Bob Beck: Preserver of Port Penn Traditions
Port Penn is a community connected to its wetland landscape. Seasonal changes bring about changes in the lifestyles of Port Penners themselves. Autumn waterfowl hunting and winter muskrat trapping lead into spring shad runs and summer sturgeon fishing. The livelihoods of local families have been dependent upon these cycles on the river and marsh habitats for three centuries.
This sense of kinship with the environment is characterized by the traditions of people like Bob Beck. Bob's family has lived on the marsh since his great grandfather bought their land in 1863. As a third-generation resident of Port Penn, Bob had an understanding of the wetland way of life. He lived among the marshland and wildlife which he loved and worked to protect. Dedicated to preserving area customs, he shared his knowledge with many citizens like himself. Bob's advocacy of the many expressions of tradition led him to seek funding for and initiate such projects as a film on sturgeon fishing techniques, the construction of a shad skiff replica and the preservation of a floating fishing cabin and muskrat skinning shack.
Through his own faithful stewardship, Bob Beck imparted a legacy of conservation that sustains the folkways of the Port Penn community.Left Panel
Photo 1. Conserving the Environment
Having worked with the Division of Fish and Wildlife for over 30 years, Bob (right) taught the balance between wildlife protection and sportsmanship to many a hunter, farmer and landowner throughout the state. His conservation interests included the Atlantic Sturgeon, once a valuable commercial fish for Port Penn.Photo 2 Teaching Tradition
Bob's appreciation of the cultural aspects of tradition gave rise to such events as the Annual Marshland Dinner, held in the spring of the year when baked shad and snapper soup are at their seasonal best.Photo 3 Preserving the Past
The Port Penn Interpretive Center which you see today has gone through an evolution. Originally a schoolhouse for the entire community, the building was then used as a bait and tackle shop. With community interest and Bob's support and curatorship, the current assemblage of treasurers which showcases the area's rich heritage was formed.