Interview with Gary Tillis, October 3, 1995

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Interview with Gary Tillis, October 3, 1995
Tillis, Gary ( Interviewee )
Udi, Linda ( Interviewer )
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University of North Florida Fisherfolk Oral History Collection ( local )

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History of the Palmo area

A brief history of the Palmo area was given by Sandy Tillis,

granddaughter of the Palmo founder. Here is some of what she said.

"It was back in the 40's that my grandfather came down here to

the Palmo area. He named it Palmo after something to do with the

Indians, meaning friendly or something to that affect."

"He bought, I don't know how much land he bought, but he

bought the whole riverfront which is up to the potato field.

Anyway, through misrepresentation of money, etcetera, he sold all

of this. All of the waterfront. He sold 50 acres every year to a

man named Mr. Pate for ten thousand dollars. The family had no

idea anything about it, he did not know what was going on. He was

at the end of his life and he had no mental understanding of money

and it was a heartbreak in the family but we didn't, you know,

what's done is done, we'll forget." I used to couldn't see the

property line but now I can because they built that dock. My

mother sold the 3 lots on the water. We ran the fish camp from

back into the 40's. She and my daddy bought it from my

grandfather, and they ran it as a fish camp for a long time, I can

remember the open underneath and the boats and the people going

fishing, and there was a wooden slatted boat ramp, an people had

like wheels under their boats, and they'd roll it down into the

water, but now there's like a $150,000 boat ramp down there."

That is most of the history of Palmo. In a nutshell, Sandy's

grandfather bought a whole bunch of land in the 40's and then he

started selling it real cheap and now the family owns a smaller

plot of land on the river.

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Project: Oral History/Folklife Course, Honors Program, 1995
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University of North Florida
4567 St. Johns Bluff Road, So.
Jacksonville, FL 32116-6699
(904) 646-2649

Project: Oral History/Folklife Course, Honors Program, 1995
Instructors: Dr. Paula Horvath-Neimeyer, Mr. Stetson Kennedy

Sheet No.:

Tape No.:

Photo Nos.:

Informant's Name:

Address: S SD


Informant's Birthplace:

Family Data: a ~A.

(~AL'\ -r~~

Birthdate: 53


lbAV ,C, c.

Education: 9 s ,. SQ

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Interview with Gary Tillis, Crabber

Linda- We know very little about you. Tell me what your
business ic.
Gayr.: Wl, my business is basically blue crabbing. I crab
for a living. I started out net fishing, crabbed a little bit.
When the net fishing got to where there was no money in it, I
started crabbing, just as good (as net fishing) for a lot less
work. Then we went to softshelling, shelling crabs, softshell
crabs. Then we got into stonecrabbing on the west coast, got an
operation over there too. That's the only challenge there is left,
the fishing.
Linda: The only challenge?
Gary: Everything else is just a game.
Lind.a Do you actually crab yourself or do you hove people
that actually work for you that do it?
Gary Ye: man, 1 crab myself
-inda' ,lt you also ha've a crewL

t- re, we'll still be crabbing and then w- 'l go tce:tchin-
too. hen Je' 1 leave that and Io to the west coast and stone
crab. e stay there probably into Ma- and we 'll stone crab and
Ler ih in te s-ri and then eome bac he-re and then cycle

S i.- -C n he to -.. .a th m.

.nda And heCr-I arc tne .el'cr o
I,. -n ,. th-m go to nd thet and
Linda yo.; don't do any local supplying.
'ary- A l -t of local, but theu bul. e of then T.~>cs to Maryland.
rlan a"nd hi ladel hia a -n N tew Yeor. c
... ........ ..

Lindo: How big is your operation?
Gary: 84 tanks and we'll shed 200 -300 dozen a day sometimes.
prettyy good size.
Li.nda: And how long have you been doing this?
a ~i>< ... ^.. .. .

ary.: Uhh... 1L- years.
SLd: So, how has your business changed over the past 18
Gary. We all started with little old small boats, boats, and
150 traps. Now we're up to a bigger boat and 400 trapc. The live
market is what's really developing, that's what's making the
crabber stay where he is today. Everything used to be crab farm.
All crab plants, even today, like Metcalf down here, or the one in
est Florida, all of them, are built on the. same philosophy as
-earc ago. Are you familiar with the Turpentine industry?
lurpcntine, they used to dip turpent inc. he niggers out in the


crews dipping turpentine, gumming, turpentine gum. There's cups on
trees and where everyone had a quarter, as they call it, that's
where all the crew stayed, and the turpentine market, and them guys
bae: there probably make $35.00 a day, for instance, so at the end
of the week, they didn't charge nothing to live there, they're just
old shanties, but every one of them had a commissary and owners
would go to town and buy the groceries and bring em' back. My
uncle has a big turpentine operation and we used go to there on
Friday afternoons and sell the groceries. For instance, if a can
of Sardines was 25 cents, they'd be a dollar at the commissary.
Keep em' broke, just like the labor crews do today, these migrant
workers. That's basically what a crab plant does. He wants to pay
the least that he can, which that's business, but he also wants to
keep his crabber down to where he can hold onto him. He can't
venture out. If you work for a crab plan, you can't sell nowhere
else. They won't buy your crabs if you do and they won't sell you
no bait and they won't help you. o,. the live market started and
the ,rice, the c's much more money in the live market and you
independent t-hen. YoCu can _sell where you want to sell. You buy
y''ou: owi. bait and everythingg elsc You don't have to put up with
hat ~"ff .... ... T t' hr. it '- rally ,ha ng d, the lie market really
chanced- it
T:,da ... th, a "nter t:n. ".. ... .: tel.: :f the trade
Jhcnmarat kct :1

-ift ee.t boats, neweCr mote boats. and bier boats and newer motors
- i.te me-. technology We 're learnr ing to uce Lerands( ') -:n
... a 't..e fU ur ..;'.. hcn you u sed to be, able
to c'. You got L-btter trailers, you can't ctay home and crab year
I u.. o'.... .ot t, "o ...m . er Oth;r 'the h.t I it' basicall-
:.: 3i e thin It .- kne- what w ic know., now, b c then, it'd be-
i re : t far as money wise and m king more

... .. u... understand .ou';-a e c to make merc

C.>ry' Oc ych, because the live mril;ct and instead of staying
ir h.h t ..... er..-c nd n eve r'y' thin r he n the w int r gct Cr:.
no.-, :we tra. cl.. We'll go to west Florida and rent us a place.
Se'-i go to L '-verades and rent a place, truck our stuff down there
and fish till it's over with and come home.
Lind a. Docs your family follow you when you go?
Gary.L Just me and my wife. My kids are grown, they live in
Palatka with their momma. She stay here and watch everything and
we just go. We're on the road, I'm gonna say five or six months
a year, we're gone. We'll come back once or twice a week, maybe
once every two weeks, but basically we're on the road that long,
you're away from home.
Linda.. Does it break up very many' family's around here?
Gary: No, most of em' don't want to travel. Most of cm'
don't do it. Only the ones that wanna go do it, like Joe Foster,
he's a good fisherman, but he's cot into religion, noc: he won't do
it. :e -'1 go and come back everyday. You can't do th:t, you can't
lct. You can't drive no 1 -0 miles one way and work all day long
on the ocean and drive bacl; in the even ing1. You've got to stay.


He's a family man and he don't wanna stay, which I respect that.
And I'd like to be home every night, but you can't do it if you're
gonna do this.
indaJ '.ow did you get started in this?
Gary.i. Me and my first wife split up, 1 was in the hydraulic
business, I went through two years of college first and I got into
the hydraulic business. I stayed in it 8 years and we just
couldn't get along, so I left. My daddy had married my wife's
momma, though we had never known each other. And I was on my way
here to go to Canada, I stopped by and seen them and met her. He
was crabbing a little bit and we used to run a restaurant and bar
around here. I got to crabbing a little bit and liked it, liked
it, just developed into it, don't know nothing else.
L.inda. So, you actually started part time with your dad?
...a... Part time. Just a handful of traps, 150 traps.
Lind-a A^nd he taught you everything you needed to know?
..C.'. (..! nodding yes) It just .w:nt from there. d, he died.
L.ind: I lon g did he crabi
r Gary .. Proc-. aly-- about 2-. ,, a c omccaths si t ha. ie never

2' t.rap: and ~- hel ped ma mma run the bar anc the restaurant, oh
.._ .., a d hi- f. .- -

-i.d;, 1 .:as ,out .at t.hat restaurant yeste day when I was out
L, her ,, d I as woni ing ,.what ., t t hat .. 4 is. It look
. ... 1^s .i,* j.1J t .. t in tr, midd- le ,f t .- i
:it 11ppcnec i my d1c tct he- -s c 4- mt c 1oa n

r '* .. a we d crab r.yday a d w or there five nights a
'-'- ,, as, i was -me an'I .-c n'- aC'"
2i lnC) doin i I t; r T

.week .'r ten years t.-l "00 in the m_ r ninc. Just could' t do it ,

Li.nda: 00, you own the property around..
r" ''e own ali o it .
Linda: Is there, to me coming from the big city, it looks
like there's hardly anyone out here, _did you have enough patronage
t keep t.he place going? Oh yeah.
Linda Peoplc come from how far away?
Cary_: Jacksonville, Gainscville, Daytona. Then we got down,
we used to be open five days a week, then we shut down to Friday
night, Saturday night, and Sunday night. We probably served
anywhere from 100 to 200 dinners every night. We had a big crab
boil on Sundays, like all you can eat for five dollars a person.
It was always packed.
Li.nda.. Was it packed because your food was so much fresher
th a. somewh ere in the city?
.ary Frch, good. We caught everything except the shrimp
and the oysters e caught all the fi-h, all the Catfish, all th


Cass, all the Flounder, all the crabs, all the softshell crabs, all
the softshell turtles, all the gator meat we bought from a local
dealer. Other than that, we caught everything.
Linda. Ho:.. did you cool. all these different items?
jyi It's a milk and Sg batter. Scaeon the flour, mill and
egc batter.
L.inda .. o, it's fried?
Gay.y.. Yup.
Linda Did your wife help you in the crabbing business? What
did she do?
Gary. Uh huh. T.he runs the tank, as far as getting the
softshells out. She does all the delivering, basically watches
over everything while we're gone.
.i.nd... She ran all these tanks by herself?
r-...L.-__ In the daytime.
Sndai lhat 's involved in each one of these tanks? Are there
little crabs molting in ever' single tank?
S No, you brin em h in the baskets and you dumF
&- ?in -. 1he next day they go t hrouC them and grade -em.' 'out.
":0 ,1-;.:. 'it pi:nl-, and "d. You a'r:e th7 redc and
"-.t 'h..ii iF -I. tank and you band them. ThEn t/.u'l go throuGh,
th,/ o. through stagi.s, :when they start busting. which is starting
.. .... take t t a_,,. .... i r ,nothCr ,'r;n q r^ ,d,
they mo, you take then out of th3t tan; and .ut them in another
-:n!, and let them fir;i up. You taCtthe water back; in. The way a
*;-rat. molts, he .rias that water out and he slides out of his shell .
...n ,. t . t.,t wat. back .n and he p rc.l b c c out,.
Line o .h d thes dif ferent cle-a, i it
i'Ln -:...... of 'e adr.nes

.n t i. -

t Iu c atch in I d..:.. t. n compared to tod ; .'
a .,. a d : II '.- .. h Mt fI ". p. ., "o t mb a n .e The wo: ,d

Gary- -ike- 1.1.00 hunorcd pounds a ... ^,nd today, like 400
or b-00 maybe,.
L..nd. And how hacs the price changed?
Cary. Well, the price then was like 15 cent, no IL, cent, the
-loi-wct I got then- It a lower than that lefd-or I got in, it was
like 9 cent and 9 cent. Cut it was like 1C cent for crabs and bait
was 15 cent. That's dealing with the crab plant again, they knew
they had you and they kept you there. They were paying a nickel
for bait. They charged the crabber 15 cent, and paid 16 cent a
pound for crabs. Cut gas was only 39 cent a gallon back then.
Today, crabs are anywhere from 65 cent to a dollar and a quarter.
Of course your gas is higher too and you have to run more trapc,
you have more expense. But you really make your money in the
:i:nt.ertim crabbing here now by travelling. That's where you come
head. CoftChel- l ic what really opened it up for everybody. We
never softshclled crabs: probably been doing thick about 10 year'.
Fcr 8 years, all we did was blue crab and gill net fishing. Then
th:y took: the nets away, so all you can do now is Just stonecrab

and crab.
Linda: Is there still plenty of crabs out therc to keep you

caryc Thce 'c not nearly as miai ny as tire C as. It ain't
"..,. .... .. .... I'- -i
nothing li"- it uced to be.
Lind.a. But it'c enough to pay the bills?
GCrL..y:. Oh yeah. Dut it takes a lot to get into it. A crab
trap then, wire was like 29 dollars a roll. It's like 54 dollars
a roll now. You could buy a crab trap already made for 6 dollars,
it's 10 dollars now.
Linda. You don't make your own traps?
ary... We haven't.
Linda. A lot of work involved in making a trap?
Gary:.. It's not so much work, but you just pull a few more
trapF and pay for it. You just don't have time to do it all. If
you built 30 traps a day, they don't charge but 3 dollar, to build
,them, _so you Y mke -0 dollarC nd 'then ou ,. pull dollar ort

..nd, .. been living in thit community . L Ct. .
Ia' n.: bT "I E. a. ..

.:... -Si: .. . alm de,! t a ,_n a,, but c, 're al

- a.n. ': .- fishcz:;m n nc lue t acleth n o Cbt

3- .... o .h.".r tin t "-.i ", ..i .-..i. . . vCod.C- eta
mr f t-: Up t o Jay's house or w t cm downt aheron Cdut it's all

r hec in the same community. It like a separate placmunitis onut
""-r ',:_ t cOa. ct ;a: th,.. ,t c:;'cO ,_ -re toe ,uwannec

here, there's no, basicay no eaing around here tno

breaking and entering, the only crime is on occasion somebody gcts
dnk and rns the road don hee. hr t hat,'s it
.. d.- in ,cl ,omdmy ni.. i.h- in yourat
,,t, ...... ..,t ..Gne lu p o pl. .~eO a- n.% .% co, mmun ._it y I,:ci dre the
-," : ,C f ish^ m n: Do >,,, -;.t together doc-u ..e t ..

Gary Oh that's kihands the asieal, t;id: sm. ,tvs nicrbod.ow

'Lida:- Whre do: you anIl iof
a. am. Up to Ja's s house or rwe come down here. t 'u it's all
rirht he' in .ethe -ae community. It' c s a se.raa out
here, there's no, ther'c' basically no ctcalin ;around here, noo
brea!inr and enter din t, t~ only crime is on occasion somebody ats-
drun!: and run-. off td road down here. Other than that, that 'a it.
:Lind- Id~l? 1. .c. rk all I thN- i-ndoU: in you-
a.-... Ohx t0hat s ids Jarical" nnr it : t'l nice down

-i you cat any' !,ind- of pec"Cil foode u,.n you watcIlh
t"he .cm;. Do f s c-rman cat a. 13 dinCI-I Ct fcom ch rct c-of uc?
ca, ',,.chell crabc and crabc.
kinds: Re- ? i Y""ot ci;r- of th m-
y .. . ,.eC don't .at thrm mct .; .t. ime. :, n : party
rcre: cr:, I b-ri c: bunc of Cton C v Ca a v C al n'

LindaL When people get married here or have birthdays, does
the community celebrate as a whole?
Gary.1 No. It just kind of goes on.
Lia: r^-re- tchre any special characters in this town,
somebody that's memorable for whatever reason'? Or even in the
past, not today, but throughout the 18 years you've been living
G.ary No, not really. It's hard for me to say, I guess an
outsider could come in and see it, but it's hard for someone that
lives here to see it, somebody who's really colorful or different?
L.inda. Tell me, I know you have to have some stories about
when you've been out on the water or even here dealing with the
tanks, has something funny or interesting gone on, that people not
in the business would find amusing?
CGa...... Other than messing with somebody's trap, not putting a
chicken in somebody's trap trying to float it, somebody'd kill a
dcr. and put the deer head in th. tra fill it full of cans and

Linda' C.omerbody iould put a deer head in somebody else 's

Car o rin hi- c Fcars u put o a sna!e in somebody'ss boat,

Lt out inr, thick rougLr and sonhebedy fa.ll: xe; thte id:e or a c'at
turns oer, but if comeboedys boat sinks, evcryhbody gets there and
-- 4---,i.

Lina Once it a Cunk, is it any- good?
;r: y h ye .):e ll all G-et it up, t it t-urned over ,

.b ci;k '-: ." e -rybd, -its thy re d- g and ges help

e'7r: com-etitre but it somebody*s hurt or down;. -:.-rybody help.

.c i ul e ;h_1.

hind Ye. Do you go out when it's bahd weather and what
'::,i;: thing do you run into uen it bd wath, 'how do

L y Ju t r u. .u .
i r. a 1 .- it i','ry a ng, erco : s
rh.- Oh y'ah. If you go outside by yourself, you've got
them Clicker suits you wear and your boots is on. You can't swim,
and nobody wears a life jacket because you never think it could
happen to you. We fish on the west coast, like 15-20 miles
offshore. You just have to learn to take care of yourself.
Linda I ave ;.u fallen overboard?
ry Oh yeah. Go to reach a trap and your feet slip on the
floor and you go over the side, but you hold onto the side of the
boat. But you're not running fast.
(chit chat)
Linda- You said you fell overboard and juct hang on to the
side and set yourself back up?
Gary HI old onto Ithe -id. We ha- n't had but one person that
roed, and that a out in iverdal hih is outh o f her
During rough one day, he grabbed th console aind, the console come,:
D U.; : ,G w~ u u =,,.+,..+... C O -,.,-',. o ,..

-% J


loose on the boat, old raggedy boat, and fell over the side and
drowned. Ain't nobody been hurt.
L.nda a IHave you had any really close calls?
C.r.. No, other than the peeler tanks. We had em' set back
there one time and they,' got old and rotten and they fell. Two
twenty wires go to them. We were back there cutting them wires one
day and crabs were going everywhere and water (deep, up to his
boot) and it cut the wire and it was live. It shocked nobody, but
if you didn't have your boots on it would've killed ya. Other than
that, it's basically about it.
Linda: What do the women do when those of you who travel are
gone? Do the women get together? Do they help coach other out
through those lonely months?
Gary.. My wife gocc to church with Joe and his wife a lot,
Sunday, nights and Wednesday nights. Other than that, just watching
eve ing. They just stay around here. They may come see us once
every c cc:. or something like that.

Lind: : ow he this neighborhood changed since you started

..- - iI -- C o ut -r In f'ct, at o:n t i -
,c !:ic cr- plt a crbb:c No., Cllis got about, he might
;.v 1. crabbere. Out f the oriin bunch thatC start ed when I
:t-t:d, m: an-d Joe setrted et the scam time, joc Foster, me and
., .. . ,.l r :- n ..:. mo d Th0' 's onl
....t c..- c-abers out here no.:. That about the only big

..d. :....... .'nt d. u t.i:.__ .- -oyng te h, eni to

C Keep on .doing it till the end. That's what keep; you

Lindo.- : ther- m.,-.t for this Do you thin!; somchbdy
..,ilc .. .n o buy it her, ;you St to the end?
C,, TC, 1m > Li.. u therI iC
Li,..,.c.. -'.: ;'?.u t.i n!_ ,, t C rc any op cial is, -. requ:.r- d to. bc
.. V. .V -.. *~,
n .TX.ry ig time. You got to wanna work to begin with. You
can't py' no attention to time and there's chicken one week and
feathers the next. It ain't always gonna be chicken. You gotten
like it to begin with. Most people don't want to go out there when
it's rough or cold. It's tough sometimes. There's a lot more to
Linde: lhet hidden stuff?
G...'.. Rgging, pressure cleaning traps, building traps,
fixing your boat, getting bait. If you wor I 12 solid months,
you're gonna work at least 3 months out of the year for nothing.
Citing here unloading boats or fixing boats or clean boats, 24
hours a day.
a,,, no ,t n c,-,u, ni. t-.,. o A, ; _ 4- -
Linde Io,. you're wife stay, up around the clock, you don't
Cae ry'.- N helst iht.
I I'- -* -- I i N / 1t 1ti .* t. t- ,, 1 In I 1, dm t u
i ;-y" Not .e t n-ght. M pIi- don'- w un -o g o '-; tien b-ut

her and I he p, on the reversal every three hours, seven days a
Li.nda: Whe'r do you get your night help from?
qrl. Locally.
Linda What do you like best about your business? Independence, don't answer to nobody, come and go as
you please. Getting back to what it takes to be a crabber. Most
of em', if they ever make a good week, if they make $1,000 one
wek, then tey gct what I call a "nigger rich," a big bank roll.
They don't go, they ain't gotta go, but they forget about all those
lean times, that's why there's only about five or six of them left.
That's the biggest thing that happens to crabbers and fisherman
today. The main thing I like is the i ndepen-enc-c.
L inda lWhat do you like leact about it?
Cy- Pr1scur; wash-ing traps, cleaning trap:F. I love to
atch and run, I don't like cleaning him. They got to be cleaned,
Sof it. They et a growth on them, grass all over them,
-,- .a"-t .csure was, m tId 4o,-an them.

G ; It ': ca-y now with a pressure washE WJ u:Ld to UCC
. .i.. : It A.. .
*- ^ -. ..... -. c h -",C C '. + "," ;

L in. :,7 -, '- 1 r -
Lind, ..hen did ,'ou .ct into pr cLr .: i t4,.-m.
r-,.-t ob bn:l. cu. ,. va -. : a T e C.n CrOC, e Dc, ,u
.mind:. her: fom .. m... 'h-'d been fishing in Tamp:,
w,.s b'-. i.. .... it ... .ro m me was hauli. ;. crab t' t- he plant down t re ..
"- m dc-,n h:-re con. cv to ,.t r.i-t nd ,,c, w. : crubbing thcm
tra- a -' he -.. "I -, d n't you us a preC ur wash." ell,

;.. c. rc.c.-.: in -. e b-."'l -.-, .hi- one day and we round ur
L,. miiniy t'- :.'-, bu'! us one.
Ld:' 'i e .':':-'on: share the same pressureL L'ashe
Co' . while we d.d '- r .. ." 's -. .one no-w.

'_d t c o 1:: th: L nt:: ime. Then -the'' c ot :- tal eing 1 i-ct
th c pee ; e crabs and the nly> time we cver shed em', we'd put Cre.'
inn , Mr ... i n ::, ,c -L. n x T t_: , ,x. _,. ,., nht ..
alright. Then we finally put two tanks on the end of my dock that
had done; it If '. could use two tan s, why don't we just build a
whole bunch of tanks. And that's what we done and that's how I
really got into it. Cut they're the ones showed us what to look
for when we catch them. They didn't show us how to catch em', they
chowed us wat to look for and how to bait the trap to catch them.
Linda: How do you bait the trap to catch them?
Gary With a male crab. H-le's a jimmy crab, put him in a bait
well and put him on top of the trap. The peeer, that's the only
time a crab breeds, when she's soft, and they'll go to that male
for protection and te get bred too. And they'll be traps that'll
ha.c like 10C to a trap. But, it's the same basic trap, it's just
aler nd wider. They're (Yankee) the one that taught that.
Lind.: rhn y, t rted with these sofhell did you need
refri tion for .the othe t'pes of rabs you were catching?

Gar.X.. Uh huh.
Linrda.:. So, you've had refrigeration from the beginning?
GarLY.: Um huh.
-i.nda:.. I'm sort of wondering what it was like in the olden
days before they had refrigeration.
Gary..... We started out with little old, in fact I bought it for
$500.00, remember the old time milk trucks? They had plate coolers
in them. They had no fan, just a plate. That's what we started
with. I don't know how we ever done it without these big coolers.
Basically that and I had an old freezer. We never had no ice
machine or nothing like that. If you needed ice, you'd put you a
bun-ch of ice trays in the icebox. It's so much easier now than it
used to be.
-U HoW di dc. > 0 C -
indaiL How dd you get your fish to market back then, when
you sartd? Any differ rent than you do it today?
Gary. ack when I first started, we sold everything to a crab
r We hd ld pickups ad we' d hal em' to the Cr-a -plant.
CWh, the- crab plant was over here, you'd just deliver them by boat.
ff the ier and ull around th dock u uoad ei
Cm', .and thyd i'v you a ticket and 'you got arid on Fr day. And
'you bought our bait and tuf there c rab rlan
t- z .. U C t f. 1 / 7!... n WI: UI C t C, s t C
G y...1.. -L., N p I i ye.S" c;ou-n We Used to SwitCh

.a, i 1 I- "n h
t: 'h n e, nm' ... f o,, ou in. t e not. o ,u ,, athn u ,
*, Z, ,o_*, v- not -;. C ,n i, I C , +, t
C . '. non r .just -t a_ h. ,, and sulffc ,t h ou h Janua.;-.,

... ........-. . - . p ot. z - ) ir a-- .- W-- c U o ...
Ya-C rob i'-' j no- -us- st"- gett wreand sufrthu Jcsnville

"-n -: :'- hi-h "c t pr ,o.f b-i+
.., -C -, i;" ic .-, ,
_' ; i t,. th

.,...... .: '

is h ~. Mce the t n tiet cri y e
| .1.. .. ,. tc h

I -* -. ^ ; : ,.--
ary. ELver yti ng r drains to the river a .
Linda You mean the pc 't icide a, t -
very'hin:g drains to the r r
Lnda..: re they growing potatoes 20 years ago?
..Z..l Oh yeah, they've been growing potatoes here for 100
years probably. It's just getting worse and worse. Jacksonville
is the worst place, that's the nastiest crabbing you ever done in
your life. It's trash all the time in the traps, especially near
the hospital, but it's not the hospital, it's the boaters go
hroh throwing everything over the side. The Jacksonville ship
yard's there, that probably doesn't help some.
L-i 'nd DCcaCuse of this pollution then, do, you se at Come
point ..t e able .o .t ce-nounh crab to make it worth your
_-Con ,* . 1 1- 1. lt i, f >o h e I t nk ) u won't. A lot

less now then there was then. One thing that's gonna help is that
they put eve-rything on restricted species now. All the blue crabs,
a lot your fish are on it, and all of your stone crabs are on it.
That means, for instance, say you had a little money and you
sitting t ,re watching them making 800-900 dollars a day crabbing,
you say, "I'm gonna do me some of that." You can't do it now. If
you can't document that you made 5,000 dollars each of the last
three years, then you can't crab. You just can't get your crabbing
permit. They've got all restricted species.
inda That's ust shutting out the newcomers.
Car... It shuts out a lot of the newcomers.
-ind.c.i. I don't personally see where that's really helping.
Ga.r.y. cWell, the ones that have stayed in and have done it.
I don't know if the government's caused it or the state laws have
caused it, they tax you. They keep up with you now.
Linda You have to document what you bring in? Does anybody
z:hc. h... .
-.. tt of Forida. We have trip tickets we have -t send
..f: :
the. a trip ticket or they have to give y"ou one,. Used to be

.,you 3nd ".:-,u don't hav-e c wholesale license a d I d r.'t h:'.' one, If
he cath ye-u or they catch me, 're Cnn ~-set fine. Now we g
3 .whec-al licene when we cell. You ha-.': to sell to a license
.ho,_ l,:- ,o. :n soricT tTo k..p a r, tric'e ,.i- .,u hav.

to be ab-I to document or. a trip ticket, we call it They ask m

L.ind- Do the -isherman her- hv. te rritorie: out on the

CD.r... It ou ed to be like that probably 2 years ago. Cut

,--tct. Up 3,ound Jacksoonville, nce you gat north of the Matthews

:,>t those boys. They inbred and they been raised since they were
that high, that was theirs. My license is with the state of
I.. -A o t it 1 11 4. 1 11 -. L 1
Florida. Georgia's real bad about it, I mean bad. Cut it's not
like that here no more. It used to be that way year's ago.
Lin.da. Do you think it's better that ya 'l share the same
w a^t C rs ?
C.ary Oh yah. The crabs not going to be in the one spot
very year If I had to stay in this section from the Schan's
Cridge to Day are mine, there ain't no crabs there now. You'd
.t..rve t- death crabbing here no;w.
... the., bridge where the; have territories, ,do you think some

yc they 're doing good and some years they're starving?
Scr- Uh u h.

Linda.-: And they prefer to keep it that way?
GarI.; Just keep it that way.
L..n.Da... .. Did you ever have fights down here when people had
their own territories?
C.. .... No, come here after that. Palatka was about that,
south of Ct. Johns, it was bad down there down south of Palatka,
but it ain't like that no more. The only onec who are like that
now is the hook net fisherman. Thcy're like that when you set
south, but not up here.
I imagine within ten years this place probably won't even be
here, but we'll be here. We won't sell this place. We've got 23
acres. W 've got a big buffer zone between that subdivision and
us. We own 650 acres out in that canal and they can't get to us.
Linda- Have you been approached?
a-;. ..... h ye h .
Linda: Offering big bucks?
.... Uh huh.
_id ...."0, for you, it's the principal, you want to keep thii

Lina Li I e -'ore you sai you were gonna a till
l.,,. a z ot. s l, Il hait it taC t r he- wai

.. ..........f b m .mothe kept. th part he.e Tha was
,ju t e, t M r and neither onet'l .U tho see n
_i1_ i _I IT "n w i-,u e he -;:
.,. _1 h -,- .1 Th1s *'Oi r r eb, o. i r. i "1 ,, ,. u 11 ? v

thi: rea u rhe t iha a h -d y
,,-Ca I-. .. .. t l-a. th .3 -, ,adU. so, d ita-S
rem' what to do and al, it realy depent s on their att e. w We

had a Yankee come in here from Maryland, I 'm gonna say about 12
,,_,._ .~ .- ,n- -. '-' "-* i t c- : ,-- .
',, ._.. .I-. . I .-, S, +,,_ ;O ^ i-,- , ~, 4 ., w h ; t .-.

years ago, and he w just a cock.., ass, smart a Ya e. We hd

20ft bats ad h a big 42 ft bt a he w g shw u
C:asia_, not too much. he tas off b his self
C. od: Cts tC be ri l erody ti-.-es to help hi.M. They'll tell
enr. wat to do and all it really d.epenlds, on theIIi attitude. We
,,d. a Yanke come in hire from Maryland, I'm gonna say about 12
years ago, and hc wa= just a cocky ass, smart ass Yankee. We had
20 foot boats and he a big 42 foot bot a and hC wa gonna show us
how it was done and all this crap. He finally ended up selling hic
place over at Trout Creek and going back to Maryland. 1He and his
wife got divorced and he moved to Texas and he always kept in touch
with me, we become friends, and now he's at Steenhatchce wit me
crabbing. Out his attitude changed and we get along good, real
-0-" .
Sind 0, I. c ii..a. ...... f i i' .i ,'', fy u .' on'1 t iT tO irun th- ,
off? L'c you eer have peoFpl from Jac ksonvillc' come. in here and
put their- bats in, not to crab, but just for recreational

G.a. .. Oh yeah.
Li-nda.: And that doesn't bother the community?
G..L.. No blacks live down here and that's what kecps it
scp- arIt .
Linda: I saw a bunch of blacks working up a Metcalf's. Where
are they from?
C.4L-Y They come out of St. Augustinc. The Haitians. They
come in there and work and leave.
Li..nda. What kind of pay do they get?
Gary They maike good, come of them are making about... They
all get Welfare checks and they all get Food tamps, they don't
ha.c to pay no taxes. Some of their girls can make 00, 90, 100
,dolar a day cooking crab meat.
Linda Is that hard work? I haven't observed.
ary: It's like piece work, picking them crabs. You only get
,aid so much a pound, I thinks he's paying a dollar, r and a quarter
, pound now. They get paid by the pound, not the pound of crab.:
buLt te po f m th" .
t- I I I < 1 - I I- u -
Linda ', they ac tua l pick the met t ot of the shcll ?
I .- 4-' ... ^.. ,,L -.4- L.-, , ..

but the government shouldn't be giving. them ell that money they're

...Lind.:- I':cl i c: h It must be u t
I- ...... i.. .... ..i

C L Th" c ust ray e'.'eryth iing witih : heic _l
i -,dc-. ... .' do.': -. :*.* ,f i -u t hins r H : ?
.... l- ,
v ,--I' C.+ ... -- -C

. 1.*j- . ...p. 1F -- t

S- hc' . :c

,',- di. .. led. or medical reaons .but they're not r-ell" disabled.
The' come out and work for, us at night or somet:hin like that, jst
-at. thdm.
..... ,. I/ O -t 4 L
Linda: Is that hard work?
Gary: Most of them live down here. You have to get up...
thy'rei down here all the time now, it take them an hour or an
hou; and a half to go through it. Then they go home and they're
back in another hour and a half. Ever thr hours they have to be
down. They have to tow them out of here on trailers. They take
thm out an put them in th coolr and t up n morning
and pack em'.
(break for pictures)
wr..'. We used to pump water in what we call a closed system.
.c...ed to pump water out of the river and into those tanks outside
41C I., -J
d it flows back over the side and it stays like that. In here,
we haul salt eter' and put it in these tanks, 11,000 gallon

reservoir in the ground, runs the whole length, 8 foot wide, 4 foot
deep. This acts as a biological filter for oyster shelling. We
make our own salt water. Before, we were limited to just catching
rive. crab:, we couldn't go catch saltwater crabs, and we knew they
were there, but wc couldn't shed em'. Now we just go get a gallon
of water and bring it back here and make that water the same and
bring the crabs here.
Linda.: How do you make the saltwater?
Ca.ry Hydraulics, that's how we tell the salt content. Then,
I got a trailer with hot water in here and put the salt in it... go
to the beach and dump it in here and mix it with freshwater. And
it all through a swimming pool heater, so it keeps the temperature
about a constant 79-00 degrees now, the water temperature. That's
what really helping everybody. Joe's got one, I got one.
Linda" What year did you shut down that restaurant?
Gary.:' '87. fall of '87.
(C-tetson Kennedy a so asks some questions)
S.t. Didn't you h av come live music (at the old
a a l ft, r ae o it, it u C anC t
S*.u :. e-- biaically, :,,hen it tu rned into a Tc-tauriant, all that

I :- I,- c., it i n th ct rda

(chit chat, then Cary tais. Linda on a tour of the op E.a .-t )
Linda: (Talking about hoi: they 'c. .-:-ab- or fih l ,, whn-.
ht far a,::;,) .o: d ...e : .e. them -_i'..
..a.. ....... ... aaba- li ... a bia tva.. "" haua

-1-,.-:**t- *0,000 po. 1 ; f fich and *a!e them all the way up to

' :, Oh, they o, I c r. I don't know why they Just
:.lclCc'. pt c on t alane Gn a akuonvlle.
C,-'; The, probably would, but they don't. Take them. all wa
",ck up there and grade em' out. Most of them 3o to eclgium or
SLinda: So, they a-rrive their al ive?

alind; I i. ito imr. T -1 that they arr e therein alive
Cary I have no idea., They won't bother eating em'. They
gotten be alive.
(Gary' shows Linda some tanks and eels(?))
Linda. How different is it to catch these eels than it is to
catch crabs?
.ary... Basically the same thing, you just have to move your
traps more.
(chit chat while Gary shows Linda clc. One scares her and
che sys': "W aalhoo oo ")
Linda: Do they bite?



CaL.. No. If he bites ya, he's trying to get away.
Linda- When you say you have to move your traps more often,
you don't move em', you mean, get cm' in different areas?
CGary'. Right For instance, if you're fishing out here by the
edge of my houce, you may have to move em', they bunch up.
Linda.:,..._... How many do you usually find in a trap?
Gy..x: When we first started, we'd catch 800-900 pounds a day,
sometimes 1,700. Now, you get lucky if you catch 100.
Linda:. Oh, so this has declined too.
(chit chat between Ivy Eigbee and Gary. In the background,
hard to hear).
Ivy: How are they prepared?
Gar.:. Most of em' are smoked. You hang em' by their lips and
gut em' and then cut his tail off, then you smoke em', that keeps
the amount of grease(?) in there.
Stet.oni Are they picked up on a regular schedule?
Cary- About every 10 days.
(lard to hear L-it hat bc ter. tetn and Gary)
-c..o...;. ,- f ., . the e e _ls come from ho.. f -r away?
. ... ., . . .

t-..... ..- .: yea r. ou n .d or c .c "conal
Gory No. it's starting' now. The eels arc there- all the time
n the summer time when it 's hot. but the.y don't bunch up. I guess
the. spread out, they don't bunch up. The colder it gets, the more

(More hard to hear chit chat between Ctetson & Gary)
t tcor. No local market t houg (for Ceels)?
y .-"... ". A huge Japanese mar,-et, and a Creek. We got a guy

Z-, .* ,., a n y1, It ,
Gr', .... co eM.... .. .. .....- o com..thi tha
"' '--- .- I'*.- I)
..h now are 2 .5 0. 1'- f ,rot stard. out,:
they were .-c ccnts a po und.
(,chit hat between Stetcon 1 Gary about Catf ish('
Ca.y h-at's "r.al1 hurt the Catfi h industry is Fcnds, the
-.:,,d in T hat'o. -hu;1t th Ch imp, hur- t t he. (-).
-. .- ., i- I~.
Ctct.- :- there m-- than one kLind of ee out ther
Cary Noe.- tLhi- what they call the Ameri-can e They all
et' together once every two years or whenever it is, and the
European ecls come over and the American eel goes out, these are
all female eels. The only eel that comes in the river is the
female, the males stay outside. They'll all get together in one
big mass and head for the Caspian sea. That's where they breed at.
Anr when they leave, the European eelc go back there wa a the
American eels come back this way. They come back to the river to
Linda. They really travel that distance? Amazing.
(a long conversation I couldn't hear between Stetson & Gary)
Stetson: It seems to be those blue crabs out on that bridge
O3, 40, 50 years ago were three times bigger than they are now.
Ga ry;.:. They're catching big, males then. Scemc like here, you
catch the big males, like in Lake Geor;e and further south and here
w: catch the female.
Li.- nd c I there any difference in taste?
1....nda Ic there an" difference in taste?

CG .., Same crab, just the male's a lot bigger.
t.cts,.n.. Everybody's talking about pollution. I often
wondered, when they were dumping raw sewage everywhere, was it
better for the crab business?
CGa.) It was! They used to dump crab garbage over the side
before they started taking it to the dump. They take all crab
garbage to the dump now, you can't dump in the river no more. The
environmentalist jump on it, they jump on everything.
Linda_.. What kinds of wildlife do you encounter her besides
Gary.-_ Dobcats. I got one in my freezer, it was killing my
geese. Coons, Coons on the back porch, Possums on the back porch.
Other than that, that's it. Gators.
(chit chat about objects we can't see and conversation that's
hard to hca )
t.ton: W-hen yo.u said that the fih ,know, once it's bCn c thr im: to the, they ner o back to th e net.
Gary. T hat' like a. crab trap. f ou pull a crab trap once
heck it an throw it back and it's got nine crabs in it; unless
the crabs arc really thick, the next da that trap'll have for or
Sn t. Th''l find ther wa out. b'hen the bait's gone-
they tart hunting their way out
't C u nt 4 i r ullin t 1
.< ..< 4. ... ... . .. U .
GCar>' Pullin' and looking at it and throwing it back.
.. ..t.... ..H. ow do they figure out. ..
........ .. . p 'lU C - .
.a.'. found .ut here by tc .-.-r.abbing. .n stonc rabbing,
c. cn't Cfih the tra until t the Lth, when the stonCerabbing
::cZ 7 o-en. Z czn put wire trap. out if it's got aV number on
Son, the Yu can't ut n which is the
toneerabbin.-; number, until the 10th. You can run back over and
bait em'. zut we fou-c ::u c "un bac ., t;-, r: Jnd bait .m' and yo4
ha.: ? in it, you're back i there next time and you rid of some.

'ind.: a onn= why-' can't you take your nine out?
:'.ry. You can't take :m' out. The season don't open till the
I'th. They alci you to run ovr the '.
t. __, _.. o t e rmCa ou .ke"ep
what's in there unless it's a baffle trap or the wood traps. You
can't keep em' till the 1 th.

(tape ends)

Full Text
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