For more than 40 years, Carolyn Simmons and Rudell Molock were workplace colleagues at Meredith and Meredith Seafood Packing House in Toddville.
Last week, the two reunited as friendly competitors.
Simmons, 73, and Molock, 93, showcased and shared their considerable oyster shucking skills and knowledge with members of the Delmarva Community Services Senior Program at the year-old Chesapeake Grove Intergenerational Center.
Molock, who still works three days a week at Kool Ice & Seafood Company, and Simmons, who was born in Toddville, were joined by enthusiastic program members in the facility's bright and welcoming atrium.
Mary Spellman Handley, DCS senior programs manager, who also had experience working on a skipjack, introduced the two, then drew in members of the audience with questions, asking who among them remembered working on the water. Many eagerly responded, glad to share their own experiences, while others added vivid memories of their parents and grandparents.
Handley also shared some local history related to the oyster trade, noting that crushed oyster shells had comprised many area driveways and even roads. Cambridge was selected as a site by a late 1800s cross-country bicycle race, due to the quality of its oyster shell roadways, she said.
Handley also asked Simmons and Molock about the tools of their trade. While both had long used traditional shucking knives and blocks made from wood, which had lasted for decades, Molock explained that due to today's health department rules, today's shuckers could only use those made from plastic.
As a bag of oysters was brought to the prepped table in the front of the room, Simmons and Molock stepped up from their seats of honor, each rising to stand over about half a dozen of the awaiting tasty crustaceans sprawled out before them. Both explained that as professional shuckers, they'd regularly be on their feet for at least eight hours a day.
The audience paid rapt attention as each oyster was expertly pried open, revealing the prized meat inside. For one woman, the sight and smell immediately brought to mind her mother's delicious oyster fritters. Another woman, who'd never known about the process involved in shucking oysters, made sure to get close enough to photograph each step of the pair's technique.
Several seniors recalled the saltier Chincoteague oysters, while others noted the grit and skill needed by those who dredged and tonged for oysters during the colder months of the season spanning from October through the end of March.
About 40 members participate in regular DCS Tuesday and Thursday programs, with another 20 attending its Monday bridge class. The group has recently taken field trips to Handsell House near Vienna and the Waters Edge Museum in Oxford, with more outings planned after the holiday season.
"We enjoy providing activities for our older citizens which are meaningful, fun and informative, to enhance their lives and reassure them they are valued," Handley said.
This Friday, Nov. 11, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Chesapeake Grove Intergenerational Center will host THRIVE Dorchester 2022, Senior Life After 55, presented by Dorchester Banner in partnership with Delmarva Community Services.
For more information on DCS senior programs, call 410-221-1900.