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Mormino, Gary Ross,
Gary Mormino introduces the Ybor City oral history project
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Mark Greenberg.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (7 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (3 p.)
Ybor City oral history project
Interview conducted August 14, 2009.
This is an interview with Dr. Gary Mormino, in which he introduces the Ybor City Oral History Project. Mormino conducted many of the interviews in the collection. He describes some of the more memorable people with whom he spoke in the 1980s, and recounts some of their stories.
Mormino, Gary Ross,
Ybor City (Tampa, Fla.)
Ybor City (Tampa, Fla.)
Social life and customs.
Greenberg, Mark I.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
Ybor City oral history project.
y USF ONLINE ACCESS
COPYRIGHT NOTICE This Oral History is copyrighted by the University of South Florida Libraries Oral History Program on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of South Florida. Copyright, 2009, University of South Florida. All rights, reserved This oral history may be used for research, instruction, and private study under the provisions of the Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of the United States Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section 107), which allows limited use of copyrig hted materials under certain conditions. Fair Use limits the amount of material that may be used. For all other permissions and requests, contact the UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA LIBRARIES ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at the University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fo wler Avenue, LIB 122, Tampa, FL 33620.
! " Ybor City O ral H istory P roject Oral History Program Florida Studies Center University of South Florida, Tampa Library Digital Object Identifier: Y10 00087 Interviewee: Gar y Mormino (GM) Interview er : Mark Greenberg ( MG ) Interview date: August 14, 2009 Interview location: University of South Florida St. Petersburg Transcribed by: Kimberly Nordon Transcription date: September 30 200 9 Audit Edit by: Mary Beth Isaacson Audit Edit date: September 30, 2009 Final Edit by: Mary Beth Isaacson Final Edit date: October 21, 2009 Mark Greenberg: Hi I'm Mark Greenberg the director of the Special and Digital Collection Department and the Florida Studies Center in the USF Libraries. It's my pleasure today to introduce Gary Mormino, award winning Florida historian and co founder of the Florida Studies Program at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. Dr. Mormino's oral histories constitute an important par t of the Ybor City Oral History Project. Gary Mormino : I was an oral historian when that term was kind of vaguely known and probably between 1978 and 1982 I must have done a hundred to two hundred interviews in Ybor City. I would often try to go down on ce or twice a week I would go to the Italian Club or Centro Espa ol or Centro Asturiano and would look for old people. I don't think anyone ever denied me an interview. I think a hundred years from now actually I think two years from now people will look back in kind of amazement. First of all it had nothing to do with the brilliance of the interviews or my insights R ather I came at probably the last possible moment you could interview many of the immigrants of Ybor City. If you were doing a histor y of Ybor City now, it would by necessity have to be a very different history B ut when I was here a nd it wasn't because there was a lack of written sources, the problem I encountered in St. Louis I n fact Ybor City was a remarkabl y literate community B u t I thought it added a great s ens e of social history of humanity. And the other legacy will be there weren't many people preceding me who were doing interviews so this is about it. I mean this is kind of like the slave n arratives I f you want to liste n to first generation accounts of Ybor City, you don't have many options but to go to these interviews. I'd probably do them differently today, I would ask different questions, but that's the nature of interviews.
# " Just some of the more memorable intervi ews : Jose Vega Diaz was perhaps the most colorful person I interviewed. He was I think ninety five years old in 1980. I interviewed him at the V M Ybor Apartments, one of the few promise s kept by the governme nt when they displaced people. H e had come to Tampa in the 1890 s, as a teenager. Jose Vega Diaz remembered the Rough Riders in Tampa H e remembered the streetcar cond uctor disliked their boisterous behavior and the Rough Riders when the y exited the streetcar lifted the car off the trac k s, just as a gesture of ill impunity I guess. He told me that on the evening before he and his wife his beloved wife Blanca were to be displaced by u rban renewal, his wife died. I mean, she was just so heartbroken having to be left. I interviewed Danny A lvarez Danny Alvarez was the bagman for Cu r ti s Hixon He told me I wasn't aware of this but what a dramatic beginning. His day of growing up, I think was in 1938 or 1939 thirty eight  when F ranco won the Spanish Civil War. H e remembered his father comin g home and was very agitated left quickly T he father went back to the cigar factory killed his foreman, who was gloating about Franco A nd then Mr. Alvarez's father killed himself, and he was essentially adopted by a druggist on Nebraska Avenue, C u r ti s Hixon And I remember asking him about how much money he would take in from the gambling lords in a typical election in the 1930s and for ties [1940s], and I think he said, "Two hundred." And I said, "Two hundred dollars?" He said, "Two hundred thousand dollars." And Manny Garcia was the lawyer to the m ob, arguably the most informed insider/outsider of Tampa politics and Tampa bribes and the lineups of the m obs and he gave us a tw o or th ree hour interview. Unf ortunately much of it was bleeped out but what's left there [are] some timeless stories about as a law student coming back and observing first hand the corruption in the 1934 1935 primaries that cos t Claude Pepper a Senate seat a nd h is association with B. B. Rebozo He was also a masterful storyteller I remember interviewing well I can now tell his name I suppose Sam Ferlita I think I gave him my grandfather's name of Phil Stasi in the book B ut he told me he was very involved i n the bootleg business with his father H e began the interview saying, "Gary, I've been arrested sixty times, but do you realize I have no arrest record ? I said, "I don't und erstand the riddle." He said, Well, the wa y the police used to do it, they'd cal l me in about once every two months and tell me, Sam, c ome down to the police headquarters W e're going to arrest you again.'" He'd go, he'd pay his fifty dollar fine and they'd ask him "W hat name do you want us to put down? So he'd give them a phony name, but the next day in the newspapers it would appear, "Twenty f ive Italians arrested for boot legging." So the Tampans would read their newspapers and say, "About time they cr acked down on these bootleggers! And the point of this is it's a funny story and kind of an interesting story but importantly, what it means is if you're writing a history of bootlegging today simply from the Tampa Tribune it s all baloney in a lot of ways I n fact I'm not sure how you would do that. T here aren't many Sam Ferlitas on tape
$ " And by the way I tried desperately with Tony Pizzo's help to interview Santo Trafficante. I did not, but I remember trying to interview one of the he was the Jewish city councilma n who s e name I 've forgotten fro m the 1930s. I remember calling him, and he said, "Son, if I told you what I knew we'd both be dead." (laughs) So, I mean I look back and I mean wow I was very lucky and also very persistent End of recording