Ruskin Historical Society

Ruskin Historical Society
www.RuskinHistory.org

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Location: Ruskin, Florida, United States

Sunday, March 06, 2005

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42 Comments:

Blogger Rene S Reno said...

Does anyone else remember the old Clarks Department Store on the corner of US 41 and College Avenue which later became a grocery? It had an old-fashioned store front with an inset door and was of white wood construction. This was in the early 60s.

Soon after that the Clark family built M.C. Topps in the plaza where the post office is located. Next to that was the Thriftway grocery store. Both of those buildings are gone. However, Clarks furniture stll stands!

My first job as a teenager was in the M.C. Topps store about 1966. I stocked shelves, swept the floors and helped customers. It was a summer job for a high school student and of minimum wage. The manager, Mr. Stewart, would sit in his office above the open floor and watch everything. I always felt nervous about that.

10:21 PM  
Blogger Mike Molz said...

That store was Baker's Store. The north end was a hardware store, the middle was Clark's Furniture & the south end was Baker's.

Ralph Lambert moved his grocery store from Shell Point & 41 to Baker's Store
and Clark built his Dept./Furniture/Hardware stores behind the Post Office. I'm not sure exactly when that happened but it was around 62-65.

4:16 PM  
Blogger howardmartinez9140 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:09 AM  
Blogger Librarian 2 said...

Our namesake was an influential writer:
http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/ruskin/ruskinov.html

12:54 PM  
Blogger Librarian 2 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:54 PM  
Blogger Librarian 2 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:55 PM  
Blogger LISA PYCHE said...

PHILLIP J. (PJ) COMBS 18 YRS. OLD A NATIVE OF RUSKIN WAS KILLED ON JUNE 12, 2004 IN S. HILLSBOROUGH CTY BY A DRUNK DRIVER. HIS DAD & I DECIDED ON RUSKIN MEMORIAL CEMETARY BECAUSE OUR SON LOVED THE RIVER. IT'S A BEAUTIFUL LOCATION. ANYWAY, I HAVE ASKED SEVERAL TIMES IF WE COULD REPLACE THE BRIDGE IN THE CEMETARY IN MEMORY OF OUR SON. I WILL PAY FOR ALL THE MATERIALS & LABOR. IT WOULD MEAN SO MUCH TO US. PLEASE LET ME KNOW. THANKS LISA PYCHE 671-7274

2:13 AM  
Blogger LISA PYCHE said...

I WILL BE POSTED AS LISA PYCHE. PJ MOM

2:14 AM  
Blogger Mango said...

Baker's store was only "Baker's Store" until Maynard Clark bought it and the Baker's retired. The south end was grocery, the middle was dry goods, and the north was hardware. Perhaps Mr. Clark had a furniture store in the middle section but I don't remember that. Most of my dresses were made from fabric bought from Baker's store.

9:30 PM  
Blogger Shirley said...

Yes, I remember Clark's at both
U.S. 41 and behind the Post Office
as M.C. Topps (Maynard Clark Topps)
Topps was a chain of stores owned
by individuals, I believe.
Both of those buildings burned.

Maynard and I were good competitors
in those years while I had Dail's
Shoes and Boots and Shoe City,
and He had M.C. Topps and Thom
McCann Shoes.
Imagine...4 places in Ruskin where
people came to buy shoes. They
came from Bradenton, the new Sun
City Center, Tampa, and all
surrounding towns.
It was a bustle in Ruskin in those
days and I miss them.
But thank God for all the memories.
Shirley Dail

12:39 AM  
Blogger Richard Council said...

Does anyone remember Homer Smallwood's Fish House next to the Little Manatee railroad bridge?Best smoked mullet around.How about the big car ferry at Cockroach Bay? Before the first Skyway Bridge was built it was the quickest way to St. Pete. Or the Atlantic Coastline RR Depot? Once we caught the train from it to see the Ringling Bros.Circus under the bigtop in Sarasota.The Ruskin Amphitheater is gone but not forgotten.I ran into one of the actors from the outdoor drama "Voice In The Wind" years later at a party in NYC!

10:11 AM  
Blogger shelley said...

Hi Rene Reno.

I worked at Clark's Furniture store I guess the year before you did, after I graduated high school in 1965. I also remember the old stores on 41 and College, but I remember a grocery store, dry goods and hardware store. I loved going to the drygoods to look at fabric, and when the junior high kids decided to go steady they bought the rings there that were to be worn around the neck. My best remembrance of shopping was going to Jim Lanier's little store on the river near the railroad bridge. Big Jim was always at the meat counter in the back with a game on tv, and Dad stood around talking with them. Or we shopped at the Coffee Cup, where Billie Walker was the butcher. Billie was the son of my uncle's wife, so we always spent a while visiing there too.

Richard, I don't remember the Amphitheater. Where was it?

10:35 PM  
Blogger just Tim said...

Richard, or anyone knowing Ruskin's history. I think I might own that Smallwood's Fish House I would really like more info. and history on the building. I was told it was at one time a Fish House. I am repainting it and I would like to make it close to it's original state. Thanks, Tim.

7:15 PM  
Blogger Sharon Ratell Brown said...

My Name Is Sharon[ Ratell ] Brown I Was Raised in Gibsonton. Does anyone remember the Shell Point Pool, and skating rink, and resturant that was at the end of shell point road where the marina now stands. When i Grew up it Was Where we took Swimming Lessons during summer school. It was torn down in the 80's i think. i remember going there in 80 or 81 and the pool was drained and the wooded floor skating rink was already torn down all that was left was the bar & resturant. and in the mid 90's it was all gone even the bait house . all that stood then was the big marina. the shell point pool and the wooden closed in skating rink and the resturant were all attached. it was a beautiful place. we always went there to swim, and skate.it had even dressing rooms on the end of the pool. Wow what memorys. I wish some one would build one just like it so every one could enjoy it and socialize. I don't have any pictures of it but any one 48 or older probably learn to Swim there. I wish I had Pictures. I would love to see Pictures of it the way that it was. God Bless it and God bless my Memories. Sharon (Ratell) Brown

9:18 PM  
Blogger Joy Tindel said...

I remember the skating rink and the swimming pool well. I learned to skate there when I was 9 and I learned to swim in the pool during vacation summer school. When my mother's family moved to Ruskin, Shell Point was owned by a man they called Captain Thomas. My uncle and my mother helped him run the skating rink. When I learned to skate there, it was owned by Frank and Alice Barhet. They were wonderful people and they treated all of us kids great. The restaurant and skating rink were old army barracks that they put together with a breezeway. Back in those days we had alot of things to do, but sadly that is not the case today.

4:24 PM  
Blogger Richard Council said...

The Ruskin Theater was very important to seven year olds in 1954 for it was where you could spend a whole saturday watching the shoot'em ups with Gene Autry,Roy Rogers and Hopalong Cassidy.I do believe that Lash Larue himself appeared in person there to the amazement of one and all,although the memory does play tricks after sixty.The balcony existed.At least I think it did!

8:00 PM  
Blogger Richard Council said...

The amphitheater was located near the pond down at the old tomato festival grounds.The Agricultural Extension offices were nearby where we all received our first polio shots and where every Halloween there was a carnival with rides and a cake-walk,a spookhouse and a hayride.The Coast Guard did a helicopter water rescue demonstration in the pond once and an amphibious amtrak appeared there that I do remember.

8:11 PM  
Blogger Richard Council said...

Are there any members of the B.S.A. Troop 86 still around? Some of my best memories of Ruskin are of Spruce Pine Landing and monkey bridges ,Bull Frog Creek and Simmons' cow pasture and Capture the Flag and our scoutmaster Mr. Allen's electrified cooler and snipe hunts.Does anyone remember the alligator at Fish Eating Creek?

8:24 PM  
Blogger Richard Council said...

Ah yes,the swimming pool at Shell Point.How well I remember the rumble of skates next door and the changing booths and the chlorine smell and getting dunked by obnoxious swimmers.It was built on the remains of the ancient Thomas Mound atop which the conquistador Hernando Desoto was once entertained in the village of Ucita four houndred years before.I too miss this Ruskin landmark.A hotel for fishermen stood there before the pool was constructed I have read in the 1880's.

8:41 PM  
Blogger Arthur "Mac" said...

A. McA. Miller
120 Dickman Dr. S.W.
Ruskin, FL 33570-4611

In Memory: Developer
Paul B. Dickman (1897-1976)
“He built the marshlands
into homesites.”

I
In dry Missouri, days
of the scratch-plow turned over
with the century, his family shifted
down to Florida backlands, green
with slash pine and saw palmetto.
Power to split the timber
was your own right arm.

Down here, muscles bunched
on black-striped convicts hired
from the State. They latched on, working
the ragged teeth; so sawdust
speckled wild blue rivers
running south. New refugees
from Georgia fled from the law --
“fly-up-th’cricks” he called them.

II
When pines were notched,
they bled rough honey for the stills.
He slept on raw split boards
that winter, eleven years old
in the turpentine camps. His father’s
heavy hand was platting
streets before the first
fall crop turned green.

In his teens, the new steel plow
was a knife to cut the furrow, a share
to slice under sod, and a moldboard
(no stanza break)
to turn dirt over. Soil went spilling up
as wood dust from a cross-cut
sprays on shifting water.

After the banks turned over,
he was thirty, broke, and harvested
a sheaf of deeds too worthless
to play out. So he held them till
the War turned over; then he stood
straight on his wide share of farmland.
Firm as honed-bright sawmill teeth,
he smiled his slow smile.

III
Now it was pines and mangroves
spilled back from the bay-front,
houses rising stiff as furrows
squared on the watershed;
earth heaped up and turned over
as his dredges sucked the marsh;

They packed up parking lots
and condos, single-family
waterfront retreats, marinas
that rocked in their seawalls,
and solid squared-off homes
for second-generation pioneers.

From the asphalt airport overland,
new Snowbirds flew the creeks.
Powerboats whipped the river
solid brown. “Making land
for people,” he said, “is better
than the love affair of some
damn clam,” and smiled.

IV
In the fifties, right
was his Fee Simple; he
(no stanza break)
had earned it. Others
hadn’t slept on split pine
boards that hardscrabble winter,
with the century three years older
than he was, when the ground-cold
rose through floorboard cracks,
if the fireplace drew at all.

So he platted in his sixties
looping cul-de-sacs and subdivided
tracts as far south as the small plots
of our graveyard, where his huge hand
drew the line. Come seventy, he knew,
limits soften all resources.

Things overshoot, collapse; his body --
firm for almost eighty years --
turned over in December, remembering
perhaps the shine of bright pine
dust on water, and settled
near the river, in squared
land that bears his deed
and name upon it.

----

1:01 PM  
Blogger Shirley said...

Shirley Dail
Pastor, Church Along The Way
Dailgirl@msn.com
Ruskin, Fl

I remember the old Agricultural
Park in the mid-50's. My dad was
a rabbit judge (USA) and judged
state fairs and rabbit shows. That
sounds so funny now. But, I remember going every month to the
Ruskin Ag Park for meetings, across from Ed Carr's home, and my dad gave one of the Carr boys a
rabbit to get him interested in show rabbits.
In later years our church
baptized in the pond between that
Ag Park and where Mixon lived.
I remember Stanley Fountain was
baptized there but his arm flung
up in the air and I was worried
because his whole body didn't get
baptized.
Later, my oldest son, Pete Dail III
climbed the high electric pole at
age 8 or 9...and someone said,
"Who is that kid way up there?"
and lo and behold he had climbed the metal spike steps and was atop
that pole on a ledge. I gently
said..."Son, it's okay..just come
on down." (And now I am nearly 73
and greying....see why?)
That was at the old Ag Park, south
of Ruskin. To find old location,
take US 41 south, cross overpass,
turn left at light, right away
turn left again on 14th...see pond
on right, then health clinic....
Well that was where the old Ag Park and Amp-Theatre was. Rabbit
shows and other Agricultural events
were held there.
My other son, Randall Dail only
ran back and forth on the barn roof, to bring more aging to me.
BACK TO AG PARK: It has been the
health clinic now for many years...
there on 14th..and The Ag Park and
outdoor theatre with semi-rounded
poured cement seats/steps is no more. ALSO, My old time friend,
who worked many years for me at Ruskin's first shoe store, Mildred Fountain, spoke often of the old skating rink on Shell Point. I loved hearing her tell
about it and I LOVE READING ALL YOUR STORIES. GOD BLESS,
Pastor Shirley

1:53 AM  
Blogger Samantha E. said...

I haven't been home to Ruskin, FL in many years. In fact, my son is 24 now and he was three when I was home last. My granny, Cora Hampton, passed in the early 1980s and I still miss her.
Any one there who remembers me will know me by my given name, Elizabeth Taylor. For obvious reasons I legally changed it to further my career as a writer. Because I always loved my birthplace, I chose it as my new last name.
I only discovered today that my all time favorite eating spot in the world is no more. Coffee Cup, I grieve your loss anew.
I go by the name Samantha now and welcome any emails that come my way.

1:48 PM  
Blogger John Y. Willis said...

The original building that became Clarks store complex later was Lavenders store. It was owned and operated by John Lavender who was from Palmetto. He sold the business to A.A. Baker who built the second part of the building. I do not remember whether Baker or clark built the last part.
The grocery store in Ruskin at the time of Lavenders were also The Coffee Cup which was ran by Jack wynn and Willis Super Market across from the Coffee Cup which was owned and operated by my father H. Y. Willis. He was the younger brother of W. H. "chick" Willis who was the first commercial tomato grower in the Ruskin area. My father had operated a store on US41 at the Little Manatee River from about 1925-26 till the highway was changed and the overpass built about 1940.
The main places of business in the late 1930s were at the river on US 41. Mr Gus McGriff had a gas station and repair place at the canal about fouror five hundred yards from the river and the Boraiko family had a place on the S. side of US41 across from my fathers property. The property of my father also included a barber shop our home and a restuarant. My father had a dock between the old highway bridge and the RR trestle where the excursion boat from St. Petersburg would dock when the passengers came to the resturant to eat. The main theme of the excursion boat to the passengers was " to ride up the river to see the hermit, the alligators and most of all the oysters growing on the trees." The first fish house was on the N. side of the RR om 10th St. It was purchased by Mr J. H. Smallwood from the original owner and operated there for many years. The Smallwood family later built a new facility on the S. side of US41 on the river. This was sold to Mr. Lanier and Mr. Christie . Mr Lanier bought Mr Christie out later and ran a grocery there. The Smallwoods also reopened the old fish house and operated it for a while.
The original Balls store was on 10th St. just N f the Smallwood fish house. It was owned and operated by Mr. Frank Ball. He moved to the S. side of the river and had a store and fish house on the river about where Gulf City Road comes into US41. He built a new building and closed the fish house when US41 was rerouted basically in front of the old store. He also had a repair shop next to the store and a turpertine kiln across Us41 on Gulf City Road. The area in and around the Ball store area was and still is, by some, called Balltown.
The other store that was in Ruskin early on was the Cralle store. It was located near the old Ruskin RR depot.

9:40 PM  
Blogger John Y. Willis said...

To Mike Molz
Do you remember your grandfathers sandwich shop on US41 just S of the inlet on the west side. He also had the bus station there. The next thing S of his place was the old tomato canning plant.
There was a small wooden bridge over the inlet just N of the sandwich shop . The highway was just two lane at the time.
There were some young boys in town that were known to go skinny dipping under thew bridge even in the daylight. A sign that traffic was noy heavy on the highway.

9:53 PM  
Blogger John Y. Willis said...

Richard
The ferry was at Piney Point in Manatee County just S. of a large tomato field your grandfather had . The fiels was across from where the Villmaire Bros. had a tomato field also.
Piney Point Road ended an the ramp/dock for the ferry. The Winters family lived nearby. Mr. Winters was one of the early Captains on the frerries.
You are right about the saving of miles and time. The alternative route was to go through Tampa and across Gandy Bridge. Howard Frtankland Bridge was not built at that time.

2:27 PM  
Blogger John Y. Willis said...

Shelley
The gentleman at the Coffee Cup was Willie Walker not Billie. Who were your family members and how were they related.
Red Lanier was in the fish business early on when he bought the place from the Smallwood family. He ran the grocery store there after he closed the fish business.
Ralph Lambert had the grocery store there before he moved to the building at US41 and Shell Point Road. Mr. Lambert bought the business at the US41 location from Mr Royce Simmons.
Mr Willis Walker and Mr. Royce Simmons are my uncles.

2:39 PM  
Blogger John Y. Willis said...

When Captain Thomas first built the swimming pool and the skating rink as an addition to his Shell Point development. there was no chlorination of the water. The pool was filled each week from the artesian well on the property and drained each Monday to be cleaned. The pool had a six inch drain in the bottom at the end toward the river. The valve was opened and the pool emptied into the river. We can only imagine what the "greenies" would say about that today. The folks that cleaned the pool were mostly volunteers from the community. We young folks were glad to be a part of the volunteer force because a free one day pass was given to each person that helped. The pool sides and bottom were scrubbed with large scrub brushes and rinsed down. The valve was closed when the cleaning was done and the pool refilled overnight to be ready for the coming week.
The wells like I referred to were strong and flowed with a large stream in those days. There was not a need for a pump on the well for irrigating the tomato fields or the running of water into your house. Many houses that had a large well close to the house had a two inch stand pipe with valve for a good shower bath. The force of the well could knock a child down.
The skating rink was built in two stages. The floor was the best oak flooring that was available to Captain Thomas. He built the rink and thought later that it was not long enough so he added about twenty more feet. There was a problem with the addition because it wqas always a bit rougher than the rest of the floor.
The building that had the foor service and bar was added after the pool and skating rink was built.

5:55 PM  
Blogger John Y. Willis said...

THE WILLIS HOUSE
The house that is shown elsewhere in this website and dubbed the Willis house was not built in Ruskin.
It was built as a section house on the RR spur that served the sawmill that operated S. of the Little Manatee River and E. of US301.
The name of the mill owners escapes me but it was in operation over about the same period that the Elsberry Brothers built and ran their sawmill in Wimauma. The Elsberry Brtothers were Mr. Sam Elsberry and Mr. George Elsberry.
The mills were operated on about the same scheme. They cut all the marketable timber as they went over the tracts they had purchased "stumpage rights" to. They had a narrow guage RR that they moved as they cut a section out. The mill at Willow, the one where the house came from, had a gentleman that later founded what is now Robbins Lumber in Tampa. He was Mr. Bruce Robbins.
The Willis family lived on their farm on the Gulf City Road when they built the building at US41 and Shell Point Road. Mr. Willis felt the need to live closer to the store business they began in the new building. He was not in a position to build anything of consequence at that time. The mill at Willow had been shut down for a spell and the RR spur no longer used. It was learned that the section houses were to be sold. Mr. Willis bought one of them and moved it to Ruskin. The center part of the house was all that came from Willow. The front porch and the addition on the back was added by Mr. Willis after the rest was in place. The front porch was all wood sash windows that were purchased from some demolition job and the back addition was built from scratch. The back addition was my bedroom and the breakfast porch. There was an unattached two car garage to the rear of the house when the Willis' lived there.

7:58 PM  
Blogger John Y. Willis said...

The original Florida Tomato Festival was held each spring on the ground where the telephone building is today. A building was on the front of that property that was the a community building and later was known as the Chamber of Commerce building. It was the location of the polls for elections. had an end of it used for a local sheriffs office and many other things. It was used as an exhibit building during the Festival and many civic type functions during the year. The property ran from the Dickman home property to the next street N. There was a stage on the N. end of the property and toward the rear of the property. The Queen paegant and most all the entertainment type functions were held on the stage. They would include "Buck Buchanan " fast art show, the hog calling and buck dancing contests and more.
The Festivbal moved to the grounds S. of the overpass later. The county had a piece of property next to the "bar pit" that was dug to build the overpass. The county built a building to house the local agricultural agent and the county health nurse. The agricultural agent was Mr. Milford Jorgensen and the health nurse wasa that very dear lady that meant so much to the community, Ms. Joyce Ely.
The Festival was not operated after about the mid 1950s.
A group of citizens got together with the idea of creating an outdoor drama like the ones they had attended in the mountains on summer vacations.
An ampitheatre was built on the Festival ground and the drama was created. The drama was a great show but the weather and such made the season a disaster. THe locals worked hard to revive the show for a second season but top no avail.
The drama was written by the same famous author of that type show who had written "Unto These Hills" in Cherokee, N. C., "horn in the West " in Boone N. C. and "The lost Colony " on the North Carolina coast.
I have tried to gat a copy of the playbook for the show to no avail, It seems though that the Historical Society has one.

8:22 PM  
Blogger John Y. Willis said...

There was a mail service that served the area S. of the Little Manatee River and it was located at the mouth of the river in Gulf City. The landing for the boat that brought the mail from Tamps was on the property we knew as the Morgan place. It was where the Gulf City Road ended next to the H. Y. Willis farm. The P. O. served the Gulf City area, old Sun City and via a horse rider the N. area of Manatee County to Parrish. The postmaster was a Mr. Denson who was the father of Mr. Malaici Denson who lived in old Sun City most of his life. The P. O. operated until a P. O. was set up at Ross . Ross is the name that became old Sun City.

8:32 PM  
Blogger John Y. Willis said...

There was a mail service that served the area S. of the Little Manatee River and it was located at the mouth of the river in Gulf City. The landing for the boat that brought the mail from Tamps was on the property we knew as the Morgan place. It was where the Gulf City Road ended next to the H. Y. Willis farm. The P. O. served the Gulf City area, old Sun City and via a horse rider the N. area of Manatee County to Parrish. The postmaster was a Mr. Denson who was the father of Mr. Malaici Denson who lived in old Sun City most of his life. The P. O. operated until a P. O. was set up at Ross . Ross is the name that became old Sun City.

8:32 PM  
Blogger John Y. Willis said...

One of the early characters of Ruskin was Mr. Rube Allyn, Sr. who had property across the inlet/creek in back of where the Ruskin Chamber building is today. There was not a street there in those days, only a footpath that came from where the street ended that was in what is now Campus Shores. The footpath ran along the S. side of the Allyn property and was used by the folks that lived in the vicinity of the Council home and surrounding to get to US41 without going to College Ave. and around. The youngsters of the area were reluctant to use the path except with company and during daylight. Mr. Allyn never did a thing to deserve the fear but the many storiea about him caused folks to be afraid. His son was Mr. Rube Allyn, Jr. who was well known is the publishing and writing businesses in St. Petersburg. Mr. Allyn, Sr. did have a lot of printing equipment and such in his place and may have done some work of that type.
There was also another "hermit" who lived up the Little Manatee River about a mile or so upriver from the cemetary. He lived on a spit of land on the S. side of the river. He was also one of the focus objects of the St. Petersburg excursions boats that made the trip up the river several times a week during the tourist season. The excursion boat turned around about where his place was and came back downriver to see more alligators and oysters growing on the trees.

2:41 PM  
Blogger John Y. Willis said...

The comment from "Just Tim" asked a question about the fish house at the RR bridge. The building on the N. side of the RR on 10th St. was the original fish houe in that area. I have tried to respond to the quewstion through his Blogger setup but to no avail. I have also tried to contact "Mango" in reference to her comment. I would appreciate any help from anyone that would allow me to contact these folks.

12:45 PM  
Blogger John Y. Willis said...

The Ruskin Theatre building was built by Mr. W. H. Willis and Mr. H. L."Dusty" Crowder. There were a couple or so more but memory fails at times. Mr. Crowder was from Tampa but did many things to help the Ruskin area. He had an ionsurance business and a multi story parking garage and service facility in the old downtown part of Tampa.
The first "live" play presented at the theatre was the Senior Class play of the 1949 Senior Class of Wimauma High School. The title of the play was "Adam's Evening . It was also the first time a class play had been done at any place other than the High School.
The building was the site of the offices of, first Dr. Harris and later Dr. H. E Cline. Dr. Cline had practiced in Polk County prior to moving to Ruskin. He was another of the country doctor types as was Dr. Harris.
The daughter of Dr. Cline was Mrs Stone who operated the drug store .
The theatre of the Ruskin area before the building we speak of was held for many years in the exhibit building of the old Festival grounds. The main entrance to the Tomato Festival was on US41 at the corner of the property nearest the Dickman house. The area was made up of a front entrance and a u-shaped building going back from the highay. The building was made up of open booths that served as most of the commercial boothe during the Festival. The Building was used as a outdoor movie place for a long time after the Festival had moved. The movies were mostly the Western type, always with a serial or two to help folks want to come back next week. Mr. Stephens, a retired carnival show ride owner had a concession stand in the theatre that sold snow cones and more. He made the snow cones with a hand tool that scraped the flakes for the cone off a solid piece of ice. There were times when the interactions on the grass in the theatre area were more interesting than the show.

2:16 PM  
Blogger John Y. Willis said...

The Ruskin Theatre building was built by Mr. W. H. Willis and Mr. H. L."Dusty" Crowder. There were a couple or so more but memory fails at times. Mr. Crowder was from Tampa but did many things to help the Ruskin area. He had an ionsurance business and a multi story parking garage and service facility in the old downtown part of Tampa.
The first "live" play presented at the theatre was the Senior Class play of the 1949 Senior Class of Wimauma High School. The title of the play was "Adam's Evening . It was also the first time a class play had been done at any place other than the High School.
The building was the site of the offices of, first Dr. Harris and later Dr. H. E Cline. Dr. Cline had practiced in Polk County prior to moving to Ruskin. He was another of the country doctor types as was Dr. Harris.
The daughter of Dr. Cline was Mrs Stone who operated the drug store .
The theatre of the Ruskin area before the building we speak of was held for many years in the exhibit building of the old Festival grounds. The main entrance to the Tomato Festival was on US41 at the corner of the property nearest the Dickman house. The area was made up of a front entrance and a u-shaped building going back from the highay. The building was made up of open booths that served as most of the commercial boothe during the Festival. The Building was used as a outdoor movie place for a long time after the Festival had moved. The movies were mostly the Western type, always with a serial or two to help folks want to come back next week. Mr. Stephens, a retired carnival show ride owner had a concession stand in the theatre that sold snow cones and more. He made the snow cones with a hand tool that scraped the flakes for the cone off a solid piece of ice. There were times when the interactions on the grass in the theatre area were more interesting than the show.

2:16 PM  
Blogger Gabriel said...

I was born and raised in Ruskin for the past 16 years of my life and now I'm planning to start my life and go to college I knew Ruskin was a little old town I remember being a student at Ruskin Elementary which if I remember correctly was established in 1912 or 1906 whether I'm right about those years I do not know but I am on the Cross Country and Track team at Lennard and we run by all these historic sites all the time and I don't notice them all to much and I didnt know of the coffee shop thats on shell point and is now an empty lot I hope that they can keep the theatre in tact that would be awesome. I would definately love to come back in a couple years after college to visit.

9:23 PM  
Blogger Barbara Williamson said...

I am the great-granddaughter of George Washington Cralle who was the propietor of Cralle's store for about 22 years. His daughter, Esther Cralle, married Paul Dickman. We used to visit them in the 60s and 70s. I even have a ring that Aunt Esther gave my mother.

I would like to know if anyone has a photo of the old Cralle store. I am working on a family book and would like period photos and other info on the Cralles

3:29 PM  
Blogger RIchard said...

Hi John (Willis):

Very interesting indeed! I lived 6 miles N of Ruskin at the Ruskin Tomato Growers packing house. I lived there from 1942 to 1956.

Some names I remember:
Enzor (owned the drugstore)
Jorgenson: scout master
Rowland: Methodist pastor and scout leader
Jimmy Lanier: (grocery business)
Elsberry's: (tomato growers-my Dad worked 30 years at their tomato packing house.
Dickman: Mr. Ruskin along with the Willis and Miller families
Council: Large family, large vegetable and cattle growers and large bank account. Ha Ha.
Beverly and Alice Willis: I think you know them! Ha Ha
Lash Larue: Saw him cut a cigarette from someones mouth using a bull whip from 15 feet on stage at the Ruskin Theatre.
Mrs. Caruthers. Principal Ruskin school.
Carmen Irish. 8th grade teacher at Ruskin.
J.D.Smith: owned service station.
Ellsworth Simmons: Great politician and family man.
John Willis: Entrepreneur and raconteur(that would be you)

Dickey Pitts

12:14 PM  
Blogger cbuz10 said...

I remember Dail`s Shoes andthe Ag Park and most of the old places and people mentioned here.I have a question.Does anyone know anything about Gulf City other than the paragraph or two about Ben Margoza?That is all I have been able to dig up.I grew fishing off that bridge and island and would like to find out about it`s history.There seems to be 250 or 300 years of missing history.We shouldn`t lose these things.Gulf City was there before Ruskin or Tampa.Thanks

10:52 AM  
Blogger Richard Council said...

My paternal grandfather C.L."Whit" Council was born in Wakulla County,Florida in 1889.He moved to "frost-free" Terra Ceia Island,Manatee County in about 1910 where he met and married a young Palma Sola school teacher my grandmother Margaret Dole daughter of Eben Dole.They raised three sons and a daughter,Emmett,Buford,Hilda and Robert.Whit worked in a Terra Ceia packing house as a stevedore loading citrus fruit onto New York bound steamers off the deepwater piers on the Manatee River.Later he rented forty acres and a mule on the island and grew vegetables for sale.Trucks were loaded with watermelons and driven to Tampa and or New Orleans for sale in the farmers markets.In 1933 a tidal wave from the Gulf of Mexico inundated the fields ruining the soil.They sought out cheap high and dry farmland in Hillsborough County settling on Ruskin where Paul B. Dickman,Sr. sold them land on what later became their offices,bunkhouses,tenant houses and barns.Adding to their holdings they bought and cleared tracts of land in Ruskin and Old Sun City.Tomatoes became the cash crop in the fifties and the Coffee Cup the center of farmers conversations.Disastrous freezes and crop funguses,prices and import competition from Mexico were frequently among the topics discussed over excellent pie and coffee.My aunt Hilda became executive secretary/accountant for C.L. Council & Sons Farms and my uncle Milford Jorgenson was the consulting agronomist.C.L.Council & Sons Farms was changed to Council Farms,Inc. after Whit suffered a heart attack in 1960.Brothers Bub,Buford and Robert became shareholders as Whit retired and the production of tomatoes became the principal crop of the corporation.Council Farms,Inc. began extensively planting citrus in 1960 in groves of lemons,tangelos,hamlin and navel oranges.My cousins Emmett,Mike and Pat joined the corporation in the late sixties and developed other money making ventures including cattle,sod and fish farming.Freezes and foreign competition yearly confronted Ruskin farmers.After years of successfully overcoming the perils of Florida agriculture the corporation was put on the market and was purchased in 1986 by Deseret Farms for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.The Church successfully operated the farm until the dreaded citrus cancre invaded the groves and they had to be destroyed to prevent spread of the disease.Facing tremendous losses,the Church sold off the farm to real estate developers in 2007.

7:17 PM  
Blogger Patti Long said...

I just now found this page and I am so grateful to be able to read the wonderful stories of the past. This page helps me to recall all of the stories my father told me as a child, I wish I would have known about this before he passed away he would have loved it. Thanks so much for keeping the history alive.
Patti Long

9:20 PM  
Blogger Disquieted said...

I grew up in Ruskin on 427 Edwin Dr and my grandmother moved on 106 Stevens St when it was under developed. I have very fond memories of Ruskin. Although, I moved to NC in 1989, I will always call Ruskin my home. I go back from time to time (even though all my family members are no longer living) just to tromp on old ground. I miss my home very much and I will retire there when I get old enough. I remember when the Burger King was a Burger QUEEN and the mascot was a Bee :)

1:10 AM  

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