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Florida, Then and Now

7:29 pm in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

I lived in Florida off and on from 1964 until I moved back to the Cleveland area about 4 years ago. To say it changed significantly in that time would be a gross understatement. The Florida of today is as unlike the Florida I moved to in 1964 as the moon is unlike Venus. When my family first ventured into Florida we stopped for a while in Port Charlotte, one of many planned communities on the west coast or Gulf Coast. A waterfront community on the west side of US 41 — The Tamiami Trail [ Tampa to Miami] and the gulf club community on the east side. The interstates had not been built yet so US 41 on the gulf coast and US 1 on the east coast were still the main routes.

At the time the most homes there were newish, built in the late 1950′s and early 1960′s.  The first thing we learned upon living there was that Florida gave a new meaning to the term “laid back.” Nobody was in a rush to do anything. We also leaned that real estate developers were even more dishonest than used car dealers. Having toured the sales area of The Gulf American Corporation where they tried to sell homes for a community that had not been build yet, and if not enough homes were sold, it would likely never be built.

Eventually we settled  in Naples, Florida, on the south west coast of Florida after my father passed away, in a house not unlike this one. With a tar and gravel or pebble roof, jalousie windows with aluminium casings or slender types and terrazzo floors. Nearly all the houses in Florida were like this with the possible exception of areas in Miami – I will get to Miami later.

Florida was a retirement mecca at this time but the next real estate boom was beginning. These houses were built this way for a number of reasons. The roofs were heavy and resisted hurricane winds. Jalousie windows could be opened even when it rained  to let the wind through and being low to the ground also helped in the event of a hurricane. The flat tar or pebble roofs were light in color reflecting the sun and being flat with a metal eave, collected water when it rained.

And the rains. Florida rains are unlike those in the north — which Floridians called drizzle. These were tropical rains like monsoons. In the summer the warm humid sea breezes from the gulf and the Atlantic would bring in daily or nearly daily torrential rains. The rain would last anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours. So hard sometimes one could not even see across the street and nearly always accompanied by heavy winds, hence the need for jalousie windows. Couple that with the occasional tropical storm or hurricane.

At that time and for a few years central heat and air was uncommon in Florida houses. It was expensive to install and expensive to use. Only businesses had AC and even then some did not or only used it when the heat and humidity of summer was most intense.

Naples had one radio station that ran automated for FM and had a MOR (Middle of the Road) format for the AM station. Cable was big as the nearest TV station was in Fort Myers, about 30 miles to the north. If you wanted any other channels you had cable or a very big antenna pointed to Miami or Tampa. Miami was usually easier to get. The cable company was locally owned as was the telephone company. You got all three networks with cable, from Miami.

Naples was about the size of Middlefield Ohio at that time. And Punta Gorda was no bigger. Fort Myers was about the size of Chagrin Falls Ohio maybe bigger as it would get a mall with a Sears and a Maas Brothers store.

There were few if any national big box department stores except Sears and maybe a Montgomery Wards in Florida at that time. The department stores were either Maas Bros., Burdines, Jordan Marsh or Robinson’s which were headquartered  in Miami and Tampa.

Naples had a rich people area, Port Royal to the south of town. It was a gated community but with the gates open during the day. It had, among others, the Briggs Estate (of Briggs and Stratton and Outboard Marine  Corp.) and Ric O’Barry, the owner/trainer of the dolphins used in the TV show Flipper. He also had a few manatees as well. Very big with huge waterways and pools for them.

Most places in Florida were similar to Naples with the northern part more southern than the south part. Floridians could be (and most were) very racist. But except for those in the very north and the panhandle, not the southern style like one would find in Alabama or Georgia or Mississippi or the Carolinas. No … this was Northern style like that of Ohio and Illinois or Indiana or Pennsylvania. For this is where most of them hailed from. The under your breath, euphemistically said kind of racism. Most in Florida were northern transplants. The few native Floridians live in the interior part of the state, those related to the original settlers.

Which brings me to the economy. Florida’s economy at that time relied on 3 things: Tourism, Agriculture and the Military. They had a lot of military. McCoy AFB in Orlando, MacDill in Tampa, Patrick AFB just south of Cocoa, Homestead AFB south of Miami, Jacksonville Naval Air Station, Pensacola Navel Air Station — to name but a few.

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Typical Republican Tea Party Trick – Worst TB outbreak in 20 years kept secret.

7:51 pm in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

Probable tuberculosis - Flickr

A big H/T to a facebook friend for bringing this to my attention.  This story from The Palm Beach Post epitomizes the kind back handed governing that the tea party/republican governors engage in.  PR and money over people.

The CDC officer had a serious warning for Florida health officials in April: A tuberculosis outbreak in Jacksonville was one of the worst his group had investigated in 20 years. Linked to 13 deaths and 99 illnesses, including six children, it would require concerted action to stop.

That report had been penned on April 5, exactly nine days after Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill that shrank the Department of Health and required the closure of the A.G. Holley State Hospital in Lantana, where tough tuberculosis cases have been treated for more than 60 years.

As health officials in Tallahassee turned their focus to restructuring, Dr. Robert Luo’s 25-page report describing Jacksonville’s outbreak — and the measures needed to contain it – went unseen by key decision makers around the state. At the health agency, an order went out that the TB hospital must be closed six months ahead of schedule.

And as I understand it this particular strain has made it’s way into the general population now as well.

In his report, the CDC’s Luo makes it clear that other health officials throughout the state and nation have reason to be concerned: Of the fraction of the sick people’s contacts reached, one-third tested positive for TB exposure in areas like the homeless shelter.

Furthermore, only two-thirds of the active cases could be traced to people and places in Jacksonville where the homeless and mentally ill had congregated. That suggested the TB strain had spread beyond the city’s underclass and into the general population. The Palm Beach Post requested a database showing where every related case has appeared. That database has not been released.

So good people, if you have recently visited the fine Sunshine State of Florida and your doctor tells you you may have TB, you can thank Rick Scott and his Tea Party supporters for it.   Because you know that with them money trumps all. All this to make sure that the tourist businesses, utilities and rich retirees  don’t have to pay any more in taxes.

And the republican conventions is supposed to be held in Tampa. This should prove to be very interesting now indeed. Wonder what they will do it this show up there in a large number of cases.


5:21 pm in Uncategorized by cmaukonen

1998 Flagler County Fire - flickr

The Colorado Springs wildfire has been all over the news of late.   32000 people have been forced to evacuate the area. Even our own WendyDavis. Having ones home, whatever it maybe, threatened by fire is something you have to experience first hand – like other such events – to really appreciate it.   A total loss of control combined with fear and helplessness.

Before moving up to Cleveland last year, I lived in Central Florida for over 30 years and South West Florida before that. Only twice have I had the experience of a brush fire come close. The first time in Naples – not so close and under control fairly quickly. The second time just a year before I moved. That time very, very close.

Florida’s fire season runs roughly from the end of February through June. In really dry years it can run through July. As it did in 1998 when it seem like the entire state was on fire.  The biggest was in Flagler County just south of Jacksonville.  Starting west of I95 by a mile or so and eventually jumping the interstate (6 lanes with a large median) and threatening Flagler Beach where they even had to evacuate the local hospital.  I remember the coverage was 24/7 on the local channels.  Fires jump by having the wind carry embers and high winds can carry them great distances.

Brush fires are part of the natural ecology of Florida. Cleaning out the brush and grasses, fallen trees, keeping the saw palmettos at bay and the heat from the smoke is what causes the the pine cones to open and drop their seeds.  But people build in the forests and do not like the smoke and stuff from brush fires and scheduled burns, so there are fire suppression efforts and the brush gets out of control. So when a brush fire does occur, it can quickly get out of hand and turn into a wildfire. Especially during a very hot dry fire season like that of 1998 in Florida or this year in Colorado.

With hot dry conditions it does not take much to ignite a brush fire. A small spark is all that is necessary. I know because a year before I moved, I came very close to losing the apartment building I lived in when a brush fire was ignited in the wooded area behind it.  Burning the grass up to the buildings and melting the siding.

Coming home and seeing the brush trucks, pumpers and a tower truck pouring the equivalent of a small lake on top of, behind and on ether side of your home sweet home can be very alarming indeed.  And the fire really does not have to be very close for you to lose your home. All it takes is a flaming ember carried by the wind to land on the roof.   I was lucky and they got it out but a few minutes to late and likely not so lucky. Chatham Pines Apartment Brush Fire.

Far too often our attempts to control nature – like fires – results in far greater problems that we had initially. We need to work with it instead.