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By Lura Readle Scarpitti
Photo by Jack Cheney
People always seem to celebrate those 5-year anniversaries a bit more than the others. Not sure why that is, but, regardless, when this year’s July issue was on the horizon, it dawned on us that it was in July of 2013 that Castaway Publishing added Old City Life to its collection of titles — 5 years ago. What a milestone… attention needed to be paid, because, with the outstanding support of the community, we have gone from averaging 64 pages (our first issue published entirely under Castaway ownership was exactly that number) to averaging up to 124 on any given month. That increase has afforded us the opportunity to do what we love to do, and what we do best — be the storytellers of this special little corner of the world we all call “home.”
What a 5 years it’s been — 55 issues over 60 months featuring the people, the places, the history, the community, the events, the businesses, the organizations, the charities, the heart and soul of the Nation’s Oldest City. So many amazing stories. We found ourselves looking back and thought “Wouldn’t it be cool to have a section of the July issue remembering some of those that stood out over time.” So we did just that. Hopefully, the stories in the pages that follow will inspire you to take your own look back via the archives on our website, www. oldcitylife.com, and experience all the things that make our town the amazing place that it is.
From the beginning, Castaway’s mission was, and still is, to expand and elevate Old City Life so that it fully reflects the dynamic, vibrant, unique community it represents. These stories have enlightened and engaged; informed and entertained; supported and promoted. The photos we include every month depict life on the First Coast in vivid detail and capture the very essence of who we are. The people we were able to bring on board, the writers and photographers — some of the best in the business — have been a huge part of our success too. All of them are found in the credits on the pages that follow. PLEASE take note of them as you are reading through this collection. We could NOT do it without their dedication and talent.
We’ve also made some incredible friends over the past 5 years and we want to thank each and every one of them for their support as well. The past 5 years wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for you.
Gentlemen of the Road
Q: Can you tell me the first point that St. Augustine came onto your radar?
A: Last year was really the first year that we took the Stopover concept out around the world and…we learned a lot and through that process, a whole slew of really unique and interesting towns from around the world came onto our radar and when we were looking for spots this year, St. Augustine came up, and, really, to be honest, I sent a cold email to, like, the general mailbox of the 450th organizing committee and someone picked it up, and they connected it with Ryan from the St. Augustine Amphitheatre. Then we came down for a visit, fell in love with the city, and felt really good about how progressive John Reagan and Dana Ste Claire and the whole town really seems to be, in terms of desire to continue to make St. Augustine a great place for people to live and visit. We have some real basic criteria…and if we can get over those hurdles then we take it to the whole next level. We just felt like we were greeted with real wide open arms from everyone in St. Augustine.
Q: Is there anything you’d like to say to the people of St. Augustine?
A: Well, as I said, we’re super excited about doing the last Stopover of the year of the Gentleman of The Road Tour, here in St. Augustine. We think it’s gonna be a total blast. We really appreciate the town, and everyone who has worked so hard on it. I mean, there’s hundreds of people in St. Augustine who have been working on this for over a year now and without their hard work and excellent dedication to it, it just wouldn’t happen to the level that I think is gonna happen and we’re super thankful for it.
Sailing Around the World
One big advantage Stanley will have is his boat, the Kiwi Spirit, and she’s a beauty. She is a 63-foot custom, state-of-the-art offshore-cruising sailboat designed by Farr Yacht Design and built by Lyman-Morse Boatbuilding in Thomaston, Maine. She displaces 32,000 pounds and has a hydraulic lifting 14-foot, 9-inch keel. For you “technocats” out there, here are a few other details: the hull is constructed of epoxy infused carbon, E-glass, and Kevlar, there are 5 water tight bulkheads, a sacrificial bow, replaceable rudders, 4 water ballast compartments to help counter the vessel in heavy air and seas, hydro-generators, wind generators, and solar panels to generate electricity (as a pure “green” boat, she will have no hydrocarbons on board). Since this is a solo voyage with only one human aboard, all tasks necessary to sail this boat will be capable of being done from the cockpit including the raising and lowering of all the sails.
Work of Xynides
by Brendan Burke
Wooden boatbuilding is a sink or swim business. If you cannot fit together wood planks and beams with accuracy and care, you cannot remain a boatbuilder for long. Among the boatbuilders of St. Augustine, Harry Xynides was known as the best. He took special care in the selection of materials and many a truck driver left his lot chewing the end of his cigar after Harry had turned away a load, after it was unloaded, because of flawed grain and excessive knots.
Sometimes the magic that is St. Augustine is revealed in an unusual way.
When Preston Pohl came here as a unknown 17- year old, by his own account, he was still a kid. By the time he left, he found himself a national celebrity and a top 20 contestant on the NBC-TV series, The Voice. Pohl’s gift is his musical talent and his journey from St. Augustine to “The Voice” is nothing short of magic.
photos and story by Tammy Harrow
First off, I have to say that The Ice Plant is so much more than dinner and drinks: it’s an experience — a chance to take a step back into another time, into an era long gone. Wait staff and bartenders in 1920s period clothing take orders as big band melodies resonate throughout the old building. My mind easily drifts back and imagines what it might have been like a century ago. I can almost see the horse drawn carriages lining up out front. The pretentiousness one might expect with a place like this is nowhere to be found. The food is local, fresh, and very reasonably priced. While the menu is somewhat limited, there’s something for every palate. If you’re like me and have been a Floridian restaurant groupie, you’ll immediately recognize that same quality and made-from-scratch taste as you fall in love with the restaurant’s cuisine.
The drink menu is much more expansive with dozens of small batch bourbons and scotch offerings, along with classic handcrafted cocktails and of course ice. We can’t talk enough about the ice, which, for many drinks, is hand-carved and formed right before your eyes. In other words, have a little patience waiting on your order — drinks this good take time.
by Captain Don Combs
The First Coast lost a true legend in 2017 when Captain Don Combs succumbed to cancer. In better days, OCL was fortunate have him take us along on one of his Blue Marlin fishing adventures and share some of his expert advice.
Ten minutes later we discovered we were hooked to a small Blue Marlin. The seas were calm and the water clear. We slowed the boat as the double line came into hand. Just then the marlin was gone.
Far from Ordinary
by Ashley Bates
Sadly, artist Don Trousdell passed away last year. We are glad that we were able to feature his wonderful work while still with us on this earth.
The bright and vivid paintings from Ordinary People not only please the eye visually but also tell a story; something that Trousdell weaves into each one of his themed exhibits.
“Every painting I have has words next to it, telling the story, and it’s a very old idea in this world where everything is on computers,” he said.
Journey to “Journey”
by Dana Ste. Claire
Ideas are powerful. Ideas turned into actions are even more powerful and emotional. The creation of the Journey: 450 Years of the African-American Experience exhibition is an idea that took shape through the efforts of hundreds of people and, in turn, is impacting and educating thousands of people.
The idea behind the exhibition began with the knowledge that the national story of African-Americans mirrors the history of St. Augustine, including the clash of Old and New World cultures and the struggle for European control to the growth of colonies on the backs of slaves, and the unending, centuries-long fight for freedom. The hope was to have this idea take shape and share the message that St. Augustine has been part of America since its beginning and Africans-Americans have played a key role in the birth of this nation.
Boys of Summer
story by Charlie Seraphin photos by Addison Fitzgerald
So why do men in their 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s put on a uniform and take to the field? The simple answer is that it’s fun. Most of them say they can’t imagine not playing. It’s a connection to their past; to memories of better times when they could run faster, hit further, and throw with more velocity. More importantly, the games provide an outlet, a chance for camaraderie with guys who share their passion. Besides, it’s a way to stay in shape, doing something that they love. Spectators are witness to the passage of time as they watch the game (although the game is anything but slow). For example: fly ball to short left field. The shortstop turns and knows instantly that his legs won’t carry him fast enough to get to the ball. He knows that he would have had it in his glove twenty or thirty years ago, but today he just watches. The left fielder reacts quickly with his first step, but he too is moving on legs that won’t respond to his desire to fly to the ball, so the infielder moves to cover second, and the outfielder trots in to take the ball on one hop.
There are lots of hits and runs in senior softball, it’s an offense-filled game. A groundball through the infield is an out only if it’s hit within a foot or two either side of an infielder. Beyond that, there are no diving stops, no fancy back-hands, no incredible plays. Just a smile and a “maybe next time” look. It’s easy to see experience and knowledge of the game on their faces, but more often than not, seniors lack explosive quickness. No longer quick or fast, they play a game where anticipation based on experience is the key to their success.
The centerfielder starts fast on a sinking line drive, and after five or six steps he lunges forward and makes a shoestring catch. He’s one of the younger guys, closer to fifty than sixty, and he still has pretty good reaction time. Every play, not only the athletic ones, draw praise from both teams. “Nice pitch, nice catch, great hit, and good arm” come in rhythm with “strike and ball” as the umpire calls pitches.
From Dorm Room to Courtroom
by Leigh Palmer photo Courtesy of the Orlando Sentinel
Sitting at the courtroom table as a member of the three-person Casey Anthony prosecution team, the last thing on Frank George’s mind was the historical city an hour and a half northeast of Orlando, where he began his higher educational experience almost two decades before. The Flagler College Alumnus was getting ready to question a string of witnesses who had been around a young woman when her daughter was allegedly kidnapped by a fictitious nanny. His job: demonstrate that the complete lack of change in her behavior, continuing to party and carry on as if nothing was wrong over the 31 days when her daughter was supposedly missing (and then found to be deceased), pointed to her guilt in taking her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee’s, life.
The New Jersey high-school senior, weighing the options after graduation, never dreamed this is where he would one day end up-a key figure in one of the most sensational trials of the past decade — the Casey Anthony murder trial. He was just trying to figure out what the next chapter of life would be, and that pointed to college.
Frank’s discovery of Flagler was the opposite of sensational. In fact, it was plain and simple, and it landed him in the middle of our historic city at a small college in what was once a grand resort hotel.
The Lighthouse and the Grape
by Susan Jonson Photos by Sarah Annay
What led to the idea of our lighthouse becoming a container for San Sebastian’s wine?
“It was really simple,” says Charles Cox (President of Seavin, Inc., parent company of the Winery). “About five years ago, I accidentally came across a lighthouse bottle and, being in the wine business for so many years, I guess the connection was a natural one for me to make.”
The Angels Above Us
by Susan Johnson
Without ruining the holiday mystique, we’ll say only that the trees in the plaza are the first to glow and that, almost like Santa’s elves, there are volunteers whose only job every year is to take care of lighting up their own designated corners of St. Augustine’s holiday world. But that one magical moment begins weeks before a hand ever touches a light switch. That one spectacular, illuminating second is sparked from almost four months of hanging bulbs, wrapping trees, beautifying buildings, testing…
by Rick McAllister
At that time, there were 35 slips at the city municipal marina, so the Taylors designed their complex to incorporate approximately 350 slips. Plans were drawn, equipment hired, and Joe and Tom rolled up their sleeves and with a small work crew, began the laborious task of digging and building a marina. One interesting note here: some of the dredged material from the marina basin was used to provide fill for the athletic fields at the adjacent Florida School for the Deaf and Blind. Another interesting side note: when I had an opportunity to look at early construction photographs, there was apparently no time out for posing. Every single shot showed Joe and Tom wielding picks and shovels, pouring cement, and welding steel beams right along with the other construction crew, oblivious to the camera. There was work to be done.
From the onset, their business objectives and mission, and the manner in which they went about doing their business in this town, was different, and that is what set them apart from many of the other operations — not just in St. Augustine but in the marine industry as well. Joe likes to reference James C. Collins’ highly successful book, “Good To Great” in terms of characteristics that he has incorporated into their business and management philosophy. They include, but are not restricted to, leadership that is humble but stays focused on what is best for the company: get the right people on board, don’t shy away from the truth, and make sure your passion works to the benefit of your business.
by Anne Heymen
Since days of yore, St. Augustine has been one of those fun racing towns — be it on the beach or on the roads. Actually, after dark, the roads, many years ago, were pretty well deserted until man and racing machine made an appearance.
Longtime St. Augustine businessman Henry Whetstone was one of those who raced on the beach in the 1940s. “We had barrels on the beach,” he recalls. “Those were the days when the skeeters (beach buggies — roofless cars which were stripped down to the bare essentials) were prominent, and some of the guys had Model A cars.” Among the cars Whetstone raced was a 1934 Ford skeeter with a 1937 Ford engine. Later, he says, Wildlife Officer Frank Dowdy purchased that Ford. “He remodeled it and patrolled the beach.” During Whetstone’s day, he says, there was no prize money. They just had fun racing for the sport of it.
The Art of Joe Taylor
by Ashley Bates photos by LeeAnn Kendall
Joe Taylor was a beloved fixture in the St. Augustine Art community. Sadly, he passed just a year after this story was published. OCL is honored to have featured him while he was still capturing the beauty that surrounds us.
Painting historical depictions of the rich African American history of St. Augustine is one of his favorite subjects, especially the personalities of the Lincolnville Historic District.
“I’ve painted a lot of portraits of African Americans, including two big shows on Lincolnville so far and I have some of the portraits now…”
Gratitude of Latitude
By Ashley Bates. art by Joe Rocco
One cartoon in the St. Augustine Family Barber shop is of Rocco cutting hair and someone isaying “A barber shop with art work? You sure are fancy!” One thing Rocco isn’t, is ordinary, and he has not only been a barber, a motivational speaker, and a published author, but also a musician.
“I play and sing, I’ve been doing that since I was a teenager, I think ‘69 or ‘68” said Rocco, who currently plays open mic nights in St. Augustine. “I played guitar because I was a troubled teenager just like most snotty adolescents.”
Roar of the Pride
by Rick McAllister Photo by Tammy Harrow
Professor Wolfgang Schau and his wife Miki sailed into St. Augustine harbor for the very first time on December 31, 2011. Their first communication was with the Bridge of Lions attendant requesting a draw, and in their own words, they were overwhelmed with the beautiful bridge and with the Spanish ambiance of the city’s waterfront and visible structures. “The bridge opened for us,” they said, and their lives changed at that point. They immediately fell in love with the city and decided to make it their home. Shortly after purchasing a residence in Davis Shores and familiarizing themselves with the grand Old City, they became curious as to why there were only two lions on the West side of the bridge and none on the Eastern side. The most logical explanation was that, at the time of construction, there was little of interest on that side of the bridge other than marshland.
Undaunted by these responses, and with an enthusiastic love and appreciation for each other, and for their new home, Wolfgang and Miki decided to celebrate their wedding anniversary by donating to the city two majestic new lions for the Anastasia side of the bridge.
Fortress of Freedom
story by Chad Light photos by Mark Cubbedge
To truly understand the power of this place located just minutes north of downtown St. Augustine, you have to understand the story of the people who lived there. The stories of the slaves who escaped the abject misery of chattel slavery in the Carolinas and Georgia and risked their lives to travel hundreds of miles through dangerous swamps and forests for the chance to be free. Former slaves who became soldiers sworn to protect St. Augustine and all who lived there in exchange for this freedom.
The scars on their backs were evidence of the cruelty they experienced at the hands of their oppressors. Years of living in fear made many of them fearless enough when they heard they could live as freemen in Spanish Florida. Many of them planned, many of them bided their time waiting for that chance, the opportunity to run for it. This was a dangerous journey even without the gangs of slave hunters chasing you. Many made it, but untold numbers did not. Yet, regardless of the long odds against them, for many it was clearly worth it.
Faces of Freedom
by Leigh Palmer photos by Mark Cubbedge
A local photographers quest to capture the essence of our nation’s veterans before it’s too late.
The name on the headstone read “Earl Charles Greene.” The veteran buried in the soil beneath it was a Marine who had served in the Korean War; had been a resident of St. Augustine; served his country with honor…many of the details of which were relatively unknown to his nephew, the 42 year-old man who kneeled in front of that stone on a fateful Memorial Day in 2014. He had never met his uncle, who had died…
story by Carol Saviak.
photos by Justin Itnyre
We faced a tremendous challenge,” adds Stephanie Hollis. “We weren’t simply creating our product, we were also creating the market.”
Prior to the development of the Solar-Stik™, the consumer market for commercially-viable “portable solar” power generation devices was virtually non-existent.
From a commercial sales viewpoint, the predominant utilization of solar panels was permanent, fixed-base installations.