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July 10, 2007

Essex, Woodman's at memoir's core

ESSEX - If you grew up in Essex, chances are at one point or another you worked at Woodman's or a similar seafood restaurant, says Robert "Bob" Benjamin, a former resident and Gloucester High School graduate.

His years at Woodman's are part of Benjamin's debut book. He will return to the area from his home in Washington state for his 45-year high school reunion and a signing of his memoirs, "A Gift of Dreams," at the Shop at Woodman's of Essex.

"I've written over 100 articles for magazines and have designed many magazine covers, but I always wanted to be a real writer," Benjamin said.

His 320-page memoir deals with moving here as a sixth-grader, working at the famous Woodman's of Essex and his work and life after he graduated from Gloucester High School.

"When writing about Essex I was very descriptive and every detail is accurate," Benjamin said.

Benjamin used words and phrases that anyone from Essex and the area would understand. Benjamin described fishing downriver, talked of Farnham's creek and explained how Essex boys such as he earned money by going clamdiggin' in the summer.

"The only thing I did change were the names of the characters in my book," he said.

Benjamin said he changed the names in order to protect peoples' privacy but believed it was necessary for two names to stay the same.

"Without those two people and without Woodman's, Essex would not be close to the same," Benjamin said.

"Mr. Dexter 'Deck' Woodman and his father, Lawrence 'Chubby' Woodman, are real characters. The very real town of Essex would not be what it is today had their unique contributions not been part of its history," Benjamin writes in his acknowledgements.

Following his high school graduation, Benjamin continued his education at Bowdoin College in Maine.

"I finished three years, took four years off and graduated with the Class of 1970," Benjamin said.

Benjamin then went to New Jersey to pursue a teaching career, like his father, until he moved to Washington in 1973.

Benjamin said his memoir includes his recollection of when he first became fascinated with model airplanes.

His love of model airplanes has become more than a hobby, Benjamin said. His work and dedication to model airplanes earned him an induction into the National Model Aviation Hall of Fame in 2006.

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