The Good Old Days

Someone wrote in to the Coconut Telegraph in the Fall of 2014 and wanted to know what was so good about Key West and the Lower Keys on the old days. Here are some of the reader’s replies. If you have a unique story about the good ole days please email us and let us know you’d like it included. Contact Us

Before the completion of the 7 Mile Bridge, traffic of any kind did not exist in the lower Keys. The tourist season ran from Christmas through Easter — period. Before the mangroves grew up, driving down US 1 from Key Largo to Key West presented endless Gulf and Atlantic water views. Attendance at the first Fantasy Festival involved maybe 5000 people, all of whom were in costume and high spirits. The vibrant fish and coral colors at Looe Key and Pennecamp took your breath away. Conch shells and sponges were everywhere on the ocean floor. Joe Roth’s Holiday Isle was the place to be for live entertainment on weekends. Long Key had the Little Italy restaurant. Duck Key had Indies Inn. Grassy Key featured Flippers Sea School, seaplane rides to Fort Jefferson, Joe Joe’s, Grassy Key Dairy Bar and Gallagher’s. Marathon had 4 reliable airlines servicing its airport plus it had The Buccaneer, Pancho’s, The Quay, and a bowling alley and a skating rink. Big Pine had The Mariners Resort, Baltimore Oyster House, Cedar Inn and Pelican Post.Cruise ship passengers and cheap T-shirt shops did not exist in Key West. Rents and home prices were reasonable to cheap. Insurance rates were affordable, the police force friendly, neighbors helped neighbors, crime was minimal, and peace was plentiful. There’s always been the bubba system so that hasn’t changed. I will end with the happy attitude most residents had for being able to live in this area — one of the wonders of the world!
You could tell a local from a tourist because all Monroe County license plates started with 38
Growing up on BPK back in the 70’s & 80’s was an amazing experience and will forever we will be grateful for.
Having dinner with the family at the Big Pine Inn & the Baltimore Oyster House.
Riding bikes to Judd’s and the Big Pine Meat Market
Watching mom & dad & all their friends fight fires and drive the ambulance as they volunteered with the BPK fire department.
Going to school over those crazy narrow bridges (swiping rearview mirrors) I clearly remember seeing a small whale shark on the way to school.
Marvin Lester’s bathroom at the old ACE hardware. Seriously it was a “grunt poll!” Fantastic sense of humor in that family.
Having the folks tow us kids behind the family boat as we dropped off to pick up conchs and other found treasure.
Having the famous refuge protector Jack Watson take afternoon naps in my father’s office Lay-Z-boy recliner. There were no pagers or cell phones to catch up with him.
Having the mosquito control DC-3’s fly so very low above our heads while dropping the death fog.
Knowing that Tom Bridleman was taking care of everybody’s drinking and eating requirements from Marathon to Grassy Key.
Coming home from a family night in KW (movies and pizza at Mira’s Pizza Huddle along with a stop at Zayers for shopping) and seeing the adult movies being played at the Stock Island drive-in.
Having Ed Baldwin pass our house in his boat after a hard day on the water pulling traps and tossing a few up to us for that night’s dinner (thanks Ed)
Driving over the old 7 Mile Bridge with Mark Keibel in his yellow Dodge 440, the fan belt breaking and us doing a little side to side at a high rate of speed. Wow, that was better than any roller coaster.
Having the neighbor give me an ass warming for being a crazy bike rider, and the folks approving.
Living in a house with no A/C or heat (after us kids vacated the house, in goes the new HVAC system, nice move!)
Getting pulled over driving dad’s truck on Watson Blvd, being too young to even qualify for a drivers license, and getting a verbal warning.
pepe'sThe real Pepe’s was on Caroline Street and in the early 1970s all the politicos, shrimpers and bubba’s used to gather there. Cootie was the cook and always wore long shorts and didn’t talk that much. I went there almost every morning for years and I don’t believe he ever said a word to me. The same Cuban waitress was there forever. She never spoke to me either. They didn’t hardly talk to anyone. Breakfast was a dollar. Two eggs, grits, ham and Cuban bread toasted in a Cuban press. They served Bustello coffee, as did every restaurant in those days, with condensed milk. They would poke a hole with a knife in opposite edges of the top of the cans, one to pour the milk and the other for make-up air. They filled empty bottles of Louisiana hot sauce with lime juice and salt and those tiny bird peppers for some truly hot sauce. Cootie wasn’t that well educated and neither was the waitress. Coffee was spelled two different ways on the beat up menu boards hanging on the wall and over the counter. The place was a dump. You could get breakfast in about a minute so it was a great place if you were in a hurry. On Fridays he’d cook menudo for lunch. They closed after lunch.
The Conch Salad Man, Frank Bing was a very big black man who carried a little .32 in his bank deposit bag as he peddled his bicycle through old town with a five gallon bucket of conch salad on the front shouting, “Conch salad man!” His conch salad was so hot it would burn your face off. I think the hot was to kill bacteria because Frank didn’t refrigerate his conch. He’d get it fresh and chop it up with bell peppers and onions and plenty of hot peppers and hot sauce. In those days you could buy a string of five conchs, already cleaned, for a buck or two from the little black boys that plied the streets of old town. When the fruit was in season they’d also sell you clumps of Spanish limes they’d steal from the big trees around the island. It wasn’t unusual to see kids climbing our tree snatching fruit.I remember when Ed Swift gave Frank a nice step van that his Shell Warehouse no longer needed. The sides were cut away so it could carry more shells and more easily access them, but the roof was left on as protection from the rain. It was a good truck, I drove it a few times. Swift registered it for Frank and gave him the title. A week later Frank gave the truck back to Swift because he said it needed brakes.
Cow Key Marina. I think the owner’s name was Jack. We got thrown out of there one night — twice. The first time was because one of us didn’t have a shirt so we went back to my van and Big Ed took the camper’s curtains and made himself sort of a Samurai-looking shirt. It would have worked if we hadn’t reentered through the window. There were plywood sheets covering the boat slip side and the channel side. We could have pulled our second entrance off if the floor wasn’t so tilted because on tumbling over the wall one of us went rolling towards the channel and landed under some people’s table and that drew unwanted attention among the crowded bar and Frank threw us out again. He was really pissed this time.Another time Jack got sick of people playing his piano. He didn’t like rock and roll. I went in one afternoon and it was gone. I asked him where it was. He simply said, “Overboard.” It was at the bottom the channel. He rolled it out the bar and slid it down his tilting dock into Cow Key Channel. Another time we heard this very loud bang and everyone jumped! In comes Jack with a smoking .45 hanging down from one hand. One guy asked, “What just happened?” Frank deadpanned, “I shot the monkey.” Up until that moment he had an insane monkey in a large homemade cage that no one liked, it was totally crazy, noisy and vicious. He stopped that too.
Remember Cow Key Marina? It was a bar falling into the ocean. The owner was so cool. I brought my ex-wife there. She orders a Chablis. He say what? She says a white wine. He says oh no honey all we got here are beer and sodies. I talked to him a lot. That place was a happening when the Navy hospital was up and running. He had black and white pictures of movie stars all over the walls. He started getting old so he hired some help. She was a hot, big breasted girl. He had a heart attack within two weeks. She had to go. The pool table was fun. All the balls rolled to the same side.
Remember when there were markers going through the back country all the way to Key West. The inside passage was just too cool. They got rid of the marker so people wouldn’t run aground. That wasn’t smart. Now everyone runs aground back there.
first-boat-britos-boat-yard75s-00Cow Key Marina. I bought my first boat there. It was in the short channel on the side of the bar. I was on an errand for my girl friend to find a place to live–a real place. We were living in a defunct gas station (Caravillio’s) on Eaton Street and washing in a shower I rigged over the sink that drained into the sink in the former tiny men’s room. It wasn’t the best of setups. We pooled all our money and I went off on my motorcycle in search of a place. As soon as I saw the for sale sign on the 19′ plywood boat complete with cabin, I had to have it. It just called my name! I went in the bar and asked how much and I had just enough so I bought it. It had a 50 hp Mercury outboard. I had never been on a boat in my life and the guys at the bar told me how to navigate the channel so I would get to the ocean. I’ll never forget that ride. It was a beautiful summer day, the sea was flat and I was high. I’ve never felt as much excitement since that ride. I had a truly heavenly experience. I made it to KW and bumped my way through the docks to the docks of Brito’s Boat Yard (now The Galleon Resort). I found a spot that wasn’t too conspicuous and tied up. I kept the boat there for over a year without paying a cent. Never once did I do any maintenance on the boat or motor. I thought they were like cars and you didn’t have to do anything.When I got back to the gas station with my exciting news of how I bought a boat instead of an apartment, my girl friend went ballistic and I remember, as well as the neighbors do, her chasing me down Eaton Street, beating me on the back with the handle of a broom.
I do miss Shorty’s diner. You could get an all vegetable and fruit plate for $1 in 1975. The neon sign was still there until a few years ago. In summer you could shoot a cannon down Duval St it was so empty. It was great
I remember the Esquire Lounge and Pirates Den and Full moon Saloon. I loved watching my wife dance at the Esquire and the Den back in the day! And the jewfish sandwiches at the Full Moon was bigger than her before Ted (who was working at Camille’s last I heard) filleted them. Damn, those were the days. Anybody know an exterminator that can get rid us of the rich Yankees and parasites that ruined the Keys? If only we had used gunpowder instead of stale loaf of Cuban bread when we declared ourselves the Conch Republic. How many remember the 99 cent breakfast at the Chit Chat? or rooms at the Q Rooms or Tilton Hilton for a week at less than a cheap night at Isbis Bay now?
The original Big Pine Liquors was over where Marty’s bike shop is now. Then the original owners (Keiser Family) got into some sort of disagreement with the family that owned the strip mall. The result was the Keiser family built the existing Big Pine Liquors on US1 in 1982 and the family that owned the strip mall opened Bougainvillea Liquors before the new BPL was finished and opened. The original owner of Bougainvillea died around 1988 or 1989 and the store was run for a number of years by his son and daughter, Billy and Sue. BPL was closed for almost two years (around 1985) — then was purchased by Bob and Susan Eanes and reopened in 1987. Bob died in 1989 — Susan ran the store until October, 2005 — when she retired and sold the store in an employee buyout to long time employees, Steve Miller and Dan Metcalf — who still own Big Pine Liquors today.
An even older fact — the Keiser’s original liquor store was in Marathon — what is now Marathon Liquors.
Shorty’s Restaurant on Duval. That place was super, it had a low sit-down bar like a big U that filled the restaurant. In the mid seventies Junior (I think that was his name) would crank out food like no short order cook I’ve ever seen. He used to make a special omelet that wasn’t on the menu and contained everything he had. Shorty’s was near Sloppy Joe’s and was always packed.
Full Moon Saloon on Simonton St Key West, The 80’s had a huge grouper sandwich covered in mushrooms onions and cheddar cheese. The best on earth. The bartender was the best on the island, “Greek”. Every late night shift worker went there. Its now Camille’s
The police force was happier and friendlier, but only because they were counting fat sacks of cash from the popular drug trade. Neighbors did help neighbors unload pot boats. But the best part was that everybody minded their own damn business!
Back in 1968, before the new bridges, I started to walk across the old 7 Mile Bridge, not knowing how long it was. A woman stopped in an old 49 Dodge PU truck and said, “You walkin’ the bridge?  You’re gonna’ die, boy!” It was mid summer and I had no water or hat. She drove me to BPK and fed me, and I walked to KW. At the dock on the end of Duval St., I got a beer at the old Chartroom Bar with a couple of shrimpers. There was no Pier House or hotels back than on that end of Duval, just Sloppy Joe’s and Capt. Tony’s. Great days they were. No more.
Remember when the garbage trucks in Key West all had, painted on the sides: FREE SNOW REMOVAL.
We used to only have 5 numbers to dial on our phones. That’s where 5 Sixes Cabs got their name. You could just dial 66666 and a cab would come.
56-60 shrimp was $1.04 a pound if you bought it from Singleton’s shrimp dock.
Rents were from $150 to $600 a month and there was parking in old town.
Specifically, but not in any random order: For starters, it was really laid back because U.S. 1 had a lot less traffic. Only the brave dared the chance at swapping mirrors along the old bridges. There were more vacant lots between houses, the canal water was bluer, there were lots of angelfish, parrot fish, lobster, and small tropical fish in the canals.
So few folks lived in Key West, you only dialed 5 numbers to ring a phone there — the area code and 29 prefix were assumed.
It was affordable here. Fishing was a good job and you got served fresh locally caught fillets of dolphin, cobia or wahoo regularly when you went out. Fish and shrimp were so cheap and plentiful that restaurants offered all-you-can-eat nights. That’s something I really miss, knowing I was getting Keys caught seafood. Sadly, most of what we see now is flown from South America or Asia to MIA and trucked down here before it is cut into portions and distributed. R.I.P. Monte’s on Summerland, K.D.’s on Big Pine and the good ol’ way-too-late-nights at Mangrove Mommas. Oh and Bobalou’s. I miss Lucy’s key lime pies too.
I could go on, but as we all know things change and paradise for those new here should be as exciting as it once was for a different generation.
A poster asked what I liked about the old days. One big thing is there was no traffic. One time on the old Seven Mile Bridge my roof blew off and I was able to stop on the bridge, retrieve the roof, and fix it. During that whole episode not one car was seen. Today someone would be dead and traffic would be backed up for hours in both directions.
chodsen-hemmingway-contestThe Mad Russian Dies. Michael Chodzin, who once claimed to have been on every roof in Key West, has died of cancer. He was born in Russia and grew up in Chicago’s Loop. He lived for 40 years in Key West and was the owner of Chodzin Roofing.  He died on Nov. 15, 2014 at the age of 70 in St. Petersburg, Fl. Chodzin used to say that a house without a roof is just a fence. He fell off 4 of them. He also said that he became a roofing contractor because no one ever went on the roof to check the work. He was on the Code Enforcement review board until he got caught working on many roofs with out permits thus ending his political ambitions. The picture was when he grew a beard and bleached it to get ready for the Hemingway look-alike contest that he was barred from entering when he showed up with a shotgun to portray Hemingway as the hunter. He thought he’d be a shoe-in to win. He barely escaped going to jail. He later accidentally shot his brother in the stomach with an old zip gun he kept from his wilder days in Chicago. That was on the night of his Black and White Ball so the Ball had to be canceled at the last minute. When Chodzin walked into the Green Parrot he would always bellow as only he could. And you’d know he was ‘in the house’. One time I was walking down Margaret street towards the Raw Bar when his old red pickup, coming from there, tore around the corner on Caroline St towards City Electric. The faulty passenger side door opened and out fell another friend (a fugitive from the law who was later captured while working for me by the FBI). Chodzin stopped his truck in the middle of the road, gets out, and starts yelling at his friend, lying on the road, for falling out. He bundled the other drunk back in the truck, slams the door a few times to get it to catch, and zooms off still bellowing at his passenger. He was one of the most colorful characters in the old Key West of the 1970s.

Then there’s the time he was roofing a commercial building on the corner of Duval and Truman Streets. He’d worked for the guy before and knew he was a slow payer. When the job was done, the owner came by with a sob story as to why he couldn’t pay Chodzin. Without missing a beat, Chodzin yelled up to his crew to start tearing off the roof. They started chopping on the ‘roof’ (which was a piece of scrap plywood he had placed on the flat roof knowing the owner was going to try to cheat him). The owner freaked when he saw his new roof being torn up, went to his car, and returned with full payment.

In the late 1970s Johnny Moss was a DJ at Fitzgerald’s in the LaConcha Hotel on Duval Street in Key West. He also had a sideline selling pot like so many of us did. My naive wife cleaned his apartment on Bertha Street for him. She put a filled black garbage bag out with the rest of the garbage on the sidewalk for trash day pickup. When Johnny came home after the club closed to do some “business” he couldn’t find his stash and thought he’d been robbed. He was frantic. He called my wife and woke us up and asked if she knew anything about a robbery or a trash bag. She said, “Sure, it’s out with the rest of the garbage.” He hung up and ran outside and there it was, right next to all the other garbage from the apartments.
Long long ago (1980) in a place far far away (Long Key) going to the grocery store was an adventure. We had two choices – the Trading Post in Islamorada or Winn Dixie in Marathon (where Beals is today). To go to the Trading Post after dark meant traveling on the old skinny bridges (before the new ones were built. It was a white knuckle ride at best, and then running from your vehicle into the store from the parking lot to avoid the clouds of mosquitoes. After buying groceries and loading them, you would hurry back on the road to build up speed and roll down all your windows to blow out all the mosquitoes that had gotten in. Going to the Winn in Marathon was almost as much fun. I was going there with a friend and asked him what are all those round rubber things that are always on the road on the Long Key Bridge?” He told me that they were the rubber gaskets from the side mirrors when two vehicles passed too close together.
We visited Key Lime Resort in Marathon for two weeks every year from the late sixties until we were lucky enough to move here in the mid 80’s. Key Lime was a time share for tourists, but it was great and the locals always treated us well. Change for the worse started when the new bridges were completed. El Siboney was located at Duval and United in those days and they were open for breakfast back then. Great memories. We would go to Turtle Crawls after work and drink beers from around the world to earn a t-shirt with flags from each country. You could park right in front of the place for free at 4 or 5 in the afternoon. The big metal building in Bay Point was a restaurant. No AC, cats visiting with the patrons and the best tasting freshest fish and friendliest service you can imagine. The swimming holes on Boca Chica Road were great before the Navy fenced them off. The Blue Hole was crystal clear. It had normal looking fresh water fish and two big gators. Actually one big gator and one giant. Some friends of mine who grew up here said they used to swim in the Blue Hole when they were young. I asked about the gators and they said one of them would watch the gators while the others swam.
I remember Molina’s Bakery in Key West when I was growing up (back longer than I care to remember). You could get a nice big piece or loaf of warm buttered Cuban bread and a café con leche for 35 cents. I used to buy all my fireworks there during different times of the year.
Walking from White Street to Duval I remember visiting so many friends on their porch and at Mom and Pop stores and drinking a paper medicine cup of Cuban coffee “buchi” at each place that you would be flying like a kite by noon. I worked at Boca Chica Bar for my Dad in the early 70s on the weekend, 11PM to 7AM. Hardly anybody played golf at the course so it was a great place to have a picnic. Those days everybody knew everybody. Great fun. During the week I worked at FKAA so I will stop here.
Nobody mentioned Logan’s Lobster House and Fay Logan’s foul mouth or La Bodega sandwich shop. Or the multi-purpose (coke and pot) Five Star Sandwich Shop on Packer and Virginia Streets. One stop shopping at its finest. Don’t worry Ed, old timers will remember. The Deja vu motel at Atlantic Shores. Yep Key West used to be cool and quirky now it’s just Disneyland South with crappy attractions.
stock island drive-in
Stock Island drive-in. It was great fun. Bring a pizza, turn the speaker off, turn on the radio — another great Saturday night. They could not afford good movies in those days. Deep Throat played on Duval Street for 6 years. The Bud McArthur’s Midget Bar, an all night bar on the corner of Simonton and Greene Streets. The kids jumping in the water at Mallory Square Sunset for quarters. Sigh. Remember. Look what they did to it. They call it progress
The Conch Salad Man, Frank Bing, was a very big black man who carried a little .32 in his bank deposit bag as he peddled his bicycle through old town with a five gallon bucket of conch salad perched on the front shouting, “Conch salad man!” His conch salad was so hot it would burn your face off. I think the hot was to kill bacteria because Frank didn’t refrigerate his conch. He’d get it fresh and chop it up with bell peppers and onions and plenty of hot peppers and hot sauce. In those days you could buy a string of five conchs, already cleaned, for a buck or two from the little black boys that plied the streets of old town. When the fruit was in season they’d also sell you clumps of Spanish limes they’d steal from the big trees around the island. It wasn’t unusual to see kids climbing our tree snatching fruit.I remember when Ed Swift gave Frank a nice step van that his Shell Warehouse no longer needed. The sides were cut away so it could carry more shells and more easily access them, but the roof was left on as protection from the rain. It was a good truck, I drove it a few times. Swift registered it for Frank and gave him the title. A week later Frank gave the truck back because he said it needed brakes.
Remember Spaghetti Eddies? It was a restaurant right in the middle of an old residential neighborhood on Elizabeth Street. It was a great hippy hangout with very cheap food and a nice atmosphere.
At 5 Star Restaurant you could get a gallon of milk, loaf of great Cuban bread, a gram of coke or a $10 bag of decent weed! Nothing like one stop shopping. A poster ask about the police. They were much friendlier back then. The homeless had cheap rooming houses to drink in. They could work because the jobs were not taken by third world illegals or eastern Europeans. Mosquito control was spotty at best, but kept the Yankee riff raff to a minimum. Fishing boats that supplied real fresh local seafood were docked at the Bight. Taxis would move you for under $2.50 and Record Rogues could get you any obscure album you ever wanted. This whole subject just made me realize Key West really has died and without a big ass wake!
In the old days there were no cops. You could go a hundred miles an hour up US1. I know I used to do it. I would be late getting home. You knew you were late. The sun rises up US1. Today I wonder what was I thinking. You’re late. A few minutes isn’t going to make that go away. You had to slow down in Stock Island and at the Circle K in Big Coppitt. Everything changed and sucked when they built a jail 20 times the size we needed. Now everyone goes to jail. In the old days they only had 30 cells and you really had to do something to end up there. I swear you could kill somebody on Saturday, and if you promised to show up in court on Monday you were good to go.
Everyone told me not to go to the Boca Chica Bar because it was a notorious knife and gun club. Well, of course, I had to go. I didn’t bring the misses on this one, just me. It was hard not going there. It was on the way home and they never closed. I went in and asked for a beer and a shot of tequila. The bartender brings me something that looks like a shot, but it’s not tequila. I mention it to him and he looks me in the eye and says, ” Kid that’s a buchi. You either drink that or you don’t get the shot and beer because, kid, you aint sleeping here.” I’m thinking he must have known I was drunk. That was my introduction to Cuban coffee. Haven’t left it alone since. Thank God for Cuba. You just got to love the Keys. They’re still here, you just have to look deeper now. It’s a ‘state of mind’. Think of that David Allan Coe song. Think about how many good times I’ve wasted having good times.
Mosquito control didn’t work. The oil they sprayed used to put a smear on cars and boats. The cope were either crooked or clueless. I carried a smelly bag of sea weed I just found past one and he wished me a good morning. There was very little tourist money to go around. Most money came from people restoring old housed. That was big business then. Shrimping was the really big business then. I remember seeing a hundred shrimp boats in KW bight during a big storm once. I had a cabin on Big Pine and the mosquitoes were so thick I couldn’t go out to pee. I had to use a jar
Advanced Auto was Winn Dixie, Champs was Woolworth’s, Key Plaza had Zayres, Pantry Pride and J. Byrons with Scotty’s, mini golf and Ho Jo’s across the street. Ho Jo’s on the Boulevard was the only place on the whole Island of Key West where you could get something to eat after 9pm in 1974.
Memories of a time past in the lower Keys. No traffic. The skies were truly blue. There was so much sea life. The Mariner was a 5 star restaurant and gorgeous. Pitts meat market. The original Sea Horse Campground with its exotic plantings. All types of trees from the Caribbean. Ernie’s Island Women with its thick Bimini bread. Key West with Tennesse Williams driving around, or the songs of Jimmy Buffet radiating through the streets. And no one knew they were poor.
The Lounge and Restaurant at Sugarloaf Lodge. Capt. Chuck Zarzour spinning the music. His 500 lb. marlin hanging in on the wall. Lloyd Goode making sure we were having a good time. Mrs. Goode making sure we ate well. Sugar the dolphin being fed twice a day. The Sugarloaf Punch. One was one to many and one more was never enough. That drink rocked, and then you rocked! One could not stand up after 2.5 punches.
How about Island Jim’s on the curve in Big Pine? Coco’s Cantina on Summerland where Dion’s is now? Big Pine Coffee Shop (same place as the restaurant now). Baltimore Oyster House on Big Pine. Reefs were alive, water was blue, you could see 100′ down past the reef most any calm day. You could get conch and make conch salad on the beach. Turtle Burgers and Jewfish sandwiches at Fisherman’s Café. Cowries on the seawalls (haven’t seen one of those in years). The Holt Brothers, Diamond Lill’s on Bif Coppitt, The Pacific Orchestra, Full Moon Saloon’s cracked conch. Such good times with great memories. I love reading everyone’s posts.
My wife and I first came to Big Pine Key as newlyweds in the late 70s. One Sunday as we returned from our grocery run to Marathon we were stopped on the old Seven Mile Bridge. The drawbridge was open to allow a sailboat to come through. The sailor must’ve been a novice because it took him several tries.
We didn’t mind. We had a case of Miller Lite. Just in front of us was a boat of a convertible. At the wheel was a weathered looking dude. The passengers were a short, dark, greasy man and two big-haired blondes. As we stood at the rail overlooking the Gulf side, the greasy guy, flask in hand, came up and said, “Give me a shot of your beer.” I replied, “I’ll give you a shot of my beer if you give me a shot of that flask.”
That’s how we met one of the “little guys” from Hee Haw (one played spoons, this one played his face!), and the car’s driver, Jack Elliott. We swapped stories as we waited for the bridge to close. When Jack found out I was an air personality on WKIZ in Key West, he gave me one of his 45’s and invited us to see his current band, playing somewhere in the Lower Keys. Which we did, that evening. And his record played on WKIZ the next day.
Just another Sunday afternoon in the Florida Keys, circa 1978.
As a Piner I must have missed the good ole days. I recall mosquitoes, 50 mile bus rides to school. Castro on TV when you had TV. Marathon or Key West for grocery shopping, doctors, hair cuts, auto parts, hardware–everything! Raping the reef, killing turtles, Jewfish and conch to the point protection was necessary. Water pressure so low a real shower was a treat. If you were there, you know. If you weren’t, you don’t. The good old days, not so much, just old.