Fort De Soto Park - Recalling Mullet Key

Recalling Mullet Key

By Paul Higbee

Changes in the 50s,60s and 70s.

I spent much of the summer of 1955 on Mullet Key. My mother was a friend of the Andersons who had the restaurant and hotel concession. I was welcome anytime and would wash dishes in the restaurant in return for a room in the "hotel" and meals. The restaurant often had only a dozen or so visitors -- you had to come by boat or airplane in those days. That meant I had plenty of time to fish and explore the island.

At least once, I came to the island with Bill Fischer and another Boca Ciega High School student in Bill's small boat. We camped in the old tower on the north side of the island. I assume it was the spotting tower built during the time that MacDill AFB used the island as a bombing range. My friends and I were in the first class to attend Boca Ciega High School (we had our 50th reunion last year).

After graduating from Bogie, I attended the University of Florida and eventually became an Air Force Flight Commander at MacDill AFB, flying the F-4 Phantom. I scheduled a Fort De Soto visit for the instructor pilots and students in my flight. It was quite an experience to see how the island had changed. In the 50's it was a big weekend if we had 20 visitors (occasionally, perhaps up to 50 or 100). I was told that a big weekend then was 20,000 visitors. That was in 1971 or 72. Of course, one of the biggest changes was being able to drive there in our vehicles.

Paul Higbee, Major, United States Air Force, Retired

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