SHORE THING: Tom Savage Was a ‘Come-Here’

Somewhere on the Eastern Shore. (Wave photo)

Cape Charles Wave

November 19, 2012

Yesterday I became a Native of the Eastern Shore. And I feel incredibly good about it.

All my life I’ve been a “come-here,” feeling somewhat less than a full citizen.

That was certainly the case during the 10 years I lived in various foreign countries in the diplomatic service. But it also applied to my seven years’ residence in Charleston, South Carolina, where I learned the ground rule early on: To be fully accepted in Charleston society you have to either be born there, or have lived there for 75 years.

After Charleston, relocating to Cape Charles was deja-vu. It’s where I first heard the term “come-here.” And I realized that, once again, I was an outsider.

After we started the Cape Charles Wave, a prominent denizen whose family goes back over 300 years in these parts suggested to my wife and me that we certainly had some chutzpah to move into town and start up a newspaper.

To which I had two reactions: first – we wouldn’t have done it if someone else had done it first. But nobody had, and the town was in crying need of a news outlet.

And second — we never would have attempted this by ourselves. It was our co-founder’s idea – as a longtime local reporter she saw the need, she chose the Wave name, and she, by the way, is married to a man whose Eastern Shore family also goes back 300 years.


The Wave has featured some angry comments about “come-heres,” as well as some voices that masterfully poured oil on troubled waters.

But my personal metamorphosis into an Eastern Shore native comes from attending Sunday’s production of Piece of Eden. It evoked in me a catharsis worthy of a Greek play. Yes, I shed tears, and I left the theater a changed man – finally whole, after all these years.

It began with the Native American prayer delivered by Chief Kiptopeke in the Algonquian language. It was so authentically delivered that I had to remind myself that “Chief Kiptopeke” was my neighbor, born and raised in Iraq, of Armenian heritage, and therefore even more “come-here” than I.

It was amplified when I learned that the play’s director, who speaks in clipped British tones, was born and raised in Rome, married an American Navy officer, and together they raised their four children on the Eastern Shore.

Fits right in with our mayor, who bears the name “Sullivan,” grew up in Egypt, and speaks Greek to her family members.

Closer to home, we watched the play with our neighbors and dear friends from Long Island, who came here on the advice of “Governor Berkeley,” also originally from Long Island, and now next-door neighbor to “Chief Kiptopeke.”

And this is where I throw in the part that I, myself, have family going back 300 years on Long Island, although I have never lived there. But it’s in my genes, and no doubt my affinity for Cape Charles comes from my ancestors’ love of East Coast waters.

So when Tom Savage, a “come-here,” expressed his love for the Eastern Shore, and said that he knew it was where he was always meant to be, I understood, for I feel the same way.

And I’m grateful to Tom Savage’s descendent George – specifically for marrying Virginia, who for all I know may be a “come-here” as well. Because, although she downplayed it when I thanked her, according to Director Clelia Sheppard it was Virginia Savage who planted the seed that grew to become Piece of Eden.

When the play concluded, we all stood up, I turned around, and a woman two rows behind me remarked for anyone who wanted to hear, “What a nice welcome to our new home.”

Exactly. The Eastern Shore is now our home.

Just one more point, about my wife, who followed me here as I sought my “roots” on the Eastern Shore. My wife is from St. Louis, and sometimes I’ve wondered if she agreed to marry me in order to shed her difficult surname.

There was nothing wrong with her name except that no one knew how to pronounce it or spell it, so it was almost like having two last names – first say it, then spell it.

And in all the many places in the world we’ve lived, we had never seen that name — until we came to the Eastern Shore. Suddenly, it was everywhere – on tombstones, businesses, and the Oyster harbormaster’s name is identical to her brother’s.

My wife, you see, is an “Outten” – a perfectly good name when you pronounce it the American, Eastern Shore way: OUT-en. The problem is that the Outtens, who landed on the Maryland Eastern Shore, came from Alsace-Lorraine, where you have to scrunch your nose up and say EWW-ten. Some of the early Outtens removed to Lexington, Kentucky, and thence to St. Louis, and they kept the EWW-ten pronunciation, which my wife always hated.

Here on the Eastern Shore she is an OUT-en, the way God intended the name be pronounced.

But she can never be a “come-here.” And now, neither can I.

SHORE THING is an occasional feature of the Cape Charles Wave.



5 Responses to “SHORE THING: Tom Savage Was a ‘Come-Here’”

  1. Kathleen Mullen on November 19th, 2012 12:07 pm

    Thank you George for so beautifully expressing what so many of us feel about the Shore. It is “home” and that is all that matters.

  2. Dee Pierce on November 19th, 2012 1:19 pm

    What a lovely article!

  3. Kathy Glaser on November 19th, 2012 8:54 pm

    Thank you for a very thoughtful article. I have owned a home in Cape Charles for 10 years. I was not born there but I feel a closeness that I have not had any place else. I too am in the Diplomatic Service for our government having served in 5 countries in 10 years. Yet when people ask me where my “home” is I always say Cape Charles. I am thankful for your newspaper because it allows me to keep up with all of the news in the area while serving overseas. Keep up the great work you are doing.

  4. Dana Outten on November 21st, 2012 1:20 pm

    Wonderful article.

    Outten From-Here

  5. Etta Robins on November 21st, 2012 9:35 pm

    I am the fourth grade Virginia Studies teacher at Kiptopeke Elementary. On Tuesday, November 20, 47 of my fourth-grade students and I attended the Arts Enter production of “Piece of Eden.” My students, my fellow fourth-grade teachers, and I loved this production. It tied in perfectly with our recent field trip to Jamestown, and my students made excellent connections to the history they had recently been learning. One of the highlights was that my ancestor, George Yeardley, was featured as he gave Thomas Savage permission to settle the Eastern Shore.

    Congratulations to Clelia Shepard and the actors, musicians, and staff at Arts Enter for a wonderful production that explained the settling of this “Piece of Eden.”