Frank Chevalier was born in Valleyfield, Quebec, Canada in 1861 and immigrated to Holyoke, Massachusetts in 1880. He worked in several northeastern textile mills before running off and joining the circus. It was during his carnival days that Chevalier picked up the nickname "Frenchy" that most people came to know him by.
Frenchy retired from the circus in 1919 and settled in St. Petersburg, Florida. It was around that time that a new wooden bridge was built connecting the town of Pass-A-Grille on the north end of St. Petersburg Beach to the Pasadena area of St. Petersburg. In the early 1920's Frenchy opened a fishing operation at the beach end of the bridge. His place was known as Frenchy's and he sold refreshments and bait, rented boats, and offered the services of fishing guides.
He also began carving and testing his own fishing lures.
One design proved to be very successful and Frenchy's Standard Trout Plug soon became a favorite among local fishermen. Other designs followed and did well also. Frenchy was the first wooden lure maker in St. Petersburg and he could not make them fast enough to keep up with demand.
In 1931 Frenchy gave up his fish camp and he moved across Boca Ciega Bay into the town of St. Petersburg. He took residence only a couple of blocks from the waterfront along Vinoy Basin. The move was partly due to hard economic times brought on by the depression, and partly due to Frenchy's desire to make fishing lures full time. He also wanted to teach people how to fish. His small storefront on Central Avenue was described by the local newspaper as the first fishing school in the city or in the country as far as is known….The walls of the old Frenchman’s establishment are lined with fishing plugs of every description and type. A long tank reaches almost the length of the store. This tank is filled with water for casting purposes. All the brilliantly painted minnows that adorn the walls were made by Chevalier.
Frenchy Chevalier made fishing lures throughout the 1930's. He sold them at Dally's and a couple of local shops. He also sold lures by mail to customers who had used them and wanted more. A chart at Dally's store illustrated dozens of designs of Frenchy trout and bass baits.
|It was tough to earn a living running a fishing school and making lures in the early 1930's. After a year or so, Frenchy closed his school and moved in with friends across the street. His friends were Clarence and Ralph Dally and they ran a business that sold and serviced outboard motors, along with fishing tackle, and tools. Frenchy lived in the loft of their store and worked as watchman by night. By day he worked as lure maker and resident fishing expert for the Dally Brothers.