This interview was conducted by Kelly Feltault with Victor and Bernice Simpson in Willis Wharf, VA. In this interview, they speak about James Victor Simpson and his life as well other crafts. Victor speaks about his father, James Victor Simpson, and the various boats he's built in his shop on the waterfront; everything from "Scow", "Chinco", row boats, dredge monitors, and outboard and inboard boats. He talks about the materials and features that he would include in the boats, as well as some of the construction techniques such as upside-down boat building. They both speak about James Simpson's upbringing as a waterman in the 1920s, how his marriage to Bernice helped him along in his profession, and how boat building profession began. Bernice also mentions how she got into duck carving, noting her methods and materials and how she made them with James.
In part 2, they go into more detail of life in Willis Wharf and crafts they'd done over the years. They speak about oyster and shucking companies and watermen in the area, noting some of the shucking houses in the area and how oysters had been in decline. They also speak about other professions in the area, with Bernice working in antique repair and Jarlene (victor's wife) was a hair cutter and seamstress. They also speak briefly about midwifery and the tricks they'd employ to get children to feed, telling stories and jokes about midwifery. They also mention entertainment in the area, including swimming, outdoor activities, television, and ponies from Hog Island.
In part 3, they contiue their discussion of James Simpson's boat-making trade and the changes they've seen on the eastern shore over the years. They speak about how James Simpson built some of his more challenging boats and how he got the wood for his larger boats, noting the differences in lumber companies on and off the shore. They also speak about Hog Island and life there, mentioning moving houses from one island to the next and the style of houses in that area. They also talk about some ways for preparing food, including boiled fish, muskrat, and various desserts. They also mention some changes in the area with increased tourism and an influx of newcomers to the shore, changing the culture of the area and making things less close-knit.
This interview is part of the Delmarva Folklife Project. For more information, see the Edward H. Nabb Center finding aid: