A young man joined the crew of a huge sailing ship in Greece about the turn of the century and by God’s guidance ended up here in Destin where he raised his family.
Captain John Maltezo was one of the most respected members of the small fishing village known as Destin. He was a craftsman and could do most anything he set his mind to.
My mom used to tell me stories of what a great man my grandfather became. One of his achievements, the seine boat Primrose, was built by him in 1925 and served for an astonishing 43 years. It can be seen across from the Destin Fishing Museum.
Capt. John Melvin had an idea for this “perfect” seine boat to fish the inland waters of Choctawhatchee Bay for one of the most nutritious fish within it, the mullet.
This fish, with a gizzard, swam in huge schools and was prized for its special flavor and the ability to be salted and kept for long periods without refrigeration. Melvin fed a lot of people in his lifetime.
Mullet has an oily texture filling it with high energy. If you doubt me, watch dolphins go after them for their meals. It’s one of their favorites.
I can remember as a child standing on our pier and watching them toss a huge mullet 50 yards or so in the air and then swim up and catch it before it hit the water. Of course they were full of them and now it was “play time.”
Everyone here enjoyed eating mullet, and I’d bet a lot the early Americans Indians who came over by dugout canoe before the white man’s arrival came here to camp at Marler Lake (now a small bayou) and made mullet their staple fish. I believe they brought hickory nuts so they could smoke them using the hulls to produce the smoke.
Captain John loved to catch them and became a master at it. This wonderful boat my grandfather built for him got the job done in a big way. The profits he earned from the sale of the fish helped him and his strong backed crew survive during the depression years.
They worked extremely hard to catch the fish and then to take them quickly across the bay to Niceville, where a fish house could prepare them for shipment to a hungry America.
Sadly, The Primrose is in need of some restoration and upkeep right away. It’s owned by the City of Destin and obviously someone with the responsibility has made a decision to let it go to ruin.
We must not allow that to happen. I trust that all who care about Destin and its unique past will begin to appeal to the council members and City Hall for its rescue. It’s an incredibly valuable part of Old Destin.
It wouldn’t require a lot of money to restore it to a condition that will allow it to reveal a part of Destin’s fantastic past.
Isn’t it true, that when we lose concern for our past, our future is going to be in doubt? Let’s maintain as much as we can, while we can.
Capt. Ben Marler, a longtime Destin resident and author of “Old Destin Through the Eyes of a Child.” “4 o’clock in the morning,” and “I Am Not Ashamed of Jesus,” can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.