St. Petersburg, Florida, have you heard of this waterside town? Currently known as “The Burg”…..the millennials love to refer to St. Pete as The Burg, it has a cool sound, and of course it has become a cool city, very eccentric and filled with anything and everything. With the added beautiful waterfront!
Now, there are a lot of things the current or newer residents, and believe me we have many due to the constant growth; are not aware of. They only know St. Petersburg, Florida in its current state. Oh, what they have missed. I have lived in this area, or Pinellas County since 1962. Yes, I’m old, but young at heart! I lived on the beaches, and St. Petersburg was referred as the “Mainland”.
Here are a few interesting facts about St. Petersburg, Florida you didn’t know!
1. Green Bench City
St. Petersburg was originally referred as the “Green Bench” city. Yes, green bench. Hence, we had green benches sitting back to back all over this town, and yet, as boring as that sounds, it brought so many people together!!! Everyone assumed they were for the many retirees we had here. However, you would find, yes retirees meeting for their daily chat, but also housewives with their kids taking a break from daily shopping, young couples sitting holding hands, and sometimes just the usual person sitting for a few to relax. They were located all along Central Avenue. In case you were wondering, YES they were painted green!
2. Our Dining
Now we have gourmet restaurants, and just about any food you can wish for is here. Back in the “day”, St. Pete was known for their Diners, Drug Store Soda Fountain Counters, Mom and Pop locations and Cafeterias. It was an array of just very informal family dining. The larger restaurant was located at our pier.
Ahhh, Uncle Eds’, Aunt Hattie’s, Wolfies (Jewish Deli), Driftwood Cafeteria, even our Maas Brothers Department store had a grand restaurant! So, as we still have excellent dining choices, there’s nothing like slipping into a comfy booth and being served the daily home-cooked meal.
3. Webbs City
The Worlds Most Unusual Drug Stores. It was started in 1920 by “Doc” Webb, had 77 Departments and consumed 7 City blocks! It was one-stop shopping before the Shopping Center era began. This was a great childhood and adult memory. They had the BEST ice cream cones, and yes restaurant. They had chickens that would eat upon your demand, they had mermaids swimming in a large water tank……it was a place everyone gathered, shopped, ate, and was entertained. Now, it’s gone.
4. The original “Million Dollar Pier”
Now we look out to the water from downtown and see this long blank pier. Years ago we had the Million Dollar Pier that looked like a castle sitting atop the water. It was also a family place to gather, and of course a great place for dates. Fine dining, miniature golf, fishing, games, and yes, the long pier leading to the building was scattered with green benches. Families would gather, you could drive all the way around the building. The pier had a grand entrance covered with the most beautiful mosaic tile art. The entire walls and ceilings had an aquarium you could watch the sea life swim and play. It was just a great outing and place to be.
5. Street Cars
Few people know we had streetcars!!!! Yes, tracks on our streets just like San Francisco.
6. Air Conditioning
In 1950’s air conditioning was brought to our city, yes, we had no air…..which, in fact, accounting for the bulk of our retired population.
7. Bowling Alleys
Bowling alleys were one of the most popular places to have a date!!! Yes, bowling.
8. Drive-In Movie Theaters
We had Drive-In movie theaters everywhere! They were awesome as we all remember. We had the Garden Drive-In, which was the most popular because we could get a carload in for $1, yes just one dollar. Times were simpler, but so much fun. We had the 28th St Drive-In, The Mustang Drive-In, they all had their “specialty” one had a better playground……but for dating the Garden was the winner.
9. No Malls
We didn’t have malls!!!! No shopping centers until the late 60’s or early 70’s, crazy right? We had the stores downtown, Maas, Rutlands, several nice dress shops. The wig shop that was there for over 50 years!!!
10. First Ave North and South
First Avenue North and South were not one-way streets. Boy did we have trouble with getting used to which went west and which went east.
11. Central Plaza
We had Central Plaza, which one side was on the north side of Central and the other on the other side. Greatest place to shop, our first shopping center. Yes center, not mall. We also had the development of Tyrone Gardens Shopping Center. These brought a lot of commerce away from the downtown area.
12. Vinoy Resort
Last but not least, they restored the old Vinoy Resort in 1992, thank goodness. For a long time, we thought they may tear down, it sat there like a lonely castle. Now in all its majestic architecture, it’s the centerpiece of our waterfront.
St. Petersburg, Florida has grown to be a culturally enriched area. Has brought the old and the young together, traditions and innovations to establish a vibrant sense of community!
Hope you have enjoyed this little stroll through the past of the great city “The Burg.”