Thursday, April 2, 2009

Cracker Chronicles

This is the 2nd episode in the tales of my Florida ancestors. This bunch would be the saltines.

Mamie, Noah, Frances, Gertrude, Maude and Susie. These 5 sisters included my grandmother and at one time or another, they all lived in Carrabelle in the rambling, drafty white house that still sits on the main curve of the road coming into this tiny town. Now they only live in the memories of those of us who loved them.

When I was a child, we faithfully visited, though I admit I didn’t think it was much fun. There wasn’t much in the way of entertainment in Carrabelle. The highlight of my visit was spending hours with my dad and my sister down on the harbor skipping oyster shells. There’s an art to skipping shells and we could get up to 8 skips with all that practice. Dad would tell us stories of how the sleepy little fishing village was once more of a bustling town when the railroad ran to haul the plenteous seafood that was the only crop.

It was a stretch of the imagination to think of Carrabelle as bustling. It was renowned as the town that used a phone booth as the police station. No kidding. “The phone booth was installed in 1963 to keep policemen out of the rain. “They used to have a phone on the wall across the street,” said Police Chief Jesse Smith. “But every time it rained, the man who answered it would get wet. At the time, the single police officer walked a beat and didn’t have a patrol car, Smith said. The department has grown to three officers since then, but little else has changed.”1

One hot summer night when I was about 8 years old, after a rousing game of Scrabble with my great aunts, I was asleep upstairs in the bedroom I’d chosen for my own. Even with the windows wide open, the sheets stick to you and the air feels like breathing through wet cotton. The siren of the volunteer fire department, which was right next door, blasted me awake and I still remember the terror I experienced when I thought the house was on fire. The piercing wail was calling even my aunt, who was the fire chief and in charge of driving the water truck to where it was needed.

Right now, no one lives in the house with more than a hundred years of history. My 89 year old aunt Cathy can’t live there by herself but can’t bring herself to sell it.

I read a wonderful novel recently that romanticized this area of Florida’s “forgotten coast.” Remembering Blue by Connie May Fowler is a great read if you want to visit Carrabelle. 1. Warren, Michael. Florida


Merrie said...

That roused so many memories for me... of my own life growing up, but also of Carrabelle. It is a long story, and too much for a "comment". We lived there one summer when our children were little. My husband pastored a church there. We were running for our call to the Methodist Church (Jesus appeared to Steve and TOLD him that's where He wanted him)... and we wanted a Spirit filled Charismatic church. The people were wonderful to us, but when you are out of God's will, it is not good. So, we came to our senses and resigned. I remember sobbing as we drove away. In 3 short months I had fallen deeply in love with the area.
You are blessed with such a rich heritage!

skoots1mom said...

your writing took me there...i love your writing!

Uncommon Blonde said...

I loved reading this. It's important to write these memories down and you do it so eloquently

Melanie said...

I enjoy reading your "cracker commentaries."

Greg C said...

You know, growing up in Florida was kind of special. I can still remember my grandmothers huge house on the corner. I can skip shells with the best of them and I don't mind being called a Cracker. It's part of who I am.

2nd Cup of Coffee said...

I missed why they are called "cracker commenataries." ? I loved this post, Beverly, with all the sensory and incongruous images, like your aunt the fire chief. This post sounds like a great novel beginning to me .... and Carrabelle is a bee-utiful name.

Antique Mommy said...

I love that you are writing down these stories, recorded in a such a lively and entertaining way. What a lovely gift for your descendants.