Tommy Lou Hallock is the fifth generation of Hallocks to work as watermen. Hallock’s great-great-grandfather Joshua Thomas Hallock moved from Long Island to Shady Side after the Civil War at the behest of an old friend, Captain Salem Avery, whose home now houses the local historic society. It was during a winter luncheon of the Shady Side Rural Heritage Society that Hallock told tales of his life as a waterman, one of a handful who continue to ply local waters for their livelihood.
Hallock said he recalled being about 3-years-old and hanging over the top of the rail on his father’s boat. His father died when Tommy was in eighth grade, at which time he was released from school and began his career as a waterman. In the 30 years since, Hallock has seen lamentable changes both on the water and in his beloved Shady Side.
Early on he crabbed, oystered, and fished, but now only fishes primarily for rockfish, white perch, and alewives. At about 4 each morning Hallock is on board his 42-foot boat, Grace, tending his pound nets in the same spots on the bay that his ancestors set nets. With a crew of four in peak season from spring through summer, Hallock is usually finished by 2 in the afternoon.
In Shady Side virtually everyone worked the water or farmed what had been know as the Great Swamp. It was a relatively sleepy Huckleberry Finn type of existence that has since changed into today’s bedroom community with all the new folks moving in. Hallock is able to trace his family roots back to Peter Hallock, born in 1585 in England, who moved to Long Island in the mid-1600s and settked in what is now called Hallock’s Neck.
Today, although Hallock is able to catch enough fish to eke out a living, he wonders if the Chesapeake Bay is beyond repair. Demographic changes, environmental degradation, and other changes make it harder to connect to the life he and his relatives came to know as a way of living.