May 7, 2014:
So, the whole world and only Carrabelle’s got it … I know your curiosity is killing you. As one faithful follower put it, “I’m sure the server crashed with the flood of responses you received.” Touche. But, I also had one correct guess, from a true Panacea native! Here’s the story:
They say the city was having problems with tourists making unauthorized long distance phone calls on its police phone. You see, now you call the police and it rings to a station. But, this was back in the day of the payphone. Call the five-oh in Carrabelle back in the 60’s and it rang to a regular old pay phone, one bolted to the side of the Shop-and-Stop (or some similar) building at the corner of U.S. 98 and Tallahassee Street. Despite harsh warnings, mean stares and policemen running at them, swinging batons overhead, the good folks passing through Carrabelle just couldn’t seem to pass up the urge to sneak up to the phone, pick up the receiver illegally and give sweet Aunt Ida back in Nebraska a ring. Just for kicks. “Hey Ida, you’ll never guess where I’m calling from … “
(And, yes, that photo is so good, you can buy it here).
In an effort to solve the overwhelming problem, Johnnie Mirabella (yes, from Carrabelle-uh), St. Joe Telephone Company’s sole Carrabelle employee at the time, first tried moving the police phone down the road to the Piggly Wiggly (or some similar) building, but the wily tourists discovered the phone at the Pig and continued their rampant illegal calls to out-of-state kin. In addition to the escalating tourist telephone problem, Johnnie Mirabella also noticed the officers were getting drenched when they had to answer the police phone on the side of the building in the rain. So, when the St. Joe Telephone Company decided to replace its worn-out phone booth in front of Burda’s Pharmacy with a new one, Mirabella seized the opportunity. On March 10, 1963, Mirabella had the old booth moved from Burda’s to its current site on U.S. 98 under the chinaberry tree and the police phone put inside. Not only were the good men in blue of Carrabelle now protected from the elements when they had to answer a police call and the rogue tourist collect calls deterred but the booth also became the first, last and only — WORLD’S SMALLEST POLICE STATION. Boom.
Seriously, the whole world, and only Carrabelle’s got it.
There’s the wise Mirabella there. Ain’t he a looker?
He probably looked better with a mustache.
Everyone did in the 70’s.
Eventually the dial was removed from the phone, making it impossible for tourists to make calls. Sorry Ida! But, the booth has been featured on various television shows — Real People, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, The Today Show, Johnny Carson — as well as the movie Tate’s Hell which was produced at Florida State University. Along with World’s Smallest Police Station t-shirts, you can also purchase hats, visors, postcards, and calendars bearing the distinct, copyrighted WSPS logo.
“I’ll take one visor please.”
They say life has not always been easy for the retired phone booth, though. Vandals have ripped phones out of the booth and shot holes through the glass. It has been knocked over by a pickup truck, and a tourist once asked a gas station attendant to help him load it into his vehicle to take it back to Tennessee. “Hey Gomer, help me load this here booth up into the bed-uh-my truck. Gramma Bickers will love this!” I mean … I really don’t need to tell stories when the truth is actually far more entertaining.
Needless to say, Phillip and I got a real kick out of the World’s Smallest Phone Booth when we were wandering around in downtown Carrrabelle. We popped our head in a few other places – one rough-and-rowdy looking motorcycle bar named Harry’s to restock our rum supply.
I swear I saw a guy in the back pick up his cue stick when we walked in and start smacking it in his other hand, much like a police baton, and I started thinking about that phone booth. We paid the nice 6’3″, 300 pound man behind the bar and gently made our way out. We then stopped at the trusty IGA to stock up on provisions for the boat for tomorrow’s passage to Apalachicola. Once we got everything stowed away on the boat, we were excited to get out and pay the fine crew at Fathom’s a visit that night, sip white wine, indulge on their fresh oysters and take in the live music for the evening. But, when we got there, we were incredibly disheartened to find Fathom’s was closed that night. That night!?! Of all nights. It ‘ppears the good folks at Fathom’s only find it fit to open their doors to the rogue tourists of Carrabelle Thursday through Sunday and we had the good luck to come on a Wednesday. But, we were only planning to spend only one night in Carrabelle so that was that. No Fathom’s. We headed back to The Fisherman’s Wife hoping to get some good ole’ Apalachicola Bay oysters there but we were thwarted again! “We’re out of oysters,” she said.
“What else can I get ya?” Bollucks! We ended up sharing a perfectly fine Fisherman’s Fried Platter and calling it an early night. Having thoroughly enjoyed the World’s Smallest Police Station and our downtown jaunt, we felt we’d satisfied our Carrabelle craving and we set our sights on Apalachicola in hopes of finding some good, local oysters tomorrow. Also, the droopy withered docklines and power cord on our neighbor’s slip told us it was a good time to toss our fresh lines and get the heck out of Dodge.
May 8, 2014:
“Seven point three!” I shouted, smiling goofily like a kid at the fair.
We were making 7.3. We had a spectacular sail across the Apalachicola Bay. And, it was high time, too. As you recall we had spent the last 30 hours on passage in our SAILboat doing anything but sailing across the Gulf. Have wind, will travel. Have not, won’t.
So, we were thrilled to watch our boat frolic and sprint across the Bay.
Phillip had to take a business call at one point and I remember him telling the guy, “Yeah, I’m not in the office today. Calling from out of town. It’s a bit windy here.” A bit windy …. We were doing SEVEN POINT THREE! An incredibly sporty sail across the Bay. Nothing we love more.
We zipped across the Bay in just under five hours. And, what’s even better? You know what we saw as we were coming under the bridge to George St. Island?
Mmmmhhh-Hmmmm … that’s right. Oystermen! Harvesting piles of oysters right out of the Apalachicola Bay. We saw several boats out there harvesting.
“You save a couple dozen for us boys!” we shouted as we sailed by. It was great to see them out there harvesting local oysters when we had heard so many times during the trip to/from the Keys that all of the oysters were coming exclusively from Texas and Louisiana. We were excited to get our hands on some fresh, local oysters, harvested right out of the Apalachicola Bay!
As we made our way under the St. George Island bridge and into the mouth of the Apalachicola River,
we heard a lot of talk over the radio about how they had not dredged the pass into the Apalachicola River in a while and there was some shoaling to look out for. As luck would have it, just as we were coming in, a large shrimp boat was coming out.
It was a tight squeeze, but he called us up on the radio and said there was plenty of depth for us on his port side. Real nice guy and we were thankful he was communicative, knowledgeable about the pass and the depth and attentive to a sailboat making its way in under sail. And, it was pretty cool to watch him pass by so close. I swear I thought one of his big shrimping arms (yes, that’s what I call them) was going to snag our genoa.
But, we made it through safe and sound under the John Gorrie Memorial bridge into the Apalachicola River and up to the City Dock. We had checked out this dock many times when we spent time in Apalachicola while our boat was stuck in Carrabelle having the transmission replaced. It was right downtown. Just dock your boat, jump off, and you’re right in the heart of the hustle and bustle of ole’ Apalach. Lookout!
I fully expected someone to mozey by in a horse-drawn carriage any minute.
We weren’t sure about the depth coming in but we had heard the river was really high at the time (remember the torrential rains and flooding we’d had in April in Northwest Florida) so we figured that would work to our advantage. We kept an eye on the depth and made our way in gently. We also didn’t know if the docking was free or how it worked, but we eased up without hitting bottom and tied her off anyway, hoping to find out. I guess the tourists in these parts do seem to get a little sneaky.
But, we’re an honest bunch of sneaks, so we started looking around for a contact and wouldn’t you know it, having just left the town with the world’s smallest police station, we found ourselves once again, resorting to the police. There was a lone sign on a pole at the city dock that read: