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November 17, 2006

Cedar Key, Florida

An Illustrated History
Kevin M. McCarthy (Professor Emeritus, UF)

At last, a comprehensive history of Cedar Key. And well done, too. It is much better than any prior rendering, and a treasure trove of information. Overall it is detailed, if brief, and a “spot-on” history of the city and its environs, which has been very well researched. Other publications date from the early 1990’s, and while interesting they are considerably more limited than this new book.

The 280 pictures are wonderfully revealing, interesting in themselves and complimentary to the narrative. One is especially impressed by photos from Dock Street in the 1970’s, which demonstrate considerable development—and improvement—without becoming “South Florida” (or central, coastal or north!) The character of this tiny community has been preserved and enhanced, though its natives might not wholly agree. Change is difficult and poorly accepted, if nonetheless necessary.

One vignette dealing with the high school basketball championship won in 1965 by this small group of dedicated athletes was déjà vu for me, inasmuch as a tiny town in Illinois performed a similar feat at about the same time—a “dream team” from a school with but nine boys won The Sweet Sixteen, with the whole state rooting for them. I trust the State of Florida exhibited such enthusiasm.

The mention of the impact of Title IX upon sports at Cedar Key High School (which almost had to close!) was of interest to me as well, since I have opposed this particular bit of Government interference since its inception. That and the dedication of its alums when a fire again threatened the existence of CKHS, which also saved it from oblivion.

The highlighted comments of Lindon Lindsey, a native, add further. Since I introduced the two gentlemen I was particularly gratified that Lindon was so featured.

The only thing I found trying was the choppy read of the material, based upon the fact that the author chose to break the history down decade by decade, necessitating early references to “more on that later,” later references to “see page x for information,” and seemingly unnecessary repetitiveness as if expecting that one would read only small sections. (I can suggest no alternative approach and probably ought not complain, but I am a curmudgeon, after all.) There is also one mislabeled picture, but there is always an oversight.

Throughout its history Cedar Key as been repeatedly threatened with non-existence . . . annihilation, which has engendered a stoic “resiliency, adaptation to changing times, survival.” But the town is still here.

This is a fine addition to the history of small towns, seldom written because there is no market and the author has to undertake the task simply for love. Congratulations are due Dr. McCarthy for a great service to our community, and for providing this information to current residents and myriad, inquisitive visitors.

Well worth the read!

Posted by respeto at November 17, 2006 3:52 PM