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FROM THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF LISA FIGUEREDO| INFO@CIGARCITYMAGAZINE.COM FEBRUARY/MARCH 2012

LISA M. FIGUEREDO EDITOR-IN-CHIEF AND FOUNDER

SUSAN CUESTA COPY EDITOR

PAUL GUZZO SENIOR WRITER

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS

SCOTT DEITCHE WRITER

MARK DENOTE

I knew when I heard the news of the passing of the great Etta James that I would feature her on the cover of the February-March 2012 issue of Cigar City Magazine. It was simple really. I felt it appropriate to celebrate the life of such a dynamic artist. It’s no secret to my family and friends that music in its purest form has always taken a front seat in my life. People ask me all the time, if you could do something else what would that be? MUSIC is what comes out of my mouth without hesitation. Then, of course, I’m asked “What kind of music?” “The blues of course!” Many of the issues you have read over the last 8 years have been created and designed while blasting the blues from people like BB King, Buddy Guy, Howlin’ Wolf and the unforgettable, haunting voice of Etta James. Ms. James will be remembered for her legendary voice and her contributions to our nation's musical history but most importantly the way her music touches our soul. And let us not forget Black History Month–an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. history. What better time to pay tribute to a musical legend. Bringing the celebration full circle, Cigar City Magazine is telling the story of the Jackson House in this issue–a legendary piece of our local history. Thanks as always to you, the reader, who has made Cigar City Magazine Tampa’s favorite magazine! I look forward to another exciting year.

Lisa M. Figueredo Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Cigar City Magazine

WRITER

ART & PHOTOGRAPHY CONTRIBUTORS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA DIGITAL COLLECTIONS HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY THE FLORIDA STATE ARCHIVES USF DEPARTMENT OF SPECIAL COLLECTIONS TAMPA BAY HISTORY CENTER TAMPA BAY TIMES

Check out our website at CigarCityMagazine.com for more stories and post your comments!

ON THE COVER ETTA JAMES ©2012, BossaNova Agency. All rights reserved. Reproduction or use without written permission from the BossaNova Agency, of editorial, pictorial, or design content, in any manner is prohibited. The opinions of writers commissioned for articles are not necessarily those of the agency. All advertising is subject to approval before acceptance. BossaNova Agency reserves the right to refuse any advertisement for any reason whatsoever. The BossaNova Agency assumes no responsibility for claims made by advertisers. All letters, emails and their contents sent to the BossaNova Agency become the sole property of the agency and may be used and published in any manner whatsoever without limit and without obligation or liability to the author there of. Cigar City™ is a trademarked name and logo, any reproduction or use without written permission will fall under the trademark infringement laws and will be executed under the fullest extent of the law. BossaNova Agency only holds the rights to use the name and trademark under the rules and regulations of the owner of the Cigar City™


February/March 2012 | Volume 7 | Issue 37

FEATURES Meet The Jackson’s | 20 Bolita Kingpin of St. Pete | 30 COLUMNS This Month in Florida History | 10 Lost Landmark | 10 Pour Discissions | 12 The Libation Lounge | 16 Interview | 34 Cigar City Playground | 36 Mama Knows | 38

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IN THE MONTH’S OF FEBRUARY & MARCH February 22, 1819 Spain signed the Adams-Onis Treaty with the United States ceding eastern Florida. Spanish minister Do Luis de Onis and U.S. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams signed the Florida Purchase Treaty, in which Spain agrees to cede the remainder of its old province of Florida. Spain renounced claims to Oregon Country February 25, 1964 Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali) became world heavyweight boxing champion by defeating Sonny Liston in Miami Beach. February 28, 2009 A fishing boat from Clearwater, Florida, capsized as the four friends were pulling up the anchor. Nick Schuyler was rescued on March 2. Oakland Raiders linebacker Marquis Cooper, free-agent defensive lineman Corey Smith and former University of South Florida player William Bleakley remained missing. March 8, 1861 St. Augustine, Florida, surrendered to Union armies. March 14, 1903 The 1st national bird reservation was established in Sebastian, Florida. March 25, 2009 US authorities arrested Florida businessman Rama K. Vyasulu and froze his Rosemont Finance Corporation following a federal grand jury indictment in Boston indicting him on charges of laundering $900,000 in drug profits. His firm served as a key US clearing house for dozens of black market brokerages selling dollars in Venezuela, despite an official ban on private firms buying an d selling currency at unofficial rates. An estimated $100 million was believed to be frozen.

Congratulations Mark & Carrie of the MC Film Festival in Ybor who guessed last issue's Lost Landmark! The Lost Landmark in the December 2011 issue was The Palma Ceia Theater at 2309 S. MacDill Avenue in Tampa, Florida.

Email your answer and your name to: info@cigarcitymagazine.com by March 1, 2012. 10

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to everything there is a season, and beer is no exception. Many breweries rotate their seasonal beer selections for various reasons like space, variety, or demand. Often times the beer will follow the weather as well. a high-alcohol barley wine may warm the winter nights or a light, crisp pale ale can shorten a sweltering summer day. During this time of year, as the winter begins to thaw and the warmer Spring temperatures show their approach, the russian imperial stout can swap the wintry for the wonderful. imperial stouts are the older, bulkier brothers of the beer world. they are burly, robust, viscous, and high octane—the ivan Dragos of craft beer. While each stout will vary by the ingredients used and the brewer’s panache, nearly every imperial stout will be robust, higher in alcohol, and layered with deep flavors like coffee, chocolate, roasted malts, and dark fruit.

Examples of locally available Russian Imperial Stouts include: Tampa Bay Brewing’s Iron Rat iron rat is currently available only at tampa Bay Brewing Company’s brewpub in ybor City. this is an imperial stout without pretension; it is thick in body and dark in color. the stout emanates aromas of chocolate, roasted malts, light coffee, some fudge, and bits of licorice. the flavor delivers on the promises of the aroma and tastes like dark chocolate, some milk chocolate, roasted malts, some coffee, and interspersed black licorice. Cigar City Brewing’s Hunahpu Hunahpu is only released one day each year, and can only be bought from Cigar City’s brewery. each year the release day is in March, and in 2012 it will be March 10th. this stout is Cigar City’s

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Historically, the imperial stout was brewed in england and began its life by the name of stout porter. these beers, brewed with dark and roasted malts, were made to withstand the trip from London to the russian royal court, which is also why many are still called russian imperial stouts. Like india Pale ales, the volume of ingredients was increased, as was the alcohol content, in order to avoid spoilage on what was an extended trek in that point of history. all imperial stouts have several characteristics in common, yet each brewer will adopt the style and make it his or her own with unique malts, hops, or additional ingredients. every imperial stout will be dark brown in color with varying amounts of hops, have a thick body (think motor oil), and may have strong aromas of coffee, dark fruit, chocolate, earth, and varying levels of alcohol.

Marshal zhukov imperial Stout taken to the next level. the stout is named for the divinity that gave chocolate to the Mayans, and aged with cinnamon, ancho and pasilla chilis, cacao nibs, and vanilla beans. this beer has an aroma of chocolate, some earthy peppers, vanilla, spice, and espresso. the flavor is spice forward at first with the peppers meeting the chocolate, coffee, and cinnamon as soon as the stout touches the tongue. Hunahpu is very thick and full-bodied, finishing with a bit of earthy peppers, chocolate, and spices.


Osker Blues Ten Fidy Warning: do not judge this stout as inferior simply because of its container. this is one of the most viscous beers available in Florida right now. Osker Blues’s canned imperial stout pours the color of motor oil with a consistency to match. this beer has an aroma of roasted malts, earth, chocolate, coffee, and hints of licorice. While it is fresh, Osker Blues ten Fidy also has some hop bitterness to compliment some of the chocolate coffee, and hints of licorice. While it is fresh, Osker Blues ten Fidy also has some hop bitterness to compliment some of the chocolate and coffee in aroma and flavor. the mouth feel is thick and silky- a truly filling beer. even if stouts do not truly appeal, a can of ten Fidy with some dark chocolate or truffles make for tasty magic. Cigar City Brewing’s Humidor Series Marshal Zhukov this imperial stout is the base beer for Hunahpu (Cigar City’s Marshal zhukov imperial Stout) aged on Spanish cedar. Present in aroma and flavor are notes of coffee and espresso along with notes of dark chocolate and roasted malts but the cedar contributes spicy and woody notes. Cigar City’s Head Brewer, Wayne Wambles, says that this beer will stand up to virtually any cigar you could pair it with. North Coast Brewing’s Old Rasputin Old rasputin is one of the most prevalent and readily available imperial stouts on the market and as such has certainly been a gateway stout for many people, myself included. Old rasputin is a bit more hop-forward in its aroma and flavor than many of its stouty brethren, and that will be discernible as resiny hops or coffee bitterness. Don’t mistake Old rasputin’s wide availability for mass production; this stout just shares its secrets more readily than some other beers. rasputin will disclose those secrets with chocolate mousse or a hearty portabella mushroom dish. as long as the flavors of chocolate, coffee, spice, and roasted malts sound appealing, an imperial stout will prove a satisfying brew.

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sdeitche@gmail.com

Welcome to the Libation lounge. this is the first of what we hope will be a regular part of Cigar City Magazine. it’s a celebration of spirits, both the well-known and obscure. i hope to not only let readers in on particular brands and types of liquor that i enjoy, but also on new finds. Over the next few issues, i’ll be looking at the bitter orange excellence of Campari and aperol, bourbons, peaty single malts, and rum. i’ll also write about the importance of bitters, resurgence of old man bars and lounges, and the proper music to enjoy a Singapore Slam (Martin Denny). i’m not a professional spirits writer, nor a liquor snob. as i grow in the

cocktail world, i’ll be sharing new trends, old classics, and drinks i have yet to discover, let alone sample. and i’m always open to suggestion, so email away. i thought i would start with highlighting some of our very own local distillers who are making their mark against the big brands and carving out a niche for themselves much like craft brewers have done so successfully over the last 20 years. i’m a big fan of supporting local businesses, and what better way to expand your liquor collection than supporting Florida-based distillers.

Palm Ridge Reserve Palm ridge is a flavorful, yet smooth, whiskey that stands above most others on the liquor store shelves. the small town of Umatilla, in Lake County, is where Palm ridge is distilled. the whiskey is made from a mash of barley, corn, rye, and malt, then matured with oak and orange wood. it’s an evocative spirit. Palm ridge is not distributed outside Florida, but is available throughout the tampa Bay region.

Florida Caribbean Distillers Florida Caribbean is the oldest distillery in Florida. Located in Lake alfred, they produce a wide variety of citrus-based and cane liquors, as well as cordials, tequilas, and vodkas. One of their signature products is 4 Orange Vodka, crafted solely from four varieties of Florida oranges (Hamlin, Parson Brown, temple, and Valencia). they also make Black roberts Spiced rum.

Siesta Key Rum Siesta Key rum is a hand-crafted rum form Drum Circle Distillers in Sarasota. they have both a white and gold rum. the white rum is my personal favorite; it has a uniquely sweet flavor, but not at all overpowering, with a slight afterburn. it makes for a wonderful mojito, but i actually prefer it as sipping rum.

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Mako Vodka i have not tried this one yet, but had it recommended by a friend. the company is based in Juno Beach and it’s distilled in Central Florida. it’s an ultra-distilled premium vodka, that’s gotten a number of accolades for its value.


Meet The Jackson’s By Paul Guzzo

its popular history may diminish its importance. Located on the north end of downtown tampa at 851 zack Street, approximately one block west of tampa’s Union Station, the Jackson House is a rickety two-story wooden house that is best known for three things: 1. its age–it’s over a century old. 2. the fact that it is tampa’s last freestanding home in downtown tampa. 3. and because it was once a boarding house used by some of the mid 20th century’s most prominent african american entertainers–COUnt BaSie, CaB CaLLOWay, JaMeS BrOWn and eLLa FitzgeraLD–all of whom stayed there while performing around the corner on Central avenue, which was then considered the Harlem of the South. Discussing the former boarding home’s host of famous entertainers has becoming the calling card for some who are trying to help raise money for the historic building’s nearly $1 million in necessary structural improvements–and for good reason, as the list of names catches the attention of the common man, the type of person who normally would not care about conversing about a historic african american boarding home; in order to save the building, everyone will have to pitch in. that same rationale is why presidential candidates appear on comedic late night television shows to promote their serious agendas–sometimes, in order to appease the masses; you have to find a way to relate to them. But, one must wonder, if this way of bringing attention to the Jackson House is tarnishing its true significance. to say we need to save the Jackson House because it was once a boarding home to african american stars is a disservice to its true importance. Saying we need to save it because it is over 100 years old is demeaning to it. and to say we need to save it because it is the last freestanding structure in downtown tampa is offensive to it. tampa needs to save the Jackson House because of what it really represents–the american Dream at its finest. the Jackson House helped a family of former slaves who had their original name erased by slave traders to build a name that most local historians are familiar 20

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with. the Jackson House gave a family who will never know exactly from where they came, a place they knew that wherever their lives took them they could return to and call home. the Jackson House provided a family who will never know the true beginnings of its family tree a large extended family made up of all those who stayed at the boarding home over the years. and the Jackson House gave a family who was once told it wasn’t good for anything except working like animals for the white plantation owners the opportunity to become a college educated family that is equal to any family in this now great nation. the Jackson House provided the Jackson family an opportunity to succeed, to fulfill the american Dream. Willie robinson, Jr., the latest in the Jackson family tree to be charged with overseeing the home, seems to agree with that sentiment, as he briskly mentions the names of the entertainers who stayed at the home while telling its history, choosing to instead focus on his family tree. “i want you to meet the Jacksons,” he said, holding the family photo album in his lap as he sat on of the house’s front porch, the sounds of busy downtown murmuring in the background. the interior is in such a state of disrepair and so poisoned with asbestos that visitors are confined to the porch, no longer legally allowed to step inside.


The Matriarch of the Jackson House, Sarah Jackson.

Jackson House at 851 Zack Street in downtown Tampa. FeBrUary/MarCH

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“Don’t ask me who everyone in this album is,” said robinson as he flipped through the album, passing the strange faces of ancestors with identities lost forever. “i know my grandmother, my parents and my kids and a few others, but the rest i don’t know. “My mother knew them all and when she passed on she took their names with her. She told me when i was a kid but when you are young things like that go in one ear and out the other,” he lamented, as though ashamed that he cannot fully live up to his mother’s dying wish that he keep the family history alive. “i know this one,” he continued, pointing to an old photo of what seems to be a white man in a World War i uniform. “that is Willie Hitchens, and he has an interesting story that i would like to tell you.” robinson’s known family tree begins in the mid-1800s with his grandmother, Sarah allen, a slave on a plantation in georgia. the part of georgia where she was enslaved and what she did on the plantation is now unknown, but robinson does know the last name of the slave master–Hitchens–because his grandmother’s first born bore that name. His name was Willie Hitchens and he was the product of Sarah allen and Mr. Hitchens. robinson said Hitchens could have easily passed for white with his light skin and straight hair, but he chose to stay with his mother in the fields, an odd decision considering the treatment of african americans at the time. When Hitchens was 15 or 16, he tried to join the Buffalo Soldiers but was told he was too young to fight. Which war he tried to fight is unknown to robinson. He later enlisted and fought in World War i, from which the only photo of him emanates. Sarah allen moved to tampa at some point in the late 1800s/early 1900s and met Moses Jackson, a railroad construction worker who was uneducated but made up for a lack of book smarts with a strong drive and determination. His goal in life was to purchase a home for his entire family to share – brothers, sisters, cousins, etc. He felt owning a home was a true sign of freedom. He saved every penny he could and bought the plot of land on zack Street. then, using a handsaw, he built a one-story six-room house. “My mother often said he had a talent for envisioning something, putting it on a piece of paper and then making it real out of wood and nails,” said Willie. “She said he could build anything.” the home’s most prominent feature is its large porch standing at least seven feet above the ground, maybe more. Moses and his family would often sit on the porch and enjoy the Florida evenings. Because there were few establishments in tampa at the time that accepted african americans, whenever african american passengers would find themselves in a layover at Union Station, they would walk the neighborhoods to kill time, often asking Moses Jackson if they could sit on his porch for a few hours until their train departed. a light went off in Moses’ head – he saw the need for a boarding home, a place for the african american travelers to stay so they did not have to wander the streets or sleep outside if they had to wait until morn22

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ing for the next train. From 1903 to 1905 he added on to the structure, turning it into a two-story 24-bedroom boarding home. His family still lived there; tenants rented the other rooms, first for 25 cents a night and later 75 cents a night. Kerosene lanterns lit the structure and three fireplaces kept it warm. Because of its high ceilings, it was hard to keep cool, so the guests would congregate on the porch until it was bedtime. in 1908, Sarah and Moses married and started a family, birthing six children in all. they also expanded their business ventures. Sarah would wash and iron clothes for the well-to-do guests at the white hotels in downtown and she and Moses founded tampa’s first african american-owned cab company–Jackson Cab Company–which specialized in transporting the african americans riding the trains around town. and at some point, the boarding home ceased to only house temporary residents, also becoming a fulltime residence for some. Moses Jackson passed away in 1929 and his wife died in 1937. the house was then passed on among the Jackson daughters, first to Ora Dee, then Josephine and finally, in the mid-1940s, to Sarah, who was named after her mother and by then married to Willie robinson Sr. and named Sarah robinson. it was under Sarah’s watch that the Jackson House accumulated its pop culture history. tampa’s african american community of Central avenue, which included the Jackson House, was a booming entertainment district. Both established and up-and-coming musicians flocked to the “Harlem of the South” to wow the crowds. Sarah robinson once claimed that besides being home to the stars, it was where at least one star penned a legendary song. She had a piano in the parlor that she swore ella Fitzgerald used to write, “a-tisket, a-tasket.” and when the entertainers were not at the Jackson House, they were at the Marshall Barber Shop on Central avenue, owned by Willie robinson, Sr. “My father was the top barber in tampa,” bragged robinson. “all the performers went to him. He did nat King Cole, Duke ellington, James Brown, and more because they all wore their hair a certain way–processed–and my dad was the best at it.” He was also a no nonsense father who was determined to provide his son with a good education both inside and outside the classroom. Willie robinson, Jr. was born in 1948 and attended the prestigious Saint Peter Claver Catholic School, which was inarguably the top african american private school of the time. “My parents were excellent parents,” said robinson, who was an only child. “they were excellent because they were tough and wanted me to understand the real world.”

Right: Various members of the Jackson Family. Picture 563-04 & 563-10 is Willy Hitchens who was also in World War 1 shown in his military uniform. Photo 563-09 is the daughter of Sarah Jackson also named Sarah with her husband Willy Robinson and their son Willy Robinson, Jr. Photo 563-02 is Moses Jackson as a child with his parents.


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For instance, robinson was never allowed to believe in Santa Claus. When the rest of this friends were bustling off to whatever destination in tampa Santa was visiting that winter day, robinson had to either stay home or stand and watch his friends talk to Santa. When robinson was 5, he cried that he wanted to sit on Santa’s lap and believe in the folklore. His father sat him on his lap and sternly said, “you are sitting on Santa’s lap right now. and every morning when you put on shoes, eat breakfast and then go to a good school, you are enjoying Santa’s gifts.” When robinson was old enough to take on the responsibility of work, around 8 or 9, he was charged with cleaning 10 rooms and when he complained about not being paid, his father reiterated the Santa Claus answer to him. “i saw Leave It to Beaver and was wondering why i didn’t get an allowance like they did,” laughed robinson. “My father opened the refrigerator, showed me the food and said, ‘there is your allowance

James Brown

Ella Fitzgerald

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

right there.’ My dad was great. He really taught me about life.” as did the countless guests that passed through the Jackson House throughout robinson’s childhood. One such guest was Mr. ebanks, a Honduran man who stayed at the Jackson House for 30 years. robinson never thought anything special of the man for the first few years he was a resident until he was visited by a group of Honduran royalty. When asked why they visited him, Mr. ebanks explained they were his family. robinson said he was confused. “Why would a member of royalty want to stay in a boarding home in tampa?” he asked Mr. ebanks, to which he replied, “Because those people are stuck up and i just want to be a plain old guy.” “the grass is always greener, i guess, is what i learned from him,” said robinson. then there was Mr. Smiley, a tenant he named “Professor” shortly after he moved in because he would sit on the Jackson House’s porch every morning and read two to three papers while dressed to the nines in a suit jacket and bow tie, no matter what the occasion. robinson 24

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later learned how appropriate his nickname was. When he asked Mr. Smiley why he read so much, he explained that he was once a college professor. robinson inquired as to why he was no longer teaching and Mr. Smiley simply replied, “the pitfalls of life.” “i don’t know what exactly happened to the man,” said robinson, “But i never forgot what he said. ‘the pitfalls of life.’” He didn’t always appreciate the knowledge guests could pass on to him. in fact, he blew off the Jackson House’s most prominent guest–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. the Freedom riders were integrating downtown tampa at the time, taking turns sitting at the counters of restaurants. they sat in waves–the first wave would take a shift and when they tired the second would come in. in between shifts, the Freedom riders rested on cots and were fed at the Jackson House. “So as you see, we were also instrumental in the Civil rights movement,” said a proud robinson.

Nat King Cole

Cabell "Cab" Calloway

When Dr. King stopped by the Jackson House to visit with the Freedom riders, robinson was out back playing stickball with his friends. His mother called him in to meet the civil rights leader, but he only did so momentarily, saying hi and bye and then running back outside to continue his game. “i was just a kid,” he laughed. “i didn’t realize how significant it was.” the significance the Jackson House has had on his life has not escaped him, however. “it takes a village to raise a child and i had a great village around me,” he said. He credits having so many positive role models around him for his success. He attended the now-defunct Bishop College in Dallas on an academic and athletic scholarship. “i was third fastest in the state in high school in 1967 in the 100-yard dash,” bragged robinson, who attended Middleton High School. “and i also excelled in the 220, anchored the 440 and played basketball.”


Interior photos of the kitchen, bath, inside front door, bed room, fire place and upstairs/hallway. FeBrUary/MarCH

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He graduated with a B.a. in education in 1971 and then earned a were not of the same quality of Mr. ebanks or Mr. Smiley. Drugs and masters degree in administration from Prairie View a&M in 1975, crime had taken hold of the area and the tenants were the kind who becoming the first in his family to go to college, earn a bachelor’s and did not mind. earn a master’s. Finally, in 1989, robinson and his mother decided it was time to “Some of the proudest moments of my life,” he said. shut down the Jackson House. it was no longer needed. a family of slaves had become college educated. the american His mother did not give up on it, though. She began to fight for it Dream. to obtain historic designation status. She did not live to see her hard “i could not have done it work come to fruition, without the Jackson House,” passing away in 2006. said robinson. “it gave me On her deathbed, howthe stability i needed, finanever, she told her son he cially and socially.” was in charge of the house Unfortunately, the and that it was his job to american Dream was earned get the historic designation at a cost–the Jackson House so he could begin soliciting itself. the community for donarobinson had dreams. He tions and the government didn’t want to return to for grants to fix the house. tampa and work in the in 2007, he succeeded in boarding home; he wanted to obtaining a historic desigsucceed in the field of educanation but has not yet tion. Following graduation, found a way to launch a robinson moved to Houston successful fundraising and spent the next nine years effort. teaching all levels of educait is hoped that the list of tion, from elementary famous entertainers who through college. stayed there can bring the “i wanted to give back,” he Jackson House the attensaid. “So many people taught tion it needs. me so i wanted to teach othBut one has to ers.” worry–will the Jackson in 1980, his father passed House’s true legacy be lost away. Because robinson was in the Pr effort? an only child, his mother was the names and faces of left to care for the Jackson the celebrities who stayed House on her own. there are not the story. Central avenue was no Willie robinson Jr.’s two more, demolished in 1974 college degrees are. His when it could not be repaired daughter’s college degree following riots and fires. is. and the fact that her entertainers, tourists and two sons are on the college Willy Robinson, Jr. local residents no longer track is. flocked to the area. Plus, with integration, african americans could the Jackson House enabled a family of slaves to become a family of stay wherever they wanted, not just african american-owned establish- educated men and women. ments. tenants were scarce and money became tight. Sarah robinson it is a symbol of everything that was once wrong and is now right had to hire less reputable people to repair the home. they failed to with america. it is a symbol of perseverance. it is a symbol of the properly fix the house, kept the money in full and the house fell into american Dream. deep disrepair. that is why it neeDS to be saved. robinson returned to tampa in 1984 with his wife and daughter to To donate funds or services to the effort, call Bracken tend to his mother, who had fallen ill with heart problems. they all stayed at the Jackson House and continued to take in tenants, but they Engineering at (813)243-4251. FeBrUary/MarCH

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Charlie Williams,

bolita kingpin of St. Pete

B y S c o t t M . D e i t c h e a n d M i k e Wa r d tropicana Field looms large over St. Petersburg. it serves as a boundary of sorts, with downtown to the east, grand Central to the west, and Midtown to the south. But there used to be an african-american neighborhood right where the trop sits now. and a resident of that neighborhood was one of the most intriguing characters the ‘burg ever saw. When the trop was built in the mid-1980s it erased remnants of the gas Plant district, named for two fuel tanks that looked over the neighborhood like sentries. But Charlie Williams was the real guardian of the neighborhood. to the residents of many of the City’s historic black neighborhoods Williams was a robin Hood figure, to the politicians he was a sure path to the african-american voting bloc, and to the police Charlie Williams was the bolita kingpin of Pinellas County. to most, the game of bolita is firmly tied to tampa and ybor City. generally a hundred numbered balls would be thrown into a bag and mixed up. Someone would pull a ball out of the 30

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bag and the numbered displayed, on the ball, would be the winning number. Unfortunately this lottery system was not always honest. Sometimes several balls would have the same number placed on them, increasing the chances of that number being drawn. Sometimes certain balls were placed in a freezer before being put in the bag, that way the frozen ball would be identified and pulled from the bag. also some balls would be infused with lead so they would automatically fall to the bottom of the bag, and easier to find. Bolita later became a catch-all phrase that covered various policy, or numbers, rackets. these were similar to the lottery. People would bet a penny, dime or nickel on a number, and the bolita operation would use the last three numbers of the stock market that day or the Cuban lottery as the winning bolita number. these lottery-based forms of bolita were not endemic to tampa; they existed across the State and were very present across tampa Bay.


St. Petersburg had a section of town dedicated to the game. the neighborhood known as Methodist town was centered around the historic Bethel aMe Church at 919 3rd ave n. One of the sections of Methodist back in the early 1900s was known as Bolita Alley, and was a center of much of the bolita action in St. Petersburg’s black neighborhoods. Bolita Alley was little more than a lane with six, two-story row houses and a few scattered single-family houses. it’s now the site of Unity Park, between 11th and 12th St, north of Burlington avenue. the gas Plant district was to the south of Bolita Alley. Williams lived at 1242 1st ave S in an unassuming house. Born on June 18, 1892, Williams actually had a number of legitimate jobs, primarily as a railroad porter at the nearby train station. He also worked as an agent to place young black men in hospitality jobs in the northeast. it’s not known when Williams started in the bolita game, but by 1937 he was considered one of the kingpins in all of Pinellas County. that’s when police raided his house and found $50,000 in cash. But 1937 was also the year that Williams entered urban lore for his one-man stance against an army. Williams was also a political leader who politicians they knew he could help deliver votes. in 1937, according to an article in the St. Petersburg Times, Williams urged african americans to register to vote and back the police chief in a civil service referendum that might have paved the way for recruitment of black officers. While this would have been enough to ensure his political clout, the referendum vote propelled Williams into a legend in the black neighborhoods. the night before this election over 200 members of the KKK marched in their robes and masks throughout several marched in their robes and masks throughout several black neighborhoods in an attempt to frighten black voters. the KKK also gathered and burned a cross at 4 ave and MLK St. S. according to the newspapers, the Klansmen leading the march gave a statement:

"This demonstration is in protest of the recent (black) registrations to kill the white vote, and of the rumored close connections of some of our high police officials with the (black) gambling element. This is a white man's city. Let's keep it that way." the KKK continued to march and made their way to the front of Charlie William’s house. the Klan set another cross on fire while they were there. Williams came out of his house with a gun. according to different accounts of this story, Williams either had a shotgun or a machine gun. Williams was said to have shot up the cross and or stood up to the KKK, causing them to turn around and end their march. the KKK never marched in large numbers, in St. Petersburg again. in the ensuing years Williams expanded his influence and bolita operations. He operated in a neighborhood known as the Deuces, centered around 22nd St. S. and Williams had his hand in not only most of the gambling rackets, but also financed several businesses in the District. Williams was also suspected by police of working with the crime figures in tampa to finance his operations and share customers. 32

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On Wednesday night, February 18, 1953 Williams drove from St. Petersburg to ybor City to visit his favorite barber shop for his regular shave. He made the drive every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. earlier that day his wife noticed that Charlie was acting a little jittery, but he wouldn’t tell her what about. He drove up to ybor with his secretary. Before going to the barbershop, they bought five cases of liquor for an upcoming elks event (Williams was high up in the State elks organization). When they arrived at the barber, he seats were filled so Charlie waited and his secretary took a nap in Williams’ Chrysler sedan. after Charlie got a shave, he walked out of the shop and towards the car. Just then a gunman emerged from a narrow alley and walked up to Williams. Before Charlie had a chance to react, the gunman shot the kingpin in the chest twice with a .45. the gunman ran away and people came out of nearby businesses to see what happened. By the time Williams was brought to the hospital he was dead. Police on both sides of the Bay started investigations. tampa police thought that a regular in a nearby bar had seen a young black man standing in an alley off 16th St. immediately before the shots, but the suspect was never located. the case remains unsolved. information on the Mob, visit { For moreCigarCityMagazine.com }

Williams’ funeral was held at the Bethel aMe church. Over 3,000 people came to pay their respects. the coach of the gibbs High School football team and three elks serenaded the crowd with William’s favorite song, “Lead Kindly Light”. From there, the funeral continued to the Lincoln Cemetery at 7th ave and 58th St. S, where Williams was interred. the cemetery is the final resting place for several generations of african-americans, community leaders, and Civil War veterans. Why was Williams killed? there were rumors that Williams was cooperating with police. He did enjoy a close relationship with the local PD and Sheriff’s department. Williams would help them break cases in black neighborhoods in return for favors. He was even issued a deputy sheriff’s card by Sheriff todd tucker. But the evidence points to the tampa Mafia and Santo traficante Jr. traficante was engaged in an internal struggle for power, and himself was shot just a month before Williams’ killing. trafficante was looking to expand his reach across to Pinellas. after Williams’ killing, Santo sent his brother Henry to establish the tampa Mafia’s dominance over the St. Peter bolita racket, but Henry made the mistake of trying to corrupt an undercover police officer. Before the Mafia was able to take over where Williams left off, Henry and some associates were arrested. Williams’ legend as the bolita kingpin of St. Petersburg remained secure.

Mike Ward is an officer with the St. Petersburg Police Department


in the early 2000s, she was tampa’s “it girl.” it seemed that nary did a month pass by in which Chrissy Chase was not featured on the cover of a local publication or on a segment for a local news show, always touted as tampa Bay’s next breakout star. She hosted a popular open mic night at ybor City’s King Corona and was a bartender and entertainer at ybor City’s Coyote Ugly. Blessed with a voice that was as beautiful as her appearance, wherever she turned up in tampa Bay, people followed. then one day she left. She packed up her bags and headed for nashville, in search of the fame she and everyone knew she was talented enough to obtain. this country is littered with such stories: talented local leaves the small town or small city behind for what he or she believes is greener pastures, only to never achieve that stardom. a funny thing happened to Chase on her way to becoming another sad story … she succeeded, she became a star! Over the next few years, she continued to grace various mediums, but this time on a national level. She graced newsstands internationally in Glamour, Allure, Teen Vogue, Jane, Lucky, Self, and Makes & Models, and performed at the Daytona 500 and on the Speed Channel. then she returned to Florida, this time Orlando, and landed a gig with nickelodeon and MtV, her original songs appearing on nickelodeon shows iCarly and Victorious. recently, Cigar City Magazine caught up with the former tampa “it girl” to catch up on her surging career: CCM: How did you launch such a successful musical career? Chase: My career really began from my love for musical theater. i was trained classically in italian and French opera, but my heart was in musicals. you know the show glee? that was me in high school. During this time i learned to play guitar and began writing music. i also joined a band. the only song we did well was a cover of iggy Pop's "the Passenger." Let's just say we didn't get too far! CCM: You really made a name for yourself in Ybor City in the early 2000s. Tell us about that. Chase: i consider tampa and ybor City home and for a few years i hosted an open mic night at King Corona on Seventh avenue. this was when i started showcasing my original material. it was just me and my guitar. it brought in a lot of local original artists and we created a great and positive scene. CCM: And then you began working at Coyote Ugly in Ybor City when it first opened in Tampa. How did that help your career? 34

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Chase: Working at Coyote Ugly was probably the best thing for my career in terms of honing my performing skills. My job was to sing for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people four nights a week for three years. i really learned what it meant to work and engage a crowd, be confident, and have fun. i also did a little modeling for them, appearing in their national calendar. aside from the calendar, they use some of my pictures all over the country. i will get a message from a friend in Vegas saying, "i'm looking at a billboard of you!" it is actually funny, and my friends like to give me a hard time about it! CCM : When you first burst upon the scene in Ybor City, you touted your music as girlie folk rock. Then one day you end up in Nashville. That is a bit of a musical leap. How did that occur? Chase: i knew that in order to move forward, i had to leave Florida. the obvious musical hubs are new york, Los angeles, and nashville. i have family in new york and my best friend in La, so you would think those would be the easier choices. Plus i have spent a lot of time in those cities. But my heart was pulling me to nashville, so i packed up my car and went. CCM: Tell us about your career in Nashville. Chase: i am actually blessed for what i accomplished there. i worked closely with multiple grammy producer rob galbraith. He really taught me how to use and "find" my voice. i also recorded a country duet with actor Kevin Bacon for Bleve records. it was for a compilation CD to raise money for the FOP and firefighters. i was also in quite a bit of music videos for major artists and that was a blast! i also wrote with some of the biggest writers in the industry, which is amazing. nashville is a writing town, and i learned so much in that arena. CCM : How did you end up back in Florida? Chase: My now husband, who was then my boyfriend when i lived in nashville, was getting his doctorate degree on the east coast of Florida. i came home to be with him for the holidays with the intention of going back to nashville. i quickly began writing and recording with Brooklyn based producer Marc Osborn out of Orlando. i loved what we were doing, and i felt like i could have the best of both worlds (family and career) by staying in Florida. Marc and i will be releasing our six-pack this spring. i honestly have never been happier than where i am at now in my life. CCM : How did you end up working with Nickelodeon? Chase: Before i moved to nashville, i wrote and recorded my album Brand New Girl in new york with producer roger Fife. Shortly after, i was offered a licensing agreement with MtV and nickelodeon. CCM : Do you still perform live? If so, tell me about your new band. Chase: i do! i just started singing for Orlando based band Lily and the tigers. it is an original pop band with a strong, great team of people behind it. and i love the guys in the band. We will be releasing our promo video and eP titled "Look at Us now" on Valentine's Day. CCM : Where can people hear your songs? Chase: My music is on Pandora, Spotify, and many other internet radio sites. also, you can listen to my Brand New Girl album on my Facebook music page as well itunes, amazon, and many other online music stores.


34 Cigarphotos City Magazine For more on this event and other events, visit CigarCityMagazine.com and look for our Facebook page!


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Dear Mama, It’s voting time again and I haven’t a clue who to vote for. Do you have any suggestions? -Not Sure Dear Not Sure, First, I live in Cuba! Second, if ignorance is bliss, you must be the happiest person alive. -Mama Dear Mama, I went to dinner the other night with friends. The bill came and for whatever reason the waiter just handed it to me. I felt embarrassed to ask everyone for money and no one offered, so I just paid the bill. I can’t afford to do that. What should I do next time? -Going Broke Dear Going Broke, Sounds like your friends are moochers and the fact that you are asking me what to do, makes you an idiot who deserves to get mooched off of. Let me send you my address and make the check out to Mama! -Mama Dear Mama, My friend and I have been arguing what is appropriate attire for a funnel. She thinks it is not necessary to wear black any more and I still think black is the way to go. What color do you think we should wear? -Funeral Attire Dear Funeral Attire, Pardon me, but you've obviously mistaken me for someone who gives a damn. -Mama Dear Mama, A thought crossed my mind the other day. You live in Cuba, right? So what kind of cigars do you smoke? -Cigar Smoker Dear Cigar Smoker, ¡oh mi madre! There is no vaccine against stupidity.

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