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Newsletter February 4, 2015

Published Wednesday, February 4, 2015
by Larry Kelleher

Happy Valentine's Day

Our next newsletter will come out on February 18th, obviously too late for Valentine’s Day. So, we at Sarasota History Alive would like to wish you a very happy one. And, by all means, let this serve as a reminder to make your plans, get the chocolates, and other goodies ready for the big day. If you procrastinate, you might only find a poor selection, and you don’t want to be in the dog house.

(image credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources)


Drive By Gem

Okay, I am sure this is cliché, but how can you not like a compact charming home with a picket fence? I must be a sucker for this type of place – actually I grew up only a quarter mile from this house.

Just Jane

I’m all about saving Sarasota’s history, its historic buildings, and its lore.  Saving for my grandchildren to enjoy, and yours, because trust me, if you’re reading this today, my bet is that your grand-kids will be in Sarasota at some point in their lives and we want them to see it the way you did!

One of the buildings we are working diligently to restore is the Edson Keith Farmhouse located in Phillippi Estate Park. Did you know that back in the early 1900s, artists used to gather at the Farmhouse on Sunday afternoons, to paint together? Well, our Light Chasers paint together, in Sarasota County every Thursday morning. Some of these world famous artists just come here in ‘season.’
You can help us and have fun by attending the Light Chasers of the Sun Coast’s upcoming, huge Plein Air Art Shows at Phillippi Mansion, beginning on Friday, Feb. 27th, with the Master Artists Show Gala. The show grows bigger on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon.

Come on out to the Phillippi Farmhouse Market farmhousemarket.org on Wednesday, February the 25th, you’ll see many of these artists in a ‘Quick Draw Contest’ from 10:00 a.m. to noon. Plan to see the award winners at noon, and perhaps you can buy something “Wet off the Easel” from them!

For more info and to order the great ‘Patron’s Deal’ visit: LightChasersInc.com
And, remember…If you’re planning to sell your vintage home, please let me know; we’ll get you listed in our Vintage Real Estate section before you can say, “Happy Valentine’s Day.”


Pretty as a Picture

Sara de Sota Pageant Parades were all the rage annually in Sarasota for decades. This one won first place in 1947 and was produced by Green’s Fuel, Inc. Floats were such an important part of parades and even the name gave credence to the fantasy – as if these things actually floated. 

(photo credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources, Pete Esthus Collection)



Reddy Kilowatt rules! At least that is the way I felt about that marvelous character back in the 1950s. I confess, when I was in college, and could barely make my bills, I tried to delay my electricity payment by writing the check to “Reddy Kilowatt.” My thought was the electric company would send it back to me thus buying me a few more days before I had the funds in my account. To my surprise, the electric company had all sorts of names registered with the bank, and Reddy Kilowatt was one of them. Guess college kids would try anything in similar circumstances.
(image credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources)


Ain't Life Grand?

You are going to Boston whether you like it or not! This is a taste of what you are in for this week. Be happy the snow is not yellow. Get my drift? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist the play on words).
(photo credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources)


Postcard of the Week

This postcard caught my eye with not only the front side, but the reverse, too. “Fur and hide trading is the chief source of income of the Seminole Indians in the deep Everglades. Raccoons, Opossums and Otter are trapped and Alligators and Snakes shot for their hides. Traders visit the villages periodically and scenes like the one pictured are enacted.” Guess there were no souvenirs, air-boat rides, or reservation gambling back then.
(image credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources)

The Innovative Palm Tree Playhouse

(Editor's note: This is an excerpt from the October 7, 1957 issue of "The News" provided by the late Pete Esthus)

Beginning in 1951, “Comedie” and “Tradgedie,” the traditional masks of theatre, adorned the façade of the building on First Street, which housed the Palm Tree Playhouse, Sarasota’s professional theater.

Founded in 1950 by Stuart Lancaster, the Palm Tree was the realization of a long-standing dream. Lancaster, son of Hester Ringling Lancaster (later Sanford) and Louis Lancaster, and the grandson of Charles and Edith Ringling, inherited the family love of the entertainment world and found his forte in the theatre. He studied and worked at the Cleveland Playhouse, was technical director at the Lakewood Theatre in Cleveland, co-producer and technical director at the Cleveland Playhouse and received additional training at the American Theatre Wing. He was also seen on the New York stage and on television.
But the idea of bringing professional theatre to Sarasota remained paramount and in December of 1950, at the American Legion Coliseum on North Washington Boulevard, the curtain rose on the first Palm Tree Playhouse production, “Home Of The Brave.” The word “curtain” was used in a technical sense, as the stage was the entire central arena and un-curtainable. Read more...

(photo credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources)

My Life in Sarasota as an Actor at the Palm Tree Playhouse

(Remembrance courtesy of Guil (Dudley) Fisher)

I began my Sarasota experience in 1957 when I was hired in New York City by Stuart Lancaster, the owner of the Palm Tree Playhouse to work for him as an Intern/actor position. We were put up locally and I stayed in the home of Mason Baldwin on Second Street.

This experience lasted four wonderful years. Working with Stuart. Getting to know many local performers and professional actors as well. It was also the time that Ringling was still coming out of Sarasota. In fact met some wonderful circus people like Chuck Burnes, a clown. I still am in touch with Chuck and his wife Bambi, also a circus performer, who now reside in California.

I was given some exciting acting work to do, among them, BULLFIGHT, CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, DEATH OF A SALESMAN, TWO FOR THE SEESAW, SEPARATE TABLES and many, many more.  At the time critic Lawrence Dame spoke very highly of my work.

One of my highlights in those four years was meeting, working and getting to know the wonderful Hester Ringling Sanford, Stuart’s mother and daughter to Ringling himself. A grand old dame with such history. She was living on the Ringling Estate at the time and had me over for tea several visits where she took me on tour to the circus costumes, hundreds of them, in the Estate. What a thrill. In fact I borrowed one of the splendid sequined capes to go to the Beaux Arts Ball. Every strike night, when we were taking down the old set and putting up the new set, usually an all-nighter, Hester would come in late at night with a huge pot of Lentil soup for us all. Read more...


Yesterday's Sarasota Calendar

Today in 1930, John Ringling’s yacht, the Zalophus, sinks in New Pass. Among the passengers were New York Mayor Jimmy Walker and actress Betty Compton (with whom he was reputed to be having an affair – where was the “Enquirer” when we needed them) and Mr. and Mrs. Sam Gumpertz. (And who, you may ask, is Sam Gumpertz? You’ve heard of Ringling Brothers, Coney Island, and Harry Houdini? He managed all of them at one time or another). 

(photo credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources)


Where was I?

The winner of our last contest was Karen Wehner. Congratulations!

Many of you used your allowance to come into my hallowed theater to watch your favorite movie. There were plenty of great ones shown on a weekly basis. But first you had to purchase your ticket at this tiny box office. A cartoon and newsreel were also part of the fare, not to mention the delightful snacks or popcorn. Your task today it to answer the question, Where was I? Click here to give your answer, and remember – “Silence your Phone!”

Click here to submit your answer, as well as view the correct answer to the last challenge.

(photo credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources, Pete Esthus collection)



Your award this week is the book, John Hamilton Gillespie - The Scot Who Saved Sarasota by Jeff LaHurd. The Friend's of the Sarasota County History Center generously provided this prize. Please consider becoming a member of the Friends; they have some exciting programs coming up soon. Visit them here.

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?


Racist Incident

I have been following the 100 Years of Newtown history covered in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune for many months, and commend them for their efforts to bring forth the rich history of African Americans here. However, many instances over this past century have not been positive, and to this day, there are many negative things that we as a community need to reconcile. I came across this photograph and was astonished at what I saw when I examined it closely. This was taken at Five Points; presumably in the early 1940s judging by the cars and clothing the men are wearing. There is white sand heaped up next to the War Memorial supposedly representing a grave site. Placards and a small statue adorn the racist exhibit. On one of the signs it reads, “Pepper Hill Cemetery (Local Nigger) Graveyard.” Unfortunately, the signs are mostly undecipherable, but you can make out that “Here Lies Roger Flory.” Roger Flory was a well-know and successful Realtor, community promoter, and esteemed Veteran who founded the American Legion here. I wonder why this display was conceived and placed in such a noticeable location. If you have any information about this image, please contact us.

(photo credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources, Pete Esthus Collection)


Call for Nominations

The Florida Trust for Historic Preservation announces its ‘Call for Nominations’ for both the 2015 Historic Preservation Awards and 2015 ‘Eleven Most Endangered Historic Sites,’ with a deadline for submitting nominations of February 28, 2015.

Each year the Florida Trust solicits nominations for outstanding examples of preservation of architectural, archaeological and cultural resources in Florida. The winners of awards in a variety of categories are announced and celebrated each year at the Florida Trust's annual conference.
Those interested in nominating an individual or project for award recognition can view complete information by downloading the 2015 Call for Nominations. The announcement includes a description of all categories and the process for submitting nominees.
Attention local preservation nonprofits – I can think of one very important Dwight James Baum building near the bay that could qualify as an endangered historic site. There’s still some time to nominate it.