Captain Baldi’s Diving Legacy

In last week’s story in the Island Sand Paper on the Purple Heart Theater, Carl spoke about one of the previous owners, Captain Bob Baldi, and how, in the ‘70’s, he made the building at 2915 Estero the new home for his dive shop – the Everglades Skindiving School. Bob taught many native Islanders how to dive in an age when scuba was a relatively new sport, and his story is another important piece of Island history. I caught up with him this week to find out how he came to run the school and what it was like to live on the Beach in a younger era.



The Tarpon Hunters

Tarpon, known as ‘Silver Kings’, have long been a sought after game fish in south Florida. Who could resist the sight of a five or six-foot long fish, leaping acrobatically in the air, the sunlight’s reflection turning its flanks into spun silver? Such is the thrill that has lured hundreds of thousands of would be anglers to our waters for over a hundred years. Since 1962, The Fort Myers Beach Tarpon Hunters Club has been a gathering place for those seeking one of sport fishing’s greatest adventures.



Cracker Musician Sarasota Slim Playing at Taste of the Beach

The Island Arts Foundation is proud to be bringing blues sensation Sarasota Slim to The 13th Annual Taste of the Beach. A skinny Florida boy, Slim has been playing the blues since he was just a kid, when he got a guitar at the age of 13 because “every teenager at that time – 1969 – had to have one.” Over the years, he has played with such blues legends as Johnny Winter, Freddie King, B.B. King, Lonnie Mack, Etta James, Lucky Peterson, Gregg Allman and Rock Bottom. I spoke with the affable Slim, also known as Gene Hardage, and he talked about his life playing the blues and how excited he is to be representing the Island Arts Foundation at this year’s Taste.

Sarasota Slim, a self-described “True Florida Cracker”, was born in Fort Walton Beach and grew up in Sarasota. He has been playing gigs all over the state since he was in his 20’s. “My early influences were Clapton, Hendrix, all the guitar-hero guys of that time,” he said, his unassuming Southern accent belying the magnitude of music the man has played in the 30-some years since he first picked up a guitar, “Then I discovered the blues through the music of the Allman Brothers, who were a very important part of life here in the early 70’s. I started understanding where they were getting it from.” Gene told us that he went to every blues concert that came through, and listened to public radio station WMNF. “They brought in some pretty eclectic things,” he said, “It was a great way of expanding your musical horizons.”

Slim and Johnny Winter - from Slim's website (more…)

Published in: on June 5, 2008 at 12:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Raising Cane – A History of Big Sugar in South Florida

      6,000 years ago, the Everglades were created when a receding ocean revealed a bare limestone plain that covered south Florida. Fed by heavy rainfall, subtropical plants made their home on the low nutrient soil. Rain falling across central Florida made its way to Lake Okeechobee, which frequently overflowed its southern boundaries, creating a slow moving ‘river of grass’ that once covered most of present-day Dade and Broward counties as well as the southern part of the state. As this ‘river’ slowly made its way towards Florida Bay, impurities were flushed from the water and Florida’s aquifers (large, underground limestone caves filled with fresh water) were replenished. Plants and animals thrived in this very unique ecosystem for

thousands of years. Then the white man came…

  The saga that is the tale of Florida’s sugar industry and its effect on the local environment is one of greed and power, of farmers and politically savvy wealthy foreigners, of bribes and Huge cattails clog the Evergladesshady deals, all wrapped in the southern pride of the tiny town of Clewiston. It reads like the script to a Hollywood movie with no one, Democrat or Republican, being spared from ensnarement in the decade’s long legacy of abuse. Its rippling effects reach residents of both coasts, from Ft. Myers to Jensen Beach, but is primary victims remain the non-human residents of Lake Okeechobee and the long-suffering Everglades.