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A Glance at Some of the Top News Stories in 1955

Articles: Sarasota History

Author: Mark D. Smith, former County Archivist

Sarasota History - A Glance at Some of the Top News Stories in 1955 photo

As Sarasota County begins the New Year, a look back 53 years provides an interesting peek into the daily routines of the county and its residents.

Some issues sound very familiar today; others show the march of progress. Still others sound a little strange, but made the news of the day in January, 1955.

The month started with an unusual occurrence in the Gulf of Mexico. An investigation began into a report of blasting being done by three unknown men about 3/4 of mile of Midnight Pass on New Year's Day. The underwater dynamiting was believed to be part of a reported resumption of exploration for oil off the coast of Florida.

Captain Willis McCormack, of the Midnight Pass Fishing Camp, reported having been approached by three men requesting to rent his boat. He refused when he learned they wanted to drop dynamite charges.

Another news item was a battle involving Main Street in downtown Sarasota. The City passed a resolution stating that the Memorial Oaks, planted along Main Street as a memorial to Sarasota's WWI veterans, had to go as Main Street was developing into a major shopping center.

Within a few days several residents began a campaign to save the trees. A committee was formed that included noted architect William Zimmerman.

In the January 10, 1955 issue of The News, Zimmerman complained that the board was doing no real planning but spending its time "looking at plats, streets widths and turnarounds." Zimmerman asserted, "We should do some real planning for the city."

Calling attention to fast-moving developments in the city, Zimmerman said, "there is the question of trees. Are we going to have trees in our business district as do the beautiful cities of South America and Europe or are we going to let an asphalt jungle develop here?"

Although these discussions would continue, the winter season was beginning in Sarasota County and other stories were developing.

Residents and visitors looked forward to the opening of the Sarasota County Fair on January 17, 1955. Forty thousand people were expected to attend the fair during its six-day run.

Also, the Second Annual Venice Community Fair, sponsored by the Lion's Club, was held at Washburne Field in Venice later that same month.

Two of Sarasota's premier hotels announced their season openings. The John Ringling Hotel announced that it would open for its 18th season, and its manager, John J. Carr, invited the public to meet the staff and view the newly decorated dining rooms.

The Mira Mar Hotel announced the opening of the Castillian Room for the season as part of the hotel's "New Look."

On the business front, Sarasota Springs Subdivision, located off Bee Ridge Road, opened with homes starting at $6,995 with lots selling for $695 or $10 a month.

Sarasota Federal Bank announced that they would pay 3 percent on new savings accounts, and property values rose 10 percent in the county in 1954.

The Sarasota-Bradenton Airport reported a net profit of $18,000 for the year and Maas Brothers Department Store signed a 99-year lease for the property on the corner of Main Street and U.S. 301.

Fifty-three years later, Sarasota County has changed. But in some ways, it has stayed the same.


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