Occurrence at Oysterback Bridge

April 10, 1996|By Helen Chappell

OYSTERBACK, Maryland -- An oral history of an odd event:

Miss Nettie Leery: I got up one morning and looked out my kitchen window and there it was, big as life. Bigger; the thing must have been about 10 by 12, just stuck down there on a stob right there on Oysterback Creek, by the bridge, so you could see it as you were coming into town.

A great big old sign that said ''Litey Clash's Dew Drop Inn and Liteyworld Bar Thursday is always Wet T-Shirt Night.'' All in huge purple and gold lettering with that sequin-y stuff on it, like you see on those billboards outside of Ocean City, you know, very tacky. And below that, there was just little tiny lettering with his oysterbed lease number on it.

Honey, that thing was ug-lee, I'm here to tell you! It just ruined my beautiful view of the water. It was like someone'd stuck a plastic flower in a field of roses. . . . His mother was a Glack, you know. Most of the Clashes are very nice people.

To know him is . . .

Desiree Grinch: Well, you just have to know Litey Clash, that's all. He craves attention the way some people crave chocolate. Never mind if it's negative. It's still attention. I, Desiree Grinch, proprietor of the Blue Crab Tavern (Guide Michelin) am a businesswomen, and I understand the value of publicity. But if Litey'd paid as much attention to the quality of his food and drink as he did to that prank, he wouldn't need a sign like that, would he? People'd be over to the Dew Drop in busloads, wouldn't they? He only did it to get attention. And succeeded.

Hudson Swann: The packing houses have been leasing oyster bottom from the state around here for years. What you do is, you sink a stob and nail up a piece of board with your number on it, so everyone knows it's your leased bed, and they're supposed to keep off. Supposed to, anyway. Some don't but that's another story.

Junior Redmond: But what Litey done was, he leased that bed and stuck up a great big old sign on there advertising his bar. Which was, you gotta admit, a clever idea. Of course, people in the West Hundred complained, but what does Litey care?

Doreen Redmond: He doesn't live out there, and his cousin Juanita's on the zoning board, if you know what I mean and I think you do. Come to find out there was no law against it! But no one ever did it before either. Well!

Hudson Swann: And so it just sat there, ugly as sin. Folks out here were up in arms, and some heated letters flew back and forth in the Bugeye.

Helga Wallop: Well, Litey called me, and I went out to cover it, because I figured it was a story. The Bugeye is a newspaper. But after I wrote it up, I thought to myself why should I give him free advertising? I thought just let'm all slug it out in letters to the editor, and if the county or the DNR or the Coast Guard gets into it, I'll print that. I may be an editor, but I have to live in this town. But we did get some letters.

Doreen Redmond: Most people were appalled. It was an intrusion. It set an ugly precedent, sitting there where you had to see it when you went over the bridge to Oysterback. Pretty soon, you could just see that anyone with a business would lease some bottom and jam up a big old sign for their business all over the water.

Desiree Grinch: Oh, mud was flung and names were called! I've never seen anything that united this community like that sign. They were all against it. Except for one.

Parsons Dreedle: Well, I thought it was kind of clever. Said so in my letter to the paper. Wish I'd thought of it myself. Be a good place to advertise my funeral home and produce stand, on a sign like that. Sort of improve on nature a little, I thought. That's what I told the TV cameras too.

Doreen Redmond: This from a man with a yard full of Virgin Marys in birdbaths, pink flamingoes, bendovers and duck whirligigs!

Lymond V. ''Snake'' Wingate: Litey says to me, he says, whyn't you write a letter to the Bugeye over the sign? So I did. I writes, ''I don't see why you're all fussing about a handsome, trim sign like that over that nasty old rotten bridge over that dirty ole creek.''

The wages of sin

Desiree Grinch: I heard Litey gave'im a case a beer to write that letter. Snake always did work cheap!

Junior Redmond: Well, it weren't too long before someone mysteriously came along and sawed that sign right on off the stob. Happened in the dead of night, we think.

Helga Wallop: Litey wanted that story in the paper, too. I ran it. Why not? It was a news story. He fussed and fumed and said the Oysterback watermen were out to get him. Offered a great big reward for whoever did it. That's news. Litey was getting his name up everywhere, without having to shell out a cent.

Hudson Swann: Well, I knew I didn't do it!

Junior Redmond: Me, neither. First ice come up there, it would heave it right over, so why bother? Till he come around us, I thought the whole thing was pretty funny -- until my name got dragged into it.

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