George L. Ball
Memories and Thoughts
Chapter 6

My Traveling Years

- A Rolling Ball Gathers No Moss

Travel

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 relatives.

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 Quad]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 time.

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 business.

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 spilling it.

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.

© 1996, 1997, 1998 George L. Ball

======= to be continued as George gets to it =========

============== 12/01/96 - 01/12/98========================

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