One thing I enjoy is the opportunity to sit and talk with individuals who’ve had the opportunity to participate in important happenings in our past on the Delmarva Peninsula.
About four years ago I was on the Lower Eastern Shore gathering some information for a piece on what police work was like in the first-half of the 20th century. My work took me to Crisfield to get some information on the police department there so on my first trip I stopped by the town hall to see if I could find some leads. While talking to the town clerk, she mentioned Jesse W. Carmine. Mr. Carmine, an 80-something at that time, was working as an inspector in the city’s Public Works Department. The office staff suggested I talk with him, since he had been a policeman on the force for almost half-a-century.
They called him on the radio and it wasn’t too long before the city public works truck pulled up with Mr. Carmine behind the wheel. After explaining my purpose, we sat and talked for a good bit. He was born in 1921 in Crisfield and after serving in the U.S. Navy in World War II the young sailor returned home to start work as a patrolman in 1953. Serving on the force until 1991, he had been promoted to chief in 1977. But after retiring from law enforcement the city still needed his services so he returned as acting chief for a bit in 1997 and served as an inspector in public works for a number of years.
Chief Carmine, in such a fascinating and informative way, took me back to a time when policing was far different in Maryland and in this watermen’s town. His stories were about 50+ years ago, a time when the city didn’t provide a police car for its officers, training standards didn’t exist across the nation, and the challenges the men faced were far different. After we finished talking, we hopped into the city truck for an informative tour of Crisfield, a place that he knew so very well having grown up there in the decades before World War II.
I thoroughly enjoyed that summer day four years go and each time I’d return to Crisfield I’d ask about Chief Carmine. He’d finally retired from serving the people of Crisfield the next year. This past summer when I stopped at the city museum, I asked about him and a lady on duty there said he had passed away over the winter (January 2008). As I pulled away from the museum, the memories of that meeting four years earlier were still very fresh in my mind. I was so fortunate to have met Mr. Carmine and had the opportunity to learn so much about a different time and place.