If you slide into the green, fast-moving waters at the northern tip of Clearwater Beach, you can swim just 100 feet or so to an experience called Caladesi.
The Indians once roamed this place, leaving burial mounds as their tribute. The Spanish left broken olive jars and the name, Caladesi. Cala means bayou or cove; desi may come from the Spanish desierta for deserted, uninhabited. Or perhaps desi came from a man's name, as Myrtle Betz was told as a child.
Mrs. Betz was born on Caladesi before the turn of the century. She is the one who found the old olive jars, which she said the Smithsonian Institution dated back to the 15th or 16th century.
Her father, Henry Scharrer, was a well-educated Swiss who crisscrossed North America as a young man. In 1888, he came to Tampa to buy a small boat, intending to set out for South America. While taking the boat for a trial run, he sought harbor on Caladesi during a heavy northwester.
Trapped the next day by low tide, he explored the island.
"He just fell so in love with it, he went back to Tampa and asked how he could procure the land and a lawyer told him he would have to become a naturalized citizen first of all, which he did, and he homesteaded," Mrs. Betz told three state officials in 1968, as she retraced childhood paths on the island, looking for the old homestead.
The officials taped and transcribed her story, adding it to their records in Tallahassee. And Mrs. Betz lives on quietly in Palm Harbor, without a telephone.
After her father's death in 1934, Mrs. Betz said, "I talked to different people about buying my place for a park for $15,000 and they laughed at me..."
Thirty-three years later, the state paid $2.9-million to save her 154-acre tract and the rest of the island (653 acres in all) from developers. Mrs. Betz was not the beneficiary. She'd sold her land in 1946.
Today there are just two homes on the island, built in 1970 for state park rangers and their families. The rangers, like the animals, won't bother you unless you bother them.
Peace is the essence of Caladesi. There is no bridge and there are no paved roads.
"They don't even like for us to have trucks out here," says Capt Charles H. Brannaka, who has lived on the island three years.
To the north lies Honeymoon Island, accessible now by bridge from Dunedin. Until a 1921 hurricane carved a new saltwater passage, Honeymoon formed the northern tip of Caladesi.
April 7, 1979
Mortar shell unearthed at Countryside site
CLEARWATER — An unexploded mortar round was found Friday at the site where Countryside High School is being constructed.
Police said several mortar rounds have been discovered at the site, which apparently was used as a firing range during World War II.
A spokesman for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Department bomb squad said a technician from that office was dispatched to the scene. He said the round would be taken to MacDill Air Force Base and destroyed.
April 4, 1927
Much interest in
deep sea fishing now
CLEARWATER — Great interest is being displayed in the deep sea fishing business from Clearwater at this time.
At least one smack has been fitted out for voyages to the snapper banks, and others are in prospect. The smack Anastasis came in on Saturday from the Dry Tortugas with more than 4,000 pounds of red snapper and sea bass and discharged at the dock of the Gulf Seafood Company, where most of the catch was packed for northern markets. The Anastasis is preparing for another trip.