ST. PETERSBURG — For a few decades, 22nd Street S offered all the amenities available to white people downtown.
At its peak in the early 1960s, more than 100 businesses crowded "the Deuces," or 22nd Street S between Fifth and 15th avenues, including auto repair shops, hair salons, doctor and lawyer offices, grocers and cobblers, real estate hubs, car dealers, funeral homes and a theater....
CLEARWATER — For nearly 30 years, the Old New York, New York Niteclub drew a loyal clientele of transplants and Florida natives, seasonal visitors and drivers who just happened to notice its apple-shaped sign on U.S. 19 N.
Behind the bar with which he was one (he called it "my wood"), John McMahon drew from the well of an elephantine memory. He remembered names and the drinks that went with them. He could compete with whoever was playing Jeopardy on television or tell you who won the 1951 World Series (the New York Yankees)....
CLEARWATER — Charles Rutledge built his edifice for equality the same way he built his homes: block by block. A member of a well-known family in Clearwater's African-American community, Mr. Rutledge learned early to push for what you want, remain firm and don't back down.
In 1964, Mr. Rutledge and five other African-American parents sued the Pinellas School Board. Their federal case, Leon W. Bradley Jr. vs. the Board of Public Instruction of Pinellas County, led to the desegregation of Pinellas schools....
04/07/14 Human Interest
ST. PETERSBURG — His error turned him from an innocuous desk clerk on the graveyard shift into the star of a News of the Weird item.
In the predawn hours of April 2, police say, Ronald Benjamin mistook the body of a 96-year-old woman who had jumped 16 floors to her death for a department store mannequin.
Benjamin, 61, told police he thought someone was playing an April Fools' joke. Later, he enlisted a mother and son who were delivering newspapers to help him heave the body into a Dumpster....
CLEARWATER — His name is stamped on dozens of plaques and certificates that now cover multiple walls of his house. James C. Goss had served as president of the boards of the Johnnie Ruth Clarke Health Center and of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast. The governor of Kentucky had appointed Dr. Goss to the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels.
Dr. Goss had earned a doctorate and served as an associate dean of St. Petersburg Junior College (now St. Petersburg College). He had been inducted into the Kentucky State University Basketball Hall of Fame....
04/04/14 Human Interest
ST. PETERSBURG — Since the 1980s, Nancy Yates had charmed neighbors at the Peterborough Apartments with her British accent and steely independence.
The woman they knew simply as Nan had started the library at the complex, which caters to seniors, and seemed highly alert despite being one of the building's oldest residents at 96. Though hospitalized at least twice in recent months, she had bounced back, working out in the gym of the city's Sunshine Center across the street....
TAMPA — Theo Wujcik kept odd hours, often closing down the Castle in Ybor City and returning to his studio across the street, where he would paint until daybreak.
His work could not be categorized as pop or realist or abstract, though it contained those elements and more.
Nor did Mr. Wujcik himself fit into any genre. He turned 21 when Elvis Presley's All Shook Up topped the charts, yet would lead a "movement" in Ybor City in the 1980s called Mododado, which combined punk rock and salvage art and dancing....
TAMPA — In the late 1960s, Shirley McKay packed her husband, her toddler and her dreams into a battered VW bug and headed for San Francisco.
They stayed a couple of years, long enough to fill a photo album with their new friends, guys wearing berets and earth-toned sweaters, playing chess.
"These cool young people, at an amazing time," said her son, Todd McKay. "Trying to figure out who they were and what they were all doing."...
ST. PETERSBURG — When he sat down for a biographical interview in 2005, Dr. Sidney Grau was 87.
The interview, now part of the University of Florida's digital archives, traces the career of a prominent cardiologist.
"Do you know what we had to do when we had Mound Park Hospital?" Dr. Grau asked the interviewer. In the 1950s, he said, the hospital that is now Bayfront Health had only 150 or so beds, not enough to accommodate the crush of winter residents....
03/25/14 Human Interest
BOYNTON BEACH — Adam Fisk had barely tossed his bait fish in the water on Sunday when the shark hit.
One of the poles in his kayak — not the one in his hand — suddenly slammed against its holder and bent far forward.
The 22-year-old saw the shark, an 11-foot hammerhead. He grabbed the pole and settled in for a long fight.
Fisk's YouTube video, "Lone Man Gets Towed For Miles in Kayak By 11 Foot Hammerhead Shark," had gotten about 2,700 views in two days. Worried about the battery life of his head-mounted camera, he only captured a little more than 6 minutes of the ride, during which the shark pulls his kayak at a brisk pace for 8 miles....
ST. PETE BEACH — To those who lived through that time, "the Sixties" really means the late 1960s and early 1970s. That is when Woodstock defined a generation, the Beatles peaked and receded, and long hair on men seemed normal.
On St. Petersburg's Gulf beaches, one retailer — the Out of Sight! Shop — captured the essence of the time better than anyone else.
The store at 401 Corey Ave. in St. Pete Beach opened in 1968. Co-founders Newt Simmons and his wife, Anne, were both 22 and full of hope. Billed variously as a "new country store," a "psychedelic department store" and the "most incredible shop in the universe," Out of Sight! was the counterculture's Webb's City on a much smaller scale....
TAMPA — His heyday as one of the best percussionists alive lasted 20 years and encompassed dozens of the biggest names in popular music.
Joe Lala, king of the congas, played with Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, the Bee Gees, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. He played with John Lennon and Ringo Starr, Diana Ross and Barbra Streisand, Etta James, the Allman Brothers, Eric Clapton, Whitney Houston and Herbie Hancock....
ST. PETERSBURG — The Manhattan Casino, once a musical nerve center of the African-American community, had sat idle for more than 40 years.
In recent years, jazz aficionados wanted to revive the venue that had once brought the likes of B.B. King, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong to 642 22nd St. S. The casino reopened in October 2011, headlined by the Dizzy Gillespie All Stars quintet, featuring trumpeter and two-time Grammy winner Roy Hargrove....
In February 1997, seven weeks after the crash that had put him in a Tallahassee hospital, Dan Cassill stirred in bed.
An episode of Seinfeld, the high school student's favorite show, had just aired on the television in his room.
His mother, Deby Cassill, had turned off the television and hugged him good night when Mr. Cassill whispered the three most important words of his young life: "Where am I?"...
CLEARWATER — Ask any of the bailiffs, judges and lawyers who have dined at the Pinellas County Justice Center for years, or most anyone who has had lunch there while serving on a jury.
Most would likely confirm that Charlie Goodsell ran his corner of the courthouse like a chief judge. Mr. Goodsell was the chef behind the grill, the most crowded corner of the cafeteria.
Mr. Goodsell took orders two or three customers in advance. If you were anywhere near the front of the line, "You'd better be ready to spit it out," said defense attorney Richard Watts. ...