History of THE PIKE

The NMEA Pike in 1986

The NMEA Pike in 1986

At the second annual auction (1986), a new auction item was introduced to the NMEA crowd...THE PIKE. THE PIKE was a weather-beaten, stuffed and mounted-on-a-board, pike...from the attic of a friend of Kathy Seall (OH). Little did Kathy know that this fish would become such a popular auction item. Since 1986, THE PIKE has traveled to every national convention to be auctioned to the highest bidder, and it has raised thousands of dollars for the organization and teacher scholarships to conferences.

Gene Williamson won the Pike in 1987 (Photo: Gene Williamson)

Gene Williamson won the Pike in 1987 (Photo: Gene Williamson)

Shirt depicting the migration of the Pike. (Photo: Gene Williamson)

Shirt depicting the migration of the Pike. (Photo: Gene Williamson)

In 1989, the Membership Committee, headed by Co-Chairs Wendy Allen (SC) and Rick Tinnin (TX), designed a membership drive that involved THE PIKE. Each chapter competed for "PIKE POINTS"...points that could be applied to the purchase of THE PIKE at the next national NMEA conference. For each new NMEA member, a chapter would earn one "PIKE POINT". Each "PIKE POINT" equaled a dollar at auction time, so 50 "PIKE POINTS" would give a chapter a credit of $50 towards the purchase of THE PIKE.

Auction Winners Through The Years :

1986 Cleveland, Ohio Conference: John McMahon (WA)⎯$50
1987 Kingston, Rhode Island Conference: Eugene Williamson (OR)⎯$210
1988 Santa Cruz, California Conference: MAMEA (Mid-Atlantic Marine Educators Association)⎯$600
1989 Miami, Florida Conference: SWMEA (Southwest Marine Educators Association)
1990 Hilo and Kona, Hawaii Conference: MME (Massachusetts Marine Educators)->$500
1991 New Brunswick, New Jersey Conference: The Southern Consortium (below the Mason-Dixon line): FMSEA (Florida Marine Science Education Association),GAME (Georgia Association of Marine Educators), SAME (Southeastern Association of Marine Educators), TMEA (Texas Marine Education Association), SCMEA (South Carolina Marine Educators Association), SWMEA (Southwest Marine Education Association), MAMEA (Mid-Atlantic Marine Education Association), and NAME (Northwest Association of Marine Educators)
1992 Portland & Newport, Oregon Conference: ?
1993 New Orleans, Louisiana Conference: ?
1994 Knoxville, Tennessee Conference: SWMEA (Southwest Marine Educators Association): ?
1995 San Diego, California Conference: ?
1996 Durham, New Hampshire Conference: GLEAMS (Great Lake Educators of Aquatic and Marine Science)⎯$300
1997 Chicago, Illinois Conference: SAME (Southern Association of Marine Educators): ?
1998 Humacao, Puerto Rico Conference: ?
1999 Charleston, South Carolina Conference: SWMEA (Southwest Marine Educators Association)⎯between $1000 and $1500
2000 Long Beach, California Conference: ?
2001 Victoria, British Columbia Conference: ?
2002 New London, Connecticut Conference: ?
2003 Wilmington, North Carolina Conference: FMSEA (Florida Marine Science Educators Association)⎯$800
2004 St. Petersburg, Florida Convention: Kecia Joy (HI) ⎯$250
2005 Maui, Hawaii Convention: NYSMEA (New York State Marine Educators Association)⎯$135

Total Collected From Pike Auctions through 2005: More than $5000.00

Prior to the 2005 Conference in Maui, some members of NMEA thought that PIKE had lived its full life at our auctions and it was time to retire our old friend. There were even some who felt PIKE should be sacrificed to the volcanic god Pele at the conference at Hawaii.

Others thought PIKE had only begun its life at the auctions. Thanks to FMSEA, the true beauty of the fish had been restored (as shown in the photograph above). Now, he was in great shape to bring in thousands more dollars to the organization.

The NMEA History Committee wanted to know how the membership felt. Comments were solicited and posted below:

“We 'Fish' wish to support our kindred piscatorial as an NMEA icon. Two votes for 'Save the Pike.'” ~Jeff and Deb Sandler

“I love the idea of the sacrifice, but the Pike money is just too good. I vote in favor of continued ransoming. But - let our good Hawaiian hosts decide on a fitting sacrifice that can also be auctioned off.” ~Anonymous

“The PIKE cannot be retired. He must live on. I think last year it wasn't done terribly well as it was late, people were starting to leave, etc. I think people must be reminded of the history and importance of the Pike and then we go from there. :) Thanks for asking!!!!” ~Tami Lunsford

“Thank you for your efforts. 1993 New Orleans - approx. $700.00 by SAME and TMEA I think anything that makes money for NMEA is a good thing!Being the keeper of the PIKE is good luck.I think Hemingway was really writing about a Pike.” ~John Trowbridge

“Perhaps Pike should take a sabbatical or a leave of absence. Once Pike gets to Maui it is possible a life of leisure and rum might become appealing to him. Pike might just decide to lay low for a few years then mysteriously resurface in 5 or 6 years in the casinos of Atlantic City.” ~Neil Gilbert

“The pike lives on!!!” ~Beth Jewell

“Hi Susan, I like Pike! It's always fun to auction him off and a point of honor for the next host chapter to win him at the auction. In fact, my chapter - SCMEA - has a Blue-Footed Booby we auction every year in the Pike tradition. This was our 3rd year of doing this, but already it has become tradition. We do this in the late Fred James' honor. Keep Pike! Maybe we should make buttons for this year's NMEA that say "I LIKE PIKE"! Just a suggestion!” ~Colette Dryden

“Susan, I think a sacrifice of Pike to Pele would be awesome! We are the National MARINE Educators Association and our mascot is a fresh water fish? Sure, the mission states that NMEA is both for fresh water and salt water educators but our membership does not reflect that. We should have a sailfish or tuna or king crab or conch as our auction item. Pike does not draw nearly as much attention and does not raise as much as he used to. Sacrifice him to Pele, video tape it and sell those, along with t-shirts of course that say "Pele swallowed Pike” or something like that!” ~Andrew Wilson

“I'm curious about PIKE's backstory....I say if it's his time to go, he should go out with a bang. Maybe we could take a secret contingent of divers and tie him up underwater offshore somewhere..start an artificial reef...later on take some photos to explain his disappearance to the NMEA group...anyway, just thinking out loud” ~Liz Foote

“Pike is on Maui hanging out at the Ocean Sciences Discovery Center in Ma'alaea. Pele is after Pike primarily because it is an invasive aquatic species. Will Pike be saved by friends and supporters or suffer total incineration never to be seen again? Only time will tell.” ~Ann Coopersmith

After reading Ann Coopersmith's comment above, Liz Foote commented…“That would be serious environmental pollution--introducing an invasive alien. I thought it was a model of a fish ~it is real??? Stuffed, mounted, and, super ugly!”

“Pele is indeed a powerful god, perhaps too powerful to be deterred from reducing pike to ashes and gasses. Alas, the best we may be able to do is give pike a proper tribute before he is claimed by the fire elements. If he must go, let him depart this world with honor. We shall prepare the funeral fires and lift our voices to what is surely the pike's last journey. Let the preparations begin. ” ~The Big Kahuna (Bill Hastie)

“I think that I speak for all of me when I say 'The pike must go!'” ~David Neibuhr

“Oh where Oh where has our little Pike gone, oh where oh where can it be?Keep the PIKE , keep the fun, keep the spirit of chapter competition.” ~Joy L. Wolf

“The Pike will always have a home on the hill in Manning. Of course I have moved out and I have no idea how the new owners would feel about a fish in their midst.” ~Gene Williamson

“I have mixed feelings about the Pike. I think we should NOT sacrifice him to Pele. BUT we need to do something to energize the need of wanting to bid high stakes for him. The drive for competing for him has sort of died down and we need something to rekindle the drive. Not sure what but I'm thinkin'.” ~Carmelina Livingston

“We, who live near the coasts of the largest fresh water system in the world, THE GREAT LAKES of Michigan, Erie, Ontario, Huron, and Superior WANT the PIKE to stay! We are the biggest chapter in NMEA! Do not minimize our importance by getting rid of our fresh water PIKE! Cheers!” ~Margaret Tower and GLEAMS MEMBERS FROM ILLINOIS, WISCONSIN, INDIANA, MINNESOTA AND PENNSYLVANIA (the other coasts)

“Hello, Susan, Well, I have mixed feelings about the Pike. I remember back in the good old days when I was a lad, when he was a distinguished and respected man of great influence, passion, pride and financial means. His entrance, like that of a president or foreign dignitary, was the highlight of each conference, and much creative energy went into keeping him comfortable, well-protected and sought after. Recently, however, his appearances at conferences have seemed somewhat contrived, even forced and a little...boring, kind of like, well, Neil Diamond.

So, here's my suggestion:I think we should issue 2005 conferencees a Pike ultimatum. For a minimum bid of, say, $500, they can win the Pike for a year (as always, snore) and force their colleagues to have to suffer through conference after conference of protracted, recycled, inscrutable Pike Antics. OR for a minimum bid of, say, $2000, they can win the great honor of being the last winner of the Pike. They could win the honor of personally sending the Pike to Pele and forever being renowned as the person who saved us all from future canned Pike abductions, amateur videos and pushy auctioneers.

I say, let the people decide. If they want to cheap out--they can live with the Pike forever and resign us all to the same tired old NMEA that we've grown accustomed to like an old smelly pair of slippers. If they are bold and have some fresh vision for new directions for NMEA, however, they can fork out the dough and lead us into the 21st Century. Humbly submitted” ~Craig Strang (NMEA member since 1985)

“Susan, Speaking as one who lived with Pike for most of one year, it must be saved. The current philosophy of bidding on Pike at the auction is certainly outmoded. In particular the bidding puts a burden on the hosting Chapter when they are likely already scrambling for enough dollars to get the coming conference off the ground. In addition, the auction is just too darned long and anything that shortens it is a good thing ~but that is another issue (I've got a great solution but perhaps that is for another email). Pike should simply belong to the Chapter hosting the annual conference. Perhaps at some appropriate time during the conference there should be a simple rites of passage ceremony (current-to-new conference host). I think the exchange of ideas you've encouraged should be to determine the new role of the Pike in our association, rather than an exercise in determining whether Pike's role continues as is or if Pike should meet Pele on the hallowed grounds of Haleakala.When I first got Pike last year, I thought it was a little silly. I found it very hard to get local chapter members excited about Pike's history (but Pike's is truly NMEA's history) if they had not attended a national meeting. I came to like Pike, grew fond of the mystique and finally realized that Pike represents NMEA in some small, if not slightly twisted, way. All associations have a goofy mascot, perhaps a quirky, fun activity that is a standard conference function, or some way to lighten the atmosphere. Ours is Pike. Pike has history, Pike has value to many people, Pike represents the kid in all of us. Pike should remain our mascot, 'cause knowing many of you, knowing myself, we'll just go out and find another wacko icon that allows us to tilt a cold one in its honor anyway! ” ~Scott Willis

Tales from the Sandman—George Duane

Legend of the Pike

My sons live by the mantra: “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” I will adhere to this as I try to relate my close association with the zenith of the NMEA annual auction, the Pike, Lucius lucius.

Attending my first complete NMEA Annual Conference at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio, 1986 in a small auditorium setting with more free wine than any 100 could drink, the fish made its inaugural appearance rescued from someone's closet, and described by his widow as a barracuda. John McMahon of Washington bid the lowest amount to ever to win the prestigious award.

A sabbatical in the South Pacific kept me away from the Kingston, RI and Santa Cruz, CA conferences where the innocuous fish garnered $210 and $600 respectfully.

The 1987 purchaser Gene Williamson, of Oregon, joins John McMahon as the only other solitary bidder to win the honor of owning the Pike. For 17 years NMEA local chapters, coalitions of chapters and groups of individuals have financially prostituted themselves bidding more than $500.00 to net the Pike. The famous fish's annual appearance at auction has often brought between $500 - $1200 to the NMEA coffers and scholarship funds.

“And, now,” as radio commentator Paul Harvey would say - “for the rest of the story.”

Each year, from one summer to the next, the Pike experienced places you and I may never visit. He/she has been photographed entering and exiting several states, national monuments, amusement parks and sport stadiums. He/she has been draped with leis, stickers, beads, baubles, hats, scarves etc. This fish has even attended Mardi Gras, the Rose Bowl and the Super Bowl. No piker this pike, quite a cut-up in the off-season! The Pikester is always in training for the next NMEA auction.

In its 18 years of existence, only 1 appearance was missed. The delivery truck didn't come through on time—and I don't remember what year that was.

I saw the ragged fish for the first time in 1986, but I didn't get my hands on it until 1989 when MME outbid everyone at auction in Hawaii. How fitting were the US Route 90 stickers we added to the plaque? In Massachusetts, Route 90 is a toll road known as the Mass Pike and “Mass Pike” became our rallying cry as we trucked the fish from meeting to conferences and then back to my bookcase.

While in Portland, OR 2 years later, I was part of a 4-man conspiracy to remove the president's bell from beneath the reigning NAME president's chair as he sat in a workshop. Hastie, Williamson and Tinnin provided all the necessary outside work.

Later that conference: Several teams roamed the conference, a false fish was hidden, but behind a moving hanging sheet the Pike disappeared from the auction stage. And, with that, a serious game of "steal the Pike” was born!

At each conference, attempts were made to ensure the Pike's safe arrival at auction. However, on numerous occasions, the Sandman purloined the Pike. Accomplices were varied, and often, unsuspecting of their part in the plot. Locked rooms never seemed to be a barrier even when the pike was locked in a car trunk or the campus security office. When I was acting suspicious and being watched, minions were often carrying out the plan. Grownups playing kids games!! There were even ransom notes sent to the auctioneer. The Pike making an appearance in CT only to disappear again!! Several funny stories come to mind, but I'll only relate 2 of my favorites: 1997 Chicago and 2002 New London, CT.

In 1997, in “the windy city” on day two of the conference I asked if anyone had seen the Pike. An answer was quickly furnished that you could see it through the window in the security office. Enlisting the help of Robin Dobyns, we talked a security guard into letting us have the pike to dress it. Within minutes the theft was noticed, my dorm room was searched, but Robin had removed and hidden the Pike.

On the evening of the auction, in a medieval banquet room with opposing balconies, I walked through with a sheet over a long box, ascended to the balcony and with all eyes watching, revealed an empty box!! At the same time, on the other balcony, Robin was holding the Pike, behind and high over the head of the auctioneer. A good laugh and the fish was auctioned for several hundred dollars.

A few years ago in CT, Adam Frederick was a conspirator and we gained access to the room where the Pike was blatantly displayed in the 2nd floor window overlooking the banquet and auction. We never removed the Pike, just hid it in the room. Oh, the look on Thaxter Tewksbury's face when I pointed to the window and the Pike was gone!

Later, after the MAMEA/SCMEA consortium won the Pike, we removed it from under their banquet table and a 3rd time sent a young woman to dance with the gentleman holding the Pike. Delighted, he set the fish down, went out to the dance floor and it disappeared for the 3rd time that night!

Others may remember good stories about the Pike and another story would be welcome.

“Pike Posse” members throughout the years include:

B. Hastie • G. Williamson • R. Tinnin • J. Clauson • R. Dobyns • C. Livingston • A. Wood • A. Frederick • M. Armand • M. Oswell • D. & W. Allen

Interest in the Pike is waning, but it still generates NMEA scholarship and treasury money.

Kecia Joy (2005 "Keeper of the Pike") wrote to say:

“Aloha ! I have a PIKE update for ya. This fish is livin it up here in Maui. Frannie and I had it out for a few beers not long ago, it has been kayaking, boating, eating fish tacos, meeting new marlin friends, hangin at the beach and much more. I have no idea what this famous fish's fate will be next month during the conference. Stay tuned!! A hui hou, Kecia Joy

Kecia Joy with the Pike in 2005

Ann Coopersmith with the Pike in 2005

At the 2005 Auction, a 4-page pamphlet (shown below) describing Pike was distributed to the membership. The pamphlet described some of PIKE's history with NMEA. It was decided to auction PIKE to the highest bidder and NYSMEA (host of the 2006 Conference) won the bid.

In 2006, PIKE was retired. In the July conference booklet, Bill Hastie (OR) wrote an article about PIKE's retirement.

In September 2006, the NMEA Board received the following e-mail from Johnette Bosarge, Administrative Assistant (National Office):

“It gives me GREAT honor to announce the arrival of a mysterious package a couple of weeks ago. One of the MEC educators assisted me in opening the large box. And, as we lifted the Pike from the tattered box he (the Pike) had a big smile on his face as if he knew he was home at last!! The Pike arrived safe and sound at his retirement destination—The NMEA National Office.

The MEC Educator said who sent us this thing??? I told them "don't kid yourself!!" The MEC does not have enough money to buy this fellow-he has been more places than we can count. and probably even around the world!! And, I proceeded to tell this staff member the history of the Pike and NMEA.

At any rate, the Pike and I have had several conversations and you all should know he has much wisdom from his many years associated with NMEA! The Pike has a wonderful view of the National Office's day-to-day operations as he rests on top of our filing cabinets. And, I think it is safe for me to speak for both Sharon and me when I say we are delighted and honored to have the Pike join us at the MEC/NMEA National Office. You all are invited to come down and visit us anytime you wish!!”

In response to Johnette's e-mail, several people commented:

“Johnette—The Pike deserves a happy retirement surrounded by people who truly know and love him-- we all know he will be in good hands with you and Sharon. Take care of him! :)--Hugs...” ~Tami Lunsford (Board Member—DE)

“How perfect is that?! sounds like the absolutely right place for this well traveled, well loved, wise and witty Pike.” ~Lynn Whitley (President-elect—CA)

“I am thrilled he/she is at home with you all and keeping you company. Better there than under my bed!!!!!”
~Paula Keener-Chavis (Past President and Chair of the Conference Committee—SC)

“Love the story and that our most well-traveled NMEA elder will be in good hands!”
~Amy Gollenberg (Board Member—HI)