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Pinellas letters

Fatal St. Petersburg fire of 1951 was not 'spontaneous combustion'

Mystery lingers | Nov. 11

Fatal fire is really not puzzling at all

The famous case of the "cinder woman," Mary Hardy Reeser, is frequently claimed as an example of so-called "spontaneous human combustion" by credulous authors. There really is no such phenomenon. Every case of "spontaneous human combustion" where enough evidence is available shares similar traits: The victim had been drinking before falling asleep, or was a smoker, etc.

Mrs. Reeser had taken sleeping pills that evening, was a smoker, was found wearing a flammable nightgown and had been in an overstuffed chair. Also, the fire did spread more than some accounts acknowledge: An end table and nearby lamp were destroyed, and a ceiling beam had to be extinguished when firefighters arrived.

The "shrunken skull" claim isn't true either; this was based on second- and third-hand accounts. Finally, a body can burn at lower temperatures if not discovered for many hours — no 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit needed.

No, there's no "mystery" in this or any other "spontaneous human combustion" event. Just an unfortunate, deadly combination of cigarette, flammable nightclothes and sleeping pills.

Greg Simpson, St. Petersburg


Cater to clientele

Will the management at BayWalk ever listen? The Times has studied the situation there repeatedly and concluded that crime, or the perception of crime, is the major obstacle to overcome. The customers, here and nationally, have spoken too. Money is tight, and the restaurants and businesses that are excelling today are affordable. Why isn't there any recruitment of a family pub like T.G.I. Fridays at BayWalk?

The plan for BayWalk reported in the Times indicates that the emphasis is on upscale businesses and eateries and that the protesters are the main obstacle to the complex's renewal. Just what data are the management reviewing in order to conclude that St. Petersburg is bucking the national trend of "less is more"? There is a complete denial that St. Petersburg is, primarily, a middle-class town that experiences an infusion of upscale snowbirds and visitors for about four to five months. The Muvico theaters draw on this year-round local demographic crowd of about 200,000-plus annually. There seems to be no recognition that this "captive audience" would stay at BayWalk before and after the show if the management would acknowledge their level of disposable income and act on it. In other words, install businesses that are affordable to the typical St. Petersburg resident and guests.

We believe that a police ministation needs to be moved from the parking garage structure and out in the open to serve both BayWalk patrons and neighborhood residents.

The sidewalk that needs to be given to BayWalk is the promenade between the plaza and the parking garage. A full-fledged bird aviary could be installed and would draw people just to see the array of magnificent tropical birds we have in Tampa Bay.

Another trend occurring today is for gourmet takeout foods. A market/restaurant would do well at BayWalk and, as stated, some affordable family-style restaurants like a roadhouse would excel, too. What would it take to get the participatory and fun sing-along restaurant Howl at the Moon and/or Dueling Pianos at BayWalk?

Speaking of restaurants, why would they try to get a diner installed at the clothing store recently occupied by Ann Taylor instead of using the vacant restaurant, Johnny Rockets? The "build- out" to convert a clothing store to a restaurant is expensive.

From the information put forth by the Times, we just don't have much hope for a substantial renewal of our very important plaza. They are just stuck on going upscale in a primarily, and wonderful, middle-class town. Frankly, the plan lacks real imagination and creativity, and it smacks of arrogance to rid the plaza of the so-called "riff-raff."

Besides, there is no plan to create a business that caters to the youth like a state-of-the-art arcade.

Face it, the real upscale and fabulous area of town is Beach Drive, our own little "Rodeo Drive." BayWalk is a wonderful melting pot of all kinds of people from all neighborhoods in our town. It is a very important place that the powers-that-be are trying to convert to an exclusive spot that just hasn't worked in the past and will not work in the future.

Rand Moorhead and the Urban Design Consortium LLC, St. Petersburg/Detroit

Speak up for quiet

Fellow citizens of St. Petersburg:

Are you as tired of the noise as I am? Tired of the loud motorcycles screaming up and down the streets all day and all night? Tired of the boomer cars, the loud mufflers, the leaf blowers? Tired of being awakened from sound sleep? Tired of not being able to open your windows? Tired of not being able to sit on your porch? In your back yard? Tired of having a diminished quality of life because of the ill-mannered?

The City Council and new mayor are looking at quality-of-life issues right now that can have a very positive impact, but they need to know that we are fed up and need their help. Bring back peace and quiet to our neighborhoods, bring back the sounds of birds and laughter, bring back a good night's sleep.

Call the City Council at (727) 893-7117 and tell them to support the Tone Down Program, the Soft Letter Program and our noise ordinances to the fullest extent possible. Thank you.

Heidi H. Sumner, St. Petersburg

Protect the patrons

There have been numerous occasions where I have been harassed while pumping gas at local gas stations. I feel it is the owners' or management's responsibility to protect its patrons from harassment on their property.

In one incident at a Chevron on U.S. 19, a man approached my car and took the nozzle right out of my hand and began to pump my gas. As I requested him to stop he was all the while asking me to go in and purchase him beer. Finally after five minutes the manager came out and chased him away.

Today as I was pumping gas at a Citgo on U.S. 19 in St. Petersburg, a man approached me, clearly intoxicated, and asked me to give him bus fare and buy him some potato chips. He would not leave until I drove away.

These managers/owners need to make their patrons feel safe if they want us to continue to purchase their product. This is another gas station I will not frequent again.

Pam Cracchiolo, Pinellas Park

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Fatal St. Petersburg fire of 1951 was not 'spontaneous combustion' 11/17/09 [Last modified: Friday, November 20, 2009 8:33am]
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