Tag: Pinellas County

Hurricane season memories…

Jimmy Buffett captured the essence of hurricane season in his 1974 song from A1A, “Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season,” when he sang,

“Squalls out on the gulf stream
Big storm commin’ soon…”

My closest experience with a hurricane occurred in 1968 when Hurricane Gladys passed the Pinellas peninsula on Friday, October 18th during my senior year in high school. The storm postponed our football game, allowed me to go on a date and see a movie, and gave me an adventure to write about.

Gladys was photographed from space by the Apollo 7 astronauts, tracked by Hurricane Hunter aircraft, and seen by radar imagery, all relatively new phenomena at the time.

 

 

 

 

 

Hurricane Haiku

At Pass-a-Grille Beach
In October sixty eight
Rambler rockin’

 

From the 26th chapter, “A Date with Gladys,” in Growing Up Floridian:

Wind controlled the steering wheel almost as much as I did and forced my gray turtle, actually a 1960 Rambler American, from one side of 66th Street to the other. Having worked up enough courage to ask Maureen out, I wasn’t about to let Hurricane Gladys cancel our date. As the only car on the road, I had the advantage of fighting the gusts across three lanes without the danger of hitting another vehicle. I managed to avoid curbs and telephones poles often by slight margins using the power of forearms developed from three years of high school football.

Traveling the Skyway…for the first time.

The original Sunshine Skyway Bridge, opened in 1954, did away with the need for the Bee Line Ferry boats that transported people and cars from Pinellas County across Tampa Bay to Manatee or Sarasota County.  Jerry Blizin revisited the event in an article in the St. Petersburg Times published on October 20, 2009. The extra 50 miles the bridge saved travelers helped mitigate the distaste they had for both the $1.75 toll and the fear generated by the bridge’s height.

Smokey, my mother, and I traveled across the five year-old Sunshine Skyway Bridge in 1959 to visit my maternal grandmother in my mother’s 1948 Morris Minor, which was slightly more powerful than a Volkswagen Beetle. We were not sure the car could reach the 150 foot summit since we could barely keep up with a cormorant that matched the car’s 45 mph as we headed north on the low span. Neither my brother nor I had been anywhere near 150 feet off the ground before, so the trip unnerved us both, and we clutched the armrests as our heads swiveled in every direction. When a dolphin breached, a pelican dove, or a mullet jumped, we gasped and pointed. We were chattering monkeys when we recounted to Gram Barr our adventure of leaving the flat palmetto scrub of Manatee County and soaring to the top of the Skyway Bridge, a mere 36 miles away. The Pinellas County beach environment contrasted sharply with the backwoods Florida Cracker territory the Quarter Circle A ranch provided.

Years later, I found trips over the old bridge were peaceful and particularly beautiful under a bright moon.

A second span added in 1971 altered the simplistic beauty of the origin engineering marvel, and the shipping accident in 1980 that destroyed the southbound span ended the nostalgic romance the original Skyway engendered.

 

 

A recent newspaper article described the current efforts to hold a half marathon race over the new bridge on New Year’s Day, but there was no mention of opening ceremony run in which I participated on January 11, 1987.

 

From “Travels on State Road 62,” the 4th chapter of Growing Up Floridian:

On the rare days when my mother had to go to work early, she would drop my brother and me off at the elementary school. The seven-mile journey to the two-story school on Highway 301 was slow because State Road 62 did not have a legislative champion, and, thus, was nothing but miles of patches and potholes that would take a toll on even the most durable cars. My mother’s 1948 Morris Minor automobile, a simple little beetle-shaped beast, took the bumpy ride while emitting a groan every so often. SR 62 connected to 301 in Parrish, and we would be dropped off in front of the school so my mother could continue on to the hardware store in Palmetto where she work as a secretary. As we motored along, static-filled am radio stations during my first grade year played Elvis Presley’s “All Shook Up,” Debbie Reynold’s “Tammy, ” and my mother’s favorite, “Old Cape Cod,” by Patti Page, which she said reminded her of fun times on that Atlantic beach.

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