Twenty-two Y’s Men of Meriden were treated to a visual journey to Florida on Feb. 21, as Jack Brooks, club member, used a PowerPoint presentation to visit Key West and three National Parks in the state. Assisted by embedded audio narration provided by his wife Barbara, Brooks first provided a fact-filled history of Key West, at one time the wealthiest city in America.
Special attention was given to wealthy entrepreneur Henry Flagler, a partner of John B. Rockefeller in developing the Standard Oil Company, who self-financed the construction of the Florida Overseas Railroad connecting Key West with the mainland in 1910. Referred to as the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” this railway was partially destroyed by a hurricane; Flagler rebuilt it, only to have another hurricane destroy it. The wealth of Key West was founded on the salvage business, as innumerable cargo ships foundered on its surrounding reefs, with retrieved cargo being sold at auction. Indeed, unscrupulous profiteers used to post “Channel” signs over the high points of the reef, thereby luring ships to their destruction.
Next stop was Dry Tortugas National Park located on an island 70 miles west of Key West, accessible only by boat and seaplane. Largely occupied by the magnificent Fort Jefferson, built (but never completed) by the American government to repel invaders. However, the only attack was by rebel forces during the American Civil War; they retreated after the fort commander said he would blow their ships out of the water with his cannons (only the fort’s occupants knowing that no cannons had yet been delivered). Used as a military prison, the fort housed Dr. Samuel Mudd, an American physician who was imprisoned for conspiring with John Wilkes Booth regarding the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865 (and supposedly giving birth to the expression “Your name is mud.”)
Next on the tour was Biscayne National Park, consisting of several islands and America’s largest barrier reef located south of Miami. About 95 percent of the park is underwater, teeming with marine life. In addition to a colorful aquarium, the waters are now home to invasive lionfish armed with venomous spines which are decimating native fish (whose presence maintains the reef). Then on to Everglades National Park featuring walkways through swampy areas where one may spot a plethora of wildlife including egrets, owls and enormous pythons.
And finally a visit to privately-owned Flamingo Gardens to view peacocks, flamingoes, bald eagles and alligators. Throughout this presentation, the attendees were treated to great photography featuring multiple historical reviews and a variety of colorful wildlife.
For further information about the Y’s Men of Meriden, go to ysmenofmeriden.com or call 203-238-7784.