FLORIDA FOLKLIFE PROGRAM
INFORMANT: BILLY BURBANK, III Fernandina Beach, Florida (B)
COLLECTOR: PEGGY A. BULGER, FLORIDA FOLKLIFE PROGRAM (P)
DATE: JULY 11, 1980
AREA: NASSAU COUNTY, FLORIDA
SUBJECTS: PERSONAL LIFE, Net Making
This run, I have a bunch of questions because I've been reading. Well, I read this little thing and I read this bunch of things over oh in the University of Florida library about shrimping. So um, I want to ask you several questions 1st about your family and your history um yourself and them some general?
About net making, how to do it and all of that. This afternoon I'm gonna just come back and take some pictures while you all are working. But first of all for the record this is July 11, 1980 and I'm at Fernandina Beach at the Net Shop and oh by the Standard Hardware store, right?
Gotta always put that on the tape. O.K. For the tape can you tell me your name and where you were born?
BURBANK, III. Cont.
My name is Billy Burbank, III. I was born in Fernandina Beach, Florida, October 2, 1951.
Now tell me something about your grandfather, William Burbank.
Well, my grandfather was born on Cumberland island which is in Georgia. He started shrimping oh back in his early years when he was 15-16 years old. He got into the shrimp business, oh just starting shrimping and started making his own nets.
And when oh his nets seemed to out produce everybody else's nets. Then everybody decided to get him to make their nets and then that's when we got started in the net business in about 1915 and been in it ever since.
|P:||Why did he come to Fernandina?|
Well, Fernandina ah seemed to be a you know good little port for fishing and what have you fish market. In fact along with his net business and his fishing he had a fish market, too on the side.
Pretty busy, well were his nets a different design? Is that why people liked them?
Not really, they used basically just one type of design back in those days. You know, what they called flat net and oh.
|P:||What is a flat net?|
A flat net is just a type of shrimp net, its just one of the many types that we have now. It was probably one of the first ones that anybody started shrimping with. Just a basic design a funnel shape net is all it was.
And oh, they just seemed to like the way his fished and then as years progressed and got more and more into net making his self. Then he started having
(phone ringing) variations of one type after the other.
Then they went into what they call 4 seam balloon net, 2 seam balloon net and from there on, just many, many different patterns, styles.
OK, oh well I'll just have to put that out, somehow. Oh, when he ah came to Fernandina, then somehow did he get linked up with the Standard Hardware Store.
Well, he got linked up with the Standard Hardware Store back in the early 1900's. Oh when ah when Standard Hardware was looking for someone to make their nets for them.
There were two net makers in town. There was Red Freidman, what he called, o well anyway Red Freidman is what they called him and my grandpa...
So they were looking for somebody to manufacture their nets for them. In other words to sort of subcontract. They tried doing it with both of them but my grandpa was a little bit strong headed and he said no you either do it with me
or just forget it. Him being a bigger producer could make them a little faster you know. The business started out underneath this house on the beach,South (Landrick), Fernandina Beach and from there we moved up to here where we are now in 1957.
Where my my grandfather and father were more or less in it together and since then he has passed away and its all my father's and me. Out here with my father now and as you see we have grown a little larger now.
Very much larger, well then when he started he only made the flat net and that was basically.
Right, that is all he did at the very start but when he started making other people's nets that is when the variations come in cause everyone wanted something different.
So from that period on you know, we're into I don't know how many patterns now, you just couldn't name them all, but you know I make a total of 120 something different patterns or styles.
Wow, I didn't realize there where so many of them, Um how did your father learn? How young was he when he started?
He started I guess you could say when he was a boy. But he was more into the fish market before he got into the net business, in other words ah, the net business back
in his time wasn't as booming like it is now. You just had a handful of shrimpers here. It was hardly any export business at all. Just mostly home-town boys.
And my father he stayed busy peddling fish and shrimp on his bicycle from one place to another. Delivering for them and his brother did the same thing, Frank Burbank, who is also in the net business in Freeport, Texas.
Oh, so anyway that's basically you know what it has been like.
|P:||How many ah, I know you have a lot of brothers.|
|B:||Right-- I have three brothers.|
|P:||And are you all net makers.|
|B:||All of net makers, right.|
|P:||Your are the oldest.|
Right, I'm the oldest, then comes Tommy, then David, then Johnny, Ranging from 28--22.
|P:||And you all learned from your father. How old where you when you started that?|
Well, lets see I started myself actually working when I was 11 years old. Ah, that's my mother. I seen my mother doing it and I said well heck if she can I can do it.
So I jumped in there and started learning from then on. During football, baseball, and everything else I you know worked after school a little bit during the summers. Then about 1970-71, I started full-time, after one year of col-
|I started full-time then I have been here ever since.|
|P:||So your mother makes nets, too.|
Yeah, she did when she was alive, she passed away about three years ago and oh, she helped us out too. We'd have the whole family down here at one time.
|P:||Do you have any sisters?|
|B:||No, no sisters|
So, really net making can be done by men or women it doesn't matter.
|B:||Right, right same thing with shrimping. We have several women captains who run their own shrimp boats.|
|B:||So that shows you how wide the field can be. It is not just limited to a man, if the woman is strong enough then she can do it.|
|P:||Well, I was just wondering cause a lot of fishermen have superstitions about women on board ship.|
Well, that's just the old time shrimpers. That's the way they feel. But oh, there are some women who can produce some shrimp.
There are some women who are fairly good at net making, but the biggest thing I can see about the net making is that the woman has the tendency not to be able to stand up as long as a little bit more rest for the back and legs and this is really the only draw back,
|I can see in the net business.|
|P:||You have to stand up all day long.|
|B:||All day long.|
|P:||Whew, that is hard.|
|B:||Especially when you put in about 75 hours a week.|
So the net business, right now I take it is really... It seems like it's really good.
You have how many net makers?
|B:||I have 16 employees.|
|P:||And can you keep up with demand or are you just about...|
Well, with the new building we have now we are keeping up, which is good. It gives us a little more time off.
Before we were having to work 6-7 days a week trying to keep up and we stayed, usually 2-3 weeks behind which in the shrimp business you have to be able to produce when the shrimp are here.
In other words they can't wait 'till next week to get the net. They need it now 'cause the shrimp are here now. And if they disappear, then they'll say, well, I don't need the net. So for our benefit we need to get the work out as soon as possible.
|P:||Do you do more repair or new nets?|
We do more new nets than repairs but it's probably going to be on the upswing, as far as repairs concerned this year.
Oh, it's so many boats out and money is a
|a little bit tighter so there is going to be more tendency towards repair instead of making new ones.|
|P:||Right, uh, do you export your nets, oh, besides it's not just for the local market.|
No, no we are widely exporting to South America, Africa, Panama Canal, oh Lo Pas, Mexico and this are so you know, it's not strictly the United States.
So you can say we range from North Carolina all the way down to Florida. Up the Gulf Coast through the Texas Panhandle area.
|P:||So, really, it must be one of the largest net makers in the country.|
I say we are probably the largest producer, now I don't know if we are the largest building now, which I could pretty much say we (telephone ringing) are the largest building as far as concerning in the United States right now.
But I still say we are probably the largest producer as far as the number of nets. 'Cause I don't think anyone is producing the amount that we produce.
|P:||Is it hard to find people to make nets?|
No, there you know are several, several, several net makers, around you know. If you are in business for yourself you have to have a great deal of capital to do the business that we are doing.
In other words if we weren't with the Standard Hardware who which you know is a big company,
which who can carry the load you know the money on the books and you know shrimpers can't pay all the time.
And the amount of (webbing) supplies that we have to order turn into a great number of dollars and smaller people just can't seem to carry that much in overhead and stuff you see.
That's probably one reason they don't do quite as much. Plus I don't think there is no other net making family that has as many of its own relatives in the business as we do and we are really gung-ho at it you know.
I guess you could say that our family is some of the faster sewers there is you know. We haven't met anyone that could out sew us yet, so...
|P:||You ought to have a sewing contest sometime to see how...|
|0232||B:||We've tried it but we can't get anyone to come challenge us. They just look at us one time and say no way.|
I could imagine, let me see, so you don't have any sisters in the business, but all your brothers are in the business.
What do you call your business? What is your official name?
|B:||Well, we are now incorporated. We incorporated 2-3 weeks ago and we are Burbank Trawlmakers Inc. now.|
|P:||And Standard Hardware is able to distribute your nets pretty much for you nation wide.|
|0236||B:||Right, in other words they distribute. In other words,|
|we are more or less subcontracting. In other words they are furnishing the material--we are furnishing the labor. That's the way it works.|
|P:||That's a good set up! Ahm, and how many days is this shop opened?|
Well, like I said it's opened 7 days a week here in the past, but now we are trying to keep it down to a 5 day week.
And it is open from about 4:00 am in the morning and 6:30-7:00 at night. That's usually when I'm here and when I leave.
When ...4 in the morning, gosh it just dawned on me what you said. Oh, my God it makes me tired just thinking about it.
Do you ever have any emergencies come in--like a shrimper really needs his net repaired?
|B:||We have those every day. See, everything is an emergency to the shrimper. "I needed it yesterday."|
|P:||Every day lost I guess is...|
We have some like say on occasions that will have a routine set up for the day and we try not to break that routine.
Try to take care of everybody as they come and you'll have a shrimper who has no spare net or something and gets our and tears up shrimp are really producing and he can't afford no waste in time so he comes in and begs, pleads with us, please, please, fix my net.
So we'll maybe step in and
|BURBANK, cont.||Page 11|
|and help him out. Which is good business because you know they can't make it without you.|
|P:||Right, in the past though, didn't the shrimpers use to do their own nets and repair their own nets?|
Yeah, most of your old time shrimpers knew some amount of sewing and patching what have you. Some of the minor stuff can be done on the boats themselves but there is a lot of stuff it just like...
Oh, you know you're working on your car. You know you can check the water in the battery, radiator or a little grease job, maybe minor. But when something is really wrong with something, it's not worth your time, you know, and money to experiment trying to do this to this. When you can get someone who knows what they are doing, you know, and charge them fair labor to get it back right, you see.
But, most of your old timers know how to sew and still know how. But most of your young boys rely more on us instead of learning how to sew. But they all need to know how to patch their own nets on the boat 'cause they get out there with small holes that they need to take care of right then instead of just letting them go.
|P:||Yeah, 'cause you wouldn't want to come all the (way) back with fuel the way it is. You wouldn't come all the way back.|
|B:||No, no, just a mild repair.|
|BURBANK, cont.||Page 12|
|P:||Did you ever when you were in school and when you were young and knew... You grew up around net making and shrimping. Did you ever think of doing anything else or was that always you?|
No, I... when I was coming up I was more sports minded. In other words I had several scholarships offers in football, baseball and that's where I was leaning towards, you know, at first.
Then I decided against football because I felt like if I got into the football game I wouldn't be back here to help my father, you know what I mean. So I went over to Gulf Coast, Panama City to take up a little Marine Biology and stuff, just to learn different types of things about marine life itself and played two years of baseball.
Business started picking up a little bit and my father needed the help so I decided I better come back, and try to learn something and here I am.
|P:||Well, you've done really well, I mean your business is really booming.|
|B:||Yeah, I'm very well pleased where I'm at.|
|P:||Yeah, really there aren't very many people at your age that have their own business, you know, booming.|
That's true and yet too it would have been an dying art. That's the trouble with all their other net makers. They have no one to teach it took and they are steadily dying out a lot of their older people.
It's just in one case up
|BURBANK, cont.||Page 13|
up here in North Georgia, 100 miles.
I guess you could say one of my competitors, of course, he was kind of a counter part with Standard Hardware too, which handles a little bit a network for us up that line, passed away and since his passing away we've gotten a lot of business back from that area that we really used to get.
So you can see it's gong to be benefiting us more and more as these people die off, but it is a shame you know. They don't have anyone to teach the art to because it is a dying trade really.
|P:||And it can't be done by machine, really.|
No, no there is no way a machine can manipulate the stitches the way, you know, the way our hand sewers can. Because there are so many little things. For example flaws in the webbing, for example that have to be stopped to be patched or repaired as you're making a net.
A machine would just go right on through. Another thing, it takes a machines 8 hours to make one bale of webbing that use and I could cut up probably 3-4 bales in one day. So that goes to show you how slow a machine is compared to one person.
|P:||If you know what you are doing, you know, then kinda of like the ole John Henry thing, you know. That;s important to us in folklore business because that it something we see all over the state where there (is) not only net making but basket making, all kinds of crafts. The young people just don't|
|BURBANK, cont.||Page 14|
want to learn it for some reason. I don't know if, whether they think it's not profitable or they think it's too hard. I don't know what it is, or maybe they don't have a good relationship with their parents where it seems like you had a real good relationship in your family which made (you) want to help your father.
And it's great, net making, I've never seen really a family of net makers like yours. I've seen just the old timers. That's...
the old timers, hand-knit, cast nets, what have you, and that sort of thing, right. But, I tell you, it has a lot to do with just like someone who wants to be a farmer. He has to understand the dollar value of what he is going to get out of this as compared to him going to college trying to learn a some job, that everybody can get, you know.
You have 10,000 accountants, you know so many of this, you have this, you have that. But you don't have very many real true farmers, or net makers, or shrimpers. This (is) a wild open field, you know. There's not only shrimp, fish, crabs. Everything is this field that is really self taught. I mean the basics are there. All you have to do is do it. If the person is really strong minded about wanting to make a dollar there, there is no limit to what he can do you know.
|P:||And you are your own boss. That's some (ringing) thing to spoken for.|
|B:||That's the main thing.|
|P:||Is that (the phone) for you?|
|P:||I need to get on tape, if you can explain to me, you know. I am totally a novice at it right from the beginning the process of making a net from when you take it our of the sale and I'll be getting pictures of this later, but I need in words what exactly so kind (of) imagine if someone were watching you, how would you explain what you are doing?|
Right, well the first thing I would do if I was starting with a new fresh bale of webbing unopened is I would cut the side seam of this burlap that surrounds the bale.
I would cut this open so I could get to the webbing. Then I, ah, depending on what type of net it was, I would start cutting several pieces off of this bale. Just as if a seamstress was going to make a shirt, she has to have a bolt of cloth. The would cut one certain size of piece. First, where say the body part of the shirt. Then another side for the sleeves to be sewed in. Well, that, basically (is) the same thing I would do. I would start cutting off certain size pieces so many meshes long. There a bale consists of 3,000 meshes which is each little square, that's a mesh, by so many deep. So I cut off like you say several pieces to start putting the net together.
|P:||How do you know what kind? How do you know how to cut it?|
|0444||B:||Well, this is all mathematically figured out, in other words|
|BURBANK, cont.||Page 16|
|it is just like a map bottom. You have to have something to plug into it. Well you go by inches and feet and what have you. In other words a guy orders a 50' flat net, well I have to figure out so many meshes to make a 50' across a certain area, then it has to be tapered so many meshes down to make the funnel. Each piece has to be tapered and cut to get down to the mesh size I'm looking for at the tail. In other words the mouth is one size. And each piece is tapered to get the certain size that I want around the tail end of the net. So, it is all figured like mathematically I said and each net is figured a different way. So in other words you have different size meshes. You have 2" mesh, 1 3/4", 1 1/2", 4", 4 1/2" for different size nets. And you have to take all this into consideration when you are building a net.|
|P:||And then after you cut it up, what do you do with the pieces?|
All right, after I get it cut up, I put the pieces in the proper places to start the net. In other words, I set up what we call wings, which would be like sleeves on a shirt. All right, in between that I would lay the body which we start it, certain points start sewing those to the wing. We sew the top first to the wing. Then the wings flip up kinda like sides and we sew the bottom on which we are building the net upside down to start with 'cause it is a little easier to do that way.
And after we get the top, bottom and the wings sewed together
|then we age toper pieces which are called corners which give the net its shape. These go in between the wings. What you would call a corner piece and we'll just call it corner pieces. And ah you have 4 of those in each net, after these are added the net begins to take shape. After the net is all sewn together at this stage, then it is brought out to a hanging station. This is where it is hung on combination cable which is the process of being towed through the water. In other words, the cable is attached to a wooden apparatus called the doors.|
|0505||B:||the outer doors right, this is what spreads the net open on the bottom of the ocean. It takes it to the bottom and spreads more pressure acting like a kite, spreads the net open.|
|P:||How big are the doors?|
|B:||Well, the doors range from depending on size net you want to pull. In other words, it takes a certain amount of door for each size net, so they start from 2' right on up probably 16'-20' being the biggest anybody has probably made. But ah, anyway back to the cable, oh after our nets are hung on this cable then chain for weight to weight the bottom down on the bottom line and corks are added to the top line for floatation to get an open effect in the water you catching the bottom and plus anything that is up here in the water.|
|P:||and the cable goes around the do...around the open part?|
|BURBANK, cont.||Page 18|
It goes from one end to the other on the top and the bottom. In other words, you hand it. You hang one stretch all the way across the top and one stretch all the way across the bottom. And in each end of this you have 4 leg lines. You have 2 on this end and 2 on the other end.
You have a tip and bottom and a top and a bottom and each end you put a galvanized thimble which is an eye shaped thing. In other words, this is where the net is shackled to the doors. You run a shackle through this eye and shackled it to the doors. So they can unshackle the net if they have to bring it in for repairs or shackle it up when they get ready to drag.
Uh, huh, there's a lot to it.
|0545||B:||Then after this process then we add what we call the cottlin or the bag. This is where all the catch goes. This is the heavy colorful webbing that you see on the tail end of the nets that you see hanging up on the boats, oh.|
|P:||Kinda looks like confetti?|
|0551||B:||Well, oh the confetti part is another part of the bag. This is what they call the chafing gear. It is a skirt that actually goes around the bag to keep it from chafing out on the bottom. 'Cause when you load these up with fish, crabs, or what have you, ah, the bag actually rubs on the bottom and with these coquing chafe a bag out in 2-3 hours. You have to use this with that. Plus it also kinds acts as a shark|
|protection. It keeps the shark from visualizing all the catch that's in the bag and coming up and taking a mouth full. It doesn't always work that good.|
|P:||Well, the bag itself is made out of a different type of webbing.|
|0569||B:||It is made out of a heavier thread. In other words we have nylon - the same thing that we put in the matching body of the sets is nylon. The bagging sale nylon too except we do have some what they call polyethylene or polypropoleyne bagging. It is more of a plastic type bagging which is a lot lighter and easier to clean out. That is why a lot of them like that.|
|P:||Before you used all the polyethylene and all, would it just be made out of what?|
|0584||B:||It was made out of cotton--perle cotton. That was the old time webbing which most of the fisherman still claim it is the best fishing webbing they made. But it had a tendency to wear out a lot quicker. It would be a lot (phone ringing) better for us I guess you could say now a days 'cause nets wouldn't last quite so long but that's one of the major problems. The nylon make'em lasts longer than they should which after a while a net's bee fished so long it gets kinda raggedy and they aren't producing like they should and these guys are still dragging them and really if they had new nets all the time they would be doing a lot better.|
|P:||Right-- 'cause the holes would be stretching out and all.|
|B:||Yeah, that's right. The net just gets all out of shape.|
|P:||Yeah, OK so after you put it on your line and ah you've got the bag on...|
|0607||B:||You put the bag on. You got a completed net when we finish the hanging procedure putting the chains on, the floats, and a bag. This is a completed procedure. Then it goes outside to our treatment plant.|
|P:||Do you have that right here?|
Right, right you seen it right outside there. It is dipped in a polyvinyl paint. You have 2 different colors, a blue and a green. Also, we have the old style tar. Just regular old hot tar that penetrates the nylon better than the paint would, but it is a lot messier on the boat and you also get burnt up from the fumes in the sun.
Now, some of the old time shrimpers swear by it, but all the newtime people say forget it. They want the paint. It's a lot cleaner, it doesn't get on your boat, and it don't get on your hands.
|P:||Yeah, well, I could see that. Ah, about your patterns? I know you have designed some patterns yourself.|
|B:||Yeah, right, right.|
|P:||Well, what are the advantage? What are your patterns that you have designed?|
|0635||B:||Well, the patterns, I have changed and modified a lot of nets we have. Of course, you are going to do this over the|
|BURBANK, cont.||Page 21|
|past. You find better and better ways and which seems to be working the best. Of course, certain shrimpers like little certain things their own way so they can just say you don't have what I got my own type net you know which makes them have a little bit more confidence in their rig 'cause they think they got what they want and you know you can make several modification to nets but ah the 2 that I'm working with right now which one I guess was the biggest seller the Mongoose, oh!|
|P:||Yeah, that's the one I saw.|
|0654||B:||Yeah, right. The Mongoose is a (?) and it's you know faster than everything. In other words it has increased our business work, you know. I don't know how much but a great amount this year.|
|P:||What's different about it?|
Well, ah several years ago we came into a era where we weren't just pulling 1 net on each side, 2 nets per boat.
We started pulling 4 nets, 2 small nets on each side which seemed to produce better than just 1 single net on each side of the boat so this took more gear, more power and more fuel to pull these 4 little nets which caused a lot of shrimpers trouble since it was more trouble to get 4 nets on the boat than 2.
Well, I decided to come up with something that would revert back to one net but that was doing the job of the 2 nets. In other words, the Mongoose is
actually 2 nets in one. You don't have to pull what they call the dummy sled or the bullet with this net. But you still get the same amount of spread or mouth opening that you would be getting with the smaller nets or actually more because you don't have a breaking point in the middle between the 2 nets. This is all one net, 1 solid mouth, and also I can get a lot more height out of this net which is detrimental to the white shrimp.
In other words you have to have this height to catch the white shrimp. There is really no other net right now that will out produce this net.
|P:||Yeah, so your mouth is much bigger than ah, a regular net.|
|B:||Yeah, the smaller 2 nets that we had. You see the mouth opening couldn't get as high or as wide that the Mongoose is getting right now.|
|P:||Oh, so that's a pretty good seller right now.|
Yeah, right, right that, that will probably be the white shrimp net from now on unless we can come up with something even better than that. But we can add to this if we have to as far as more height but you don't want to over do anything.
The other net that I have out is the Condor which is kinda slow taking on because we are still modifying in so many ways. Trying to, what we are trying to get is a net that is more streamlined than the Mongoose but actually fishes like the Mongoose.
In other words we want something
|BURBANK, cont.||Page 23|
|for the shrimp that are strictly on the bottom. Without catching so much junk up in the water. We want something with more low profile and that way a shrimper can basically have 2 type nets and that's it. Which might simplify everything for everybody but I'm finding out more and more in the shrimp business that it's just like shoe business. It doesn't matter what you do, everybody has got to have something different. You can't please everybody with one net and that's a fact. So.|
|P:||And I imagine some shrimpers been shrimping the same way for years and they don't want to...|
|0728||B:||They don't want to change. They are more and more adding what they call tongues to the nets that they have now, trying to get as close as they can to the Mongoose. In fact, since the Mongoose has come out, everything that has a tongue on it is called a Mongoose which is kind of wrong. 'Cause it is all together different, but you know how people are. They want to think they have the Mongoose which they don't.|
|P:||Well, at least you know you are popular. Did your father design a net?|
|0744||B:||Yeah. My father, yes my father took over for my grandfather and has made several modifications to the first one that he use to make and, oh also he has done probably more modifications and probably has got the best producing 4-seam|
|balloon net, ever produced. In other words, that was our biggest seller before the Mongoose was oh (?) by 4-seam which my father can take credit for our particular design and it seems to be better than most anybody's else's. Oh, also our particular type of 2-seam balloon net which was made which my father and his grandfather. I mean his father started with is also a good producer. But now I came up with a modification on the dymo of the flat net which I call the diamond wing flat which is adding more webbing to the wings and cutting the tape, on the wings which right now is the hottest flat net on the market. It is a producer. In fact it was, it was the hottest thing before the Mongoose. Now, we've got several hot items, but the Mongoose seems to be the producer.|
|P:||How much would a Mongoose net sell for?|
|0779||B:||Well, it's, it's, there are so many variations that you can put on 1 net. Just, but I can try and hit it with just a basic figure. And this all depends on what you can get your webbing for and what have you. But, they are basically running somewhere around oh, $14-15 a foot. So you can take it from there on what the price would be, but that is just a basic price and there is always some variation about the amount of chaining or the type or treatment. All makes in the price of it.|
|BURBANK, cont.||Page 25|
|P:||Should a shrimper change nets every year?|
|0798||B:||Well a shrimper really and truly, if he was using his head good enough on his net work would, but so many dragging hours on his nets and then bring 'em to the shop. They would last him, you know, a lot longer. But now this don't always work like that because there are times he can go out there and in 5 minutes hit a rock pile and he's done tore everything up. You know, a brand new net. So he has no insurance on these at all so it's a gamble. But really and truly if they would take the time to log how many hours they have on these nets because a net can only take so much dragging and it's chaffing the whole time it's dragging and if they wouldn't overdo it get it in some kind a shape so when they come back in they have to have major repair instead of just (a) minor tune-up it, it would be beneficial to them if they would do this, but it is hard to get them to do it 'cause once they are catching, they don't want to take them off.|
|P:||They don't want to come back in. I know, and the season, the season is right now, isn't it? Are when is the season?|
|0830||B:||The season, really shrimp season is only about 6 months out of the year. Really actual hard producing shrimp season. You have, you know what they call bar fishing are just going out every day and trying to see what they can catch. You know, trying to get by. But the season really|
|BURBANK, cont.||Page 26|
|starts from about June to November. That's about all you got maybe late December, you know. And in between there is just slim pickings you know (?) can't depend on it. In other words if the shrimper can't make it within those months of June to September oh November then he's got a hard time ahead of him. You see. Now most of your ones that have boats paid for don't worry about it because they've made enough to overcome all this. The guys with these big $2,500 a month payments (tressed?) their heads.|
|P:||Yeah, I hear a lot of them are now going into also Snapper fishing on the off season.|
|0861||B:||Yeah, right here has to be some variations made right now. In other words more people are turning their boats into combination boats: fishing, shrimping, crabbing, whatever they can to make a living through the bad months. Which I think our government could some way or another run a survey on our seafood industry and the whole country and try to find a way to use everything we catch. Just like the Chinese and the Africans (?). They don't throw nothing back. I mean they use it for fertilizer. They use the fish to feed the poor people you know they give out so many food stamps. Why can't they get some fish going. These families can eat fish.|
You're not kidding, it's the best source of protein.
|0883||B:||Right, instead of really giving out the stamps themselves you know, give them food (buzzer) or what have you, you know.|
|B:||This would put more people to work also if they can get these factories opened. In other words, where a shrimper just puts so much catch into say a 25 lb. plastic sack puts it in a freezer in it brings and takes it to these plants and let them sort it. They just get so much per bag. His big fish, his shrimp can be culled out and he can sell those like he normally would but all the other stuff let it be culled at a factory and use what's useable, see which would be creating millions of jobs.|
|P:||Oh yeah, 'cause there is a lot that is caught in the net, besides what...|
|B:||That's right. It is a waste. And this way I believe it would eliminate a lot of the problems and the shrimper could make it year round like this. No problem.|
|P:||Well, as the shrimpers are going to start doing combination um fishing and shrimping, will you be making nets for fishing?|
|B:||Right, we make fish nets already.|
|P:||You do already, OK so it...|
|0916||B:||It's not really that big of game around here because we are at a point on the coast where it is a long way from|
|the fishing grounds. In other words, we kinda dip in on the coast of Florida right here. You see and in the particular area it's just so far to go to the fishing grounds. In other words, the actual good fishing is North of us in up towards Charleston, Brunswick, Savannah. And then South of us, New Syrmna, the Cape, you know, down in that area, but it is becoming more and more of a thing now because people have to do it and we have several boats out here right now fishing with nets for grouper, snapper and also long lining for swordfish which they are doing real good on right now.|
|P:||For a while there, you couldn't eat swordfish.|
|0943||B:||No--------Because a the mercury content but this is all, It's just like anything else they find something wrong with everything that is good for the shrimper.|
|P:||Anything that you eat actually.|
|B:||Well, that's true.|
|P:||I wanted to ask you about what tools do you use? What are all the tools that you use in your net making?|
|0956||B:||Well, the tools that I use are basically simple. Just a small 6" cutting knife which we import from Sweden and just a little small wooden handle knife about 6" long. And we use what they call needles or shuttles which the thread is wound on and a this is what we do our sewing with. We have a girl that threads all these up at home|
|for us and brings them in here every day and ah we use what we call needle-nose pliers for doing some splicing work on the thimbles and leg lines I told you about earlier. And we use different types of cable cutters for cutting combination cables and boat cutters for cutting chains and that's basically all the tools we use.|
|P:||That's it? The shuttles, what are they made out of?|
|B:||They are made out of nylon and plastic.|
|P:||But they use to...|
|B:||Old times made 'em out of wood. Right, hand-glue and different things like that.|
|P:||Yeah, I've seen older ones in museums and I think everybody used to make their own, you know? Each net maker would have their own shuttle. Ah, right, so how many nets do you make per week here in your shop?|
|0998||B:||Well, to give you an average of what we did this week. We built 24 new ones. We did a total of 7 odd jobs which is little small nets. And bags, just single bags not on nets. And 40 repairs. So we are averaging somewhere around 50-60 nets per week, repair and ole, I mean new nets. Ah a week, as long as we can keep that up we can come out ahead and we can get more time off, too. At times we have had 250 nets backordered. So we hope to overcome that this year. We don't want to be in that kind of shape. Because hunting season is coming up and|
|BURBANK, cont.||Page 30|
|we all like to take a little time off to go hunting.|
|P:||Well do you have an off season too and then?|
Well, not really. We look for that usually January and February are our slow months but like I say the fish trolling and the other odd jobs keeps us pretty well busy.
But oh, right now the thing of it is there is just so many boats out her. That, that there is always something going on. Everybody is dragging and we just you know.
It's just not possible to take care of everyone at one time. So it spreads itself out so we are busy just about all the time. So you see, there are 52 weeks a year and we are handling in the 1,000's of boats and you are talking about 3-8 nets per boat. So you add all that up and somewhere you are going to be doing work all the time.
|P:||Oh, for yourself, you are real fast, obviously you are probably the fastest net maker.|
|B:||Right----that's what they say.|
|P:||How long would it take you to make one net from beginning to end?|
|1062||B:||One net from beginning to end? I'd say just (phone ringing) take an average 70' flat net. Just to cut and sew the net it would probably take me right an hour and 45 minutes----2 hours and with 3-4 people sewing. We usually build it between 45 minutes to an hour so it takes me 45 minutes|
|BURBANK, cont.||Page 31|
|---an hour all by myself. But to complete the net as far as hanging, doing the bag work, the whole deal besides the treatment. It would probably take me approximately, oh I would say in the neighborhood 3 - 3 1/2 hours, by myself. Which still if I was doing it by myself I would still be making pretty good money. I could possibly do 3 a day which I wouldn't worry about it.|
|P:||Um, do you have anything us, the tools you have you don't have any special names for 'em? They are just called shuttles and ah you know.|
|B:||Shuttles and net-knives.|
|P:||Right, sometimes people have um, and there is just one other thing. When you are repairing a net, how does, how would you go about, say if the net had a big tear in it, how do you repair that? What.|
It's just like putting a jigsaw puzzle back together. In other words you start getting your pieced together figuring out where, which goes where. First all, in other words, if you had just a minor hole, just say a big hole in there.
It is just more less sewing oh stitch up in a piece of cloth or something. But you have to have a starting point and an ending point because this has to come out in squares. Not triangle. Not 5-sided. Everything has to come out square. Ah, far as the net
let's say it's torn in half in about 3 different pieces. You have starting points which you go by. In other words when the net is built, you have seams in it and you can put seam to seam to start one piece back together, then everything else starts falling into place.
But now you have times where there is some webbing missing just like somebody would throw 4 or 6 pieces of you puzzle away and it was in a spot where you needed those pieces to really get it back together. Well, you have to add webbing to these p;aces to start the net back together and then it starts taking shape again.
|P:||Do you have to tie the knots yourself?|
Yeah, right, the same procedure in sewing one up it's all hand sewn. It is more less like making a hand-knit cast net. In other words you have to make some meshes in this.
It's not just sewing 2 pieces together. You have to make meshes in between 2 pieces.
|P:||What kind of knot is that?|
|1171||B:||It is just a figure 8 knot is all it is. We use, most of the knots we use in the shop are figure 8's, granny knots, square knot, and a rolling half-hitch is what they call it.|
|P:||And the different knots are used, how do you know which knot to use|
Well, ah basically in the construction of a net it is nothing but figure 8's/ And a hanging procedure you use more half-hitch, using rolling half-hitch and the half half hitch knot.
The square knots and granny knots are used as far as tying chains and that sort of thing.
This is just like you were tying a shoelace or something. Just standard knots of that particular job.
Ahm, really you have answered all my questions a far as what I have down. Since I am a folklorist I wanted to ask you this question.
Have you ever, oh first of all, what is the strangest request you have ever had for a net. I mean has there ever been anybody that wanted a weird net?
Yeah, President Nixon for one. He ordered 3. Yeah, we built the 3 nets when he was in office of Key Biscayne to keep the sharks off of him and people floating bombs up on him. In other words they went off his beach house out to Key Biscayne. And they sunk several concrete pilings in an area which tapered out from the beach.
And they wanted some heavy netting to cover this area that covered from the bottom to the top. Floated all the way across the top and chained all the way around the bottom. That the navy divers could take out there and attach to these concrete pilings and before he would
go swimming every morning, the Navy would go out, skin divers and go all the way around the net checking for bombs and to see if there were any sharks inside the net. Or, you know, making sure everything was secure before he would went in the water. And we did this for three years and I think the third year we were starting to make it as they called up and said hold it. That was when he was starting to get into his little flings and nobody wanted to pay for it anymore so.
This net took something like a day and 1/2 to really rig You know and took 7 or 8 of us (to) rig it and my mother would get out here and cook us up a big meal during the middle of the day. Corn bread, fried chicken, corned beef and hash. Anything you know just keep us all busy and happy. Oh it was quite a job. It took about 15 people to lift this net once we got it made and taped. It started out kinda shallow like you water would be, about a foot deep at the bank and tapered all the way out to about, I think it was 10' deep at the deepest point and it had some 250-300 floats, 6x8 flats on the top which kept it up all the time. And it was fascination to know we were making something for the President.
|P:||I know, he should have written you a letter. Thanks for keeping the sharks away.|
|1311||B:||Yeah, we never heard anything from him but we heard that|
|some of the Navy divers were actually cutting holes in trying to get sharks to come in and get him.|
|P:||I wouldn't doubt it. Oh, what is the strangest catch you've ever heard anybody catching around here?|
|B:||Well, the strangest catch oh.|
|P:||President Nixon, no.|
|1331||B:||No, probably be oh, submarines. An actual submarine in someone's net started towing the boat backwards almost sinking the boat didn't even realize they had the shrimp boat caught. I was the--- not a Navy submarine. It was a German, I mean a Russian submarine.|
|B:||Well, it was off this coast, yeah. They didn't even realize that they had the submarine in the net at first. They were towed one way and all of a sudden started going backwards of the cable popped. And just a little while later they saw the submarine surface with the shrimp net on top of 'em. I guess I'd have to say that is the weirdest catch.|
|P:||That is the weirdest catch. Do you, are there any superstitious about bad luck in the net shop?|
|1372||B:||No, we don't have any superstitions. We just work, work, work. We don't have time to think about superstitions.|
|P:||Not, not as, I suppose, there is a lot of superstitions about boats. You know the old timers have a lot of superstitions.|
|1384||B:||Yeah, the shrimpers themselves have goobs of superstitions. They, they don't won't you to say gator or alligator on their boats. And ah..|
|B:||It is just some superstitions. I guess when somebody did it one time they tore up everything on the boat. Talking about alligators but just recently to now. You talking about odd things that have seeing caught oh last year a fellow caught a about a 4' alligator about 3 miles off the beach in his tri-net. And...|
|P:||In salt water!|
|1407||B:||And, oh, this were some good colored friends of ours and they all like to have left the boat. The gator took the boat over, and they brought it back to the shop just to show us what our nets would catch. That was kind of funny.|
|P:||I, I believe it. Well, oh and around here do they ever have any stories about the pirate that was here? Who is the pirate there, pirate on Fernandina, what's his name? Now I can't remember it. Louie Ori (Luis Aury) or is that his name?|
|B:||Yeah, yeah, I know who you are talking about but I don't know much about superstitions or nothing about him.|
|P:||Yeah, well I'm going to talk to some of the old timers but I thought, I was just wondering if you heard any of|
|of those stories. And oh, what about people around here to do they talk about the Bermuda Triangle?|
|1449||B:||Well, yeah we talk about that down here all the time ourselves and all. Most of the shrimpers and what have, we talk about is, just seem to think it is just a turbulent area. In other words, the current is so, so strong in this area and so wishy-washy that anybody in this area in the time of a storm is susceptible to sinking. Another thing is the bottom drops off so steeply in some of these spots and the tide is so strong on the bottom that it carries things away before anybody can pinpoint them. And the ocean is so big, how are you going to find all these little things? I mean you can search and search and search, but... Now how they can't find metal airplanes and stuff like this with sonar and stuff like that, I don't know.|
|P:||It is strange.|
|B:||A superstition. It is something to think about now.|
|P:||I mean you know, who knows what they are? I'd mean the stories have been carried and it's interesting. Is there any place around here that people get lost? I mean have you ever lost a shrimp boat out here?|
|1505||B:||No, we have lost several but it's mainly just negligence on the captains' part as far as running in and out of the Jettys or other vessels, you know, and that sort of thing. But nothing mysterious like, you know.|