Local Authors Honor State’s Clam History

Christopher Scott Martin, creator of the long-running quahog.org, a guide to the state’s history, culture and quirks, and David Norton Stone, author of Rhode Island food books like “Clamcake Summer,” “Stuffie Summer” and “Chowder Summer,” love and appreciate the impact and taste of clams on their state.

So they combined talents and efforts to create the recently released “Rhode Island Clam Shacks,” part of the Images of America series of books from Arcadia Publishing.

“Steamships once plied the waters of Narragansett Bay, carrying thousands of guests to feasts of clams prepared in every way imaginable at scenic spots like Rocky Point and Crescent Park,” the book’s back cover reads. “After hurricanes and pollution destroyed Rhode Island’s soft-shell clam and oyster beds, the quahog became the state’s favorite bivalve, and Rhode Islanders took to their automobiles and drove to the beach for clam cakes and chowder at the shacks and chowder houses that carried on the old tradition.”

If you grew up in Rhode Island back in the heyday of clam shacks, this book, with its sepia-toned cover and hundreds of photos within, will resonate with fascinating pictorial history. Dave’s Seafood Restaurant in Portsmouth graces the cover, and inside a short but fact-packed introduction talks about the state’s fabled clambakes, shore dinners, and clam shacks, and interesting historic tidbits like Aunt Carrie’s in Point Judith once doubling as a home for military officers in World War II.

Throughout the 128-page book are old photos and wonderfully informative captions of menus, signs, scenic views, ticket stubs, advertisements, etc., all centered around the clam and its various incarnations in Rhode Island’s culinary history. A postcard shows the Fo’C’S’Le restaurant in Galilee, “The Tuna Capital of the World.” Another photo shows the Squantum Club’s 1889 bakehouse. Another shows Wilcox Market in Tiverton being lashed by winds in the Hurricane of 1938.

Entire chapters are devoted to things like “Shore Dinner Halls,” “Aunt Carrie’s,” “Clam Shacks,” and “Other Fishy Concerns.” In all, “Rhode Island Clam Shacks” is a must read for not only lovers of the rich history of The Ocean State, but for lovers of the succulent clams her waters have produced for generations of diners.

The book’s introduction speaks of how at Rocky Point’s shore dinner hall, patrons knew they were about to be served when waters sent long rolls of paper on their way down huge tables where hungry diners sat.

“Here comes the paper now,” the authors write, inviting readers to continue wading into the history-rich pages to follow. “Enjoy the clams.”

The book can be found on a variety of websites, including www.amazon.com and www.arcadiapublishing.com

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