Lawson writes . . . sharing thoughts and memories

May 30, 2010

Stingrays and Blimps

Filed under: Uncategorized — lawsonjolly @ 5:00 am

St. Simons Island, GA is a place packed with memories.  So much time was spent there as a young boy, as a teenager, and even after we married.  We were blessed that family owned beach cottages which allowed such a privilege.  In my mind I can still recall so many wonderful days as a boy.  Catching crabs in the baskets and then boiling them in the yard so that the odor would not be inside!  The sulfur water with its smell!  And you had to drink it and brush your teeth with it!  The beach and early morning walks to find shells!  Playing up and down the streets with friends!  Freedom to walk to the pier!  To the ice cream shop!

And then the fishing!  Fishing from the surf, the pier, and especially in the marshes!  It was big time fishing for me.  It was so different from fresh water fishing at home!  You can tell the memories are there.  But there are two memories that are most burned in my mind.

During World War II, there was a blimp assigned to Glynco Coast Guard Station.  The blimp was always in the air it seemed.  As I look back, perhaps there was more than one.  We were always conscious of the presence of the blimp, and it was more than just the excitement of seeing it.  We were very aware it was overhead for protection of our coastline.  Many people do not know, or remember, than German submarines and U-boats were just off our coast.  History records that hundreds of merchant ships were sunk just off our coast in sight of land.  These blimps patrolled the coast to spot the enemy.

One blimp was actually shot down off the Florida coast when it engaged a U-boat.  There are other reports where the blimps would drop an explosive on the submarine that was just under the water.  These blimps could give coverage and protection to ships as they could spot the enemy and rout them so that the subs and U-boats would run.  We would often imagine that the blimps we would see were spotting the enemy and keeping us safe as we played and frolicked on the beach.  Of course, it was much more serious than that.

The other top memory was during my teenage years.  The area around the pier seemed to always have stingrays.  These are interesting creatures of the sea.  They have eyes on top of their body, with the mouth on the underside.  They cannot see their prey, but use smell and sensors to detect their surroundings. They have a dangerous stinger on their tail.  It is from that large barbed stinger that they get their name.  They have wings which can span even beyond five feet.  They can flap their wings like a bird and fly through the water.  Much of the time they lie on the bottom of the ocean, but will fall for certain bait.  They were often caught around the pier.  They were fun to hook and reel in.  They were exceptionally strong with those powerful wings.  If your fishing line was strong enough, you could reel them in.  However, you had to walk them to the beach and drag them on shore.

Teenagers were always there to assist the fishermen.  The boys would drag them ashore and turn them on their backs.  The large barbed stinger on their tail was then removed.  This stinger was for self-defense, and without it, there was no danger from the ray.  After the stinger was removed, a rope harness was wrapped around their body and wings.  Then, it was “Hi Ho Silver, Away!”  The stingray was ridden out in the surf.  The weight of the person was enough to maneuver the direction of the ray.

I must confess that although I was there and involved, I did not care to ride the ray.  I seemed to have some fear the ray might be stronger than I, and I would be taken out to sea.  I never witnessed any real danger of the others who rode the stingrays, but my adventurous spirit never got me in the saddle!  Later, the ray was released when the day’s play was over.  (Now I suppose I will get comments from those who see that as cruelty to animals.  Please remember we are speaking of events more than 60 years ago before all that was brought to our attention.)

So, I have taken you on a memory trip today.  I just wish I could reproduce some of the sights and sounds of those days.  They are in my head, but I just can’t reproduce them!  I’m so thankful for stored memories!  Enjoy yours!



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