Vintage St. Pete: The Golden Age of Tourism – and More looks at local heritage through a different lens. With a blend of thoughtful, entertaining storytelling and more than 120 unique photographs, most in full color, the book examines city life in the second half of the 20th century, when St. Petersburg’s Baby Boomers were kids.
Vintage St. Pete goes behind the scenes at the now-long-gone attractions that drew tourists and locals alike. From the Aquatarium and the London Wax Museum to Tiki Gardens and MGM’s Bounty exhibit, author Bill DeYoung pulls back the curtain of time on some of the generation’s greatest leisure time and entertainment memories.
There’s pure 20th century history in Vintage St. Pete, too, with the tales of Webb’s City (“The World’s Largest Drugstore”), the Operetta (musical theater under a circus tent), the Bayfront Center, the many iterations of the St. Pete Pier, the Boyd Hill Nature Trail Zoo, Fort DeSoto and the Manhattan Casino.
Readers will encounter many of the characters who molded St. Petersburg’s one-of-a-kind leisure and entertainment profile, including Dick Bennick, aka Dr. Paul Bearer, the longest-running horror movie host in TV history; Ralph Heath, who built one of the country’s most prosperous bird rescue organizations, and lost it all; and big band leader Earl Gresh, who went on to unlikely worldwide fame as a woodcarver.
The story of St. Petersburg is one of growth and change; Vintage St. Pete is a chapter rarely told, but essential to the narrative nevertheless.
In his introduction, St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce CEO Chris Steinocher writes that while the city will always and forever be a beacon because of its beauty and many amenities, “what we really seek and call out for are the creators. Those courageous creators willing to share their dreams, their ideas and their lives to bring the next most amazing idea for all of us to enjoy.”