I spent time in St. Petersburg, Florida this winter and visited cousins and friends throughout the area. I wrote this post while there.
Friday, January 20, Everything is Familiar because I’ve heard the Stories.
My father, long before I knew him, lived in Palmetto, FL with his brother Charlie and worked on Charlie’s farm. In fact, that was when my daddy fell in love with farming. Those days produced in him a dream of someday owning a farm.
Sitting around our large dining table, my brothers and sisters and I heard the tales of life in Palmetto with Charlie and his family. In his letters to my mother, my father described the work he did and also the fun he had on weekends. He mentioned going to the beach with other young people. I remember him speaking of the Tamiami Trail. In my childish mind I pictured it as a path through woodland. Today I saw a sign for the Tamiami Trail, a wide highway not far from my cousin’s house.
In my father’s time, the beaches were open to the public. On weekends the young people gathered on the sand for fish frys. They danced and flirted with each other. Daddy pretended to Mother, in his letters, that he never had fun and just went along because all the others were there. Today one would be hard-pressed to find a public beach. The high rise hotels own the waterfront.
I try to imagine what it was like in the early twenties here in this now metropolis with tall buildings and traffic. I understand that St. Pete has quite a few millionaires and some billionaires living in mansions.
For years I heard Mother and Daddy talk about Pinellas County where my aunt Oleo and her family lived and also Manatee County. When I see those names on signs I can hear my aunts talking about this land, and my father knew the names and landmarks mentioned. Although he lived in the area off and on only a few years, I could tell he had fond memories.
Today we drove to Clearwater where I had kin on both sides of my family. I don't know any of them well enough now to find them. We went to see Winter, the dolphin who had to have her tail amputated and a prosthesis made for her. That is some story. A movie has been made about Winter. I had the chance to see her up close and fell in love with her as everyone does.
When Daddy was a young man and lived here seems like light years ago. But those were some of his happiest times. He never tired of talking about his older brother, his sister, Annie and her beau, and the other people he knew back then. One of his buddies was John Council who would eventually own one of the big newspapers in this area. Daddy said John was one of the handsomest fellows he had ever seen and was a “dandy” with the women. Could my father have been a little jealous of John? He never sad he was, and he enjoyed hanging out with John.
So many things seem familiar to me, but in truth, I’ve only heard about them in stories passed down from generations. That is what we do. We tell stories in one way or another and have been doing this since the beginning of time.