Monday, March 10, 2014

Part Eight: Indian River Memories

As I stated in his first post, once weekly I plan to feature a guest writer, my husband. He has been painstakingly writing down the stories of his childhood to share them with his then 9 year old niece. I wanted her to know what kind of childhood her beloved Uncle was able to enjoy. While enjoying them myself I thought these are so much fun to read, why not share them? So here are the short missives of his memories of growing up in wilds of Florida during the 1950's and 1960's. They're packed with misadventures, romance, and all the confusing things that can happen in our youth. Even though his hometown of Jacksonville is a big city with over a million residents now, during his childhood it was several small communities surrounded by countryside.

This is his story.

(Please note: None of the photos in this post are from our files. They are all from the internet.)

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Indian River Memories
by Steven R. Hudson

Not all my adventures revolved around our home in Center Park. We made frequent trips to Ft. Pierce to visit Grandma Cootie. She and my step
grandfather no longer lived on Angle Road but had moved into an old wood frame house fronting on Indian River in St. Lucie. There was a great open porch without railings surrounding the structure. A stately old Live Oak tree stood in front amidst tall Cabbage Palms. The side and back yard had Orange and Grapefruit trees. A dock stretched at least a hundred feet into the river with a large platform at it's end and Coconut Palms lined the paved road that fronted the house. Looking across the river, (actually a salt water lagoon) you could see Mangrove jungles that defined the shallow waters of the far bank and small islands, covered with Australian Pines were strung like pearls along the river's channel.

Grandma was an excellent cook and enjoyed cooking up huge feasts in preparation for our visits. Exiting the car, we could smell the aroma of roasts, hams and home baked pies and cakes from her kitchen. We would eat until we could hold no more and Grandma would carry on, decrying our "small appetites" and all the left overs she had to deal with. Of course, the next few days would see the left overs disappear. Everything she cooked always tasted so good.

Evenings found us all on the dock to catch Mangrove Snappers, Trout and Snook. If the shrimp were running, a Coleman lantern would be hung over the water to draw the shrimp to the surface to be scooped up with a dip net.
Sometimes something unusual would be drawn to the light and our baited hooks like a Barracuda or an eel like Cutlass Fish. Needle Fish would chase the small fish drawn by the light and were a prize if you were fast enough to net one as there was no better bait for big Snook. Breakfast would consist of crispy fried fish fillets, eggs and grits. It was so good waking to the aroma of fish frying and coffee bubbling in Grandma's old fashioned percolator. Breakfast over, we might take a boat ride on the river with Uncle Bill as we called our step grandpa, to gather fresh oysters if they were in season or go to one of his favorite fishing spots for Sea Trout or Snook. Uncle Bill grew up on the Indian River, earning a living in his youth as a commercial fisherman and it seemed he knew every cut, creek and island it held. He could tell stories by the hour about his life on the river, trolling wire lines for Trout, catching sea turtles and even Manatees. Such activities would be illegal now but in those days these animals were abundant and anything you could catch would be used for food.

Uncle Bill's mother lived in an old wooden house on 32nd Sreet in Ft. Pierce. We called her Gramoddy. Her yard was a jungle of old trees, vines and bamboo and looked out of place next to the neatly manicured lawns of other homes on that street. Her next door neighbors were Robert and Gladys Loyd. They were wonderful folks and friends to my Grandma and Uncle Bill. They had a daughter my age named Sherry, my first crush, and I would go next door to the Loyds whenever we visited Gramoddy to see her. Mr. Loyd had a very successful fruit trucking business and I remember him and Mrs. Loyd being kind, friendly people. It seems they were always making homemade ice cream when we visited and it tasted so fine under the shade trees of their back yard. Grammody's yard was a great place to view nature. She had bird feeders all round her house and she would hand feed peanuts to the squirrels, all of which she had given names. The most tame was a female she called "Gray Baby". I would watch her bird feeders for hours and she would help me identify the birds that I was not familiar with. I saw my first Painted Buntings at her feeders and my interest in watching birds was born and nurtured there.


Deb said...

I love that you are using your blog to record family memories. What a gift to your children! We all need to write down our memories for those who come after us. Thanks for the inspiration and have a great week!

linda eller said...

So interesting and makes one feel they are there as he tells it.

Sparky said...

Thanks everyone! It's so sweet for you all to such things. Have a blessed day my friends! ~:)

Simply Linda said...

I think I have mentioned this..but when Dave & I were first married, we moved down to Vero Beach. We had a small wooden frame house on the intercoastal in a little town named Wabasso. Sigh, those were the days..those were the days..Blessings

Anonymous said...

It is interesting to learn where your love and knowledge of birds came from. Your memories of the good cooking make me hungry! Always a pleasure to read your memories of childhood.

Weekend-Windup said...

Nice to read about your sweet memories. Thanks for sharing!!

Patsy said...

Thank you so much for your comments and prayers---We are getting better.