Saturday, May 24, 2014

Waiting on Midnight

This past week marked the end of Stone Crab season in Florida and in a week or so the season for Snapper starts. In the past regulations kept fishermen from doing any fishing at all during certain times of the year.

Tink and Anna Dean on the new Fulford Fish dock
My uncle Ralph Fulford, told about the time in 1941 when my grandfather built the Fulford Fish Company building on the waterfront in Cortez, Florida.

Back then there was a closed fishing season from the first day of December until January 20th. Grandpa Tink decided to use the closed season to build a new fish house using his fishing crew and several others who would be out of work.

Grandpa had another building out over the water but wanted a new bigger fish house on land, so it would be easier to load the fish on trucks. The first fish house was built about 1930 and he called it Dixie Fish Company. That company closed during the depression and in 1940 he started Fulford Fish Company.
Fulford Fish 1979

They started tearing down the old building on December 8, 1941. Soon after more than a few of the workers quit to go "fight the Japs."
Tink chose two future in-laws to be in charge of the project. Earl Guthrie, Ralph's future father in law and Walter Taylor, my aunt Irene's future father in law were the foremen. They were paid 80 cents an hour and the fisherman were paid 50 cents an hour.

Earl Benjamin Guthrie was born December 16, 1901 in Carteret County, North Carolina to John Wesley and Addie Lou Taylor Guthrie. He had been a boat builder in North Carolina. He died November 5, 1984 in Cortez and is buried in the Manasota Cemetery.

Walter Clarence Taylor was born June 6, 1902 in Myakka, Florida to Jacob Mathew and Martha Jane Durrance Taylor and came from a farming family. He married Tink's first cousin Bertha McDonald on April 16, 1924, moved to Cortez and became a fisherman. Walter and Bertha lived in the first house my great grandfather built in 1889 and it is still one of the nicest homes in Cortez. Walter died June 29, 1980 and is buried in the Skyway Cemetery.

Earl and Walter had the new building finished on January 19, 1942. Ralph said it was illegal to have any fish on the property until January 20th. On the evening of the 19th he was at the dock and there was a crew waiting until midnight to unload a boat load of mullet.

In 1965 they celebrated the 25th Anniversary of Fulford Fish Company. I was fortunate to be staying in Cortez that summer, working at the dock for Ralph and fishing with Grandpa Tink.

Ralph had these silver rulers made to mark the anniversary. He gave me one and I've used it ever since.

I don't know how may of the rulers were made but suspect this is the only one still around. Now that I've told people I have it, I'll have to lock it up when certain relatives come to visit who are known for taking home souvenirs.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Chasing Storms

Commercial Fisherman have the good sense not to chase storms, but sometimes are the prey.

I've been on a boat once, out of sight of land, at night, with a storm heading towards us. It wasn't a good feeling. I was fishing with my uncle back in the early 70s in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of St. Petersburg. We were on my grandfather's last boat, The Bluefish, which thankfully was also the fastest boat he built.

We saw a storm heading towards us and took off away from it. When we looked back it was heading in a new direction, the same as us and closer than before. We changed course a couple times before outrunning it and heading back to shore without ever putting the nets in the water.

Another Cortez family has a sad history of losing two family members to storms, seventy years apart.

John B. Kight, who was married to my grandmother Edith's first cousin, Mattie Wilson, drowned on January 11, 1918 when a freak Winter Tropical Storm hit south Florida. He was fishing off the coast of St. Petersburg. His body was recovered and he was buried in the Major Adams Cemetery in Bradenton.

His great nephew, Paul Stephen Kight was lost on November 5, 1988 when Tropical Storm Mitch struck the Key West area. Fourteen foot waves swamped the 39 foot "Kar Free" fishing boat he was on 68 miles offshore and Paul and another Cortez fisherman, Donald Atkins drowned. Atkins body was recovered several days later but Paul was never found.

Friday, May 2, 2014


I've been doing something other than family history research for the last week. Granddaughter Ruth Lorraine arrived Saturday so we have been in Philly teaching her about her family and all things Southern.