Project: Documentary

Title: Cluck, Pluck and Luck: The Improbable Early History of Delmarva's Poultry Industry

View Video Clip

Photo credit: Delaware Public Archives

In 1923 an Ocean View housewife ordered 50 chicks and received 500. DuPont Highway was completed in 1924. Demand for Kosher meat in New York City was high. Delmarva’s chicken industry was born.

The film, “Cluck, Pluck, and Luck,” takes viewers from a time when the Delmarva Peninsula south of Dover was isolated and most residents relied on subsistence farming to a time when chickens accounted for a multi-billion dollar industry. 

According to producer Michael Oates, what differentiates the broiler industry from other American industries is that “its growth and success were not driven by captains of industry, but by the hard work and shared values of anonymous subsistence farmers, African Americans, and immigrant Jewish businessmen.”  

Throughout the film, viewers learn aboutchicken smuggling and World War II blockades, the formation of the Eastern Shore Poultry Grower’s Exchange, new chicken house architecture after Hurricane Hazel, and the rise of Perdue.

Special thanks to Delaware Public Archives, Delmarva Poultry Industry, Nabb Research Center, Salisbury University, George Chaloupka, and Clark White. 

Written, directed and edited by Michael Oates. Narrated by Don Wescott.

Produced by 302 Stories, Inc. Funded by Delmarva Poultry Industry, Delaware Humanities Forum, 302 Stories, Inc. and Berkana, Center for Media and Education, Inc.

Project: Documentary

Title: White Gold: Delaware's Oystering History

View Video Clip

Photo credit: Delaware Public Archives

Project: Documentary

Title: The '62 Storm: Delaware's Shared Response

Dollies 62 Storm edited

View Video Clip

Photo credit: Delaware DOT/DNREC

Project: Documentary

Title: An Evolving Legacy: Delaware's Coastal Zone Act

Russ speaking copy

View Video Clip

Photo credit: Gov. Russell Peterson Collection  

Project: Photo Exhibit and Lecture Series

Title: Communities in Transition

Guatemala girl in window copy

View Article    

Photo credit: Michael Oates

Project: Guatemalan Hurricane Stan Relief

Title:  From Georgetown to Guatemala

Photo credit: Jeanne Covert

100 years ago, Leipsic, Little Creek, and Bowers Beach were among Delaware’s flourishing maritime communities, relying on huge harvests of Delaware Bay oysters, commonly called “white gold.” Stately wooden schooners plied Delaware Bay, dredging as many as 900,000 bushels annually. Stories abound of local captains lighting cigars with $100 bills and buying new Cadillacs every year.

Today’s annual oyster harvest is less than 15,000 bushels with oyster beds decimated by a succession of deadly diseases and all but one of the sailing schooners gone. Yet these Bayshore communities, and the commercial watermen who built them, somehow endure.

“White Gold” recounts Delaware’s past and present oyster industry, the attempts to revive it, and the efforts of one waterman to bring a wooden schooner back to its former glory.

Special thanks to waterman, Frank (Thumper) Eicherly and his wife Jean Friend for their support and sharing their personal story to restore their 1893 schooner Maggie Myers. Written and produced by: Michael Oates, 302 Stories, Inc. Funded by: Berkana, Center for Media and Education; Delaware Humanities Forum; and 302 Stories, Inc.

Residents living along the Atlantic coast in March, 1962 will never forget the great "Ash Wednesday" storm. More damaging than Sandy, this powerful winter nor'easter pounded Delaware's shoreline for three days and five successive high tides, destroying homes and businesses, flooding communities, and taking lives. 

Using archival photos, home movies, and interviews of those who survived, this program re-lives Delaware's great 20th Century disaster and the weather events that spawned it, and reflects on the possibility of a similar storm occurring along Delaware's coast today.

Special thanks to the historians of Lewes, Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, and Fenwick Island, along with the University of Delaware Sea Grant College Program for their generous support and assistance.

Written and produced by: Michael Oates, 302 Stories, Inc. Funded by: Delaware Humanities Forum; Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC); Berkana, Center for Media and Education; and 302 Stories, Inc.

Forty years ago, Delaware's landmark Coastal Zone Act preserved the state's shoreline, making it off-limits to heavy industrial development. The battle to pass this visionary legislation transformed local environmental awareness into sweeping statewide action, challenging other states and the nation to do the same.

At the time, the New York Times commented, "…forty-nine other states can learn something from this exceptionally perceptive action by Governor Peterson and his responsive legislature."

The Act's legacy still poses questions that are as complex as the ecosystem it continues to protect. "An Evolving Legacy" Delaware's Coastal Zone Act recounts its origins, the critical role of then Governor Russell Peterson, its history to date, and the ongoing challenge of balancing industrial development with environmental preservation.

Written and produced by: Michael Oates, 302 Stories, Inc.

Funded by: Delaware Humanities Forum; DuPont Company; Berkana, Center for Media and Education; 302 Stories, Inc.; with additional support from Nicholas Pappas.

Communities in Transition is a photo exhibit and lecture series exploring the contexts in which human migration is taking place between Georgetown and villages in the San Marcos region of Guatemala. This migration links these two different parts of the world, transforming communities in both Delaware and Guatemala.

About the Artist: Michael Oates is an award-winning independent documentarian who moved to Georgetown, Delaware in early 1999. In the fall of 1999, Mr. Oates traveled to Guatemala with videotaped messages and photos from families in Georgetown, delivering them to their relatives in Guatemala. The photos and quotes come from his extensive archive of materials.  

About the Speaker: Dr. Mark J. Miller is a professor of Political Science & International Relations at the University of Delaware. He is an internationally recognized scholar on migration and has served as an expert on federal and international commissions on migration. He has been studying immigration to Georgetown for many years. 

Funded by: Berkana, Center for Media and Education; Delaware Humanities Forum; 302 Stories, Inc.

In October 2005, Hurricane Stan ripped through Central America. There were close to 3,000 Guatemalan people living in Georgetown, DE, in the United States. These people were primarily from two towns in Guatamala---Tacana and Ixchiguan.

The Guatemalans living in Georgetown were very concerned about the deadly landslides and floods triggered by Hurricane Stan's torrential rains in their villages back home. They wished to send clothing, because of the very cold western highland temperatures. They asked Michael Oates, who had been working closely with the community for over five years, to deliver the clothing to their villages. Used clothing was collected and packed in 160 boxes, loaded on ten pallets and shipped to Tacana.

Oates and Berkana volunteer, Jeanne Covert, were successful in their efforts to get supplies to those villages, sometimes traveling difficult washed-out mountain roads.

Upon his return, Oates strung together a collection of short videos that told the story of the trip, an assessment of the damage in different communities, and the distribution of the goods to the victims. Over 500 Guatemalans attended the showing in Georgetown, DE. Funded by: Berkana, Center for Media and Education; 302 Stories, Inc.; and Charter Partners. 

© Berkana, Center for Media and Education, Inc. 2017