Here is a one minute break from the cold. Hope all are warm and safe as Ion flexes its muscle by messing with our thermometers.
I can truthfully say that some of my best childhood memories occurred in that small town. Of course 64 years ago, Key West was a different place than it is today. It had few tourists, a huge Navy presence and was not nearly as commercial as it is today.
As a child, I rode my pony on the beaches, swam in the clear waters and hand line fished from a row boat where a catch of 20 Grunts and Yellowtail in an hour was normal. I enjoyed my only era of being "most popular" (I peaked early), and fell in love with my first "steady beau" as only a 10 year old can. It was an idyllic life for a youngster.
Key West is no longer that childhood paradise as those of you who have visited the town know. It has turned into a carnival town but beneath all the tourist trappings, I still saw glimmers of my happy past.
|I spent many happy hours on that porch.|
We visited my grandmother's house where I lived as a child. I had hoped to be able to go inside but no one was home. Interestingly, my grandmother sold that home for $12,000. The last time it sold on the market, it garnered over 800 thousand dollars. My grandmother had rented the upstairs apartment to Ernest Hemingway while his home was being worked on which adds a bit to its historical value.
Click on this link if you want to see what that ridiculous amount of money will get you in Key West today. Not a whole lot. You are buying location. Oh if we only had foresight.
We parked at my old home and walked to Duval Street, the main street of Key West. That street is the lure for most tourists.That is where the shops beckon and the unusual gather.
Not long into our walk, we saw a performer, carrying his costume,and staggering down the street. He was either stoned or bombed and it was well before noon.
Right in front of me, he dropped his purse and his boa was precarious. I felt badly for him and was going to pick his purse up for him but a closer look made me stop. He was teetering badly. Drunks are protected from harm when they fall-- old ladies are not, especially if the drunks land on top of them. I was coming off a bad back and didn't want to be smushed by a tall dude, so I pulled back, unwilling to test his balance.
We left him teetering and went into a store. When we came out,he was sitting upright on the sidewalk, leaning against a pole. He was stony eyed but now had all his paraphernalia in hand. Not sure if he was helped down by someone strong or fell down but his problem was solved. He seemed content to enjoy his hallucinations from that view point. We moved on.
I was delighted to find that Key West, like Hawaii, has free roaming chickens.
We had an amazing lunch at a French cafe. My niece Jill had instructed her Mom to buy lunch for me while in Key West. The meal was so good that I have tried to and darn near succeeded to repeat that same dish here at home.
William became Florida's first millionaire, if not by the most honorable of means.
Among other things, he got his start as a "wrecker". Key West was, in the early days, a huge port of entry for the US. Wreckers were those who came to the aid of ships that had run aground on the many reefs surrounding the keys and claimed salvage. This "salvage" resulted in their being rewarded with as much as 50% of the ships cargo, a very lucrative pursuit . Family legend is that William knew when and where they would wreck as he hired the boat captains to deliberately run them aground on the reefs surrounding the keys. True or not, history has forgiven him.
A favorite wrecking legend my mother loved to tell involved a minister who was conducting a sunrise service on the beach. The minister saw a ship floundering on a reef and quickly said,"We shall all bow our heads in prayer." As all bowed their heads, the minister jumped into boat and sped towards the ship to claim
salvage. It was that lucrative.
Sadly, William's millions didn't make it as far as my generation. My mother, as a young woman, was the last to enjoy any part of his wealth.
We ended our day around sunset at Mallory Pier where the sword swallowers, tight rope walkers, jugglers, trained cats, etc gather to perform. By then, we were pretty worn out and called it a day. My quest was satisfied.
I can only say my trip "home" to Key West was a huge success. Childhood was revisited, sights that invoked warm memories flooded my heart, all the while being accompanied by fun and willing companions. Thank you Charlene and Jan, you went above and beyond.
Did you ever go "home" again?? Was it a happy occasion or a disappointment?