That picture above is of me and my Grandpa Uhlmann taken in the early 1950’s. We’re in Clearwater Beach, Florida.
I like pictures like this. Especially when I know both people. This was a good day. My Dad’s pal, Ralph Mullins, owned the charter boat we fished from. The fish look a bit worse for wear, but this was probably 1954 or 1955. Ice was for drinks, not to throw all over fish.
For some reason I remember almost everything about this day. I remember I didn’t get as seasick as I was typically prone to do. Nauseous yes, but not seasick. I’m smiling in that picture because I am finally back on solid ground. And because I’m with my Grandpa who was a pretty neat old dude, even to an 8 year old.
I never knew my Dad’s Mom and Dad. They passed away before I was born. So my Mom’s parents were all the grandparents I ever had. They lived in Oaklandon, Indiana which is now a suburb of Indianapolis. Back in the early 20th century it was all farmland. Indy was a long way away by horse-drawn wagon. Oaklandon was in the sticks.
Grandpa was a master carpenter and specialized in bowling alleys. Back then they were handmade and probably varied a bit alley to alley. I’ll bet bowlers knew which alley favored them and which didn’t. Probably hoped that whoever they were bowling against didn’t have the same advantage. I don’t think my Grandpa ever bowled. He just made it possible for others to.
Grandma was a seamstress and hat maker. That’s how she earned money to help raise 6 kids. She could play any song on the piano “by ear” never bothering to learn to read music. She and Grandpa also farmed and regularly sold eggs, vegetables, and cut flowers raised on their farm.
Now we buy flowers for Valentine’s Day that come from Kenya or Colombia. They cost a lot of money. Maybe it’s because of higher airfares. I wonder what husbands did back in Grandpa’s time for Valentine’s Day? It was February. It was freezing. There were no flowers. Airplanes had just been invented. I’m not sure Columbia or Kenya had been discovered. If they had I’m pretty sure they weren’t growing flowers for Valentine’s Day. Maybe that’s how candy became a popular Valentine’s Day gift.
Mom would tell us stories about going “into town” riding in the back of a horse drawn wagon loaded with fresh eggs, vegetables, and flowers. Grandma and Grandpa didn’t own a car. Just a very reliable horse. No indoor plumbing, either. No forced air heat. No paved roads. No gas ovens. Just a farmhouse, barn, horse, wagon, 6 kids, wood stove, and many, many great memories. Well, maybe not about the outhouse.
About 1953 Dad and Mom had moved to Clearwater Beach, Florida. Dad loved to fish and had made friends with a fellow named Ralph Mullins. Captain Ralph Mullins. Ralph had a charter boat fishing business out of the Clearwater Beach Marina and he and Dad could often be found fishing a wreck or drop-off when paying customers were scarce. I figured Dad was Ralph’s “unofficial” first mate. Dad said he moved to Florida to start another business. I think he moved there to get warm. And to fish.
By the time our family was in Florida Grandpa and Grandma were “empty nesters”, all of their children having moved out to pursue their own versions of the American dream. As a kid I remember Grandma and Grandpa Uhlmann occasionally coming to visit us in Evansville, Indiana which is at the far southwest corner of the state and about 180 miles from Oaklandon. They usually traveled by bus or train which wasn’t all that uncommon in the late 1940’s or early 1950’s. Not everyone had a car, or cared to for that matter. It was just after WW II and cars were scarce. And Grandpa was happy with his horse.
Sometime between late 1953 to early 1954 Grandpa and Grandma came to Florida for a visit. They traveled by train and this was their very first trip this far away from Indiana and certainly their first time to ever see the Gulf of Mexico or even saltwater for that matter. I do remember Grandpa was happy to have finally arrived after the long train ride and danced a little jig when he spotted our family on the train platform. Even in his late 60’s he could still do handstands and was always ready to demonstrate he was still a very able bodied man.
Grandpa had never fished much, as raising 6 kids took all of his time. Fishing was a leisure activity and Grandpa didn’t have any. So, having him in Florida and on a fishing boat was a first for him and for all of us. I remember Grandpa’s intensity when holding the baited deep sea rod. I think we call it “focused” today. Not sure if it was because he was trying to figure out what came next, was determined he was going to catch a big fish, or just apprehensive about Ralph’s creaky old wooden boat. I’d guess the boat which had a habit of coughing, sputtering, and sometimes taking on more water than even Ralph could overlook with a simple sigh.
Now the fish caught were, by today’s standards, no big thing. But, to my Grandpa they were simply all that had been promised and more. “Sure don’t have fish like this in Indiana”, he kept saying as the day wore on.
“Sure don’t have fish that will jerk the whole rod and reel out of your hands”, Dad said with a big grin as Grandpa fought to land the largest fish of the day.
By mid afternoon we were headed back to the marina, a nice catch on board. Dad was lighting a Camel cigarette and telling Ralph what a great day it had been for all. Grandpa had a perpetual smile on his chiseled face and a twinkle in his deep blue eyes as he inspected the ever changing seascape. I was just happy to have the wind in my face and the rolling waves replaced by rhythmic “thumps” as the boat cut through the oncoming surf. Yes, this had been a special day.
Reflecting back I’m not sure such an experience would be possible in today’s world. Now we have high-speed travel, television, and the Internet. Information is instant and almost anything we need to know is usually just a quick click away. We watch TV in HD or now even 3-D. Sometimes it’s even better than the real thing. Want to see Thailand in person? No problem. You can be there in less than 24 hours. Looking for some live polar bears? No big deal as you can be in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada in about half a day and on a “tundra buggy” viewing the bears shortly after arriving.
The world has progressed and I’m sure we’re better off, but sometimes the memories of the past demonstrate just what treasures they really are. I guess my Grandpa and Grandma’s visit to Florida years ago was just such an example. Seeing Florida, catching big game fish, and experiencing fresh off-the-tree papayas and bananas were special to them. Something they had never dreamed they would experience in their lifetime. I guess that’s what made their visit so special and one that I remember so well even to this day.
This issue of our newsletter has some great stuff. We have some “inside” information on G.. Loomis, some more exciting new lines to introduce, a bigger Waxwing jig, another Red Cross Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Relief auction, and lots more. You’ll also find a report on our Red Cross Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Relief charity auctions. Be sure to read about all this exciting stuff below.
Again, we thank each and every one of you for your continued friendship and support. Thanks also for your many calls and the confidence you place in all of us to recommend the very best gear for all your fishing expeditions. Simply put, you make our days fun!