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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to annemarie@southernfoodways.org.

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ORAL HISTORY

Leo Lovel


Spring Creek Restaurant

Leo Lovel, born in 1951, was raised in Tallahassee, Florida. As a young man, his family owned a cottage on Shell Point, a beach along Apalachee Bay near Spring Creek. Lovel fished there. He and his wife Mary Jane often visited the nearby Spring Creek Restaurant. Lovel originally sold paint for a living. When he learned that the restaurant was for sale in the late 1970s, he decided to buy it. In 1977, Lovel, his parents, and his grandmother bought the restaurant together. From the beginning, the whole family was involved in the business. Lovel’s mother, Mrs. Carolyn, cooked and served family recipes. His father, Mr. Ben, managed the restaurant.

Lovel became a commercial fisherman. He fished for mullet, shrimp, and off shore fish like amberjack and cobia. He supplied the restaurant with freshly caught fish every day. Patrons from Tallahassee, South Georgia, and Alabama made their way to Spring Creek Restaurant. Fishing regulations like Florida’s 1995 Net Ban constitutional amendment hampered Lovel’s ability to make a living commercially fishing. After the Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle in 2018, the Lovel family permanently closed their restaurant. Though he sold the restaurant and its surrounding properties to oyster farming Jody and Dewey Houck in 2021, Lovel still maintains an important presence as a culture bearer in Spring Creek.

Date of interview:
2021-05-18

Interviewer:
Annemarie Anderson

Photographer:
Annemarie Anderson

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