The Working Waterfront

Remembering an island icon

Musical, mischievous memories inspired by late friend

By Phil Crossman
Posted 2024-06-06
Last Modified 2024-06-06

Delly—whose full name was Dallas Levi Anthony—was a pianist, a wonderful baritone, a terrific cook and baker, precipitously mischievous, and a help to all.

A friend recalls that Delly let him and his brother, nine- and ten-year-olds, tag along up into the bell tower of the Union Church to take turns ringing the church bell by pulling on the thick braided rope, signaling the townsfolk that church was about to begin.

In anticipation, the boys were always the first ones there and at 10:34, the weight of the bell swinging back and forth would lift them off their feet. Delly let them enjoy a little bit of this mischief, but not too much.

Somewhat lubricated, we gathered close round the piano when the parade paused at the reviewing stand…

The rough unfinished walls, various levels, and dark winding staircase of the bell tower seemed to give it a medieval feel, rendering some trepidation but even more excitement.

Louise was the Union Church organist and, while the whole world has heard “Play It Again, Sam,” only islanders can remember hearing “Play It Again, Louise,” over and over for 70 years because it was Delly’s familiar request to his faithful accompanist when he got off on the wrong measure or the up-beat instead of the down-beat or the wrong verse or even the wrong song and had to have Louise get him back on track.

My own most profound memory of Delly was years ago, when the Lions Club put an upright piano in the back of a flatbed truck in the Fourth of July Parade and convinced Delly to climb up and accompany us, the serious singers in the club.

Somewhat lubricated, we gathered close round the piano when the parade paused at the reviewing stand so we could render a harmonious version of “When You Wore a Tulip,” to great applause.

When the parade resumed, the driver, who shall remain unnamed, carelessly lurched forward and, of course, the piano and the bench with Delly mounted thereon, began rolling purposefully backward. We, all more focused on staying on pitch and in harmony with one another than with the welfare of the piano player, who are, after all a dime a dozen, stood aside as he passed by on his way to the precipitous rear end of the truck.

Fortunately, a friend of the driver stepped out of the crowd at that point to offer him a Budweiser. When he hit the brakes Delly and the piano resumed their position up against the headboard whereupon we shimmed the wheels to avoid a reoccurrence. Having cooked aboard a yacht for several years he was accustomed to performing under adverse conditions and never missed a beat.

My wife remembers that long ago when Delly was baking bread she had occasion to watch him kneading dough.

Recognizing in him a fellow artist engaged in the Lord’s work, and moved by his obvious reverence for what he was doing, she asked him if he was enjoying himself as much as he appeared to be.

He responded, “Yes I am enjoying myself, and it’s the best way I know to get your hands clean. No matter what you’ve been into it’ll come off eventually if you’re working bread dough.”

Delly was a man who couldn’t say no to anyone, except me, that is. Once, when he was cutting meat at the grocery, I was sent to get something for supper. I didn’t have anything particular in mind, but asked if he could suggest something.

Delly said, “No, not for you, but send your wife down to talk to me, and I’m sure I’ll feel more inspired.”

Phil Crossman lives on Vinalhaven where he owns the Tidewater Motel. He may be contacted at