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Now in our third calendar year
PCR #105 (Vol. 3, No. 13) This edition is for the week of March 25--31, 2002.

La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
Snakes Alive! We must be in South Tampa!

Movie Review
Matt's Rail
The Enlightenment
Mike's Rant
PCR Archives 2002
Crazed Fanboy home
TREE (Will's site)
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Believe it or not, at one time, a time not relatively all that long ago, the Interbay peninsula of what would become part of the City of Tampa, was so populated with the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, that a section of town came to be known as "Rattlesnake, Florida."

The area roughly bounded by Fair Oaks Avenue to the north, Everett Street to the south, Manhattan Avenue to the east, and Old Tampa Bay to the west, was almost entirely comprised of pine and palmetto thickets, a perfect habitat for this once common poisonous native Florida snake. There were unconfirmed reports of rattlers in excess of 8' in length roaming those parts, as well confirmed specimens measuring up to 6' in the thousands.

Just as sure as nature creates something, along comes someone to exploit it. In this case an enterprising gentleman from Arcadia named George End made an industry out of what was once the bane to Florida's European settlers and later ranchers--the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake! You see, Mr. End found a lucrative mail-order market selling meat from rattlesnakes. In 1937 he moved his wife and two sons to an area on Gandy Boulevard about a block west of West Shore Boulevard near Bridge Street. At this location End constructed a canning plant for rattlesnake meat. He added a novelty shop and a bar to the operation.

By 1939, End managed to talk the Federal Government into constructing a post office at this location. On April 27th of that year, the "Rattlesnake, Florida" Post Office was established, although "Rattlesnake" was not itself an official municipality.

End helped fuel the local economy by hiring courageous souls to collect rattlesnakes from the plentiful palmetto thickets nearby for his canning business. In addition, End's bar attracted a lot of MacDill Army Air Base clientele, due to its close proximity to the base during the early part, of the Second World War. From the bar they could hear the work bell that beckoned them back from their break time.

In 1944 George End died as a result of being bitten by a rattlesnake that he was handling. His efforts to use antivenom shortly after the bite proved to be ineffective. One year later a gentleman named Earl D'Avignon bought the property that housed the post office and canning plant from End's widow. D'Avignon converted the structure into an Imperial Gas Station and garage with a bar behind it. He later built a mobile home park behind that.

End's widow, Jennie, married Grover White and built a one-story building housing the "Rattlesnake, Florida" post office just west of its original location. As neither she nor her two sons had any interest in the canning operation, novelty shop or bar, she sold the cannery and novelty shop to famed Florida reptile showman Ross Allen. She was the postmistress until her death in 1950.

On June 1, 1954 the "Rattlesnake, Florida" post office was officially renamed to the "Interbay" post office. That post office was relocated east of Dale Mabry Highway to 3630 Gandy Boulevard (I remember it well and visited it often!). Due to the explosive population growth of South Tampa in the 1970's and 1980's the "Interbay" post office was relocated yet again to a beautiful new facility located at 4520 Oakeller Street where it remains to this day.

I remember my mother recounting tales of the old "Rattlesnake" post office that she frequented in the 1940's and 1950's. But alas, it was removed by 1956 to make way for the second span of the Gandy Bridge, and for the four-laning of that roadway. I personally remember remnant thickets of pine and palmetto dotted throughout the South Tampa landscape with its diminished population of rattlers. That was a much more sleepy-town time for Tampa, when summer thunderstorms rolled in each day between 4 and 5, cooling hot summer days down to delightful evenings where the cooling rains brought out the scent of summer flowers and cleansed the air by morning. That has been replaced with concrete, condos, and traffic snarled roadways where heat, glare and pollution are the new climate.

But the unique showman spirit that was George End, a true Florida folk hero, lived on through others who had their own unique roadside attractions, such as Ross Allen, Tom Gaskins, Trader Frank and ultimately Walt Disney.

"Rattlesnake, Florida" was truly La Floridiana!


Sunshine Skyway Bridge Designer Dead at 65
Internationally acclaimed bridge designer Eugene Figg died Wednesday March 20, 2002, from infection complications due to acute leukemia. Figg had lived in Tallahassee, Florida since 1958 was an award-winning designer of dozens of bridges including the world class Sunshine Skyway replacement span which opened to traffic in 1987. 1988 saw the destruction of the original spans constructed in 1956 and 1971 respectively. They were closed as a result of the original southbound span being hit and collapsed by the freighter Summit Venture during a heavy rainstorm in May 1980. The collapse resulted in death of 27 people, many of whom were riding on a Greyhound bus.

Figg was a native of Charleston South Carolina where he was a high school football star who built models. He earned a civil engineering degree from the Citadel (my late half-brother's alma mater) in 1958 and hired by the Florida Department of Transportation (yours truly's alma mater) in 1964. In 1978 he left the Department and blossomed into one of the finest bridge designers. He pioneered concrete segmental bridges such as the Sunshine Skyway and Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys, and innovated "design charettes" in which the public would give input on bridge designs.

His design group, the Figg Engineering Group, founded in Tallahassee in 1978, employs 90 people with offices in Tallahassee, Denver, Philadelphia and St. Paul. The company has won more than 150 design awards including three Presidential Awards through the National Endowment of the Arts.

Last fall Figg was inducted into the National Academy of Engineers. The Engineering-News Record named him as one of four living engineers to have made significant contributions to bridge design and construction in the past 125 years. His bridge designs also included the Natchez Trace Parkway Arches near Nashville, Tennessee and the Linn Cove Viaduct in North Carolina.

I have always loved the 1987 Sunshine skyway span. Sadly my most intimate moment with that bridge was in the main span's bowels as the World Trade Center towers toppled from terrorism on September 11, 2001. In a future La Floridiana I will highlight this magnificent world class structure.

Figg Engineering Group board of director said it best:

"Gene was very creative. He felt bridges should be works of art, not just rivets and steel."

Here's to the memory of Eugene Figg--Florida Folk Hero, Bridge Builder, and Visionary.

"La Floridiana" is ©2002 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2002 by Nolan B. Canova.