St. Andrews Bay Times
St. Andrews, Florida, June 22, 1916
Delightful Gulf Party
Monday evening a party of young people with large baskets well filled boarded a launch and sped across the bay to the Gulf where several hours were spent very pleasantly bathing, emptying those baskets and otherwise enjoying themselves only as young people can.
Those constituting the party were Misses Gaynor, Eva and Laura Thompson, Dorothy and Grace Ware, Gladys Wilcox, Lydia and Ruth Smith, Elsie Jordan and Mrs. C. . Gideon, accompanied by "Rosy" Nelson, Earl Thompson, "Rube" Williams, George and Harley Combs, A. R. Folks, F. A. Reynolds, Alfred Weller and a Mr. Treadway.
They returned to St. Andrews in the wee small hours of the night, feeling that time had passed only too soon.
Alfred was 16 years old at the time. My father always said lovingly that Alfred was the apple of Mom and Pop's eye.
other news in the same edition of the Times for June 22, 1916 --
The fishing smack “Annie and Jennie” of the Bay Fisheries Co. of this place, is in port from the snapper banks with a good catch.
The fishing smack Martha Lillian of the Bay Fisheries Company, returned from the snapper banks Monday and reported rough weather in the Gulf. Her mainsail was completely carried away in a gale.
The smack Bonita, Alexander master, was in port Monday with a good catch of red snappers for the Bay Fisheries Co.
Smack Princess, Capt. Andrew, was in port Monday awaiting good weather.
I had an email this week from the grandson of O.T. Melvin, who was shipwrecked on the Annie & Jennie when they lost the range lights leaving out of St. Andrews pass. Dr. Vagias’ grandfather was one of only two men who survived the wreck. Dr. Vagias shared with me his grandfather’s memory that he walked the beach for days afterward and found the body of my uncle Alfred, who was lost in the wreck. And of that night that was so catastrophic for my family, including “He always said that after the men went into the water, he could hear their screams but was unable to help them. Then, the screams, he said, died out one by one. ‘I can still hear their voices all these years later’ he would say.”
Dr. and Mrs. Vagias are to come over from Niceville next week to meet us and to see our old homestead that my grandparents built in 1912, and where my family were living at the time.
Over the now nearly four years I’ve been blogging daily, first on CaringBridge leading up to my heart surgery at Cleveland Clinic and then here on +Time, I’ve several times shared family memories and stories. One has been my own keen awareness that had that shipwreck not occurred Mom and Pop’s hearts would not have been broken that day, they would never have left this house and moved away trying to run from the memories of St. Andrews Bay, and my father and mother would never have met, and I would never have been born. Some in my family don’t understand my sense of owing my life to Alfred; and of living here in his house in his place and in place of his children and grandchildren, and thinking of him every single time I touch the bannister every single time I come down the stairs, every single time all these years. There’s a sense in Jewish theology, from whence comes our Christianity, that we live on through the loving memories of those who live on after us. I think in that sense, that even though he died at 18, Alfred may have lived on longer than anyone I've ever known.
Where will he be in another hundred years? And where will I laugh?
My deepest memories have been from my father, and my grandfather and grandmother, Mom and Pop, telling me about Alfred and the wreck of the Annie & Jennie. Just this week another dear friend said she is moving to Lake Caroline, next to where Mom and Pop built a house in the early to mid 1940s, and my memories of the dirt roads there at the time, and the dirt road that runs east/west between East Caroline and West Caroline, where on both sides there were tall, thick blackberry bushes; in late summer they were always loaded with blackberries and my cousin Ann and I would pick blackberries and take them home and Mom would stop whatever she was doing and make blackberry cobbler for us. It was always sandy and gritty but so sweet with sugar and love.
The devastation of Mom and Pop’s life when they lost Alfred, my father showing me “my brother’s casket was right there” in front of the fireplace here in my living room, the 18 steps in the stairs and the bannister. Mom died January 23, 1947, my first experience with death and my own life's heaviest trauma because we were so close. Pop died in June 1964 while we were stationed in Japan. The last time I visited Pop, June 1963 just before the Navy moved us to Japan, talking with him about this old house and asking why he had never come to visit after my parents bought the house back in 1962. Hearing him say quietly, “I can’t go back there because of Alfred.”
Some things and places and memories in life just carry your heart away.
Early autumn morning on my downstairs front porch. There’s that channel marker light, flashing green. At me.