THE ROBERT FROST OF KEY WEST

How many times do we hear I wish I had been in Key West in the 1970’s? Understandably. It was an exciting time.  A time close to us that some remain who recall it.

Two are Steve and Cindy Thompson. The stories they have to tell!

The Chart Room was closed during the pandemic. Reopened two weeks ago. John Holster back as bartender. John was cleaning the place up for opening night when he came across a writing by Steve Thompson. A short book.

It’s title TACOS.

Steve showed me a copy of it the other night at the Chart Room. It should be shared. Surprised it was not.

For whatever reason, Steve got the itch to write about his Key West years 10 years ago. TACOS the result.

The reason my blog today is titled The Robert Frost of Key West is that Steve’s book is written in a poetic style. The lines rhyme.

I asked Steve why the poetic style. He was unaware it had the tinge of poetry to it. Claims it’s just the way it came out.

I assumed Steve had an English/poetry background from college. Not so. His college time involved two years of studying accounting.

There is a game plan to what I am sharing with you at the moment. Steve’s writing so good and so interesting it should be read by all with a Key West interest. Steve has given me permission to do whatever. The plan agreed to is to share a paragraph or two a day with you. It will take several months of course.

I guarantee you will be interested and pleased.

Key West in the hand written style of Robert Frost.

The last shall be first. A two line comment by Steve at the end of his work: TO ALL THE PEOPLE I EVER MET IN THIS TOWN, ESPECIALLY THOSE WHO SAID “WRITE IT DOWN.”

Not the moment yet to share Steve’s opening paragraph. I believe his words will be better appreciated if a bit is known of Steve and Cindy’s background.

Steve was born in Seattle, Washington January 22, 1949. Cindy in Milwaukee, Wisconsin July 13, 1946. They were introduced in the Chart Room bar in 1978. Cindy will quickly state it was “merely an introduction.” Nothing special.

They did not meet again till 1979. Again, in the Chart Room.

Married in 1981. Created two wonderful daughters. Seven grandchildren.

Steve attended Seattle Community College for 2 years. It was Vietnam time. Rather than be drafted and sent off to the Vietnam to fight and possibly die, he volunteered to be part of the Air Force Band which played at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Cindy graduated from the University of Wisconsin. She openly admits she was a hippie. I suspect there is a little of it still in her today.

Instead of going to work, she and her boy friend at the time took a trip to India. She made several other trips here and there. One of her boy friends told her about Key West. She decided that would be her next stop.

Steve, Cindy and Jimmy Buffett were neighbors. The corner of Olivia and Pearl.

In 1985, Buffett stopped his car and asked Cindy if she wanted a job. He needed some help. Her full time employment with Buffett lasted 27 years. She partially retired February 24, 2012. She still works part time for him.

Steve wanted to go south. He hitchhiked to Fort Lauderdale from Seattle in 1971.

Bartended a while. Had a desire to own something of his own. His choice Tacos!

Steve came to Key West in 1972 for the first time. Settled in full time in March 1974.

He opened a taco shop in a small building at 208 Duval Street under the name of the Key West Taco Co. The business grew. Eventually, he was operating 4 taco stores in Key West and an additional 4 in other parts of Florida.

Two reasons motivated his settling down in Key West. People had told him Key West was laid back. He was also told that everyone watched the sunset go down.

It was his kind of town.

Time for the beginning of TACOS. Paragraph 1.

You drove down US 1 to where the Keys began / There was no Homestead Extension on the Turnpike then / Florida City was just empty land / Except for a Texaco and a hot dog stand / I closed up the bar and drove with no rest / There were no lights or cars all the way to Key West.

Paragraph 2.

I got to the Seven-Mile Bridge at 4 am / My car seemed wider than the lane I was in / It was raining and the sky was pitch black / But I could see the side rail, an old train track / Actually I was scared to death / For seven miles I held my breath / That was the scariest drive I ever had / ‘Till the next bridge, it was twice as bad / A 1912 trestle built only for trains / With boards across the top to fit two lanes / A few days later I read the paper in town / “The Bahia Honda Bridge has finally closed down.”

More tomorrow.

Enjoy your Sunday!

 

9 comments on “THE ROBERT FROST OF KEY WEST

  1. Lou/Steve

    Great discovery! Looking forward to next edition. Steve, did you ever operate the Key West Taco just south of Cocoa Beach – Indiatlantic? If so, I have a take out menu from the very early 90s.

    • Right on! Steve opened Key West Taco near Cocoa Beach in 1975. Sold it in 1996. If you are so inclined, I know Steve would love to have as a memento the menu. It has no value other than as a personal one to Steve. No obligation, however. You have no idea how thrilled Steve was to know you had the menu. If you wish, you can mail the menu to me: Louis Petrone, 212 Golf Club Drive, Key west, fl. 33040.

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