My grandaddy was a fisherman and his daddy was too. My dad learned how to process the catch. We learned how to cook it for you. Who would have thought that a poor fisherman, Ashburn Ledrew Milliken, and his god-fearing wife, Emma Jane Smith, would create a down-line of seafood related businesses.
Grandaddy worked at the shipyard during WWII to support his family, 2 daughters and 1 son. Grandaddy always loved Shallotte River in Shallotte, NC. He would place nets strategically in the creeks and catch all various types of seafood in the warmer months everything from shrimp to fish of every kind. He would keep what he needed for his family and then sell the rest.
In the winter months Grandaddy and my dad would gather oysters from the banks of the river. Over crude oakwood fires they would steam and shuck the product. Cars would line up down the road to purchase the delicacy for $1 per quart. Grandaddy also sold some at the shipyard, times were tough and the money really helped.
Grandaddy built a small cinderblock oyster house with 6-10 employees and started the hot-dip method of processing the local cluster oysters. Grandmama was one of the hardest working ladies I’ve ever known and she was always there doing more than her part.
My dad, Lloyd Ray Milliken, started gathering oysters when he was a young boy and I think he inherited Grandmama’s ability to work long and hard. Even today we children can’t hold a candle to him. He took the seafood industry to the next level. Without fear of failure he began to process more and more oysters requiring a larger oyster house and a new source of product. He trucked oysters from Maryland, Virginia, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. These oysters were processed and sold all over North and South Carolina. He added shrimp trawlers to his company and eventually opened his first restaurant in Calabash, North Carolina – Larry’s Calabash Seafood Barn.
My name is Gary Milliken, I am very proud of my heritage and the success we’ve been allowed. For that I am truly thankful, my grandparents would have been pleased.
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