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History repeats, book doesn't

In 1979, a group of dedicated residents produced an affectionate memoir of local lore called the History of Keystone Odessa and Citrus Park.

The 66-page, softcover book was a hit, selling 2,000 copies and rekindling countless memories.

Owners of Volume I will hardly recognize Volume II.

The latest edition, which became available June 9, is three times the size and explores history barely touched by the first project.

The area's black community gets a full accounting, as do local businesses.

And the old has grown some whiskers, making room for home-spun stories about the development phenomenon that has profoundly redrawn the map of northwest Hillsborough County.

A quarter-century ago the Suncoast Parkway and Veterans Expressway were pipe dreams. Keystone Park, Ed Radice Park and other public spaces now offer recreational possibilities for thousands who didn't even live in northwest Hillsborough.

With so many new inhabitants, sales this time around should just about double prior figures, said Editor-in-Chief Henry Binder, a former accountant with a nose for history..

"When we put out the first book there was only one mail route in Odessa," he said during an interview at his heavily wooded home, invaded on one side by a subdivision. "There were maybe 500 to 600 families. So what does that tell ya?"

The release is not without a note of sadness for Binder. Most of the original core group have died, including A. John Kaunus, whose black-and-white illustrations livened up the first edition.

But the buzz is overwhelmingly positive. For University of South Florida political science professor Susan MacManus, who has not read either volume, the new book underscores a promising trend toward chronicaling local history.

With her mother, Elizabeth Riegler MacManus, she put out a like-minded book four years ago titled Sawmills, Citrus, Critters & Crackers: Life in Early Lutz and Central Pasco County.

The first 1,000 copies have sold out and more than half of a second batch of 500 are gone, according to the publisher, the University of Tampa Press.

"I think there's a whole movement nationwide to make history come alive," said MacManus, who lives in Lutz. "Every time my mother and I go out and talk about our book, it's really mind-boggling the excitement with which people receive these local histories."

A bit sheepishly, Binder said this edition, like the last one, came in past deadline.

The original release of Volume I was planned around the U.S. Bicentennial. It hit the presses three years late.

The Keystone Odessa Citrus Park Historical Society, which oversaw the project, wanted Volume II to be available for the country's 225th anniversary. Although they began their research in 1999, the group could not meet that goal, he said.

Compiling the information was a challenge.

For one thing, not everyone writes everything down as does Binder, whose system of daily schedules resembles that of U.S. Sen. Bob Graham. He knew when the Austin Davis Library was dedicated by referencing one of his notebooks.

And people weren't always eager to talk, said Ethel Nix, a historical society board member and longtime resident of Keystone's remaining black community on Peterson Road.

When she arrived from Georgia, the granddaughter of a freed slave, some of the families had also experienced slavery firsthand, she said.

She said she had to goad people, but they finally opened up. Volume II describes the bittersweet existence of local blacks, some of whom were given land below N Mobley Road. They made the best of it, account after account says.

Just off Race Track Road, James Walker opened up a 15-room motel and resort in 1963 that provided a country getaway for black people kept out of white-owned facilities. And according to the book, black bathers banned from public beaches flocked to Callie Allen's property along Lake Pretty.

"These people have been here for years," said Nix, a Georgia native and a former bus driver for Hillsborough County's segregated schools. "It wouldn't have made sense for the history book to come out without their history."

"We forget a lot," she said. "You don't know where you come from, you don't know where you're going."

The new edition is making waves, Binder said. The first batch of 500 already sold out. Another 500 was supposed to be ready this week.

They are available for $12 at 3 locations: First Citrus Bank at 13850 Sheldon Road (926-5588), Citrus Park Computers at 7512 Ehrlich Road (926-9672) and Upper Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce at 7510 Ehrlich Road (920-3007).

_ Josh Zimmer covers Keystone/Odessa, University North and Citrus Park. He can be reached at 269-5314 or