Glen Simmons

Discussion in 'The Beginnings' started by billhempel, May 8, 2010.

  1. billhempel

    billhempel Well-Known Member

    This gentleman did not necessarily fish, but, he went after anything just to survive. He was the Everglades man for sure. You have to check for a book about a Glen Simmons "The Gladesman" through the Florida Library system. Fantastic read and you won't believe the trials and tribulations these Florida 'Glades people went through in the early 1900's. I met Glen at a gun show in miami back in the 90's and we had a good talk and do I wish I had followed up on him. I don't know if he is still alive. The last I heard he was blind and living with family in the Homestead area. He's got to be in his late 80 to 90's if still around.
  2. Brett

    Brett > PRO STAFF <

  3. billhempel

    billhempel Well-Known Member

    When I met Glen he wore that same signature sweat stained beaver felt hat and Levi like shirt. He was older and heavier, but a formidable personality.

    Glen Simmons. Courtesy of Historical Museum of Southern Florida. Photo by Michele Edelson..

    Glen Simmons (1916 - )
    1995 Florida Folk Heritage Award

    Glen Simmons is an Everglades skiff builder from the Florida City area, south of Homestead. He was born in 1916. His father bought two acres that year, farmed, and grafted trees for people who were setting out groves. Simmons and his two brothers attended school in Homestead.

    During the Depression, Simmons left school and began working in the woods to help support his family. He started building shallow-draft pole boats at the age of twelve. Old men who hunted the Everglades for their subsistence taught him the skills necessary to survive in the swamps. He could stay in the woods for two weeks at a time, requiring only food, bullets, fresh water, and a mosquito bar. He married the former Maxie Henderson in 1943, and she accompanied her husband on many of his hunting trips.

    Simmons earned his adult living by hunting, fishing, banana farming, and guiding newcomers. He saw many changes in the local economy. For example, when the taking of alligator hides was outlawed in both Dade and Monroe Counties, he was forced to adjust his hunting. Gradually his guiding clientele shifted from sportsmen who wanted to enjoy the region to researchers who came to study the swamp ecosystem. Skiffs were the primary means of transportation between the swamplands in Simmons’ youth. Typically, a Glades skiff is 16 to 18 feet long, and two feet wide. The design has a flat bottom that enables the craft to be poled over very shallow water. Originally, skiffs were entirely made of cypress planks. Now, because the cypress to build boats has become rare, Simmons uses marine plywood for the bottom and redwood or cypress for the gunwales and transom. He holds the bow to with copper wire, and finishes the wood with a fiberglass resin.

    Simmons demonstrated skiff building at the Florida Folk Festival twice, participated in the Folklife Apprenticeship Program in 1992-1993 as a master artist, and received the 1995 Florida Folk Heritage Award. An experienced guide, he continues to share his knowledge of the Everglades environment and the woodworking skills associated with it.
  4. billhempel

    billhempel Well-Known Member

    The post above, and this one are directly from the files you can open in the above post. There is so much more about this man than his "Glades Skiffs". How he lived in the Everglades and his early days living with his family at Flamingo are truly ones that show the true grit of Glen and his family. We owe him a dept of gratitude for his exploration and learning of our local environment.

    Glen Simmons - Glade Skiffs

    Glen Simmons builds “glade skiffs,” the traditional flat-bottomed boats once used to negotiate the shallow waters of the Everglades’ sawgrass marshes and mangrove swamps. Before motor-driven air boats became popular (and prior to the establishment of Everglades National Park in 1947), locals used these skiffs to reach the fishing and hunting camps that were scattered throughout the region. Born in 1916, Simmons has spent much of his life in the glades, alone or with other gladesmen, hunting alligators, deer and turtles, as well as fishing. His family, like most poor farmers and settlers in the region, lived “from hand to mouth” during the depression years that followed South Florida’s land boom collapse in 1926. For these people, survival often depended on what could be reaped from the rich bounty of the Everglades—for the glades provided meat and fish, as well as pelts and hides that could be sold or traded. And the glade skiff represented a crucial component of this lifestyle.

    Simmons’s glade skiff is designed to measure 16 to 18 feet long and just over 2 feet wide, with a flat bottom that enables it to be poled through very shallow water. The bow is pointed, allowing the skilled poler to ease the boat through dense sawgrass thickets with relatively little effort. The stern is square and affects a slight uplift, which allows it to be pushed backward when the poler finds himself mired in a tight spot. The poler usually stands toward the middle of the boat, or on a poling platform, and slowly pushes the boat through the glades, while scanning the horizon for game and alligator holes.

    Early skiffs, made with cypress planks and sixpenny nails, were stiffer and heavier than the ones Simmons currently builds out of marine plywood. Using a single piece of plywood for the bow and bottom, he painstakingly manipulates the wood by splitting it and soaking it in water. He then uses clamps to bend the wood until it buckles up and meets, thereby forming the skiff’s unique pointed bow. The bow is held together with pieces of copper wire. Simmons fashions the boat’s gunwales and transom out of cypress or redwood planks. Finally, he finishes the boat with a fiberglass resin.

    Since the age of 12, Simmons has built these wooden boats to hunt and fish in the Everglades. He explains how he began constructing the boats: “When you’re growing up in a country and see all the men with glade skiffs, you knew you wanted to build one. They were a simple boat, just wedge shaped. But you took pride in the way they looked.” Simmons has been recognized by the Florida Department of State’s Folklife Program as one of the last glade skiff builders in the region.

    - Laura Ogden
  5. billhempel

    billhempel Well-Known Member

    Found this photo in the Florida Archives.
  6. oysterbreath

    oysterbreath Well-Known Member

    More pictures:





    I wouldn't mind building one of these....eventually. I'd have to give building a break for a while after this boat though...or risk divorce for sure!!!
  7. lewis_walker

    lewis_walker I Love!

    I have lived in the Homestead area all my life and knew Glenn.It is unreal how much ground he covered in his life.He had skillets and lard hidden all over the Glades.One of the first things he did when entering the glades was take off his shoes.He was a good man.LCW
  8. yobata

    yobata I Love!

  9. Steve_Mevers

    Steve_Mevers I Love!

    Just finished his book, they were some pretty tough men and women back then.
    yobata likes this.
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