Gault at the newly-established Gasparilla Fishery.
“The fish company built us a house,” Clara said.
“There wasn’t much there, just a few fishermen
and the fish house was all there was.”
There was no running water or electricity then.
For fresh water the family would go in a boat
over to Gasparilla Island and get a big ice cake,
then put it in a barrel to melt.
“Sometimes we would put out barrels to catch
rain, too,” she said in an interview. “Then
we’d have to strain it to get the
During rainy season they
collected rain water in two big
The women did laundry in
the creek. The bathroom
was a “johnny house” out
back. Getting groceries and
milk required a trip by
boat over to Gasparilla
Island. Years later Clara and
Dunk had a truck and
would drive to Punta Gorda
to get groceries.
Clara said that Dunk was
crazy about his little girls and
stayed home as much as he
could, but there were some frivolous
times at the fish house to be had
“The fishermen would come in and play poker
and get drunk,” Clara said. “Someone would
usually have a fiddle and they’d pick and sing and
However, Clara said she didn’t like it one bit
when her boy Charlie would sneak out to attend
Asked about how she remembers life there at
the fishery Clara said, “There were no crimes, no
rapes, no killing. We never locked our doors, and
we slept with the windows wide open. We were
all just one big happy family.”
The Futches were not unacquainted with grief,
though. During those days, two of their
daughters – Lila May, 12, and Ruth Marie, 6, died
from leukemia just two years apart.
“But life went on,” Clara said, after telling the
Clara really doesn’t know how many kids she
were married shortly afterward.
The young couple lived in the fishing village at the
north end of Gasparilla Island, where Dunk was a
fisherman. When asked how long they lived there
Clara replied, “Long enough to have five babies,” and
said they were very happy years spent in the north
village. Dunk was the son of Sicero Franklin Futch and
Sarah Melissa Slaughter.
Known simply as “Gasparilla,” the village at that
time consisted of 15 to 20 houses that
formed a row along either side of the
road, located right about where The
Courtyard Shops and the Boca
Grande Resort are now. The
men fished, the women did
the housework ... and housework
in those days was
definitely work. In an interview,
Clara showed her
astonishment at advancements
in domestic technology,
saying, “All women
today have to do is push a
button, and some of them
are too lazy to even do that.”
Clara remembered doing
laundry in big rainwater tubs, and
making all of her children’s clothes
by hand. There were no doctors at the
time, she recalled, so it had to be a lifeand
death emergency for the trip to be made
by train to the doctor in Arcadia.
The women had their babies at home with a
midwife in attendance who arrived by train from
Punta Gorda. Not one of Clara’s babies were born
in a hospital.
Life was not all work, though. Sometimes the
families would go out for a picnic, and they would
have oyster roasts on the beach. They also had
baseball games, and Dunk was the pitcher for the
Boca Grande team.
“Even though I was scared to death of the water,
sometimes we would all go by boat to watch the
games,” she once said.
The children of these fishing families went to a little
one-room school on the island. The teacher, usually
from Punta Gorda, would come for a year and then
usually be replaced by another one in the next year.
In the early 1930s Clara, Dunk and their five little
girls and one son Edith Elnor, Sara Melissa, Lila May,
Betty Belle, Ruth Marie and Charlie Richard – moved
to Placida where Dunk went to work for Walter
90 GASPARILLA ISLAND March/April 2018
Photo above: Clara and Dunk Futch at their 50th