PANAMA City Beach front — He was listed here just before the condos, in advance of the all-you-can-eat crab legs and prolonged right before Thomas Push was at any time talked about in a place music.
He could stroll the white sands, fish the emerald green waters and under no circumstances experienced to worry about visitors. Even although Panama Metropolis Seashore was yet to have a name, he was a single of the very first residents with the beach all to himself.
His identify was Teddy. And he was a hermit.
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Teddy Tollefsen wasn’t constantly a hermit, but he was often a fisherman. He was born in 1882 in Trondheim, Norway. He left dwelling at 14 to sail the seas and very first came to The united states in 1906 after fishing waters about the earth. Tired of doing the job for many others, Teddy began fishing for himself, to start with settling in Pensacola in advance of transferring on to St. Andrews wherever he hoped to check out his luck fishing for purple snapper.
A everyday living, and St. Andrews history, altered
In 1929, the Bahamas Hurricane produced an undesired visit to Panama Metropolis and transformed Teddy’s lifetime endlessly. On Sept. 30 of that calendar year, the storm created an unpredicted sharp turn to the northeast and built landfall close to Panama City with winds gusting more than 100 mph. Two deaths had been described in the space, 1 in Panama Metropolis and a person in Wewahitchka.
Considerably of the Teddy’s historical past is a mix of actuality and fiction, or maybe failing reminiscences from aged-timers who would see him all around previous St. Andrews. So separating the actuality from fiction is an adventure virtually a century later on.
Get the night of the hurricane. Just one released account suggests Teddy stayed with his boat all night time in the storm, lastly clinging to a tree and dodging particles as the storm swept his boat out into the bay. But an additional account claims Teddy left his boat at Courtney Place for better floor to ride out the storm.
The stories converge when Teddy went searching for his boat in the early morning only to come across it was long gone. He would expend the working day combing the space prior to discovering what was remaining of his beloved boat throughout the bay in an spot that is now element of St. Andrews Condition Park.
His 26-foot, 5-horsepower livelihood was beyond fix. It also was his dwelling and every little thing he owned. So Teddy made a conclusion to get aside the vessel and build a new home.
With wooden from the boat and an limitless source of driftwood from the hurricane, Teddy created a 9-foot by 12-foot cabin that would grow to be his dwelling for the relaxation of his daily life. For 25 yrs, people would recount Teddy declaring, “The boat wrecked listed here so we have stayed with each other.”
Over the a long time, Teddy included more and much more items to his house, together with a wood prepare dinner stove, a desk, a bunk and a battery-operated radio. He lighted his shack with lanterns and decorated it with numerous nautical artifacts he would salvage from shipwrecks all around the bay.
He included a modest storehouse for his fishing equipment and built a pier to launch his skiff for the 4-mile journey above to St. Andrews. He would make a living promoting his fish or buying and selling for tea, sugar, grits and oatmeal, particularly oatmeal. He was fond of oatmeal and would consume it after or twice a day.
Teddy would make the excursion to city about every 6 weeks. He had 11 chickens he held all around for the eggs and a a single-eyed rooster to hold them all in line. He would remember to a reporter in 1953 how he never had a require for ice. He would just dig down into the sand until eventually he arrived at a amazing, moist amount to continue to keep his eggs and other food objects contemporary.
He also had a pet pig who beloved to go boating.
The place as soon as a wilderness stood
To fully grasp how Teddy turned a hermit, you have to forget about about Panama Town Seashore as you know it. In 1929, factors ended up a great deal distinct around Bay County, sort of just one-sided. If you lived in Bay County, you lived in Panama Metropolis, St. Andrews or somewhere east of the model new Hathaway Bridge. The west aspect of the bridge was a wilderness, laced only with sand dunes and sea oats.
At first, you would have to cross 6 miles of sand to get to Teddy following crossing above the new bridge. Or you could maneuver a boat 4 miles across the bay. So, Teddy’s obtain to individuals slowed to a trickle.
Invoice McNeil grew up in St. Andrews where he lived for 84 several years ahead of he passed absent in May well.
“I can keep in mind as a kid heading above the new bridge to the seaside,” McNeil told The Information Herald earlier this year. “There wasn’t a issue around there, practically nothing but that outdated hermit.”
In excess of time, Teddy’s legend as the St. Andrews Hermit would expand just as the seaside would evolve.
In 1933, the Military Corps of Engineers started development of a deep-h2o channel by means of the peninsula and developed the jetties that border the gateway to the Gulf of Mexico. Even nevertheless it took extra than a calendar year of development, Teddy was authorized to continue to be.
When Environment War II broke out, Teddy’s home and the area close to it was integrated into a military services reservation. Large gun batteries had been brought in to guard the town. By means of it all, he was authorized to remain.
And when St. Andrews Point out Park was recognized in 1946, Teddy was provided unique permission to stay out his lifestyle on the govt assets.
All through the future eight many years, additional and more folks would occur to the beach front as the park alone turned a spot. Teddy became excellent pals with Claude Willoughby, the park’s superintendent. Many of the particulars of Teddy’s life have been documented above time owing to the friendship between the two.
In 1954, Willoughby was on a tour of the park and stopped by to look at on Teddy only to locate him sprawled on the flooring of his shack. He would die later that working day at a Panama City medical center.
Inside the shack, Willoughby uncovered a tin with enough dollars for Teddy to be buried in Greenwood Cemetery. Stories say 100 folks attended his funeral, such as Tallahassee dignitaries.
Teddy life on
Later, Willoughby took down the shack and taken off all the evidence that a hermit once lived on the sand. He saved quite a few of the items and the park place them on show within the nature and welcome middle.
Pics and Teddy’s identification card are in that display screen, So are netting shuttles, a telescope, a boat horn and an alarm clock. The show is on the wall, in a corner, not far from a stuffed deer and an owl.
On the west end of the park’s campground, 75 ft from the drinking water, concerning campsites 101 and 102, the scrub oaks and sand dunes have reclaimed what was as soon as Teddy’s rustic home.
A new shower and restroom facility for campers, entire with indoor plumbing, sits just a couple ft away.
Data for this posting was supplied by the Bay County Library, Local History Space and News Herald archives.