By Charles Morgan III
Harold Destin died last week. He had lived in Destin for 64 years.
Harold’s father, Chubby Destin, ran the Shooting Star for many years. His mother Pat ran the booking booths. I first met Susan, Harold’s sister, when she was babysitting for Tommy and Janie Browning at their house on Calhoun Avenue. I stayed across the street and one day when I was running, I saw Susan in a pair of cut off jeans. She was the cutest girl in Destin.
Harold was a father to Kristin and Andrew.
The Shooting Star was a low-slung Thompson boat with a corn yellow hull. Chubby was a classic captain, always wearing the khaki pants and shirt that was the uniform in the 1960s.
Harold followed his father into the fishing business.
That’s kind of where Harold stayed. Immigrants to this country assimilate with varying degrees of success and acceptance. Harold lived in a town that was beset by waves of domestic migrants and transplants—people primarily from the south who moved to Destin, some seeking fortune and some just seeking a better place to live.
Harold wasn’t much on assimilating into the new Destin. He had little interest in t-shirt shops, jet skis, pontoon boats, restaurants, or condominiums. The acquisition of money didn’t mean much to him. Harold likely never spent a day cavorting on the famous white sand beaches.
Harold ran charter boats and private boats. and everyone knew that Harold could catch fish.
One spring, 25 years ago, Harold took my son Eddie and little Peter Wright cobia fishing on the Hey Bubba. They saw 90 fish. They caught 16 and kept six. I don’t think Eddie’s ever been the same.
A father tends to think highly of another man who takes his son fishing.
Harold had a quiet presence. He was big and strong as a bull. Sometimes he looked a little rough. But he had a soft, gravelly baritone voice. His accent was more salty than southern.
A gathering of Harold’s friends would be a rogues’ gallery of old Destin. He fished with Little Jimmy Shirah, Tim Hannah, Pat Haney, Randy Davis, Dewey Destin, Jimmy Patzig, Tommy Norred, Russell Wilbanks, Johnny Doylan, Peter Wright, Tony and Frank Davis, Tommy Green, Tyree Destin, Jim Stanley, Andy Anderson, Tommy Browning, Mike Garcia, and many others.
Harold and I were the same age. Like many people in our generation, Harold wandered into some issues that cause health problems later in life. But just as he fell into some not-so-great habits, he worked his way out of them.
Anytime he visited Harbor Docks, you knew it. The barroom, in unison, would simply roar, “Harold!” In his younger days, it might have been a cry for caution. Later, it was an expression of joy that Harold decided to stop by. If there wasn’t a seat at the bar, someone with an appreciation of seniority would get up and offer their barstool to Harold.
I was fortunate to fish with Harold.
The last time we fished was on the Hey Baby. We’d caught cobia between Navarre and Pensacola Beach all day. On our way home, just east of the Okaloosa Island pier, in the dead zone, Harold spotted a big fish.
Unlike so many of the kids who graduated from piers to boats, there was no urgency, no screaming or frantic, zippy, line-drive casting to the cobia.
In no hurry at all, he took the boat out of gear, pulled a rod from the rod holder and cast a jig in a high, lazy arc. The jig landed three feet in front of the fish and with little effort and less emotion, Harold hooked the cobia. I’ll always remember that afternoon.
Harold Destin was a calm, friendly, lovable guy in a burly, sun blasted, salt sprayed package.
I’ll remember Harold for taking my son fishing. I’ll remember him for fishing with me. I’ll remember him as one of the people that made Destin so unique and special.