Tom Petty performing in 2010. Courtesy of Flickr/Musicisentropy.
During the ’60s and ’70s, Gainesville created a musical environment that was both exciting and highly productive. The musicians who were a part of it have contributed greatly to the history of rock ‘n’ roll, with total record sales in the hundreds of millions. In addition to that free-falling blond guy who won’t back down are several others who also lived here and took every opportunity to develop their musical skills and perform in front of an audience. Eight musicians with musical roots in Gainesville in the ’60s and ’70s have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Stephen Stills (Crosby, Stills and Nash; Buffalo Springfield), Don Felder and Bernie Leadon (the Eagles), and the original lineup of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers — Tom, Mike Campbell, Stan Lynch, Benmont Tench and Ron Blair. That’s a remarkable showing for a small college town.
On September 19, 1559, a devastating hurricane made landfall at what is today Pensacola, Florida. Spanish explorer Tristán de Luna y Arellano described the storm in a letter dated a few days afterward. “There came up from the north a fierce tempest, which, blowing for twenty-four hours from all directions until the same hour as it began, without stopping, but increasing continuously, did irreparable damage to the ships of the fleet.” Luna sent it to his patron, Philip II, King of Spain, via one of the surviving ships. The storm scored a direct hit to the month-old settlement and decimated their food supply. Through letters, cargo lists, and other written accounts, much has been documented about this first European-led settlement in North America. But physical evidence had proved elusive until recently. In late 2015, a local archaeology enthusiast named Tom Garner discovered pottery fragments on a residential construction site in Pensacola. Construction stopped, and archaeologists from nearby University of West Florida (UWF) examined the findings. Based on the markings and materials, they dated the potsherds to the mid-1500s. The following summer, the UWF Archaeology Institute organized a field school, where students and professors helped excavate the construction site and created a working map of the area. During the second field school this summer, students will excavate land and underwater sites, where they believe one of the settlement ships rests.
It was July in Florida, when even the mornings are punishing. Just when you think it can get no hotter, invariably it does. By noon, the dew had burned off, leaving only ubiquitous white light and broiling, pulsating heat. The parking lot at Silver Springs State Park was mostly empty. Reasonable people would be heading for a body of water where, unlike Silver Springs, swimming is permitted. There were a handful of families scattered across the blacktop, applying sunscreen and cinching down rations, looking morose, like little platoons preparing for battle. Some children went willingly, others were being frog-marched. Dead center at the park’s entrance stood a sandwich board — SAFETY ADVISORY: RHESUS MACAQUES CAN BE FOUND IN THIS PARK, followed by a bulleted list of proscriptions. At the bottom, in red lettering, was this declaration: DO NOT APPROACH OR FEED RHESUS MONKEYS. Just days earlier, there had been a widely publicized spate of altercations between the monkeys and some patrons. A preteen armed with only his smartphone and a nascent eye for drama had captured and narrated the whole ordeal. It had gone viral on YouTube overnight under the title “Monkey Attack!!! Silver Springs State Park Florida.” The location represented in the video — the Sea Hunt Deck, named after the television show starring Lloyd Bridges filmed at Silver Springs in the late ’50s — was shut down indefinitely.
Bowls. Those were Celerie Kemble’s earliest South Dixie Highway obsession. “I remember getting dragged from shop to shop by my mother, being told not to break anything,” Kemble says. “I went straight for the candy bowls.” Though she was surrounded by gilt mirrors, chandeliers, and Chippendale chairs, at the time, Brach’s caramels were the real treasure. These days, the New York–based, Palm Beach–reared Kemble—who partners with her mother, Mimi McMakin, in Kemble Interiors—has made a name for herself as a designer of high-profile residences and private clubs in New York, Palm Beach, and points beyond. A risk taker with a flair for originality, Kemble still descends on the cluster of West Palm Beach shops fronting South Dixie Highway, a Florida stretch of U.S. Route 1, as often as possible.
“Who am I?” is a universal question asked for centuries by people around the world searching for their identities. Native Miamians Patricia Jennings Braynon and Marvin Elliott Ellis are among those with a passion for discovering the past. They began their searches with archival records including obituaries, souvenir programs, and online databases. In celebration of American Archives Month, Braynon and Ellis presented their findings in “A Genealogy Talk” on Oct. 14 at The Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater Cultural Arts Complex. Entertaining and informative, each told stories of surprises and disappointments they found looking through boxes and online for information about their family histories.
City Hall has agreed to return a long-lost honor to the memory of Fortune Taylor, a freed slave who amassed more than 30 acres near downtown Tampa after the Civil War. “A woman who history has forgotten,” said resident Gloria Jean Royster, who encouraged the City Council to restore Taylor’s name to what is now the Laurel Street bridge. In response, the council voted Thursday to take down two signs along the Riverwalk that identify the 91-year-old structure as the Laurel Street bridge. In their place will go two signs naming the bridge as the Fortune Taylor Bridge. Council members said someone also should put up a historical marker telling Taylor’s story. A former slave, Fortune Taylor ran a successful business selling baked goods and married her longtime partner, Benjamin Taylor, in 1866. A woman with presence, she was known to neighbors as Madame Fortune Taylor.
Florida Frontiers is the name of this column. It’s also the name of a public radio program, podcast, and public television series produced by the Florida Historical Society. In all its forms, Florida Frontiers celebrates the diverse history and culture of our state. The second annual Florida Frontiers Festival will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday on the grounds of the Brevard Museum of History and Natural Science, 2201 Michigan Ave., in Cocoa. The event will feature Florida music, demonstrations including Highwayman artist R.L. Lewis, vendors, food, a beer garden, and a children’s area with a “bouncy house” and games. Admission includes entrance to the museum, featuring permanent exhibits from the Ice Age to the Space Age, and the touring exhibition “Florida Before Statehood.”