Showing posts from April, 2020

Ybor, Florida - The City Cigars Built

We often hear the United States of America being described as a “melting pot”, where different races merge into a salad of immense variety to form a medley of blended cultures and communities working together in harmony for the common good.  It is this ideal that continues to draw people to the USA from all over the world – hopeful that they too may somehow share in the success uniquely produced in this “land of opportunity”.

One of the best examples of this ideal concept becoming a reality was created by a Spanish immigrant and master cigar manufacturer, Vicente Martinez Ybor, founder of Ybor City, Florida. When he was 14-years old, Ybor fled his home in Spain and went to Cuba in 1832 to avoid being drafted into the military.

He began his career as a grocery clerk and by 1856 had started his own cigar manufacturing company with the creation of his Prince of Wales brand. He would later flee from Cuba in 1868 with his family to avoid being imprisoned by the Spanish rulers for being a …

Westerham England - A Tale of Two Heroes

Click on player below to see Pat's video about Westerham.

At a time when the current US Administration is massaging its job creation statistics by including the temporary hire of many census workers, one can be confident that it was not handled like that in 1086.  William the Conqueror completed in that year the great survey of England, known as The Domesday Book, setting out what was owned by whom and what taxes were owed on such property.  The Domesday Book included the small town of Westerham, which is located on the border between the English counties of Kent and Surrey and which was settled long before the Norman Conquest. Pat and I visited this picturesque little town (population only 5,000) in June 2010. It is remarkable that such a small community should contain the homes of two Englishmen who, two centuries apart, both made a huge impact on history.  They are today honored by statues on the Westerham village green.

The first house that we visited was Chartwell, home of S…

Antigua - Where The Religion Is Cricket

Pat and I spent the past winter as guests of our youngest daughter at her home in Lake County, Florida. In adjacent Sumter County, just a few miles down the road from us, a major prison is located in the town of Coleman.

It was here that Robert Allen Stanford spent the past winter as a guest of the US Federal government, as he began to serve a 110 year sentence for operating a Ponzi scheme which cost his investors over 7 billion dollars.

Stanford was born and raised in Texas, but as a young man he relocated to the Caribbean where he founded the Stanford Financial Group, which became the vehicle for his criminality. Stanford’s modus operandi was similar to that of the more notorious Bernie Madoff. Both men paid their investors such impossibly high rates of return on investment, year in year out, that anyone with half a brain should have smelled something fishy from the outset.

Stanford’s Caribbean odyssey began on island of Montserrat, where he opened a bank in 1985. Following a regula…

Statues of Liberty

As a tribute to the French people in light of the terrorist attack in Paris on November 13th, 2015, we are re-posting the two pieces Bob wrote about our trips to Paris. Click here to read Bob's second post entitled, Trust in the Power of Prayer.

Pat and I were travelling by boat through the middle of Paris along the River Seine in 1982. As our boat approached a bridge called Pont de Grenelle, a familiar figure came into view. We knew that woman well, even though we had never met her before. She stood on Ile aux Cygnes (Island of Swans), a man made island in mid river adjacent to the bridge. She is a bronze replica of the Statue of Liberty, which stands in New York Harbor. This lady in Paris is much smaller than the American original, given by France to the United States in 1880 to mark the centenary of US independence. She was given to France a few years later by Americans living in Paris in appreciation of France’s larger gift. Who is the lady in both statues? Apparently, she’s s…

Juarez Mexico - How Juarez has changed !!!

In 1848, it was provided by treaty that the Rio Grande would serve as the border between Texas and Mexico.  However that river divided a city, which was discovered as long ago as 1659 by explorers seeking a way through the southern Rocky Mountains.  So there developed two adjoining cities, one in Texas and one in the Chihuahua province of Mexico.  The city in Texas became El Paso.  The city in Mexico became Juarez, after it was eventually named in honor of the Mexican revolutionary, Benito Juarez.

I awoke one morning in a hotel in El Paso, Texas and decided to cross the border that day to take a look at Juarez. I was without a car, but the border itself and Juarez beyond it were both within walking distance of my hotel.

I stood in line at the border post.  Everyone else on foot looked to be Mexican and I do not look Mexican.  This was probably why a US border guard walked up to me and said to me in English "Have you heard that the President has been shot?"  I assumed that h…

Savannah - America's Youngest Colony

What did King George II of England do with the Royal Charter, which he signed on June 9, 1732 and which provided for the settlement of what is now the State of Georgia? The answer is that he gave it to General James Oglethorpe, a 35-year old soldier and member of parliament.

Oglethorpe and a small band of settlers then crossed the Atlantic and reached what is now the mouth of the Savannah River early in 1733. They then sailed 18 miles up river to the site of what is today the City of Savannah. Oglethorpe selected the site as being easy to defend and had soon erected a circle of forts to protect the new city, some of which stand to this day. The King had not turned over to Oglethorpe a land flowing with milk and honey. The area was far to the south of the nearest British colonies in the Carolinas.  The land was swampy and, for much of the year, the climate was humid and unhealthy. To make matters worse, Oglethorpe needed to spend much of his time and resources fighting with the Spani…

Paris France - Trust in the Power of Prayer

In 1980, when Pat and I entered a building in a back street near the center of Paris, we saw the corpse at once. Displayed in an illuminated glass coffin was the body of an elderly lady dressed in the black robes of a French nun. The body had not deteriorated in any way. Indeed, she was so lifelike that she could have been in the middle of a peaceful sleep. The building that we had entered was the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, which is located at 140 Rue du Bac in Paris, France.

In life, this elderly lady had been Catherine Laboure, who was born in the Burgundy region of France in 1806 and who died and was buried in 1876.  Many years later, the Roman Catholic Church was considering conferring sainthood upon her and, in 1933 in relation to that, her body was exhumed.  It was found to be what the Church calls “incorrupt”. In other words, the body was and still is in exactly the same state as at the time of death, despite the fact that no preservatives of any kind had been…