1. Archive

News clippings open portal to past

She does not know her way around the city, and until October, she had never heard of Oldsmar.

But Connie Reynolds now knows enough of the city's historical tidbits to fill a small museum. She has spent the past six months clipping about 35 boxes full of newspaper articles about Oldsmar published from 1919 to 1978.

"This has been really, really interesting," said Reynolds, 76, a Dunedin resident who works in City Hall through the Senior Community Service Employment Program sponsored by AARP. "The more you read, the more you get to know about the town."

Reynolds, who started working for the city clerk's office in October, spends most of her time in the corner of the second-floor office cutting away. The clippings will be preserved, probably on microfilm or in a scrapbook, City Clerk Lisa Lene said.

"We have to assess how we will put them together," Lene said. "They will be on display, and I think a lot of people will be interested in them."

The clips should be ready in about three months.

In the meantime, this gold mine of Oldsmar history will be enjoyed mostly by Reynolds.

"It's terrific," Reynolds said. "It's a shame that everybody doesn't get to read them."

The clippings, which come from two weekly newspapers, the Oldsmar Journal and the Safety Harbor Herald, are brown and tattered. Some are so aged that they disintegrated when Reynolds touched them.

Most of the clippings were salvaged, and they offer an insightful look at the city.

An advertisement that ran July 4, 1919, by the Oldsmar Tractor Co. for its $300 tractor boasts that it "Works when a mule won't. Eats only when it is working."

One article documented the first telegraph message sent out of Oldsmar. H.C. Clayton, who owned the building where the Postal Telegraph Co. had its office, had the honors.

He messaged Ransom Eli Olds, the city's founder and developer of the Oldsmobile, who was in Lansing, Mich., to tell him of the new telegraph. It took a few moments, but Olds replied, congratulating Clayton on the new service.

Another advertisement Nov. 9, 1919, read: "Oldsmar is on Tampa Bay, Fifteen Miles West of Tampa on a First-class Paved Road."

"They were real proud of their paved road," Reynolds said.

Olds bought about 37,500 acres in 1917 and started selling tracts of the land.

According to an advertisement, "farm locations" sold for $50 to $100 an acre, "choice winter homesites on seashore" went for $200 an acre, and town lots, 50 feet wide, sold for $500 and up.

But buyers could take advantage of a 5 percent cash discount, the advertisement said.

The newspapers were saved by Bud Lister, 83, who has lived in Oldsmar since 1930. He was the city's historian until about two years ago when he fell ill. Lister gave the newspapers to Mayor Jerry Beverland.

Lister also passed on his love of history.

"It is important to keep the history and to know what went on," Lister said. "If you don't know what you did wrong, you'll do it again."

The newspapers were stored in the attic of the old library across from City Hall. When the library was remodeled in 1989, some newspapers were thrown away.

But Lister and Beverland were able to save most of them.

"Some of those articles are just unbelievable," Beverland said. "If you don't know your history, then you can't know your future."

Most of the earlier articles and advertisements promoted the city's growth. One article described a "rip-snorting celebration on the Fourth of July." And one article described the city as a "new town with the new pep."

A 1919 advertisement for land described Oldsmar as a "prosperous town where people can be happy, healthy, make money and enjoy life."

But Reynolds has a much simpler description of Oldsmar.

"It's very, very nice," Reynolds said. "I sort of like it."