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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
Virginia Salvador- They would utilize everything that is true.
S This is my husband, and this is his brother. They would shovel big
shovels of ice into a n ice making machine. They packed it in
layers of ice to a hundred and five pounds a box. They shipped
them by trailer to the northern market. The Fulton market. This
has got the date on it. It's a beautiful story of the industry
really. This is when they were cleaning out this thing. This
shows them heading the shrimp. In the old days during the war, we
had the families that would come. The boats would come in late in
the evening, and they would head the shrimp. They had big tables
with stamous peel, and they would dump the shrimp in the middle.
Then the families would bring the babies, and put them in a shrimp
box with a little pillow. They headed shrimp, and it would run way
into the night. We would pay them so much a bucket.
Stetson Kennedy- The babies...
Virginia Salvador- The babies were there. You would get food in
for one of them. We didn't have a lot of food in those day, no
fast food you know. They would bring things in, and they would
have cold drinks or something for them. They really loved it. It
was a beautiful history of the industry really. In the old times,
you know what I mean.
Stetson Kennedy- It reminds me I was in China some years ago, and
the women were picking tea leaves off of the branches, and the
babies had some sort of mail keg, and they built a bamboo sack
about halfway down inside there.
Virginia Salvador- The babies would rock inside there, and they
* were close to their families. Yes, I see.
Stetson Kennedy- The babies also didn't need diapers because they
had that protection. They never thought of that.
Virginia Salvador- Oh, I see. They were not so sanitary in those
days. I don't know if you want to look into this or not.
Joanna- Yes, we would. We would even like to get copies of this
maybe if that's no problem.
Stetson Kennedy- What is your feeling about that? If there is a
copy shop near here, we could go together.
Virginia Salvador- If it will take copies you are welcome to them.
You know what, we lost a lot of them. In our industry, we lost a
lot. There was a gentleman here who was from the Chamber of
Commerce. We've been through this so many times you know, until
you get tired of it. For these young girls, I think it is
wonderful, it is a nice project. I wouldn't mind. People just...
My husband gave this man, he was a friend, and he gave this man
some pertinent information. The man was having family problems and
he left. I sure wish she threw them out, and we lost a lot. You
know they were written up in National Geographic, they were written
in Life magazine.
Stetson- In Life? Do you...
Virginia Salvador- Well, I had all the copies, but I have a couple
of them. I even have one, we were in Key West at that time with
our boat. My husband and his brother were the ones that found the
shrimp down there just off Key West, so we lived in Key West for a
* year with our boat. So, that's when it went national, you see.
That is because the shrimp at Tarpon Beach were called pink, they
were pink shrimp, and they called them "pink gold". That is the
first time that they found that the shrimp rose to the surface at
night. You didn't find them, they buried in the mud during the
day, and then at night they would come up. It would just be, with
the phosphorous on them, it just glittered. They thought it was
just gorgeous. So, they called them pink gold.
This is the obituary of my husband, you can take. I think I
have one laminated in the bedroom. I just looked for this last
night. I thought 'I've got to find something for those children.'
I think is probably part of what my son had in his stuff. I didn't
know you wanted all these personal. My husband was president of,
he was one of five men to from George Washington hotel in
Jacksonville that met and said the industry has got to have a
unified front. They have to have someone to lobby for them in the
state and the federal government. Now, they have ruined the
industry. The industry has ruined itself more or less, I don't
know. Time changes everything. They got together and organized.
They assessed each other so much a box, for each box of shrimp.
They put it in the fund. They also have a Southeatern Fisheries is
the name of the organization. It is still functioning out of
Tallahassee, and it's very effective. Now it comprises all of the
southeastern United States.
Stetson Kennedy- Do you know David Nord?
Virginia Salvador- Oh, yes I know David Nord very well.
Stetson Kennedy- He has been my best friend all through life.
Virginia Salvador- Is that right?
Stetson Kennedy- Now, he grew up in fishing.
Virginia Salvador- He did, he did. He as a handsome man, and a very
Stetson Kennedy- He passed away about two years ago. He was ninety.
Virginia Salvador- He did? I didn't realize that.
Stetson Kennedy- Yes, I bought his library.
Virginia Salvador- You did?! Then you've got all this. You have
every bit of it. He was really...
Stetson Kennedy- There was boxes full of publications that he had.
There were lots of copies and stuff. Would someone like to have
them? I don't know what the daughter did with them? I'm not
throwing them out because I know there are whole boxes of them.
Virginia Salvador- Well, I would like to have them, and go through
them. Of course, I'm the only left in my family. I think it is
nice for the heritage though, you know what I mean. I have so many
things. I told my husband at that time, my mother had mailed some
of the magazines to me, and I said. We had duplicates so I saved
them with the wrappers, and the postage and everything on it. John
let this man have them, and now.
Stetson- Is there any library in Florida, or is there anyone else
who would have copies of these things?
Virginia- Well, I think Southeastern would have a lot of that. In
fact, they had a convention, what is so sad is that you get
inundated with history sometimes, and we had an annual convention.
They took so many pictures, there was a whole bunch of them, and a
lot of people took them, and they took pictures. About five years
ago they said that anyone who is here that happens to want their
pictures of their family, they had accumulated of so many, that you
can pick out what you want. I think they must be up in the attic.
I think, basically, a lot of the history has been preserved.
Of course, my husband was president of the Shrimp Association of
Americas, which was North and South America. He went to Mexico
city every year. That was a wonderful way to connect with Mexico
because we were having lots of problems.
Stetson- I know that David went to those.
Virginia- Yes, he did. He came to everything. He was great, yeah.
Stetson- Did anyone specialize in taking and collecting photographs
of St. Augustine? Boats, and shrimping and that kind of thing?
Virginia- I don't think so.
Stetson- Tarpon Springs probably wouldn't have that.
Virginia- Fernandina probably would have some, but that is from the
very beginning. In fact, I have some. I will see if I can find
them for the girls.
Stetson- Anyway, if you could please do. The copy machines now are
making very good copies. You might as well if you feel safer doing
it that way.
Virginia- Like I say, I kind of let go of everything. It gets so
repitious, people keep coming, and everyone thinks that they are
the original one.
Stetson- I'm in the same business.
Virginia- Are you really? Well they're not. You keep repeating it
and after a while you think, oh, I've had enough of this. Of
course, I didn't mind, and my husband was very nice because he
loved the industry. His father was the one that started the
shrimping industry in this country.
Stetson- Where and when?
Virginia- In Fernandina.
Stetson- That would be how far back?
Virginia- Well, before his mother and father were married. You're
asking me dates that I don't remember. Fernandina would have that
document I am sure. Way back. He was on a freighter, and there
was a hurricane off the coast. He jumped ship in Fernandina, and
that's where he stayed. I guess he was familiar with the seafood
industry and shrimp and things, so he decided to see what he could
discover. He went out with a little small net. When he found
shrimp, he sent for his brothers-in-laws, which were Mr. Versaggi,
and Mr. Poli. Mr. Versaggi was Mrs. Salvador's brother. The other
two were married to the sister of Mrs. Salvador.
Stetson- Where were they living at that point?
Virginia- Well, they were living in New York. They came to
Fernandina. Then, after so long a time, he decided to come to St.
Stetson- They were all Italian?
Virginia- Yes, they were all Italian. I'm not, but they were.
Stetson- Had the family been in fishing before?
Virginia- Apparently they had been. They were from Sicily and on
down in the southern part of Italy.
Stetson- I was there once.
Virginia- Well, they are lovely people, very earthy people, very
nice people. Warm and happy.
Stetson- They enjoyed life.
Virginia- Yes, they did. They enjoyed life, and they were hard
Ivy- ...I love your house. It is very pretty, and I would like to
S get some shots of it.
Virginia- Thank you. I have lived in this house for fifty years.
My husband and I were in a little apartment for. the first four
years of our marriage, and then we moved here, it was right after
the war. We bought this house because of a friend of ours wanted
to sell it. He wanted to buy a franchise for western auto, and
Frigidaire. My husband gave him cash to pay for the house, and he
bought the franchise. This house was built by the same gentlemen
that we bought it from. His wife, her father was a contractor.
They built this home. It is over fifty years old, well it must be
sixty years old or older. It has been a warm friendly home to me
in all my happiness, in all my sadness it has been right here.
Stetson- The neighborhood is also very nice and quiet.
Virginia- Yes, it is very nice. We have a few neighbors that we
aren't to happy with, but you know how that goes. Young people
move in, and they aren't quite as particular. I have a lovely
family, young family, over here next door on my left. The family
on the right, our children grew up together. Yes, everyone in the
neighborhood. It has really been a nice life here.
Joanna- That's good. You said that they started the shrimping
Virginia- No honey, in Fernandina.
Joanna- Yes, in Fernandina. When did they come up here from
Virginia- Let's see. I just turned seventy seven. I must have
been about seventy two years ago that Mr. Salvador came to St.
Augustine. Then the rest of the families, and then the in laws
came too. They couldn't buy property, but they leased property
from the railroad. They were right down off of King Street, where
they had the three big buildings. They just tore down two of our
building down there, we had three of them. We had a scallop house
too, which I think Mrs. Versaggi, my husband got into the scallop
business too. It was too expensive, and it wasn't perfected enough
how to get the scallop shells open. When they brought them in they
had a time getting them through the inlet because the bottom of the
boat was heavy, and the bottom would bump on the bottom of the
ground. They had them into Cape Caniveral, and haul them up here
to shuck them. See how primitive it was. Then they found out once
they got them up here that if they didn't have them open in two
days, the muscle in the shell contracted so tightly that they
couldn't get them open. Then they worked on machines to try to
open them, and in the meantime the state had subsidized, sort of
like the pickers we were talking about with the shrimping, and they
taught them how to shuck them. We went through quite a bit of
Stetson- How did they shuck them?
Virginia- They did the same as with the oysters. It was such a
tedious thing it didn't work so well. My husband finally gave up
on it. He had invested a lot of money into it, and he said this is
going nowhere. It was no soon. The calico style is what they
produce down here, and they a far on a ledge, a shelf really out in
the ocean, I forgot how far out. They produced real heavy for a
while, but then, you know they can move over night.
Stetson- Oh, really?
Virginia- And they all moved.
Stetson- I didn't know that they were that moveable.
Virginia- They didn't know it either at that time. One day
they went out there, and they everything was gone. I guess
they had been fishing them, and I guess they were just like
everything else, they aren't dumb, and when they see things
they don't like coming, they just go away.
Stetson- That is the funniest things, because one of our teams
was talking to some fishing people in New Berlin, and they said
once they put a net across a creek, somewhere near the mouth
of a creek, and to take it out a gill net. After so many catches
Stetson- learned and never went back in that creek.
Virginia- They're smart.
Stetson- It's a dead creek.
Virginia- It's self preservation is what it amounts to.
Stetson- I am serious, now how are they going to teach the
generations not to go up that creek? Don't ask me.
Virginia- If they leave the net up there, they know, they'll
learn in a hurry. Now, outside of what I just told you about
the primary part of it, John's mother they sent for her, this
was a matched marriage you know. She thought she was getting
this handsome young man, and when he was older she was so upset.
She didn't want to be married to an older 'man. Anyway, he was
a sweet dear person, and they had four children as I showed
you here. After he moved here, before he even got settled in
good he had a gas heater in the bedroom, they thought he had
a heart attack at that time. Actually, what happened is he
was exfixiated. Then she was a widow with four children. He
had provided well for her. Even so, she was very bitter about
it and stayed that way. And then the children she had a cousin
or something that came in and helped her. Because the children
were small and then they grew into it. What can I tell you?
Did you want to ask me something?
Stetson- Were there a lot of Italian families in the seafood
Virginia- No, no. Yes, there were a lot in the seafood industry,
but this came later as the industry was established. As people
became aware of it they sent for their families, you know how
Stetson- All the way to Sicily?
Virginia- Well, no. Most of them were probably in New York
by that time.
Stetson- Oh, ok.
Virginia- They did send for families that were, you know how
a few of them would come in, and the next thing you know they'd
say come on over. That's why we have, well I guess I don't
know how large an Italian settlement they have down here now.
All of the older ones have died out. I am one of the few that's
Stetson- How many at the most would you say there were at one
Virginia- I would say around thirty five, forty families.
Virginia- Yeah, uh huh. And they all had big families, most
of them did you know.
Stetson- Were these Italian families the biggest in the seafood
thing here, or were there others?
Virginia- Oh yes. They were the only thing in the seafood at
that time. Well, you know the boats were small, but they were
still expensive. The local people, they didn't care about the
boats. They didn't object to them like the people in Key West
did. But, that was years later. The local people, of course
we've always been very seafood conscious, but it was always
easily assessable. You know, fishing off the piers, and fishing
in the ocean, and like that. You had cast nets and things and
you got all you wanted, and nobody thought about mass producing
it where you could make an income. They just caught for
themselves, for their own family.
Stetson- None of the Minorcan families in St. Augustine were
into commercial fishing?
Virginia- No, none of them. They were just into it for their
Kim- You said the people in Key West minded the boats. What
was the problem there?
Virginia- Yes. Well we were fortunate, some of my husband's
family had a home down there, and the people were very clannish,
same as they are here. When we went down to Key West they were
very gracious to my husband and I, but they were not very
gracious to the other people. The Key West people came and
they would complain because they said we were taking all their
seafood. They would sit there, and have their cappuccino in
the morning, and complain a lot. My husband knew, he quite
a nice way about him that he could talk to them. Now, it is
still a big production down in that area.
Stetson- Are there Italian families doing that or others? Who
is doing that?
Virginia- No, I don't think. Yes, the Versaggis were down there.
The lady you talked to yesterday, her nephew is in that. They
are down even in South America. She probably told you that.Kim-
I think she said Brazil.
Virginia- Yeah, they're gone all over. Their father was the
instigator, of course that was a wonderful family that she was
from, the Versaggi family. There are four brothers I think.
Kim- Five brothers, I think she said.
Virginia- Five brothers?
Kim- I think she said there was seven of them.
Joanna- Yes, five brothers, but one of them died early.
Virginia- Yeah, the dearest one died early. Well, one of the
dearest ones. But anyway, they had it pretty good. One of
the brothers was up in New York at Fulton Market. They had
access to the whole chain of command between the production
and the shipping and the selling. They all worked together,
very well. Then they moved to Louisiana, and we had a big lull
here at that time. That is one thing about the seafood industry,
S you are either flying high, and you're making and flinging money
or you are wondering where your next dollar is coming from.
Stetson- Nobody knows why they do that.
Virginia- No, they don't understand it.
Stetson- That's the way it works.
Virginia- And worked that way. So, you had to be careful with
your income. Of course, the type of people that you had working
for you were people that spent, they were not illiterate, but
they were not very educated.
Stetson- Who were they, black, white, what?
Virginia- They were mostly all black to begin with, but there
were white people too. Some of them were pretty smart, and
they ended up getting their own boats, and things like that
because they knew the industry.
Stetson- The whites were they Floridians?
Virginia- Yes, they were natives. They weren't foolish, they
saw what was going on. They figured well, we'll get part of
the action. We'll work on the boats and we'll learn what you
have to do. Of course when, what was it catapiller, there's
lots of history about this industry with the boats and the
equipment and everything. When catapillar had a man come down
here, a very wealthy man sponsored a young man Ringhaver, that
you are probably familiar with. He sponsored him to make the
boats down here, and in a way that is what happened to the
industry because his boats were so big and.so expensive and
so assessable, available to everybody you know what I mean,
and like the used to laugh and say, you won't some of the people
tha fish your boats, you won't let them drive a new Cadillac
in tonw but you'll give them a seventy-five or hundred thousand
dollar boat to fish.
Stetson- Those boats were here in St. Augustine?
Virginia- Yes. They were.
Stetson- Wooden boats?
Virginia- Yes, they were wooden boats. They had started building
steel boats. In fact, Puck O'Neil has a boatyard down off of
Riberia, at the end of Riberia Street. He was doing very well,
and was building steel boats. He was building building boats
for the Bahamas. For the Abalonians. Then he got into some
trouble. He kindof turned his business over to one of his
employees that was a fine young man, and he was doing some stuff
that the government didn't like so they gave him a rough time.
I do not know what he is doing down there now. I see there are
still boats down there and everything, so I guess they are doing
something, but not in the production like they were before.
Stetson- I lived in Key West some five years, and I remember
reading about when the Greek spongers first came to Key West
the local cop people
Virginia- Didn.'t like them either.
Stetson- set fire to their boats.
Virginia- Oh, really. They didn't want anyone coming in their
territory. Look what has happened to them though. Isn't that
sad? That the people have moved in on them and just, well they
found a good thing. It is beautiful down there.
Stetson- It is like if you have money you can buy out whoever
is there, and you have to go where you can go.
Virginia- That's right. That's true.
Stetson- Cemetaries and everything else. I have lots of friends
and family there that were taxed out of their homes.
Virginia- Well, it is interesting. Key West is a beautiful
city. I think so. I loved it when we were down there.
Stetson- The friction between the locals and your family there,
it never got to the point of burning boats did it?
Virginia- Oh, no! They were very nice. In fact, we had to
pack and unload at their docks because we didn't have any access
to anything down there you know. So, John had to talk to the
people, and they said ok.
Stetson- Good business for them too, I guess.
Virginia- Oh, yes. They didn't even have an ice plant down
there, do you believe that? They had to truck all the ice for
packing from Miami at that time because they weren't set up
for it. It was kind of still like a little village. You know.
Stetson- There were Johnsons that I can remember.
Virginia- Well, the Tapinos were one of the prominent families,
I'm not sure if they were Italian, maybe they were Greek or
something. They were in the dregging business. They would
dredge up that limerock, you know, ?nd they would cover it with
soil, and they made property as they went along. They were
a big developer down there. They got into the shrimping industry
after we came down. I have no idea, the family is doing now.
Stetson- What happened with all the Sicilian and Italian legends
and lullabys and the language, and how much of it stayed alive
in your experience?
S Virginia- I don't think it stayed. The young Italian people
that are here today that are descedants of the original ones,
they're pretty Americanized, and they're not motivated like
the grandparents and everything were.
Stetson- How about the cooking? Did that last longer?
Virginia- Oh, yes. That lasted. The cooking is still around.
Stetson- That is the last thing to go.
Virginia- I learned a lot of things I tell you. I learned a
lot about how to cook seafood. That was all new to me. I know
I cooked squid one time, and I didn't cook it, I mean I was
washing it, and I keep washing and washing. I was just a new
bride, and I laughed. A friend came by the house and asked
what I was doing. I said that I was trying to get the black
stuff out of the squid. They started laughing, my husband always
brought all the seafood home ready to fix, but he thought I
knew about it. The squid, there is a little ink sack in there
you know. The friend told me, me she said "You need to take
that ink sack out of there, or you will be here all day rinsing
and rinsing and rinsing."
Ivy- Would you hold that picture?...
Virginia- Actually it is a sweet picture. It was taken on the
back of one of our shrimp boats.
Joanna- Actually, the date is on there. 1946.
Kim- Yeah, it's on there. 1946.
Virginia- Is it really? Isn't that something.
Stetson- And people's names.
Virginia- Wow! And everybody's name. Phil. and Josie and John
and Jennie, Randy and Mike and Alex.
Joanna- Wow! All four of the original Salvador children are
in that picture.
Virginia- Uh, huh.
Joanna- There's only four children. Two boys and two girls,
and they are all deceased except the oldest one. She's in a
nursing home in Jacksonville. She's about 85, I think. She
hasn't been well for a long time.
Kim- We need to stop here for a minute to turn the tape over.
Virginia-...His brother was single, and he signed up for the
coast guard. They were in, what's the Greek settlement over
there? Tarpon Springs. He was in Tarpon Springs. The
government took all our boats when the war started, they took
our boats, confiscated them.
Virginia- To control the coast. For the submarines and all
that. We were up in Thunderbolt outside of Savannah.
Ivy- That's where I am from Thunderbolt. I am from Savannah.
Virginia- Are you from Thunderbolt?
Ivy- Well, I am from Savannah, but Thunderbolt is just a part
Virginia- Did you know the Sesaronis?
Ivy- No, I
Virginia- You didn't know anybody down there.
Ivy- I knew the Chabuckas. I went to school withChabuckas.
Virginia- I don't know them.
Ivy- I am from Savannah.
Virginia- Are you really? Don't you love it up there. Oh, I
think it is a wonderful place. I love it. So, anway, when
the government took all our boats it left us high and dry.
So we built a boat. My brother-in-law started the Greek people
to build us a boat. They didn't know how to do it, but they
did. He built the boat, and they named it the Port Sailor,
which was after one of the wonderful combat planes that they
had just developed or something. We brought that here. And
then we built the Morning Star, which was, that's the name of
the boat, which was just under the specifications of what the
government wanted, because we had to have something to make
a living. The boats could only go out after sunrise, and they
had to be in before sunset. If you could have seen that precious
little boat coming through the bridge, and we'd be out there
looking for it, you know waiting for it, and it would be loaded
down with shrimp. The stern of the boat would almost be in
the water it was so full of shrimp. That is when the pickers
would pick at'night when they would come in. It was a beautiful
sight. You know, we supplied five different, four restaurants
and Camp Blanding with seafood, as well as the local people,
because you didn't have to have food stamps for food at that
time. Everything else you had to have food stamps for.
S Stetson- When the government took your boat, did they pay you
the right price or whatever they wanted to?
Virginia- They didn't pay us until after the war.
Stetson- After the war.
Virginia- If it had not been for small town, and good credit,
and good people, good bankers that you don't find any more.
They knew that the government owed us, and that they would pay
us. They helped give us a nucleus large enough to let us build
to replace. Isn't that something. But, what else could you
do you know what I mean. The government needed them.
Stetson- The government wasn't very worried about it.
Virginia- They didn't ask. No, they weren't hurt. That's right.
That's right. That's how we ended up like we did. We struggled,
I'll tell you.
Stetson- You're saying that the Xynides family had not been
in boat building up until that time?
Virginia- I really can't say definitely that that is what it
was. I do know he brought Harry Xynides, and he is deceased.
His son might still be alive.
Stetson- Well, Harry is still alive. We spoke with him.
Virginia- Well, -arry will tell you. They named their first
baby after me, no I christened the baby. John and I christened
their first baby boy.
Stetson- Harry is there. A man in New Berlin said that Harry
ran back and forth to Tarpoon Springs because that was where
all the women were.
Virginia- Oh, I know. He was a bugger. Anyway, we brought,
I forgot what the man's name was, and Harry came to St.
Augustine. That's where they built the Morning Star was down
at Milton Kimose's boatyard. He had a little boatyard, up behind
Granny's Kitchen, down in there.
Stetson- Did everyone stop building wooden boats? Are there
no more wooden boats being built?
Virginia- You know what, I think they can build them so cheep
overseas, that now, no. I don't really know. I haven't kept
up with the industry because I still get literature from
Southeaster Fisheries, and I had asked them because I wanted
to keep up with our friends, after my husband passed away, but
I get all that literature on the problems they are having, and
it's nice to know I have the empathy for them, you know what
I mean, because it's not fair. Everything has to change, and
it seems like the sports fishing here in Florida has really
Stetson- If the fish markets have become empty then you probably
aren't doing well.
Virginia- It's getting there. It's getting there because the
prices are way up there too, you know. And you can catch a
lot of that fish right here. I remember when the one Sunday
afternoon, we were a young couple, and we had all our family
down on the beach. We used to go down, and we had things it
was about four or five feet high in the slew, and we'd find
a slew, we caught so much sheep head that we had it strung up
on reaves of, what do you call it, sea oats, reaves of sea oats.
We had them all over the car. We blew the horn all the way
into town, and everybody in town came down, and everybody got
fish, and we just. Oh, we had good times you know. It was
happy. Everybody shared, but you don't see the production
anymore I guess they kind of cleaned out the area.
Stetson- What year are you thinking about now with the sheephead?
Virginia- Oh, I don't know. I guess it was about, let's see.
Stetson- Thirty, was it forty?
Virginia- No, I wasn't married until '41. So it was probably
in the late forties, maybe early fifties. Oh, we had a lot
of fun. Well, we made our own entertainment in those days,
you know what I mean. We'd go down fishing, then we had a big
old chuckwagon, that we'd pull down on the beach, then we'd
fix breakfast, and camp out all day, sunbathing, playing,
Joanna- That sounds like fun.
Virginia- Oh, we had wonderful times.
Stetson- Which beach was it?
Virginia- St. Augustine beach.
Stetson- Is anyone else still doing anything like that today?
Nobody fishing in the beach?
Virginia- The government won't let you do that.
Stetson- Won't let you anymore. But before the law, were they
still on the beach?
Virginia- Oh, sure. All the time, everybody was. And then they
would share with everybody. They did it at North Beach too.
In fact, when we stayed over there in the summertime, they'd
go saning all the time. They got mullet all the time. All
you had to was walk down and say, how about a couple of mullet,
I want to cook some for dinner. They'd say, sure help yourself,
take whatever you want, you know.
Stetson- Whatever happened to the donacks? Are they out there?
Virginia- Oh, I think they're still out there.
Stetson- They wash up on the beach at the right tide.
Virginia- Oh, and we'd take the collanders, and then make the
donack soup, broth, and it was delicious.
Stetson- What's your recipe for donack soup?
Virginia- Oh, don't ask me I haven't done any.
Stetson- I was a child, I haven't had any since I was a child.
That's a long time.
Virginia- It wouldn't taste the same to you. Because your taste
buds change. It was like a clear broth you know.
Stetson- I still remember it. My mother put a little bit of
cream, and butter, paprika, and
Virginia- Good eating, huh. Oh, seafood, I think our shrimp
off this coast, and not Key West now, but I love the shrimp
on this east coast because they're sweet, and pure. And if
you catch the ocean shrimp, they're marvelous. They are so
gorgeous, in fact my husband has a picture that Mr. Reiner took
of a shrimp, that he had, it was in color. It was just elegant.
It was like a-peacock, the little flippers in the back, they
were all colored red, and green, and yellow, and blue. It was
just. The gray of the shrimp on the east coast are sort of
a pearl gray, and they're translucent. They are beautiful.
When you first catch them, they are a picture to see.
Stetson- I like the saying now, they don't taste like they used
Virginia- Well, you know why is because you aren't getting the
same shrimp. If you get your shrimp from the east coast, they'll
taste just as good. You know we're getting all these tiger
shrimp from shrimp farms, and it's a whole different thing today.
These young people will never know all the good seafood that
we experienced and enjoyed. I was telling myself this morning,
I ran a couple of errands before you all came, and I said "I
want a good piece of fish." I just get so hungry for it. My
husband used to give it away all the time, snapper and grouper
and all that. And I thought, people don't want that, John,
people don't want that. Now, I would give my first week's pay
to get a good piece of fish. Really it's wonderful. You live
Virginia- Have you ever heard of Osteen's?
Virginia- Have you eaten over there?
Virginia- Do you like it?
Virginia- You do?
Virginia- Well, they normally have the local shrimp.
Kim- That's the best place to eat in St. Augustine.
Virginia- Oh, I know. And Barnacle Bill's is on the same level,
but it's a lot more expensive.
Stetson- I find that I like Osteen's better. That's just better.
Virginia- It is more like a family restaurant.
Kim- I have been there before, and there are people lined up
all around the building.
Virginia- That's right. The line a lot of people don't like.
...My home is in a new book. It is called the Houses of St.
Augustine. It shows you the architecture of different homes.
David Millon's book, he has also done one on Key West.
Stetson- Hal Manucy too. Did you know him?
Virginia- Oh yes, all the Manucys. I loved the Manucys. They're
just wonderful. My home is in this book, and it shows you the
architecture. You would be interested in this. Have you seen
Virginia- Have you heard about it?
Ivy- Is that the new one with Ken Barrack?
Virginia- Ken Barrack, yes, I knew him. He played with my son
in the neighborhood. He was here all the time. I guess you
know him through photography, I guess.
Stetson- Where is your home?
Virginia- Well, I am just trying to figure out where it is.
It is further back in here. Here it is. Isn't that nice.
Joanna- Oh, wow.
Virginia- My little neighbor next door, I think her house is
in here too.
Ivy- I'm ready.
Virginia- Oh, you're ready
Ivy- Yes, I want to get you, and your pretty front door.
Joanna- This is November 29, 1995.
Kim- This is us in the middle of the tape, doing the introduction
we were supposed to do in the beginning.
Joanna- This is Kim and Joanna, and we are here with Mrs. John,
or Virginia Salvador. She's here telling us about the fishing
and fishing industry, and the history of her family because
they were a very prominent family here. That is what she has
shared with us so far, and she will be sharing with us a little
bit more now. I guess we will try to take it from a starting
point now, and work with your family, and talk more about what
they did. You said that your family brought a lot of other
families down here, the Polis and the Versaggis. They were
related to you? I did not realize that.
Virginia- Sisters and brothers. Mrs. Spiller, Mrs. Versaggi's
father was a Salvador, wait a minute. No, he was a Versaggi,
and my mother was a Versaggi that married a Salvador. With
Poli, Mrs. Poli was also a Versaggi, so there were two sisters
and a brother that they came, and it was their husbands and
wives see. That's why it is all related. It is all cousins
Joanna- I had never realized that before. I knew that there
were three different families.
Virginia- Mrs. Spiller, that you talked to yesterday, her mother,
I mean her father was a Versaggi, of course. My mother-in-law
Mrs. Salvador, was a Versaggi. Mr. Poli's-wife was a Versaggi.
She was a Carmella-Versaggi, and she married a Poli, so that's
how they are like two sisters and a brother you see. They all
did their individual business, they didn't ever go into business
together, but they were all did the same business, and they
were all right down on the river together.
Joanna- You said your husband, when you started talking you
said your husband was in to, what all was he into? You said
he tried scallops for a while, and shrimping, and some type
of fishing. What all did he do with that?
Virginia- Well, see his father started the shrimping industry,
so he naturally got into that. His father passed away when
he was only five years old. When he was a young child, they
had a retail market and he would get up early and had two paper
routes, then he would go to the restaurants and get the orders
for the seafood for the day. Then as he grew up he was down
dealing with the packing house. We also had a retail market.
Then as he got older, we had trailers that hauled the seafood
up to northern markets. We shared a packing house with the
fishers that we fishers in Cape Caniveral. When they fished
in the wintertime, let's see, we had a spring season that was
a short May and June. In October, you would start as soon got
cooler, then the shrimp would. In the summertime we would go
up to Georgia; We stayed at the Thunderbolt outside of Savannah
on the river. We stayed there for about May or first part of
June, once the weather started getting warm. We'd stay up there
because the fish migrated north. Because the water was cooler.
We would go up there in June, and we'd come back in September.
Then around October, we'd start with our winter season. October,
November, and December was the winter season here in St.
Augustine. Then if it was really cold the shrimp would migrate
between St. Augustine down to Cape Caniveral. So, that was
called Cocoa Beach at that time, and the packing house on the
dock that we had down there was way out. It was totally out
in the wilderness. I used to tell my husband "Can't we go
anywhere where there is civilization?" Everywhere you went
there was no civilization. It was all like woods, then you'd
be down by the river, you know what I mean. The mosquitos would
eat your hands, they're hungry. So, it was, kind of, but that
was the way it was at that time. So then, let's see, after
that was when we were first married, we'd go down to Cocoa.
The boats, we'd go from Savannah down to Cocoa. Here, and then
down to Cocoa. Then right before the war ended we, or right
after the war ended we got the shrimp down in Key West. So,
we lived down there for a year and a half to run the boats.
Joanna- Did you just rent a house down there or something?
Virginia- Yes, we rented a little apartment through some friends
of ours. We packed out, they had turtle crawls down there,
and they produced other kinds of seafood so they had docks and
things, a couple of docks. So, we had to get permission to
unload at their docks, and we had trailers to haul the seafood
from there. Then we had to truck all the ice in from Miami
because they didn't even have an ice plant there. It was kind
of primitive the way you had to work. Then we finally bought
our boats back home, and we operated out of St. Augustine.
We just didn't go anyplace else. Except for Savannah, back
and forth up and down the east coast. That's the way we
Joanna- Instead of going so far away. How did, you said that
they got interested, you said that when you went to Key West
is when the national things got interested in it because of
the pink gold.
Virginia- Yes, they discovered the shrimp there. In fact, they
had been out for two days, and didn't catch anything. They
were about ready to give up, and say "Well, it was a fluke thing
you know", and then go. But on the way coming home that evening,
they decided to make one more drag, and when they did,
evidentally it was the time of night when the shrimp all come
up to the surface see. Oh, they just loaded up. And there
was, with the phosphorous, they were so beautiful and glowing
in the moonlight that they called them pink gold. That was
when they were written up. Like I said, that was why we stayed
down there so long because it really went all over the country,
the news. And by that time, after the war, people had been
introduced to seafood. Inland states never knew, they didn't
care for shrimp, and they didn't care for a lot of seafood
because they did not have access to seafood from the coast line.
The war, with-everybody all the service people going from all
the inland states in the middle of the northwest and all of
them came in the navy and stuff and they learned. They were
introduced, and all the sudden the seafood industry was just
bounding. They were really, there was a big demand. And ever
since then, there's been a big demand. People really love good,
fresh seafood. Of course, my husband was just so particular
about his production. It has to be iced down, and taken care
of properly because that's the joy and the pleasure of it.
If you have it good and fresh, there's nothing any better than
good fresh seafood. Anyway, that's. I don't know what else
to tell you now.
Joanna- He did the shrimping and all, because his father did
that. He tried scallops for a little while. Did he try those
Virginia- Yes, we had three packing houses down off the inlet
of the river here, the San Sebastian River. One was the retail
market. Of course, they were all packing houses for the boats.
The boats would come Carolina down here in the wintertime.
They would produce here. We had a lot of boats that were packing
out with us in the wintertime. They came the same as we went
up to Savannah in the summer. I got lost what I was telling
Joanna- About the scallops.
Virginia- So he decided the fellows were catching some scallops
in the nets, a few, and he said "I know they're out there."
He decided to experiment with it. There were certain specific
nets that were meant to drag. They knew they were on a shelf
up out there. That's where they had found them when they were
fishing. So, that's when they started bringing them in. It
was the third packing house, of course everything had to be
cement floors with drains, and you had to keep it very washed
down for sanitary purposes. They started bringing the scallops
and they were brining in just mounds of them. Then you had
to teach these people how to shuck them. They shucked them like
oysters. Then they couldn't get the boats, if the boats got
a heavy load they couldn't get in through the channel had filled
in so much that the boats would hit the bottom coming in. So
they decided well, they'll take them down to Cocoa and truck
them up here. It got complicated. They did that for about
a year and a half, almost two years, and he decided it was
something he didn't want. They tried. He had a man from Miami
who was an inventor, and he was working on a machine to shuck
them. He still hadn't perfected it. So my husband decided
to quit. He had invested enough in it. Then there was another
company that invested in it here in town, but they made them
close up because they were hauling their shells. We disposed
of our shells, but evidentally he knew where to go. These other
people were hauling them through the streets and they were
draining, and the people were complaining, so they made them
stop. Then they moved on the St. Johns River, and they finally
closed them up there too. They were not handling it properly,
it was a hazard. It was a health hazard, and people in the
neighborhood didn't like it. Those little calico scallops
are delicious.' They're wonderful. They, one of these days,
you know, they'll figure out how to handle it. They're not
like the big bay scallops, they're small. But they are very
tasty and nice. That's as far as he got into that. He didn't
pursue it any further.
Joanna- Did he do fishing? Some of the pictures were of fishing.
Virginia- He never did fish his own boats, but he had captains
that fished. Normally they were three men crews, a captain
S and two helpers. On the boats they had sections in the hold
where they could keep the seafood compacted. They had ice in
a couple of the holds. As they caught the seafood they washed
them down on the deck, and separated the scrap things from the
shrimp, and then packed them in layers of ice to keep them until
they brought them ashore. Then you saw the pictures of the
baskets. That's how they unloaded the boats. They had those
big wire baskets. They would shovel the shrimp and the ice
and the a-frame pulley thing and they would unload the boat.
It was very interesting. Then they would put them on a conveyer
belt, after they were headed. They washed them again and packed
them in ice. The also picked out all the pieces and threw them
away because they only wanted the perfect shrimp.
Joanna- So the little popcorn shrimp, they didn't keep those?
Virginia- No, they threw it all away.
Joanna- They did?
Virginia- Because the market wouldn't handle them. Also, they
would spoil. They didn't have a way to dispose of them. If
they were bruised in any way they didn't pack well, they didn't
transport well so they just wanted the perfect shrimp, and that's
what they got. I think that is about everything I can tell
you. I don't remember anything else.
Joanna- Can you think of anything Kim?
Kim- I just forgot what I was thinking about.
Virginia- I think you have quite a bit compiled with what else
you've got. And Darrell Poli is real sweet. He calls me all
the time, and asks. I really should get whatever I have left
together. His family gave me the industry also. Of course,
they came in later because they were related to the original
Polis. It was a brother. Darrell's father was a brother of
the original ones that came down. He's a fine young man, and
they're a lovely family.
Joanna- I just thought of something... it was the about family
and when your husband was the president of the Southeast
Fisheries, what were his responsibilities?
Virginia- It comprised of the Carolinas, and Georgia and Florida
and Alabama. They coordinated as far as regulating trying to
protect the industry, and to see that everyone observed the
rules and regulations of not abusing, like going up into the
estuaries, and destroying the habitat when they were just in
production and things like that. It was also to present a
unified front to the government, and to the state that they
didn't want people coming in and abusing the priveledge. They
wanted to preserve the industry, and preserve the production.
They didn't want them fishing when the shrimp were not mature,
you see. That's why Georgia for a long time, I don't know what
they do now, for a long time both Georgia and Florida had closed
seasons. There were a few months when production, they wouldn't
let you fish because the little ones were being hatched out,
and they wanted to protect them see. And then they wouldn't
let them fish up in the estuaries at all because that's. When
the rains would come in the fall, they would flush them out,
it's just nature's way, you know what I mean, of taking care
of everything. So, now I understand, they even have rules or
laws that you can only catch so many fish of a certain species
because they're fishing them out. You see there are so many
people around the world today. Years ago, there wasn't all
this mass humanity, and the consumption was not as extreme as
it is now you see. You see how everyone has seafood, it's
breaded and it's processed and all that sort of thing. Well,
the industry started to get into that, we never got into that,
but other people in the industry did. That's why you find a
lot of seafood. You don't know where it's from when you eat
it today. When my husband was on the Presidential Advisory
Committee there were only twelve men on the committee, one from
each area. They had two meetings a year. One they called in
the field which was in one of the member's area, and one was
in Washington. They also talked, they exchanged information,
and got numbers so they could protect the industry. They wanted
to learn, and that's when they found, when one of first space
ships went up, I think it was the second one, someone came up
with an idea at the last moment to give them a movie camera
to take the picture of the whole coast line as the space went
over the whole United States. Especially even Africa and South
America. I was amazing because I was at the meeting. Of course
when he was appointed to that committee, the FBI came in and
investigated you, and your family and checked you out because
that was a very responsible position, you .know. So, it was
they got a lot of information, and of course, I don't know what
I did with that picture. I thought I had it here. Anyway it
was of the board that he was on. I didn't think you would be
interested in that. They were from all over the United States.
They would get the input from everybody. We spent, what, ten
days up in Koie, Alaska. On this committee. It was wonderful.
We had a session, and Delmonte foods was the host that time.
They had very extensive meetings. I pertained to the Japanese
and fishing and how they were over fishing, and how they were
really abusing the priviledge. Trying to establish your
continental guidelines your mileage for being too close in to
the states and that sort of thing. Keeping you off-shore in
international waters, rather than coming in. Because Boston,
and up that way have had a big problem too. Oh, yes. They
overproduced them until now they can. Those poor people are
really suffering. They won't let them fish, and when they do
fish, they can only get a certain amount, then they have to
quit. It's very difficult, but everything has been fished out.
That's the problem. So, what they're trying to do is come back
like it was. And it will come back with time. You can't just
go out and dredge up everything, and distrub the ecology, that's
the main thing. In the old days of course, and they would have
to come in, say after two days fishing. When the ice would
start melting, they didn't have refrigeration. They would bring
them in and have a fresh product. With the freezer plants,
of course, that's big business, that's not the little individuals
like it used to be. I was trying to think last night, I was
think of the names of the different boats that we had. My
husband had one boat named the Dragonette, which I though was
kind of a cute name. We had lots of different names. They
were all, they bring back happy memories. There were individual
people on these boats, and they loved the industry so they
protected it as much as they could. They loved what they were
doing. I have people tell me all the time, oh they miss our
fresh market because it was so great. I had it for years, but
everything is gone now, so. That's the way it goes.
Joanna- What were you telling us about when they had the video
camera up in space, and were taking the pictures? We didn't
get that on tape. The tape ran out.
Virginia- Well, when John was on this government advisory
committee, once in the field, which was in the different states,
and then the second meeting would be in Washington. They would
tell these men on the committee, impart to them all the knowledge
that they had acquired, and things of scientific that they were
doing. Then they got input from people in the industry of what
was going on. Then someone got the idea at the last moment,
I think it was the second spaceship that went up, to give them
a camera. You couldn't see through those little windows hardly.
They said just put it on your shoulder, and point it out the
window, and take whatever was there, you know. They got back,
and they developed all the prints, and started checking it out,
and analyzing it they found out that on the coast like South
America they could tell where the estuaries were, and tell where
the rise and fall in tide was.
Joanna- From that far up?
Virginia- They could tell from the water, from the color, and
the amount of motion from the ocean, and like that what could
be produced in those areas. I think that is when they started
to fish down in that region. That was virgin territory that
had never been fished before. So, it was, that was a wonderful
time. It was a very educational thing. Like I said, in Kodiak
Alaska and being out there for ten days, you learned a lot.
That's about all I can tell you girls.
Joanna- You've told us a lot. Is there anything else I can
think of real quick?...There's a lot of history that goes into
the fishing and shrimping industry. Everybody has different
little pieces and parts of it, and we're just trying to gather
them, and put them all together.
Virginia- Well, sure you are. You girls are doing real well.
Joanna- Thank you.
Virginia- It seems like you are very through too.
Joanna- We try to be. At first, we didn't know exactly what
to get, and how to get it, but as time has gone on we've found
out a lot more about it ourselves. We've tried to do some
background research and we found out more about it ourselves,
and what is going on, so now we know more what to talk about.
Virginia- Well, we had a man in banking here, I guess it was
fiften to twenty years ago now, that wrote a paper, his thesis
on this. He was trying to, I don't know what he was doing it
for. He was banking, and he was doing it for his own future
education and accredidation. He wrote a paper, and it is at
Rutgers University. It's in their library. He worked on it
for two years. I don't know if you can get any information
from it or not.
Joanna- We might try to look into that. That would be helpful
Virginia- Yes, my husband gave him all the papers and helped
him, and talked to him a lot. Like I say, it is a lot of the
beginning of the history of the industry. That't one of the
few pieces, I think, that have been put into a historical areas,
libraries and like that. At least that I know of. There's
lots of other people in the industry now. Like over in Tampa
and different places.
Joanna- Thank you very much for your time today. We appreciate
all that you shared with us.
Virginia- You are very welcome. Glad that I could help.