Oral History of Bernie Blackwood

Dublin Core

Title

Oral History of Bernie Blackwood

Alternative Title

Oral History, Blackwood

Subject

Oviedo (Fla.)
St. Petersburg (Fla.)
Real estate--United States
City planning--Florida
Construction

Description

An oral history interview of Bernard O. Blackwood, conducted by Alexandra Dobson on March 19, 2015. Blackwood was born on April 9, 1933, and attended the University of Florida (UF) in Gainesville, Florida. After graduating from college, Blackwood migrated to St. Petersburg with his wife, Suzanne A. Blackwood, to work as a city planner. In the 1970s, the couple moved to Oviedo with their children. There, Blackwood helped plan several residential subdivisions alongside Ben Ward, Jr. Interview topics include land development, the effects of Florida Technological University (present-day University of Central Florida), Blackwood's wife and children, Ben Ward's contributions to the community, desegregation and the Civil Rights Movement in St. Petersburg, and his career as a city planner.

Abstract

Oral history interview of Bernard “Bernie” O. Blackwood. Interview conducted by Alexandra Dobson at Blackwood's home in Mead Manor in Oviedo, Florida, on March 19, 2015.

Table Of Contents


0:00:00 Introduction
0:01:48 Land development
0:04:07 Florida Technological University and the Oviedo Land Group
0:07:51 Migration to Oviedo and working with Ben Ward, Jr.
0:13:30 Wife and children
0:14:29 Population growth and Florida Technological University
0:18:39 Ben Ward’s contributions to the community
0:19:24 Blackwood Construction Corporation and Lutheran Haven
0:20:25 Schools and desegregation in St. Petersburg
0:21:57 St. Petersburg and career as a city planner

Creator

Blackwood, Bernie
Dobson, Alexandra

Source

Blackwood, Bernie Interviewed by Alexandra Dobson, March 19, 2015. Audio record available. Oviedo History Harvest, Oviedo Historical Society, Oviedo, Florida.

Date Created

2015-03-19

Date Copyrighted

2015-03-19

Date Modified

2016-01-05

Has Format

20-page digital transcript of original 30-minute and 21-second oral history: Blackwood, Bernie Interviewed by Alexandra Dobson, March 19, 2015. Audio record available. Oviedo History Harvest, Oviedo Historical Society, Oviedo, Florida.

Is Part Of

Oviedo Historical Society Collection, History Harvest Collection, RICHES of Central Florida.

Format

audio/mp3
application/pdf

Extent

27.7 MB
198 KB

Medium

30-minute and 21-second audio recording
20-page digital transcript

Language

eng

Type

Sound

Coverage

Mead Manor, Oviedo, Florida
St. Petersburg, Florida

Accrual Method

Item Creation

Mediator

History Teacher
Economics Teacher

Provenance

Originally created by Bernard “Bernie” O. Blackwood and Alexandra Dobson, and published by RICHES of Central Florida.

Contributing Project

Curator

Cepero, Laura

Digital Collection

Source Repository

External Reference

"Mead Manor Brings New Lifestyle to Oviedo." RICHES of Central Florida. https://richesmi.cah.ucf.edu/omeka2/items/show/5278.
"RICHES Podcast Documentaries, Episode 41: Oviedo, with Dr. Richard Adicks." RICHES of Central Florida. http://riches.cah.ucf.edu/audio/Ep41-Oviedo.mp3.

Transcript

Dobson
This is an oral history interview of Bernie[1] [O.] Blackwood. Interview is conducted by Alexandra Dobson at the Blackwood home in Oviedo, Florida, on the 19th of March, 2015. Inter—interview topics include Oviedo, Mead Manor, and that’s it.

Blackwood
Well, my name’s Bernie Blackwood, and my association with Oviedo began in the early [19]50s. I was a student at Gainesville,[2] and I had a roommate named Bob Ward, who was a native of Oviedo, and I came to Oviedo on occasions on weekend with Bob, and got to know a little bit about the area. It was so different from my, uh, little home town in North Florida. I saw orange groves and celery fields and stuff, to—tobacco fields, uh—shade[?] tobacco fields it was up there, but, um, when I finished at Gainesville, I went right to work. I had a job waiting in Saint Petersburg[, Florida], and, uh, Bob and I kept in contact over the years, and through Bob I had met his brother, Ben Ward—Ben Ward, Jr., and, uh, we’d been in St. Pete four or five years. I—I guess it was around 1963 when Ben called me—Ben Ward, Bob’s brother—and said he was developing a subdivision. He and a group of, uh, investors and businesspeople here in O—Oviedo were developing a subdivision, and they had started, but they’d ran into a few troubles, and he knew I—through Bob—knew had a little—had—I had a little experience in land planning.

So he asked me if I’d come up, take a look at what he had, and I was glad to do it, because it gave me a chance to visit Bob, and Ben brought me out. it’s a 40-acre site in— northeast, uh, Oviedo—beautiful piece of land—and made it clear to me to—to begin with they wanted large lots, nice home sites, and the group of, uh, investors and businesspeople, who, uh, put their money up for this project, wanted the same thing. They wanted to grow Oviedo and they knew there was nothing in Oviedo, at that time. No lots available, really. I don’t think there’d been any residential lots added in Oviedo since probably the early 1900s, and—so I went to work on the plan, and, uh, came up with something that they agreed with.

Oh, I’m getting a little ahead of myself maybe, because they had actually started—they had, uh, put the group together, and they had paved a little section of Mead Drive, which is the entrance off of Division Street into Mead Manor, at that time, Three or four hundred—two or three hundred feet, I’d say, and then it made a right turn into a little cul-de-sac, and they had, uh—[laughs] they didn’t know quite where to go from there, because they had three—three swampy areas—little ponds in the 40 acres. So we developed a plan, uh, around those ponds, uh, with nice size lots and streets running around, and, uh, they approved the plan and, [clears throat] I came up one weekend—one Saturday with an engineer friend of my from St. Pete, and, uh, the streets had been, uh, cleared, and we shot grades, went back to St. Pete, and did a cut-and-fill plan, and presented that to the group, and they went from there and started developing the subdivision.

And the—they paved the streets, they put in paved streets with gutters, and they had a water system in Oviedo at that time, so it was on a water system, and the, uh, next, uh—next thing we knew, uh—I should say that before they started this project, there was no kno—knowledge of FTU[4] locating five miles south of Oviedo. It, eh—I asked Ben later, and he said “No,” uh, “We didn’t know it,” and I thought they were crazy, at the time, for—for footing this kind of subdivision and—and—[laughs] out in Oviedo with just a little crossroads farm community, and I didn’t know where the people were going to come from, and Ben said, “Oh, they’ll come.” He was an eternal optimist, and the next thing I knew, I read—read in The St. Pete[rsburg] Times where FTU was locating five miles south of Oviedo. So I began to be a little more interested in what was going on, and they began selling the lots. First lot they sold in here—or maybe the second one—uh, I know it was the first person from the university—was a man named Phil Gorey[sp] and he was a, um—one of the administrative people under Millican—Dr. [Charles Norman] Millican, and the, uh—the subdivision took off rather slowly, but they were selling lots. A lot across the street there was, uh—was, uh, [Joe] Gomez, uh…

Suzanne
He was a professor out there.

Blackwood
Yeah, What’s the first, uh…

Suzanne
Joe.

Blackwood
Uh…

Suzanne
Joe.

Blackwood
Joe. Yeah, Joe Gomez. He was a comptroller out at the university, and, uh, there were three or four, five, six—I mean, there half a dozen, at least, uh, different professors that started buying lots out, and some of them still here, like me [laughs]. I’m not a professor [laughs], um, and as the lots started selling, the land group—Oviedo Land Group was the name of the, uh—of the, corpora—or the company that Ben Ward put together, and the investors in it—I could—I can recall most of ‘em, I think. There was, uh, Frank Wheeler, John Evans, uh, I think Mr. Roy Clonts, probably, um…

Suzanne
Beleren[sp]?

Blackwood
Who?

Suzanne
Bob[?] Beleren? Was he one of ‘em?

Blackwood
No, no, not, uh, not, uh…

Suzanne
Okay.

Blackwood
Uh, uh…

Suzanne
Martin?

Blackwood
Yeah.

Suzanne
Bill…

Blackwood
Bill…

Suzanne
Martin?

Blackwood
Yeah, Bill Martin and John Evans. I might have…

Suzanne
Yeah.

Blackwood
Said him before, but anyway, it was a group of local businessmen and there were five or six of ‘em. I met with them a couple times, and, uh, didn’t really know them at—at all. I have since gotten to know them all, one time or another, and, uh—so they decided to buy another 40 acres just, uh, to the north of the first unit, and, uh I—again, I did a layout for them, and Ben developed it, and so it made a total of 80 acres here in Oviedo, and I—I’d be glad to drive you around and show you if you’d like to see it. Some of the developers’ve[sic] been dead, but during this time, Ben was still planning ahead and the next thing—he had a project. Another, uh—I think it was another 40 acres, and—and they—we worked up a subdivision for him on that—a layout, and it’s called [inaudible] Garden Grove. It’s right near here.

And, [clears throat] by that time, Ben, eh—he was originally—he had an insurance business, and, uh, uh—and a real estate brokerage business, and he was getting interested into building and construction. He said, “I’ve got all these lots. I might as well build some houses.” So he offered—gave me—he said, “Why don’t you come up and join me, and we’ll form a corporation and build—build a few houses,” and the idea appealed to me, but leaving my secure place in St. Pete—position I had and so forth—uh, it took a lot of soul searching, and I guess it—I probably thought about it for two or three years ‘fore—and, in the meantime, Ben and I were still working together on—on the projects up here, and, uh, I finally made the decision. I’ve gotta do it. I want to do it. I’d always been interested in construction and had some experience in that, and my[?]—my family wasn’t too eager about it at first.

Suzanne
[laughs].

Blackwood
The kids—I had a, uh, son[5] that was in the third grade and going—would be going into the fourth grade, and a daughter in the sixth grade, I believe, but they finally came around, and we moved up here, uh, second day of September, 1972. Went to work about the very next day and…

[phone rings]

Blackwood
The kids start…

[phone rings]

Blackwood
The kids started school the very next day after we got here, I think, and my family adjusted. They just loved Oviedo, and Sue[6] was a city girl. Sue was from Jacksonville.

Suzanne
[laughs].

Blackwood
And she didn’t think she wanted to move to Oviedo from St. Petersburg. We all loved St. Petersburg. I did too, but, um, we found Oviedo to be—the people here were the most gracious, welcoming. we never felt like a stranger, and part of that maybe was, because I came here with Ben Ward, who—his dad was a celery grower, and, uh, had—had groves here in town, and Ben had some land, and—quite a bit of land in and around Oviedo, and, uh, so we—we went from there. We started building houses, and, uh, Ben and I were together, uh, for four years, I think, and his interests were—was on development—land development, and mine…

[phone beeps]

Blackwood
Was more in construction, and I didn’t have the deep pockets to go into land development [laughs], but Ben, uh—he had a vision for this—for this little town, and he—he wanted to—nothing but quality development, and he was the only one developing land in Oviedo, and he was always, I thought, a little ahead of the market, and it was, uh—it cost him financially, but he did it, and after we, uh—we split, we remained friends, and met on a weekly basis and compared what each of us was doin’, until he passed away in—I think he passed away in ‘99, and [coughs] I never—I feel he never deserved the credit he did—he deserved—for what he did for this little town, because you can look around he—he’s re—responsible for Mead Manor, Garden Grove, Whispering Oaks….

Suzanne
Mmhmm.

Blackwood
Uh, Hill—Hillcrest, uh, Farms—I think was the name of it.

Suzanne
Uh, Windmilll…

Blackwood
Windmill Farms.

Suzanne
Farms.

Blackwood
Those were residential, uh, develops here.

Suzanne
How about Oviedo Oaks?

Blackwood
No, no, he didn’t—he didn’t develop that.

Suzanne
Hm.

Blackwood
Uh, and he also started—he did some commer—a couple of commercial projects. one of ‘em was, uh, Westwood Square. It was a commercial/industrial, uh, zoning area, and, uh, it’s completely built out now. Uh, do you know where, uh, Toucan—what—no, it’s—what’s the Spanish…

Suzanne
Habanero’s [Mexican Grill].

Blackwood
Habanero’s.

Suzanne
Yeah.

Blackwood
You know where that is?

Dobson
I drove by it.

Blackwood
That was part of Westwood Square. All of those b—back in there was developed, and there was nothing out there at the time—nothing, and nothing between there and Oviedo [laughs], and…

Suzanne
One little gas station.

Blackwood
Yeah, the—the, uh, Tiger—Tiger Station.

Suzanne
Yeah.

Blackwood
We called it, and, uh, then there’s another, uh, I believe it’s called Oviedo Office Park up to your—on [Florida State Road] 426 between Westwood Square and the city limits—what was the city limits then—or the high school, say—and it’s a very nice commercial development, and it had doctor’s offices, uh, and that—that type of commu—uh, development, and, like I say, we—we came here—we’ve been here for 43 years now, and I could never move Sue from—get her out of this house or out of this city.

Suzanne
[laughs].

Blackwood
She loves it and the kids love it. My daughter lives in Tallahassee, and, uh, she—she’s down here quite often. My son works with me, or did work with me. He runs the business now. I’m just—I’m retired. I go in and aggravate him every day a little bit [laughs]. Uh, I don’t know. Do you have any questions from there? I’d be glad to drive you around a little Oviedo and show you some of these projects if you have the time…

Dobson
Okay.

Blackwood
Or the inclination.

Dobson
Sure, thank you.

Suzanne
Take her to, um, Whispering Oaks, ‘cuz that’s…

Blackwood
Yeah.

Suzanne
Really…

Blackwood
Well, they’re all nice.

Suzanne
Really, pretty, yes, Whispering Oaks has beautiful trees, but…

Dobson
Um…

Blackwood
Have I missed anything Sue?

Suzanne
I don’t’ think so. I think—I was amazed at how well you [laughs]…

Blackwood
Uh…

Suzanne
Covered everything.

Blackwood
Well, you know, that’s—that’s about it with, uh, my—my interests in Oviedo. It was…

Suzanne
I…

Blackwood
Was primarily building. I built all these years and…

Suzanne
Do you know what the population was when we moved here?

Blackwood
I should’ve…

Suzanne
[inaudible].

Blackwood
Gone into that. It was about 2000, and, uh, it was about the same when I visited 10 years earlier. It hadn’t grown a bit. I don’t think it grew a bit from—I should’ve included this in it—from the ‘30s and on up to the ‘60s, and this development right here[7] was what started the growth in Oviedo, uh, after—after, um—no. I guess it was the edges[?] of [inaudible], uh, track builders started coming into Oviedo. The, uh, uh, Jacobs brothers owned two thousand acres of land where O—where Alafaya Woods is now and that area over there, uh—Twin Rivers and that area. They sold it to a group in Atlanta in the early [19]70s, and Bob pretty well fell out of construction for a while there, and nothin’, eh—I don’t know if that company went bankrupt or what, but they sold it to the Anden Group, and the Anden Group is a group that developed Alafaya Woods [clears throat], and it was a little bit, uh—it was, uh, a different type development than what Ben had been developing. I think he’d be surprised today if he knew how, um—he felt that—that Oviedo never had, uh—be, uh, anything but small, rural community [inaudible] with good home sites. ‘Course he knew, and I knew too, that when the university located there, sooner or later it was gonna affect Oviedo in a big way [coughs], and it did, but, uh…

Suzanne
Is—is Tom Phillips next door still teaching?

Blackwood
Yeah, he’s a professor over—no. he’s not teaching, but he’s retired.

Suzanne
He’s retired? Okay.

Blackwood
Yeah.

Suzanne
Yeah.

Blackwood
That’s—that’s probably…

Suzanne
We were surrounded by them.

Blackwood
Yeah, when we first moved here, the—‘course, this was, you know—all the professors had kids and we had kids, and it’s, uh, changed a couple times since then. You’ve got, uh, uh, older families that moved out, newer families with kids that moved in, and, uh, and, uh, and we’ve stuck—stuck here [laughs] all those years, but, um, we’ve seen the growth in Oviedo from two thousand to…

Suzanne
Yeah.

Blackwood
What? 35,000 now, probably.

Dobson
Do you think it was just the university that did that, or…

Suzanne
Pretty…

Blackwood
Well…

Suzanne
Pretty much.

Blackwood
It, uh—pretty much, I think. The [Central Florida] Research Park out there—and of course, it—it—Oviedo [clears throat]—it grew to be a—it had a very good school system.[8] I should’ve mentioned that. When—when we moved here, my son was going into the fourth grade, and we—he went to a school right across from where we lived, practically, in St Pete. He could walk to school, and they had gotten into the new, uh—let the kid reach his potential, don’t push him, don’t push him.

Suzanne
Mmhmm.

Blackwood
And…

Unidentified
[clears throat].

Blackwood
I went and talked with the teacher about it, and—“Oh, Scott’s doin’ fine,” And it didn’t…

Suzanne
[laughs].

Blackwood
Seem to me that he was doin’ fine, and she said, “Oh, no, no. he’s fine.” Well, when we got here, he had teachers like Ms. [Margeurite] Partin.

Suzanne
Partin Elementary [School] was named after her, and she was a wonderful teacher.

Blackwood
And Ms. Gore, and s—same teachers that taught Ben Ward, and Bob Ward—that group. They were still there, and she went to work on Scott and brought him up to speed. He didn’t—he didn’t even know his multiplication tables, and [laughs]…

Suzanne
Does now [laughs].

Blackwood
And all of the kids here did, but she—she put him to work on ‘em and you[?]—he learned real quick[sic], and caught up, and did alright, But it—it was just a great place to raise your kids, and, uh, I—I just can’t say enough about the—the town and about—about the guy that really got it goin’.

Suzanne
Yeah.

Blackwood
Ben Ward.

Suzanne
I think so too.

Blackwood
You get the chance to give him a plug—he’s long gone. his wife still lives here in Ovi—in, uh, Mead Manor, and his kids—he has one—one kid that lives in Tuscawilla and the rest of ‘em are scattered around.

Suzanne
Tuscawilla was not here at all when we moved here.

Blackwood
Well, it was too. It was one road…

Suzanne
[inaudible].

Blackwood
Called Dyson Road[9] comin’ off of, uh, Tuskawilla Road—Dyson—and they had…

Suzanne
Dyson, yeah.

Blackwood
They—they just started developing a few lots there. That’s a beautiful sub—one of my favorite subdivisions. The area is Tuscawilla.

Dobson
Mm, what kinds of things has Blackwood Construction [Corporation] done?

Blackwood
We did primarily single-family and, uh, small commercial. We did, uh, dental office for Bob Beleren over in Winter Springs[, Florida], and that sort of thing, but we built over 500—we’ve got—I think we got…

Suzanne
563 [laughs].

Blackwood
Well, some of ‘em weren’t—some of ‘em in the recent years have just been small jobs…

Suzanne
And Lutheran Haven. mention Lutheran Haven.

Blackwood
Yeah, we did—we built most of Lutheran Haven projects out of, uh—duplexes.

Suzanne
You’ve probably passed Lutheran Haven on your way in. Yeah.

Dobson
Could be…

Suzanne
Hm.

Dobson
I’m not sure.

Suzanne
[inaudible].

Dobson
I’m really not that familiar [laughs]…

Suzanne
It’s a big Lutheran church, and they—it has a retirement for us—little du—duplexes.

Dobson
Okay.

Blackwood
Its’ a…

Suzanne
Its’ a…

Blackwood
And a—and a, uh, nursing home now. Uh, we could even—if you’ve got time, I’ll drive you all over. show you—show you a little bit of Oviedo.

Dobson
Okay [laughs], Thank you.

Suzanne
Don’t want to live here? [laughs].

Dobson
Yeah [laughs]. Um, I actually moved to Orlando from St. Pete for the same reasons.

Suzanne
Oh, my goodness.

Dobson
[laughs].

Blackwood
Oh, really?

Suzanne
[laughs].

Dobson
To get my son in a better school.

Suzanne
Aww.

Blackwood
Aw, really?

Dobson
Yeah, I don’t…

Suzanne
Well, you know, we thought the schools there were just great, ‘til we moved here.

Blackwood
Well, I didn’t think they were great, because I didn’t think our—our boy was learning anything.

Suzanne
Yeah, well…

Blackwood
And—and another thing, uh, we got caught up right in the Civil Rights [Movement]—we—you know where Bay Vista Elementary [School] is?

Dobson
Mmhmm.

Blackwood
We lived within a block of Bay Vista, at that time, and the kids walked to school, and it was a fairly new school then, and, uh, eh, I think, 11 or—yeah, she was in the fifth grade when all the civil rights—and they started bussing kids, and she got bussed to the school right in the middle of St.—black school in the middle of St. Pete.

Suzanne
I don’t remember what the school was—the— the name of the school.

Blackwood
I don’t remember.

Suzanne
Yeah.

Blackwood
But [laughs] it—it, uh—it was only for that one year, and she got along fine.

Suzanne
Yeah, she did.

Blackwood
She didn’t have any problems, but…

Suzanne
She—she made some good friends there.

Blackwood
It just didn’t make sense to take kids that [laughs] could walk to school and pay a bus to drive them somewhere else.

Suzanne
[laughs] It was probably a good experience.

Blackwood
Well, you [inaudible]—how—how long did you live in St. Pete?

Dobson
Uh, five or six years.

Suzanne
You weren’t born there then?

Dobson
No.

Blackwood
From when to when?

Dobson
Uh, it was recent. I’ve been in Orlando for three years.

Blackwood
Three years?

Dobson
Yes.

Blackwood
Oh, well, you saw—you’ve seen the downtown area really change.

Dobson
Yes, it has [laughs].

Blackwood
We—we—I graduated on Saturday night, and we packed up everything, and we had. I met Sue at [the University of] Florida her—her senior year [laughs], and…

Suzanne
Just about.

Blackwood
And, uh, we packed up everything. We—we got married, uh, my last semester there. we got married, and she’d graduated the semester ‘fore I did. She’s smarter than I am.

Suzanne
[laughs].

Blackwood
And we moved to St. Pete on Sunday, and I started work Monday. I was, uh—I worked as a city planner for 14 years ‘fore I came here.

Dobson
Wow. What kind of things did you do?

Blackwood
What kind of work?

Suzanne
Yeah.

Blackwood
Well, uh, we—are—are you—if you’re familiar with the parks system in Oviedo—just to give you an example—uh, in, uh, St. Pete, um—Southside Park—you know the 40-acre park down Lakewood Elementary [School]?

Suzanne
Mmhmm.

Blackwood
And all of that? That was a plan that we came up with. Oh, oh—we developed a five-year pl—plan. We had a great city manager named Lynn [H.] Andrews, from about the time I went there until he left in ‘69, and he had a—a capital improvement program—a five-year, capital improvement program, and every year, they would, uh, budget certain projects, and at the end of the year, you’d see if the money was spent right on those projects [inaudible]. He—he’d project the five years another year, but he adjusted every year during that five years, and, uh, he built the, uh—had the, uh—Bayfront Center was built, the museum downtown, the waterfront—the city park of the waterfront, Northeast Park, there was all developed while he was there. The pier—inverted pier—was built, and I was all part of all that, and it was just interesting and fun, until he left, and we got another manager, and I just did not enjoy working anymore.

Suzanne
Oh.

Blackwood
That’s how I happened to come here.

Suzanne
I think that was the time to come here.

Dobson
What was civil rights like in St. Pete? What was your experience with it?

Blackwood
Well, uh, my main experience—it was no problem. 16th Street was kind of, uh—they[?] had their riots and things during the time.

Dobson
They still do [laughs].

Blackwood     [laughs] And my main memory of it—and this was why Lynn Andrews left St. Petersburg. I’m sure. In ‘68 or ‘69 when they, um, allowed public employees to be unionized—the garbage department became unionized, and they went on strike one year, and Mr. Andrews, uh, negotiated with ‘em and got ‘em back—not a big break in service. The very next year, they went on strike again, and he—on Monday morning, they didn’t show up for work. the whole garbage department didn’t show up for work, and he gave them an ultimatum. He said that “Anyone that’s not back on the job by Thursday of this week will be permanently terminated—all benefits and everything.” Well, they—the union didn’t believe him, I guess, because a big percent—some did come back. Within a week he had completely re-staffed that from people from Georgia—different people looking for jobs. He completely re-staffed the garbage department, and a lot of employees lost their jobs, and from that point on, The St. Pete Times took up the position of the strikers. They marched on city hall every day, and he didn’t yield. It’s kinda like Ronald Reagan and, uh—and the, uh, uh, air [traffic] controller strike.  You’re probably too young to even remember that.  

All
[laughs].

Blackwood
But he did the same thing, and, um, from that day on, anything that, that Lynn Andrews did—and I was privy to what was going on there, he would be lambasted in The St. Pete Times for it, and after about, uh, a year of that he, uh—he went back to Tex—he came to St. Pete from San Antonio, Texas, as the city manager, and he went back as the city manager of, uh, Austin, Texas. When he came to St. Pete, he brought his finance director, um, his assistant city manager, and the budget director—was, uh—that group came. When he left, they all went with him, except one, and he left the city and went to work for First Federal [Bank of Florida].

Dobson
Wow, That’s impressive. Keeping your staff with you.

Suzanne
And they were good, good men, weren’t they?

Blackwood
Good men, all of ‘em. yeah, Smart men. I often said. If he’d of run for president. I woulda…

Suzanne
[laughs].

Blackwood
I woulda—he—he was firm, but he was fair, But, uh, no. We—we love St. Pete. We go back every now and then, when we get a chance. [inaudible]…

Suzanne
How many people weren’t up there anymore?

Blackwood
Yeah, most of my old buddies are gone. [laughs]. Yeah.

Dobson
It’s still a lovely place to visit.

Suzanne
Yeah, and the downtown is so—with the waterfront—is so nice now.

Blackwood
You know, I went down for a job interview, and Sue went with me, and that was before we were married. I went—I got a summer job there, and, uh [laughs], we drove into St Pete from—came down 30—34th Street, turned left on Central [Avenue] and got downtown, and I—we—this was in April.

Suzanne
[laughs].

Blackwood
We saw nothin’ but green benches and gray heads, and that’s quite a shock comin’ from Gainesville.

Suzanne
From Gainesville, yeah, where everybody’s young to…

Blackwood
Where everybody’s young.

Suzanne
To where everybody’s old.

Blackwood
[laughs].

Suzanne
[laughs] but it was a good place to live.

Blackwood
It—yeah.

Suzanne
[inaudible].

Blackwood
It—it—it had something for everybody then, but the majority—I think 25 percent of the population then was 65 or older. It had, uh—I knew at the time, the population was 180 thousand when, uh, we moved there, and I think it was about 22 5[thousand] when we left. I don’t know what it is now, but it had pretty well built out. There wasn’t much developable land in St. Pete, other than up and around Whedon’s[sic] Island area.

Suzanne
What part of St. Pete did you live in?

Dobson
Um, I lived on First Avenue North and 25th Street. So…

Blackwood
25th Street? [inaudible].

Dobson
Almost downtown.

Blackwood
Uh huh, al—yeah.

Suzanne
We lived almost downtown when we first moved there.

Blackwood
We had a little garage apartment, uh…

Suzanne
Right near the hos—near Mound[?] Park Hospital.

Blackwood
No, no. our garage apartment was, uh, up on the Northside.

Suzanne
Oh, that one?

Blackwood
About 26th Avenue North, and then we—we bought a, um—an old, 50-year-old apartment building down on 11th Avenue South, and I could walk to work from there—to City Hall, and we—we moved in— fixed up one unit and moved in it, and as a tenant left, we’d remodel that tenant[sic]—that unit and fix it up. Made a nice place.

Suzanne
Was your son…

Blackwood
Oh.

Suzanne
Born there?

Dobson
Uh, he was born in Clearwater. I lived in Clearwater, Largo, Dunedin [laughs].

Suzanne
Oh.

Blackwood
You ever heard of Fred Marquis?

Dobson
I don’t think so.

Blackwood
He was county manager there in Pinellas County for 25 years, I guess. I think he set a record for it, but he…

Suzanne
[laughs].

Blackwood
He—he was a planner, uh, with, uh—in St. Pete with me [coughs]. He came there right out of graduate school, and, uh, worked there, and we became good friends, but I hadn’t been in touch with him for years. Uh, he’s—he’s—he’s since retired.


[1] Bernard.

[2] University of Florida.

[3] Present-day University of Central Florida.

[4] Florida Technological University.

[5] Scott Blackwood.

[6] Suzanne A. Blackwood.

[7] Mead Manor.

[8] Seminole County Public Schools (SCPS).

[9] Correction: Dyson Drive.

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewer

Dobson, Alexandra

Interviewee

Blackwood, Bernie

Location

Oviedo Historical Society, Oviedo, Florida

Original Format

1 audio recording

Duration

30 minutes and 21 seconds

Bit Rate/Frequency

128kbps

Locations

Categories