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I remember history: the Big Dock burning in 1950

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By Jimmy Bishop

I remember when the Big Dock burned the year 1950.

The Cedar Key Big Dock was built with 4x6 inch planks. It was built in the fashion of a horse shoe. Cars and trucks could drive onto it and travel the distance around it, which was about three hundred and fifty feet. The day the Big Dock burned was a sad day for the people of Cedar Key. It was the first week in April, 1950, when it burned. I was hired two years earlier by Randall Livingston, to manager his fish business.  The fish house where I worked is the site where the Sea Breeze Restaurant is now standing.  The fire started in the office of the fish house where I worked; it happened on Sunday morning. I didn't have to report to work until nine o'clock on Sundays. When I arrived at the fish house my boss was standing at the door.  He said, “Jimmy, you can take the day off and report back to work tomorrow morning at 6 a.m."  So I did. After riding my bicycle home, which took about ten minutes, I sprawled across my bed and was just dozing off to sleep, when I heard Mama calling me, saying, "Jimmy, something in town is on fire. I hear people yelling fire, fire,” she said. “Now I see smoke. It looks like it could be the Big Dock on fire."  At that point, I hopped on my bicycle and rode to town. When I got there, I could see it was the Big Dock that was on fire. There was a Coast Guard Cutter moored to the dock. The Captain gave orders to cast off. The Cutter moved out into Dog Island Channel, where they fought the fire with their fire hoses, and the City Fire Department fought it from land with the same old fire equipment that they used to fight the fire when the school burned.   A very strong wind began to blow from the northeast that caused the fire to burn the dock very rapidly. It burned the dock and all the buildings that were on the dock. Mr. Harry Rogers’ oil and gasoline building burned too. When, the two big gasoline tanks exploded, the explosion was heard for several miles.  My guitar was in the fish house, it burned too. There was a sad feeling among the people; just like when our school burned. The Dock was a part of them. Another landmark destroyed by fire.  Some, years later the Big Dock was replaced with a concrete dock.  On September 23, 1950, Hurricane Easy, a category 3 storm with 125 mph winds, looped around Cedar Key three times before finally making landfall, dumping 38 inches of rain and destroying two businesses, six homes, one big unoccupied building, one fish house, and one church.  Luckily, the storm came ashore at low tide, so the surge was only 5 feet.  There was a sponge boat out of Tarpon Springs moored at the end of the big dock, the part of the dock that the fire didn’t burn. The force of the wind and waves lifted the sponge boat up and the bow of the boat was resting on a finger pier extending from the main part of the dock.  When the tide began to ebb, the weight of the sponge boat caused it to fall back and it sank to the bottom. As far as I know it is still at the bottom where it sank fifty nine years ago. Cedar Key is not Heaven, but if you will look through the kitchen window you can almost see it.   I pray that God will Bless Everyone in Cedar Key,   - By Jimmy Bishop,  the Old Country Parson,  born and raised on the island  of Kissmequick, Cedar Key, Fla      What do you remember about Cedar Key’s history? E-mail editor@cedarkeybeacon.com.