A Pirate's Life
Dec 09, 2016 11:03AM
Petey the Pirate has had a rough life. Besides standing watch at the entrance of the Palace Saloon for the past 13 years, he’s had to put up with a good deal of bad weather, pranksters, inebriated saloon-goers, and basic man-handling by tourists and locals alike. There’s not a visitor to Amelia Island that hasn’t had his or her picture taken with Ol’ Petey, nor a Fernandina Beach resident who hasn’t felt a kindred spirit in the Palace Saloon’s iconic statue. A friendly and familiar face in a world of chaos and turmoil, Petey has stood the test of time. Petey came to the Palace Saloon back in 2003, along with his cohort, Dick Tracy, who stood at Uncle Charlie’s, the Palace’s “back of the house” watering hole. Petey was an instant celebrity at Florida’s oldest bar, so much so that people wanted to take him home with them, and some people actually did. Petey was stolen one night, and then found later in the back of a pickup truck in an island hotel parking lot, thanks to the keen eyes of a local police officer. He was returned, none the worse for wear, and took his place back at his post, until he was stolen again in the wee hours of the morning. “A plea went out to Amelia Island residents to be on the lookout for Petey. We even offered a reward for his safe return,” says Johnny Miller, Palace bartender and Mayor of Fernandina Beach. “One day, a couple walking on the beach saw what they thought was Petey at a beachfront home. Alas, that pirate statue was merely a Petey look-alike, and the missing Petey was never found.” A new Petey was purchased, and it was decided that he should be chain-locked to the front of the Palace. “After the two Petey burglaries, it was decided that the pirate statue should be brought in at night,” says Miller. “We just couldn’t take any more chances with him.” The second Petey stood strong at his post until he was knocked over by a couple of bad storms. One of the falls broke his arm. “First, his hook was broken off,” says Miller. “Then his entire arm came off, and we had a cast put on him, along with a sling.” Petey received a great deal of sympathy from saloon-goers, until a raucous group of British sailors stationed at Kings Bay snatched off the broken arm and went on the lam with it. “We never got the arm back,” says Miller, shaking his head sadly. “It must be somewhere in England now.” Poor Ol’ Petey was retired from his post, and a third Petey was purchased from LM Treasures, a California novelty company that specializes in life-size statues. He is well-guarded by the Palace staff, and Ol’ Petey is set to be auctioned off for charity in the coming months. So the next time you belly up to the bar at the Palace Saloon and bartender Johnny Miller slides a mug down the bar to you, remember that Petey the Pirate, along with his pals, all the ghosts from ten decades past at the Palace, join in drinking to your health.