My Traveling Years
- A Rolling Ball Gathers No Moss
Travel is one thing that I've always enjoyed. Indeed at times it has its
hassles but for the most part it is enjoyable. For me it was always a
learning experience. Usually very positive, now and then the learning was
to not go back to the place visited. That, however, was very unusual indeed.
My travel started before I had any say in when or where I was going. That
was with my family and, as discussed earlier, included many trips to
Pass-A-Grille Beach Florida. Those trips, I learned later, were all to visit
I finally realized the difference on a trip with the "TWA", an
anglisized version of the French trois, as we called ourselves. This included myself,
Kathy, and Lauvon. (This was changed to The QUAD in later years with the addition of Audrey.
The TWA & QUAD Reunited in 1997.)
On this trip it was the first time that I ever stayed in a Motel on the Beach in Florida without family.
It was in Daytona Beach, Florida. It was a little time after Spring Break to take
advantage of the better rates- all arranged by Lauvon and Kathy who agreed to let me come along.
I found that vacationing in Florida was
great. I was in charge of making sure that we partied every night. We were
really into dancing then and managed to hit just about every dive on the strip.
That was back when you could drive down the beach at any time of day or night
at no charge (times have changed- now there is a fee and you have to be off
the beach at night). Ever to be remembered was the drive down the beach at
about 4:00AM after our third or fourth night of dancing when Kathy said:
"I didn't know I'd gone to a $&%^#@ dance marathon". Regardless, she was
back out again the next night.
Lauvon was in charge of getting the towels out
on the lounge chairs in the morning (she was an early riser) so we had
prime positions for laying in the sun. I think this is when we got our rest
so we could stay up all night. Out "TWA" group did Daytona Beach a few times
and also Myrtle Beach. Back then Myrtle Beach didn't have quite the night
life, but we still had a great time.
A lot of my travel when I was younger was associated with the cattle business.
I'm sure it thrilled my Mother no end, but it did get us around the country,
mainly within 300 miles of Pittsburgh. It is my recollection also that much
of our travel was in the winter time (at least not prime time). We visited
Atlantic City at about the time the Polar Bear Club was doing it's thing.
We did make it to places like Niagara Falls (to which I've returned a number
of times), Lake Erie (but I don't remember ever going into or on the water),
the mountains of Pennsylvania (to look at cattle or to relieve my Dad's
arthritus in his ankles).
The trips to Florida included a number of memories. This was in the days
before the Interstates. From Pittsburgh we took the Pennsylvania Turnpike starting
at Irwin to Breezewood and headed south. We, of course, made stops at
Howard Johnsons along the way to sample one of the 28 ice cream flavors.
I'm not sure of the route number from Breezewood, but I know it went
through Roanoke, Virginia. That was where we stayed overnight on each trip.
My recollection of Roanoke was having dinner in an elegant dining room. I
always had pheasant under glass. It really was under glass and I loved it.
I hate to think how much it cost, but I'm sure that I never left a bite.
Our second night was somewhere in North or South Carolina. I believe it was
Greenville, SC. My main memory of that was having grits with the breakfast
in the morning. I also remember some of the signs which allowed only whites
to go into certain restrooms. That seemed real strange to me at the
In the early days of going to the St. Petersburg area there was no bridge
between St. Pete and Sarasota. You either had to drive way around through
Tampa via the Gandy Bridge (it was rickety and long) or take a ferry boat
across the Tampa Bay. The attraction in Sarasota was the winter home of the
Ringling Bros. circus.
On one of our trips my Dad said that we were finally
going to see the circus and we're taking the ferry. We got up early that
morning (I assume- Hell, I can't remember that detail) got on the ferry and
headed for Sarasota. It seemed like an awful long time that we were on the
boat and it was exciting going across the bay. We finally got there and
headed for the Circus. Well, we got there, but by the time we did you couldn't get
in any longer. So, again I'm guessing- but I know my Dad, we stopped and
ate. Then headed back the long way by land. I'm not sure we ever made that
trip again until there was a bridge (The Skyway) across the bay.
Another vivid memory of our arrivals in St. Pete was that the car went right
to the Frozen Custard stand (Winn's) before we stopped at any relatives. We
all had the frozen custard, usually coconut flavor. Needless to say during
our visit we usually made it back a time or two.
With most of my travels I include food as a significant part of the travel
experience. I was well trained by my Mother and Dad. While on the St. Pete
area I'll make note of a few eating places, some of which still are in
One that is still in business and still is one of my favored places
in the St. Pete area is Ted Peters. It's actually in the small suburb of
Pasadena. Ted Peters specialized in smoked fish, which at that time
you could ship back up North. They have a smoked fish spread which I like,
but my primary interest at Ted Peters is their quarter pound cheeseburgers
with a big slice of onion and mustard. I'm drooling as I write this. I
washed the burger down with a root beer in a frozen mug. You can still get
that today (I think they're closed on Tuesdays).
In the early days
Ted Peter's Mother made home made pies. One that I loved and have never found
anywhere else is mincemeat pie made with real beef. Just last year I
finally met Ted Peters at a local sing-a-long pub at the beach. I told
him how much I had enjoyed his restaurant over the years. It turns out that
I had been going there ever since its inception.
In the early days we went to downtown St. Pete and the Garden Cafeteria. I remember
the great broiled Red Snapper. That's back when snapper was a big fish and
you got big fillets like the grouper of today. One thing I remember also is
that there were people there to carry your tray to the table- kept us from
Another dining experience was in Tampa (Ybor City) at the Columbia. There
was (and I believe still is) actually 4 or 5 restaurants. They started at the
corner with a Cuban sandwich shop and got progressively fancier as you
moved down the street. The fifth restaurant was quite fancy and my Mother and
Dad loved to go there. After you were seated a pillow was placed under
each of the ladies feet for a start and it went uphill from there.
My most vivid memories are of Pusse Cafe's (7 or more various colored liquers layered in
a glass) and Pompano Papilatte (Pompano baked in parchment). I also remember
my Dad, chemist that he was, trying to duplicate the Pusse Cafe. He did this
by taking a number of liquers and diluting them with vodka to adjust their
specific gravity. I don't remember him ever getting more than three stripes.
Finally, at that time the best fish sandwiches in St. Pete were at Pass-A-Grille Beach
at the Seahorse or the Hurricane. That was in the days that the
fishing boats left from Hubbards Pier and returned full of fish. I'm sure
these restaurants used the fish right off the boat, usually snapper or
grouper fried or broiled to perfection. Today the Hurricane has grown into a
big restaurant, still on the beach.
Since we went there as a family most of our entertainment was during the day
at the beach or eating. One major exception was Lenny Dee. Lenny Dee put
on a great show. He played the organ, that had a lighted keyboard, and
told funny stories and jokes. I've seen him many times over the years and even though
many of the stories haven't changed they still make me laugh. He especially
made fun of the "old retired folks" aspect of St. Pete. I guess I never
expected to be one, but that may have changed.
Lenny had a poodle dog that was
always with him and he had a tape recorder that allowed him to play back his
singing interactively with himself (what he could do with todays technology).
Mule Train was always one of my favorite routines. He shot a gun, cracked
a whip, played the organ, sang, and just plain carried on. We first saw him
at the Desert Inn on the Beach. He moved around over the years, having his
own club at Dolphin Village and eventually up in Treasure Island. The last I
heard, he was playing weekends on Tierra Verde.
Now and then I mention Lenny Dee's name and people look at me with a puzzled
face. I've come to expect that, even though he has recorded numerous albums.
As I understood it he would go to Nashville almost every year and record with
a "Nashville" background. In his show he would use the background tapes while
he played the organ. Most people would call Lenny's music elevator music, so
whereas they may not know the name they would probably recognize the music. He
had at least one hit that I remember. It was called Patricia. A bit of
trivia is that this is the music that Phil Donahue used for his opening and
closing theme for years. The reason he did was that his producer's name was
Patricia. See if you can make a buck in some bar over that.
My Mother eventually moved to St. Pete Beach after my Father died so we continued
to travel there for the holidays. We had a lot of good home cooking and
frequented the Pass-A-Grille Yatch Club. Again we must have been social members
because I know we never owned a boat. My Mother had her grand piano and an
organ in her house. I usually worked out one song on the organ by using
the numbered starters book.
When my son Craig was in grade school he learned
to play the violin. He started in September and that December my mother
accompanied him on the piano. I was amazed that I never heard him squeek the
violin. Craig has the picture I took of that little concert. A dear friend of
my parents Bill & Betty Sellers were also into music, so much so that he played in bands.
She played the violin. Every now and then he would bring his drum set to my
Mothers house so I got a chance to play along with her.
We still get back to St. Petersburg Beach since my sister Sandy lives in the area.