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The James T. Callow Folklore Archive

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PASTIME-GAME-CUSTOM

IN THE LATTER PART OF THE 19TH CENTURY, A UNIQUE FORM
OF ENTERTAINMENT WAS STAGED BY THE PEOPLE OF PT. BRUCE,
ONTARIO, A SMALL FISHING VILLAGE ON THE NORTH SHORE OF
LAKE ERIE. AT THAT TIME, LARGE FRESH WATER STURGEON WERE
CAUGHT IN THE GREAT LAKES. THESE FISH OFTEN EXCEEDED
100 LBS. IN WEIGHT AND ONE RECORD FISH WEIGHING 192 LBS.
WAS CAUGHT. THIS FISH WAS SUPPOSEDLY THE LARGEST EVER
CAUGHT.
PRIOR TO MARKETING, THESE FISH WOULD BE CONFINED IN A
BAY ON THE RIVERSIDE NEAR THE MOUTH OF THE HARBOR.
THE WATER IN THIS BAY AREA WAS ABOUT THREE FEET DEEP AND
THE FISH WERE HELD BY A COMMON LIVESTOCK FENCE
STRETCHED ACROSS THE SHALLOW WATER.
IT WAS THE CUSTOM ON NATIONAL HOLIDAYS TO HAVE A FISH
WRESTLE, THIS SPORT COMPARED TO "CATCHING THE GREASED
PIG" AMUSEMENTS IN OTHER PIONEER SETTLEMENTS. THE
PURPOSE OF THIS GAME WAS TO SEE WHICH OF THE STALWART
YOUNG MEN OF THE VILLAGE COULD THROW ONE OF THESE
FISH OUT OF THE WATER. SINCE THE FISH WAS SLIPPERY
AND IN ITS OWN ELEMENT, THIS FEAT WAS RARELY ACHIEVED.
THE STURGEON DOES NOT BITE, BUT IT DOES SHOW ANGER AND
WOULD BUTT AND KNOCK THE MEN OFF THEIR FEET.
THIS GAME SEEMED TO BE UNIQUE TO PORT BRUCE AND
OCCURRED IN THE BAY AREA ON THE RIVER DIRECTLY ACROSS
FROM THE OLD HOTEL--LATER NAMED THE ROCABONE INN (?).
THE FISH WERE SUPPLIED BY THE FISHERY OF LEVI YOUNG
OR THE SMALE BROTHERS.

Data entry tech comment: PHOTOGRAPH OF SITE OF FISH-WRESTLE ON 5 X 8 CARD.

Where learned: CANADA ; ONTARIO ; PORT BRUCE

Subject headings: CUSTOM FESTIVAL -- Entertainment Diversion

Date learned: 11-07-1968

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