Friday, April 10, 2015

Beneath the World as we Know it

   If you are from the Midwest or upper East coast and middle aged, chances are you spent your summer vacation on the Gulf Coast of Florida back in the 70s like myself. You also probably forgot about being dragged to this place by your parents as I did. 
   Now as a adult, I have been to Greece with visits to many of its small islands and in seeing both, this would be a copy of copy of a copy but the slight atmosphere is still here nonetheless. You have two important contributing factors, the people and the shops as it seems both have been here since before you or I were born yet they retain their colorful charm.

   For those of you not familiar with Tarpon Springs, this was one of those common kitschy tourist towns before the Interstate Highway system was built but somehow manages to hang in there as a extreme rarity. 
   This is one of three distinct sites of similar but rare enjoyment in Florida, the other two being "Johns Pass Village" in Madeira Beach (just South of Tarpon Springs) and "Old Town" in Kissimmee (just outside Walt Disney World). I strongly encourage people to take their families to these three places in Florida as it is that "kitschy" retro feeling of these places that your family will remember more than the common Florida tourist attractions.

Tarpon Springs, Florida

   Tarpon Springs is a city in Pinellas County, Florida, United States. The population was 23,484 at the 2010 census. Tarpon Springs has the highest percentage of Greek Americans of any city in the US. 

   The region, with a series of bayous feeding into the Gulf of Mexico, was first settled by white and black farmers and fishermen around 1876. Some of the newly arrived visitors spotted tarpon jumping out of the waters and so named the location Tarpon Springs.

   A few Greek immigrants arrived in this city during the 1890s to work in the sponge industry.
   In 1905, John Cocoris introduced the technique of sponge diving to Tarpon Springs and recruited divers and crew members from Greece. 

   The first divers came from the Saronic Gulf islands of Aegina and Hydra, but they were soon outnumbered by those from the Dodecanese islands of Kalymnos, Symi and Halki. 
   The sponge industry soon became one of the leading maritime industries in Florida and the most important business in Tarpon Springs, generating millions of dollars a year. 
   When a red tide algae bloom occurred in 1947, wiping out the sponge fields in the Gulf of Mexico, many of the sponge boats and divers switched to fishing and shrimping for a livelihood and others left the business. 

   However, the sponges eventually recovered and there has remained a consistent but smaller sponge industry. 

   In the 1980s, the sponge business experienced a boom due to a sponge disease that killed the Mediterranean sponges. Today there is still a small active sponge industry. 

   Visitors can often view sponge fishermen working at the Sponge Docks on Dodecanese Boulevard. 
   In addition, visitors can enjoy shops, restaurants, and museum exhibits that detail Tarpon Springs' Greek heritage.

   In 2007 and 2008, the City of Tarpon Springs established Sister City relationships with Kalymnos, Halki, Symi, and Cyprus, honoring the close historical link with these Greek islands.

The 1953 film Beneath the 12-Mile Reef, depicting the sponge industry, takes place and was filmed in Tarpon Springs.

______________ No 25

ELEGHOS... at history 

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