Kesley Colbert
| |

Way beyond ‘any old port in a storm’

I wasn’t born and raised in Port St. Joe… but I got here just as fast as I could!

I finished college in May of 1969. On August 17 I was driving through a hurricane to get to my new home. It was my first experience with a Category 5 storm.

Camille was landing somewhere over in Mississippi. Mom mentioned it that morning when I was leaving Tennessee. “Good gosh,” I assured her, “it’s two states over. I’m going to Florida! It’s not going to be a problem.”

I thought about those words as I got south of Wewahitchka and the rain was coming down sideways. The wind had my Buick fluttering down Highway 71. And an Edgar Allan Poe darkness surrounded me on every side.

There was, of course, not another vehicle on the road. If this rain didn’t let up, I was going to need an Ark. And the center of this storm was 200 miles from me! 

As the rain, wind, and darkness continued to buffet me, I began to have some serious doubts about what I was doing “down here.”

It was all Walter Wilder’s fault. He had called back in March, “Kes, I want you to come to St. Joe and teach history and coach for us.” He was the only person I knew that fateful night I wabbled into town. He quickly became a friend, boss, mentor, and so instrumental in all that I was, or all I was to become, in my adopted home. 

I was barely 22 years old. And I didn’t know my elbow from a hot rock. 

Mr. Frank Hannon smiled at me over his glasses. “You are the new football coach.”

“Yes sir.”

“Let’s see if we can find you a place to stay. I have a house out at St. Joe Beach, on the water. We can put the rent at a hundred dollars a month and see how that works out.”

Mr. Hannon became an instant friend, another mentor, and confidant. When I went to him after a month and explained that beach living was not for me, he didn’t worry about the money, he didn’t care about our agreement, and he didn’t hesitate. “Then let’s look for someplace else.”

Cliff Sanborn stopped me after a football practice. “Coach, do those people in Tennessee know how to work?”

I couldn’t tell if he was referring to me, or ALL of the people in Tennessee. I helped him move some cattle and would lend a hand in his garden from time to time. I found out pretty quickly he was serious about work. He reminded me of Daddy. They both measured a man by how he set his hands on the plow. 

Dr. Bob King had a son playing end for us. “Coach, are they paying you enough?” I didn’t know what to say. Where I came from, we didn’t talk much about another man’s billfold. He just laughed, “I’ve got this building down on Reid Avenue, it was an old hardware store. It’s empty now, but if you don’t mind living there, it won’t cost you a thing.”

I stayed for over a year and a half. I had the largest living room in Gulf County. I had room for a four-car garage. Pauline’s Restaurant was right next door. I would sit on a park bench on weekends and wave to the people coming to town. I was living large… until Dr. King rented the place to the Salvation Army.

In later years, Doc would call me when he was cooking up a mess of rutabagas from his garden over by his office. He is another one that did way more than just welcome me to town. 

Mr. George Core had the kindest, gentlest soul of any man you’d ever meet. He passed out tidbits of wisdom like Santa Claus throwing candy to kids during the Christmas parade. If you had a question about the history of Gulf County, he was the guy to see.

Mr. Gannon Buzzett came to our house on a Saturday afternoon when we had a very sick son. He was as concerned as we were. And he got us the help Josh needed. You talk about a Southern gentleman in the truest sense of the term!

You don’t forget people like that in your life. Ever! I have only space to mention a few this morning. There have been hundreds over the years in this wonderful place who have extended that same type of unselfish kindness. 

My family and I will be eternally grateful.

I came to Port St. Joe because I needed a job. I didn’t like the beach. I don’t fish. I have never wanted a boat… but I stayed a lifetime because of you. 

I might have arrived in the middle of a terrific storm, but talk about finding a safe haven….



Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.