My Father Hated Hippies
My father hated hippies. At least, that is what one would think from listening to his tirades against long hair, beards, open sexual expression, drug use and sloppy apparel. As a “child of the 60’s” with a desire to at least look like my peers, I was frequently on the receiving end of his outspoken displeasure with the counter-culture movement.
My father was a commercial fisherman. He was born in Norway in 1917, the eldest son of one of the few Mormon Norwegian families. His father died in a Whaling accident in Antarctica when he was 10, so he went to work to support his family, becoming a whaling ship captain in his early 20’s. He was in Antarctica during WWII when the German army occupied Norway. He took his boat to Newfoundland, joined the US Navy, married, and (after the war) moved to Seattle to become a fishing legend.
He had built up a fleet of small trawlers and a fish processing company on a downtown Seattle waterfront pier, but by the late 1960’s he was down to one boat – the Paragon. Built as a 98-foot wood halibut schooner, the “Paragon” was converted into a stern trawler, with an aft net reel just outside the galley door. (The Paragon sank in 1970 and was replaced in 1972 by the "Paragon II" - now just called "Paragon".
My father was one of a handful of experienced Washington trawl fishermen. In the late 1960’s my brother and I, and even our older sister, would work on the boat during summer break.
The hippie movement spawned many communitarian social experiments. One such movement in the Seattle area was The Love Family, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ at Armageddon. Founded by Paul Erdman - also known as Israel Love (or Love Israel) - as a religious hippie community, they purchased some real estate and eventually began to prosper.
They acquired assets, including a fishing boat.
I first heard of the Love Family from my father – and to be sure, his description was not complimentary.
To an active, conservative Latter-day Saint, they represented a tragic degradation of modern society.
So I was surprised to find my father down on their old dilapidated boat, teaching them how to operate the engines and machinery.
Courage Israel (3rd from the left in the photo below), the vessel master, and his crew had little experience on boats, and even less experience fishing.
Over the months of preparation for fishing, my father was the only fisherman who helped the hippies in their new venture. Despite being competitors, he taught them how to operate their vessel.
They had little money, even for necessities – so he gave them gear, parts and whatever else they needed. Sometimes he would instruct me to go to the galley, prepare a box of food and bring it to them as they were hungry and lacked money for groceries.
He “sold” them one of his very expensive nets. The terms were simple – pay when you can.
When their boat was ready, they followed us out of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and onto the fishing grounds of the Pacific west coast. They set out their net where my father told them and hauled it back when he said to. Over the months of fishing, they were our shadow.
The next year, the Paragon burned to the waterline and sank at sea. Fortunately, all hands were rescued.
The original Paragon in the 60's
Me, landing a pot on the new Paragon in 1972
The Love Family in 1972
This event created an opportunity for us to venture to the Bering Sea, and embark on long and storied careers as Bering Sea crab and trawl fishermen. I don’t know how long Courageous and his crew of hippies fished, but years later a letter came in the mail. It was from The Love Family. It was a check for the net they had purchased – paid in full, with interest.
My father is a hard man. He does not display emotion. But as he read their letter of gratitude for his help, and held the check in his hand –tears formed in his eyes. He didn’t need the money; by this time he was a successful and wealthy Bering Sea fisherman with two large steel crab boats. The check meant more than money. It was a token of integrity and gratitude from people he loved and selflessly served: hippies.
Read more of our adventures on the Bering Sea at www.stormandsong.com