Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History & Culture Enduring Connections: Exploring Delmarva's Black History


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Crisfield Traditions in Time: Interview with Tyrane Lane, 23 June 2003

Audio Recording

About This Recording

Tyrane Lane was an owner of a department store named "Salty Dog" in Crisfield at the time of recording. In this interview, Tyrane describes his upbringing in Crisfield in the 1970s and 1980s, noting the presence of the seafood business in the town at that time, and the changes he's seen in the area since then. He describes the influence of his time in Philadelphia on his business ideas and his inspiration to create his store in Crisfield, primarily selling modern fashion. He also speaks about some of his other business ventures and employment, mentioning a Boat Cruise and a desire to sell Crisfield crabs in Philadelphia. He later speaks more about Crisfield itself and how it has degraded in his lifetime, both financially and spiritually.

This interview is part of the Crisfield Traditions in Time Project. For more information, see the Edward H. Nabb Center Finding Aid.


Accession number: CTT-GL-AOOl Researcher’s name: Gary Leventhal

Event: Interview with Tyrane Lane, owner of the Salty Dog store Place: The home of Ramona Whittington, Fourth Street, Crisfield, MD Co-workers present: Ronda Knudsen, Sonya Spery bA-'c : ^3) - 2 , 003 ,

The following is a catalog of a tape-recorded interview with 27-year-old Tyrane Lane (bom July 4, 1975). It was recorded at the home of his godmother, Ramona Whittington on Broadway in Crisfield, Maryland. The interview reveals formative events in Tyrane’s life. Of particular interest is the story of how Tyrane, strongly influenced by childhood summers spent with his father in urban Philadelphia. Tyrane Lane (hereafter “TL”) Bom in Crisfield to Tyrone Purnell of Philadelphia and Margie Lane of Crisfield.

Grandmother from Aliceville Alabama and Grandfather from Moronsco? sp Grandfather in military and worked in Mrs. Paul’s Kitchen. Grandmother was a seafood worker.

Grandmother was active in Enon Baptist Church.

Grandmother was a crab picker. He would watch his grandmother pick crabs.

Tyrane reminisces about the “lively atmosphere” at the crab house where his grandmother picked crabs when he was little. He says religious and secular songs were song and that there was “a lot of talking”. Explains what crab picking is.

Tyrane says children were welcome in the crab house. Says his grandmother was so skilled at picking that she could look at him and talk while picking a grab. Sometimes he would run errands for the pickers.

He describes the singing in the crab house as being “almost like they were in church”. Singing and talking would not interrupt work or interfere with quotas. He talks about small town gossip in the crab house. Says that news traveled fast and if he did something wrong, his parents would know about it before he got home.

TL talks about going to live with his father in Philadelphia, summers and holidays.

He says Crisfield molded him but going to the city “well rounded” him. He says he traveled a lot with his grandfather. He mentions Baltimore and Virginia.

Brags that Crisfield isn’t the only thing he’s seen, Says in his youth, Crisfield was very slow to get new fashions and new trends - But by going to Philadelphia he got to see all types of stuff.

He relates that in Crisfield he’d never seen the Chinese, Koreans, Jamaicans or the others he’d encounter in Philadelphia — Just blacks and whites and the occasional Mexican.

1 A 5 “I would do my school shopping in Philadelphia.... and people would ask where did you get those shoes...?” TL says his family was well liked and when he would go to Philly everyone in the neighborhood knew he was gone.

[Counter number 214]

TL says that when he got back to town everyone knew he was back from Philly because “Around here the biggest form of entertainment is gossip. Gossiping’ and signifying as they call it”

TL says the loeals in Crisfield were always interested in the styles cultural things he’d bring back from Phila. He describes himself, as a “walking billboard” because the fashions he was wearing would not show up in Crisfield for another year.

TL talks of how fashion was marketed basically in urban centers before it would trickle into the suburbs and rural areas.

TL says he always wanted to go to college and to grow up to be comfortable.

He wants to get a truek to take Crabs to Philadelphia. He says that Phila.doesn’t get high quality seafood. Says businesses in Crisfield can get a large markup for seafood sold in Philadelphia.

He studied business administration and accounting in college (UMES) so he would be prepared if he took up business. He worked in telemarketing.

He goes on to being to explain his next job by saying he’s “always be known for fashion... dressing.” He tells of how he gets offered a sales job at the Mall for better pay. He interviews, and lands a job selling clothes. TL talks about eonvincing customers to buy more clothing then they came in for. He describes his sales technique and attributes his ability to sell clothes to sensibility he’d picked up in Philadelphia. This would include tell people how to “match up” clothes.

He talks about the local store being five years behind. (Bud Kovan’s?)

While working, he came to learn about how the elothing business operated and the mark¬ up involved in buying wholesale and selling retail. He noticed that the store he was working for had grossed ^‘a million bucks in 11 months time”.

He takes a critieal view of the stores market techniques by saying that they try to sell the same inventory all over the country without regard for regional tastes.

[Counter number 341]

He says he makes his money in clothes and that all the other stuff (in his store) are “little complimentary products.

C-fT- GL' A OOl

2 A G He talks of going to New York to buy tee shirts in the Garment District and selling them for a markup locally.

He says, “ If I never went to Phila. I wouldn’t be into fashions like I am.” Credits Phila. for his sensibility.

He talks about how he used his employee discount (at Fine’s the clothing store in Salisbury s Centre Mall) to buy cloths and resell them to his friends for a small profit. He says, “I couldn’t hold onto it.”

He tells about how one of his father’s friend introduces him to wholesale clothing vendors in Philadelphia. He begins to buy clothing in Philadelphia and sell it out of his car.

[End of side one - counter number keeps rolling]

[Elapsed time 30 minutes]

TL says word of mouth begins to build on his clothing sales.

He describes making a sizable mark-up on clothing he was buying in Philadelphia. He mentions prices.


TL says when he was booking the boat cruises; he started making “good money”. The boats were charging him $700.00 for 70 passengers. He says he could charge $15 to $30 a ticket. He got Ramona Whittington to make a lot of food, he’d have an “all you can eat” bring your own bottle cruise, and he began by charging $20 a ticket.

He describes a strategy of creating demand for tickets on the docks and increasing prices to last minute passengers by $15. to $25 a ticket.

He talks about other people imitating him and eventually ruining the business by carrying unruly passengers. He says that one needs an organizational sponsor, like the Elks, to float a cruise nowdays.

He says he did clothing sales along with the cruises for two summers.

He describes the circumstances by which he becomes aware of the New York clothing vendors. He goes on to describable a progression by which he moves from buying from retail vendors, to the finding the genuine wholesalers. He describes how his profit goes up with each change.

He talks about how the merchants get paid in New York.

CTT- &L- AOO I TL talks about how the cruise business can to an end. He talks about the increase in competition. How alcohol created problems and how some passengers misbehaved.

Now cruises require the sponsorship of a community organization.

TL talks about what he did to make his cruises popular. About DJs, how other cruises were just bring your own food and bring you own drink. He credits having Ramona and her cooking associated with the cruises with bringing in the customers. He says that she had a good reputation as a cook from selling meals out of her home before the health department shut her down.

[Counter number 577 run continuously from side one]

TL credits working in the Salisbury mall for bring lots of new young people into the area for the cruises. He mentions that in Crisfield, “you always see the same people” and that on his cruises. “All the guys knew there were going to be different girls on there, and all the girls knew there were going to be different guys.”

TL talks about just how many ticket are sold to people from out of town.. .how he would hold back tickets for last minute sale at the dock... and how much people looked forward to the cruises.

UMES and Elks still doing cruises.

TL says that growing up he was one of the few young black guys that went to college. He says there weren’t many young black me getting good grades. He tells how he was active in school, and that he participated in a lot of activities.

“I’ve never been a follower” TL describes his relationship to his peers and his individualism.

“My dad always encouraged me to do good in school” TL describes his father as a positive force.

TL talks about his father’s upbringing in both Crisfield and Philadelphia and going into the Air force.

TL's mother takes a job at Rubberset when he turns twelve.

TL talks about the kind of advice he received as a child.

He talks about his job in the seafood industry working the claw machine at Franks. He gets an allergic reaction to the steaming crabs and stays away from the industry.

TL says, as he got older the seafood industry was diminishing. He says at this time of year his grandmother would have been working from sun up top sun down. He goes on to illustrate how things have fallen off. He says many careers in seafood are over or part-time.

He describes his plan to get a truck and sell crabs on the street in Philadelphia.

[End of side two - Counter number 770]

[Elapsed time 60 minutes]

Accession number: CTT-GL-A002 Researcher’s name: Gary Leventhal

Event: Interview with Tyrane Lane, owner of the Salty Dog store Place: The home of Ramona Whittington, Broadway, Crisfield, MD Co-workers present: Ronda Knudsen, Sonya Spery Da -re - o 1 o 3

[Tape 2 - Interview continues]

[Counter number - 000]

TL says most of his friends have moved away, or now work at the UMES college. Some peers work at Rubberset or in Salisbury.

TL talks about his son and female friend. Say he’s remained friends with his son’s mother.

Wants his son to live a better life. He is willing to accept a wide range of career choices for his son.

TL says his son is what keeps him in Crisfield. He says his childhood experience with his father being away has colored his relationship with his son. He wants to stay closer.

TL says that if his father had been closer, he would have made different decisions in life.

TL’s concerns for Crisfield: Employment/no jobs. Money brings in entertainment. He laments the town’s loss of movie theaters, bowling alleys etc. He says the lack of diversion is turning people toward drugs and drinking.

TL says Crisfield enjoys a low crime rate.

He feels the proposed ferry will help the town “ a whole lot”.

TL describes Crisfield as a “.. .dead end.. .you come in one way and if you go downtown the only way you can get from there is on the water. So it’s a dead end.”

TL compares human relationships in Crisfield to crabs being cooked in a pot. “One way in, one way out... .They pull each other down...”

TL says more employment would change the town. He talks about how large the town ‘celebrations were in the past. Says the events have become smaller.

He says new business was turned away in the past, because the seafood industry was afraid to lose employees to outside industry. He offers conjecture as to how outside business had effected the seafood industry in years past. TL describes the steady decline of employment opportunities in Crisfield - from the closing of Mrs. Paul’s Kitchen, the decline of the seafood industry, the closing of Carvel Hall Cutlery.

TL talks about people having to commute to work in the chicken industry in Easton. He says his cousin had a 6-hour commute by bus to Easton where he worked a $6 to $7 dollar an hour job.

TL talks about men not going to church. He says “oppression” keeps people from “congregation in fellowship”. He speculates as to why young men don’ go to church.

Tyrane pronounces his name as TY-RON


[End of interview]

[Counter number 314]