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LARGO EXPLORER: NANCY VANWINKLE AND ROSERY ROAD

The Largo of Nancy VanWinkle's youth included roses, trains, cows and car rides on dirt roads.

From her driveway, on 11th Street NW, she still can see her childhood home, which sits two houses to the south, on Rosery Road.

"My parents built the home I grew up in around 1937, and my dad bought this property, where my husband and I live now, by cashing in U.S. savings bonds," said VanWinkle, 68. "This used to be all cow pasture, cows and dirt roads."

When she was a child, her father, Charlie Williams, rode his bike more than 15 miles to work every day.

"In the 1940s, when the gas was rationed, he needed a job, so he rode to work, as a head cook at the (Bay Pines) veterans hospital every day,'' she said. "Can you imagine that? We know it as a far drive now, but back then it was even harder to get to.''

She grew up a stone's throw from the railroad tracks, now a part of the Pinellas Trail.

"We kids loved to run down and wave at the passing trains until the engineer would wave back,'' she remembered. "I cannot even recall hearing trains at night. They were so much a part of this area, it got to where we didn't even hear them.''

While going to Largo High School, which was on Fourth Street SW, VanWinkle would help her mother, Evelyn Williams, at her hair salon, Louise's Beauty Shop, located in downtown Largo for 40 years.

In early October day 1953, as she dusted down the salon's fan outside the shop to ready it for storageduring cooler months, she saw Guery "Van" VanWinkle.

"He was cruising around downtown with his friends,'' she recalled.

They went on their first date on New Year's Day 1954, to the Gulf-to-Bay Drive Inn on Belcher Road. However, the teenagers goofed up.

"I got into a little bit of trouble with my mother that night," she said. "Now remember, we had to drive on dirt roads, and I didn't get home until after 10 p.m.

"Mother grounded me for a month, but that didn't stop us. Van came over the very next night to my house. We told my mother that she said I couldn't go out, but that didn't mean he couldn't come over.''

The only time VanWinkle moved away from Largo was for her husband, who served in the Air Force from 1955 to 1963. They married in Torrejon, Spain, in 1958 and their daughter was born in 1959 on the U.S. air base in Madrid.

"We named our daughter Benita Rose," she said. "Benita isn't common here, but I heard it often in Spain, and I just loved it.''

And how did she choose the middle name?

"Rose has always been my favorite flower,'' said VanWinkle, who also remembers when the Largo thoroughfare, Rosery, was lined with roses.

"There was a flower shop in the 1940s, just west of the railroad tracks," she said. "The owners had at least an acre of roses. They were beautiful.''

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