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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our fourth calendar year
    PCR #190  (Vol. 4, No. 46)  This edition is for the week of November 10--16, 2003.

Will’s Too Short Trip To Miami - - And Life Is Good
 by Will Moriaty
 by Mike Smith
Hey, Ralphie Boy!....Tampa International Airport....Movie Notes....Good Stuff
 by Mike Smith
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Will’s Too Short Trip To Miami - - And Life Is Good

Prelude - - A Night of Arts and Music
Friday evening on October 24, 2003, Nolan and I started out sitting deck side at Jimmy Mac’s restaurant in south Tampa listening to the smooth sounds of the Tom Kats, a local jazz band ala Wes Montgomery - - exquisite! We then rocketed in the Huntress to the Covivant Gallery on North Florida Avenue where PCR alumnus Vincent Blesi was performing with his avant-garde/techno/new wave group Strange Agents who were staging a reunion concert. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire scene there, as it took me many a decade ago when I would attend gallery openings during my now deceased sister’s most vital and creative living years. I finally put my head on my pillow at 2:30 A.M., unusually late for me, but well worth it! Thanks Nolan, Vincent et al.

The Break of Day and I’m Headin’ To Miami!
At 10:15 A.M. on October 25, 2003, I was on board AirTran Flight 2141 down Runway 36 Left on my way to my annual pilgrimage to Miami for the South Florida Airline Historical Association’s Collectibles show.

In as little as fifteen minutes after we reached velocity rotation our Canadair CL-65 regional jet thrust us up 23,000 feet above the Sunshine State. It was clear and beautiful all the down to the western portion of the Everglades. We skirted the Gulf of Mexico until we were between Fort Meyers and Naples. The landmarks of Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte and Lee Counties appeared with stunning clarity. Incredibly, they served drinks and a snack on this relatively short flight.

Only in Miami. The Tamiami Canal separates the Wyndham Miami Airport hotel from the Mel Reese golf course. Tropical Sea Grape and Black Olive trees frame a background of temperate Red Maple trees across the canal. Such a mixture of tropical and temperate plant life in such limited vicinity is extremely rare.
As we headed east over the Glades, I look down into the vast nothingness and even in a plane loaded with fifty other passengers, felt incredibly alone and insignificant. I would survey one or two solitary limestone roads coursing through the wilderness below wondering where these roads led to and why.

The closer to Miami we got, the cloudier it got. As we began our descent I picked out the landmarks I hold so dear on approach to Runway 9 Right at Miami international Airport - - the Tamiami Trail; the Sawgrass Extension of the Ronald Reagan Turnpike; the Dolphin Expressway; the Palmetto Expressway; Milam Dairy Road; the Blue Lagoon; and El Dorado Furniture, and then at 11:10 A.M. the sound of our tires kissing the piano keys - - another safe and enjoyable flight - - life is good! Strangely, the weather was much different here. It was very windy (twenty to thirty knots) and overcast with fast rolling clouds and tropical warmth off of the Atlantic. It was more reminiscent of a summer tropical depression than a clear Fall day.

A First Time For Everything
I had just purchased a new digital camera the day before my trip and anticipated taking lots of pictures for this article. Nolan even reinforced that by saying, “take lots of pictures” when I dropped him off at his house the evening before.

I had packed the new camera in my one piece of Jaguar luggage. After waiting at the AirTran luggage belt it was becoming obvious to me that my luggage must have been lost! Well, there’s a first time for everything. I was thinking in all gratitude that in all of my flights up until now, I had never experienced this before. There was a fellow passenger from the same flight who was in worse straights than me. His cruise ship was leaving the Port of Miami in three hours bound for the Caribbean and he is missing one of two pieces of his luggage.

Al Perry, AirTran Man Superb
I met a wonderful gentleman named Mr. Al Perry who works the baggage claim counter for AirTran at M.I.A. He is the type of man that you would want on your side. Courteous, professional and calm in the line of fire. When I pointed out these admirable traits he countered that he taught elementary school for twenty-five years. God Bless you Al Perry, you’re one of Air Tran’s finest and have touched the lives of innumerable others for the betterment of society. After conducting some research, he said my luggage might come in on the next flight out of Tampa, which was slated for 2:30P.M.

And Now, on With the Show…
An hour and a half late and without my camera to graphically recreate the event, I decided to make the best of a bad situation; after all, I arrived alive and safe - - life is good! And now I would be with wonderful kindred spirits, the “crazed fanboys and fangirls” of the South Florida world of commercial aviation.

I Meet a Living Legend and Florida Folk Hero!
Y’all have heard me previously talk about Florida Folk Hero “Miami Mike” Hiscano. (See La Fla, PCR #154). He was of course there peddling his wares, but a much bigger surprise would await me. His father, Augie Hiscano, was also in attendance. Upon my striking a conversation with this incredible man, I found out that he was the General Manager of Orange Blossom Hobbies in Miami for thirty-six years. Now, anyone who ever grew up in Miami in the past forty years, or even visited and searched for the absolute finest hobby shop in South Florida undoubtedly visited this incredible institution many a time - - I sure did, and it was on my “must do” list when visiting Miami! In addition to this, he has built miniature models of incredible complexity and detail that are not much larger than a dime! We discussed old Miami; how Auggie’s wife would take Mike to MIA in the days when the observation decks were still on the second story of the concourses; and the experiences that his family and my parents had in pre-Castro Cuba. Let me take this time to praise this jovial and genteel man who brought joy to innumerable hobby buffs (including the late-great “Big Wilson”). Suddenly the thought of lost luggage was lost in the gravity of this wonderful meeting - - life is good! The Missing Cosmic Muffin Pilot and The Levine’s and I Lament the Waning Interest in Commercial Aviation As I left the show to phone Al Perry on the status of my luggage, I spoke for a few minutes to Don and Linda Levine, Florida Folk Heroes Supreme and the creators of this wonderful annual show. Linda noticed my Plane Boats t-shirt featuring the Cosmic Muffin (See La Fla, PCR #178) and commented that she thought that its owner and pilot, David Drimmer was “still in the building”. Her husband, Don, went into the salon to find him and reported that he must have left before I got there (now I was getting a little mad at my luggage misfortune). That hurt! I really wanted to meet and thank that gentleman for his help in providing my article on the Muffin in issue #178. Immediately before I left for the nearest payphone at the Wyndham Miami Airport Hotel, Don and Linda were lamenting over the declining attendance of the event over the years. I chimed in that I thought the reason was one that plagues us all eventually - - it’s generational - - the core audience who had an interest in commercial aviation from the late forties through the mid-eighties has started to move on or even pass on.

To Buy or Not To Buy? That is the Question!
There it was, one of the most exquisite models I have ever seen! A beautifully professional 1/100 scale TAMPA Colombia DC-6B amidst other incredible works on the table manned by the staff of Miami’s Atlantic Models, but I was in a bit of a quandary - - I didn’t have any luggage to put this rare masterpiece in (now I was getting a little mad at my luggage misfortune). But I took the gamble and figured if I had to mail it to myself I would! More on this later.

Miami City Hall at Dinner Key. This historic building was originally a terminal for Pan American World Airways from 1930 to 1946 and is where flying boat service to Latin America was launched.
Al Perry to the Rescue
True to his word Mr. Perry found my baggage on the 2:30 flight so I drove about three blocks west to M.I.A. and picked it up. Reunited and it feels so good! The problem was that it was already 3:30 P.M. by then, not leaving much time to visit anything with so little good daylight left to photograph. Fairchild Tropical Garden was out as it closes at 4:00 P.M., so I opted for visiting one of my favorite spots, Miami City Hall and marina at Dinner Key, followed by an incredible dinner at the Rusty Pelican on the Rickenbacker Causeway in Key Biscayne. The Miami skyline was breathtaking even on this blustery and windy Caribbean day so I snapped one of my few shots before the sun sank on this too short but wonderful day - - life is good.

Brits Cause A Local Hurricane
Once back at the Red Roof Inn at LeJeune Road, located almost immediately across from Runway 9L/27R, a Boeing 747 jumbo jet lumbered dramatically into the night sky over the Coconut Palm laced River Road neighborhood. This British Airways flight was headed for London Heathrow and the aircraft’s incredible weight and mass created a several-second, mini-hurricane poolside at the hotel - - very impressive and somewhat frightening at the same time.

The marina behind Miami City Hall.
Horns A-Honkin’
Not long after the spectacular take off mentioned above, horns started honking on LeJeune Rd. and nearby N.W. 36th Street. Suddenly my mind was taken back to October 1997 when I stepped outside of the now non-existent Airliner Hotel and horns were honking in celebration of the Florida Marlins first World Series win. I went into the lobby and was informed by the attendants that yes indeed, the Marlins won their second World Series beating the New York Yankees on their own home turf by a score of 2-0 (http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/)! Upon returning to my room and reveling in the Marlins' victory, another Sports Legend who I love dearly, Coach Bobby Bowden, had led his Florida State Seminoles to his record 339 victories making him the most winning college football coach in history. The Noles had beat Wake Forest by a score of 48 to 24. Oh, and another good thing about this trip - - it was a bye week for the University of Miami and University of Florida, so I didn’t miss as much of my regular fill of Florida College football. As I put my head on my pillow, I smiled to myself and thought, life is good!

Will’s TAMPA Colombia DC-6B Takes Its First Flight
Guess what didn’t fit into my luggage after all? You guessed it, my beautiful TAMPA Colombia DC-6B model.

Just another day in paradise as the sun begins to sink below the Miami skyline as viewed across Biscayne Bay from the Rusty Pelican restaurant.
In this day and age of overzealous airport security I didn’t know what to expect at MIA as I would take AirTran Flight 2138 back to Tampa (“Hey buddy you could hijack or bludgeon somebody with that model!”), but again I took the gamble that the TSA personnel would understand my predicament. They not only understood, but TSA and AirTran personnel at MIA and then TPA fell in love with it, wondering where they could get a model of such quality - - life is indeed good!

Of course I told them to contact the Atlantic Models web page and consider investing in Roger Jarman’s fine work. My 1/100 scale DC-6B (and I ) sped along at 380 miles per hour at 23,000 feet, something its inspired original would never have been capable of!

Home Sweet Home
At 10:25 A.M. on Sunday October 26, 2003, I was about one thousand feet immediately above one of my best friend’s house on finals to Tampa International Airport.

Denis Lebrun, who is the lead artist for the comic strip “Blondie’ (Remember our exclusive PCR interview?) is on the home page at lives directly beneath the flight path of Runway 18R/36L. After deplaning I stopped by his house to plot out our January trip to Miami so he can pick up some rare corals that he hopes to have shipped to MIA from Kenya.

I then took my prize model and some wonderful memories of some wonderful people back home to Plant City where my lovely wife Karen Cashon and our two cats, Erin and Tezcat, who reside in our 1920 Florida cracker house, were awaiting my safe arrival- - life is good!

It’s A Small World After All! How Orange Blossom Hobbies, the SCFBA and T.R.E.E. Inc. Are Interrelated!
Regular readers of this column may remember that my wife Karen Cashon and I were Founding Members of the Suncoast F-Body Association or “SCFBA” (http://www.scfba.net/ - - and yes, that’s Karen’s car in the top photo there). Formed this year, the association is dedicated to the history, appreciation, education and continued viable performance of the General Motors F-Body style of vehicle that would include the Chevrolet Camaro and its variants, and the Pontiac Firebird and its variants.

I have never met a finer group of people nor had more of a feeling of secular camaraderie than when I am with these colorful individuals at our meetings. The members include such notables as a man who has sailed the seven seas and has the merchant marine tales to back it up (that would be “Charlie” or “Road Rocket”), a Florida Cracker girl who served as a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputy and DEA agent who busted Washington D.C. Mayor Marion Barry (that would be “Cate” or DarkangelSS”), an Elvis Presley look-alike (that would be “Mike” or “Elvis”) and a host of others with descript handles such as “Nightfighter”, “Hyper Chick”, “Country Boy” and long-time friend of T.R.E.E. Inc. Vice President Bob Scheible, “Crazy Dave” Carter.

Not surprisingly, my handle is “Florida Boy”.

At one of our meetings back in August at the Burger King on U.S. 19 in Pinellas Park, I had the meeting Davis Gandees (“Old Goat”). Gandees is a native of Miami and the father of valued member Christopher Gandees (“Tophrhwk”). As it turns out, Davis is an enthusiast of aviation like me and I sent him links to previously published “La Floridiana” articles on aviation in Florida.

I sent him a link to last week’s article about “My Life and Times at Tampa International Airport and received the first note below. After my initial response below that an incredible exchange of information occurred which I would like to forward to my readers, in particular Bob Scheible, "Miami Mike” Hiscano and hopefully Aggie Hiscano, concerning the famed Orange Blossom Hobbies which is featured in part of the article above.

Oh, and lastly, I should’ve remembered in last week’s article to list Muse Air and its later incarnation as TranStar in the 1982-1986 listings. The fusalages had very avant-garde designs on their DC-9-50’s and MD-80’s more typical of today’s designs than that era’s. Anyway, on with the Great Orange Blossom Exchange:

----- Original Message -----
From: "Davis Gandees"
To: "William Moriaty"
Sent: Saturday, November 08, 2003 10:28 AM

Hi Will! Great article! You have an excellent memory or kept an accurate diary, I suspect the first. That EAL DC-7B brings back fond memories for me. I think EAL had the most colorful paint schemes of any airline at that time. Rickenbacker truly used his aircraft as flying billboards.

See you next week!

Best Regards,

Old Goat

-----Original Message-----
From: Will Moriaty
Sent: Saturday, November 08, 2003 11:02 AM
To: Davis Gandees

One of my favorite Eddie Rickenbacker tales is that of his reaction to Capital Airlines.

Capital was not updating its fleet as well as its competitors (you may recall that United absorbed the airline in the early 60's) and it feebly tried to "catch up" by painting the portion of the fuselage of its C-54's immediately next to the round windows to make the windows appear rectangular like the more modern DC-6.

Upon hearing that news Rickenbacker replied "Yeah - - next thing you know they'll start painting silhouettes of people in the windows to make you think they actually have passengers!"

Not many get the joke when I wear white pants and a light blue t-shirt with a dark blue overshirt and quip "I'm in Eastern Air Lines livery today!" Nothing said Miami to me more than the Eastern Air Lines fleet in the original livery and then the "Hockey Stick" livery that followed soon after. National came close when it added the "Sun King" colors to the fleet, but alas, it too faded into airline and Florida history oblivion. and I must pay homage to my dear friends based at MIA who were with Pan am as well. Oh well, at least the citizens of St. Petersburg voted overwhelmingly to keep Albert Whitted open!

Thanks again, and I'll forward next week's article to you where I describe how per chance I met the man who was the owner and manager of Orange Blossom Hobbies which used to be on NW 36th Street until closing two years ago.

Take care!

----- Original Message -----
From: "Davis Gandees"
To: "'Will Moriaty'"
Sent: Saturday, November 08, 2003 12:59 PM

If you need any info for the Orange Blossom story, let me know as I worked there for the owner, Lou Quick, Saturdays and summers when I taught school in Miami...1971-76. It was an interesting place with an eclectic collection of customers and employees.

-----Original Message-----
From: Will Moriaty
Sent: Saturday, November 08, 2003 8:17 PM
To: Davis Gandees

Lord have Mercy what a small world!

The man I talked to was Augie Hiscano. Was he a manager or owner? He told me he was there for 36 years. He remembered when the South American C-46 almost (or possibly did) crashed near there in 1965. Do you remember that incident?

In the continuing small world my good friend Bob Scheible unloaded and loaded that same aircraft and saw it crash as he left MIA.

Orange Blossom was the best!

----- Original Message -----
From: "Davis Gandees"
To: "'Will Moriaty'"
Sent: Saturday, November 09, 2003 9:20 AM

Yes, Augie was part owner in later years and worked in the train dept. The original owner was Bob Quick, Lou's father. It was originally on a corner across the street, I used to go there in the 50's. The larger store was once a bowling alley and it was around 1960 that they moved there. You may remember the beautiful original bowling alley wooden floors? Augie was also a National Car Model Champion. He scratch built from brass, aluminum and plastic an awesome 34 Ford hiboy a few years ago after winning the same award as a teenager. I was in high school when the C-46 went down just to the south of OB...I think loaded with Christmas trees going to S. America. The one I remember most was a DC-4 Carvair that went down on 36 street about 1974, just west of OB and took out several buildings and people on the ground. The most memorable customer I dealt with was Emerson Fittipaldi the F1 driver and champ. He and his family were great people. He'd buy $10-15K of stuff to take to Brazil whenever he was in Miami. He lives in Miami now.

You're right, OB was the best and another lost Florida icon!

See you next week!

St. Petersburg Voters Elect to Keep Albert Whitted Airport Open
In other aviation related news, voters rejected the advice of St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker as well as the St. Petersburg Times, local developers and land speculators intent on closing historic Albert Whitted Airport.

The 75-year-old airport, located in St. Petersburg's Bayfront area near downtown was given a 73% electoral lease on life in a referendum vote on November 4, 2003. it's wonderful to see that the City's citizenry is that intent in defending its heritage and not being flim-flammed by the entities mentioned above.

For more on this story, link to the November 5, 2003 edition of the Tampa Tribune at: http://www.tampatrib.com/MGAP0LVVMMD.html

University of South Florida Bulls Inducted into the Big East Conference
Not long after it was announced that the University of Miami would leave the Big East Conference next season and join the Atlantic Coast Conference, our own University of South Florida was admitted to the Big East Conference for play starting in 2005! For more on this story, link to the November 5, 2003 edition of the Tampa Tribune at: http://www.tampatrib.com/MGAX6W9XMMD.html

Another South Tampa Landmark Closes
Two months ago, we lost Palios restaurant, and in October we lost another South Tampa landmark, the Old Meeting House Restaurant in the SoHo district. As "Miami Mike" Hiscano lamented to me at the meeting described in this edition of "La Floridiana", "if its different and historic, somebody will find a way to get rid of it, particularly in Florida - - amen Mike! His lamentation was over the loss of a unique restaurant called "Spirit" which was a located not far from Miami International Airport and featured one of the most incredible collections of Eastern Air Lines and Pan American Airlines travel agency model aircrafts and memorabilia to ever grace one specific location. I had the wonderful opportunity to visit that fine restaurant in June 2001 at the Airliners International Convention, and again in October 2002 for the SFAHA meeting.

For more on the Old Meeting House closure link to the (November 1, 2002) Archives of the Tampa Tribune web site at: http://archive.tampatrib.com/

There will be a nominal charge for bringing up the archived story.

"La Floridiana" is ©2003 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2003 by Nolan B. Canova.