PALM HARBOR — It's now called Indian Bluff Island, but when they were kids, Evelyn and Joanna Buchanan Sutton lived on what they called Buchanan Island. Their summers were spent barefoot, running along the shore of Boggy Bayou. They'd take a rowboat to school on the mainland.
And when they grew up, the sisters were so close, they married brothers who were fellow classmates at Tarpon Springs High.
On Saturday, Evelyn and Joanna, both now in their 90s, will be guests of honor at a tea at the North Pinellas Historical Museum. The program, a fundraiser for the Palm Harbor Historical Society, will also include other members of the Buchanan family, including Evelyn's daughters Lori Johnson and Greta Williamson and son Gene Sutton.
Other guests will include Tom Rose, author of Indian Bluff Island Was Buchanan Island: A Century of Wall Springs and Florida History; Pinellas County Commissioner Susan Latvala, an Indian Bluff resident; Kim Pulli, the current president of the Historical Society; Sallie Parks, a former county commissioner and immediate past president of the Historical Society; and Colin Bissett, who was hired in January as an executive consultant for the museum.
The tea is not only a fundraiser for the Historical Society but a good chance for people "to visit the museum and hear firsthand accounts of what life was like in the early days of Palm Harbor,'' said Terry Fortner, a member of the Historical Society board of directors.
"An event like this is so much a part of the museum's mission. We see it as a celebration of our history,'' said Fortner, whose grandmother, Myrtle Scharrer Betz, grew up on Caladesi Island. "It's a chance for distant family members and old friends to meet, or, in many instances re-meet each other, and move forward with a new sense of connection.''
The gathering will also be a chance for the community to be introduced to Bissett, whose experience includes stints as executive director of the Mahaffey Theater Foundation in St. Petersburg as well as director of the Largo Cultural Center, a position he held from 2004 through 2009. His wife, George Ann Bissett, is the executive director of the Dunedin Fine Arts Center.
"I think there is a certain responsibility we have of preserving the past for future generations. We need to get younger people involved in this,'' said Bissett, who has already launched a strategic marketing plan. A few weeks ago, he mailed out surveys to members of the community asking for feedback on museum operations.
Fortner sees the program Saturday as well as the hiring of Bissett as "a new phase for the museum.''
"A few years ago, we lost a major force, museum director Winona Jones. It's taken us a while to gather our strength and now, we're going to take off.''
Piper Castillo can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4163. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.