There was something in me that wanted to build something, and I started building little things from the time I was big enough to do it. And I'd just take some nails and hammer and [make] little old toy boats and things. I was fascinated with the boat building. I hated that oystering. I didn't like that.
Bobby Shiver was born at 13 Mile in 1939. His father oystered and his mother shucked for Miller’s Fish & Oyster Company. As a child, Bobby remembers building toy boats out of scrap metal and wood. In the 1960s he began to build boats as a hobby. But there was just something in him that wanted to build. For years, creating boats was an avocation. Working the bay and building houses was Bobby’s vocation. But when he got older, he began learning more about the trade from local boat builders. With a seventh-grade education, Bobby mastered the craft and made hundreds of boats. He never worked from a design. As he puts it, he sees a picture in his mind and he builds it. His boats are used by oystermen and fishermen all along the Gulf Coast. In 1977 he built a fifty-seven foot shrimp boat called the Mayme Ellyn. Bobby is no longer making boats, but the Mayme Ellyn still hauls plenty of shrimp.
Date of interview: March 23, 2006Interviewer: Amy EvansPhotographer: Amy Evans