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 Traveler.com