The second of three children born to Mardo and Frances Grassi Halat who immigrated from Brac, Yugoslavia, Peter Halat, Sr. was of the first generation of
Halat’s to be born in Biloxi, MS. Working in the seafood factories and on boats, the family established their home on Pine Street in the Point Cadet area of Biloxi.
Having begun his seafood career in his early teens, young Halat proved to be worthy of the title “Captain Pete” before his twentieth birthday. Aboard the PENGUIN, a lugger that was his pride and joy, the captain worked for his brother Paul J. “Chilly Coon” Halat in his partnership, Biloxi Seafood Packing Company.
The year 1939 made its mark on Peter’s life when his father Marko drown while working on the ARCADIA in Lake Bourne, Louisiana. With the aid of Biloxi fishermen, the elder Halat’s body was recovered near the Rigolets and was returned to Biloxi for burial. That same year, Peter was married to Luella M Gary. Of that union, two children were born, Michael A. “Mickey” Halat and Peter Halat, Jr.
Frances never remarried but continued to work in the seafood factories and Peter, along with his siblings, faithfully attended to her by assisting with expenses and turning over his pay. It was with this cooperation and France’s keen sense of business that the family was able to acquire several pieces of property on Biloxi’s “Point”.
Captain Halat ran the PENGUIN for many years and his boat was a faithful participant in the Annual Blessing of the Fleet. Hardly a fisherman would leave the docks without a blessing for a bountiful harvest and the Halat family made it a tradition to race for a preferred slot in the lineup. The friendly competition was between Halat’s PENGUIN and the MISS YUGOSLAV, run by Peter “Mutt” Jurich – one of his closest friends.
After almost 20 years at the helm of the PENGUIN, Captain Halat took over of the TONI DIANNE, one of the first Florida-rigged boats to work out of Biloxi. Later in his career, he captained the DELORES M, unloading at the Mavar Packing Co.
Even after over 30 years spent working in seafood, Peter still maintained a Lafitte skiff for side work and remained an avid shrimper until he passed in 1968.