Visitors' guide from years back brings past to present
Here’s a blast from 70 years in the past, complements of Rosie Wiley.
The “Visitors Guide Bradenton and Manatee County 1937-38” was self-described as “a convenient handbook for Bradenton’s winter visitors, containing information about this city, Manatee County and the beaches.” It was published by Commonwealth Press Inc. of Bradenton.
As Wiley described the publication, “It makes for quite interesting reading.”
There are descriptions of Manatee County - “The garden spot of Florida” - which includes a note on the growing of “strawberries, tomatoes, celery, peppers, eggplant, lettuce, cabbage and beans” as the chief vegetable crops. “Manatee County is second in importance in celery production in Florida,” according to the guide, and seventh in the state for tomatoes.
No mention of citrus, though.
Here’s part of the discussion of Bradenton Beach within the guide, which seems to echo the last few years of growth and development within the city.
“A few minutes ride down a paved highway will bring you to Bradenton Beach. This resort, being so near Bradenton, is easily the most popular place of its type in the county. Surely no one can imagine a more perfect location for a place of pleasure, sport and fun. If swimming, boating, fishing, all form of water sport and living in the sun appearls to you, Bradenton Beach is the place you have been seeking.
“Many people have realized its manifold advantages; as a result of this discovery, Bradenton Beach is one of the most progressive communities in this section of the state. As proof of this statement, more houses have been built this year than were standing there five years ago. The person that desires a clean, up-to-date place in which to rest or play will find that his requirements are more than met at Bradenton Beach.”
Jeez, doesn’t that sound familiar?
“Rental agencies are maintained there to simplify the securing of houses for those who desire them. These agencies are composed of people who are courteous, efficient and anxious to serve you. They are thoroughly acquainted with the possibilities that the beach has to offer, and are willing to give you the advantage of their knowledge and experience in selecting a house. The excellent housing facilities of Bradenton Beach must be seen to be appreciated and are at your service.”
Then there is the discussion of “tourist camps.”
“At the sunset end of the bridge leading to Bradenton Beach lie two tourist camps. Here, the nomad that carries his home with him may find a beautiful place to interrupt his journey. The bridge at whose foot the camps are is a fine place to fish. Balconies overhanging the water have been built along the bridge for the fishermen.”
Balconies? You’ve got to remember, all this flowery language is coming from a tourist guide.
“The camps are modern in every respect,” the book continues. “They have all conveniences, including running water and electric lights. Club houses for the trailer folk have been erected and are for the exclusive use of the campers for entertaining and getting together. This is a home that will be hard for one to leave.”
It is to be surmised that running water - notice no mention of running hot water? - and electric lights were quite the draw 70 years ago.
And then there is the obligatory talk of the beach.
“For those who come to Florida for the health-building rays that only a Florida sun can give, Anna Maria will be their destination. A white-sand beach, better than 100 feet wide, runs the full length of the crescent-shaped island on the Gulf side, while on the bay side a beach is available for about two miles.
“From the water’s edge, the depth of the water slightly increases until it is deep enough to afford a diving platform and bathing float. An official AAU springboard made of fir gives the diver complete protection from breaks and splinters.
“If, while swimming to the float, a swimmer gets weary, a strong insulated brass rope gives support and aid. On Thursdays, Sundays and holidays, adequate Red Cross life savers are on duty for the protection of bathers within a mile radius of the guards.”
Anna Maria City, too
The guide also gives some ink to the northernmost Island city of Anna Maria.
“The small resort city of Anna Maria is a big factor in bringing many persons of repute to this section of Florida. Combining the finest fishing facilities to be found anywhere in Florida with the health rays of an Anna Maria sun, the city is unsurpassed in many ways.
“For the fisherman, Anna Maria is paradise. For every member of the Isaac Walton League, there is an abundance of the finny creatures.
“It is not uncommon for a skillful fisherman to bring in between 15 and 20 varieties of fish as a result of one day’s angling. Among the most common, as well as the most sporting, are tarpon, kingfish, robalo, bluefish, mackerel, amberjack, sailfish and mango [mangrove] snapper.”
There is also mention of the “Anna Maria Municipal Pier, Frank Cofer, manager,” where one can “find excellent fishing. The management assure you the best in shore dinner, chowder, chili, sandwiches and drinks. You need not bring your fishing tackle because they have poles, tackle and bait for rent at reasonable rates.”
The guide even lauds the school. Sort of.
“The Anna Maria Grammar School is given the standard rating by the state board of public instruction, and that in itself speaks well for the school. For the small child, undernourished and ill, there is nothing like Anna Maria for him.
The best possible instructors are secured to take care of the students. School hours are so arranged that the students have several hours daily to lounge in the sun, fish and go swimming. A music instructor is a member of the faculty and, besides teaching in the school, gives private lessons for the high school students. A large and comfortable school bus runs to and from the school at no extra cost to parents or children who ride, also giving them several hours for recreation and rest before dusk falls.”
Whoever said history wasn’t fun?
Anna Maria nightlife
And what would a trip to an island be without some form of nightlife and recreational fun beside the beach? Anna Maria Island had it, of sorts, according to this spin piece of days past.
“Recreation facilities on Anna Maria include a dance hall where dances are held twice weekly, with a popular local orchestra furnishing the music and during the week with music by electrical transcription and radio. The dance floor is by far the finest hardwood floor on the Island and is favorably compared with the dance floors over the country.
“A complete up-to-date bathing pavilion, offering clean lockers and showers together with soft drinks, tobacco and candies, is within hailing distance from any part of the city and affords a most courteous and competent service.”
And then there are the ads
The ads in the little 56-page guide are almost as much fun as the copy and pictures.
For one thing, there are almost no addresses or phone numbers listed. Apparently, if you didn’t know where the place was, you shouldn’t go there.
The advertisements include such wonders at Wakeman Funeral Home, “Most complete stock of caskets in Manatee County,” and Turner’s Funeral Home, “Anywhere, anytime, lady attendants” for its ambulance service.
There are also listings for Holmes Gulf Beach Cottages, “Delightful, clean, comfortable. You’ll be surprised at the low rates!”
There’s even an ad for Pines Tavern Cocktail Bar, “Wines, liquors and beer - mixed drinks, good eats, dancing every night, Bradenton Beach.”
Joe Cuervo at the Drift In said he believes that was indeed the Drift In of yore, which makes sense because there’s another ad for The Pines, “An ideal trailer camp on Bradenton Beach, all modern equipment, bathing and fishing.”
Cuervo said that a prior owner of the Drift In, when it was called by another name, was George Herman Ruth Jr. Baseball fans will recognize him by another name - Babe.