They’re taking our town away

Guest Columnist

I was looking at some Longboat Key memorabilia. The old shirts were nice. The plaque is fine, and I appreciate it.

I came upon a small item one morning that might just say it all. It is an autographed baseball. This official Little League ball is embossed with the legend, “2006 Longboat Key Baseball Team.” Now I once had a big league ball autographed by many of the years-ago New York Yankees. I caught that ball in the old stadium in Cleveland. My uncle, who had some pull, took it to the clubhouse after the game where many of the greats signed the ball. That was impressive. One of my boys has it now. My LBK Little League ball remains with me.

It too is autographed — by some of the Little Leaguers of the day. I can read most of them; my favorite signed himself as “#7.” The team presented each of us then-town commissioners with one of these. I treasure mine.

The ball field is still in place at our town recreation center on the bayfront. I see that its future looks dim. There are no Little Leaguers here any more. The kids, if any, must play these days on Anna Maria Island. Commissioners used to be involved in things like baseball. Too bad that’s gone, you might say.

Holy Saturday and Passover dawned cooler but sunny. That was the final day for our own Publix Supermarket to be open. Not many tears were shed as the shelves, well stocked to the end, were emptied by the final shoppers. The site work for our newer, grander, better stores had begun a couple of weeks ago. Trees have been removed, pavement torn up, fill trucked in, grading done to raise the elevation for the new CVS store to be built first. It all seems quite orderly.

More trucks, more dozers, more compactors will follow as demolition begins. It should be fun to watch. All those trucks passing through St. Armand’s Circle, and the Bridge Street Rotary, might be noticed. But then they all passed around that old Florida icon on the way in. Demolition and replacement construction are just the nature of things, eh?

Our town is to many the center of the place — Avenue of the Flowers. I guess it is. In the Arvida days, this grand mall was to be the real centre (as they spelled things then) of things. We had arrived. For those old timers who had shopped at the Market in Whitney Beach Plaza, or even at the IGA in Holmes Beach, the island days were over. The added shops at Avenue of the Flowers thrived for many years. Now demolition will finish what business cycles cold not. The dump trucks are literally taking our town away. I don’t see many shedding a tear. Most think it is a good thing. I agree, new is better; get on with it.

The Avenue of the Flowers is just the latest to go. Whitney Beach Plaza and the Colony are other models of our island life, maybe gone forever. Their demise was more gradual. The dump trucks will likely come for the bungalows of the Colony. Few will remember them anyway. At least the centre of our island town will be rebuilt. We can thank a dynamic Florida corporation for that. After they truck it all away, they will truck the new back in. Most of this while few are here to watch. Like the Magic Kingdom, new and beautiful will appear almost by, yes, magic.

Like the baseball the boys gave us, the old might just be memories. Those boys are big enough for high school or even college ball today. I don’t see anyone playing on the diamond now. Maybe this will happen to golf; it is nationally. Tennis could be next? Supermarkets seem to be made of sturdier stuff. Tear one down; build another. I get it.

Still the large dump trucks are carrying some of our history away. They say that the construction crane is the state bird of Florida, and Hawaii, and… The trucks might just be the legend of Longboat Key. Take a look, the few of you who are left these hot days. It doesn’t matter I’m told; go along, get along.

I still remember #7 on that baseball. Things were simpler then.

New is not always better.


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