Then and Now
The Skinny Days of the Burbanks
Net making was and still is a way of life that has supported the Burbank family from the early 1900’s to present day. Even through the depression, William Burbank, Sr. was able to support his family making nets and seining on the beach.
Billy remembers being part of the family affair of seining, done during the slower times of the off-season for shrimping from December through March. At one time, this included William Burbank, Sr., Billy’s grandmother or Nanny, and the entourage of 7 children and 20 plus grandchildren.
William, Sr., would lead the caravan down the beach to where he wanted to launch his row boat. Two brothers, Billy Jr. (Billy III’s dad) and Uncle Frank, would row the wooden boat out until a marker on the seine (net) indicated it was time to row the boat parallel to shore, and another that it was time to head for shore.
Billy smiles as he recalls the scene as the boat would reach the shore, “There would be 3 or 4 of my Pop’s friends, my dad, my uncle, my grandmother and the grandkids, including me, pulling in the seine from each end, a section at a time. The middle was where all the fish were.”
He remembers his grandfather directing the crew on shore, including the kids. “Pop would stand in the water waist deep holding up part of the top line yelling at us to go faster so the fish wouldn’t go over the top”, says Billy. “Nanny would tell him to stop yelling at her grandchildren and, no surprise, he would stop. Pop was the seine boss, but Nanny was the boss of the entire family.”
Billy makes a point to share that his grandfather always left the beach the way he found it. After the catch was cleaned and taken to the trucks, the beach was cleaned and critters such as sharks were returned to the sea. The fish were taken to market in Jacksonville.
The money made would feed the Burbank family for months until shrimping season began again.
The Burbank family’s net making venture has lasted for over 103 years, with the 4th generation William Hunter Burbank, IV, now handling production for Burbank Sport Nets, the offshoot of the original Burbank Trawl Company.