My navigator was using a Massachusetts topographical map to plot a route through the countryside. Not to hike, thankfully, since it was incredibly cold, but to drive. It was sunny, and the sky was lovely and blue. That a photo op might present itself was always a possibility. My friend worked construction, and from time to time he’d point out an area where he’d worked on a lot of houses, and it seemed that those newer houses in that area had the suburban neighborhood look that I’ve commonly seen, and lived in actually, all over the country. Those aren’t what appeals to me or what I picture when I think of New England. I like the random neighborhoods where the houses look very different from each other, random like the stone walls that look as if they weren’t built but that they just appeared along side the road. He remarked more than once about how built up the countryside has become. Progress I suppose, people do have to live somewhere. But I’m happier to drive through the old neighborhoods that look exactly as they did when I grew up here. And to stop, as we did, for me to take advantage of scenery that I couldn’t resist. Maybe it’s just this time of life. I once read that no one thinks harder than a 2-year-old does, because they are constantly confronted with new things that they have to fit into their understanding of their world. Maybe being retired and having time to think about all the places and experiences of a lifetime is pretty much the same thing. Just trying to make it all make sense…
Over the years I have enjoyed my friend’s photos of the 4th of July celebrations in her small New Hampshire town, but yesterday I got to enjoy the day in person. It was as charming as I had expected, with the vendors and town barbecue on the grounds of Proctor Academy, where two of her grandchildren are students, and, of course, the parade. To know that this sort of celebration was taking place in small towns across America was heartwarming. Lots of smiles and red, white, and blue…
I looked up that phrase to make sure it’s a real thing, and it is. A Southern expression of amazement. But I’m no longer down south, where I hear it’s extra toasty weather, and the last five miles of my pilgrimage up north had me driving down Main Street, Goshen, NY. I didn’t stop right then for photo ops, I was too close to my goal. But after visiting with my son and his family all afternoon I did run out to see if I could get some pictures of that charming town. The piano is an example of what you might find around town. Old pianos, painted whimsically, and sitting out available for playing, or just admiring. And the Goshen Town Hall used to house a two room school where Noah Webster once taught. Where would we be with out Webster’s dictionary? I might have to head back to Sweet Tymes for an ice cream cone before I leave. Coffee preferably, but I wouldn’t object to some chocolate chips in it…
When the Tampa Theatre was built in 1926, the movie studios controlled the production, distribution, and venues where their movies were played. John Eberson was the most sought after movie house designer of the times, and he pioneered the ‘atmospheric’ style, of which it was said that the Tampa Theatre was his favorite design. Movie goers were to be transported, for several hours at least, to exotic courtyards, under moonlight skies complete with stars. The theater survived the Great Depression and WW2, but by the 70s it took a monumental effort to rescue this theater from becoming a parking lot. Today the Tampa Theatre is on the National Register of Historic Places, and hosts more than 600 events each year. Tours are held several times a month and the one I attended today was quite informative and entertaining. And I learned that a silent film is scheduled to be shown on June 2nd, complete with a live orchestra. There aren’t many people with the skills to play the Wurlitzer Theatre Organ, and we were treated to a few tunes played for us today.
Even with the new camera the size of the spaces in the theater were a challenge to photograph. Even in the theater itself it’s hard to get far enough away to see it all in your viewer with the balconies overhead. The starry, starry sky effect is quite lovely, and the photos don’t do it justice. This was a fun way to spend a rainy day. Thanks to the photographer friend who suggested this as a photo op. I looked it up this morning and found I had just enough time to get myself there for the tour. Must have been meant to be!
P. S. Love the new camera!
Ybor City was founded by immigrants in the 1880s by Vincento Martinez-Ybor and other cigar manufacturers, and for the next 60 years thousands of immigrants from Cuba, Spain, and Italy made a living rolling fine cigars there. The city was unique in that it was founded and populated by immigrants, who prospered and helped grow Tampa into a bustling city in only 20 years. But the Great Depression reduced the demand for fine cigars, and by the 1970s parts of the area were completely abandoned. The area has since been deemed an historic district and 7th Avenue has become an entertainment and night club hub, and in 2008 7th Avenue in Ybor City was designated as one of the 10 best streets in America. We visited on Wednesday night for some night photo ops, and a stop at the Tampa Bay Brewing Company to fortify ourselves for the drive home. We were only a few of the people who were enjoying ourselves in Ybor City last night.
The Brooksville Raid was a Civil War skirmish that is re-enacted in Brooksville every year, and is said to be the biggest Civil War re-enactment in Florida. It recounts the landing of 240 Union troops at Bayport on July 1, 1864. Those troops then marched to Brooksville, pillaging and destroying plantations in their wake. The Confederate defenders skirmished with them, and sent to Tampa for help, but there never was an actual battle. The union troops did what damage they could and returned to Bayport and from there returned to Ft. Myers.
Charley liked to call it “the war of Northern aggression”, but then he fancied himself a southern boy. We went to the Brooksville Raid in 2013, and watched the battle but didn’t venture into the Union and Confederate camps at all. I’m not sure that we knew they were available to tour. Sunday’s photo meetup at the Brooksville Raid started when they opened the gates at 9 AM. It was to our advantage to be there so early so that we could take photographs without crowds in the background. Walking the camps went a long way to helping to imagine what a soldier’s life may have been at that time. I overheard a re-enactor explaining to another photographer that his great-grandfather had left the farm at 15 years old, and fought for all four years of the Civil War. He became a re-enactor to honor his ancestor’s service.
Once I had toured both camps, and watched the artillery demonstration there were still two hours to kill before the actual battle was going to be fought. I took pity on the dogs who would be needing to go out, so I didn’t stay for the battle itself. But I had it on good authority that the South was going to win this time. They do two re-enactments, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. I looked up the information on the raid because I was told that since the Union had won the skirmish on Saturday, the Confederacy would win on Sunday. That seemed like rewriting history until I read that I wasn’t a battle as much as a series of skirmishes. Charley was on my mind the whole time I was there. He would have been pleased to see the South prevail.