Edition 1, 2019.07.25. Photo of the Florida Queen circa 1959, Smith Yacht Basin by the Shrimp Boat restaurant, Panama City, Florida. This headboat belonged to Capt. Davis Queen Fleet which was owned by my father-in-law, Grover Davis, and his two brothers, Joe Ed and "Duck." WARSAWS, GROUPERS, AND SNAPPERS, GALORE. I am Capt. Jason Whitfield. Photographer unknown.
Edition 2, 2019.08.01. Photo of the New Dixie Queen, June 22, 1969, St. Andrews Marina, Panama City, Florida. Owned by Capt. Davis Queen Fleet, this boat ran half day trips and consistently brought back large grouper. In the center of the photo the tallest guy is my dad, deckhand and future captain, Mike Whitfield. By the bow line in the white T-shirt is friend, deckhand, and future captain, Bobby Miley. At the helm was my great uncle, Fennie Whitfield, mentor to generations of local fishermen. I am Capt. Jason Whitfield. Photograph by Harold Gornall.
Edition 3, 2019.08.08. Photo of the Ocean Queen, July 16, 1966, St. Andrews Marina, Panama City, Florida. Another member of the Capt. Davis Queen Fleet, this boat built in 1962 ran 15 hour trips known as 2 o’clock trips because they began at 2:00 a.m. The Ocean Queen had bunks, air conditioning, and 3 engines with a speed near 20 knots (when new) to reach Tony’s Lump and Murray’s Lump, now closed areas. The lumps were home to large warsaws, groupers, white snappers, triggerfish, 100 pound amberjacks, and even 5 pound beeliners. It was not known for red snapper and it was not a place for beginners. This bounty was brought to the dock by Capt. Donald Holman and photographed by Harold Gornall.
The lumps rose to a depth of around 450’ and there were three layers of currents. It took 4.5 hours to reach them. 4/0 Penns were quickly replaced by 6/0s and then electric reels. Anglers struggled to find lines and leaders heavy enough to land the big ones, fit on the reel, and reach the bottom. They had to use 25 ounce leads. And oh, the tangles! Adding to the troubles caused by the vicious currents, there were plenty of bonitos, dolphins, and don’t forget those jumbo amberjacks to tangle up every line on the boat. There is so much more to be told about fishing the lumps and landing the big fish. I am Kim Davis Whitfield and I appreciate all the old stories coming to me. Stay tuned to Throwback Thursdays.
Edition 5, 2019.08.22. Photo of Grover and Judy Davis and their two daughters, Kim (me, left) and Kerrie (right), circa 1971, wrapping up another day of deep sea fishing aboard a Capt. Davis Queen Fleet headboat. This photograph is not remarkable for the fish, but for the family, my family. I am using this Throwback edition to express my deep emotions over the loss of my father and my gratitude for the countless fabulous memories. Grover Davis succumbed to pulmonary fibrosis on Saturday night, August 17, 2019. He was the youngest of the three brothers who owned and managed the Queen Fleet following my grandfather George’s death. My father was a hard worker, mechanical genius, successful businessman, and expert fisherman, yet he truly excelled in his love of life, family, and friends. For him fishing was a sport best enjoyed with one’s family and friends, and to the end, that’s how Grover Davis did it. If he were here, daddy would join me in making this salient point to all recreational anglers: it’s not about the fish, it’s about family and friends and enjoying God’s best work, the outdoors. We’ll miss him terribly, but don’t cry for us, Grover Davis has gone fishing . . . his way.
Edition 7, 2019.09.05. Photo of the Dixie Queen on a trial run soon after being launched in 1946, photographer unknown. This boat was built by my grandfather, George Davis, and a Norwegian known as Hammer in the backyard of George and Lucy Davis’s house in Parker, Florida, not far from the paper mill. From there it was rolled to St. Andrews Bay on logs. George named the boat after his favorite summer snack, Dixie Queen watermelons. Following the suggestion of my great uncle, Buck Lee, who had operated reliably-powered landing craft in the war, George powered his boat with a surplus Gray Marine Diesel Engine 6-71 which people traveled miles just to see. The boat ran from Tarpon Dock until 1947 when it moved to the old Panama City dock.
The Dixie Queen was built and outfitted for a total cost of $6,000 which was the exact amount of war bonds purchased by George as he worked nearly non-stop at Wainwright Shipyard which was churning out Liberty Ships. The engine was most of the cost. When George showed up with red paint to trim the boat in what became the signature paint color of the Davis Queen Fleet, Hammer threw a fit and quit. He believed that his quality work should be finished in the yellows and oranges commonly found on Norwegian boats. The Dixie Queen had some wonderful captains in those early days including my uncle, Joe Ed Davis, Ray Ecker, A. R. Holley, and of course, George. Joe Ed later claimed that the proudest moment of his career was returning from his first trip out as captain on the Dixie Queen with a load of snapper caught near Phillips Inlet. I am Kim Davis Whitfield and I thank you for looking back with me.
Edition 8, 2019.09.12. Photo of the Aqua Queen, year and photographer unknown. Although this boat has “Queen” in the name, it was not affiliated with Capt. Davis Queen Fleet. The Aqua Queen which predated WWII was one of the first headboats in Panama City, and it was owned and operated by Capt. Charles “Mutt” Wallis (1913-1993). In the photo, Mutt’s first wife, Juanita “Boo Darling,” wearing white, stands at the bow and her brother, Robert “Dobby” Monk, resting hands on rail, stands at the stern. Mutt and Boo Darling were the parents of Kim Wallis Whitfield, wife of Capt. Mike Whitfield and mother of Capt. Jason Whitfield and Capt. Ray Whitfield. While Mutt fulfilled his patriotic duties serving several years in the U. S. Navy as a gunner on a destroyer, the unattended Aqua Queen sank where it was moored. Upon his return from war, Mutt was able to repair the small headboat which he operated from the City Pier and Tarpon Dock for a few years prior to working for George Davis and then Walter Anderson. After that he owned and operated charter boats he named Sea Hawk I, II, and III. Through it all Capt. Mutt never once removed his captain’s hat—even his kids never got a look at his reportedly bald head.
Mutt was known for many things, but most especially for owning a smaller boat than his competitors. His daughter and son-in-law (Kim and Mike) report that he would walk along the dock and pester anglers into buying a ticket to fish with him. When potential passengers told Mutt they preferred a larger boat he would always respond, “When that big boat sinks those people are gonna get on a small boat!” Somehow it worked, and little, bald Capt. Mutt Wallis and his small boats hauled scores of passengers out for a day of fishing. From the many stories I’ve heard, I know Mutt won the respect of my father and grandfather along with many others. Who would have thought that one day Capt. George Davis’s granddaughter would marry Capt. Mutt Wallis’s grandson? Well, I'm glad I did. I am Kim Davis Whitfield, and I know that opposites can attract! Thank you for standing by.
Edition 4, 2019.08.15. Photo of Capt. Walter Anderson (white shirt) and fishermen including Cleve Sauls with an abundance of sharks. During the 1940s, brothers Virgil and Walter Anderson each ran a commercial vessel engaged in sharkfishing. The sharks were harvested for nothing but their livers which were sold to make vitamin A, a pressing need of the war era. This photo (photographer unknown) was taken at the Anderson’s Pier and behind it can be seen the City Dock of Panama City which extended from the end of Harrison Avenue. The Anderson Pier extended from the property containing the Anderson’s home which was located at the current site of the Federal Courthouse in downtown Panama City. Members of this family remain tied to the fishing industry operating headboats from the Capt. Anderson’s Marina now on Grand Lagoon, Panama City Beach, Florida.
When World War II ended, my grandfather, George Davis, took his two oldest sons, Joe Ed and Duck, fishing as a reward for their hard labor at home while he worked extended shifts as a trial run engineer building Liberty Ships at Wainwright Shipyard, now Port Panama City. As hometown tourists, they went bottom fishing with one of the Andersons, possibly on the boat in the photo. On the way back to the dock, my grandfather asked my uncles what they thought of starting a fishing business to take tourists out to catch fish. With the wide-eyed enthusiasm of teenage boys, they jumped on the idea. Throughout the war George purchased war bonds with every dime not spent on basic family necessities. In 1946, the money from those war bonds launched a boat, the Dixie Queen, and a family fishing business once unimaginable to a man who dreamed of having two nickels to rub together. And that’s another story. I am Kim Davis Whitfield and I appreciate all the old tales coming to me. Stay tuned to Throwback Thursdays.
Edition 6, 2019.08.29 Photo of two adorable girls thought to be sisters aboard the Queen of Queens, the third vessel designed by and built for George Davis of Capt. Davis Queen Fleet, launched in 1951. These girls had the pleasure of fishing with Capt. Rex Davis (no relation) who started as a galley cook but became an excellent fisherman with a knack for keeping anglers happy. The Queen of Queens was the first Queen Fleet boat to have 3 engines. She was only 65’ long yet she was 26’ wide.
The logic behind a 3 engine boat came easy to George Davis and his sons. The first boat (Dixie Queen) only had one engine because that was all George could afford. The second boat (Queen Mary) had two engines so that the boat’s return to the dock was nearly guaranteed. The Queen of Queens had three engines so that she would never miss a trip due to engine failure and she never did while she was a Queen Fleet boat. In order to provide capital for the construction of newer, better boats, Q of Q was sold in the 1960s to an operation in Carabelle, FL. For helping me with details I thank Bill Morar who even remembers her radio call sign, 6526. The year of the photo and the photographer are unknown. I am Kim Davis Whitfield.