Interview with Janis V. Williams

Material Information

Interview with Janis V. Williams
Williams, Janis V. ( Interviewee )
Joanna Eceles
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
University of North Florida Fisherfolk Oral History Collection ( local )

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Full Text


This Oral History is copyrighted by the Interviewee
and the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of

Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
All rights, reserved.

This oral history may be used for research,
instruction, and private study under the provisions
of Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of United States
Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section
107) which allows limited use of copyrighted
materials under certain conditions.
Fair use limts the amount of material that may be

For all other permissions and requests, contact the
the University of Florida

Interview with Janis Williams
Interviewer: Joanna Eceles

(Joanna): Its November seventeenth, nineteen ninety-five, and this is Joanna Eceles and I'm here with Janis
Williams. She's going to be telling us about the history of St Augustine, and fishing, and growing up in a
fishing family. You can start with what ever you like.
(Mrs. Williams): I moved to St. Augustine when I was six years old, that was in nineteen fifty-five. In the
middle fifties, most of the big, big shrimping and fishing industries in St. Augustine was no longer here. I
came back to Florida because my father had grown up here. My father was born in Sicily, and was brought
to this country when he was still a babe in arms. He was nine months old when he crossed the ocean with
his mother, on a steam ship. He lived in New York city for a while where his father was a Longshoreman.
But eventually, they decided to join other relatives who had already come. Some cousins, who had already
come to Florida, they were living in Femandina, and they were already shrimping. So, my family, the
Versaggi family, was not the first, but they among the first. The others were the Salvadores, and the Polls..
.My grandfather joined them, and for a time, they worked together. And then he went on his own and
started his own business. So most of the activity in shrimping took place long before I was born. I'm
talking now about the nineteen teens. At that time, I know from family stories, that shrimp was something
that most people did not eat. Some of the coastal people did just because they knew about shrimp.
However, the mass market that we see today, with Red Lobster, and sizzling shrimp on television, and all of
that was unheard of In the early days, people really didn't know what to do with them. In fact, there's an
interesting reference in Hemingway's book called Death in the Afternoon. He's describing a place in Spain
where the bull fighters used to go, and he said 'There's this curious little crustacean called a shrimp, and
people actually eat it.'.. .It's ajaning note in today's world, but you have to remember that he was writing,
again, in the nineteen twenties, or thirties perhaps. .My dad tells me that as a child, he would go before
school and help his father at the fish house. They called it a fish house, even though my family was always
involved in shrimping. .After school, in particular, in season, he'd go right after school and help his dad
until way late at night. And then he would come home and do his homework.
(Joanna): What is the season?
(Mrs. Williams): Well, I'm not exactly sure. I know that there are different kinds of shrimp. There's red
shrimp, pink shrimp, green shrimp, and brown shrimp. Those are the ones I know about. And they're all
different. Some of them are nocturnal, they're active at night. Others are not. Some have seasons that vary
according to location, too. So, the season up by South Carolina, and the outer banks off North Carolina is
different from the season at Key West or in the Gulf of Mexico. So, I really don't know...
(Joanna): About how much time did your family spend shrimping? How much time was involved in it?
(Mrs. Williams): Well, every day, that was all they did. His part was to head shrimp. I've seen him show
me how to do that. He would hold a shrimp in one hand, and use his thumb, and flick the head off. The
shrimp is sold with the head at one price, and without the head at another price. They got a better price if
they took off the head. So that was his job, was to head shrimp. And he did this all day and all night. It
must have been cold, because he said his hands got cold. And he would just keep on doing that until he
couldn't even feel his hands, that were so cold from being in the water and handling the shrimp.
(Joanna): What was like for you when you came back? When you all moved back, what did they do then?
(Mrs. Williams): Well, I missed the middle part of the story, let me give it all in one piece. My grandfather,
Salvadore Versaggi, formed his own business called the Versaggi Shrimp Company. Then, unexpectedly,
he got encephalitis lethargica. He got sick in May, of nineteen twenty-five, and in July he died. And my
dad was seventeen years old, he turned eighteen the following month, in August. And he was the eldest of
seven children. So his mother decided that, rather than sell the business, which was what all of her relatives
wanted her to do, and some of them even advised that she should go back to Sicily, where she came from..
.She decided now that she was going to stay, and that my father was going to help her. So, instead of going
to college, which is what he'd hoped to do, and be a lawyer, he would, instead, take over for his father, and
raise all of those children, and keep the business going. And all of the sudden, he was doing it. That
changed things completely for him. My grandfather had already planned to move to St. Augustine from
Fernandina. There was more opportunity here, better schools for the kids, and also, there was a lot of
shrimping activity up and down the coast. And it was immaterial to him whether he lived in Fernandina, or
St. Augustine, or New Smyrna, or any place else. But he liked St. Augustine, had stopped in here several

times, was spending a lot of time here on the boats, coming by boat rather than by rail or any other way. So
he decided he would move, and he bought a lot, here, and was prepared to begin building a house when
they got set. So my father carried through with those plans. Built the house, and moved the family to St.
Augustine, and continued to operate the business. .My first cousin bought the house when my
grandmother died, and he and his family are living there now.
So, for me, coming back in nineteen fifty-five, when my dad had come in nineteen twenty-five,
thirty years before, for him, it was like coming home, because he knew everybody in St. Augustine. At one
point, he was the representative to Tallahassee, the state representative from this county. So he knew a lot
of people, because of his political work. And it was fun. It was easy and wonderful to get right back into
the town for him. At that time the shrimp business was not as active here because by then the big shrimp
beds had been found down by Key West. The Salvodores had found them. Johnny and Felix Salvadore
are first cousins to my father, and they're the ones that found the night shrimp that really put shrimping on
the map in south Florida in modem times. And then, those same shrimp migrated into the Gulf, and many
of the shrimping businesses had gone into the Gulf, as my father had. That's why I was born in Louisiana
and not here.
(Joanna): And so he moved from St. Augustine to Louisiana?
(Mrs. Williams): Yes.
(Joanna): How long did he live there before he moved back?
(Mrs. Williams): They moved prior to the second world war, that would have been in the late thirties. One
of his brothers established the first business there, the first office, and was fishing out of Patterson and
Norman City, Louisiana. And then, my father went to Louisiana and took over when his brother was
drafted. My father was not drafted, they wanted him to continue operating the shrimp business, in order to
feed the people of the country, and to also keep a reconnaissance for enemy ships. The shrimp boats were
like private spies, and they made reports, and the found burning tankers that had been torpedoed by the
Germans right off of our coast, many of them. They'd pick up survivors, both German and American. And
they generally made a report every day on the activity that they thought was out of the ordinary, in the Gulf
and in the Atlantic. So, that was kind of a lesser known part that the shrimpers played at that time.
(Joanna): So, they were kind of under cover, or something?
(Mrs. Williams): Yes, they would go out when they could get gasoline rations, and get parts for the engines,
which were very hard to get during the war. They would act as spies, and that was one of the rationales that
the government made in order to provide them with the parts they needed for their boats.
So, that office opened in, say, nineteen thirty-nine, or something like that. And it continued in
operation until nineteen...the late sixties, with another brother. The five brothers eventually wound up in
the business. My father being the first, sense he was the oldest, but there were four others. And at one
time, they had an office in Louisiana, one in Texas, one in South America, and they were talking about
going to Africa, where those big red shrimp come from, that are four or five to a pound. And, the fifth
brother was the wholesale agent, in the Fulton Fish Market in New York City. So they were shipping their
own product, on their own trucks, from Texas and Florida, to New York, to be sold. And also to Chicago,
(Joanna): So, they just have the whole thing set up at every place? At every point along the line of the
business? Makes it more convenient that way.
(Mrs. Williams): Right. The costs were more easier to predict. They did have a lot of contractors, they
didn't own their trucks, they were leased trucks. So, they would contract with the driver, who owned the
truck. Usually, part of a kinship pattern that was related in some way, either to the family, or somebody else
that they knew.
(Joanna): So, what happened when you came back here?
(Mrs. Williams): There was very little shrimping activity in St. Augustine then. I would say, a couple dozen
boats, maybe. And little by little, those boats dwindled down until today there are just two or three here.
The shrimp were over fished, they caught too many of them. There was no regulation on catching the
spawning shrimp in the rivers, river shrimp. A lot of people would put a dock in their back yard on the
river, and take little gill nets, and go catch them. Some of the little baby shrimp were never grown up, the
didn't leave the marine estuaries and go out to the ocean, and become mature shrimp. But the far larger
cause was industrial pollution. Up and down the east coast, there were chemical dumps. People thought
nothing of taking factory wastes from pulp mills, for instance, or from any other kind of factory.

Chemicals, detergents, all kinds of stuff was just thrown out into the ocean. And consequently, the
combination of river pollution and dumping in the ocean, caused a tremendous impact on the shrimp crop.
And there was a time, too, when they were over fished. The fishermen themselves caught so many that
they could not replenish. It was a very profitable crop at that point. And so, any one-who could get a boat
together, and get out there, could make money. And then they were over fished.
(Joanna): And then there wasn't any left.
(Mrs. Williams): That's right. However, they would find shrimp in other places. When daddy was in
business, I heard him talk about going up to Bueford, South Carolina, or down to New Smyrna, or to Cape
Canaveral, following the boats. Also through the Gulf the same thing. One little town to another, to go
where the boats were.
(Joanna): To go where the shrimp were.
(Mrs. Williams): Right.
(Joanna): So, after a while you kind of had to follow. And they aren't here as much anymore.
(Mrs. Williams): Right. Today, I only know of two boats that are still working. Sometimes seasonally we
see boats coming from South Carolina. They're still following the shrimp...
One of the things, though, that was interesting about St. Augustine, was it's continuation of the
blessing of the fleet. I think that was a Chamber of Commerce kind of thing, that got going in the thirties,
perhaps, when St. Augustine was really a big shrimping town. All the shrimp boats would go by the city
pier, and the Catholic priest of the time, or the Bishop himself; would come and stand on the end of the
dock, and sprinkle the boats with holy water in the Catholic tradition, and say a prayer that the boats would
be safe from storms, and that the sailors would come back unharmed, and that the crop would be good, and
all of that. It's on Palm Sunday, and the was the nucleus of a big shrimping celebration. At one time, they
told me, there were hundreds of boats that would parade, and they'd decorate with flags, and then
everybody would go off and have picnics, and tie up traffic forever on The Bridge of Lions. But it was
memorable time. When I was a kid that was still going on, that was still happening. Shrimp boats were
being built here, too, at St. Augustine Trawlers. That was called Diesel Engine Sales, at that time. It was
owned by the Ringhavers, who have the Caterpillar franchise in Jacksonville. Randy Ringhaver and his
(Joanna): The have the DESCO?
(Mrs. Williams): Yes. DESCO Marine.. .[They built] thousands of boats.. .The governor's wife came and
christened a boat for my family. They named the boat The Mary Call(?) Collins. The governor was Leroy
Collins. His wife was Mary Call(?) Collins. They named it for her, and she came and cracked the bottle of
Champagne. There was a big party...
(Joanna): Does your family still have the boat?
(Mrs. Williams): No, our family, my father and his brothers, sold their business to another larger business,
called Modem Foods, out of Orlando. Modem Foods was a conglomerate, that at that time basically owned
chickens and eggs, believe it or not. And so they bought the shrimp business, and a stock swap. That's
what took the business, that's what changed the family name from Versaggi Shrimp Company to this other
entity. .Sense then, I think they have either gone out of business or been sold to someone else. They don't
exist anymore. So, the business is gone.
(Joanna): How many boats did you all have, when you were here?
(Mrs. Williams): I think the largest number of boats they had at one time was something like forty. .All
forty of our boats were never in one place, though. They were always fishing in all kinds of places. They
were following the shrimp. Some would be here, some would be in the Gulf some would be in South
America. I don't think all forty were ever latched side to side...
(Joanna): Did you eat a lot of shrimp and seafood and all of that? What was your diet growing up?
(Mrs. Williams): I'd-say we had a mixture of a Mediterranean diet .and a Cajun diet, because my mother
is from southwestern Louisiana, and we ate stews, and gumbos, and soups, and those kinds of things. But,
my father, in particular, prefers the diet that his mother raised him on. It's broiled fish and shrimp. We
didn't eat shrimp a lot, because, as I said, the boats were not close to where we lived. So we couldn't go
down to the dock and get a whole basket full of shrimp. We had to go through the usual process of going
to the fish house and getting some that had already been put in a box, and that kind of stuff. We enjoyed
fried shrimp, and still do. Although, we know that fried food isn't real good for us, and we don't need it as

frequently as we once did. But, all kinds of shrimp recipes, shrimp gumbo, shrimp Creole, broiled shrimp,
baked shrimp, shrimp casserole, shrimp appetizers, shrimp burgers, you name it.
(Joanna): So, you just got creative.
(Mrs. Williams): Yes. But, plain vegetables, and lots of salad, and lots of fruit. A very Mediterranean diet, I
think Reflecting more my Italian grandmother than my Cajun grandmother. Because the Cajun
grandmother liked dumplings, and oyster patties, and a lot of crab, and crawfish, and all of that kind of
seafood, a little different...

Joanna .... .your father met your mother here?
(, M W i J am ) !'No he met he'r .in Louisians.
S.nna 'i met her in L.ouiianc, whcn he went over there...
( M.. i. -liamr ) inT nineteen thirt- nine., forty, forty'-one ..
a * -. r t rc Kr O c -nc -> a n i v Fo:.
m't, her, actually.. alter the war Or,, toward the end of the war,
.u. ;c.c it war .Sh 'd C nevcr been to r.-or id, when the> met
''na } How did ,he feel about coming here?
( -: ia.. ms )- e.i she had to leave hor entire family, .back in
Loui. ina her mother and father and al ho.r brothers and sister
and thir An d all three ,-t u had been born there. I
.'1e: .-, er ny .-e plymatys, I didn't want to leave them. It
war jut': one of those things. I think, I hope, 1 don't know. that
mr, trrath:r had toi he early on that they would be moving back to
S.'idea so, it wasn't a complete shock.- It was a whole adjustment
.-I L Lha., ad ust m.- t
(j.nn. L About h,..' long did it take you and you; family to adjust

'ii.--i t .ht V len ic. re were c saying at my uncle '2: beach
.'c b" e 7ra air c.ncj ition tn an d al- of th lat

v.a: : U. .' 1 rho'A 't ;rat c Je m:et d in a .,I

. n-, then, in memberr ,. 1 started first grade That '-t
.. .... .. ... -, d and you went to s ,h~ .. .
M. -ist- .and brother who a-r younger than I, stayed t.,ith m"' mor:
.. t-. --. .. 'd my da dd'y w ould take me to school iin a big red
.. fTu. I think my mother had a little harder time
: .-.n i d.. .ess her heart.. But she 's made wonderful
iend he-ri, an-d St. A uuLustine i. now home for her-, as much as she
njo !D beina i L L i!n a.
(,anna)- o, she visit there, back, often?
r, .,iam Uh huh. In the ear v days, when we were younger
Swoi..'.d go bac every summer, and usually at Christmas too. But,
s t older and Ct more 'i nv.ovd in the scho"kol play, and had
~o. angel- in the choir for Christmac ECve, and all of that, we
cuin't Chris'tmac anymore. A"nd during the summer time, as we
got ld enough-, we got summer jobs, or went to summer school, or
,m;,.mr ,H something, and it was just too hard.
(Joann a)- undcrctand how that is. Oh, goodness, there's four
younger '.ha me in my family, so, trying to get to go anywhere is

(Mrs lliams): Hard to orchestrate.
(Joanna)- Yec, very hard. So, how many children are there in your
(Mrrs. Williams) Three, I'm the oldest of three. I have a brother
and a sister,'both younger.
(Joanna): So, they didn't have as hard a time adjusting as you
Mr- ams ) I 1 don't know. I never really asked them, come to
thin abo.t it.. My ter would have been four. I don't think she
-..-i :.',l'nembers Loui.i. nav.
C,..:i...: I.)aa .

(m': .. '.illi:m .o- "es. I know my brother doesn't. He was t ,.
(Jownna)- So, did he get into the shrimping busineco?
(Mr'. ''illi am No, he went to college and studied Industrial
-Management. ot a job otter college at Fairchild Industries when
1 was still in St. Augustine. le hadn't been there six months when
Fa-rchild closed the local plant, and laid off a lot of people and
he was fortunsat not to be seeing he was so recently added to that
business. They moved him to Salem, North Carolina. He 's been
thery evar since.
(Jo anna.)' So, what does your sister do now?
(Mrs. Williams), My sister is a nurse. She's a Registered Nurse.
ch.i has a nachclor's degree and has taught nursing at a vocational
.sch... he's worked in the heart cardiac care and in 1CU and
chc ': done all i.nds of things. Right now she has young children,
so :.:n 'a ho-me nurse.- o when people are discharged out of
tn -:pi'-al, o.- .: one ot those nurses that goes to their hom: to
;, ,.r.: of tTin. nt home till they ct back to being really well
,o.rn. .What h2%4e you dons h.r&. .

S,._ ..aion Ara. And then for nine year I was a stock
-d L nt i1 nC(:nue I ---r. And 1 recioncd from that
o: wh:n my hnsband and 1 decided we wanted to travel He wa,

1.... ".T our traveling between Florida and North Carolina.
(Oann ) O. h ... how nic .

vr. 1 WilliKam )- And other than that I was working for the
Columibu commition, 1I was the director of that three year program .omm morated the five hundredth anniversary of Columbu's:
fourtenr ninety-two voyage-
'. .. o '', -your family had just been very busy and established
here alway. You've all done things even though the children have
.oe off n-eir own ways and not done what the family before that
has .p .th. Crimping did that. So, there were only twelve

M-. ;- l imi: 1i am) Ye., I'd say there was twelv maybe sixteen
noa:, elni: to other peopic. Our boats weren't there then.
he razioc. who els? The Tringalic? Who clse? I'm not sure.
heir was the Fazio's families, I'm not sure.
(.oanna)- So your boats were off in Louisiana still and other

(Mrs. Williams)- Louisiana, Texas, and South America.
(Joanna) Did just your father won forty, or was that your whole
("rs. Ailliams): No, the whole family business of the five

(Joanna ): They owned about forty.
(Mrs. Williams)- Uh huh. I think so.
(c-'anna- Okay, because for a while there I thought it was just
your father and I wac like, how many is it with all the other ones?
(Mrs. illiams) My father's John and there was Virgil, Joe,, and Dominic All fivc of them. o-. m-ny of them arc here in St. Augustine now?
( 2-'. 11 i ams) y uncle Dominick comes Well, he has n condo on

he .eac.h and he comes from Louiri:na when he can. Which is really
quit. often, but my father, and his second brother, Virgil, are
both r esidnts here at St. Augustine. Daddy since nineteen fifty-
five, and Virgil came back from Texas in nineteen, early seventies.
Soarnna) A i.nd of come back home sort ot thin?.
(min. Williams) Yes, he always said he wanted to come back home
ani that's what he did. One of the brothers died, that's Manuel.
And Joe lives in England now. He used to live for a long time in
r"'rtich Gcanna in south America. He was one of the brothers that
rotated around and enjoyed the British lifestyle very much, and
when he retired, instead of coming home to Tampa, he decided to
move to a small town outside of London. So that's where he is.
(o. nna) ow that's nice. Kind of different, though. How is he
used to that lif.ctyle?'
(.) n Well, MrOitish Geanna was a protectorate of
rit. in, or a colony, before they became independent. So most of
.th.. ne people were from or had ties to Lritain,. And
he jt liked it HIe had good friend there.
( -:.;,- r: ): we-;'l, it ...ood t hat ,he had the opportunity to be able to

( :-. i obdy t! houI , t W.the : :hruimp business would take him
Lni-nt =R Places. wo wos the !b:ro th.:r who lived in New York,

ot& y..ihcr:: whc mostly styood with the Soio in little scacoac'

(.oanna) thry"..'.. reAiy just Sone off and done differentt
thI' out .h:imrn: was a big part7 for all five of them and now
thy'. r al just mainly r-ti:rd and doing different things.

(Mi. Wiiame) Th Me andre alog cabin.
( ) ThI smr ral rIetr' ud. Wo t the ounet a srte ut
?My:. .i.amA) Dominiclwas the youngest.

_on, da any friends growhenr whos e we
,. .. .I ;" .t f i n Q t..= ._
(Ms .Williame) Me and the- lo czabi n.
anna ,'m Corry. iT'm juc trying to g t it all sorTted out.
0, ,did you hav, any friends growing ur whoC'S parents wave in
shrimping anTd fi.hing?
(Mrs. tilliams): Yes.
(oanna)- Was everyone set apart or together?
(Mrs. Williams) Everybody, well, in St. Augustine today, there
are lik seven hundred hotels and motels and the kids that are all
soing to school are involved with the hotel industry. All know who
ot.ns what propertiCe, same in the fish business. The Polis,
Dominic Foli lives across the street. He died several years ago.
iis widow lives there. Hris son Darrell is my age, and he's still
operating the Marine Supply and Oil Company. We went to school
to..ther Darrell and his two sisters, and there were others.
Lot. of others. The Tringalis, who had the shrimp business.
(.o nn)- ^And did you have a special bond?
(mrs Wil liao- We understood each other well. And there was a

.-ult. .-nd;-'tanding. Dut understand that by thc time I .-t bac
' .t. a-:'utine mo:t of th. activity in the shrimp business waC
::: ;-.1-oa rom i e. It wasn't in this town. ;his town
.n.'.. t: em.ndur history 0of m.shrimping and fishing and boat building
:d 11^- o" thct. And the community was close. iThe man :1ho built
th.-. :.. lived nc= door The man who bought the nets and the
...: .d wirc lived two doors away. We went to school with a host
of id:, mostly at the Catholic school, who were from immigrant
f arm .. who were all involved in some phase of fishing or
sh-im:in:: cor boat buildinG. So it was all close-nit in that kind

(:..::n.) ith schools, you Said a long time ago that there was
bt. :- .-hool were here The Catholic school, was that the main
rl- i l Uc -ent t4-
(Mrs. Williamns) It was better for when my grandfather decided to
Sv-- Augustine the school was better And there was a
Siho .. no h. spital i n Fe-rnandina at that time. n

4. :. . ... .. _.-I .- C .. . . + 4- 1I *] I- -. .. l,. ; : ,. ,

',.;. t,. ,,,- n~. M'.r.o a .n,:d nI w a .- invob awolve dI itc e you weren t
;ja.; to; ,: scci mcr, but ful thin Fernendin., Th,,ri wo-
cd more P70Yen

t::.nnj nV tno ug thwe : i wasn't many edft Mhi orc still
...-.. d .e t. e has t t.

( :' .... ......i;11: i till nW : Tey built boat c.f
( -nn a. i7i 7v to th er .nvidna 's, they w=r nioc.

o f. h. in. me . Its. nice to know hat iat
S to .. .. Oi : here and :hat wast involved snce you weren't
in... in it. t ou your lcif didn't to out shrimping.e Did your

( r. W illiam): When ~mao a boyt he used to do out with his
a : aot ohe tla me his fathr began w ith d a little row d boat.
(,'oanng a- hrimain- f;rom a row boat.a.
(4 .. _illame) u in Fern andina. Too a hbig, not a little, but a
i you toot. Zi!,k you've sccn in picturcc, the tuns fishing,
pn -- on:h theea boats out with the little bitty Q?) out with
t. n . tham and then thrcw them over and caught othm and -ll
t that ind of thi n. .He would go in a row boat and my father
ri.d z. i T--n C, put a litl motof r on the boat. Thsn he aouht.
- bo. .. And I t. think ~he first boat he had was called the Fortuna,
' Good Luck. Then he had another one named the Etna, thc
volcano ne ar icil, where he came from. And others. Little
boats. One of the last things his father is before he died was he
bought th. tenda th.~ small boat that went to a bic yacht, and it
wac- about forty feet long, and had it modified to be a shrimp boat.
And it lanstd until the depression. When it lost power and ended
up on the beach. As I recall, there was a time when they were
,crl:ing with no power at all.
(oaann', How far out would they go?
(Mw. ,illiams)- Can't be too far, a few miles maybe.
.n) long would thy tay out thcr c
M o....... 'r ....) ci l, th y'd o. out with the tide. W ll, until
in,+ L ... = -,


(Joanna): How big were the nets?
(Mrs. Williams): You know, I am not sure. I'm not sure how that net thing works. Daddy has explained it
to me ten times-I still don't get it. It seems impossible off a little rowboat. Here's something you might
want to look into. My daddy's fingers are permanently locked into a 90 degree angle. He can move them
but the tendons and nerves have been shortened. The doctors in the 60's or in the 70's cut his hands so that
the hand tendons could move more freely and easily. The reason for that was when he was a boy he was
pulling the lines in.. You do know what lines are I am assuming.. and he was pulling them in before his
hands had time to fully grow. It is commonly known as "Fisherman's Hands". The tendons get shorter
because they have been abused while the hands are still growing.
(Joanna): Oh my goodness. I can't imagine what that would be like.
(Mrs. Williams): It doesn't hurt, it is not painful.
(Joanna): It's not painful?
(Mrs. Williams): No, it is just confusing. When we go out to the restaurants the waiter wants to know how
many people there are in our party and my daddy holds up all five fingers to the best of his ability and the
waiter always thinks it is three when in actuality it is five-kind of embarrassing.
(Joanna): So, they worked on a rowboat and worked their way up? The cousins were down here and they
knew what it was like did they work offa rowboat also?
(Mrs. Williams): I think so. Yes, I think they all did.
(Joanna): I've been on a fishing boat and I have seen many around the area and I can't say..
(Mrs. Williams): Who's boat have you been on.. maybe I know him.?
(Joanna): Fazio's. Well, not actually his. Somebody else's was docked nearby.
(Mrs. Williams): I was going to say I didn't know Fazio had a boat. I thought he was pretty much out of
(Joanna): Yes, he is. Anyway, as I was saying-I've seen the machinery and like you are I am trying to
picture how they survived on a rowboat. What were the names of the boats he went out on when you were
a girl? Where you ever with him when he went out?
(Mrs. Williams): No, I never saw my father go out. By then he worked in the office. He was there to see
the boats leave, to talk to the captains when they came back and to watch them unload. When that was
finished, he got on the phone and tried to place the shrimp with some of the dealers in town.
(Joanna): So at that point he didn't go out on the boat's himself? He basically ran the business end of it?
(Mrs. Williams): Yes, I guess you could saythat.
(Joanna): Who went out on the boats the.. like who ran the ships when they were out on the water?
(Mrs. Williams): Mostly just the locals who wanted to go out that day.
(Joanna): What nationality were they?
(Mrs. Williams): Portuguese, Spaniards, Italians, some Greek. They were all mostly immigrants. Daddy
had to learn a little bit of each language so that he could communicate with them which in that business was
very important. My father was very good at picking up languages.
(Joanna): Was it because he was around them so much that he picked up the languages or did he attend
any classes to try to improve himself?
(Mrs. Williams): It was just by picking it up. Well, he did speak Italian at home to his mother who spoke
only Italian. And I guess that once you know one of the "romantic" languages the others come easily
although Daddy never did speak French.
(Joanna): So, going back to the nets, did you hire people to make the nets or did they come in packages in
the stores?
(Mrs. Williams): I don't know. I don't think they knitted them to order. I think they boat the netting off
large wide rolls and then cut them to a size that was profitable to them. Florida Folk Life has a tape that
they made years ago-have you seen it? The Historical Society has it. I know because I bought a copy ofit
and I donated it to they public library here. My father was interviewed in it. Although I cannot say it is a
good interview. My father is old and is hard of hearing and I am not sure if he heard or understood
everything that was being asked of him or maybe he was just rambling on... I am not sure.
(Joanna): I'll try to go down to the Historical Center and get a copy of it.
(Mrs. Williams): My mother has a lot of things such as articles and interviews of my father. Most of the
stuff is one copy and they are pretty old but I can bring them down to the Historical Center and let you
copy them if you like.

(Joanna): Yes, I would like that a lot. Thank you a lot for this interview and your time which I know is
(Mrs. Williams): You are welcome.