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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

Happy 95th Birthday!

Hubby and I were privileged recently to help Tampa native Lula Joughin Dovi celebrate her 95th birthday. Lu’s name may be familiar to you because, despite her advanced age, she continues to practice her profession of journalism by occasionally writing a column for LaGaceta called “Tracks.” She answers her e-mail promptly, continues her lifelong support of Democrats, especially women, and manages just fine alone in her four-bedroom Carrollwood home, complete with a nice garden. A few years ago, I helped her assemble an autobiography of her fascinating life in and out of Tampa, and I decided for this week’s column to just quote from the first chapter. It will be longer than usual, but I hope you find this picture of Tampa almost a century ago to be as interesting as I do. So in Lu’s voice:

Somewhat Like an Orphan in an Old-Fashioned Story

I lived the first few years of my life at 320 West Amelia Avenue in Tampa Heights. My father, Robert Teare Joughin, was more like an uncle to me because I went to live with his brother’s family when I was four. Moreover, he was already 42 years old when I was born on November 19, 1922. My mother, whose name was Lula like mine, died two weeks after I was born. She was 35 at the time. There had been miscarriages before, but no children prior to me.

Lula Jackson Joughin was my mother’s name, but there seemed to be almost a conspiracy to ignore recollections about her. The maids in our house said I looked like her, but my father never got over his resentment of her prominent family. A high-ranking Mason, he was biased against the Catholicism of the Jacksons, who were early Tampa settlers from Ireland. He was particularly ambivalent about my Great-Aunt Kate Jackson, who was perhaps Tampa’s most distinguished woman and biggest donor to Catholic causes. He even prided himself on ordering out the priest who was giving my mother last rites.

She died at home, as was typical in those days. Nurses and doctors came to homes, and hospitals were for those too poor to pay for private-duty care. I’ve been told that my father engaged a nurse, Mrs. Campbell, and her husband to come live in the house and care for me for two years. She was a “trained nurse” in the nomenclature of the era, and unlike our other servants, was white.

When I was perhaps two years old, my father’s younger sister and her family came to live with us: Aunt Evelyn “Pearl” Joughin Riles; her husband, “Daddy Bob;” and their son Bob, who was about two years older than I. Aunt Pearl liked to dress up Bob and me and take us for rides in my father’s Pierce Arrow, an expensive automobile. She was a fairly liberated woman and drove the car herself, which still was unusual in the 1920s.

The Joughin family was not wealthy -- my father made his own fortune -- so I can imagine how delighted Pearl was with the retinue of black servants who labored inside and outside the house. They included a three-generation matriarchy: Christine, the cook; her niece, Florence (rather cantankerous, according to us children); and Florence’s daughter Lily May. I remember being taken to Christine’s house less than a mile away across the Hillsborough River, where Blake High School is now. While there, I was allowed to play in the sand yard, a glorious, sensuous feeling of freedom. Aunt Pearl’s clean-up, dress-up routine never allowed us to do that on the other side of the river.

Growing Up in South Tampa

Aunt Pearl and Uncle Bob moved to Jacksonville when I was four, and I was sent to live in South Tampa with my father’s brother and his wife, Lillian and Leslie Joughin. They had two children, also named Lillian and Leslie, and I was almost the same age as my cousin Lillian. I kept a room at my father’s house, though, and I enjoyed riding in his impressive Lincolns, one a seven-passenger green car and the other a cream colored sedan with black trim.

Poker and other betting games were his favorites. He belonged to two poker groups that included prominent Latin and Jewish men. Wolfson, Rosenthal, Hernandez, and Fernandez were some of the names – and their wives played, too. Pearl McAdden, an African-American man, often drove him. When my father was sheriff, he appointed Pearl as a deputy. It was acceptable to deputize a black man in this role, which was akin to a valet/chauffeur. They were longtime friends, even after their tenure at the sheriff’s office ended.

That was because my father lost the 1932 election. He had been appointed sheriff in 1929, replacing Luther Hatton, who was elected in 1928, but Hatton served less than a year before Governor Doyle Carlton removed him because of corruption. Governor Carlton not only was from Tampa, he was a first cousin of my Aunt Lillian Joughin, whose maiden name was Carlton. Historians assure me that my father probably lost the election because of his honesty, which was unusual in the era’s political scene.

Most Florida counties did not pay their sheriffs a defined salary back then; instead, sheriffs were expected to raise the revenue for their offices by imposing fines for arrests. Corruption was the modus operandi, and because federal law prohibited alcohol in the era, many sheriffs used that controversial law to pad their incomes by shaking down liquor users. In addition, 1932 was the nadir of the Great Depression, and almost all incumbents were defeated – including the honest ones.

The late esteemed Leland Hawes, longtime history editor for the Tampa Tribune, wrote that my father had genuine problems in enforcing the law during the Roaring Twenties. Once, he said, my father and “Dr. Lancaster were in Kings Drug Store about 1:00 AM. Charlie Wall, the underworld leader…was doped up; [he] came in with his bodyguard, Tommy Jones, joined the other two at their table, and began to verbally abuse Bob. Under the table, Bob had a gun (.38), which he would have used if Charlie had made a move… While in office, Bob killed four men.”

Disgusted with Tampa, my father closed his plumbing and heating business and went to Tombstone, Arizona. There he bought a silver mine. The Three R’S Mining Company also included two of his friends, whose first names also were Robert: Robert E. Lee Davis and Robert Carter. The ore turned out to be low grade, however, and beyond that, the U.S. government did not go on the silver standard as my father expected. He thought his inside sources were giving him good investment advice, but President Franklin Roosevelt based his reforms on the real economy, not on precious metals.

He returned to Tampa, and although he never again ran for office, he cultivated friendships with countless politicians, including US Senator Claude Pepper. Probably these connections helped him win several government contracts during World War II. He worked on many air bases in the Southeast. He also had big contracts for schools and other buildings. He made his fortune all over again after he was 60 years old.

He was generous and loyal to his friends. Several times, he took me to visit his friends Mr. and Mrs. Ehrlich, who had lost their wealth during the Depression. They had moved out of Tampa to land they owned near Citrus Park, and today Ehrlich Road is a well-known highway. A warm greeting awaited us each time we went to see them. They would always reiterate how Bob Joughin did not desert them in the way that many former friends did after they lost their money.

Growing Up in South Tampa, Part 2

Downtown Tampa, which was central to daily life, was between my father’s house in Tampa Heights and my new home in South Tampa, at the corner of Moody and Morrison. Because Aunt Lillian and Uncle Leslie had the foresight to buy the vacant lot next door, we had a large playhouse and an ensemble for acrobatics: a swing, trapeze, and stationary bar. We produced plays in the playhouse or turned it into an amateur science lab or used the whole area for a neighborhood circus. Of course, we never could equal the Zacchini family, famous circus performers who lived on Fountain Boulevard. We often rode our bicycles over to marvel as they practiced their act of shooting a man out of a cannon.

A carefully landscaped part of that lot featured a water fountain and pool with goldfish. Aunt Lillian was a passionate gardener. Every season’s flowers paid respect to the time of year -- from jonquils in January to sweet peas in spring to zinnias in summer and chrysanthemums in fall and poinsettias at Christmas. She was a member of the Tampa Garden Club, which was founded in 1925. Many people are not aware of the role that club had in the building of Bayshore Boulevard during the next decade. The ladies took turns preparing lunches for the workers and delivering them to the construction site. This was part of the WPA (Works Progress Administration) that responded to the Great Depression. WPA projects still benefit Tampa, especially the seven-mile uninterrupted sidewalk across the street from the modern Tampa Garden Club building at 2629 Bayshore Boulevard.

Aunt Lillian also made the holidays special. We put up lights around the large arch framing the door, and then there would be the preparation of fruitcakes with numerous dousings of rum. The climax of these rituals, besides exchanging gifts, was the decoration of the tree, only on Christmas Eve, and the topping of the tree with an angel. New Year’s Day marked the absolute end of the season and the exit of the tree. All trees then were natural, and keeping them more than a week created a fire hazard because of the era’s hot lights; today’s lights are cooler. It was considered bad luck to keep a tree up after New Year’s -- an opinion unshared by Tampa’s Latin and Greek families, many of whom celebrated their big holiday on January 6, Epiphany.

Family and Food

Mealtime was always a gathering time for our family and set according to a fairly rigorous schedule. If we children were outside playing, my Uncle Leslie would whistle us in for supper. Usually Aunt Lillian had planned the menus for the maid to prepare. A favorite Sunday supper in cold weather consisted of hot chocolate and Welsh rarebit, or “rabbit” as we called it, served from a teacart brought into the living room. We ate in front of the fireplace.

I also recall that standby of Southern cooking — a tin can sitting on the stove and filled with bacon drippings. Those drippings were the foundation of gravies galore. Lots of gravy — for mashed potatoes, grits, rice, even bread and gravy. One of the first things we girls learned in junior high school Home Economics was how to make white sauce with butter or Crisco shortening. German fried, or pan-fried potatoes, also was a favorite.

My aunt bought canned vegetables by the case, and I remember a closet full of boxes of canned goods. I loved canned spinach, served with slices of hard-boiled egg. I never ate fresh spinach until decades later. We also made trips to the Carlton ranch in Wauchula, where they milled cane syrup. Leftovers always found a place on next day’s menu. Leftover grits, for instance, would be sliced, dipped in beaten egg and fried. And there always was homemade guava jelly.

Many vendors came through the neighborhood. We bought fresh vegetables from a truck, got our milk delivered, and also had the bakery truck, which offered bread and delicious cinnamon buns. Once in a while a “candy man,” probably from West Tampa, walked our streets blowing a whistle to call attention to his sweets. Atop a pole he carried, there were multi-colored, cone-shaped lollipops sticking out of a cylinder.

The tempo of life could be measured by the iceman, as Roy, a patient black man, took his horse-drawn cart up and down the streets. He allowed us children to ride with him a few blocks and chip away at the ice to cool ourselves with crunchy bites. No air-conditioning in those days. The big block of ice that Roy delivered went into the kitchen’s “ice box,” which looked much like a refrigerator. Hot weather meant that the icebox had to be frequently drained as ice melted, and Roy regularly renewed it. He got it from a big refrigeration business downtown.

Our next-door neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Stewart, had chickens and sold fresh eggs to us, and Sunday breakfast was a big treat. My father’s favorite was steak and eggs. He drank hot tea all of his life, probably because his father came from the Isle of Man off the coast of Great Britain. His style of drinking was to “saucer” the tea by pouring it from the cup into the saucer to cool it.

On the Way to Adulthood

Although we were forbidden to do so, several of us rode our bicycles to Beach Park where storm sewers emptied into the bay. The stream of water looked like a little creek and cooled us deliciously. Sometimes we also took along a BB gun just in case we saw some bullfrogs. Or maybe snakes. Imaginary adventure loomed everywhere. The popularity of the Amos and Andy radio show prompted us to try to duplicate some of their programs. Our “broadcasts,” however, went out to the neighborhood from an open window on the second floor of our home. From that “studio” we also broadcast fictional news and homemade opera. We never knew if anyone were listening. Didn’t matter.

The heat of summer drew us to swimming in Lake Carroll and Lake Ellen, which then were in the open country. Sulphur Springs, though, was a major tourist attraction, with well-developed recreational facilities. Before any of us could drive cars, we often rode the streetcar, or electric trolley as we might call it today. For just a few cents, we could ride to Sulphur Springs, Ballast Point, or downtown. The Tampa Theater, the first to have air conditioning, was a great haven from the summer heat. Afterward we could go next door and get an ice cream soda. Saturdays featured cowboy movies with a trailer that would be a cliff-hanger until the following week.

A nearby vacant lot was the locale for many baseball games. Players included Sam Gibbons, who later became a powerful congressman. Virginia Lee (later Mullen) and I were among the usual players, but Virginia complained that she too often ended up as a fielder close to busy Howard Avenue. Gradually, the two of us realized that we were the only girls still playing with the sandlot group, and we left. We preferred driving, if we could get a car. Licensing was nonexistent then, and most of us were driving at 14 and 15. We all envied Betty Jane Holtsinger because her father could give her a new Ford to drive around.

Cultural indoctrination began with early instruction on saying “yes ma’am”, “no ma’am,” “yes sir”, and “no sir” to adults. Girls learned how to set a proper table and how to serve at Student Art League teas. There were opportunities to show off our party dresses at the Friday Morning Musicale, a building still extant on Horatio Ave. Learning to play bridge was essential because bridge luncheons and parties would continue through college years and afterwards.

My father was friends with the owners of the Columbia Restaurant, and Gloria Hernandez cooked wonderful meals. During one of my visits to my father’s house, Casimiro Hernandez brought his daughter Adela. She sat down at the piano and played, with great professional style. Adela, of course, went on to fame as a pianist in Cuba and in America with her violinist husband, Cesar Gonzmart. And for my first marriage in 1944, the Hernandez family sent a complete set of Haviland dinnerware from New York, including every kind of serving dish, demitasse cups, dinner and luncheon plates—twelve of everything!

My father would take me to what now is the café part of the Columbia, and I remember when the restaurant began to build additional dining rooms such as the Don Quixote Room and El Patio. For a few years, El Patio was open to the sky at the top. It was so tropical and romantic, especially when rain would lightly drizzle down the garden center. During World War II, my cousin Lillian and I would take our servicemen-dates to the Columbia. We got the most stunning treatment, which left our dates greatly impressed.

And More, in My Voice

Lu graduated from Plant High and went on to Florida College for Women, now FSU, in Tallahassee. She married – against her family’s wishes – and lost her pilot husband in World War II just two months after they wed. She nonetheless crossed the country to San Diego and worked as a newspaper reporter; like many other women, she lost that job to a man when the war ended. Lu then married a second-generation Italian, moved to his home of Milwaukee, and eventually bore three children. There’s more to her story, including tracing her ancestral roots and the paths that some of them took in British colonies all around the world. Working with her has added greatly to my life, and again Lu, happy 95th!


Doris Weatherford writes a weekly column for La Gaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper. With pages in Spanish, Italian, and English, it has been published in Tampa since 1922.
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