Things Change

It is said that the only thing constant is change, but as you get older it is hard not to be nostalgic. In Key West we have gained some good things but also have lost some things that I for one particularly valued.

First, Dennis Pharmacy on the corner of United and Simonton went away. Breakfast at Dennis Pharmacy was quick and delicious. The waitresses were efficient, had been there forever, and had breakfast in front of you before you had hardly ordered it, always with buttered Cuban bread and Cuban coffee. You could sit at the counter or at tables. It was a small place, and always crowded, but you never had to wait. Most of the tourists at the tables wanted to be off and running, while the regulars at the counter chatted and laughed with the waitresses. Nobody seemed rushed. It was a great way to start the day. Then afterwards you could go to the pharmacy side, pick up a prescription or aspirin, buy some sunscreen, a hat, a sand bucket and shovel for the kids, sunglasses, postcards and stamps to send to friends and you were on your way to the beach.

Fast Buck Freddie’s closed. I was horrified. A high-end Emporium, it was always worth a visit. It had nice dressy summer wear clothes, furnishings suited to the tropics, kitchen wear and table linens, and all kinds of other neat stuff. I remember the cookie jars that sang when you removed the lid to get a cookie, for example, the one shaped like a shark that played the Jaws movie theme. I bought all my Key West Christmas ornaments there a few years ago. The flip-flop shoes ornament is a favorite. Fast Buck Freddie’s was located in the old Kress building, which was a Five and Dime in the Fifties. The street windows alone were works of art and whimsy and always worth a good look. It was a classy operation.

Last year, the top of the La Concha closed. You used to be able to take the elevator to the top floor, have almost a 360 Degree look at the island. I guess too many people started using and abusing and the high-end hotel turned it into a spa.

The Rusty Anchor Restaurant on Stock Island closed recently. It was very casual, had a large salt-water fish tank on display, which fascinated all, children particularly. Very fresh fish, yellowtail and other snappers, black or red grouper, and porgies, right off the boats served with Black Beans and Yellow or White Rice. We always started with Conch Fritters and bowls of Conch Chowder. It was simple, casual and mouthwateringly delicious.

Years ago there was a grand Piano set outside on Duval and a man played classical music as you strolled down the street taking in sights and basking in the delightful soft cool of a Key West evening. It has been replaced by loud raucous bar music blasting out into the streets. Well, really there’s only one block of this, but it’s plenty enough.

I realize that things have to change, but it is hard not to shed a nostalgic tear when such fond memories are replaced with something as pedestrian as a bank or a chain drugstore.

The best part of Key West is the day-to-day weather, always changing, and always glorious.

4 thoughts on “Things Change”

  1. Oh! I’ve never been to Key West, and it made me miserable to have all these things gone. Your descriptions were so real that I felt personally offended, and with a sense of loss.

    But the cats! But didn’t you say that Papa Hemmingway’s 6-toed cats are still there?


  2. “…too many people started using and abusing” left me guessing. Drugs? Littering? Public display of affection? Please tell us what violation(s) took place.
    Joanne, this is a particularly stirring piece of writing that puts the reader right into the special community you’re describing and stimulates memories every person has from their growing up years even if different than Key West surely was. A fine and warm work product. Very nice!

  3. Joanne –
    Loved Fast Freddie’s when we visited. Hard to believe that it’s charms ever went out of style. There has to be a story there about why it closed. Too much trouble? Too many slippery fingers? Or just too hard to keep finding the wonderful creative stock? Hm-m-m-m.

  4. It really does feel like a loss. We don’t need to go back to our home town. When we arrived here in 1979, the Santa Fe plaza was surrounded by small shops and family type stores that included a Woolworth’s where they sold Frito pies in a Frito bag (delicious) and a department store where we bought clothes for the kids and us. Now, it’s a collection of galleries. Progress??

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