The Old Fool, Rhoda and Rachel arrived in Tampa, Florida on February 4, 1950. They had to adjust to many things and to make friends of neighbors. Two blocks of Ida St. that passed the church were unpaved. Every so often trucks loaded with oyster shells dumped their loads on the street. Automobile traffic soon turned the shell into dust that the wind blew into church and parsonage. This annoyed The Old Fool and his family. (This story, and many others but less political are told in The Old Fool’s books.)
The Old Fool talked with a neighbor, Mr. Copeland, about the problem. He said, you’re the pastor. Call the mayor. Nervously, The Old Fool called the mayor’s office and was surprised to be assured that the matter would be taken care of. Surveyors were on the job on the day after the telephone call, and the day after that the street was being paved. The crew told The Old Fool they had been pulled off another job to pave the 14th. and 15th. blocks of Ida St.
Slowly, The Old Fool learned about the nature of city politics. The people had elected Mayor Curtis Hixon and the mayor’s job was to pave and maintain the streets, and do other necessary things with the taxes that were levied.
Mayor Nick Nuccio learned this the hard way. Born in Ybor City, he was the first Mayor of Latin (Italian) ancestry. He was a county commissioner when The Old Fool arrived in Tampa. He managed to have his name imprinted on any thing made of concrete installed by the city. Nuccio did many good things. He thought the people would like more public swimming pools, but Hurricane Donna flooded the inadequate storm sewer system and water flooded everywhere. Mayor Nuccio was defeated in the next election by Julian Lane.
As the Old Fool recalls it, on his first day in office Mayor Lane walked through city hall and quietly removed all “white’ and “colored” signs at drinking fountains and rest rooms. He closed the Clara Freye Hospital for blacks and merged it with the Tampa General Hospital.
Mayor Lane formed a bi-racial committee to work with the school board and Tampa Tribune to quietly integrate the public school system. He also upgraded the city’s storm sewer system. He is the Old Fool’s favorite mayor.
After being out of office for a term, Nick Nuccio defeated Julian Lane and was returned to office to oversee further expansion of the city of Tampa, The Old Fool’s home for thirty years. Consistent with his Mennonite father’s beliefs and practices The Old Fool remained aloof from politics for the first twenty of these years . But he followed it all with interest.
In the next post The Old Fool will continue his political pilgrimage. Subscribe/Unsubscribe