Last month saw the DVD release of the rescue film “The Finest Hours.” Upon its theatrical release earlier this year, The New York Times movie reviewer Stephan Holden wrote, “The waterlogged disaster ‘The Finest Hours’ is a moderately gripping whoosh of nostalgia that shamelessly recycles the ’50s cliché of the squeaky-clean all-American hero.”
That tepid endorsement is enough to convince me that this film is clearly in Ivy Style’s wheelhouse. The movie, which was based on the book by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman, recounts the tale of one of the greatest small-boat rescues in United States Coast Guard history. The squeaky clean all-American hero was Boatswain’s Mate First Class Bernard Webber Coxswain of the 36-foot wooden motorized lifeboat CG-36500, and the leader of a courageous crew of three volunteers. The plot summary provided by Disney, which produced the film, states, “In February of 1952, one of the worst storms to ever hit the East Coast struck New England, damaging an oil tanker off the coast of Cape Cod and literally ripping it in half. On a small lifeboat, faced with frigid temperatures and 70-foot high waves, four members of the Coast Guard set out to rescue the more than 30 stranded sailors trapped aboard the rapidly sinking vessel.”
In our quest to rescue the lore of Ivy Style history, I have uncovered a link between the clothing style we love and this famous maritime rescue. The brand known as Puritan Cape Cod has had a store on the peninsula since 1925, and so I turned to Milton L. Penn, the dapper nonagenarian and Puritan’s elder statesman, to uncover the brand’s history and its relation to the Coast Guard.
The first store on the Cape was in Chatham and served both the locals and the Coast Guard. The store had the contract to supply the station with uniform items such as chinos. The store manager Ben Shufro served for 40 years from 1925-1965. It was Shufro who got the call on February 18, 1952, to come to the Coast Guard station. He was to meet the survivors of the SS Pendleton, measure them, and provide them with dry clothes. Shufro makes an appearance in Tougias and Sherman’s book, as well as other narratives of the rescue. Bernie Weber recounted seeing Shufro measuring crew members in his memoir “Into A Raging Sea: My Life And The Pendleton Rescue.” A photograph by Richard Kelsey captures Shufro, tape measure in hand, engaging with the rescued crew members.
This one shot has immortalized the Puritan brand’s humble yet significant contribution to this heroic story.
Abe Penn founded Puritan in 1919 and arrived on the Cape in 1925. Today there are four stores on the Cape that carry the Puritan name. For many years and to many customers, Puritan private label clothes carried all the cachet of a top brand. Recently the Penn family realized that their brand’s history needed to be better articulated, and in 2011 The Chatham Chino Company was born.
Reaching back to 1925 and its association with the Coast Guard, Puritan created a new coastal lifestyle brand built around a chino that pays homage to the past but is wholly designed to the standards of the third generation of the Penn family. When the pants arrived for the June 2012 launch, co-owner Jim Penn recounts, the excitement gave way to concern. “We tried the pants on and they were the wrong fit and silhouette,” he says, “so we sent the entire order of 1,000 pairs back.” The Penns lost their summer profits, but feel they preserved the integrity of their new brand. The pants became officially available in September 2012 and are made from salt-washed, weathered 9.8-ounce cotton twill. They have a 10.5-inch rise, measure 20.5 inches at the knee and have a 19-inch leg opening.
Now five years old, the Chatham Chino Company has garnered local and regional press, including a feature in Cape Cod Life. It has also been introducing new products. The Chatham Chino Company’s logo is the Coast guard double hurricane flag, so consider yourself warned that one day you may see someone wearing the flags on chinos, belts, shirts, ties and hats. Of course, if you are an early adopter others will wonder where you got your alarmingly good coastal gear.
As for myself, I thought the double hurricane design was artfully rendered by the company in 2013 when it released a set of two Tervis Tumblers. I could see myself drinking a Dark & Stormy from them. A grim jest, perhaps, but truthfully that’s the closest I care to get to hurricane conditions. — CHRISTOPHER SHARP