Nelson Palermo oral history interview

Nelson Palermo oral history interview

Material Information

Nelson Palermo oral history interview
Series Title:
Ybor City oral history project
Palermo, Nelson, 1914-2000
Mormino, Gary Ross, 1947-
University of South Florida Libraries -- Florida Studies Center. -- Oral History Program
University of South Florida -- Tampa Library
Place of Publication:
Tampa, Fla
University of South Florida Tampa Library
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
1 sound file (40 min.) : digital, MPEG4 file + ;


Subjects / Keywords:
Italian Americans -- Florida -- Tampa ( lcsh )
Italian American grocers -- Florida -- Tampa ( lcsh )
Italian American grocers -- Interviews ( lcsh )
Grocery trade -- Florida -- Tampa ( lcsh )
Urban renewal -- Florida -- Tampa ( lcsh )
History -- Ybor City (Tampa, Fla.) ( lcsh )
Social life and customs -- Ybor City (Tampa, Fla.) ( lcsh )
Oral history. ( local )
Online audio. ( local )
interview ( marcgt )
Oral history ( local )
Online audio ( local )


This is an oral history interview with Nelson Palermo, a native of Ybor City born in 1914. Palermo's grandfather was a cigar lector, or reader, the only Italian ever to hold that position; his father was also a cigar maker. Palermo describes the traditions of Ybor City, including cigar factories, family life, interethnic relations, politics, and religion. He also discusses his grocery business and describes some of the other Italian families who sold produce and other foods. A member of the Barrio Latino Commission, Palermo concludes the interview by commenting on urban renewal and its effects on Ybor City.
Interview conducted October 18, 1979.
Statement of Responsibility:
interviewed by Gary Mormino.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of South Florida Library
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
002233784 ( ALEPH )
656573488 ( OCLC )
Y10-00082 ( USFLDC DOI )
y10.82 ( USFLDC Handle )

USFLDC Membership

Added automatically
Ybor City Oral History Project

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Nelson Palermo oral history interview
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Gary Mormino.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (40 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (14 p.)
Ybor City oral history project
Interview conducted October 18, 1979.
This is an oral history interview with Nelson Palermo, a native of Ybor City born in 1914. Palermo's grandfather was a cigar lector, or reader, the only Italian ever to hold that position; his father was also a cigar maker. Palermo describes the traditions of Ybor City, including cigar factories, family life, interethnic relations, politics, and religion. He also discusses his grocery business and describes some of the other Italian families who sold produce and other foods. A member of the Barrio Latino Commission, Palermo concludes the interview by commenting on urban renewal and its effects on Ybor City.
Palermo, Nelson,
Italian Americans
z Florida
Italian American grocers
Italian American grocers
v Interviews.
Grocery trade
Urban renewal
Ybor City (Tampa, Fla.)
x History.
Ybor City (Tampa, Fla.)
Social life and customs.
7 655
Oral history.
2 local
Online audio.
Mormino, Gary Ross,
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
Tampa Library.
Ybor City oral history project.
4 856

xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8
transcript timecoded false doi Y10-00082 skipped 15 dategenerated 2015-06-10 19:41:12
segment idx 0time text length 305 Gary Mormino: Today is October 18, 1979, and I have the distinct honor of talking to Mr. Nelson Palermo at the Italian Club on Seventh Avenue in Ybor City. And Mr. Palermo, why don't we begin, and you can tell me a little bit about your family, about your father, your family, and what they did in Sicily.
1299 Nelson Palermo: Well, I can't go that far back, but I can tell you my father and mother were both born in Sicily, in Santo Stefano [Quisquina], and they came over her as children, very young children. And my father lived to be eighty-nine years old, and my mother is presently eighty-nine years old.
218 GM: Is that right?
397 NP: And both of them have a background of cigar making, which was the main industry of Ybor City.
464 GM: Right. And what did they do in Sicily? Do you have any idea?
561 NP: Ah, their parents, I can't tell you, farming mostly, but-
614 GM: Contadini?
7116 NP: Probably, but they were-like I say, my mother, I believe, was five and my father was eleven when they came over.
822 GM: Why did they come?
9368 NP: Well, like most people, the prosperity was over here just for the grabs, and that's what all the Europeans, a lot of Europeans looked forward to. This was the land of plenty and they made their way here as best as they could. And my grandfather came with part of his family, and then as they went to work and were able to, they brought the rest of the family here.
10105 GM: Right. Do you happen to remember their recollections, their first view of America, what they thought?
1178 NP: No, I really don't, not truthfully, but I would say it's one of amazement.
1210 GM: Right.
13848 NP: And I can recall stories that some of the immigrants' names were changed, not because they wanted them changed, but because of the authorities of Ellis Island. So many immigrants were either illiterate, or couldn't spell; consequently, you find some names which sound Anglo-Saxon which really are Italian. I had an experience with a man named Scotty, who was a neighbor of mine for eleven years, and it took nine years of that to find out that he was an Italian; his parents were from Sicily. And when he came into Ellis Island, they asked his name, and he told them it was Scotti, which ends with an "I," Italian. They put it down as Scotty, with a "Y," and made it Anglo-Saxon. Even some Lees are L-e-a, which is Italian. And several others that slip my mind at the present time. And that's how a lot of names were changed here in the States.
1439 GM: Why did your parents come to Tampa?
15317 NP: They were raised there. Well, their parents settled here. Naturally, they came with their parents, and this was the land of opportunity here for them. And, of course, others without any skills, the cigar industry was the easiest one to learn. And upon three to six months' apprenticeship, they were well equipped.
1691 GM: Right. Did your father ever tell you exactly how he got into the cigar making industry?
1784 NP: Well, because of lack of other opportunities, probably, and because he liked it.
1819 GM: How old was he?
1935 NP: I'd say about twelve years old.
20GM: When he began?
21NP: When he began.
2230 GM: What factory, do you know?
23229 NP: Vallina & Son, then he later worked at Charles the Great factory, and Flor de Cuba. No, let's see, my mother worked at Flor de Cuba, and another factory here on Columbus Drive called Regensberg [E. Regensburg & Sons].
2417 GM: Rightensberg?
25NP: Regensberg.
26GM: Right.
27557 NP: The name still probably exists. Because I have an older brother who suffered with asthma, we moved to New York and stayed there about eight years, up around the Catskills on a farm. We spent a few years there, and then came back to Florida. Because there's still-in Tampa especially, opportunities were still here, and they did not exist up there for them. Farming was a thankless work, what with farm prices and working eighteen hours a day and seven days a week-when help flies-we were transferred down here again, we've had our roots here ever since.
2874 GM: Now, you had mentioned the other day that your father became a lector.
2944 NP: My grandfather, my father's father, yes.
3094 GM: Your grandfather was a lector. Can you tell me about that process, what you know about it?
31479 NP: Well, what I can recall was that he was a fast cigar maker. Fast in the sense that his share of the work was done so rapidly, he had time to spare. And at the factory he was in, as I recall, the lector-the reader that was in that factory got sick and wasn't able to continue. And when he got through with his work, he would do it. And after that, he became a full time lector. In the history of Ybor City, some record that he is the only Italian reader in the cigar industry.
32784 He could translate the English newspaper into Spanish and Italian, of course, and most of it was read in Spanish in the factory. He'd read it in English and then translated it into Spanish. And when he was through with the newspaper, the local paper, they would read books. Most of them would be, as the Spaniards or the Italians would say, romanza, which is a romance type of book. And he'd read a chapter or two every day. And of course, if you wonder how he would make ends meet was that all the cigar makers would contribute towards the rent, whether it be twenty-five cents each week. But on payday, they get paid and they come out, and the lector would be there with his collection plate. And financially, he was better off than the cigar makers because all of them contributed.
3388 GM: Now, were most of the workers, fellow workers-what nationality would they have been?
3434 NP: Spanish, Cubans, and Italians.
3552 GM: What about at that particular factory? The same?
36189 NP: The same way. Most all the-there was only one that had a great number of Anglo- Saxons, and most of them, I'd say, 40 percent Anglo-Saxons, was the Havatampa cigar factory at that time.
37109 GM: Right. Now, how was your grandfather received by the fellow Latins? Since he was the only Italian lector?
38379 NP: He was well liked. He was a man of great character. He would put himself into anything he read. If he was reading a part that called for sorrow, he would play the part, and act the part. And if it was laughter or joy, that's the way he conveyed the message or the book that he was reading, or the newspaper. And this endeared him to many people here. And he was well beloved.
3928 GM: How long did he do that?
40267 NP: Until this thing of the readers died out, which the factories started going into machinery, and of course, oh, twenty-five years or more ago, more or less. To say between twenty and thirty years ago when the factories 1ittle by little, start going into machinery.
4163 GM: Why would factories have wanted to get rid of the lectores?
42440 NP: They didn't get rid of them, but you can picture someone trying to read over the great noise that these machines were making. And they're just like an old-time printing press. As the machines operated, it would make so much racket that you couldn't be heard over them. And of course, it killed all the pleasure of heating somebody read because maybe where he was at, a few around him would hear it, but the rest of the factory wouldn't.
4387 GM: Now, I've read in books that a lot of it had to do with the politics of it as well.
44486 NP: Well, I don't think politics had too big a part in it. If you would rephrase that rather than politics-could be that the cigar makers, of course, were fighting the machines coming into the factories. It eliminated jobs, and of course, eliminated the readers because of the-and the readers were their entertainment. So if they eliminated the machinery or the cigar manufacturers eliminated the readers, then they wouldn't have the kicks they did about the machinery in the factories.
45101 GM: That's an interesting point, yeah. Now, politically, how would you characterize your grandfather?
46218 NP: Ah, conservative. Ah, I still look at an old timer-when I say family man, all for their family, was what I looked at as a conservative. If they didn't care about their families, they were radicals or what have you.
47121 GM: How about in terms of politics, you know, as we represent it today? Was he a Democrat or a Republican or a Socialist?
48260 NP: No, I don't think they would-many people interested themselves in politics. They felt that they weren't qualified to say who was what or the best for the country at the time, until they-now in the second, in the first generation, then we became interested.
49126 GM: A lot of the cigar makers had a reputation of being radical. What do you think? There was a lot of strikes and everything.
50651 NP: Well, there were a few that would create fear. The rest-let's say that something was said, and one of them, one of the radicals, would get up and say, "Let's walk out." The others were probably afraid, because no person wants to go hungry or, especially, see their family go hungry. And because of fear, they probably followed out of fear and nothing else. But then, then was others that went hunger-struck. They crossed the picket lines or strike, what they call a strikebreaker, and went back to work. And if they had to suffer the consequences, they did. But foremost and first of all, all the immigrants, all the Latins, the family came first.
51GM: How about your family, now? What about Nelson Palermo? When were you born and where?
52258 NP: I was born in 1914 here in Ybor City on Fifteenth Avenue, between Twenty-Fourth and Twenty-Fifth Street. I have a brother who was born closer here-I think it was Eleventh Avenue and Eighteenth Street. And I have a sister who was born on Fifteenth Avenue.
5383 GM: What do you remember were your first recollections of Ybor City as a young boy?
54830 NP: As a young man, I remember coming down Seventh Avenue, and not being able to walk too fast because there was so many people here that you could stand on the sidewalk, and slowly but surely be pushed, not pushed, but gradually end up on the other end of Seventh Avenue, there's so many people here. I can remember days when the Model A-Model T Fords, and the old time Chevrolets were predominant in this area. The parking areas here-if someone wanted to get out, they had to wait forever to get out of a parking place because there's so much traffic here. It reminds me of a superhighway, a congested superhighway, but at a snail's pace rather than a speeding, fast superhighway. This is a thing that is predominant in my mind, the people that were here. It was where to go on Saturday evening. And the shops, they were always-
55GM: Would you describe a typical Palermo family Saturday evening, what would you do?
5623 NP: Ah, as a young boy?
57GM: As a young boy, and then later.
58684 NP: Family groups, getting together with aunts and uncles. On Sundays, we'd go on what we call excursions at the foot of Platt Street there downtown off of Ashley Drive, there would be boats down there. And on Sundays, like this club, the Italian Club would have their excursion to Pass-A-Grille. It would be a picnic, and a swimming party. Go there, leave early in the morning, and come back in the evening. And that was the enjoyment of children. But as a teenager, why, we frequented Seventh Avenue, not just Saturday but many evenings. And of course, all your Latin clubs, or a lot of social events, entertainment, game rooms, game rooms in the sense of dominos, cards, billiards.
5958 GM: What did you think of the Italian Club as a young boy?
60230 NP: I thought it was just something that was brought over from a country that I had never seen or never heard of before. It was a place to go. You know, if you wanted to absorb any Italian culture. You mentioned what I can recall.
61649 The other thing I can recall is I lived-I was fortunate enough to live near both my grandfathers, on my mother's side and my father's side. And I could look south from where I lived, and within three or four blocks away I could see one of my grandfathers coming up to visit. And I would immediately run a block away and call my other grandfather and tell him my other Nunnu (inaudible) was on the way up. And I would rush back home and on the front porch I would put two big chairs, little chair between them, and I'd sit for hours listening to my Nunnu (inaudible) and my Nunnu (inaudible) reminisce about the old country, and things that happened.
6241 GM: What would they say, do you remember?
63238 NP: Oh, they would talk about going from one town to another and take two days, and they'd go on a donkey, and going on this narrow path through the mountains, or through the countryside, and things that would happen on the way, you know.
6476 GM: Do you think they missed the old country enough to ever want to go back?
65570 NP: If they missed it, it was because of family ties, but as far as their own immediate family, this was their opportunity, and their opportunities to give to their children. So what they stressed in us mainly was education. And, especially Sicilian heritage, Italian heritage. If my grandfather had five years of education, he tried to give his son ten. And they in turn tried to give us all the education we could absorb or needed or wanted, rather, not needed. And that was prominent; that was mostly the thing to see that their children became something or somebody.
66723 Consequently, we have a lot of Latin attorneys, my brother happens to be one, doctors, and specialists in one line or another, and-the proudest moment of a parent's life when they has his children well educated and they come up in the world. And you know like the years back, like the Irish, all they could do was dig potatoes. Well, the Italians that were here, and others-Latins, all Latins-they were never too proud to do an honest day's work. If it took digging ditches, they would dig ditches, and laying railroad ties, they would do that. That one time here they had street sweepers by hand, they'd come at night. Many of them were Italians, Cubans, Spaniards, they weren't ashamed-it was honest work. And lay bricks.
67386 Seventh Avenue was sand at one time-streetcars running down the middle. One of the most, mostly traveled streets in the area was Columbus Drive, and that was sand. And it was paved in the twenties [1920s], probably. And, like most other side streets here, first the main streets would get paved, and then eventually the other side streets would get paved. But, we're going way back now.
6892 GM: Right. How did the Italians get along with the other Latin groups? Cubans and Spaniards?
69NP: I don't think any of them resented each other. They would socialize, work together.
70GM: What do you mean by socialize?
71343 NP: Well, in their work, they were very congenial to one another. In fact, a lot of them would visit their own homes, invite them out to eat at each other's homes. But then when it came down to these clubs, they all had their own group. Consequently, you have the Italian Club, you have the Spanish Club, Centro Espaol. Then you had another-
7221 GM: Centro Asturiano?
73509 NP: That's another branch of the Spaniards, you know, they'd have two. Like you would say Italians and Sicilians; that is two different branches. Of course, they're both Italians. Or the Asturians and the other groups of Spaniards, they're all Spaniards. Then you have the Cuban clubs [El Circulo Cubano and Sociedad la Unin Mart-Maceo], and they established themselves with their own ideas because their heritage is a little different, and they wanted to instill their own heritage to their children. And
7453 GM: Did the groups intermarry? Italians marry Cubans?
7567 NP: Oh, yes, they intermarried then. And they still do. And my son-
76GM: What would your father had said if you had brought home a Cuban bride?
77219 NP: He would have probably first of all, hugged and kissed her, and welcomed her into the family. I have a son that is married to a Spanish girl. I have a daughter who is married to a Polish boy. Got a beautiful family.
7837 GM: It's a melting pot, huh? (laughs)
79604 NP: Got a beautiful family, you know. And there are a number of existing problems as far as envy among one another. They didn't-they grouped together to help their own. This club, for instance-in fact, I believe you'll find it in Congressional record, and Senator Claude Pepper was from this area at one time. He was amazed at what this club could do on the small dues that we paid each week, that the members are paid each week. And he brought it up before the Congress, and he was labeled a socialist, because of it. But, if you look into it, these Latin clubs were the forerunners of today's Medicare.
80142 Claude Pepper (1900-1989) served in both houses of Congress: the Senate from 1936 to 1951, and the House of Representatives from 1963 to 1989.
8111 GM: Really?
8255 NP: It was a benevolent association to help each other.
83334 GM: You just hit on a point I was thinking of, Claude Pepper. A student of mine is doing a paper on the 1934 election. I don't know if you would remember it, you would have been twenty years old. Pepper lost very badly. And he was against Park Trammell in Ybor City and West Tampa. Do you remember anything about that election at all?
8447 This was the primary election for U.S. Senator.
85Park Trammell (1876-1936) was governor of Florida from 1913 to 1917, U.S. Senator from 1917 to 1936, and held numerous other political offices including Mayor of Lakeland, State Representative, State Senator, and Attorney General.
86438 NP: I don't remember the details. I do remember that he was beat. I recall that I met Senator Pepper's father-in-law at one time, and I was working in the food market. And he came in and he mentioned who he was. And later on, I met Senator Pepper and became acquainted with him, and, he gained a lot of votes by being very able to mix with the Latin people. And I think he turned the tables in the very next election, if I'm not mistaken.
87GM: Right, right.
88119 NP: I was never too interested in politics, except local. Since I began voting, I've always exercised my right to vote.
89GM: How do you attribute the success of Nick Nuccio to Tampa?
90208 Nick Nuccio (1901-1989) served two terms as mayor of Tampa, from 1956 to 1959 and from 1963 to 1967. He also served on the Tampa City Council and the Hillsborough County Commission before being elected mayor.
91572 NP: I attribute his success to being a well-loved man by everyone. Ah, you've heard the expression that "I've never met an enemy," well you could refer that to Nick, he would go all out. Politically and in office, he kept himself clean to an extent that if he-in jobs, for instance. If he had to turn down his own relative-not to get into what would we call it today, a conflict of interests-he'd tell them right out he wouldn't hire them. He was well-loved, even out in the county. People in Temple Terrace today, that I know of, still talk well of him. Well-beloved man.
92GM: On another topic now besides politics, how about the church? What kind of role did the church play in Ybor City?
93310 NP: The church played a very, very important role. One of the oldest churches was right here on Seventeenth Street and Eleventh Avenue. At the moment I can't recall its original name, but today it is known as Our Lady of Perpetual Health, which I still attend. In fact, I'm a lector there in one of the masses.
9448 GM: Would you say most of your friends attended?
95193 NP: Many of them from this area would. And then, there was another little church here on Seventh Avenue we used to refer to as the little Italian church. A lot of old-time Italians attended it.
96GM: Right.
97222 NP: And it was a very strong factor in the moral situation here in this area. And at that time, if you've done something wrong, you had to let the priest know about it. So you thought twice before you done something wrong.
98GM: Right.
99NP: It was like some children being threatened with a policeman, go call a policeman, when you had to go to confession.
100GM: Right.
101141 NP: I think the church played a very big role here; and actually in the history of Ybor City, it's not brought up enough, the role it played.
10262 GM: Right. How about yourself? What was the first job you had?
103170 NP: The first job I had was right here a block away from here in a little store, apparel store, that I'd sweep up, put shoes back in boxes, put them in where they belong.
104GM: How old were you?
10573 NP: I could have been twelve years old, part-time, when I went to school.
10629 GM: When did you quit school?
107NP: High school. I finished high school and then I went to work.
10869 GM: Now, was that unusual, for your generation to finish high school?
109569 NP: No, the majority of them would finish, and others would go on to college. Those that could afford it, and those that couldn't afford it, they could make their way if they wanted to. Like, I mentioned that I have a brother who is an attorney. He became an attorney through a correspondence course. He had it in him. He loved the law, and there was a lawyer's office upstairs of this building that he worked for. And he happened to be a retired professor from Stetson Law School. And he was just thrilled with law. In fact, he took his bar exams when he was nineteen.
110GM: Your brother?
111739 NP: My brother did. And just before his twentieth birthday. Of course, they failed him. And this professor I mentioned-I can't recall his name-he seeked some information that he got, and they asked why he flunked, why they didn't pass him. And they said they didn't pass him because of his age. He'd gone through court and had his papers of-how do they refer to it?-of minorities, removed. And at the age of eighteen he could vote-well, I don't know if he could vote, but he could sue and be sued, legal signing and make legal contracts. And he helped rewrite the laws here during the Depression. He helped rewrite the laws for some of the surrounding towns here, like Tarpon Springs, and dedicated himself to that as a government project.
11249 GM: What line of work did you eventually go into?
113202 NP: I've been in produce. I owned my own food store, complete food store, and I've run that-I owned it for twenty-four or five years, and when I sold out, I thought about retiring, and it wasn't for me.
114GM: So, you're still doing that work now?
115NP: I'm doing a little produce selling.
116206 GM: Good, an interesting question, which has been tossed around. Almost every city you go to in the United States, the Italians dominate the produce business, the fruit business. How would you explain that?
11754 NP: Going back to their ancestors. That's all they do.
11836 GM: But, how would you explain that?
119285 NP: That's all their ancestors have ever done. It's handed down from generation to generation. They farm. The people-now, you've brought something that recalls-I recall something that they used to talk about. They'd leave early in the morning before daylight and get out to the fields.
120GM: In the old country?
121566 NP: The old country, do their work all day long. And just about sunset was when they'd come home. And this is something just like the Japanese; it's instilled in them, you know. That's what they've done all their life, and it's handed down. Consequently, a lot of Italians came over here and they started little truck farms. And there's a few of them still living today that started that way in the produce business. And it is amazing, you go, now I've never been to Italy-my son has-he says you go outside of Rome and it's all farm country, and Sicily the same way.
122186 GM: Now, I was just looking at some of the trucks in this town, the brothers, and the Grecos, I know, and Kash 'n' Karry, did they get their start that way? About the same time you did?
123Founded by Salvatore Greco in 1914, the store then expanded and encompassed the state of Florida. By August of 2007, all Kash 'n' Karry stores closed or were converted to Sweetbay Supermarket.
124512 NP: No, the has been in existence a long time. This is the third generation there at the They started down the street here on Twenty-Third Street and the railroad there, which is Sixth Avenue. Nick Senior, well, he's been dead now quite a few years. His son took over, which is also Nick he died about eight years ago. Now his two sons are in the business. Up there by the wholesale produce market on Hillsborough. The (inaudible) business, he's one of the men I mentioned to you that had a little truck farm.
125471 The Grecos started a little grocery store on Columbus Drive and Twenty-Sixth Street, and one of the sons started a little wholesale grocery business, and it thrived, and he brought in his brother-in-law, and little by little, it expanded into this Kash 'n' Karry, which started, its original beginning was a building here on east Seventh Avenue, and it was built like a barn, and they named it the Big Barn. They opened their first grocery store there, big grocery store.
126665 This place on Columbus Drive was started by their father; it was a small, neighborhood grocery store. It's still in existence out there today. And of course, they expanded, one idea lead to another, and one of the trips that one of these brothers made after they were all into the business, out west somewhere, he ran across a business that was cut-rate. And that's when he came back and had the idea of this Kash 'n' Karry. And by selling 2 to 3 percent under the big chains, and this family operated thing, why, it expanded from there. And of course, just this past year, the first of this year, they sold out for several million dollars. That's a huge operation.
127GM: Right.
128350 NP: And back to produce, there's still a lot of-many people in it today that had their beginnings as either a salesman or as one of them at the market today, as night watchmen. He's also Italian, and he's one of the biggest dealers out there today. And I'd say that 50 to 60 percent of the people in wholesale produce today are Italian. All Italians.
129GM: Now, what did you specialize in? Any particular-
13032 NP: You mean what I'm doing now?
13145 GM: Like vegetables? Yeah, or when you were-?
132333 NP: Food, and what we refer to as wet produce out of California. Wet produce would be endive, escarole, lettuce, anything that holds moisture. That's what we refer to as wet produce. Fruit out of Washington and California, and local products, too. You know, Florida starts on celery, and lettuce and things like that. We handle them.
133GM: Right.
134130 NP: And you follow the country. For most produce dealers, it's not available here or nearby, and they follow where the harvest is.
135GM: Right.
13699 NP: And we draw from Colorado, we draw from Idaho, Texas, all over-Arizona, California, especially.
137GM: Where did you get the stuff like thirty years ago? Where did you get most of your produce from?
13893 NP: Thirty years ago, you'd still bring it in on trucks or railcars. Same way as it is today.
139GM: You don't do much with South Florida?
140381 NP: Yes, South Florida's a huge producer when it comes to water lettuce. South Florida produces lots of lettuce. Celery, carrots, radishes, you name it, they have it. Right now, well the season's just about over with, but avocados and mangos, this type of produce. South Florida's tomatoes-tomatoes start from South Florida. Then it comes up to Ruskin, then it follows the country.
141GM: Right.
142545 NP: Up to the country, then into California, New Mexico, and back here. Right now, I mentioned they are, the fall crop of Ruskin tomatoes are in. Later on, you go down to South Florida, and then it comes back up. In the spring, you have Ruskin tomatoes again. And bell peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, strawberries-all this type of food and vegetables available all winter long. And it's a big producer. At one time or another, we were, it'll be the only supplier for the United States, that and Southern California. So, produce is the backbone of-
143169 GM: I know you said you had to take off in just a few minutes. What-by the end of this session. As you look out on Seventh Avenue today, what are your feelings? In 1979?
144763 NP: My feelings are-what we're doing today-I happen to be a member of the Barrio Latino Commission. What we're doing today, I'm proud of. But what they've done to this area, they have raped this area. When I say raped, I want to broaden that to the extent that when this place was cleaned out, it was said that they're going to rebuild. Now, here it is sixteen years later; outside of a few new buildings we haven't accomplished much. We don't get the backing that we should have-whether it be local, county, state, or government, the assistance is not available; it's not here. It should be given freely, and they should have advisors in here. As it is, there's nine people interested, to see that this area is not put up in little shacks and tents and so forth.
145726 We're trying to bring back the-I call it the Mediterranean architecture type buildings here. You can't say it's Hispanic or Italian. This Italian Club building has a mixture of all kinds of architecture. You've got-if you'll notice, we've got Greek columns there from the second story on up. You've got Spanish tile. You've got Italian marble. You've got everything in there. It's not Italian architecture, it's what we call Ybor City-or I call it a Mediterranean flavor-architecture. I refer to it, back when I first [became] a member of the Barrio Latino Commission, as Ybor City architecture. There's no such a thing as Greek, Spanish, Italian, none of them. Even over at the Spanish Club, there's other architecture there.
14660 GM: Whose fault do you think it was that the area was raped?
147190 NP: Well, it's not that I don't want to get involved, it's that I can't pinpoint it. It's just that at the time everybody thought it was something great and, as it turned out to be, nothing.
148145 GM: Let me mention some figures; I've heard you can comment. Hillsborough Community College? What do you think of Hillsborough Community College?
149533 NP: I think it's the first thing that came down here to help this area out. We have the community college to thank for that area there. But look beyond this way, it's still clear and empty. And outside of the sheriff's building, and the environmental building-there's another example. We wanted to put in a little bit of architecture in there, brickwork that existed here. Well, the powers that be were against us, against the brickwork, 'cause they figured it was expensive. At the time, it was a matter of maybe $30,000 difference.
150765 But if you look back-and of course, when I say this, I'm stepping on some toes-the community college-if you go on the east end and go across the street and look up, you've find cracks all over that building. And what's going to happen between repairs, water-proofing the building and painting it over again-if you have done that with brick, it wouldn't exist today. Consequently, this building that was put up without the bricks, is all stuck on block work, eventually is going to crack. And it's going to be the maintenance. Our building next door is all brick; the brickwork needs no work at all to it. The other does, which we have it in our plans to redo the whole building. And it's going to cost us about ten times more than it cost us to put up the building.
151GM: What did this building cost to build, do you know?
152361 NP: At the time we it put in, late-not late, but early 1900s; I'd say before 1920-I think the whole three-story building, theatre and all, was put up for less than $100,000. If I'm not mistaken, it's about $88,000. Today the building is worth $250,000 or better. It's going to cost us better than $100,000 to redo the building being up to code and to repair it.
15357 GM: What do you think of what I mentioned, urban renewal?
154734 NP: I think of urban and forget the renewal. It's still urban and it's going to stay that way until people get interested in building down here. Now, we have some apartments going up, and we mentioned church a little earlier in our conversation. We have some apartments going up. We have some existing now. I think it's ninety-nine apartments, two-stories high. Now the government steps in and tells us that if we don't go as high as four stories high, we can't put up this building, we can't get government funds. Now, we're going to have another hundred units up there, but we've got to go up to the four-story building. The Barrio Latino Commission, we'll have to back down from that particular height, and allow it, or we lose it.
155356 So, I'm of the opinion that as long as it's not radical, that I'd let most anything be built here within reason. Without going to a lot of frills, without going into plain buildings, plain, let's say wood or metal of something that distracts from this area. And by keeping ironwork, brickwork, in this area will accomplish what we can recall Ybor City was.
156GM: Finally, now, what do you think Ybor City will be like fifty to a hundred years from now?
157NP: How many years from now?
158GM: Oh, let's say fifty years.
159733 NP: Fifty years from now, I think Ybor City will be, if the trend continues, and we can step it up a little bit, I think Ybor City will be something like New Orleans, Little Italy in New York, or different areas where the ethnic groups are in accord with what they're doing. It will be a tourist attraction. It will be a tourist attraction, and I think it will eventually bring people here from outside areas just to see the place. And there will be tours. There are some tours now that are being conducted here, but it's not too much to show. But if we can maintain the buildings like we have in mind, and control them as to what they can put up and what they can't put up, I think it will be a big tourist attraction for this area.
160GM: I'd like to thank you very much for your time today. Maybe we can do it again, okay?
161102 NP: It was my pleasure. All right, fine, and if you give me a call, I'll bring you some pictures, and-
16216 end of interview
unicode usage 2-byte sequence starting at 19536 [195 177 (c3 b1 ) {"\u00f1"} ]. [ the Spanish Club, Centro Espaol. Then you had another-


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