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Sunday, January 31, 2016

MODEL PUBLIC SCHOOL: Down in St. Petersburg-Solomon S. Mead Sees Southern Sights With Northern Eyes

Source: Greenwich Graphic. May 16, 1903. Page 1.

Solomon Stoddard Mead

Editor of the Graphic:

I told you I would give you a description of my visit to St. Petersburg. I went by the Atlantic Coast Railroad from Tampa to Port Tampa, some ten miles or more. Port Tampa is on the east side of Tampa Bay and the water is so shallow you could wade over many acres of white sand. The locomotive and the full train run down to the steamboat wharf with freight and passengers. About all the wharfs are built out over the water from a half to a full mile in order to reach the steamboat. The steamboat came over from St. Petersburg in about two hours sail.

While waiting for the boat my attention was directed to a large bird flying single over the water and often would turn its head down and make a sudden dive for a fish. I enquired about the bird and was told it was a pelican fishing for a living. I noticed that the bird was successful in every dive he made and would take his time to swallow its catch before rising from the water, and then set sail for another fish.

I arrived at St. Petersburg about 10.30 and looked about the city until noon, and dined at the Cole hotel and had a very good dinner and well prepared. After I went through the town I saw a number of men digging a sewer through one of the principle streets. It was about 8 feet deep and composed entirely of white soft sand. At the bottom of the sewer work was a ____ of water. I asked how it came there and was told it came in from the bay just outside, say one-eighth of a mile through this white sand and was pumped out by hand in order to let the men work. I asked the foreman of the work where they came from, one said from Texas, one from Alabama, and one from Massachusetts.

St. Petersburg is the city well laid out, its streets are very straight and wide and planted with trees on both sides. Its houses are nice and comfortable looking, and its churches was of good and substantial architecture, and its public schools surprised anything I had seen before in the buildings, their equipment and management. There was a lake close by and a steam engine was at work forcing the water into a high tank to be distributed through the school and elsewhere that it was needed. As a joke I asked the principal Mr. Gunsinger if the pupils used the lake for a skating pond during the winter which caused him to laugh most heartily, as he thought I was in earnest, seeing that they never have a frost at this point. I cannot describe the school as it should be done, but there was everything that could be in any school. A cooking room and a sewing room for girls and a work shop for boys containing a work bench for each boy well stocked with all the tools to be used in that department and every other department. There was some very prominent rich man who took a great interest in the schools and who had spent his money with a liberal handed to bring them to a high standard of perfection. I often heard his name but I would not write it for I might not get it just right. The man had given the young cadets their uniforms and also all the girls of good age were dressed in uniforms according to the position they occupied.

On May 5, 6, 7, Tampa gave a May festival of 3 days duration. There were three steamboats that brought from St. Petersburg the schools and over one thousand scholars came and rode all over Tampa in the trolly cars and finally paraded through the streets and to the Tampa Bay Hotel, on foot all in uniform where they gave an exhibition of their training, both the cadets and the girls in uniform. The Tampa Bay Casino was filled and the ticket taker said to me there were over fifteen hundred persons in the building. Tickets were 50 cents each and there were several hundred dollars taken in all for the benefit of the poor children's home. Every one seemed to be well pleased with today's showing. On Thursday there was a matinee of the Sons of Ham which was well rendered and in the evening there were many unusual performances, songs and instrumental playing, a scene of hay makers, etc. These performers were of the schools of Tampa, young men and maidens and Mrs. and were very interesting for all young old and young.