Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Post from Florida Last Winter

I spent time in St. Petersburg, Florida last winter and visited cousins and friends throughout the area. I hope to go back this winter and visit more places I've not been before.
I wrote this post while there.
Friday, January 20, 2013

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 growing crops. Those days produced in him a dream of someday owning his own land.

Sitting around our large dining table, my brothers and sisters and I heard the tales of life in Palmetto, Florida with Charlie, Verta and their family. In his letters to my mother before they were married, 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.

Uncle Charlie's daughter, Monteen, in her nineties on the right in white.

In my father’s time, the beaches were open to the public.
Weekends meant fish fries on the sand, and young people gathered to dance and flirt with each other. Daddy pretended to Mother, in his letters, that he never had fun and just went along because his sister and his friends were there. With little to do for entertainment, a night in summer on a warm beach with good food and lively young people must have been enjoyable. 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 nineteen-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 around this town. I remember hearing about traveling on 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

For years I heard about Pinellas County where my aunt Oleo and her family lived and also Manatee County. Driving into Tampa and seeing the signs with those familiar names, bring back to me the voices of my aunts and cousins. Because of them, I feel a kinship with this area.

My father finally brought my mother to Palmetto to live and their second child was born there, but she never liked Florida. After a few years she persuaded him to take her home to Pelham, Georgia where she would be near her family.

Today we drove to Clearwater where both my parents once had kin.
We went to the Marine Aquarium to see Winter, the dolphin that was injured and rescued. She 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.

On a visit to Palmetto, we saw this giant whooping crane walking on the road.
One day I met one of my cousins for lunch in Tarpon Springs. We ate outside overlooking the water and the boats. A beautiful day with a beautiful soul, my cousin, Pam.

My pretty cousin, Pam, talking 
Those times when Daddy was a young man and lived here seem like light years ago. But those were some of his happiest times. He never tired of talking about his older brother and the other people he knew back then. One of his friends, a relative, was John Council who would eventually become publisher of one of the  newspapers in this area. Daddy said John was one of the handsomest fellows he had ever seen and was a “dandy” with the women. They were "running buddies" for a short time, I think.

I'll always remember, after Aunt Judy moved back to Florida in her later years, she would say, "Florida tomatoes just aren't as good as Georgia tomatoes." I think she had to buy her tomatoes in Florida from the grocery store, but in Georgia, she ate the ones grown by my father in his garden. Fresh beats cold storage any day of the week.

So many things seem familiar to me here, but in truth, I've only heard about them in stories passed down from older generations.That is what we do. Like most families, we tell stories in one way or another, and have been doing this since the beginning of time.


DJan said...

My hair is whiter than Monteen's was in her nineties. Good story, Glenda. I enjoyed thinking about what life might have been like in that part of the world way back then. Thank you. :-)

Glenda Beall said...

DJan, Monteen is still living and close to 100 years old, I believe. She is active and pretty healthy. We went out to eat when I was there and she has to use a walker now. Amazing woman.She wrote the story of her family for my book, Profiles and Pedigrees. It was very interesting. I'll try to share some of it on the blog.


Enjoyed this post. I'm familiar with some of the places you mentioned. Now I have family in Sun City Center near Tampa. We hope to go there this winter, if my husband is able. Having health issues right now.
Thanks for sharing this. I could visualize each place you visited. Storytelling links us from one generation to the next. The best kind of stories are those involving family and close friends.