Friday, September 21, 2012

A fish story

 Joe's fish

As I was looking through some old photos I came across this one of the fish in the bathtub.  Then I remembered the episode and thought to share it.

Joe and Alice Huppman were neighbors and became great friends with my parents.  Every weekend we would have communal lunches with what my mother termed “smorgasbord” that meant a huge platter of sliced meats, cheeses, bread, and condiments.  Fix it yourself open-faced sandwiches with plenty of fruit, sliced vegetables and cookies too.  All four of the adults were coffee drinkers and the pot was on the stove all day long.  So, even though I do not drink coffee, the aroma of coffee evokes fond memories of my childhood home. 

The Huppmans had had a very interesting life.  Joe worked for the Ford Motor Company and had been stationed for most of his career in various parts of Asia.  I was never sure of all the places but I knew they had lived in Shanghai, China; Yokohama, Japan; and were living in Manila, Philippines, when the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese occurred in December 1941.  The Ford Company had already started evacuating employees and their families.  Alice was put on a ship but Joe was to stay a few more days to close up the dealership.  As her ship was pulling out of the harbor Alice watched in horror as planes began bombing Manila.  She described the black smoke billowing up out of the city as a scene from a nightmare.  She was to have no idea if her husband was alive or dead for two years.  Even though Joe was a civilian he was captured and put in a Japanese prisoner of war camp where he remained until 1943 when a group of U.S. civilian detainees were returned to the United States.  The only person Joe would ever talk to at all about any of his experiences when he was a prisoner was my Dad who seemed to be able draw out stories from everyone. 

Many of the other kids in the neighborhood were a little afraid of Joe because he seemed rather gruff.  He grew roses in his front yard and would get angry if kids or dogs or cats got anywhere near his beloved flowers.  Because of our close association with the Huppmans my brother and I were somewhat immune to the fear Joe inspired in the other neighborhood kids.  I remember liking both Joe and Alice and loving to go into their home where there were dozens of exotic souvenirs from their travels and Alice let us play with many of small figurines that were displayed on shelves in the living room. 

Joe was an avid fisherman and my Dad had done his fair share of fishing as well so we were regaled with fishing stories from time to time.  Joe and his brothers and friends would go to Neah Bay where one of them had a fishing boat or would charter a boat; I’m not sure which it was.  Salmon fishing was the objective.  Usually Joe would come back and tell my Dad about the one that got away.  The size of the fish grew with each telling and conjured visions of a mammoth sized fish in my mind something on the order of the biblical story of Jonah and the Whale.  These stories were always accompanied by a great deal of laughter by both my Dad and Joe. 

One afternoon, while my Dad was still at work, Joe returned from one of these fishing trips and came to the house looking for my mother.  He was very excited and wanted to surprise Dad.  Joe said he had got the fish and he wanted to put it in our bathtub so that when Dad came home from work and was cleaning up for dinner he would be confronted with the fish.  I’m not sure how they managed it but between them, Joe and Mom got the fish in the tub, took the picture, and then packed the fish in ice to keep it cold until it could be properly admired and then cut up to eat or freeze.   I measured the length of the bathtub, the inside measurement is 4 feet!  That fish filled the entire tub end to end.  I have no idea how much it weighed.  It had been cleaned but the head and tail had been left on for the viewing.  Now as an adult I think it a pity that it wasn’t caught during a Salmon Derby, as it should have won a prize for the biggest fish.

Dad & his fish at Ratz Harbor, ca 1930s

Dad was a great outdoorsman.  He had plenty of his own, sometimes hair-raising fish stories.  In this picture above we see him at Ratz Harbor, Prince of Wales Islands, Alaska with two fish he caught. 

Dad was tall, 6’ 2,” so the fish in the photo are large but still not as large as the one Joe caught that ended up in the bathtub.  To Joe’s never-ending delight it had the desired surprise factor, Dad was astounded when he saw it.  There was much laughter and exclamations of amazement at the size of that fish.  I think it was the best fish that didn’t get away story ever.


  1. Same guy at Ratz Harbor??

    1. Thank you for taking the time to send this comment with the link. It would have been really fun had that been photos of my Dad but they are not him.