I don’t know how, but in 1957 my father (who was from Utica, NY) and my mother (from Columbus, GA) found Brewster, MA and bought a summer cottage. No cellar, no insulation, so the pipes had to be drained every fall. We had a well – the water was very cold and tasted of iron – we loved it.
It was a small house on a pile of sand we shared with the ants. Thick with bull briars and poison ivy, pines and scrub oaks down off Point of Rocks, it was all of a three minute walk down a sandy lane to the beach and the many square miles of the Brewster Flats. My two brothers and I grew up running out on the Flats, clamming, snorkeling, fishing, strolling – breathing it all in, until it seeped into our bones and became a part of each of us.
The first trip of the year to Brewster was always the week after Easter, which was importantly after the last frost and the water could be safely turned on in the house. Back in those days, school holidays were pegged to church holidays – and Dad, who’d had a very busy Lenten season, was as eager as we were to get to the Cape. If Easter came late enough in the liturgical calendar, our visit coincided with the alewife run. It was customary to try and catch a fish by hand (illegal now) and my brothers and I took turns falling in.
The years went by, summer after summer, and the very best things happened there. We were from Utica, and lived in the rectory provided by Grace Episcopal Church – but it was the little house on Cape Cod that became our hearts’ home.
All of this by way of making the point that Brewster was a central part of our lives – we loved everything about it back then.
That was in the day when there was only one policeman with cruiser in Brewster, the present Senior Center was Town Hall, the post office was in the little house right next to the Brewster Store (then known as Donald Doane’s), and the Town budget might have been about $200k.
After graduating from Hobart College in 1972, I went directly to Cape Cod and became a commercial fisherman, line-trawling out of Aunt Lydia’s Cove in Chatham. It enlarged my understanding of the environment and ecology on and around Cape Cod.
In 1976, the junction of Rtes. 137 and 39 was just a crossroads in the woods, and not the industrial shopping mall car lot it is today –
I fished out of Chatham up until 1985, supporting myself through graduate school and a nascent TV career. In ’85, got a job as a producer at National Geographic Television and thus ended my fishing career.
Working for Geographic satisfied my wanderlust, so whenever vacation rolled around, I never went anywhere except straight to Cape Cod. That has never changed to this day.
In 1990, brought a mid-life crisis; quit my job at Geographic, dumped my girlfriend, and moved to Boston – worked at WGBH for a couple of years, and in 1992, bought my place on Stony Brook Road. And began Stony Brook Films, my own television production outfit, operating just over the hill from the Old Mill and the run.
My brothers referred to it as “Stoned and Broke Films, a not-for-profit film company”. It’s true, I wasn’t getting rich, but I could dig little necks whenever I wanted and fish in a pond or the Bay any time. It seemed like a good deal – and it was, making television programs from my little old house in Brewster.
Then somehow, impossibly, 14 years went by. During that period, I became more and more involved in Brewster issues, and more and more aware that Brewster – and the Cape – was changing fast. The junction of 137 and 39 became unrecognizable; Pleasant Bay Road no longer a tree tunnel in the woods; the Mill Ponds in Brewster showing a disquieting number of houses very close to the water’s edge – and so on. Everywhere you looked, things disappeared, changed, went away forever.
I know – have loved Brewster and observed the changes for 43 years.
In 2006, Discovery Channel offered me a job as an Executive Producer. My fishing experience of the 70’s came in handy running the series Deadliest Catch. Eventually, I was promoted to Senior Science Editor. In that position for a large international communications company, added substantially to my own awareness of the issues of population, food, water, air, public health, biodiversity, sustainability, and security that human beings face all around the world.
Brewster is not exempt from the effects of over-population, pollution, and careless disregard for resources. We have a dwindling alewife run; pharmaceuticals in our drinking water; some of the most polluted air in Massachusetts; a tick-borne public health plague; and a push to build-out. There’s a lot to worry about in Brewster, as well as on and around Cape Cod, and not everyone is thinking clearly in the best interest of the environment and the people and creatures that inhabit it.
As kids were admonished to ‘think globally, act locally’. I’ve been thinking globally – and by participating in the BCT, feel that I’m participating locally and doing something to protect the place I love best, from my own back yard, to Brewster and the rest of the Cape.
Organizations like the Cape Hook Fishermen’s Association, Herring Alliance, Conservation Law Foundation and others are all working to slow the pace of breakneck development and get us all to think more clearly and reasonably about the places we live, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and the wildlife we share the place with.
And I like the BCT very much for what it’s doing, and succeeding in doing – and am honored to do what little I can to support the BCT mission.
– – Paul Gasek, BCT Trustee, November 2010