The Look, 1975

Vineyard Gazette Archives

Saigon was falling, disco was rising, and Jaws had only a few months earlier scared (almost) everyone out of the water. It was a wild time, and yet there were no leisure suits or Haggar slacks in sight on September 13, 1975, when Herb Hancock weighed in a hearty bluefish at the thirtieth annual Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby.

Then again, Hancock wasn’t much into fads. If something was worth doing, it was worth doing well, he believed – and worth doing again and again. Like building houses. (He’s credited with 300 of them in Chilmark alone). Or lobstering. (He was said to pull 350 pots a day.) Or serving as Chilmark selectman. (He held that job for thirteen terms, and helped write many rules to preserve the agrarian nature of the town.)

He apparently felt the same way about his personal style. No matter the decade, Hancock kept his jeans dark, his shirts white, his mutton chops long, and his hair neatly cropped and swept back. In the cooler months he wore a thick overshirt, often flannel, but in this case not.

Following his death in 2001, friend Jim Kuhe memorialized him in the Vineyard Gazette as being “all grit and sand and tough as shark’s skin.” He was handsome, he wrote, “his face carved by the wind, sea, and unspeakable tragedies; and always a white T-shirt that defined the color white.”

As for the bluefish in this photo, it wasn’t a contender. But his wife Jean did the family proud three years prior when she weighed in the largest-ever Derby bluefish, which tipped the scales at just over twenty-three pounds. In true Hancock fashion, that record still stands.

Comments (1)

Debra Messier-Nagengast
Brewster Ma
Thank you for reminding of us this man and his contributions to his community. My family feels blessed to have gotten to know a man of such unique integrity. My house was built by his family, whom were mentored by him and they have carried on his talents. He spent time with the youth in Chilmark and my son was one of those lucky receiptiants to have gone on the Bill H. with Herb to learn how to pull Lobster traps. Whenever I hear the phrase "Finest Kind" Herb Hanock comes to mind. Sending our best , to Deborah and Billie. He is remembered.... his spirit lives on in many of us. Forever grateful Debra, Derek, Wil Nagengast
October 14, 2017 - 10:18am