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Scarborough's canning king, Harold Snow, left legacy in Pine Point

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Scarborough's canning king, Harold Snow, left legacy in Pine Point

SCARBOROUGH — Of all the lasting memories, when Ariana Bratt remembers her grandfather, she says she'll think of his giant hands.

"He built so much with those huge hands," she said.

Bratt's grandfather, Harold Snow, was always building, always tinkering, she said. His mechanical mind left an indelible mark on Scarborough, in the memory of Snow's Canning Company, the design and construction of Blue Point Congregational Church and the Snow family's clambake, a yearly tradition in Pine Point.

"Everything around here has his signature on it," said Dr. Susan Snow, Harold's daughter and Bratt's mom.

Snow, died of leukemia on Nov. 29 at 94 years old. In his heyday, he was master of the now defunct F.H. Snow Canning Company on Pine Point, which his father founded in 1920. For generations, the company was king in Pine Point, employing roughly 100 residents. 

At her home in Scarborough, Susan Snow has an archive of her family's time in Scarborough going back generations. Long-dead ancestors peer into the present through black and white photos and newspaper clippings. Binders and folders and laminated packets are full of Snow memorabilia and family photos.

Her grandfather, Fred H. Snow, was heralded as "Maine's Millionaire Clam Digger" by the Boston Sunday Post in 1946. A undated photo showed her father with Sen. Ed Muskie. Advertisements for the 1956 Rogers and Hammerstein-inspired movie "Carousel," which featured the character Enoch Snow (based on Harold's grandfather), extensively featured Snow's Clam Chowder.

The partnership with 20th Century Fox on "Carousel" was just one of the many moves her father made to grow Snow's from a local operation to a national name, Susan Snow said.

Harold Snow went off to Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study chemistry after graduating from Scarborough schools. He earned his degree in 1939 and went to work for DuPont before coming home to run his father's company in 1942.

"They were still canning by hand back then," Susan Snow said. "They would glue the cans together and lick the labels like stamps."

One of the first things Harold Snow did when he returned was to design an automated canning process that sped up production. Tall hoppers held gallons of clam chowder and poured them precisely into cans on an assembly line.

He experimented with the recipe, making sure the viscosity was just right so that all the clams didn't settle to the bottom and gum up the whole process. 

"Everything about that chowder was chemistry to him," said Bratt, 21, who followed in her grandfather's footsteps when she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in chemistry from Rice University earlier this year.

Snow's canning technology would go on to be used at Snow's four other factories in Maine and New Jersey, including the 86,000 square-foot plant in Cape May, N.J., now the sole production place of Snow's Clam Chowder since the Pine Point plant closed in 1994. Harold Snow also oversaw the company through its merger with Bordens in 1958.

Susan Snow's family said they inherited their focus on history from their patriarch. Her dad remembered everything, she said, and would sit long hours telling stories to anyone who would listen. 

Being a Snow meant having access to the oral history of Scarborough.

Before he died, Harold and Susan Snow dedicated countless hours to getting on to paper the memories of Scarborough as it was. Their interviews are featured prominently in "Scarborough at 350," the book commemorating the town's 350th anniversary. 

Harold Snow lived history in more ways than one. In 1942, he moved into the one-room schoolhouse he attended as a child, and he lived there until the day he died. He often joked that he'd spent more time in grammar school than anyone else in the world.

One photo in Susan Snow's collection shows her mother, Marjorie Snow, sitting in the same school. Marjorie Douglas moved to Pine Point in 1927, when Harold Snow was just 10 years old. The two played marbles together and eventually married in 1940. They were happily married 42 years until Marjorie died suddenly in 1982.

"He was always telling stories," said Heidi Snow-Cinader, also Susan Snow's daughter. It was through Heidi that Harold Snow ended up in the New York Times in 2002, his photograph included in a two-page feature spread about his granddaughter's wedding, which featured a huge clambake orchestrated by her grandfather.

The clambake was one of Harold Snow's specialties, Susan Snow said. Growing up in Pine Point in the early 20th century meant digging and eating a lot of clams. Her dad helped organize the world's largest clambake in Plymouth, Mass., in 1957. To gain entry, the hungry hordes simply had to turn in two Snow's Clam Chowder labels.

Harold Snow's clambakes were also a key part of fundraising efforts to replace the Blue Point Congregational Church in the mid-1950s.

The church had outgrown its older building and Snow, a member of the congregation, researched, designed and fundraised for the construction of a new church.

He designed the church in the Gothic style, with exposed beams and room for the giant Austin Organ, which he played for 40 years, and presided over a community of volunteer builders and Portland bricklayers who constructed the building. 

With the new year almost upon them, the Snows are preparing for their first Christmas without the head of their family. They're thinking of having a goose for dinner. It's not in their family's tradition to do so, but right before he died, Harold excitedly told his family they'd be having goose for Christmas this year.

While he had long since left his canned chowder empire, Snow still tinkered in the kitchen each holiday season. Susan Snow said he cooked huge batches of food to deliver to his 18 grandkids and 26 great grandchildren.

But whatever they eat, Susan Snow said Christmas won't be the same without her grandfather.

"This will be the first time in my life that he hasn't made Christmas dinner," Snow said. "We really miss him."

Mario Moretto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or mmoretto@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @riocarmine.