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A Tale of  Whiskey and Dynamite

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Richard Goode, grandson of  the late Harry Goode, Sr., displays a crate that once held surplus U.S. Navy munitions used to reopen Sebastian Inlet in 1948.

Richard Goode gently lifts an old wooden case from a display stand at Harry Goode’s Outdoor Shop, the iconic store in downtown Melbourne that his grandfather opened in 1946.

“There were six of these boxes up in the attic of the store,” says Goode, a fifth generation Melbourne Floridian who recently sold the store but continues to work there. “My grandfather used to store records in the boxes.”

The words stenciled on the box read:

                                   Sebastian Inlet District

                                  Indian River Bluff

                                 Brevard County

                                 Precinc 28 (most likely a misspelling of “precinct”)

The backside of the box warns:

                               High explosive (“s” missing)


Goode, holding the box, poses for a photo. Beads of fine black powder leak from its corner onto the floor of the store. Gunpowder.

This is where the story gets interesting. It is a tale about a group of men whose plucky optimism and collective ingenuity sparked the rebirth of Sebastian Inlet in the wake of World War II.  

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Sebastian Inlet District Commissioners and their cohorts used surplus U.S. Navy explosives to reopen the inlet after  World War II.   

A little about Richard Goode’s grandfather, Harry Goode, Sr.  You’ll find his name everywhere in the regional history books if you do a little digging. The slender, outgoing grocery store owner served on the Sebastian Inlet District Commission from 1948 to 1976, as well as the Melbourne City Council from 1949 to 1951. His son, the late Harry Goode, Jr., followed in his footsteps, carrying on the family legacy of operating the store and serving six terms as Melbourne’s mayor (1979-1986 and 2004-2012), as well as a member of the Florida House of Representatives for 14 years. As a Sebastian Inlet District Commissioner, Harry Sr. was a vocal proponent of keeping Sebastian Inlet open and maintained.  

Sebastian Inlet is manmade. Historians believe a colorful character named D. P. Gibson attempted to cut a channel in 1872 and again in 1886. By 1905, there were at least six substantiated attempts to open a “cut”, but all were closed by sand, storms and other natural causes almost as soon as each cut was opened.

 In 1941, a strong Nor’easter closed the inlet once again, and the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, ensured the inlet would remain closed for the next few years due to national security concerns. Towers erected along the coast were manned by citizen spotters scanning the coast for German U-boats. Also, during the war, the U.S. navy used the inlet property as an amphibious training ground for its demolition squads.

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The first slug of water flows into the newly reopened Sebastian Inlet in 1948.

Efforts to open the inlet began again in 1947, led by Roy Couch (who also served on the Sebastian Inlet District), Harry Goode Sr., Jake Brannin and others. They spent months shuffling mountains of storm-tossed sand with bulldozers as they attempted to cut a fresh inlet channel, but none of the cuts lasted long.

However, Harry Goode Sr., Couch, Brannin and the others came up with an unorthodox idea. In 1948, using surplus U.S. Navy demolitions left behind, the group blasted the inlet open. The inlet has remained open ever since.

Sebastian Inlet District commissioners assuming the roles of demolition experts is just half the story. District records reveal that in 1949, Brannin submitted  to the District a typed expense report for the construction work and blasting completed the prior year. It included more than 40 entries for beer, bourbon, lunches, dinners, whiskey, and “parties.” Brannon’s invoice mentions that the lubricated group was also hauling dynamite.

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The infamous "whiskey and dynamite" invoice. You have to wonder whether "lubrication" referred to  grease or liquor drinks. 
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At least Jake Brannin explains that they were drinking  and hauling dynamite.  No OSHA concerns here. 

But the gang got the job done.

“My grandfather sat on the Sebastian Inlet District Commission for nearly 40 years and never took a dime for his service,” Richard Goode says, thumbing through the pages of a Sebastian Inlet history book (available for purchase at the Sebastian Inlet Fishing Museum). He points to a black and white photo of his grandfather, shirtless, lanky, his teeth clutching a pipe.  “He loved people. He loved the inlet. He always had a pipe or a cigar but he never actually sucked one. There were spittoons all around the store when he owned it.”

Glen Outlaw, the new owner of Harry Goode’s, has a deep respect for local history and of course, continues to operate the store with Richard Goode by his side. He says the wooden dynamite cases will remain on permanent display at the store. They’re a reminder of a time when persistence, sweat, whiskey and dynamite were enough to complete a public works project that continues to benefit everyone today.

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An aerial view of the Big Bang of 1948.
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The Whiskey and Dynamite Gang: Roy Couch, Jake Brannin and  Harry Goode, Sr.
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A couple of vehicles, including a 1937 Ford sedan, parked  on the north side of Sebastian Inlet 
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Men watching bulldozers move sand on October 28, 1948. 
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Bulldozers at work on October 28, 1948, as  part of the inlet reopening project. 
Jake Brannin, who submitted to the Sebastian Inlet District an invoice for whiskey,  beer, bourbon , meals and parties. 

 At the Sebastian Inlet District, we strive to preserve and share the 100-plus year history of the storied waterway? Do you  have historic photos or documents related to the inlet? If so, contact the District's public information associate, Ed Garland, at 321 724-5175 or email him at He loves sharing stories about the inlet.  

Published February 22, 2023