Torrance R. Parker is the founder of Parker Diving Service, Inc., the oldest continuously operating commercial diving company in California. From 1947 to 1985, Parker participated in all aspects of deep diving work, including commercial diving, salvage, maintenance, repair, and inspection of underwater engineered structures primarily in the Port of Los Angeles.
Parker sold the company in 1985, but continued working as a consultant and diver with Parker Diving Service until 1995. Upon retirement, he authored 20,000 Jobs under the Sea: A History of Diving and Underwater Engineering (1997). He subsequently designed and curated the “20,000 Jobs Under the Sea” exhibit for the Los Angeles Maritime Museum in San Pedro; the exhibit depicts the history of both commercial and fishery diving and includes that of Southern California’s earliest divers.
Beginning in 1997, Parker (who learned his trade from Greek sponge divers in Tarpon Springs, Florida) conducted a survey of the Gulf of Mexico’s pre-World War II deep-water sponge grounds unworked since 1939. In 2013, Parker published his second book: 20,000 Divers under the Sea: A History of the Mediterranean and Western Atlantic Sponge Trades with an Account of Early Deep Diving, that chronicles sponge diving from ancient Greece to its current epicenter in Tarpon Springs, Florida.
For more on the Museum’s exhibit on Deep Diving, see our Current Exhibit here.
Richard Joseph Fellows, (Joe Fellows, Jr.)
Known as “Rusty”, Richard Fellows learned to sail and build boats as a boy. He graduated from the University of Michigan’s School of Engineering in 1929 as a naval architect, then later became an accomplished businessman, eventually heading the firm as President of Fellows & Stewart after his father’s death in 1942. Rusty’s career witnessed the popularity of pleasure boats overtaken by the demands of World War II military boatbuilding and the war-time production of military contracts.
When he died at age 57 his wife, Lois Fellows, took charge of the company until it was sold to Harbor Boat in 1967.
Joseph “Joe” Fellows, Sr. was born in Barth, England in 1865. He and his family immigrated to the Midwest of the United States, and in the 1890s he learned the craft of boat building on large fishing vessels in Seattle and San Francisco. Fellows moved to Southern California and took advantage of the new demand for recreational boats. In 1896, he opened the Joe Fellows Boat Shop and began building yachts, speed-boats, and sailboats. As a tribute to his successful career, California Shipbuilding Corporation built and named the Liberty Ship JOE FELLOWS in his honor in 1944.
Of all the boats built by Joe Fellows, his prototypical racing sailboats, motor cruisers and speedboats are now classic designs.
Read more about Joe Fellows in the series “Your Right of Passage” appearing in the Library’s blog.
The Fellows & Stewart shipyard operated in Los Angeles Harbor for over 70 years. From its founding in 1896 until its closure in 1967, the company designed, built, and repaired yachts, (both sail and power), workboats, and military vessels. The company’s founder, Joe Fellows, designed boats, while his business partner Victor Baldwin Stewart focused on marketing, advertising, and public relations. The combination of Joe Fellow’s design talent with Victor Stewart’s marketing expertise resulted in national recognition for the company. Joe Fellows’ son Richard Joseph Fellows (1905-1962), known as Rusty or Joe, lead the corporation after his father’s retirement in 1937. His wife, Lois Fellows became President after Rusty’s death until the firm was sold in 1967.
Of the boats designed by Joe Fellows, his prototypical racing sailboats, motor cruisers and speedboats are now classic designs.