Reedville back in the day: Watermen tell all

From left are Charles Williams, Dr. Emory Lewis, Capt. Marvin “Mate” Betts Swift, John Herbert “Herb” Lewis and Meredith Robbins. Photo by Denise DeVries

by Denise DeVries

REEDVILLE—Main Street was lined with cars on March 7 as nearly 200 people crowded into Festival Halle for the Reedville Fishermen’s Museum’s first lecture in two years.

The event was called “Local Watermen Tell All – Believe it or Not!” After an introduction by executive director Liz Buxton, five watermen took their seats under the stage lights of the former school they had all attended. The panelists regaled the audience with fish stories and reminiscences of their adventures on land, on the water, and even in the air, spotting fish from a plane.

Charles Williams, panel moderator, served in the Navy during the Vietnam war era and was the head fish spotter for the Omega factory. He and his wife, Olivia, built the Reedville Marina and the Crazy Crab restaurant, which they still own and operate.

John Herbert “Herb” Lewis is a retired menhaden fish boat captain and co-founder of Reedville Ice & Seafood Company. He has carved duck decoys and birds for many years.

Dr. Emory Lewis was a menhaden fisherman, a lieutenant in the Navy, and practiced medicine in Reedville for 40 years. In the last two years, he has written 25 books about “watermen and life around the Chesapeake Bay,” two of which are available at the museum gift shop.

Capt. Marvin “Mate” Betts Swift was a fishing boat captain and worked for the Virginia Department of Transportation ferry system in Jamestown-Surry. He is considered Reedville’s expert on menhaden fish boats from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico.

Korean War veteran Meredith Robbins grew up in White Stone. He fished for 36 years in Reedville, White Stone, Louisiana and South Post, N.C. After retiring from commercial fishing, he went into a family-owned business fishing on a snapper rig.

As the various speakers spun their tales, a picture of….

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