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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.

Glorious Gloria


         A few years back, I was asked to speak at the downtown library on what turned out to be a very cold January morning.  Few people came, but one who walked from her Methodist Place home turned out to be a real asset to Tampa.  Gloria Jean Royster had moved here from Chicago, and she took up historical causes, especially that of Madame Fortune Taylor.  You may know that the Civil War's Freedman Bureau made reparations to some former slaves in the form of land, and in 1875, Fortune Taylor was granted a homestead at the north end of what then was downtown Tampa. 


Fortune Street was named for her, as was the bridge that crossed the Hillsborough River there.  For reasons I cannot explain, twentieth-century developers changed the name of the bridge and the western stretch of the street to "Laurel," but Gloria Jean recently led a successful campaign to return it to honor Fortune Taylor, complete with a historical marker to tell the tale. 


There's more to the story, of course, and you can read the details on a postcard that Gloria Jean recently created.  She has done a whole series of interesting and colorful cards that explicate local history.  Among the people featured are:


·      John Jackson and the 1847 map of Tampa that he platted

·      Peter Bryant, an African American who held office during Reconstruction; he was the son of Dorcas Bryant, another female landowner in downtown Tampa

·      Clara Frye, a nurse who founded the first hospital for blacks

·      Henry Brumick, a shoemaker who co-founded St. Paul African Methodist Church, as well as Harlem Academy

·      Blanche Armwood, a nationally known educator who led Tampa's NAACP

Other cards commemorate "Freedom Day," May 6, 1864, when federal troops told Tampa's enslaved people that they were free under Lincoln's Emancipation Act – a year before the war ended.  Another date is May 23, 1889, when – in the words of the Tampa Journal -- a thousand African Americans came "to celebrate the Emancipation Act and to discuss Educational matters." 


The postcard on Oaklawn Cemetery is especially touching, as it includes William and Nancy Ashley:  master and slave, they had an openly acknowledged loving relationship.  Ashley Street is named for him, and if you haven't seen their grave marker at Oaklawn, you should read its poetic words. There's even a card for Billy Graham, who graduated from the small religious college that still exists in Temple Terrace.  These and other postcards are available at gloriajeanstories@gmail.com.  They'll make unusual Christmas gifts, and you'll enjoy sending them to friends!




What is it with "make no mistake?"  Republican Congresswoman Ann Wagner of Missouri used that phrase when harshly questioning Secretary of State Antony Blinken about the Afghanistan withdrawal.  I thought "make no mistake" was dropped from the lexicon after its chief user, Republican Richard Nixon, dropped from grace.


And what is it with beards?  Speaking of Afghanistan during the first time that the Taliban reigned, a writer said:  "Young boys hardly old enough to shave were beaten in the streets for not having a beard long enough for "men.'" Beards go in and out of fashion:  most American men in Abraham Lincoln's time sported a hirsute face; in Eisenhower's time, not so much.  They seem to be back now, especially among young men.  Hubby grew facial hair after his Army service, making it clear that he sided with the rebels in "Hair."  That musical expressed profound disillusionment during the Vietnam War, but what is going on with today's young men?


         Speaking of fashions, I've been watching – for the umpteenth time – television's interpretations of Agatha Christie's mystery novels.  The murder victim in The Body in the Library is a professional dancer, and one of the clues is that her stockings were off.  The screenwriters helpfully explained that she wore stockings only for dancing and used leg make-up at other times to save money.  The setting was just after World War II, and I don't know if these precious stockings were silk or the new nylon – but I haven't seen leg make-up for decades.


         As congressional Republicans risk default on the national debt so that they can make President Biden miserable, ponder this:  "Unfortunately, Congress consistently brings the government to the edge of default before facing its responsibility.  This brinksmanship threatens the holders of government bonds and those who rely on Social Security and veterans benefits…The United States has a special responsibility to itself and the world to meet its obligations."  That's the Republican hero, Ronald Reagan, speaking in September 1987.




I want to give a big shout-out to EVE Catering, which provided the food for Hubby's recent memorial.  Chef Eric Holland has a very creative and delicious menu, with a slightly Southern style.  He and his wife, Evangeline, proved easy to work with and completely dependable.  Look them up at evecatering.com, and you'll see Eric with a smiling Jane Castor.


Another bouquet goes to MSC Cruise Lines, which my daughter booked for my birthday.  Italian owned, it departs from Port Canaveral, almost within touching distance of the site where Elion Musk blasted into space.  The food and service were excellent, and the COVID protocol so well enforced that I felt much safer than I do here in Hillsborough.


The best part of cruising for me is not the bars or casinos, but watching the ocean and the sky from a deck rail.  A high point this time was a confrontation between white birds and orange-and-black birds over fish that were visible in the clear water.  They didn't physically attack – I've never seen birds do that – but the four-member white flock finally flew away, even though they were individually bigger than the five orange-ish guys.  The fish were interesting, too, because they never dived down out of sight.  So much to observe in this world.


Finally, I guess you know that the British equivalent for our "cookie" is "biscuit."  The Italians who ran the breakfast buffet had a little trouble with this distinction in American English and English English.  A sign said, "Cookies with Sausage Gravy."




I was distressed, however, to see that the bottled water on this Italian line comes from our own local springs:  Zephyrhills Water, which "proudly" (their word) proclaims that it pumps from Crystal Springs, Cypress Springs, Blue Spring, White Springs, and Spring of Life in Lake County.  Publisher Patrick has written about this before, but I'll do so again because it seems to bear repeating.


We are draining ourselves for the benefit of a company that uses a local name, but is based in Stamford, Connecticut and owned by Nestle, an international corporation originating in Switzerland.  They don't even have the PR sense to omit this resource-grabbing information from their label.  Florida is now the third-most populous state in the nation, and we have lots of thirsty throats.  Why are we endangering our future this way?  I'll tell you why:  Rick Scott, Ron DeSantis, and their minions who would sell their children's souls for a quick profit. 


The next complaint is related:  my local CVS continues its screw-ups, but as a state retiree, my insurance does not allow me to go elsewhere.  The store has had many goofs, but the most recent involved giving me THREE bottles of a prescription anti-depressant and none of the routine blood pressure and cholesterol meds that all seniors take.  When I left the drive-thru and risked going inside, the pharmacy had a line of at least a dozen people, most of them unmasked.  I asked to speak to the pharmacy manager, and the response was that they didn't have one.  It shows.


Finally, the Florida Department of Transportation seems to be recovering from when Rick Scott sold its expressway toll-collecting function to people in New Jersey.  Yet it even though a public agency apparently now is handling public funds, it still isn't smooth.  Several months ago, someone added when they should have subtracted; I point this out every time I get a monthly bill, but it has yet to be corrected.  The guy who ultimately is in charge is busy running for president.



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