Friday, March 8, 2013

Another Birthday

I decided to recognize all my grandparents this year. Both sets had birthdays in the same month. My mother's parents were both born in March and my father's parents were both born in May.

Today is my Grandpa Fulford's birthday. He would have been One Hundred and Ten.

Walton "Tink" Fulford was born March 8, 1903 in Cortez, Florida to William Thomas and Sallie Adams Fulford. 
Tink Fulford 1952

He was a commercial fisherman from the time he was old enough to climb on the boat until he died. He had his own boat and crew before he could drive.

Those who were in his generation or the next say he was always fishing or thinking about fishing. For me and my cousins that was OK because he took us with him. It was always an adventure. 

Albert "Junie" Mora, now in his eighties started fishing with Tink when he was a teenager. He said everyone in the area wanted to be on Tink's crew because they knew he was going to catch more fish and make the crew more money. There was a waiting list. They had to "sign the book" and wait until someone else got sick, quit or got fired.

They had to wait out all the family members too. Tink had a big one and many of them fished with him.

He didn't have to worry about the grand kids taking his spot though. It was normal for younger crew members to only get a half share. If you were family you got half that. So on payday I was paid a half of a half share. My cousin who works as an engineer designing cars in Japan would probably say that is the same as a quarter share. The complex nature of higher math used by commercial fishermen isn't taught in school. Most of them in that generation didn't graduate from high school and many like my grandfather dropped out before the sixth grade. They understood the math necessary to compute when the tide was coming out, how deep and fast the water was moving, how bright the moon would be and how much net and where it should be put it in order to catch a boat load of fish.   

Junie said Tink would fish from 12 o'clock midnight on Sunday till noon on Saturday. He always took Sunday off and the crew liked that because they knew they would be off at noon on Saturday until Sunday at midnight. He said many Saturdays Tink would take the boat out by himself or with the kids and grand kids saying it was a boat ride but he was really looking for fish. That way he would know where to take the crew the next night.

Junie told a funny story about a time in the 1950s when the market for selling fish was slow and Ralph "Pig" Fulford, Tink's son who ran the fish house told his Daddy that he was cut off, they wouldn't buy any fish from him until it got better.

Tink owned the business and was mad that his son would cut him off. Tink called Junie and told him to get the crew together and go out after dark and gave specific instructions on where to fish. He said "be sure you don't come down here until after dark because if Pig sees you he'll cut you off." Junie took the crew out and they caught 45,000 lbs of mullet. When they unloaded them on the dock the next morning, Pig was mad and said "you can't bring fish in, I cut you off." Tink was there and told Pig he was cut off but Junie hadn't been cut off. He said Pig started calling buyers and sold the fish before noon. Tink said he knew Pig could sell them. He had never been cut off in his life and wasn't going to start then.

Tink Fulford mending net 1954
My mother's cousin Thomas "Blue" Fulford says Tink was more of a father to him rather than an uncle since his father died when he was three. He started fishing with Tink when he was ten years old.

Blue tells how in the 1940-50s when they were running big Stop Netting crews there was fierce competition between them. Tink always wanted to catch the most fish. Sometimes he would "hog" the other crews by tricking them out of a spot if he knew there were a lot of fish there.

It was understood that if a Captain had a boat anchored in an area the other crews had to stay away. On Saturday all the crews would pull the cotton nets out of the boats and let them dry on the spreads over the weekend to keep them from rotting. If you saw a crew pulling out their net you knew they were done for the week. Tink would have his crew pull out the nets but tell them to stay around the dock. They would wait for the other crews to pull out their nets and leave and then he would pull his nets back on the boats. They would go out and anchor one of the boats on the spot Tink wanted so they would have it later when they were ready to fish.

This picture from 1954 was taken by a Tampa newspaper photographer but it wasn't necessarily staged. Mending net is what he did on days if he wasn't fishing. He gave me his old white hat like the one he is wearing in this photo the summer before he died. It was his dress hat, not for fishing.

Bradenton Herald
September 24, 1965

 "Tink" Fulford, Pioneer's Son, Dies At 62

Walton "Tink" Fulford, 62, of Cortez died Wednesday, Sept 22,1965 at Memorial Hospital. Mr. Fulford was born and lived all his life in Cortez and was the son of the late Captain William T. "Billy" Fulford who was a pioneer settler in Cortez.

Tink and Mark 1959
 Captain Fulford came to Perico Island in the 1880s from the eastern coast of North Carolina, near Moorehead City. He met and married Miss Sallie Adams of Moorehead, N. C. in Florida and their first daughter, Mrs. Dora Adams, now 75, was born on Perico Island. With his brothers, sisters and family Captain Fulford moved to Cortez in the early 1890s, which was then named Hunter's Point, later changed to Cortez.

Mr. Walton Fulford owned and operated one of the largest fishing fleets on the west coast of Florida and shipped fish all over the eastern part of the country. In 1940 he opened the Fulford Fish Company in Cortez. He was a member of the Cortez Church of Christ.

Survivors include his widow, Mrs. Edith Wilson Fulford; four daughters, Mrs. Mary Green of Tallahassee, Mrs. Belinda Porterfield of Montgomery, Ala., Mrs. Irene Taylor of St. Petersburg, Mrs. Anna Dean Riddick of Hollywood, Fla.; three sons, Ralph M., Wayne W. and Gary D. Fulford all of Cortez; four sisters, Mrs. Dora Adams, Mrs. Grace Guthrie, Mrs. Sallie Moore, all of Cortez, Mrs. Bessie Henning of St. Petersburg and 13 grandchildren.

Funeral services will be Saturday at 10 A.M. at Griffith - Cline Funeral Home with Olin Hastings, of Oneco Church of Christ and Charles Geer, of Cortez Church of Christ, officiating. Burial will be in Skyway Memorial Gardens. Pallbearers will be J. O. Guthrie Jr., Thomas Fulford, Woodrow Green, O. K. Drymond, Paul Taylor and Manley Bell.

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