reunion featured food, friends, “Class of ’72” lobster boat
At the edge of the water on a clear day in Brooklin, Maine, about 30 alumni, instructors, and friends of The Boat School gathered to reminisce and to celebrate what the Eastport facility means to them. The July 30 reunion on the campus of the WoodenBoat School was organized by Al Strout.
“My father was a graduate of Maine Maritime Academy’s first class. I wanted to be in the first boatbuilding class to graduate from WCVTI,” Al said. He graduated from Washington County Vocational Technical Institute in 1972. For the 50th anniversary of his graduation, he procured the reunion location, placed ads, talked to folks, bought food and supplies, and made all the arrangements for the gathering.
He even must have ordered good weather. “It was a gorgeous day. It was sunny, warm, not windy. There was just enough wind to keep the mosquitos and the black flies away,” said Dean Pike, a 1980 graduate of the boatbuilding program who later became an instructor. Dean owns Moose Island Marine in Eastport and sits on The Boat School’s Board of Directors.
Al made sure that instructor Doug Dodge would be there. John Church gave him a ride from Jonesport, along with a big grill, and John did the cooking.
The “Class of ’72”
Joining Al from the class of 1972 were Daniel Harrison and Tim Horton. Lester Pulk and Barry Thompson were unable to attend, and instructor Ernie Brierley and student John Ebbeson were memorialized. The boat their class had built, the 31-foot “Class of ‘72” (now known as “Lucille”), glistened at the dock on Eggemoggin Reach, waiting to take any of her builders for a ride. The current owner of “Lucille” is Cythia Stroud of Brooklin.
At the reunion, the class of 1972 was joined by alumni who’d attended The Boat School between 1970 and 1984: Don Bamman, Bret Blanchard and his wife Mary Beth, Peter Buxton, Matt Davis, Phil DesLauriers, Antonio Dias, Eric Dow and his wife Barbara, Keith Dibble and his wife Allison, Jeff Morse, Randy Nichols, S. Dean Pike, Robin Rier, Carl Greg Rossel and his wife Norma, Richard Stanley and his wife Lorraine, Jerry Stelmok, Rollin Thurlow, and Pete Chase’s wife Sophie.
“It was a lovely day filled with reminiscences,” said Tony Dias, class of 1975. “I got to see a handful – not that we were that many to start with – of old friends and realize that even across all that time, we share a mutual respect and affection. This has been the only reunion I’ve ever wanted to attend. A special day. I also got to meet some of the earlier and later students, some I’d been acquainted with for years without realizing we’d shared an alma mater.”
A number of alumni have made significant names for themselves among the boatbuilding industry. “Most everybody is either currently still in the marine trades or recently retired from the field,” Dean said. The group recruited him to organize the next reunion, in five years. “I think it is important that we did not leave without deciding that we’re going to do it again in five years, and that the infrastructure is already in place,” he said. “Hopefully it will be in Eastport at the newly opened school.”
In 1972, the boatbuilding program moved to the former U.S. Lifesaving Station in Lubec. In 1978, the program moved again to its current location at the former SeaLife Industries plant. The Eastport facility consisted of three “butler style” buildings, built in 1970 as a fish processing plant with Economic Development Administration funding. Bret Blanchard’s class of 1979 was the first to graduate from the Eastport campus, while Dean Pike’s class of 1980 spent their first year in Lubec and second year in Eastport.
“The Boat School was a special place and its effects have rippled across the decades,” Tony said.
When The Boat School reopens, “most all those guys would be great adjunct faculty any day of the week,” said Dean. “We have a whole pool of faculty resources. You do need a roof and four walls to have a school, but it’s the people that you have teaching and attending that are vital to the marine industry. All we need is a roof and we’re on our way.”
Friends of The Boat School are actively working on Phase 1 of infrastructure renewal: a new roof for the Boat Shop building, renovations to the marine science station building, and upgrades to the electrical systems. Donations of any size are welcome. They are tax deductible and will be exclusively dedicated to the Capital Campaign.
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