Florida's Forgotten Coast | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Florida's Forgotten Coast

  • Collection DOI:
    Principal Investigator:
    Amy Evans
  • Florida's Forgotten Coast oral history collection includes twenty-one interviews documenting the seafood industry in Franklin County, FL, with an emphasis on Apalachicola, plus two interviews relating to tupelo honey. Original Collection Housed at Archives & Special Collections at the University of Mississippi and online at www.southernfoodways.com.

Interviewee Description Interviewer Date of Interview Location of Interview Affiliation Collection
Fred C. Millender

Fred Millender has been working on the bay since he was a boy. Born in Carrabelle, Florida, in 1929, Fred's family saw opportunity in Eastpoint and moved there in 1942. At one time, the Millender family had three seafood houses along the bay. When Fred managed his own place, he had twenty-nine boats harvesting oysters. The seafood industry was booming in Eastpoint. Recently, though, among other problems, hurricanes have taken their toll on the area. But Fred is a survivor. He has found a way to keep Fred's Best Seafood afloat. Today, his daughter Susan operates the seafood house.

Amy Evans Eastpoint, FL Southern Foodways Alliance Florida's Forgotten Coast
Genaro "Jiggs" Zingarelli

Jiggs Zingarelli's grandfather came to Florida from Puglia, Italy, sometime in the late nineteenth century. Jiggs's parents settled in Apalachicola, where he was born in 1915. His nickname references his childhood habit of dancing Irish jigs. He served in the Army during World War II. When Jiggs returned home, he looked to printing as a trade. He went to Nashville to learn the craft of linotype and opened Franklin County Press in 1946. Soon, he began printing the oyster tags for the seafood houses in the area, and he has been printing them ever since.

Amy Evans Apalachicola, FL Southern Foodways Alliance Florida's Forgotten Coast
George Watkins, Part 2

George Watkins's family has been in the Apalachicola area since the late nineteenth century. They've witnessed the sponge trade, the loading of cotton boats, and a booming seafood industry. When George was a eight years old, his grandfather began taking him out fishing on weekends. Right then, George knew he wanted to be a fisherman. Over the years he has harvested just about everything the bay has to offer. But one day George decided to take up beekeeping. He says it was because he just liked honey. Like everything else George does, he threw himself into beekeeping with a passion.

Amy Evans Apalachicola, FL Southern Foodways Alliance Florida's Forgotten Coast
George Watkins, Part 1

George Watkins's family has been in the Apalachicola area since the late nineteenth century. They've witnessed the sponge trade, the loading of cotton boats, and a booming seafood industry. When George was a eight years old, his grandfather began taking him out fishing on weekends. Right then, George knew he wanted to be a fisherman. Over the years he has harvested just about everything the bay has to offer. But one day George decided to take up beekeeping. He says it was because he just liked honey. Like everything else George does, he threw himself into beekeeping with a passion.

Amy Evans Apalachicola, FL Southern Foodways Alliance Florida's Forgotten Coast
Tommy Ward

Born in 1961, Tommy Ward grew up with an appreciation for the place he still calls home. His parents, Buddy and Martha Pearl Ward, raised Tommy in the business out at their seafood house, 13 Mile. The remote location, thirteen miles west of Apalachicola, gave Tommy a hands-on education in his natural surroundings and life on the bay. As a teenager, Tommy left home and spent some time away at college. He also paid his dues working at some other seafood houses in Apalachicola. Eventually, he returned to the family business. But 13 Mile is not just his business. It's his heritage.

Amy Evans Apalachicola, FL Southern Foodways Alliance Florida's Forgotten Coast
Henry Tindell

Henry Tindell is a native of Alabama. As a teenager, he went to Eastpoint to visit an aunt and, inspired by his time there, he devised a plan for what to do when he finished high school. But Henry was too eager to get on the water, so in 1963 he moved to Eastpoint and finished his senior year up the road in Carrabelle. Soon after, he began harvesting oysters and crabs and has been working on the bay ever since. In the 1980s, as imports began replacing the local hard crab business, soft-shell crabs became popular, so Henry began cultivating them.

Amy Evans Eastpoint, FL Southern Foodways Alliance Florida's Forgotten Coast
Charles Thompson

Born in 1942, Charles Thompson spent thirty-plus years of his life as a shrimper. In the 1980s, he began making his own nets. Soon, though, Charles could see that the shrimp business was changing. In 1998 he decided to sell his last boat. Not wanting to sit idle, he began repairing nets and making new nets for the shrimpers in the area. At that time, other net shops in Franklin County were closing. A local net maker by the name of James Copeland passed his skills and his patterns on to Charles. Soon, Charles had a new demand for his handiwork.

Amy Evans Apalachicola, FL Southern Foodways Alliance Florida's Forgotten Coast
Anthony Taranto

Anthony Taranto is the son of Italian immigrants. His parents, Joseph and Madeline Taranto, met in Apalachicola. In 1923 they opened their own seafood house, Taranto's Seafood, and Anthony was born nine years later. As a kid, Anthony remembers his father employing more than fifty shuckers, mostly African Americans. When he was old enough, he helped pack shrimp. They would pour the shrimp into wooden barrels, pack them with ice, and send them to New York on a train. Anthony took over his father's seafood business as an adult. But today, Taranto's Seafood is closed.

Amy Evans Apalachicola, FL Southern Foodways Alliance Florida's Forgotten Coast
Donald Smiley

The son of farmers, Donald Smiley was not born with the bay in his blood. He spent his childhood in the inland town of Wewahitchka, and, as a young man, Donald worked as an air conditioning technician in Panama City. But in 1980 he moved to Franklin County and began oystering. Donald says he made more money in one day of oystering than he could make in a week at doing A/C repair. He harvested oysters for the next thirteen years, until in 1993 the industry was changing so much that Donald wanted out. As a hobby, he started tinkering with bees.

Amy Evans Wewahitchka, FL Southern Foodways Alliance Florida's Forgotten Coast
Robert Shiver

Bobby Shiver was born at 13 Mile in 1939. His father oystered and his mother shucked for Miller's Fish & Oyster Company. As a child, Bobby remembers building toy boats out of scrap metal and wood. In the 1960s he began to build boats as a hobby. For years, creating boats was an avocation. Working the bay and building houses was Bobby's vocation. But when he got older, he began learning more about the trade from local boat builders. With a seventh-grade education, Bobby mastered the craft and made hundreds of boats. He never worked from a design.

Amy Evans Eastpoint, FL Southern Foodways Alliance Florida's Forgotten Coast