Friday, November 18, 2011

Mr. Charleston Exposed

I don't normally indulge in these things, but... (you can see where this is going) Susan, over at I Think, Therefore I Yam , challenged me to one of those Truth or Dare thingy's where you receive an award and therefore, you are obligated to tell seven secrets about yourself that inquiring minds want to know.  To begin with, it's pretty much impossible for me to dredge up seven secrets out of the seven-thousand or so hiding in the closet and I wouldn't put you through that anyway, but I will share something you might find interesting, or at least, amusing.

Not long ago a young woman asked me where I was from and I replied that I was a 9th-generation-or-so Florida Cracker and that I was raised in a fish camp. I wasn't surprised that she was a little astonished as few families in this neck of the woods have been around as long as ours (1786), but I turned out to be the one astonished when she asked, "What's a fish camp?" It had never occurred to me that there might be people in this world who had never heard of a fish camp.  A little nonplussed I yammered, "Why, it's a place where you rent boats to go fishing."  So, these several days later while lost in a muse another brilliant insight struck me, "If there's one person in this world who had no clue about fish camps, maybe there are others!"

This folks... is a fish camp.  Photo of the homestead 1946.  My parents purchased the camp soon after I came along and just after WWII.  At the time, we lived so far in the woods that there was no electricity.  I clearly remember wind-up phones and the iceman bringing a block of ice for the fridge.   But we were in high cotton because, thanks to a naturally pressurized artesian well, we had indoor plumbing.  Our neighbors had an out-house.  A two-holer.  They also had the only two-story tar paper shack I have seen to this day.

This was the office-kitchen-store-bait shop-dining room-dance hall main building.  It was a log cabin with a coquina chimney.  Note cane poles leaning against the house and picnic tables under the trees.  I still live on this property today although now, it's inside of the beltway.

My dad in a little boat he had turned into a trawler.  The net would yield washtubs of shrimp, a soft-shell crab or two, and a cornucopia of other creatures.  While my older brother helped my dad sort out the shrimp, I would poke through the teeming load of adventure laid out before me.  Tiny fish all all kinds, crabs, starfish, jellyfish and worms.  I especially liked the small puffer fish.  We, of course, released everything back into the water.  A lifetime of respect and love for Mother Nature.
Sometimes, the river was dead still.  On a hot, sultry day, you couldn't see the separation of water and air on the horizon.  They just sort of blended together.
Mr. C catching a ride with Uncle Dennis.  One of the two buildings in the background housed a generator which dad would crank-up on Saturday nights for the weekly fish fry and dance.  The generator would drive the lights and the jukebox.  Hank Williams as he was meant to be heard.  But I must say, my folks were fond of Swing and that's what was played mostly.  Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller and company.
Grandfather keeping an eye on me.
This photo has nothing to do with the fish camp.  It's my great-aunt and great-great uncle posing amongst their charges at the Jacksonville Alligator Farm, which they managed.  It's just a cool photo.  There were plenty of gators in the river where we swam.  We reached a truce with each other early on.  If they didn't get too close, we wouldn't clobber them with a stick.

So there you have it fellow travelers, Mr. Charleston bared to his roots.  Is this OK Susan?


  1. very nice. a peaceful reminder of a gentle time.

  2. Great old photos. If I had to guess, I would guess the St. John's River. Not too many other rivers in Florida as wide as the one image.

    I remember Florida as a youth in the early 1960s and the truce we made with the woods creatures. Like you, if they didn't bother us, we left them alone. Every morning I had the so very cool duty of doing a snake check around the yard. There was construction going on close by and disturbing the natural flow of things. I re-located more than a few snakes, poisonous and non-poisonous. Florida is where I fell in love with the woods. It has stayed with me my whole life.

  3. Thank you for a visit into your upbringing... very interesting, indeed. You are truly a versatile blogger!

  4. You are right on about the St. Johns Crum. Would love to visit your neck of the woods sometime. I know the hiking is great.

    Punch, Barbara... danke.

  5. Great photos of a time when things were simpler. That boat is really neat. Wooden boats are so beautiful. Your photos remind me of ones that I have from Tidewater on the Chesapeake--fishing and swimming was the life.

  6. Mr. C, your post is better than "OK". It's delightful! (Great pole dance!)

    How I would've loved growing up in a place like that. We spent many wonderful hours fishing, boating, crabbing, and clamming on the Chesapeake Bay over the years, but my parents moved our family out of our tiny rental home beside the water (our neighbors across the street had a two-seater, too) to a more inland row home (ptooie!) when I was quite young. (To some extent, my brother and I never quite forgave them ...)

  7. Of course, I had no idea of what a fish camp is. Now I do.
    It's a wonderful world; what memories you must have. Are there still fish camps around?

  8. I love old photos, but these are especially special because you've got the direct connection to them.

    What's up with Francois in the header, though? I've been away for a while, I know, but I wasn't expecting...Francois.

  9. I agree about the wooden boats Syd, I love them too, but not the maintenance. Glad you approve Susan. It's interesting how as kids you put value on the real things in life then at some point as adults some other value system takes over and you move because the grass is greener, etc.

    Friko, yes there still are fish camps. Not as many and not as rustic, but they still exist. Probably on the rivers and coasts of merry old England as well.

    Intelli... glad to have you back. I didn't purposefully select Francois, I was just looking for the schmarmiest (sp?) waiter I could find and it turned out to be Frenchy.

  10. Well C, you have once again made me pine for my roots of J'ville. Precisely the kinds of places my grandfather used to take me to fish. Probably even hit your place (Arlington?) on occasion. Unfortunately, I haven't any photos from those days but yours bring it back for me.

    Great post, bro!

  11. Oh, I totally neglected to mention that the Jacksonville Alligator Farm was one of my favorite places as a kid.

  12. Very nice photos - you are lucky to have them!

    And I'm one of those who wouldn't have known what a "fish camp" is.

  13. JJ... Glad I could warm your cockles. But that doesn't mean we're gonna hold hands in the shower or anything.

    PP... you know what one is now. So the next time you're at some sophisticated party you can drop your knowledge of fish camps on them and instantly become the belle of the ball.

  14. Ahhh... not to say your weren't the belle already!

  15. In NC, we went every summer to the nearest fish camp, not to fish, but to dine. We were piedmont landlubbers and no fishermen. In the early fifties in that part of central NC, there were few restaurants that were not part of nice hotels, and a casual meal out usually meant fried fish, hush puppies, and cole slaw at the fish camp. The restaurant was partly built on a pier over the river so we could look down at it moving beneath us as we ate. I was always afraid of falling in and being swept under the floorboards and away forever. I'd have found your upbringing exotic back then, not because I couldn't imagine it, but because I could.

    Congratulations on your blog award. Some bloggers eschew them, but I like it that you've been gracious about yours.


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