Transcripts of Cinema Bayville movies
People and Places
Hope at the Edge, Part 3
Narrator: People in the town were delighted at Jamie’s decision to come home. His aunt, Janice Marshal:
Janice: When you see a young man that likes the island ways and wants to try to stay here no matter what, it takes a little doing, so I think everybody’s pulling for him. I hope he makes it.
Narrator: But Jamie’s return home has not been trouble free. The life of a waterman has proven difficult for him. Long days on the water with no guarantees of a good catch, traps that frequently come up empty, the solitude of another day listening to the squawk of seagulls, the drone of the engine, and the crackle of his VHF radio.
Jamie: I get really depressed with what I’m doing on the water. This is only my second season. But they tell me just hang in there, and things will get better, so I’m trying to hang in there.
Narrator: It’s early in the season, but the all-important spring time soft shell catch, the peelers, which many of the watermen depend on, has been low.
Jamie: See, there’s nothing in them. They’re just not moving out here into the little bit deeper water. They’re staying inside. This is sad.
Narrator: Jamie is concerned. He’s been forced to fish for hard shell crabs, which bring in less money.
Jamie: Sometimes I think the grass is greener on the other side. And it might be. When it gets this time of the year and you’re not catching many crabs, you always want to look for better things, because the money is slow, and sometimes you don’t want to get behind on your bills, and things like that, and it just kind of depresses you a little bit.
Narrator: Jamie’s father, Dwight, has tried to be supportive.
Dwight: Jamie, he got out the Marines, and he said he’d been over half the world, and said he didn’t see nowhere else he’d rather live than here. But I told him it’s a struggle. And I think he’s finding it out.
Narrator: Sobering words of advice from a man who over the years has seen the numbers of crab fishermen and crab shanties dramatically decline in Tylerton.
Dwight: So, all of them is gone now. They’ve been taken away, taken down. This used to be from here all the way down the line with shanties like this one right up here.
Narrator: Like many of the islanders, Dwight is also concerned about the dwindling population on Smith Island. Just in the past six years, more than a dozen families have left to take jobs on the mainland. In some cases, leaving behind abandoned houses and overgrown yards. Since 1980, the population of Smith Island has dropped from more than 600 to less than 350. And most of those who’ve remained are over fifty.
Jamie: Well I guess what worries me the most is the decrease in the population. You need a certain amount of people who survive, and you need a certain amount of people who stay here the year round. You need permanent residents, and we need children. There’s no big families like it used to be. I don’t know how long a community can exist on just a few full-time residents.
Narrator: All that became painfully clear to the people of Tylerton when the town’s only school was closed down three years ago, because there were too few students. Now each morning, a handful of elementary school children board the morning ferry to take them to school to another part of the island in the town of Ewell. One of their teachers, Evelyn Tyler accompanies them, along with the morning shipment of crabs headed for the mainland.
Tyler: We get on the boat quarter after seven, and arrive up here to Ewell at around 7:30. Some days are wonderful, a nice boat ride. But then in the wintertime it can be icy. And it’s long hours for the little guys.
Narrator: Unlike Tylerton, in Ewell there are cars and one school bus to collect the students form around the island. There are less than 30 students in the elementary school. The day begins with a morning meeting, where the students pledge allegiance to the flag and sing traditional songs.
It’s sad in one way, because I believe that the majority of them won’t be returning back. It seems like each year a watermen has it a little bit harder, and it’s harder to make a living. So what they want is for their children to get the best education they can get. And when they do that more than likely they leave and don’t return.
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