Thursday, March 31, 2016

SS American Victory

This steamship memorial museum is parked in the port of Tampa Bay.  We have not seen a merchant marine ship as yet, and found that touring this one proved quite interesting.  In 1938 Franklin Delano Roosevelt had ordered to be designed and constructed thousands of liberty ships similar to this one.  During World War ll   there were 535 victory ships.  Of course, merchant marine ships had been around long before this, they date back to the Revolutionary War.
The ship pictured above was built and launched in 1945.  Its first mission to the Pacific Ocean was cancelled, however it transported relief supplies for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration to help rebuild Europe after the War.  Pictured below is number two of the 5 cargo holds that are in this ship.  There is a "roof" (hatch cover) above this bay whereby the cargo can be unloaded by masts and booms.
The ship was laid up for awhile from 1947 to 1950 in the Hudson River.  Then it was called up to support the Korean War, hauling mostly ordinance into Japan.  On its return trip home it carried a number of servicemen killed during that war. The ship was laid up again in 1954 and then came out during the Vietnam War to haul military cargo.  That was the last war this ship served.  In 1999 it was hauled to Tampa Bay to serve as a museum.  It is still capable of getting underway and makes two trips a year in Tampa Bay.
It was interesting for us to see the radio control room (pictured above) as well as the wheel house.  Our maritime technology has certainly made great strides in the past 70 years!  A veteran of the Merchant Marines, as well as the Navy, gave us a look into the engine room where large steam pipes deliver the power to turn the turbines and propellers of the ship.  He noted that there is no air conditioning on the ship, the crew sometimes had to endure temperatures of 115-120 degrees Fahrenheit  aboard ship.  He also noted that the crew numbered about 40 men and 20 armed guards.  By the way, there is a Merchant Marine Academy in St.Petersburg where 25,000 merchant mariners have trained.  Another interesting fact is that this civilian crew has had a greater percentage of war-related deaths than all other U.S. military services. 
Our guide also informed us that the large cruise ship parked next to the SS American Victory is from Germany.  He has gotten to know some of its crew, and they gave him a tour of the ship.  Interestingly enough, he had to show his passport before going on board!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Joy

We have had a great Easter here in Pinellas Park Florida, and hope that you, our readers, have also been so blessed.  Hope Lutheran has been quite welcoming to us, as well as Melissa, Spencer, and Nathan.  Over the past weeks we have joined them for their Lenten suppers and services.  I have enjoyed working in their thrift store as well as helping with their rummage sale.  The church once had a larger membership, and the neighborhood has changed a lot over the years.  Some homeless, as well as others who have found it hard to make ends meet,  live nearby and visit the thrift store and food pantry of Hope regularly.  There is also a shelter for abused women located near the church, and the ladies from there enjoy shopping in the thrift store.  Smaller in number, the members of Hope do an awesome job in caring for the community around them.
Pictured above is the chancel of Hope Lutheran, decorated with flowers for the celebration of Easter.  The cross is covered with a white cloth indicating that the events of Holy Week did not end on Good Friday.

After a delicious Easter breakfast at Hope this morning, there was an Easter egg hunt.  The Easter bunny must have known that little ones like our grandson Nathan do not yet have an idea that one must look for the hidden eggs!  The plastic eggs were laid out in the open so that all the toddlers had to do was grab them and place them in their baskets.  Nathan filled his basket very rapidly
After the Easter egg hunt we went out into the Memorial Garden of the church were the older children were to hunt for a cross.  The young lady with the pink jacket joyfully held it up when she found it.
The next event of the morning was the release of butterflies.  What excitement for young and old, holding those boxes and knowing that the dormant butterflies inside might just possibly fly out!  But first everyone had to wait while Pastor Bresemann read a verse from Thessalonians which reminds us that, as Christ rose from the dead on Easter, so we too will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord when we die.  The tabs were then pulled on the boxes and small yellow butterflies flew out, some very hesitantly.
Nathan's butterfly flew away immediately and he cried out "more".  One butterfly, held by a lady next to me, rested for a brief moment on her thumb before flying away.  It was hard for Nathan to settle down for a church service after all that excitement.  Usually the choir anthems, bells, passing the peace, putting money in the offering plate, and going to communion for a blessing keep him content during the service.  Not today, he kept repeating that he wanted to "go" or was "going".  The Easter eggs got us through the sermon.  His Mom and I kept filling them with a few raisins, yogurt melts and small oranges which he ate as rapidly as he could open the eggs.  But it worked and we made it to the end of the service.
Today is our 40th wedding anniversary.  That also makes it a very special Easter for us.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Return to Lowry Zoo

Our admission ticket from back when we first visited the zoo allowed us to make any return trip for free.  Unfortunately we forgot that there were blackout dates for that offer, and had to pay a small readmission fee. We were there on a blackout day due to spring break for many schools.
Remember in my last posting I mentioned that the orangutans were under blankets?  This time one was under a piece of cardboard and another under his blankie.  In the chimpanzee pen the monkeys were swinging on their ropes wearing small blankets.  In one of my pictures, which is a bit blurred, the chimpanzee had it hanging from his neck.  He looked a bit like Superman on a mission.
I did some research on the Marabou stork, and it is considered one of the 13 ugliest animals on the planet.  I must say that they do not even enter the world looking very pretty!  We saw this African stork on our first visit to the Lowry Zoo, she was sitting on her eggs then.  It was exciting to see that the two eggs are now hatched.  By the way, this stork is like a vulture.  She has a featherless head which stays clean when she feeds on carrion.  Another distinctive feature of this animal is that, like the Andean condor,  from wingtip to wingtip she measures 10.5 feet.
Another baby born at the zoo in 2016, January 15 to be exact, is the Hartmans Mountain zebra from south west Africa.  No two zebras are alike, each has a distinctive stripe pattern like human fingerprints.  In the 1950s this zebra numbered from 50 to 75 thousand.  In 1992 their estimated number is about 8,000.
We returned to the zoo primarily for our grandson Nathan.  Unfortunately he was a bit grumpy that day due to sleep deprivation (his fault not ours).  His demeanor rapidly changed when he was able to feed two lorikeets.  These small parrots have brush-tipped tongues by which they feed on nectar.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Tampa's Finest

We went to the  Tampa Bay History Center Saturday and learned more about the cigar industry at the turn of the twentieth century.  In a previous posting I probably gave the impression that the industry was primarily located in Ybor city.  I should have included West Tampa.  In the history museum there is a whole exhibit dedicated to the "Cigar City".  When I saw the collection of cigar boxes there something clicked in my brain.  Of course, I do remember seeing cigar boxes in the past with the name of Tampa on them.  And for that matter, also the name of Ybor city.  Back then it never meant much to me!
By 1920 the annual output of cigars in this area was 410 million.  The first factory opened in 1886 and by 1920 there were as many as 300 cigar factories working at full capacity.  The largest factory employed three thousand workers.  Black and whites worked side by side and received "relatively high wages" according to museum information.  The finest of tobacco came from Cuba, and in the factories men and women sorted, stripped and blended the leaves, and then rolled them into cigars- there was a lot of pride in the fact that it was all done by hand.  There were also cigar packers, the cigars were shipped out via boat and railroad.  They were "US Made" no import taxes needed.

Not many industries can boast that they have "La Lectura" ( the reading) for their workers.  Lectors, chosen by a  committee of  three workers, read sports scores as well as novels.  Don Quixote was most popular.  Factory workers chose what was to be read.  The book which was used, written in Spanish, was on display in the museum.  Over time the lectors fueled strikes and shutdowns because they started espousing socialist views and the readings were stopped by 1930.  Then the lectures were taken outside where they could be free of censorship.
The cultural impact of the cigar industry was great.  Consider that many immigrants had flowed into this area at this time in our country's history, a good number from Spain and Cuba.  Mutual Aid Societies, providing health and education, were set up to help the immigrants.  During our walk through Ybor City we noticed that one of those community buildings is still standing.   Social activities, as dancing and concerts, were also provided by the organizations.   What a different fascinating time in our nation's history, of course that is over one hundred years ago!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Return to the Historical Village of Pinellas County

In my first posting of this historical village I wrote about several of the historical structures which can be found in this 21- acre living history museum.  On this return trip to the Historical Village we took some time in the museum of the Visitor's Center to get more of a understanding of the history of Pinellas County at the turn of the twentieth century.  At the time of the Civil War Sea Island cotton was the main crop shipped out to other parts of the country.  After the Civil War large cattle ranches sprung up, and agricultural products as sugar cane, cabbage, sweet potatoes, navy beans, corn and watermelon were grown.  After cotton to cattle this part of Florida then found its wealth could be found in the citrus industry.
Pictured above is a 1916 International Truck, known by many as a "Goat" because of its maneuverability around  the groves.  It was one of a fleet of five owned by a citrus grower, and is the only one of the fleet to have survived.  From the museum we started touring other buildings which we had missed in our previous visit.  Our history lesson regarding the economy of Florida continued at an old train depot.
Business ventures, as the citrus crops, as well as tourism,  flourished with the growth of the railroad in Florida.  Pictured above is the Sulphur Springs Depot, built in 1924.  Of interest is smaller end of the building, built for African Americans.  Jim Crow laws were in effect (rules regarding separation of the races)  at this time and African Americans had a separate room to sit in while waiting for their train.  The one bathroom in the depot was for "whites only".  John and I took a ride on one of the old historical trains of Florida a few weeks back, and one of the cars on the train we rode was once designated as a Jim Crow car.
Brought back memories of my childhood in Houston when I saw water fountains for "whites only".
And now back to the history of citrus in Florida.  Solomon Coachman, a citrus grower in the early 1900s, wisely allowed the railroad to come through his property.  He then expanded his orange groves, and built a large packing plant for the fruit.  Needless to say, he did well in the citrus industry.  He owned the log cabin, pictured above, which was built in 1852.  He bought it in 1902 and "modernized" it by adding windows.  It is the oldest standing structure in Pinellas County.
One last interesting building here is a grocery store, which resided in the Mound Park neighborhood of St.Petersburg from 1915 to 1955.  It sold a variety of groceries, as well as clothing and a variety of other necessities.  Sometimes the various owners lived in a part of the building, and other times small businesses as a butcher shop and bakery were located in the building.  The museum placed a gas station in the back of the  building, with a service department.  I found the parts department interesting, especially the price of gas!

St.Patricks Day in Dunedin, Florida

There was still not much happening in Dunedin yesterday when John and I arrived about late morning, so we decided to walk down Main Street.  Part of that street had been blocked off for the day's festivities.  We strolled past that section and into the area of town where there are many boutiques, antique shops, bars and restaurants.  Our end point was at the waterfront where we saw the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

From this waterfront it is possible to take a boat ride over to the islands of Caladesi or Honeymoon -both of which are state parks.  John  and I visited Caldesi four years ago, at the time of our daughter's wedding.  So we saw a bit of Dunedin back at that time, but probably did not focus very much on the town.  The name Dunedin closely resembles the Gaelic word from which Edinburgh derives its name.  Dunedin traces its Scottish heritage to the town's early days as a seaport and trading center.  The town was established in 1899, and we found two older buildings while walking down Main Street.  One was a bank building built in 1913, the other is the old train station.  The latter had an interesting piece of art in front of it, a mother and daughter running to catch a train with the conductor waiting to get them on board.
  Now Dunedin is more known as an idyllic Florida tourist town, as well as the spring training camp of the Toronto Blue Jays.
We returned to the festivities of the day, and came upon an interesting scene- Scottish bagpipers and drummers, as well as an Irish musician.  The town does have a couple of Irish bars and restaurants, Flanagans Irish Pub hosted the street party for St. Patrick's Day.
The town was certainly a sea of green for the day!  At the bandstand Irish music was pretty much the standard fare for the day.  However, the sun overhead was hot, our grandson gets over-heated easily, and after a lunch of corn beef sandwiches we headed for home.


Monday, March 14, 2016

Practice Run at the St.Petersburg Grand Prix

St.Petersburg has hosted the IndyCar series for the past 12 years.  For at least a week it has been difficult to navigate the downtown city streets because some have been blocked off for the race which was held Sunday.  It is an 1.8 mile long waterfront course with 14 turns.  It includes a combination of adjacent downtown streets and extends unto the runway of Albert Whitted Airport.  From our seats Friday we could see way off in the distance Tampa  Bay, and St,Petersburg Harbor and Marina.
Maybe you are wondering as to how we ended up at a car racing event.  The pastor of the church we have been attending indicated to us that he could get tickets for Friday's practice race from a friend who owns a tavern near the racetrack.  We also could use the tavern's parking lot for free.  My first thought that just John and our son-in-law Spencer could go.  Then Spencer got the idea that it would be a good experience for Nathan, and soon we were all in agreement that we would go together.  I was not sure that I would enjoy the roar and fumes, but it would be a new experience that maybe I could try at least once.  Ear plugs would be necessary.
Nathan never did get his ear plugs on, he and his parents were not there for the full race.  We were a distance away and the noise was not bad.  Nathan did have sun glasses and a hat- the sun was quite warm as we sat with no shelter on the bleachers.  His first most profound words when he saw the racing cars were  "fast cars". 
As I mentioned earlier, Friday was a practice run for the Grand Prix.  The next day, Saturday, would be the qualifying run, when the drivers would determine starting pole positions.  For this race there were 22 drivers from different parts of the United States, as well as 10 countries from around the world.  They would do 110 laps around the 1.8 mile course.  About every 10 laps tires would need to be changed, so we saw a lot of activity down in the pit stop near our seats.  Driver Will Power from Australia had the best record for Friday's practice race, and on Saturday would qualify for pole position.  Unfortunately in Fridays first practice run he suffered a mild concussion and became too ill to drive on Sunday.
By some fluke I managed to get a picture of the driver who won on Sunday, number two driver Juan Montoya from Bogota, Columbia.  After the practice run we walked over to see the cars and drivers.
Pictured above is car number 14, and the driver Takuma Sato from Tokyo.  While walking around the grounds I finally figured out why one car had the word "Fuzzy" on it.  I thought that was a cute name for a racing car, but they are not named like horses.  "Fuzzy" is the brand name of a type of vodka, of course I knew that!

Florida Aquarium

Initially I was not too excited to see another aquarium.  What prompted us to see the aquarium was a television ad announcing that the aquarium currently has a special exhibit titled "Journey to Madagascar".  John and I have a nephew who is serving our church in that country at the present time, so we were curious to learn more about that African island.   After seeing the wildlife of Florida we moved to Madagascar. According to the information provided by the aquarium, it is the fourth largest island on earth.  It has mountains and lowlands, as well as mangrove forests and tropical bays.  Eighty per-cent of  the plants and animals found in Madagascar are found nowhere else in the world.
 The  country has 100 different species of lemurs.  They live in communities where the female rules.  Mom, sisters, daughters and aunts control everything.  Also in this exhibit we heard hissing cockroaches, and saw a variety of chameleons and geckos, as well as a colorful Indian Ocean reef.
I was staring at this giant anemone, pictured above in the lower part of the picture, when John pointed out its mouth which was opening and closing.  I almost missed the most fascinating feature of this sea creature!  The mouth can be found straight down from the yellow fish, there is a white spot above it.
In a previous posting I had written about sponge fishing in Tarpon Springs.  It is the large brown shape in the middle of the picture above.  Sea sponges are one of the world's simplest multi-cellular living organisms.
Pictured above is the lookdown fish.  Slender, silvery, and reflective he is almost invisible in sunlit water, making it difficult for predators to find him.  There are many other interesting fish in the aquarium, it is just is not possible for me to post them all.  We saw a very ugly toadfish, a long spined porcupine fish, as well as a rhinopias who looked very much like a miniature rhino.  Watching a long fat green eel actively swim around, as well as an octopus lazily stretching her tentacles into full extension, was also quite fascinating.
In the aquarium is a large room with a panoramic window where one can sit and watch a large variety of fish swimming.  Pictured above is the bottom side of a stingray- he reminded me of Casper the Friendly Ghost.
It is not possible to figure out what is pictured above unless you first look at the right side of the picture, where you just might see a long snout pointing down.  That is a rare sea dragon whose home is off the coast of Australia.  To me he looks like a character right out of a fairy tale book, a fantasy come to life.  My mother use to say "who can say there is no God" when she saw a flower.  I can say the same after I see all the varieties of life forms which reside in the depths of our oceans!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Florida Wetlands in the Florida Aquarium

Sorry to give you another aquarium tour.  But just as art museums differ so completely from city to city, the same can be said for aquariums.  The Florida Aquarium, however, is the biggest and best of the ones located near where we are parked.  The first section we visited here was the Florida Wetlands, which features creatures found among the coastal mangroves as well the cypress swamps.
This aquarium is part zoo, in this area we saw alligators, river otters and free-flying birds.  Hope you are not expecting to see fish in this posting, the birds were so close in proximity to us that I could not refrain from taking pictures of them!  Some may be repeated from previous postings.  Pictured above is a yellow-crowned night heron.  He was the first bird to catch my eye.
Pictured above is a ruddy duck, one of several in a species of stiff-tailed ducks.  The breeding male has a blue beak and conspicuous white cheeks.  After seeing him,  my attention was drawn to another duck who was being quite vocal.  He is the fulvous whistling-duck, a goose-like duck known for his whistling calls.
  By the way, a brownish-yellow color is called fulvous.  He is the bird on the left side of the picture below.
The other bird in that picture is a roseate spoonbill.  In the picture below he can be seen raising a fuss with a snowy egret who just is not too upset about whatever is bothering the pink bird.
No, the squawking bird has not raised the plumes of the snowy egret.  That is just how the breeding adult looks.  Because of those beautiful plumes the bird was almost hunted to extinction at the turn of the twentieth century.  Women just had to have those feathers in their hats.
Another interesting duck with unique features is the hooded merganser.  In flight his crest is flattened.  He is a sea duck but in winter can be found chiefly in fresh water.  The aquarium does feature fish found in the waters of Florida, as a variety of gar and bluegill.  They just do not have the beautiful colors and unusual features which we saw in other fish of the aquarium.  They will be in my next posting.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Surprise blooms, Strawberries, Dr. Seuss, and Sponges

All of the above happened this week.  I will start with the surprise blooms.
My orchid, which I bought a year ago here in Florida, finally bloomed!  It has had buds on it since December, and I was starting to fear that they would never open. I thought that orchids were difficult to grow, much less try to accomplish that while being on the road.  Someone told me once that different water and light does not matter to orchids, but that what is important is that they feel safe.  That I could give my orchid!   Course I worried that since we have been boarding our daughter's cat Zelda the plant may not feel very safe.  So far she has killed one plant and chewed off half the leaves on my shamrock. My Christmas cactus has been happy, despite the presence of the cat.  It usually blooms once a year, before Thanksgiving.  As you can see in the picture above, it is currently full of blooms.
We picked strawberries last Monday at Hunsader Farms in Bradenton, Florida.  Our grandson Nathan joined us in the fields, however he ate more than he picked.  Since that day he is still looking for strawberries whenever we walked near any brush or grass.
Next to the Sunken Gardens is a children's museum, Great Explorations Inc.  We had been wanting to visit that museum for some time.  The birthday celebration of Dr. Seuss was happening there this past week, so it seemed a good time to visit the place with Nathan.  He was not enamored with Cat in the Hat, but there were many other activities which caught his attention while visiting the museum.  It is a great place mainly for preschoolers, and has a preschool on the premises.
Saturday John and I revisited Tarpon Springs.  You may remember from another posting that the town is known for its harvesting of sponges.  The bike pictured above is decorated with them.  We explored the town a bit more because in the past we have only walked along its docks.  We found the Tarpon Springs, in another section of town.  And near that area is the historic section of town where we discovered St.Nicholas Greek Orthodox Cathedral.  Built in 1943 it is the replica of St. Sophia's in Constantinople (now Istanbul).
Fortunately a wedding was going to occur about 15 minutes after we arrived, so we were able to take a brief look at the inside of the church.  It is quite an awesome cathedral with its icons, numerous stained glass windows and 3 large chandeliers from Czechoslovakia. 


Thursday, March 3, 2016

Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, Part 2

One area of this zoo which proved to be quite interesting is the Florida Wildlife Center.  Here we were able to view turtles, alligators, a panther and black bears.  An interesting fact we learned about the latter is that in warmer areas of the country as Florida they do not hibernate during the winter, only sleep a lot.
Also in the Florida Wildlife Center is a manatee hospital.  In the large tanks near that building we got a closer look at manatees than we had of them in the warm waters of the power plant several weeks back.  Here they were up close to the top of the water because food had just been put out for them.
It was also feeding time in the skunk den while we were there.  I did not get a good picture of it, but skunks were out wandering among ibis and sand hill cranes while a zoo keeper was tossing out some sort of food, that was an unusual sight!
Something else interesting which we saw was in Primate World where orangutans were holding up pieces of cloth over their heads. Notice the baby at the mother's right elbow in the picture above.  And something else which we had not seen in other zoos is the presence of hens and roosters among the monkeys, here they are used to keep the insects down among the primates.
There are several areas of this zoo where a variety of birds may be seen.  In the Sulawesi Aviary caged birds were quite actively flying around and a few were willing to pose for me, as the mustached Inca tern pictured below.  That seabird can be found along rocky coastlines.
Sulawesi is an island in Indonesia.  An fascinating creature from that part of the world is a miniature water buffalo.  It is considered a type of wild cattle similar to deer.  They have 2 rear ward pointing horns which allow them to run through underbrush without getting tangled.  Humans are their only predators.
In the picture above "Bindi" , a young anona calf ( in Sulawesi anona is the word for "buffalo")  born in 2014, is nudging her mom to get up.  She kept poking her until she did get up, and then ran from her.  Maybe it was not feeding time or perhaps it was time to wean her, but mom was not obliging the calf.
That is some of our highlights while we were at the Lowry Zoo.  Fortunately our admission ticket allows us to come back again when we can take in some of the animal shows and keeper talks.