Tarpon scales and fish tales about some of our famous guests.
Tarpon scales are quite large-some are as much as 2 to 3 inches across. So they're big enough to write on. In past decades, that's exactly what a lot of our guests did. They documented their catches-and "papered" a couple of walls in our main lobby with over 7,000 of them. Each scale bears the autograph and the hometown of the lucky angler, along with the size, weight, and date of the catch. Today, those walls serve as a virtual history book (or at least a rather quirky guest register!) of those who've enjoyed the hospitality the Tarpon Inn-and the fishing around here.
U. S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt fished here for Tarpon in 1937 (prior to WWII) and reportedly had a great time. The official log of the trip indicated that the President got some work done during his vacation, signing 32 Acts of Congress. He also sent a wire of sympathy to Adolf Hitler and the German people upon learning the shocking news that the great dirigible Hindenburg had crashed and burned. He received a reply of thanks back from Hitler.
Hollywood film actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr, who was a big-name star from the 1930s to the 1950s, was regarded as both exceptionally beautiful and brainy. In fact, one of her high-tech inventions is still in use today. A woman who was always slightly ahead of her time, she lived an exciting, controversial, tempestuous life. No doubt she counted the thrill of landing a tarpon as one of those memorable moments.
Academy Award winning actor Victor McLaglen lived a life in pursuit of adventure. He's likely to have gotten a taste of it when he tangled with a tarpon-and won. Maybe his job experiences helped a little. Prior to becoming a highly successful Hollywood character actor in the 20s and 30s, he was a soldier in two wars, a professional boxer, a circus stunt wrestler, a farmer, a gold prospector, a policeman, a lion hunter, a pearl diver, and on the staff of a rajah.
Consumer advocate for food quality, restaurant critic, travel guide writer, and cake mix king Duncan Hines got married at the Tarpon Inn, stayed here on his honeymoon-and continued to recommend it for the next 25 years. Although today his name is associated primarily with the cake mix brand, from the 30s through the 50s, he was famous for his best-seller guidebooks that pointed travelers to restaurants, hotels, and vacation destinations that had high quality standards. Travelers trusted him because his reviews were fair, honest, and he refused to accept payment or advertising from the places he recommended. Tarpon probably liked him because he never recommended that they be put on a menu.
From the 20s through the 40s, Aimee Semple McPherson was arguably the world's most famous evangelist. Based in Southern California, she had a charismatic personality and was well known for her dramatic "illustrated sermons" that she delivered in revival meetings, in her huge Temple, and on her radio show. Her life was a whirlwind of activity (and even some scandal and vicious rumors) so she can hardly be blamed for taking a break from fishing for souls-and spending a little time fishing for tarpon in Port A.
Daring animal trainer, circus owner, and film star Clyde Beatty was well known in the 30s, 40s, and 50s for his thrilling stunts involving dangerous combinations of wild animals-including tigers, lions, leopards, pumas, hyenas, and bears. He was famous for his "fighting act" which was designed to show his courage and control over as many as 40 lions and tigers in one cage at the same time. No doubt taking on the hard-fighting "Silver King" of the sea was a refreshing change of pace from all those four-footed critters.
A member of the Dallas Cowboys from 1961 to 1974, Bob Lilly was inducted into the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame in 1980. Frequently called "Mr. Cowboy" during his career, he was quick, agile, and coordinated. He played in 196 consecutive regular-season games, and was the first player who spent his entire career with the Cowboys to be elected to the Hall of Fame. In other words, he was very durable and persevering. He knew how to hang in there and win. A quality of character very necessary when going head-to-head with a tarpon.
Known as the "Father of the H-Bomb," physicist Edward F. Teller was a profound influence on U.S. defense and energy policies for more than half a century. He championed the development of the atomic and hydrogen bombs, nuclear power, and the Strategic Defensive Initiative ("Star Wars"). Among the honors he received were the Albert Einstein Award, the Enrico Fermi Award, the National Medal of Science, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In short, the man believed in harnessing the power of nature. Which is what catching a tarpon is all about.