‘That ain’t how it happened!’ A talk with David Futch

January 23, 2021
By Marcy Shortuse

BY MARCY SHORTUSE – If you shake a tree in Boca Grande, a Futch will fall out: That is how David Futch described his family and their long history on Gasparilla Island. Futch was the featured speaker at a Boca Grande Historical Society event about the old days of Boca Grande, held on Tuesday, Jan. 19 via Zoom. Approximately 50 people were present online to watch and listen, including Capt. Dumplin’ Wheeler and author Randy Wayne White.

After being introduced by local historian Betsy Fugate-Joiner and White, Futch commenced with his presentation.

Futch is in the process of writing a book called “The Official (Unofficial) History of Boca Grande.” A painting (shown below) that hung above the bar at the old Pink Elephant will be the cover of the book, he said. He was a bartender there in the 1970s.

Betsy, whose father, Delmer, built the Pink Elephant, said one of the interesting things about the painting was that they weren’t exactly sure how showed up there in the 1950s.The bar was built in 1948 and opened in 1949.

“Frank Foster, who worked for the Corning family, always came to The Gasparilla Inn, and they were big shellers and big drinkers,” she said. “It was a friend of Frank’s, we assume, who sketched that out on a cocktail napkin after listening to stories from the fishermen at the old copper bar after they had a few Anejo and Cokes … probably a few Futch brothers were there as well. Pilikia is Portuguese, and it means ‘trouble.’ I have that painting and am excited to share it with David.”

Futch then read the introduction to his new book, which talked about everything from the Calusas to the conquistadors to the Crowninshield Family.

“I expect my cousin, Dumplin’ Wheeler, to say ‘That ain’t how it happened!’ That’s because that’s what Dumplin’ says every time someone mentions old Boca Grande. Then he’ll go on to recite the same story, except that, according to him, the tarpon is bigger, the stakes are higher, and Dumplin’s heroism, of course, more laudible.”

Futch described Boca Grande’s history, as well as his family’s history on the island. He also read the first couple of pages of a chapter about tarpon. It described a fight between fisherman and tarpon in vivid detail, ending with him exhausted on the bottom of the boat, praying for the strength to make it until the next day … or at least until drinks at the Pink Elephant that evening.

David Futch’s great uncles – Hugh (“Duke”), Rayford “Sug”), Duane and Rayford Jr., during World War II.

He also spoke about his grandfather, Dan Futch, who was locked up in a federal prison and beaten to learn his secrets. “There is no justice, and there never was,” he was quoted as saying.

Other chapters include “A Pirate in the Straights, “Square Grouper, the Other Prohibition,” “The Other Side of the Tracks,” “Futch Facts,” “Before and After the Bridge,” and many more.

After Futch’s presentation the listeners had a chance to ask questions and tell their own tales. Of course Dumplin’ jumped in on that, and he and Futch bantered back and forth with hilarious stories for quite some time (see photo below).

Futch said he hopes to have the book published by end of year, to present it to the island about this same time next year.

Look for more on this presentation in the Gasparilla Island Magazine in issues to come.