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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The True History of Crab Island in Destin, Florida


(Circa 1966-1974) Once upon a time, Destin was not even a dot on most maps. During tv's glory days of Gilligan's Island and Flipper, there was a small, circular island on the north side of the Destin Bridge. This is the legend of how Crab Island became to be. Daughters of Capt. Ben Marler, Jr. of Destin, Athena and Beth (then 6 and 2 years old) called it "Bird Island" every time Mother Joan drove over the two lane bridge to go to Ft. Walton on a trip to Sear's or maybe to McDonalds, Krispy Kreme, Delchamps, ballet lessons, or the Tringas Theatre (none of those places were in Destin.) They could see it because in those days, since in the freewheeling 1970s there were no seatbelts in most cars, they happily stood or knelt on the lettuce green vinyl car seats holding on to the back of the front seat like waterskiers. So small was it that only about 50 seagulls could fold their wings against the wind, tuck their heads, and warm their wet feet on it in the wintertime. And then, in the very year that the Destin Log was started, came big bad Hurricane Eloise in 1974. Not only did it twist Dad's Her Majesty II fishing boat sign into a metal pretzel and put out the four "blinking red fishes" on it, Hurricane Eloise swallowed up "Bird Island." So, Athena and Beth started calling it "Crab Island." They were familiar with the skittery, scattery blue crabs that swam away from their frightened little feet at the "Park," (Taylor Calhoun park on Calhoun Avenue, site of Destin's first schoolhouse where their Daddy once went to school with all the other children in the 1940s.) So, in 1974, Athena rode a school bus to Max Bruner Jr Junior High School and since she was always the last to be picked up, she often stood in the aisle of the bus. Each day, she said, "look, there's Crab Island." to the busload of jr. highschoolers. She was still standing in 1975 on the bus to Ft. Walton Beach High School. And half the bus would look to their right. Sometimes someone would say Naw,that's Bird Island. (by then, all the Destin kids called it Bird Island.) "No way', she would say. 'There's no birds! It's 'Crab Island' now." And so it was. Finally, as good things often go, the name stuck. Over the decades, Crab Island got larger with the passing tides, hurricanes and storms, but it never again raised a white eye to peek above sea level and wink at the weary birds. Boaters and wave runners discovered that it was a beautiful shallow place to anchor against the tide and wind, and swim at high tide when the blue crystal clear waters looked just like a waist-deep swimming pool. From the air, the sprawling island looks like a crab, surrounded by darker, deeper water and sometimes seaweed. Now, Crab Island is a destination, a world favorite "beach" to countless tourists and locals. Especially on big holiday weekends like Memorial Day, 4th of July, and during the annual Billy Bowllegs festival. You can hear a band, buy a drink, listen to radio music all tuned to the same channel, sun, laugh, slide down a huge inflatable slide, and just enjoy one big, happy, party on the water. And that, my friend, is the History of Crab Island. (Note: Children always played a part. Kathy Marler Blue of the Destin Fishing Museum remembers wading on crab island with crab traps with her grandfather, William T. Marler. So, whether it was above or below water, or named yet, do not know, only that is existed.//

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