Florida Net Maker: The Strangest Catch

Every year, staff at the State Archives of Florida gets ready for the Florida History Fair by searching out primary source documents and compiling a list of resources for students and teachers. One of this year’s suggested Florida-related topics is “Commercial Fishing Net Ban: Economics, Ecology, and Responsibility.” That topic led us to this story.

In 1980, folklorist Peggy Bulger interviewed net maker Billy Burbank III as part of her research on the fishing industry in Florida. Burbank told Bulger the tale of a fishing boat that accidentally caught something very strange in its trawl nets.

Burbank family at Burbank Trawl Makers, Inc., Fernandina Beach, 1986

Burbank family at Burbank Trawl Makers, Inc., Fernandina Beach, 1986

Billy Burbank and the Strangest Catch

B: My name is Billy Burbank, III. I was born in Fernandina Beach, Florida, October 2, 1951.

P: Now tell me something about your grandfather, William Burbank.

B: Well, my grandfather was born on Cumberland Island which is in Georgia. He started shrimping oh back in his early years when he was 15-16 years old. He got into the shrimp business, oh just starting shrimping and started making his own nets.

And when oh his nets seemed to out produce everybody else’s nets. Then everybody decided to get him to make their nets and then that’s when we got started in the net business in about 1915 and been in it ever since.

P: […] Oh, what is the strangest catch you’ve ever heard anybody catching around here?

B: Strangest catch?

P: Yeah.

B: […] Probably be oh, submarines. An actual submarine in someone’s net started towing the boat backwards almost sinking the boat didn’t even realize they had the shrimp boat caught. It was the— not a Navy submarine. It was a German, I mean a Russian submarine.

P: Here?

B: Well, it was off this coast, yeah. They didn’t even realize that they had the submarine in the net at first. They were towed one way and all of a sudden started going backwards of the cable popped. And just a little while later they saw the submarine surface with the shrimp net on top of ‘em. I guess I’d have to say that is the weirdest catch.

Learn More About Net Making

Burbank nets have been used by people in the U.S. from North Carolina down to Florida and up the Gulf Coast through the Texas Panhandle area. Their nets have also been exported to Central and South America and Africa. At the time of the interview, Burbank Trawl Makers was the largest producer of fishing nets in the United States.

In the interview, Burbank also describes the different net types and uses – including flat nets, four seam balloon nets, two seam balloon nets, and a modification that Billy Burbank III developed called the Mongoose, which is actually two nets in one.

Read the full interview in Netmaking and Net Fishing in Florida.

Close-up view of net made by Billy Burbank III, Fernandina Beach, 1980

Close-up view of net made by Billy Burbank III, Fernandina Beach, 1980

Kona Vernacular

Skateboarding originated in California in the 1950s and swiftly moved east to Florida. Kona Skatepark, located on Kona Avenue in southeast Jacksonville, opened in 1977 and is the longest-running skatepark in the United States. In the world of skateboarding, Kona is legendary. The picture below features one of the park’s most popular features that still remains firmly upright and imposing today: “The Tombstone,” a vertical wall measuring 6 feet above the rim of the bowl.

Ben French riding on "The Tombstone," Jacksonville, 1988

Ben French riding on “The Tombstone,” Jacksonville, 1988

In 1988, Gregory Hansen interviewed skateboarders Ben French and Shawn Roden as part of the Folk Arts in Education Project in Duval County. At the time of the interview, both French and Roden were high school students who spent every spare moment on their skateboards. Of course, Kona Skate Park was their venue of choice.

Skateboarder Ben French at Kona Skate Park, Jacksonville, 1988

Skateboarder Ben French at Kona Skate Park, Jacksonville, 1988

While you’re looking at the photos, listen to an interview excerpt of Ben French and Shawn Roden explaining some of Kona’s features for a glimpse into the life of young skateboarders in Jacksonville in the 1980s.

Excerpt from an interview with Ben French and Shawn Roden

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Take a listen to this interview excerpt to enhance your vocabulary of skateboarding tricks as French and Roden give in-depth descriptions of a wide range of tricks.

Excerpt from an interview with Ben French and Shawn Roden

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Oystering in Apalachicola

Oyster tonging

Oyster tonging

Oystering communities around the world take pride in the quality and freshness of their succulent bivalves, and Apalachicola is no exception. With its brackish waters and calm winds, Apalachicola Bay is a prime setting for both oysters and the industry built around them to thrive.

Young boy enjoying oyster at the Florida Seafood Festival - Apalachicola, Florida

Young boy enjoying oyster at the Florida Seafood Festival – Apalachicola, Florida

The people of Apalachicola possess skills, beliefs, and a spirit of generosity and perseverance that make the community unique. Crafts such as boat building or oyster tong making are passed down through generations, as are techniques for harvesting and shucking the oysters. Successful seafood distributors make the product available to the many restaurants and retailers in the region, and the community celebrates its heritage during the annual Florida Seafood Festival.

Miss Florida Seafood 1974, Rosalie Nichols, at the Florida Seafood Festival

Miss Florida Seafood 1974, Rosalie Nichols, at the Florida Seafood Festival

Read more »

Lois Duncan on the Steinmetz Collection, Part 2

Award-winning author Lois Duncan is the daughter of photographer Joseph Janney Steinmetz. She is the author of 50 books, ranging from children’s picture books to adult novels, but she is best known for her young adult suspense novels. Seven of Duncan’s books have been adapted into films. Recently, Stephanie Meyer, author of the Twilight series, optioned Duncan’s Down a Dark Hall.

In this series of blog posts, Duncan gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the making of some of her father’s most famous photographs.

Lois Duncan Steinmetz in a field of daisies in Taos, New Mexico.

Lois Duncan Steinmetz in a field of daisies in Taos, New Mexico.

Florida Memory: Joseph Janney Steinmetz was a world-renowned commercial photographer whose images appeared in such publications as The Saturday Evening Post, Life, Look, Time, Holiday, Collier’s, and Town and Country.

His work has been referred to as “an American social history” that documented scenes of American life as diverse as affluent northeasterners to middle-class Floridians. He often used friends and family as subjects in his photographs. Tell us about this one.

Duncan: There I am, standing in a field of daisies in Taos, New Mexico, getting eaten alive by chiggers while my father kept waiting for “the light to be just right.”

The slant of light was one of the most important things I learned from him about photography. Whenever we took a photo trip on a magazine assignment, he would have the script of the photos he was to take, and before he ever started work, he and Mother would visit each location, determine the angle from which the shot should be taken, and the direction the light should be when the picture was taken.

Then they’d register the time of day when they should try for that shot. (Unfortunately for me, this daisy field shot was not planned beforehand–Joe just stumbled on a “pretty field of daisies” and I happened to be in the car–so the lighting was overhead and he had to wait for a cloud to come over so he could shoot without shadows.)

Lois Duncan on the Steinmetz Collection

Award-winning author Lois Duncan is the daughter of photographer Joseph Janney Steinmetz. She is the author of 50 books, ranging from children’s picture books to adult novels, but she is best known for her young adult suspense novels. Seven of Duncan’s books have been adapted into films. Recently, Stephanie Meyer, author of the Twilight series, optioned Duncan’s Down a Dark Hall.

In this series of blog posts, Duncan gives a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the making of some of her father’s most famous photographs.

Florida Memory: Joseph Janney Steinmetz was a world-renowned commercial photographer whose images appeared in such publications as The Saturday Evening Post, Life, Look, Time, Holiday, Collier’s, and Town and Country.

Steinmetz lived in Sarasota, Florida. He fell in love with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus which wintered there and photographed performers for 20 years. This photograph of clown Emmett Kelly in a bubble bath is one of the most famous of his circus images. How did it come to be?

Ringling Circus clown Emmett Kelly in a bubble bath.

Ringling Circus clown Emmett Kelly in a bubble bath

Duncan: Joe was good friends with many of the Ringling Brothers Circus performers. He took this photo of Emmett Kelly in the bathtub as a favor to Kelly, who wanted the image for his Christmas card.

Joe’s wife, Lois Foley Steinmetz, was crouched down out of sight behind the chair that held Kelly’s clothing, with an egg beater in her hand. After every shot Joe took, Lois would leap out of hiding, use the egg beater to increase the foam in the tub, and conceal herself once again.

Penny Richards and the Flying Car Case

We first noticed the artwork of Penny L. Richards when she created beautiful upcycled cases using vintage Library of Congress images posted on the Flickr Commons. We were thrilled when she used two images from the State Library and Archives of Florida, which she found on our Flickr Commons photostream. We decided to interview Penny Richards to learn more.

Tell us about yourself.

Penny Richards: I’m Penny Richards, I’m a mom at home in Redondo Beach, California, and a research scholar affiliated with UCLA’s Center for the Study of Women. I sometimes teach art in my kids’ school, and I run or contribute to about 10 blogs (but most of them aren’t mine).

How did you become interested in vintage photographs?

PR: My PhD is in Education, but I’ve always done historical projects, and I’m currently president of the Disability History Association, so it’s mostly from my academic work. I had been gathering disability history and women’s history images from the Library of Congress holdings for a while before the Flickr Commons project started, so it was easy for me to get involved there when it did start.

How do you convert a purse or case into a piece of art?

Well, each one is different, but the basic steps are in this tutorial.

What drew you to these particular photographs (the flying automobile and the woman with camera)?

A good image for my purposes is clear and has all its edges—meaning, I can cut out a person or an object without losing any of the outline—and it’s a good shape for the bag. Most portraits are vertical, but most bags and cases are square or horizontal, so that’s always a challenge.

The flying car just made me smile, and I knew it could be printed onto different papers and cut into pieces for more definition, almost like the anatomical sections of an insect. I also didn’t mind the blurry propeller because that was easy to paint in. The woman who owns that case is a crafter based in Orange County, who loves strong color and offbeat images.

The woman with the camera is just lovely, she has a pleasant expression and she’s looking straight at the viewer (in so many older portraits of women, that’s not true); I’ve used that one a couple times, because I figure a lot of people who’d like my bags would also like photography. The woman who bought that case works in animation, so I guess I was on target there!

Flying car case

Flying car case

 

Jess Dixon in his flying automobile

Jess Dixon in his flying automobile

 

Upcycled case, back

Upcycled case, back

 

Young smiling woman, holding a camera

Young smiling woman, holding a camera

 

Photographer purse

Photographer purse