Editor’s note: Once again, Realtor Bill Mancinik’s “Native Reflections” column has inspired the contribution of a memory of growing up in West Volusia. This week’s article comes from Michael Braddock, whose family has been in Northwest Volusia for 163 years. Do you have memories to share of growing up in West Volusia? Send 600 words or thereabouts to email@example.com. Be sure to include your name, current town of residence, a telephone number, and photos if possible.
I have a lot of wonderful memories about Lake George and the St. Johns River. Some of the stories, thank goodness, have outlived the statute of limitations.
In the early 1950s, my dad, Olan Braddock, and Evald Peterson, Danny Peterson’s father, built a three-stall boathouse on the point on Hitchens Island, where the St. Johns River runs into the south end of Lake George. My dad, Danny and John Smiley each had a stall.
When Danny and I were 13 years old, we would drive to the boathouse from Pierson in one of our dads’ trucks.
The country singer Hank Williams Jr. had a song not long ago about a country boy with the will to survive. “He can skin a buck and run a trotline.”
Well, I had a long trotline in Lake George, and I would run it every day. I caught catfish and carried them to Bob Hastings. Turtles I carried to a man called General Jackson.
In the summer, when the crabs were plentiful, we would use watermelon or octagon soap to bait the trotline. The catfish loved them.
Back in those days, you could get a gator permit by just writing to Tallahassee and requesting one. I killed a lot of alligators and carried them to Bob Hastings. Danny and I caught one on the trotline that was 8 feet long.
Lake George is 22 miles long and 10 miles wide. I’ve waded or fished all around the entire lake.
One time, Danny and I were wade fishing for bream when Danny came running up to me saying he had just seen a rabid hog.
We headed back to the Jeep when we ran into some campers. We warned them about the rabid hog, and they laughed. Turns out, the wild hog had eaten a whole bar of soap they had left down by the water.
My father had a 200-yard gill net that we caught a lot of fish in. One time, we were going out to catch fish for a fundraiser for the Boy Scout troop at Trinity United Methodist Church in DeLand.
We had two boats, with Darwin Bennett, Morris Hagstrom, Rufus Walker, Hill Raulerson, my dad and myself. As we were leaving the boathouse, someone’s wife called and warned us about possible tornadoes.
We headed to where Juniper Run comes into the lake. We set the net out in waist-deep water. All of a sudden, the sky turned black and, between us and the jetties, a funnel spout came out of the woods, hit the water, and turned into a waterspout.
A few minutes later, another one came out of the woods, but closer.
Then one came through the woods close to us, and you could hear the trees breaking and snapping like a freight train was going through.
Finally, it was over, and we got back to the net, and it was loaded with fish. We hurriedly got the fish out and went home with enough fish for the fish fry.
We fished for specks (black crappie) in January, February and March, with lots of good stories about fishing in Lake George and the St. Johns River between Lake Dexter and DeLand.
Another good memory was getting three or four boats of fishermen from Pierson and DeLand and fishing for specks below Dexter.
We would meet up at a place called Mosquito Grove and clean fish, and my dad would cook them with all the good extras. My dad was famous for his hush puppies.
My dad caught a lot of bass. He would make his own plugs or find one that was really good and buy a dozen or more.
One of my favorite stories about my dad was when he had a friend down from Jacksonville who came and fished regularly. This man was the superintendent of the Florida Baptist Children’s Home for 32 years.
He told my dad he had promised to catch enough fish for a fish fry for a big Baptist church in Jacksonville. They had laughed at him.
He and my dad caught 534 black bass in four days of fishing in Lake George. Most of them were caught in the middle of Lake George. I’ve got a plug that they used mounted on the wall in my office.
Back in those days, we had an inboard Chris-Craft, and Danny Peterson’s family had a Correct Craft inboard.
lf you needed work on the boat, you had to get it to Clifton Boat Works on Lake Beresford. Ours was in for repair and needed to be picked up. Dan Peterson carried me by boat to Clifton’s in his Correct Craft.
I skied from the mouth of Lake George to the mouth of Lake Beresford nonstop. You can’t do that today with all of the idle zones. (Couldn’t do that today, anyway, at my age.)
I guess all the good memories about the St. Johns River are one of the reasons I served on the St. Johns River Water Management District board. I served under two governors for 10 years. Many important decisions about the river were made in those years, and I was proud to be a part of them.
You can tell that my younger years were like a chapter out of a Mark Twain book, sharing adventures with Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer.
Even now, I can almost hear them calling “C’mon, Michael, the fish are biting.”
— Some history from Michael Braddock: “The Braddocks moved to North Florida in 1798. My family moved to Northwest Volusia in 1856. I have several great-grandchildren, which makes eight generations of Braddocks born in Florida. I have served on the Volusia County Farm Bureau board for almost 50 years; I have been blessed to have a wonderful life.”
Braddock said he’s planning on writing a recipe book in the future, filled with recipes and stories he’s picked up throughout his life. He taught mathematics at what was Daytona Beach Community College (now Daytona State College) for 11 years, and would give his students a break from long three-hour evening classes on statistics or other math topics by writing a recipe on the board and talking about how to cook.