Summer, even during the hottest days, is fishing season for most people.
Tennessee is blessed with some of the best lakes and rivers for those inclined to drop a hook in the water and wait for a bite. From the mountain streams of East Tennessee to the impounded lakes of Middle Tennessee to the ‘Big Muddy’ in West Tennessee, a fellow doesn’t lack for a good place to go fishing!
But as the old saying goes, “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence!”
That is why it was not uncommon for a fisherman to load up his car and attach his boat trailer and head to greener pastures.
Our photo this week is just such an example.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, a group of men from Hartsville would head down to the sunny shores of Florida to try a little fishing.
The allure was of course deep-sea fishing, as compared to the lazy bank fishing found hereabouts.
Sometimes it would be one man and his best friend, or a family group, or a fellow and a few co-workers. It didn’t take much incentive for a true fisherman to grab his tackle box and head south.
In 1961, a large group of local businessmen got together and loaded themselves into several cars and drove the long way to the warm shores of Florida’s Gulf Coast.
This was before the interstate and the roads were modest two-lane highways that wound their way from one small town to another.
I made the trip with my grandfather in 1958 and I know the route well.
We didn’t have an air conditioner in the car, as most cars back then didn’t. So we looked forward to stopping at a Stuckey’s to get a cool drink and a candy bar. For those of you who didn’t grow up in the mid-century, Stuckey’s was a chain of stores that offered gas, a small restaurant, gift items and “clean restrooms.”
The men would pool their money to pay the driver for gas and I am sure that many a cigarette or cigar was smoked, maybe a few beers consumed and certainly a slew of old jokes were shared!
Our photo was donated by a descendant of one of the members of the great fishing expedition, all now deceased.
Starting on the back row, Clayton Parker, Bill Davis, Clyde Burnley, an unidentified boy peeking between, Bill Faust Key, another unidentified fellow, William “Bill’ Dalton, Bradley Burton, Bill Wade Rickman, J.C. Bradshaw, Sonny Brooks, Toby Langford, unidentified.
On the front, the first two are unidentified, then Harry Leath, Al Oettle, kneeling between the two rows and directly behind Oettle was N.B. Rickman, then Ray Celsor, Jack Carey, Lawrence Turner and Joe Ross.
The photo was made after a day’s fishing on a large boat and their catch is lying on the dock in front. On the back of the photo we find this stamped, “Ft. Walton Beach, Florida.”
Such buddy trips were a part of the past, before Disney World took our tourist dollars and computers took our spare time.
While I am sure that there was some good eating back at their motel rooms that night since they likely stayed in kitchenettes, the real thrill of the trip was the opportunity to be with friends and to share in a tall tale or lose a few dollars in a friendly poker game before loading up and heading back home.
We have a friend, now deceased, who joined a group of Hartsville businessmen in the 1960s to go fishing on Kentucky Lake.
He told me about the poker games — a little cheating was tolerated as long as the stakes were pennies — the jokes and the stories.
He told me that their week on the lake was divided into chores so that every night a different one of the group was in charge of supper at their rented lakeside cabin.
Fish was always on the menu but the side dishes and dessert could be anything imaginable as back at home, most of the fellows let their wives do the cooking and barely knew how to fry an egg.
One fellow took the money collected each night for supper and headed into the nearest town for the ingredients for supper.
When he returned, my friend said, he had “a loaf of white bread and two bottles of Jack Daniels!”
And they ate and drank and played poker till late into the night!