In his book Rare Shells (1969), S. Peter Dance, wrote about what were considered at the time to be 50 of the world's rarest seashells— complete with pictures. Included in this collection is the still elusive Junonia.
Every sheller who is worth his or her weight in golden sand, has dreamt about finding this particular shell. Most of us are still dreaming and/or have added it to their collection via a seashell shop. This is true in my case, but I do hope to actually find a Junonia and replace the one in my seashell cabinet.
Note: If you're interested to see what other shells were included in this book, you can see the entire
collection of Harry G. Lee, who spent 23 years collecting one of each specimen.
In an article on Conchologists of America a few years back, S. Peter Dance, wrote, "But owning a Junonia was not the same as finding one." So in 1971, he set out for Florida. He writes, "Most of all I wanted to find one at Sanibel Island. This was my first visit to that island where the streets are named after shells, where conchology is a religion, where no one walking on a beach looks anywhere but down, where everyone wants to find a Junonia. I was confident that enthusiasm combined with optimism and a little luck would be enough for me to find one."
The article goes on to describe his efforts, but in the end all he ended up with was a specimen that had seen better days. "…a large part of the body whorl was missing and the lip was badly chipped…These imperfections mattered not. I had found my Junonia!"
I know exactly how Mr. Dance felt, I would be thrilled to find even a small piece of a Junonia. On our recent trip to Sanibel Island, my friend Karen of The Essential Beachcomber and I were in a hot competition to be the first to claim this prize. Just days before our departure, Karen left this
warning sweet poem on her blog for me:
Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow.
Don't walk behind me, I may not lead.
Just walk beside me and be my friend forever.
(added by Karen) Don't pick that Junonia up or I will smack you with my shell shovel.
Oh yeah, game on!
Well, needless to say, three days of intense shelling yielded no Junonia. Oh, the horror!
Now I've told you all this as a lead-in to today's post. Yes, today is the day I reveal who is receiving the very first Stinky Fish Award from Shellbelle's Tiki Hut! I do believe when you hear the reasons why, you'll understand why this Sanibel shop well deserves this distinction.
On the day before we left, Karen and I took a break from the beach and visited a few shops on the island. Unfortunately, we made one mistake and that was in darkening the doorway of Showcase Shells located at 1614 Periwinkle Way on Sanibel Island.
Now I know you're all surprised to hear that it was a shell shop that ended up being the one place that disappointed these two beachy gals. You know from reading my blog, that I LOVE shells and I know from reading your comments here, that you also appreciate their beauty. Granted, Showcase Shells, has a collection of gorgeous specimens, so that wasn't the problem. The problem started soon after we entered the store. Within a few minutes, I spotted a basket of Junonias and picked one up to examine it's intricacies. I turned to Karen and said something like, "I found a Junonia!"
Well, Karen laughed and said, "Here, let me take your picture."
Within a split second, a man, I don't know if he was one of the owners or an employee, was at our side. He was middle-aged and very tall with a football player's type physique — very intimidating. The look on his face let us know right away that he was not happy that we had taken a photo inside his store. Now folks, this was not a store full of artwork, this was a store full of shells.
I kind of explained what we were doing and that we were both bloggers. I ask if they had a website, thinking I could share it with all of you.
His answer came with an Arctic chill, "No."
Okay, I thought to myself and quietly moved on. We stayed for a few minutes, each of us headed in a different direction. I found a particular shell I was looking for, one that is not native to the Gulf Coast, but one I wanted to include in a small collection for a very special blogger friend of mine. The same man rang up my meager purchase, without cracking a smile and without a thank you. What?
After we returned to the safety of our vehicle, Karen told me that the man had followed her around the store, keeping an eye on every move she made. Now, I'm assuming this was because she was the one wielding camera. What was this guy so afraid of that we were going to do? Reveal to Blogland how beautiful the store's shells are? Oh no, not that! Please don't tell people to come here!
Anyway, it was creepy and it was downright rude! In all my life I have never met another sheller who did not love to share this passion with others. I do it on my blog all the time. So, my estimation of this guy is that to him, shells are strictly a business. If he had an ounce of shell passion in his soul, he would have completely understood why we were taking a photo of me holding a Junonia. This was Sanibel after all, the destination of shellers from around the world, in search of the elusive Junonia. How dare I tell them where they might find one, should their beachcombing prove futile.
Like I said, I don't know if this guy was one of the owners, but I tend to think he was. He gave off that air of snootiness as only a proprietor of a store called Showcase Shells would.
For behaving in a derogatory fashion, for acting in an offensive manner towards one of my best friends and for not showing an ounce of good customer service skills, I hereby and forever more, award Showcase Shells, the very first…
Stinky Fish Award
Next time I visit, I'll hit one of the other shell shops that are on Sanibel Island or in the surrounding area. One that has caught my attention is…
Not only do they feature a Junonia on their store signs, from what I've read, the owners are true shellers!
Speaking of Junonias, I wanted to tell you that the article written by S. Peter Dance on his hunt for this elusive shell ended thusly, "At the day's end I strolled into a shell shop where I had already struck up an acquaintance with the proprietor and reverently placed my shell on the counter. "There you are," I said. 'I've done it! I've got one.' The proprietor, who was dealing with a grey-haired little lady, looked at me and smiled. Then, saying nothing, she opened a small cupboard behind her and extracted three magnificent examples of the Junonia. Her customer surveyed the three beauties, then looked at my poor, broken shell. Her eyes twinkled brightly as she turned and touched me on the shoulder. In a quiet voice suggesting New York or Chicago, she said, 'I think I know what you mean. Congratulations.' I walked out of the shell shop, the happiest pilgrim on Sanibel Island."
Want to know who was also a happy pilgrim almost forty years after that day Mr. Dance found his Junonia? Karen! Yes, in a post last week on The Essential Beachcomber, my friend Karen, wrote, "I went to Sanibel on Monday. I had just worked 7 days straight. I got home at 10pm Sunday night and set my alarm for 3:30 am. I drove 2 hours south in the 41 degree freezing cold to Blind Pass on Captiva to the shell pile. I hit the beach before sunrise with a flashlight to see what I could find. Now, to all the shell rookies of the world — this is how it's done. I found a junonia…piece."
She then finished by saying,
"Some of us get them all at once. Others of us get ours one piece at a time."
Congratulations Karen, you so shell!