I came down April Fool’s Day of 1969 and opened up. In any establishment, you have to serve food, even if it’s a bar. They used to sell these infrared sandwiches—you’d put them in an oven and heat ‘em in tin foil. I started serving hamburgers, hot dogs, and sandwiches. I was the cook/bartender/waiter—there was no staff besides myself.
My cousin Frank was an attorney out here, and he’d come in every day for lunch and sit at the far end of the bar. Whatever the special was that day, he’d have it. Say it was beef stew—I’d walk down the bar and say, “Who’s got the beef strew?” And he’d sit there and in his gruff voice say, “That’s mine.” I’d put it down and ask him how it was and he’d always say, “It’s great!” And it would be a chain reaction of everyone else ordering a bowl of stew.
The stuffed clam was the first appetizer I ever had. One of the local fishermen was a little rowdy one night in the bar and I threw him out. My policy was if you’re thrown out, you don’t come back.
It wasn’t malicious, he didn’t attack anybody, it was just noise. Well, the next morning I came in and there’s a bag of sea clams at the back door with a note: “I hope you’ll forgive me. I’m sorry.” So I brought the clams in and they were huge. I shucked them by hand outside—it took me all day to shuck them. My hands were covered in blood and blisters, I got ‘em all clean, picked out the meat I wanted, chopped it. I bought Ritz crackers, I got all the butter and all the spices and seasonings. I made 185 or 195 stuffed clams, and I sold them in two days. And I thought to myself, I’m not doing that again.
A few years later someone started selling clams already chopped, already cleaned. That took the big labor part out of it and the rest was the recipe and being consistent with them. We make about 300 or 400 a week in the summer.
Oh yeah, I let the fisherman come back.
After I dropped out of school, I went close to 20 years without touching a paintbrush. Robert Douglas Hunter, the famous artist, and his wife, Liz, who is the director of the Cape Cod Museum of Art in Dennis, invited us to an open house. That night, Bob grabbed me and said, “I want you to get your paint box and meet me at Fort Hill tomorrow morning at 5:30.” I said, “Bob, I haven’t touched a brush in 20 years.” He said, “Don’t worry about it.”
One of the highlights of my painting career was the day I painted with Neil Drevitson and Bob Hunter. We were painting in Fort Hill—I call it Bob’s Monet’s Garden. The colors are always changing, and it’s an easy place to get to and a fun place to paint. Of course, all the passersby are critiquing us, which is always a lot of fun. Especially the woman who came up in a Cadillac with her hair in curlers, a cigarette sticking out of her mouth, and a little dog under her arm. We had been working on these paintings for three days, and she came over in her slippers, and all of the sudden I realized she was complimenting me on my painting. I pointed at Bob and Neil’s work and I said, “Well, you know, those are really wonderful.” She said, “Well, they’re alright.” So I just told Bob to bring up the foreground (laughs).
Orleans hasn’t changed a heck of a lot. People still respect your privacy. Orleans has, or at least had a few years ago, the highest education of any city in Massachusetts. People who went to grad schools, got doctorates, and everything else—there’s a lot of brain power in this town. We also have the highest average age of our citizens. And some of them must be doing well. We have a population of 7,500 people and eight banks.