Beyond Tourism: Florida's Yesteryear

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Gentlemen! Start Your Engines: The race that put Nascar on the Map March 9, 2012

This post is part of a blogchain. The theme was rain and I thought it would be a good opportunity to write a little bit about NASCAR. So please spread some blog love and leave a comment and read the other posts in this chain. As the people who are after me post I’ll keep updating this post to reflect that. So don’t forget to come back.

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SuzanneSeese – http://www.viewofsue.blogspot.com (link to this month’s post)

Now on to the Post:

If you are a NASCAR fan you know that this past Daytona 500 was a bit disappointing due to the rain. For the first time ever it was cancelled and rescheduled for the next day. The next day was still wet but they kept on and finished the race.

If you have been a NASCAR fan for awhile you’ll remember the 1979 Daytona 500 when according to ESPN, ” It’s a rainy, sloppy day in Florida while most of the East Coast is sacked by snowstorms and millions of people without anything else to watch one month after football and two months before baseball fall in love with NASCAR.” Why is this significant it’s because this was first time a NASCAR race was televised live from flag to flag.

Wreck at turn three between Yarborough and Allison

But it wasn’t just being forced to stay at home with nothing else to watch that made the race popular. According to the Daytona 500 Speedway , “On the final lap, Yarborough pulled out to pass Allison on the Superstretch. The two banged fenders so hard they crashed into the Turn 3 outside wall before sliding down to the apron.” This later on turned into a fight at the end of the race.

Bobby Allison, left, and Cale Yarborough fight after the 1979 Daytona 500

The wreck happened in turn three. While it was Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough  who wrecked at turn three near the end of the race it was Bobby and Cale who got in the fight at the end of race. It was Bobby who got the brunt of the damage when he got caught up in the wreck. The fight was caught on live television.

According to ESPN,  “An estimated 16 million people watched the race, a number that jumped to nearly 20 million over the closing laps. CBS won an Emmy for the broadcast, televised the Daytona 500 until 2000 and showed a fledgling cable network called ESPN the value of the racing business.”

Who won the race that day? None other than the great Richard Petty.

Richard Petty 1979

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Before Walmart there was Webb’s City Drug Store April 5, 2010

During the Florida Land Boom of the 1920’s a man in his twenties, by the name of James Earl “Doc” Webb, moved to St. Petersburg and opened a drug store in 1925. It would become huge before the store closed in 1979. The drugstore would cover 7-10 city blocks.

According to Holly Atkins, James got the nickname Doc because he made his own drugs such as Sorbo-Rub, Indian Wahoo Bitters and Doc Webb’s 608. This was only the beginning. His store eventually had 77 different departments including prescription department, surgical supplies, cosmetics and toiletries, Furniture City (covering seven floors!), a florist, a dry cleaning plant, a service station and automobile association, a bank service, a dance studio, an ice cream plant, a coffee roasting plant and, of course, Doc’s Original Drugstore.

When the land boom ended in Florida, a forerunner to the Great Depression, that didn’t stop James. He kept his store open and had deep discounts to keep his customers. He even held circuses and small fairs in his parking lot. He dropped some of his prices so low that Bristol-Meyers took James to court for selling their toothpaste below retail price. It went all the way to the  Florida Supreme Court where it was ruled in James favor. A few years later some distilleries also took him to court for the same reason. The court again ruled in his favor.

The drug store survives the Great Depression but according to Florida’s Lost Tourist Attractions it just wasn’t enough. St. Petersburg was losing it’s status as Florida’s tourist capital and began a long slow spiral downward. In 1974 James sold all his shares in the drugstore and retired. The company went bankrupt in 1979. What did Webb’s City Drug Store leave us with? They invented the 10 items or less speedy check out lane. I’m sure there were plenty of people with a cartload of items in the speedy checkout though.