Counting Memories- The History of Auburn’s Oldest Remaining Fisheries Research Building

Many professors in the Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures at Auburn University – along with alumni, staff and students – probably have a faint memory of the old counting shed at the North Auburn Fisheries Research Station, recently renamed the E. W. Shell Fisheries Center.

The counting shed was constructed in 1948, making it the oldest building on research station land. One of the first incumbents was Lamar Black, the superintendent from 1948-1985. Mr. Black was followed by Randell Goodman from 1985-2011, as well as Karen Veverica, the current station superintendent. The counting shed was enclosed and enlarged to include more storage space, office space, fish holding tanks, and a fish hatchery. Construction was concluded in 1962.

The memories that are associated with the shed are not easily shaken, nor should they be. Veverica remembers the open concrete drains that ran through the counting shed floors next to the walls allowing water to flow back into the creek. Offices for the station manager and staff were located in the counting shed. 

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The Original Counting Shed constructed in 1948

Nonchalantly, Veverica stated “it was not that strange to see a snake in the drain. Any critters could come into the shed.” The shed outwardly was plain and simple. No one seemed to have a problem with the simplicity; in fact, that very same simplicity seems to be the factor that brings smiles to the faces of those that worked in the building. The shed was fully equipped with the latest and greatest tanks and nets, as well as some of the most intellectual fishery students and staff. The shed, however, lacked heating, air conditioning, and restroom facilities of any sort. “The station crew would sit under a shady shed located near the counting shed to get out of the hot summer sun and eat watermelon. The shed was simple, but it got the job done, and for a long time,” Veverica stated, reminiscing on the sixty-five year old structure.

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Fisheries student Paul Smith catfish in the counting shed in 1970

Dr. Leonard Lovshin, a faculty member at the time, remembers the year round marketing that started on Saturday mornings in 1981 at the counting shed. The counting shed served as the first fish market at Auburn. “When I was a student in 1970, we would have tons of fish left over after sorting, counting and weighing the fish upon removal from the research ponds. We, [the students and station crew], could take home as many fish as we could stuff into our cars. When the market opened, we rarely got to take any fish home. People loved our fish. There was no cleaning of the fish, they were always sold live and whole.”

Dr. David Rouse experienced the counting shed in the early 1970’s as a master’s student. Rouse remembers the shed vividly. “Most folks probably thought all electrical plugs were placed on the walls at the four foot level for easy access, but really it was to keep them out of the water during floods.”  Rouse, as a graduate student, was asked to work one to two days a week at the station. “We would learn about each other’s research but maybe more interestingly, we [learned] about the other students, their home countries, football, hunting and fishing.” Not only was the counting shed a place for intensive, groundbreaking research, but it was also for making relationships- making memories that would stand the test of time.

The creek that ran alongside the shed often overflowed when there was a large rainfall. The shed wall contained a visible flood line that was about three feet off the concrete floor. “We couldn’t keep anything in the bottom two drawers of our filing cabinets. Everything would be ruined if you did,” Veverica added. Veverica laughed as she conveyed all of this information, making it seem as if the counting shed was one of the most charming places in the world. Seemingly important things such as air conditioning and restrooms were overshadowed by the relationships, the knowledge, and the Auburn spirit that was present in the treasured shed for more than sixty years.

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The Counting Shed Today

 

The shed is not currently in use due to it condition. Space for counting, weighing and holding fish has moved to the recently completed center for Aquatic Resources Management building located at the E. W. Shell Fisheries Center. The roof on the shed is clearly in no shape to house a functional research program. The tanks are poured concrete and, therefore, are permanent. The tanks are not currently housing fish, but are usable if needed. Many requests for repurposing the old counting shed, pending a new roof, to store equipment have been made. Regardless of the outcome, the counting shed has been home to many laughs, tears, successes, and failures and will forever remain a part of Auburn Fisheries.

Article written by Celena Spurgeon, Assistant Director of Social Media Marketing, and Katie Durbin, Director of Social Media Marketing.

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