1. Archive

Public works technician leaves mark

The mayor or manager, the police chief, even the guy running a city's recreation program would all make interesting subjects for a reporter scrounging around city hall. But a design drafting technician in the Engineering Division of the Public Works Department? Forget it _ unless, perhaps, it's Alice Bush, who just retired from the city of Clearwater after 34 years of service.

She did her share of designing or drawing others' plans for "millions and millions of dollars worth" of streets and storm sewers. But she also designed city parking lots to save trees, drew crime scenes after some of Clearwater's goriest murders and even designed the Clearwater Pass Bridge tokens, the symbolic key to the city and the certificates of appreciation presented by the city to its employees and others.

It has been an interesting job, preceded by an equally interesting one at the federal level where Alice claims the distinction of being the first civil service employee to work in the new Pentagon building. Only one corner of it was completed; in fact, she had to walk up a plank to get inside because the steps were not ready.

In January 1942 Alice was assigned to the Pentagon before her co-workers so she could check in their office furniture as it was moved from the Social Security Building.

Another of her tasks during World War II was to draw a cross-section of the inside of an incendiary bomb that had been dropped on London but had not exploded.

Her work in Clearwater may not have been quite that exciting, but came close when the police began summoning her to crime scenes so prosecutors would be able to show jurors enlarged floor plans.

In later years the police would secure the scene and then call Alice in the next day. But at first they believed she needed to be called immediately. She was called once after having just fallen into bed exhausted upon returning from Europe and again on a Sunday afternoon to the bloody scene of a butcher-knife murder.

An elderly woman, Alice recalled, had stabbed her husband in bed, but there were bloody fingerprints on the walls indicating where he had staggered around the house before dying in the kitchen.

One of her proudest accomplishments was designing the parking lot between Maas Brothers and the city library downtown to save numerous trees. "I was forever saving trees," she said of that and other design work.

Some of Alice's ideas never caught on. On her own, she designed a complex for the land west of City Hall that included a convention center on Smith's Finger, where the Pierce 100 high-rise is now, and a hotel about where the tennis courts are. She said the city's decision-makers were just as shortsighted about that as when they lost the chance to buy much of undeveloped Sand Key.

She came back from Geneva, Switzerland, after seeing its beautiful water jets, which shoot water 300 feet into the air. She proposed the same for Clearwater Harbor. City Manager Merrett Stierheim liked the idea, but when she asked about it, he said, "Some people just haven't any vision."

Alice's husband is deceased, and she lives with her daughter, Gretchen, who works for the Clearwater Public Library. They have traveled abroad for the past 17 years, visiting more than 50 countries including Norway (five times, because that is her parents' native land), China (twice), India, Australia and the Soviet Union. "We might go to Antarctica next," she said.