Ok, so that non profit I started with some friends? Yeah, we are not so organized. Well that is not true, we are organized, we just lack the spare time to follow up on things. It happens…It does all eventually get done, but not always when we think it will. That is a sort of explanation as to why this is another solitary trip and not a whole gaggle of USFSP grads. Is a traveling group of college grads a gaggle? A gaggle of grads? I don’t know….maybe I will see that trending on Twitter soon…LOL!!
So this was another one that I could do from memory, although I did stop and take a couple of pics in preparation. This one will culminate from a whole host of childhood memories from the days before I lived in Florida. Road trips, egg salad/ham salad/tuna salad ribbon sandwiches in the car, reading via the lights on the highway (why did I NEVER remember a flashlight??) and finally seeing that flashing neon marlin sign, you know the kind that make it look like the fish is jumping. My Florida…the Florida of the 1960s, awaited the kid that saw that sign first.
I was born in Chicago in 1962. 1962 was really still part of the 50s. We still feared the Russians (can you say Bay of Pigs?), Donna Reed still ruled the airwaves doing her housework in pearls and heels, and Kennedy was still alive. A perfect time to be born if you ask me. I was an only child for my first 7 years, so it was me and my ‘rents doing stuff. And twice a year, at Christmas and Easter, that stuff involved Florida and the Marlin Motel.
I don’t know how my parents found the Marlin Motel. I think they had been there PK (Pre Kids) as a young married couple. But find it they did. I wonder if they knew that it would be such a predominant part of my growing up, so firmly entrenched in my memory that even now when I pass it, I involuntarily think, “I saw the sign first!” (That probably bears explanation – the person who saw the sign first didn’t have to help unload the car. Somehow that was always me.) We will go on the assumption that they did not and move on.
Days at the Marlin (which by the way is now the Hotel Isis located in Redington Shores) started with breakfast at Kenny’s Corner, a diner just a block or so North down Gulf Blvd. It is still there and looks exactly the same. Once the chore of breakfast (or any meal for that matter) was out of the way, the water beckoned. Pool water, Gulf water, it didn’t matter. I loved to be in the water. Because I was an only child, I often swam alone, but sometimes I would ask my father to go swimming with me. His answer always was, “Go swimming? And get all wet? Why would I want to do that?” More often than not, he joined me and did indeed get wet.
Swimming was my Dad’s gig, but shelling was my Mom’s. She would often rise very early in the morning just after daybreak, get her bathing suit on in the dark while my father and I slept peacefully to the hum of the AC window unit, and head to the beach. She always came back with the most amazing things. Her eye would spot the smallest Florida Button or Cat’s Paw. Because she shelled so early in the morning, she had first dibs on all the treasures the Gulf spit up on the beach. The elusive Left-handed Whelks, Cockle shells big enough to use as ash trays, beautiful sunset colored Scallops…all packed lovingly into the car for the drive home. Years later when we moved to Florida, many of those finds made their way back to Florida in a moving van and are still on display in my home today. It is a habit that I have never been able to break. I never walk on the beach without a shelling bag.
While my days were filled with sunshine, chlorine and Desitin (yes, baby bottom rash cream was the only thing that would stay on my nose to keep it from burning off of my face!), my evenings were spent at local restaurants. Mom made lunches and we always had an effeciency rooms so that my father could make a sandwich when he wanted, but Mom was on vacation too, so we ate out at night. One of our favorites was Tiki Gardens. Even after we moved here, Tiki Gardens always won the vote when we were deciding where to go on a sunny afternoon. There is a classic photo of my brother at about 3 or 4 with big rubber plant leaves in his hands and a sulky face because he didn’t want to stop playing to take the photo. Sadly, the Easter Island statuary, peacocks and monkeys are gone. Nothing remains but the Tiki Gardens public parking lot. But in the mid 60’s, Tiki Gardens was the place to be. Trader Frank’s, the restaurant, in my memory is dark, blue and filled with women in sleeveless shift dresses in bright colors, purchased for vacation that would probably never be worn again. My parents did not drink, but I thought I was pretty cool with my Shirley Temple with extra cherries. After dinner, we would wander through the shops. There was a tiny shop in the back with curious finds from the Far East. Loads of candies, snacks and flavorings like orange and anise. I always got some rice candy that melted in my mouth and some flavoring to bring home.
And so the two weeks would wind down, slowly at first, but as that checkout date got closer, time sped by, almost as if Florida couldn’t wait for us to leave and the next family to arrive. Coolers loaded, new treasures carefully packed in suitcases and pillows and blankets stowed within reach for that “I am SO bored” nap. The long drive stretched out in front of us and with a reluctance that I never saw again after we moved to Florida, my father would start up the Fletcher Family Truckster and head for home.
The Marlin Motel of my youth is the Isis of today.
The large facade was not there when it was The Marlin. It looked like your basic Mom & Pop motel.