Just when I think I have learned all there is to know about Key West, something new pops up!
I was at the Gardens last night. Sunday is music time from 5 to 7:30.
Met Ray at the bar. A local. Also a resevoir of Key West lore.
The Chart Room entered our conversation. He told me that the ashes of some Chart Room regulars rest in the bar at the Chart Room. He claimed that holes were drilled in the bar and the ashes placed therein.
I rushed over to the Chart Room. Fortunately, Che was there. I would label Che as the Chart Room historian. He probably is the oldest customer still around. Still living would be a more apt description.
I repeated Ray’s story to Che. Che says, “He’s right!” Che was surprised I did not know.
The Chart Room has been part of the Pier House for many many years. Like forever. When the Pier House was remodeled 2 years ago at a cost estimated in excess of $40 million, the Chart Room was left untouched. It is still the same small beat up room it has always been!
History lives in the Chart Room!
And last night I was made aware to what degree!
Che proceeded to give me an education.
There are several small name plates on the wood bar rail. Each has a small drilled hole above it. About 1/2 inch in diameter.
The name plates are only first names or some nick name representing the person. The holes were all drilled before any one died.
These individiuals were obviously cremated as they passed on. A small portion of their ashes fill the holes and are sealed. Che described the quanity of ashes as a “dime bag.” The remaining portion of ashes were either scattered over the ocean or sit in a urn in someone’s home.
One of the plates has 3 initials. M is the first. F is the last. I forget the middle initial. It is Mel Fisher’s. The man who struck gold when he discovered a sunken Spanish galleon off the coast of Key West some 25 years ago. $400 million in sunken gold!
Another plate is labeled Whistle Pants. I never heard of Whistle Pants before last night.
Whistle Pants’ real name was James Cox, Sr. Cox was a banker from Chicago who retired to Key West. Lore has it he used to sit in the corner seat of the bar at the Chart Room from 1 pm to closing every day.
Why the name Whistle Pants? Cox invented pants that whistled! For real! A whistle was located in a pocket and every time a leg moved, a whistle sound came forth. Cox sold the pants and the concept to some company and made a small killing! Apparently the company did not as I am not aware of whistling pants ever being for sale nation wide.
Then there is a plate named Bob. Bob I knew. My friend Bob Smith. Bob died about 4 years ago. In fact, it was Bob who first introduced me to the Chart Room and the group there. He was proud to be one of the regulars visiting the Chart Room every day at cocktail time.
You will recall that about a month ago I was at the Chart Room for a party honoring Geoff Chapman. Chapman died 3 years ago. I never knew him. He appears to have been very popular and well liked in Key West. He was General of the Conch Republic Army. Chapman’s plate is labeled Goeff.
There are only 2 plates whose holes remain unfilled. Which means there are two living members of this unique club. Jim Cox, Jr. and Che.
Young Cox is son of Whistle Pants. He is in his 40s. He does not live in Key West.
The other is Che.
Che considers himself the keeper of tradition and lore in the Chart Room. And he is! He is also its historian! Che is proud that when his time comes, he will still live on in the Chart Room when his ashes are depositied in his hole.
Che became very excited last night when I told him I was going to write about this facet of the Chart Room in today’s blog. His excitement was not one of pleasure. It was one of concern. He was afraid I would screw up the story. He wanted it to be historically correct. The subject matter demanded correctness. He even made me take notes.
Che, I hope I did you and the Chart Room properly! If I erred somewhere, it is minute and will not take away from the solemnity of that reported.
And Che, I hope it is many years before your ashes lie within that bar rail! Your friends can wait for you!