Edition 9, 2019.09.19. Photo of my grandmother, Lucy Davis Davis (1906-1994), and a copper belly grouper she caught aboard a Capt. Davis Queen Fleet headboat on November 11, 1965. This amazing woman married Capt. George Davis in 1923 after the mailboat he drove was stranded by fog in her backyard in Parker, FL. Lucy was a Davis before she married George, hence the family joke about being either inbred or thoroughbred. Grandma Lucy was sweet yet tough, a believer in God and castor oil, a great storyteller, and she loved to fish. This picture by Harold Gornall truly captures her spirit—a woman with a gentle, joyful smile who nevertheless was tough enough to haul in a large copper belly grouper while wearing a dress and sweater.
Lucy worked relentlessly in the early days to help George establish the family fishing business. The docks were full of competitors all trying to attract would-be anglers to their boats. In the 1940s people fished with handlines and it was messy. The husband and wife team decided they would provide hand towels to entice passengers to their boat. Every morning George would hang spotless white hand towels on every boat hook, the same hooks used to display fish on the boat’s return. Every night Lucy would boil the hand towels in a big kettle with bleach and lye soap returning them to their original white. Once the business became successful, George bought Lucy a frontload washing machine, not a minute too soon for the hardworking mother of seven. I am Kim Davis Whitfield and I hope nobody expects me to fish in a dress and wash a daily boatload of fishy hand towels!
Edition 12, 2019.10.10. From left to right, photo of “Sarge,” Frank McGill, a white marlin, Dr. Norman Vic, and “Tater” Spinks on board the Rachel Carson at the St. Andrews Marina, May 18, 1968. In the early 1960s, captains Joe Knowles and Bill Raffield ventured to the DeSoto Canyon and began returning with blue and white marlins. This piqued the interest of Dr. Norman Vic, an oceanographer and professor from Texas A&M who came to Panama City to explore the development of billfishing in the area. The Rachel Carson was his sportfishing research vessel funded by the U.S. Dept. of the Interior Fish & Wildlife Service. Part of the crew that day was an outstanding fisherman named Frank McGill, a Panama City native who worked as a Texaco Jobber and later became a crew member aboard the sportfisher owned by the president of Texaco. Frank was a dear family friend and a hoot to be around. When I billfished with him on the Patriot he always wore bleached out red shorts which means they were pink, he only bathed after we called him Crusty, and every time we had a strike he instantly threw whatever he was eating overboard. Also seen in this Harold Gornall photograph is renowned fisherman Capt. Tater Spinks who decked his early years aboard the Sunrise with Capt. Buck Lee and fished out his later years in Boca Grande. I believe he’s still alive and kicking down there and maybe someday he can tell me his real name ‘cause around here it’s Tater. I regret that I know nothing about “Sarge.” I am Kim Davis Whitfield and I thank you for soaking up some Panama City fishing history here in my Throwback Thursday editions.
CAPT. JASON WHITFIELD
Edition 10, 2019.09.26. Photo of Ten Cent John at the St. Andrews Marina in Panama City, FL, July 21, 1976, displaying fish he caught aboard the Gemini Queen with Capt. Fennie Whitfield at the helm. My dad, Grover Davis, was filled with joy when we uncovered this Harold Gornall picture of Ten Cent John, a favorite customer who bonded with the Capt. Davis Queen Fleet operation and “family.” John was a Canadian who began fishing on CDQF headboats in the early fifties when the boats would fish winters out of Ft. Pierce. Ten Cent John followed the boats from Ft. Pierce to Panama City for several years until he finally moved to an apartment by Smith Yacht Basin. My father and future captain Ronnie Childers were favorite deckhands of John Royal. He always wanted his bait cut in a particular way and he paid them 10¢ to do it, hence the name Ten Cent John. At the beginning of a two-day trip, he once gave Grover a quarter and told him that it was for both days. Ten Cent John may not have been a big tipper, but he made lasting relationships and fond memories. I am Kim Davis Whitfield and it doesn’t cost a dime to enjoy all of our Throwback Thursday editions at this website.
Edition 13, 2019.10.17. Photo of the “DAVIS BARGE” alongside Bayview Ave. in St. Andrews, Panama City, FL, Sept. 24, 1968, engaged in NO HOLDS BARRED artificial reef building. Owned by Capt. Davis Queen Fleet, this reef building barge itself was a salvage dog patched and raised from the bottom of the Chipola River. A close look at the bow reveals that a prankster named the rusty barge the Duck Queen after my Uncle Duck. Anybody’s car or junk was fair game for this operation. All you had to do was abandon it for a while and the Davis brothers along with Capt. Bill Morar would dispatch someone to nab it. The sketchy cargo was stored on a lot on Bayview Avenue until it was loaded as-is onto the barge. Notice the A frame crane truck parked aside the old Masonic Lodge in this picture by Harold Gornall. My father-in-law, Capt. Mike Whitfield, remembers struggling with that truck as a teenager to haul the cars and load the base layer of junk onto the barge. Amazingly, this unimpeded activity was in plain view of multitudes of people as well as regulatory and law enforcement agents. It is my understanding that very few complaints were lodged and most of them were settled simply by returning swiped property.
According to Bill Morar who operated the crane on the long, reef building days, the barge would be towed by the New Dixie Queen at a speed no greater than 5 knots. A typical load created 4-6 spots placed in secret locations pre-selected by CDQF captains. I am told there was no sharing of locations between the captains who would retreat to these private reefs when experiencing a slack fishing day. Fish accumulated on a spot within 6 months and reached a sustainable maximum at 2 years. Over time the barge’s frame weakened, its crane was removed, and the “Duck Queen” was towed to its final resting site offshore of the Old Pass. I love and admire the men in my story today, yet this is not an attempt to defend or glorify artificial reef building as it was done in the 1960s. My goal is to share history and my bias is that I have enjoyed numerous dives on the time-worn reef builder known as the “Davis Barge” in antiquated lists of local LORAN readings. I am Kim Davis Whitfield salvaging scraps of history that are drifting away.
Edition 15, 2019.10.31. Photo of Nolan Upton circa 1969, contestant in the annual fishing tournament held by Capt. Davis Queen Fleet. My guess is that my uncle, Joe Ed Davis, spawned the marketing idea of in-house fishing tournaments for CDQF anglers and brought it to life around 1966. Held at the close of summer and lasting for 6 weeks, the Davis brothers used these contests for many years to stimulate off-peak season ticket sales. There were numerous fish species and outstanding prizes. Pictures such as this were posted outside the ticket office with amusing captions. This one read:
I am Kim Davis Whitfield weighing in on a special time and place.
Nolan Upton of the Fultondale Trailer Park, Birmingham, Ala., displays two of the big snappers he grabbed recently on a trip aboard the “Star Queen” of the St. Andrews Marina here during the Third Annual Panama City Fishing Tournament, which began Sept. 10 and will end Oct. 22. More than $5,000 in prizes are being offered during the six-week sea derby. (Robert’s Studio).
Edition 11, 2019.10.03. Drawing by Capt. Richard Holley of the 1960s ticket office of Capt. Davis Queen Fleet featuring Popeye the Sailorman, St. Andrews Marina, Panama City, Florida. Like so many of the CDQF family, I loved the jumbo-sized Popeye who stood watch over ticket sales for nearly 2 decades. Although the ticket office was remodeled and the sign changed its prices more than once, Popeye remained constant. For those of you who never had the pleasure of a live view, Popeye’s right arm moved from the elbow down allowing him to tirelessly reel in a red snapper which bobbed up and down at the top right corner of the sign. The snapper is not seen here likely due to one of its frequent malfunctions, demonstrating that even manmade snappers can be hard to keep on the line. Special thanks go to Capt. Holley’s family for allowing me to share his drawing. Nobody knew St. Andrews better and I am so grateful for the stories Richard wrote in his book, The Great St. Andrews . . . In the Shoes of a Fisherman. Throughout the course of his well-lived life, Capt. Richard Holley entertained more people than ol’ Popeye. I miss them both. I am Kim Davis Whitfield reminiscing about the thriving fishing village of St. Andrews and inviting you to do the same here at our website.
Edition 14, 2019.10.24. Photo by unknown photographer of the Queen Mary circa 1948 running wide open with both 6-71 Gray Marine Diesel Engines humming. Capt. George Davis and his drawings of this second boat in his Queen Fleet made three trips to Washington, DC, seeking U.S. Coast Guard approval of his tonnage-evading design. He sought more room for passengers and his two engines, yet he wanted to avoid the regulations on longer boats. Although he never made it past elementary school, my grandfather navigated his way through tonnage calculations, rules, and bureaucracy until he was granted permission to build this 20’ wide, 65’ long headboat which capitalized on unrestricted vessel widths. George named her after England’s then-Dowager Queen Mary. He philosophized that if he stuck with “Queen” names, he would never run out. The Queen Mary operated from the Panama City Dock until Capt. Davis Queen Fleet relocated to the St. Andrews Dock in 1955. Her captains included Joe Ed Davis, Bay Strickland, A.R. Holley, and Buster Niquet—not just men but legends in these parts. I am Kim Davis Whitfield thanking you for sinking in to this and other editions of Throwback Thursday.
Edition16, 2019.11.07. Photo of Jason’s step-grandfather, Robert Charles Hadley (1935-2007) and a 240 lb. warsaw grouper he caught circa 1974. But for conscripted years in the military, Bobby Hadley fished his entire life. In the early years he commercial fished with some of the great ones such as Harvey Fidler and the Faircloth brothers, Delbert and Harold. Having lived in the same neighborhood in Parker, he knew the Davis brothers as children, and he decked on Queen Fleet headboats. Along the way he became attached to Mike Whitfield and eventually married Juanita Monk Wallis (known as our “Boo Darling”) making him Mike’s father-in-law. For nearly 40 years he worked with Mike, ultimately as a partner in the commercial fishing boat named Laura Ann. He acquired the precious nickname of “Sweet Bobby” when Capt. Ray Whitfield as a toddler pointed to him on the dock and said, “Momma, here comes that sweet Bobby.” I love this picture of Sweet Bobby showing some spunk by wearing his CDQF T-shirt even though he was working as Capt. Mike Whitfield’s shotgun mate aboard the Capt. Anderson X that day. I am Kim Davis Whitfield hoping you enjoy this and other sweet stories found here.