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'Heaviest rain since Spanish-American War' falls on Tampa Bay area 100 years ago

Smoke billows from a large fire at McCrory’s in St. Petersburg’s Central Plaza on July 3, 1959.

Graber collection (1959)

Smoke billows from a large fire at McCrory’s in St. Petersburg’s Central Plaza on July 3, 1959.

This week in history

From the pages of the St. Petersburg Times and Evening Independent.

100 years ago | 1909

June 29: "The low places are ponds." Eight to 10 inches of rain flooded businesses and homes. The rain continued for several days, weakening the Brooker Creek Bridge and adding to the beaches as soil washed down to the bay and into the shipping channels. Water knocked out the electric light plant for several days, and 75 telephones were still silent on July 4. "Some say it was the heaviest rain since the Spanish-American War."

July 4: Since it came on a Sunday, there were few official observances of Independence Day in 1909. No fireworks were heard Sunday, a few on July 5.

75 years ago | 1934

June 29: Charles Eldridge, the city's oldest resident, celebrated his 103rd birthday with 36 of his closest friends and members of the Three-Quarter Century Club at Pass-a-Grille in a combined fishing, boating and swimming party. His advice: 1. Eat what you like; 2. Be moderate in everything; 3. Exercise; 4. Avoid cold climates after 50; 5. Forget your age.

July 1: The city's first Vacation Assembly opened. Designed to encourage summer tourism, recreational and educational programs were planned for each day in July. Events included classes at the Y, sightseeing trips, sporting events and tournaments, concerts, supervised playground days, club events, forums and religious programs.

50 years ago | 1959

July 2: "The bikini bathing suit — long the goggling admiration of most American males but until this year seldom worn by American females — received a semi-official stamp of approval . . . from St. Petersburg police. A wary husband . . . whose bikini-adorned wife was heading for the beach, stopped a policeman to ask if bikinis were permitted in public. The cautious policeman checked with his sergeant, who said the bikini was legal unless it violated the city's indecent exposure ordinance. The lady's bikini, the policeman observed, did not violate the ordinance."

July 3: "St. Petersburg's most disastrous fire" raged through McCrory's department store in Central Plaza, causing $500,000 in damage and injuring five of the 100 firefighters who fought the four-hour blaze.

25 years ago | 1984

July 2: Bay Pines National Cemetery reopened for burials after 20 years. Workers removed shrubbery between the two sections of 4,200 graves to make room for an additional 1,400 grave sites.

July 3: "Once the darling of the travel industry," Air Florida grounded its jets and filed for Chapter 11 protection from its "legion of creditors." The Miami-based carrier had lost more than $134 million in the previous three years. All 1,200 employees were "terminated." Several hundred ticket holders were stranded.

On sale now

To order Tampa Bay Through the Times, a history of the bay area with more than 500 photos and images of historical front pages from the St. Petersburg Times, go to www.tampabay.com/store.

'Heaviest rain since Spanish-American War' falls on Tampa Bay area 100 years ago 06/30/09 [Last modified: Monday, July 6, 2009 11:55am]
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