This Week Newsletter - August 22, 2012

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Sarasota History Alive! Where history happens every day.

The "Big One" of 1921

Friends – it is getting to that time, in late summer, where we are at a greater risk for hurricanes. Most of these dastardly weather events happen around Labor Day. Keep in mind; we are not immune to these named storms. Have a look at one of our historical ones that hit right here in our normally safe community. It didn't have a name; surely it deserved one. See what all this is about.

(photo credit: Sarasota County History Center)


Drive By Gems

I love Laurel Park and the surrounding area, don’t you? This lovely home has a tin roof – let the rains begin! I could easily envision the owner curling up with good book on one of our stormy afternoons. If the wind is not blowing too much, you could even hang out on the porch and not get wet.

Take a drive, on a free weekend, sometime and enjoy the view. While you're out and about enjoy seeing our Vintage Homes.


Ain't Life Grand?

Okay, I know what you’re thinking – “I Can’t Believe It's Not Butter.” I get that all the time, and after awhile it ceases to be funny. Have you ever had to churn butter as one of your daily chores? Let me tell you, it’s no picnic. Come to think of it, I sure would rather be on a picnic than doing this; may I join you?

(photo credit: Sarasota County History Center)


Pretty as a Picture

I guess I am a sucker for great shots of old Sarasota. This one was taken in the 1950s at the NE end of the New Pass Bridge. Be honest, how many of you jumped off the tower? I never did; heh, heh, heh...



Dear Editor: Re: Postcard of the Week (Ringling Brothers Barnum & Baily Circus). Remembering the circus & going there as a child multiple times with my family, one of my favorite memories about the animals is how my Dad could go to the edge of the pool where they kept the hippopotamuses. Dad would say the name "Chester" and Chester, the hippo, would come over to the edge, open his humongous mouth and my Dad would scratch his gums for a minute or so. It was so entertaining and once when my uncle was along, he said, "Oh, I could do that." Nope, it didn't work when he tried.

Also, remembering all the elephants and how they let us all (on school field trips, etc.) go right up to the elephants & feed them peanuts. The only warning they told us about is to hold the peanuts with your hand flattened out. What fun in the olden days! The elephant trainer was nearby. Nowadays, they probably wouldn't allow any of that. Thanks again for your publication & articles that bring to mind nostalgic memories.

Edna Koelfgen
Lakeville, Minnesota

Dear Editor: As a little girl my brother and parents and I went to the Ringling Bros. Circus every winter season. It didn’t hurt that our next door neighbors were circus performers so we always got good tickets (not to mention free). Their names were Jackie (a trapeze performer) and skinny Joe a trumpet player in the band). Jackie also wrote an article for either the circus folk’s paper or the Sarasota Herald. A year before I was born my Dad (Theodore Nodaros) was an extra in the movie “The Greatest Show on Earth.” At the same time my mom (Dorothy Nodaros) was a counter girl at Badgers on Five Points. The performers came in each morning for breakfast when filming the parade scene. Her fondest memory was fixing breakfast for Emmett Kelly (pork chops and eggs) every morning. Of course, she got to meet Charlton Heston, Betty Hutton and a lot of the big stars. I thought it was normal to ride down the road and see the beautiful circus wagons parked on 17th Street and Lockwood Ridge Road, or down Fruitville Road, and see the Wallenda’s practicing in their yard. The circus wasn’t just in town; Sarasota was the circus - if only we could have those days back.

Mary Colson
Bradenton, FL


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As Area Grew, so did St. Martha Catholic Church Martha Catholic Church began as one of a number of mission outposts served by Jesuit priests from Tampa, who had initially celebrated Mass in the homes of church members.

In May 1911, the Sarasota Times announced that Martha A. Burns, mother of developer Owen Burns, had donated a lot on the corner of Adelia Street and what is now Fruitville Road for the erection of a Catholic Church that would seat 150 people.

In spite of a complaint that the site was “too far out” of town, Hugh Browning, a Scottish colonist who came here in 1885, became the contractor for the project.

In December, the Times reported that construction had begun and the framing was up. The church was named after Martha Burns’ patron saint, but it was not until the 1920s that local publications added “St. Martha” to “Catholic Church.”

Changes came in the 1920s. Pews replaced the original benches. A choir was added to the musical support provided by the first pump organ. By the middle of the decade, services were held weekly: at 8:00 a.m. on two Sundays and 10:00 a.m. on the other two Sundays of the month. The early and late services alternated with those at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Bradenton, which was served by the same priest.

Reflecting the population growth that accompanied the Florida Land Boom, St. Martha experienced a space shortage. Members began talking about enlarging their building and having their mission status changed to that of a parish with a resident priest, but neither goal was reached quickly.

In 1927, the bishop of the Diocese of St. Augustine selected Charles L. Elslander to be the first spiritual leader for Catholics in Bradenton and Sarasota. Having served other Florida churches since his ordination to the priesthood in 1922, and after serving St. Joseph until another priest could take on that half of the assignment, Elslander spent 40 years in Sarasota. Read more...

(photo credit: Sarasota County History Center)


Postcard of the Week is one of my favorite Sarasota postcards. This sign post used to be located at the Southeast corner of Washington Boulevard and Ringling Boulevard. As a child, I always wanted to head out in every direction where it pointed and take a trip to that destination. Talk about a road trip! I wouldn’t have had any time to attend school. Hmmm… If you remember this sign post, write to us.

(photo credit: Sarasota County History Center)


Ephemera word, ‘ephemera’ has such a unique sound to it; wouldn’t you agree? At the Sarasota County History Center, there is quite a bit of it on hand and it is being made into a collection for easier reference. There are so many interesting brochures, flyers, menus, pamphlets, and other materials that bring a smile to your face and jog your memory bank. The History Center is open from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday for research hours.

You know how you always hear about famous people drawing on napkins in restaurants? Well, this cocktail napkin was autographed by Freddy Martin (famous saxophonist) and Ben Stahl (famous artist). If you look closely you can see both of them had written a fond note to Helen Griffith, the Sarasota Herald, “Main Street Reporter.”

(photo credit: Sarasota County History Center)


Who Am I (Now)? winner from our last quiz was John Boyd. We would like to thank our generous sponsors for providing prizes. You too, can become a sponsor (see below).

Click here to review the photo, question and the correct answer of the last challenge.

I am sure many of you recognize me; after all, I was a stunning place. I was constructed well and had a substantial core. I was associated with a medical use and I even housed an international socialite in 1910. Alas, I am no longer with you. Your test is to say what stands in my place today. Hint: Birds hate my structure. Who Am I Now?

Your prize this week is a Sarasota High School tote bag, and is created and supplied by Sarasota History Alive!

If you would like to be a sponsor of our "Where Am I?" quiz, please call us at (941) 951-7727. It only cost $25 per week for us to set up your ad, and then you only have to provide a prize for the winner. What could be easier?

(photo credit: Sarasota County History Center)


Yesterday's Sarasota Calendar

Every day of the year we highlight what took place in Sarasota's history, thanks to Whit Rylee and Tom Payne's extensive research and sense of humor. Frequently check our website's homepage to find out what occured today.

Whit Rylee, Sarasota native, long time Sarasota historian and creator of the Yesterday’s Sarasota Calendar has started a new organic family farm in Marshall, North Carolina. It is named, Riddle Farm. Along with his best friend Jessica Thistlegrove and their children, Whit is restoring the 99 year-old farm house. He also has a collection of interesting out-buildings, such as a smoke house and milk parlor. Visit Whit's Web site at

Today in 1955, good fortune strikes more than once. Betsy Booth, a former Miss Sarasota, became the one millionth person to cross the Sunshine Skyway, for which she received a free dinner and flowers. (She still had to pay the toll).

(photo credit: Sarasota County History Center)


New Pics on Facebook

Each week, your editor posts photos on our Sarasota History Alive! Facebook page for your enjoyment and comments. He especially likes to create "Then and Now" comparisons for you to ponder.

I don’t think any of us are old enough to remember when the intersection of Palm Avenue and Main Street looked like the ‘Then’ shot on the left. There was a time when cattle, chickens, pigs, goats, and other farm animals roamed free downtown. Most people had fences to keep them out of their vegetable gardens and front yards. After years of fighting to restrict the critters from being free, the townspeople finally got their way. Good thing, because I don’t think downtown outside dining would be quite as inviting.

 Click here to send us your comments.

('Then' photo credit: Sarasota County History Center)


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