“Oh! some folks boast of quail on toast

Because they think it’s toney;

But I’m content to owe my rent

And live on abalone.”

-The Abalone Song by George Sterling (1907)

I was cleaning out my garage this week as I tend to do every once-in-lifetime or so years when i came across this packaging for white abalone from the long-shuttered Brebes in Morro Bay. I remember getting it as a kid on a family trip up the coast. Of all the souvenirs I could have gotten, I picked the surplus wax-paper box top. Even though technically it was a sign for abalone, Its should have been a more symbolic sign for where my life would take me.


The fishery for abalone had been going on since before the turn of the 20th century. It was all salty guys in hard helmets diving the northern Channel islands in search of the delicious gastropods. It was a golden age and I don’t think they even considered they were at some point fishing themselves out of business. For a more detailed trip down memory lane, there is a fun resource page for ab fishing in Morro Bay you can resource here.


I guess it’s kind of ironic, that 35 years + later, I find this at a time where abalone is making a  comeback of sorts. It’s timely with all the efforts being made to restore abalone populations. Who knows, we may once again “be content to owe our rent and live on abalone?” After all, a box shouldn’t outlive it’s contents.


Frank Bresbes measuring “snail gold.”

The Abalone Song

Oh! some folks boast of quail on toast

Because they think it’s toney;

But I’m content to owe my rent

And live on abalone.

Oh! Mission Point’s a friendly joint,

Where every crab’s a crony;

And true and kind you’ll ever find

The clinging abalone.

He wanders free beside the sea,

Where’er the coast is stony;

He flaps his wings and madly sings —

The plaintive abalone.

By Carmel bay, the people say,

We feed the lazzaroni

On Boston beans and fresh sardines

And toothsome abalone.

Some live on hope, and some on dope,

And some on alimony;

But my tomcat, he lives on fat

And tender abalone.

Oh! some drink rain and some champagne

Or brandy by the pony;

But I will try a little rye

With a dash of abalone.

Oh! some like jam, and some like ham,

And some like macaroni;

But bring me in a pail of gin

And a tub of abalone.

He hides in caves beneath the waves —

His ancient patrimony;

And so ’tis shown that faith alone

Reveals the abalone.

The more we take the more they make

In deep-sea matrimony;

Race-suicide cannot betide

The fertile abalone.

I telegraph my better half

By Morse or by Marconi;

But if the need arise for speed,

I send an abalone.

Oh! some think that the Lord is fat,

And some that He is bony;

But as for me I think that He

Is like an abalone.