This week in Destin history

Special to The Log

April 28 - May 4

35 years ago — 1978

An advertisement in The Log announced that the famous Bert Colwell Trio would play at the Green Knight.

Destin Chamber of Commerce manager Anita Kroha announced the Florida Girl Motel as one of four new businesses to join the Chamber.

In addition to reasonably priced fish and crab burgers, a gallon of Farm Best milk at the Jitney Jungle was advertised for $1.59.

Eight-year-old Mike Lawson pitched a no-hitter to lead his Destin Lumber minor league baseball team to a 4-0 win.

30 years ago — 1983

Sixteen-year-old Tina Hecker was crowned 1983 Miss Destin Rodeo. She was awarded a $500 Coleman Kelly scholarship and a $100 bond from the Destin Charter Boat Auxiliary.

Fishing boat captains Ben Marler and Malcolm Patterson led a delegation of charter and party boat operators to Tallahassee to protest legislative efforts to enact a saltwater fishing license.

Andi Nadicksbernd won the junior angler prize at the 1983 Destin Annual Cobia Tournament with a 57.5-pound catch, while Mike Sabo won top honors with an 85-pounder.

The Destin Water Users Sewage treatment plant was home to a litter of black bunnies born a few weeks after Easter.

25 years ago — 1988

Capt. John Holley and mate Danny Bryant, fishing with several New York tourists aboard The Invicta, brought in a large catch of cobia.

Crystal Beach Development Co. announced it was ready to break ground on the first of 61 lots of the new Water's Edge subdivision, with lots for the single-family residential development ranged from $22,000-$29,500.

20 years ago — 1993

The 25-year-old Destin landmark Green Knight went on the auction block as part of a liquidation sale to make way for a retail and restaurant development. When The Log asked Destin residents what should be done with the Green Knight, many said it should be moved to the state park and build a playground around it; others said it should stand at the entrance to the shopping center. One said it should be the new mascot at Destin Elementary School.

The Destin Harbor Board approved, contingent on receiving permits from Florida Department of Environmental Regulations, the Destin Fishing Fleet application for a 40-slip marina.

10 years ago — 2003

Hired to rent chairs and umbrellas on the Destin beaches, beach service workers for Tom Curry's White Sands Beach Services find themselves making numerous rescues in the surf each day.

Despite Florida's shrinking budget, work is continuing on an electronic stoplight synchronization system that should spare U.S. 98 drivers in Destin from hitting so many red lights.


The knight shift: A green guardian watched over Destin's borders

The armored figure of a green knight that stood on the corner of Destin's Main Street and U.S. 98 from 1967 to 1993 marked more than just the site of the Green Knight restaurant and lounge.

"Everyone knew where the Green Knight was, like everyone knows where Emerald Grande is," lifelong resident Cyron Marler told The Log. "At that time, Destin wasn't very developed. Main Street was the furthest street out with the exception of Airport Road, which wasn't built until 1967. After Main Street, it was like the beach and nothing."

That made the giant in green armor a landmark, Marler said, as well as a point of reference for anyone giving directions, such as "go past the Green Knight three fourths of a mile."

Memories of the statue and the lounge it stood in front of are strong enough that other Destin establishments, such as Jr's Green Knight Bar & Grill, have claimed the name, and former bar manager Norma Calhoun has a Web page,, for patrons of the lounge.

The statue and the original Green Knight restaurant were built by Coleman Kelly, his son Bernarr told The Log, though Cyron Marler said the building had been opened by another family as a steakhouse, then Kelly bought it from them. Bernarr Kelly said his father had commissioned the fiberglass statue which Bernarr estimated had been 20 to 25 feet tall, from a company in Montgomery.

Author Tim Hollis, in "Dixie Before Disney," says the Green Knight was one of many unusual statues that have decorated the Emerald Coast's Goofy Golf courses, amusement parks and restaurant exteriors. Panama City Beach, Hollis said, boasted a fiberglass bull outside Angelo's Steak Pit and the 46-foot tall Sir Loin, a knightly figure at the Sir Loin Steakhouse. Hollis said Sir Loin later became King Neptune when the steakhouse was replaced by the Shell Island Gift Shop.

For anyone who drove through Destin back in the day, the Green Knight is the statue they remember. Hollis talks about the knight in two of his books, and writer Julia Reed reminisces in a 2005 New York Times article about seeing the statue during childhood visits to Destin.

That's not to say the statue commanded respect: Hollis recounts stories of the knight's lance being stolen by local teens, and pranksters putting the knight in a diaper. Destin residents have spoken of private parts being drawn on the knight's crotch.

"It was a rite of passage for all the teenagers and young men in the area to urinate on (him)," Bernarr Kelly's wife Candace said. "Every kid that was 18 to 21."

The Green Knight lounge was memorable for more grown-up Destinites and tourists, too. Candace Kelly said it was the first fine dining restaurant in the area, and the first place in town to serve lobster.

"They would fly in lobsters from Maine," Calhoun, who began working as a cocktail waitress there in 1973, told The Log. "It was really great food, the waiters were in tuxes, they served appetizers on Grecian urns."

"It used to be the partying place of Destin," Candace Kelly said. "All the middle-aged crowd would go there, have dinner ... And they had a trademark glass (with) a nymph on the glass."

Calhoun said the lounge started out as a small place, with room for maybe 75 people to have a drink and a smoke before dinner. She said one of the reasons manager Trudy Ivey hired Calhoun was to build business.

It worked: Although the restaurant began losing money, Calhoun said, the lounge became more profitable, so Ivey converted the Green Knight into a lounge/package store. Calhoun became the bar manager in 1975.

"It was a lot of fun," Calhoun said. "You've got to understand there was nothing in Destin, no street lights, no street signs, really no city lights, bars were the social thing. People enjoyed the atmosphere of the drinking and the fun; we had more of a family party atmosphere."

Calhoun said among the celebrities who dropped in at the lounge over the years were singer/actor Marjoe Gortner, Sen. Bob Graham during his time as governor and country singer Webb Pierce.

Phil Calhoun, who eventually married Norma, played for years at the Green Knight as the front man for the Trashy White Band. Norma said he'd come to Destin to work as a trim carpenter, then turned to music when the housing market hit a big slump.

"It was a great place to play," Phil Calhoun said. "You would see very rich people with very poor people, fish heads with construction workers. There wasn't much competition in the town; at one time, we had the only package store. At the lounge we usually had the afternoon crowd, about eight o'clock we started to get the nighttime people. We played five, six, seven nights a week."

Calhoun said the original Trashy White Band broke up when the Green Knight closed its doors in 1992, but when he plays with the Relics, the band at the Calhouns' Oasis bar, "they become the Trashy White Band."

He said the Green Knight closed because "the building and the investments and everything kind of went bad."

The Howard Group bought the site of the Green Knight lounge; Bernarr Kelly bought the lounge's liquor license and the statue and decided to open Bernie B's Green Knight Inn on Okaloosa Island, with the knight outside.

"People in Destin didn't want him moved there for a while,"Kelly said. A Log article from the early '90s says that one resident proposed sinking the knight for an artificial reef. Instead, Kelly had him strapped to a truck and driven up U.S. 98 to Bernie B's.

As for the knight's old stomping grounds, Keith Howard of the Howard Group told The Log in 1993 that "we will deliver to that corner a new, modern-day landmark the city can be proud of." It never materialized, unless you count CVS Pharmacy.

Phil Calhoun told The Log that Kelly invited him and Norma to run Bernie B's, but "we didn't feel we were Fort Walton Beach people."

Bernie B's closed after a year or three. Kelly said a friend of his, Roger Wright, took the knight away on a truck-trailer but the steel frame inside had rusted so much that when they moved him "his head and back broke. It was just unfixable. He stayed on that trailer for a while, then they just put him out to pasture."

 "The Green Knight is gone after 30 years of standing through storms and everything," Norma Calhoun said. "That was one battle he couldn't fight, those trips up and down 98."