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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Biking on the Gulf coast

I found a decent rental bike in Pensacola and so I've been biking for a few days.  I'm excited to have such an early start to biking in 2012. It's so different from my usual biking route along the country roads of Wisconsin where I see deer, fox, coyote, eagles and red tail hawks.  Here I don't see any wildlife but I do enjoy watching the waves rolling in and the gleaming white sand.  And a bonus is that I get to wear shorts and a t-shirt in January/February.  That says it all!

Interested in Genealogy? Never Stop Searching!

One of my projects I planned to pursue while we are in Pensacola was to retrieve a microfilm from the LDS family history library that had information on one of my "Computer History" subjects, Leland Perley Robinson.

I headed up to the local family history library here in Pensacola to order the microfilm and discovered that the rules have changed, orders are now placed on-line at familysearch.org  instead of at each local library.

So I logged on here at the condo and ordered the film.  As long as I was on the site, I tried looking up my grandfather's name, Frank Kolkowsky.  This had never brought me any useful information on this site before.  But now, a marriage record pops up:

Frank Kolkowsky, born 1867 married Rose White, born 1884.  They were married in Bunnell, Florida on April 26, 1922.

Well, that is interesting!  A missing link to the past.  Grandpa had disappeared from Portland to seek his fortune in Florida shortly after his divorce from Grandma in 1918-1919.  Aside from one indication of his presence in Daytona Beach sometime in the 1920s, no record of his stay in Florida has shown up before.  Now it appears, at age 55 he is taking a comparatively youthful 38 year old as his second wife.

Where is Bunnell and why would a Polish carpenter/entrepreneur go there?

Bunnell is a small town of about 2000, the county seat of Flagler county, and is about 25 miles north of Daytona Beach.  It has an interesting history, though, as a center for the Florida development boom in the early twentieth century.  Consider this ad from the November 20, 1910, Pittsburgh Post Gazette:
That's right, "These talks are sold for $1.00," but, if you order today ...

It turns out that the Bunnell Land Development company was a pretty aggressive land sales operation that specialized in luring Polish immigrants.  According to this account of Flagler County History:

            This company was chartered in June 1909 and had offices in Bunnell and Chicago. In December 1912, the Chicago office began publication of a monthly house organ entitled “The Bunnell Home Builder.”  The slogan in the masthead said, “The Truth about Florida.” The publication was sent to all Bunnell-Dupont Colony land owners and others who were interested in “securing homes in the Sunny Southland.”
            Polish immigrants in Chicago, Detroit and other cities, recent arrivals in this free land of ours, were told of a fabulous land called Florida through polish-language editions of “The Bunnell Home Builder.” The land promotion gimmicks of ninety-six years ago were employed to spin tales of three crops a year, no snow or ice and ideal farming conditions. The price per acre was $35.
            While ITT in later years used passenger airplanes to fly prospective buyers here, the Bunnell Development Company used a special chartered train they called “The Dixie Flyer” for the same purpose. Round trip, Chicago to Bunnell, was $41.89.
            Like the other developers, the Bunnell Development Company also had a hotel. It was originally called The Bunnell Hotel and later the Halcyon; this relic of the past still stands today on the corner of Railroad and Lambert Streets. Its windows are boarded and it is surrounded by a chain-link fence. The hotel could accommodate 75 guests who paid $3.00 per day. The less affluent could stay at the Pine Grove Inn located on the NE corner of Church Street and Moody Blvd. at $2.00 per day.

Frank Kolkowsky would have been well aware of this via his brother who lived in Chicago, if not directly from ads in local or Polish language newspapers. 

So now it looks like I'll have to make a trip over to the Flagler County Historical Society to see if I can find out more about the mysterious Rose White.  Meanwhile I'll be adding another microfilm to the list for viewing at the Pensacola family history library.  Here's a bit more information on Bunnell, and a link to the Flagler County historical society, just in case one of my cousins reading this wants to stop in someday.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Live From the Site of the Next 2012 Presidential Primary

I have been following politics since at least 1960.  Say, that's over fifty years!  But this is the first time that I have been in any state with a significant presidential primary election during the heat of the battle.  We came through Iowa two days after their first-in-the-nation caucuses.  I was expecting to see lots of lawn signs for the candidates.  I never saw even one.  Do you suppose they all got taken down the day after the caucuses?

Maybe the interest level among most people is not what the national media leads us to believe.  We have been here about two and a half weeks and have not seen many signs in the front yards.  In fact, on the 1.25 miles that I walk each day along Via de Luna, the main road here in Pensacola Beach, there is exactly one small political yard sign:

That contrasts with ten "For Sale" signs in the same distance.

I would venture a guess that the distribution of signs is about 90% Mitt Romney and 10% Ron Paul.  Here's a corner with one of each.

But the Paul people have enthusiasm.  I didn't get a picture of the pickup truck along the side of the road with large hand-lettered Paul signs.  But you can see that they are strong supporters by looking at these two signs.
Primary2012-2-1 Primary2012-1

By the way, the "Polarized" sign is above some electrical outlets for sale at the flea market and not necessarily a commentary on the electorate.

I was reminded this morning that here in the Florida panhandle, we are not really in "Florida," we are in "The South."  That reminder came at church when the second reading was from Saint Paul's letter to the CO-Rinthians.  And Paul was pronounced with two syllables (Pow-ull).  Pensacola is the county seat of Escambia County and in the 2000 presidential general election the vote was 63% Bush and 35% Gore.  You may recall that the overall Florida vote was somewhat closer.

Today I saw one lawn sign each for "Newt 2012" and "Rick Santorum."  Those were both the first I've seen for those candidates.  And yes, the local media are filled with political ads.  The news broadcasts, talk radio and Sunday talking head shows are all wall-to-wall negative ads.  Thank heavens for the fast-forward button on the DVR.  Even Monsignior Hunt, our Irish priest at Our Lady of the Assumption this morning commented on them in his homily.  "Anyone believe any of them?" he said, while discussing truth. 

The local paper put this advertising blurb on their newstands the day after the South Carolina primary.  As you can see, they sold all copies.

I'll keep you posted on how Escambia county votes on Tuesday night.  Meanwhile, enjoy the sunset that we watched this evening down the beach.

Pensacola Beach, After a Storm

On Thursday, a strong rainstorm with some lightning moved slowly through the area.  Nothing really severe, but it did make me wonder what the real gulf storms are like.  We had to put a towel down by the sliding glass door in the condo to soak up the rain that was coming in!  It was definitely an indoor day!

I got our scanner set up on the laptop so that Linda could begin scanning more of our old negatives into the computer.  We brought along a few thousand negatives for spare time work.  She is currently working on Morocco, 1997.  Here are a couple of samples.  Both are from the city of Marrakesh.  The one on the left is from a tour of a leather factory.  Oh, did that smell bad!  The leather is processed by soaking the animal skins in "pigeon sheet," as our guide explained it.  We were each given a bouquet of mint to hold in front of our noses during the tour.  It helped - a little bit.  The second picture is of the entertainment in the old city square in the evening.
Morroco-2 Morroco-1

After the storm passed here on Thursday, the beach was freshened up with a new supply of seaweed and shells.  On Friday morning I took my usual walk down the beach and stopped to examine the newly deposited goodies.  I was way too late for the best of the shells.  Some locals had obviously been out at the crack of dawn to harvest shells.  I caught up to one woman with two bags of nice ones.  I'll have to get out earlier next time.  But I did pick up a few.

I was surprised at first to see large amounts of "plastic" lying in the seaweed.  Was this something left over from the big oil spill?
PB-Storm-10 PB-Storm-09

I took a closer look.

It turns out that these are jellyfish.  "Don't touch them, they can still sting!" explained a helpful worker on the beach.  They appear to be the Man-o'-War variety and were quite numerous.

The helpful worker that explained this to me is one of the crew still working on cleaning up from the BP Oil Spill.  The beaches are really in good shape, to the casual observer.  You could never tell there was still evidence of that spill back in the spring of 2010.  But every weekday, I see this crew moving up and down the beach with the nets, hauling in tar balls.  I don't think they find many but they keep looking.
PB-Storm-13 PB-Storm-14 BP_Cleanup-1

From what I could find on the Internet, this job pays $18 an hour - $32 for supervisors!  If I did the math correctly (and I allowed plenty for "overhead") BP can put a crew of three with a supervisor on each of 1200 miles of coastline for five years with a billion dollars.  They are committed to twenty billion in total.  I suppose we will see these crews for a long time yet.

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Visit to Old Time Pottery

It was foggy and rainy on Monday and that called for an indoor activity.  I would have to pay the price, too, for making Linda go to the Flea Market on Saturday.  We headed west along the scenic gulf coast highway into Alabama for Orange Beach and then north toward Foley.

Old Time Pottery has a Wikipedia entry that describes it as an "expansive discount home decor retailer, headquartered in Murfreesboro, Tennessee."    There are about twenty locations with half of them in Florida and Alabama.  The Wikipedia entry doesn't really have much more information.  Possibly, the author was simply unable to come up with words to describe this place.

Well, "kitsch," "junk" and "tacky" could possibly be weaved into the description.  But you just have to have admiration for people who could find so many economical housewares, garden doo-dads, patio furniture and the like and display it all under one roof.  And that roof seems to just go on forever.  As do the aisles.
PB-Storm-07 PB-Storm-05

Do you want cushions for your patio chair or chaise?  They have four aisles like this.

Maybe you just want turquoise pottery, but in a variety of shapes.  They have that too.

Another customer (male) walked up to me and said, "are you having fun yet?"  Well, actually I was.  But I didn't admit it.

The Gulf Breeze Flea Market

Gulf Breeze lies on a peninsula in between our island community of Pensacola Beach and the coastal town of Pensacola proper.  You can see all three towns in this photo taken from the Pensacola Beach side of things.

While driving through Gulf Breeze, we noticed the sign for the weekend flea market and decided to visit last Saturday.

There is a farmer's market at the entrance with some good produce.

Inside, there were lots of goodies.  This fellow offers quite a bit of computer gear.  He doesn't mind letting you know his political preferences, too.  By the way, if Ron Paul is going to make a showing anywhere in the primaries this year, it is probably going to be here in the Florida panhandle.  I have seen about as many Paul signs as anything, and their owners are pretty far up on the enthusiasm scale.

I admired someone taking a crack at selling this bunch of wires.  I keep mine in a large record storage box back at home.  Maybe if I rented a booth at a flea market ...

And another fellow had just about every old video game system imaginable working and ready for purchase.

And how can anyone resist spending time in an area where everything's a dollar?  Some of the items in the second picture are a bit higher, but equally interesting.
Pensacola2-7 Pensacola2-8

And I did find a book that I couldn't resist.  "The Legend of Briggs & Stratton," from 1995.  Not just an engine maker, B&S once made "Frigerators" and radios.  Who knew?  And I got it for only $5 when Amazon.com is looking for $8.95 minimum for a used copy.

Then we discovered that this flea market isn't even the best one in the area.  That distinction goes to another one over in Pensacola which bills itself as "The Largest Gulf Coast Flea Market."  We'll be there next weekend.  I'm sure Linda is already excited.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pensacola Florida. A Tall Ship.

When we stopped by the waterfront park commemorating the landing of Spanish explorer Tristan de Luna in 1559, we noticed a tall sailing ship lying at anchor in the bay.

This turned out to be the Peacemaker, based out of Savannah, and in port through the middle of MarchWikipedia has a pretty complete story of the ship and its origins in Brazil.  There is a YouTube video of the ship at sea, too.

The wheelhouse looks very comfortable.  Lots of Mahogany.

And the captain seemed very pleased to be with the ship.

Pensacola, Florida. Downtown.

Our first weekend here, we visited the downtown area of Pensacola.
PensacolBeach-10 PensacolBeach-11

Besides the building associated with a county seat, the town has a couple of nice "town squares" and a waterfront area.  Live Oaks are the evergreen attraction in the squares.

At various points around the city, there are painted pelicans, part of the Pelicans in Paradise project.  The local minor league baseball team is known as the Pensacola Pelicans.

Pensacola lays claim to being the first permanent settlement by Europeans here in the United States.  You might be familiar with St. Augustine and Jamestown along those lines.  But Pensacola was established by the landing of Spanish explorer, Tristan de Luna, who arrived here with eleven ships and 1500 settlers in 1559.  The Smithsonian tells the rest of the story here.  In 2009, the King and Queen of Spain stopped by to help celebrate the 450th anniversary of the landing.

And, just to prove that Pensacola is a full-fledged modern city, it has its own Occupy Pensacola corner.

I'm not sure just what the meaning is of the sign that says, "ALL OUR BASE ARE BELONG TO 1%"  but I didn't see anyone awake to ask.  (The tents are behind the large banners.)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Pensacola Beach, the Beach

The white sandy beaches here are great for walking.  At this time of year, they are fairly deserted since locals find temperatures in the 50's and 60's to be cool.

There is an occasional fisherman out when I walk down the beach.

The front side of our building faces the bay looking north toward Pensacola.  That is the "Pensacola Beach Boardwalk" with the long pier.  Several restaurants and shops occupy the waterfront.

The sunsets and the night time views are pretty.
PensacolBeach-26 Pensacola2-9

But so far, the sunrise this morning has been the nicest treat.  Fortuanately, Linda photographed it so that I could see it too.

Pensacola Beach, Florida

We are staying in a rental condominium here in Pensacola Beach.  This beachfront community is unique along the Gulf Coast.  It lies on a narrow island which is primarily preserved as national seashore and state park.  It also lies rather directly south of the good-sized city of Pensacola, population 55,000.

Pensacola Beach developed as a community back in the late 1940's when the Department of the Interior agreed to lease a portion of the island.  The individuals who leased lots here obtained a benefit of no property taxes for quite a number of years before the local assessor and the state legislature put an end to that.  A tax case is still bouncing around the courts trying to regain the local's loophole.

The real attraction here is the sand.  It's white.  Very white!  The sand is said to be quartz that washed down from the Appalachian mountains a long time ago.

While there are only about 2700 residents in Pensacola Beach, they have a wide variety of homes.  There are several condominiums such as the one we are staying in, but most of the area is covered with single family dwellings.

Some are concrete block on a slab, probably typical of the earliest vacation homes built here.

Most newer homes are built on "stilts" and tend to be quite a bit larger.
PensacolBeach-02 PensacolBeach-06 PensacolBeach-28

I suppose this one could be described as "modern."

And this one, well - post modern?

By the way, if you look closely, I believe that you can see one of the residents looking back at me from a window.