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North Pinellas History | A look back

1951: Lost fisherman reappears years later

EARLY 1900S: Hunters show off their catch of wild turkeys and a deer, bagged in the woods of north Pinellas County in what is now Palm Harbor in the early 1900s. Wild game such as deer, turkey, rabbits, fox and squirrel were hunted by early settlers.

Courtesy of Arcadia Publishing

EARLY 1900S: Hunters show off their catch of wild turkeys and a deer, bagged in the woods of north Pinellas County in what is now Palm Harbor in the early 1900s. Wild game such as deer, turkey, rabbits, fox and squirrel were hunted by early settlers.

Nov. 22, 1951

TARPON SPRINGS — A Tarpon Springs fisherman presumed lost on a sponge fishing expedition more than five years ago turned up this week in Detroit in time for Thanksgiving with his wife and 6-year-old daughter.

David Yerke, 28, disappeared from his boat during the expedition and was presumed drowned. A week ago he turned up safe and sound, a victim of amnesia. Yerke and his wife were too overcome to say much.

In Detroit, Yerke's brother, Herman, said David called him a week ago from a convalescent home in New Orleans, where he was working as an orderly.

"You can bet I was pretty surprised," Herman Yerke said. "I wired him the money to fly here. Then I notified his wife. She flew here with their daughter, Sharon, and my sister, Mrs. Hannah Gulbrendsen."

Herman Yerke said his brother suffered a mild paralytic stroke and that jogged his memory. But the man still keeps asking how he ever disappeared like that.

The day after Christmas 1945, he boarded his hook sponging boat and set out alone.

A dingy attached to the boat was found a week later at Bayport and there were no clues about what happened to Yerke.

Nov. 22, 1963

Ex-rider found guilty in drug case

Michael Koptyra, 25, a former jockey at Oldsmar, was found guilty Nov. 21 of possession of marijuana.

Circuit Judge John U. Bird ordered a pre-sentence investigation and allowed Koptyra to remain free in lieu of $1,000 bail.

Koptyra was convicted in April 1961 of the same charge, but he was granted a new trial this year because he did not have counsel during the first trial.

A key witness in the latest trial was Edward Bludworth, a registered pharmacist who is an agent for the state Narcotics Department.

Bludworth testified he was a close friend of Koptyra for four months before tipping Pinellas County sheriff's deputies to raid a house in Oldsmar at 1 a.m. March 16, 1961.

Nov. 22, 1963

NAACP organizes restaurant protests

CLEARWATER — Members of the Clearwater Youth Council of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People are planning to protest at three restaurants that will not serve blacks, according to a spokesman for the group, Ray Green.

Green said the group has decided to hold nonviolent demonstrations around Thanksgiving.

Green said he appeared before the Liaison Committee and the Better Relations Committee on Wednesday and was told the Liaison Committee cannot make owners desegregate. The committee's policy has been to explain the situation to owners to help them decide what to do.

A movie theater and many previously segregated restaurants have accepted blacks since the committees began work.

Nov. 27, 1948

Owner of Dunedin store is sued

CLEARWATER — A 12-year-old boy's father has sued Erwin Humphrey, owner of a grocery store at 322 Main St. in Dunedin, asking for $40,000 in damages.

Joseph L. Prude filed the suit in Circuit Court on Nov. 26 on behalf of his son, Cooper Prude, who worked for Humphrey and had an accident at the store on Sept. 25.

At that time, according to the suit, Cooper lost his thumb and all the fingers of his right hand while operating a meat grinder.

The suit says the boy was allowed to operate a hazardous machine, and that Humphrey violated the statute that prohibits employment of a child under 16 years to do such work.

Nov. 20, 1951

Carbon monoxide kills fisherman

TARPON SPRINGS — A local fisherman known only as "Bosun" was found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning Sunday on the boat, Hero, tied to the sponge docks here.

J.S. Register, justice of the peace, declared the man dead from gasoline fumes after the fire department tried to revive him. Register said there were no signs of foul play.

Bosun was found by an unidentified man who heard the boat's engine running for some time and went aboard to investigate.

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A look back at the events, people and places that made North Pinellas the unique place that it is. The information is compiled from past editions of the St. Petersburg Times.

1951: Lost fisherman reappears years later 11/26/08 [Last modified: Friday, November 28, 2008 7:38pm]
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