Tuesday, June 10, 2014

“Tin Can Tourists” – June 10, 2014

I have been working on a monograph of the Nunn family and through that writing process I realized the title no longer fit. 

In his presentation on writing family history at the recent National Genealogical Society meeting Warren Bittner suggested starting at a crucial point in the story. That point for me was the death of Elizabeth in January 1947.

The prologue imagines how my grandfather, Elizabeth’s brother, might have received the information of her passing. It then occurred to me where the focus of my story should be -  my grandfather, Harry Nunn.

I reread my mother’s oral history, and my father’s accounting of their 1949 trip to Florida, I realized my grandfather didn’t retire and move to Florida in 1946, which is what I had believed, but actually it was probably more like 1949.  And that trail brought me to my grandparents’ move to Florida and settling down in what was then known as “The Largest Trailer Park in the World.”

In 1935 the Bradenton, Florida Chamber of Commerce wanted to capture their fair share of tourists that flocked to the Sunshine State each winter. Many of those tourists pulled a small travel trailer behind as they headed south on the Tamiami Trail. In order for Bradenton to entice these snowbirds, or Tin Can Tourists, to stop and stay awhile, it needed a trailer park.

The city could not come up with the money, but the Kiwanis Club thought they could. With a generous land lease from the city and donations from various Bradenton businessmen, a park was born. At first tourists were charged $1.50 a week, and if they stayed four weeks or longer, that rate was $1.00.

Living the American Dream
Retiring to Florida
Harry and Mary Nunn
Kiwanis Trailer Park abt 1950
Cabanna added later in the 50s.

By the 1940s the park had electric, water, paved streets and a bathhouse where residents could shower, do laundry, and use the toilet facilities.  With all those amenities the rental rate then went to $3.50 a week.

In 1996 the heavy hand of the IRS came down on the Bradenton Kiwanis Club. It was ruled that proceeds from the park were disallowed for charitable purposes, and the Kiwanis Club faced 30 years of back taxes!!  After some negotiation, penalties were removed, and the park was sold to pay the taxes.

The park lives on as the Bradenton Tropical Palms a 55+ community of 490 trailer homes.  Among the list of amenities is the “nicest wooden dance floor in the Manatee-Sarasota county area.

The Manatee Historical Society has a neat early brochure of the park online. There is also an interesting article in the Sarasota Herald Tribune about the selling of the park.

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