Tag Archives: Florida Panhandle

1950s Florida – Panhandle Images

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Wikipedia Graphic

The Florida Panhandle, an informal, unofficial term for the northwestern part of the U.S. state of Florida, is a strip of land roughly 200 miles long and 50 to 100 miles wide (320 km by 80 to 160 km), lying between Alabama on the north and the west, Georgia also on the north, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. Its eastern boundary is arbitrarily defined. – Wikipedia

My books are set in the Florida Panhandle because that’s where I grew up, learned the lay of the land, and heard the old stories. I lived in Tallahassee which is sometimes considered part of the panhandle and sometimes considered part of the “Big Bend.”

The panhandle is often viewed as more like Georgia than the peninsula part of the state. Panhandle residents often think the peninsula with its tourist attractions has been ruined by overdevelopment and destinations that either don’t belong there or are caricatures of the once wild land they displaced.

The Panhandle features white sandy beaches, often called The Redneck Riviera, but now generally in advertising and promotion are referenced as “The Emerald Coast.”

If you sample the beaches of the Emerald Coast and the Atlantic Coast, you’ll notice that most of the Emerald Coast isn’t covered with the kind of excessive development such as that found around Daytona Beach and other cities. (Gosh, I hope I don’t sound biased.) You’ll also notice the sand, is pure white, in fact blindingly white making sunglasses highly desirable. This sand is much different than the coarser sand of the Atlantic Coast.

Florida Memory Photo

 

According to Wikipedia, “The Apalachicola River /æpəlætʃɪˈkoʊlə/ is a river, approximately 112 mi (180 km) long in the State of Florida. The river’s large watershed, known as the ACF River Basin, drains an area of approximately 19,500 square miles (50,505 km2) into the Gulf of Mexico. The distance to its farthest head waters in northeast Georgia is approximately 500 miles (800 km). Its name comes from the Apalachicola people, who used to live along the river.”

The river is not only a recreation spot, but highly important in the watershed’s environment as well as the oyster industry in the Gulf Coast town of Apalachicoa. Water usage of the river between Georgia and Florida has been under dispute for years, with Florida saying that Atlanta draws off too much water at Florida’s expense.

Florida Forest Service Photo

According to the Florida Forest Service, “The natural resources found on Tate’s Hell State Forest are very diverse due to the unique and various natural community types. At one time Tate’s Hell State Forest supported at least 12 major community types, which included wet flatwoods, wet prairie, seepage slope, baygall, floodplain forest, floodplain swamp, basin swamp, upland hardwood forest, sandhill, pine ridges, dense titi thickets and scrub. Currently, the forest contains approximately 107,300 acres of hydric communities such as wet prairie (contains a vast diversity of plant species), wet flatwoods, strand swamp, bottomland forest, baygall and floodplain swamp.”

The area is under restoration to repair damages from the forest’s long-time usage by the a timber industry that logged out many of the older trees, disrupted natural waterflows throughout the region by constructing roads that served as dykes, and a rape the land style of forest management.

Wikipedia Photo

 

The logging industry also had very poor stewardship over the Panhandle’s once ubiquitous wiregrass and longleaf pine forsts, cutting out the old trees and either not replacing them or replacing cut areas with slash pines. Many native species have been threatened by this policy. The forest service was very slow to understand what Native Americans and early residents understood: longleaf pine forests need fire to survive. For years, fires were extinguished before natural processes could be completed.

Florida Memory Photo

These boats still exist, but I see the 1950s as the heyday of the cabin cruiser. Most of us knew somebody who owned one, and fortunately those people liked to cruise the rivers, head to obscure beaches, and visit the barrier islands (St. George Island and Dog Island).

Florida Memory Photo

 

The Garden of Eden was once a tourist attraction near the small town of Bristol with signs pointing to places where Biblical events purportedly occurred. A local minister worked out a rather complex theory that sought to prove this spot along the Apalachicola River was the real garden of Eden. The signs are gone now, though a Garden of Eden trail still exists. The unique habitat is managed by the Nature Conservancy as the Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve.

Florida Memory Photo

 

The St. Joe Paper Company was a major economic player in the economy of the Florida Panhandle and probably the area’s largest landowner. Like the Florida East Coast Railway (the old Flagler system route to Key West), the company was owned by Dupont. The tracks that remain are now used by a shortline railroad (Apalachicola Northern) between Port St. Joe on the Gulf coast the town of Chattahoochee near the Georgia Border.

Google Maps

 

This is where I grew up. You can see the barrier islands just south of Carrabelle and Apalachicola. My friends and I sailed boats between beaches near the junction of highways 319 and 98 to those islands, and my scout troop camped there and in many spots in the Apalachicoa National Forest. The wildlife refuge near St. Marks was a favorite family day trip. My Florida Folk Magic Novels are set near the towns of Hosford and Telogia. The area is rich in history, myths, habitats, recreation, and experiences perfect for a kid growing up who loved being out doors more than indoors.

–Malcolm

 

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‘Florida Folk Magic’ Series novels now available in one e-book

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Amazon Kindle cover.

Thomas-Jacob Publishing has released Florida Folk Magic Stories as an e-book that includes Conjure Woman’s Cat, Eulalie and Washerwoman, and Lena.

While the novels will continue to be available separately, those who plan to read all of them in e-book form will save by purchasing the three-in-one trilogy.

Florida Folk Magic Stories is also available at the following other online resellers. The cover looks different on these sites but the text inside is the same.

The new edition will soon be available for libraries that lend e-books.

–Malcolm

 

Florida in Pictures – Sea Oats and Sand

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The sandy beaches of the Florida Panhandle are usually white and flanked by sand dunes covered with sea oats and sand spurs. Sand spurs are annoying because they, like spurs, grab on to your legs or your clothes. Sea Oats are graceful and protected. Pick one, and you might go to jail. Our panhandle beaches look quite a bit different than the multi-colored sand you might see south of Jacksonville. The sea oats add to the ambiance.

 

Florida Memory Photo

 

Wikipedia’s definition is accurate, I think: Uniola paniculata or sea oats, also known as seaside oats, araña, and arroz de costa, is a tall subtropical grass that is an important component of coastal sand dune and beach plant communities in the southeastern United States, eastern Mexico and some Caribbean islands. Its large seed heads that turn golden brown in late summer give the plant its common name. Its tall leaves trap wind-blown sand and promote sand dune growth, while its deep roots and extensive rhizomes act to stabilize them, so the plant helps protect beaches and property from damage due to high winds, storm surges and tides. It also provides food and habitat for birds, small animals and insects.

Trust me. You don’t want this in your yard. Wikipedia photo.

You can buy sea oats from nurseries but you can’t steal them from the beach. Frankly, when I was growing up here, it never occurred to me to pick the sea oats, much less buy them. They do stabilize the dunes and are an important part of the ecosystem. However, if you were to buy your own for your yard, you can use them to make bread.

As for the sand spurs, I think the devil made them.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of novels set in the Florida Panhandle, including “Lena,” “Eulalie and Washerwoman,” and “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Florida in Pictures – Those bulkhead flatcars

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The covers of all three books in my Florida Folk Magic Series feature a railroad crossing usually with bulkhead flatcars on it. First, the Apalachicola Northern Railway operated in the Florida Panhandle county where my stories are set. It still exists today as a shortline called AN Railway, operating between Chattachochee, Florida and Port St. Joe, Florida on the gulf coast. In the 1950s, as now, the line carried wood products, frequently in bulkhead flatcars.

The second reason for the cover picture refers to the age-old belief–which became part of hoodoo–that crossroads and crossings were dangerous places over and above the possibility for wrecks. Either bandits were there or spirits were there. So, great care had to be taken.

The car on the right is a bulkhead flat. – Florida Memory Photograph

Some of my railroad references in the books come from the fact that I was a volunteer at a Georgia railway museum that had operating trains as well as many historic examples of older operating equipment, including a bulkhead flat. As you can see from the photo, the bulkheads at each end of the flatcar helped contain the logs or other materials being hauled. In a part of the country where lumber and other wood products were important, these cars were a natural to mention in the books.

–Malcolm

 

Excerpt from my novel ‘Lena’

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Lena, the third novel in my Florida Folk Magic series was released July 27 by Thomas-Jacob Publishing, following Conjure Woman’s Cat and Eulalie and Washerwoman. The novel is available on multiple on-line sites in e-book and paperback and can be ordered by your bookstore via standard bookstore purchasing agreements through its Ingram account.

Here’s a brief excerpt from the novel to tempt you into buying the book:

“So, our Lord of the worlds above—ha!–walked down the springtime path from Eden, all the way down to enjoy the splendor of orchids, lilies, and white-birds-in-a-nest, and He saw that they were exquisite and profoundly good, ha! Yet He found not a bog, nor a marsh, nor a swamp to make a fit home for cypress, tupelo, bulrush, pondweed, leopard frog, alligator, black swamp snake, sandhill crane, and great blue heron. He scooped Earth’s foundation with His hands and filled the scrapes and holes with tears and breath. When the plants and animals came, God Almighty was satisfied, just as we here today are satisfied that this everlasting water provided a fit place for Him to call our sister home.”

“Amen, James,” said Dorothy, using—for the first time as far as I knew—her husband’s name rather than “deacon” in public. Together, leaning upon each other on the roadside with Lane Walker and Eulalie’s daughter Adelaide looked suddenly old. He wore black and she wore blue.

Some people called James and Dorothy “Mutt and Jeff”—though not so as they could hear—because she was short and almost plump and he was tall and almost as fit as a football player. Today, he needed his wife’s shoulder and the starch in his white dress shirt to keep him standing straight enough to address the Lord.

She began singing “Sacred Lord, Take My Hand” and that steadied him though he didn’t sing even when Adelaide joined in, her strong alto voice almost as pure as her mother’s soaring soprano. Lane took off his faded grey poor boy hat and closed his watery eyes.

They arrived in the church’s 1948 Roadmaster, the same black car the coroner borrowed to carry Martin to the morgue and left it on the shoulder a respectful distance away while they stared at the green pickup my conjure woman borrowed from Lane as though it were a closed casket.

“This ain’t right,” snapped Adelaide in the don-t-give-me-no-sass tone of voice she must have learned from her mother.

“God’s plan,” said James.

Adelaide stood as close to the deacon as she could without kissing him which her crossed arms and tapping foot made it obvious was the last thing she planned to do.

“So our almighty God of the worlds above decided Florida would be a better place if Martin Alexander busted into a freight company owned by the chief of police, stole a tanker truck, drove south at top speed while being chased by the cops, and ran Mother and Lena off the road in Lane’s truck, drowning the old lady who served the Him with devotion and burning Martin to a crisp even though he went through hell already this year so that the four of us can stand here today and learn a lesson from it? No offense, Deacon, but was that the plan?”

Dorothy shoved between Adelaide and her husband. “Sorrow’s got your tongue. Let it be.”

Adelaide stood her ground.

“She ain’t here. Can’t you tell?”

“Adelaide, what are you saying?” asked Lane.

“I’m not as psychic as my mother, but I’m sharp enough to know she’s gone and that Lena is still here.”

“Find Lena, then,” said James, “while Lane and I pull his Studebaker out of the swamp.”

“I will.”

She turned away from them while Dorothy backed the Buick up close to the bed of the truck and Lane waded into the water with a long chain. Adelaide was coming up close on the dry end of the fallen Ogeechee Tupelo when Lane shouted “Hot damn—sorry, Deacon” and held up two, quart Mason jars on Eulalie’s moonshine.

“My word,” said Dorothy, “it’s still in good enough condition to pack a punch.”

“I’ll testify about the punch,” shouted James.

“I remember the night she got you drunk,” said Dorothy. They burst out laughing like they needed something to relieve the cares of the day.

“Here, take these, James, there are more down here,” said Lane.

“I’ll just put these in the car, sweet wife of mine,” said James, “to help us resist temptation until we get home.”

Adelaide watched them salvage the shine, muttering under her breath so that only the tupelo and I could hear her, “Finding that jick’s probably part of God’s plan.”

Copyright © 2018 by Malcolm R. Campbell

Malcolm

Memories in the Wine: Scuppernong Grapes

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Possibly the oldest cultivated grapevine in the world is the 400-year-old scuppernong “Mother Vine” growing on Roanoke Island, North Carolina. – Wikipedia

Yesterday, I learned in a Facebook conversation that both my publisher and I grew up with a love for Muscadine grapes. In my case, it was Scuppernongs, a distinctive variety of Muscadines. I grew up in the Florida Panhandle where many of my junior high and high school friends’ parents had small farms or large rural backyards. Every fall, we ate Scuppernongs right off the vines, usually on ancient, falling-down trellises.  While Muscadines are generally purplish red, Scuppernongs are greenish bronze.

Scuppernongs – Wikipedia photo

The grapes make great jams and jellies–and wine. (Here is one of the many online recipes for Scuppernong jam.) The old-timers had many regional names for Scuppernongs, including “sculpins” Oddly, I was the only one in my family who liked these grapes; my brothers and parents found them too tart and didn’t like chewing on them and having to spit out the skins after all the juice was gone–sort of like chewing on unpeeled kumquats. (I was also the only one in the family who loved boiled peanuts and chewing on the sugar cane sticks that used to be sold in those days by street vendors.)

I normally drink only non-sweet red wines, but while working on my recently released novel Lena, I chilled several bottles of Scuppernong wine to bring back childhood memories. I actually sipped the wine while working on the book because the characters were drinking, as I called it, homemade sculpin wine. It was nostalgic writing a story about a farm with sculpin grapes while drinking a glass of wine made from those wonderful native grapes

Duplin Winery photo

As for that mother vine, I’d love to taste the wine still being made from this ancient vine in North Carolina. As Duplin Winery describes its MotherVine Wine, “This sweet white wine is made from the Scuppernong grapes of the Mother Vine. The Mother Vine is the oldest Vine in the world, and is still producing World Class Wine!” The label shows a photograph of the vine itself which looks quite a bit different than the vines I saw in Leon County, Florida.

Writing the three novels in the Florida Folk Magic series has brought back a lot of childhood memories. First, the people, many of whom still call me “shug (for sugar), as in “Shug, how’s it going?” Second, the wiregrass and longleaf pine ecosystems and the nearby blackwater rivers and Gulf of Mexico coastline. Third, so many of the foods, from rosin-baked potatoes, mayhaw jelly, hush puppies, fry bread, and catfish.

That Scuppernong wine, though, was pure liquid memory, rather like the now-legal moonshine you can find in most liquor stores. (There’s a Mason jar of shine in my pantry.) Now that the folk magic series is complete, I feel like I’ve just stood up and stretched after reclining on a psychoanalyst’s couch, for the writing was indeed a trip back in time where I found many outrageous things I shouldn’t have kept silent about for so many years, and many joyful childhood moments that made me feel as ancient as that mother vine.

Malcolm

Announcing ‘Lena’ a new Florida Folk Magic Series novel

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Lena, was officially released today by Thomas-Jacob Publishing as book three in the Florida Folk Magic trilogy as a follow-up to Conjure Woman’s Cat and Eulalie and Washerwoman. Both the Kindle and the paperback editions were available earlier than expected, so we’ve beat our planned release date of August 1.

Publisher’s Description: 

When Police Chief Alton Gravely and Officer Carothers escalate the feud between “Torreya’s finest” and conjure woman Eulalie Jenkins by running her off the road into a north Florida swamp, the borrowed pickup truck is salvaged but Eulalie is missing and presumed dead. Her cat Lena survives. Lena could provide an accurate account of the crime, but the county sheriff is unlikely to interview a pet.

Lena doesn’t think Eulalie is dead, but the conjure woman’s family and friends don’t believe her. Eulalie’s daughter Adelaide wants to stir things up, and the church deacon wants everyone to stay out of sight. There’s talk of an eyewitness, but either Adelaide made that up to worry the police, or the witness is too scared to come forward.

When the feared Black Robes of the Klan attack the first responder who believes the wreck might have been staged, Lena is the only one who can help him try to fight them off. After that, all hope seems lost, because if Eulalie is alive and finds her way back to Torreya, there are plenty of people waiting to kill her and make sure she stays dead.

Author’s Comments

This novel is a mix of conjure and crime set in the 1950s when the KKK had a very strong presence in Florida. Many policemen and sheriffs were either members or worked with the Klan and Klan businesses. I wondered how many people I knew were Klan members: it wasn’t something I could ask nor something they would admit if I did ask. My hope is that this series will serve as an immersion into the past and help bring increased understanding about why current attitudes are as they are.

Malcolm