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Newtown Resident Shares Holiday Memories

Harriet Moore
Harriet Moore, principal of McIntosh Middle School in Sarasota, shares memories of holiday traditions growing up in Newtown. REBECCA LEE/UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA

The holidays bring back fond memories of childhood for many people. As part of our Telling Tampa Bay Stories series on Newtown, one of the first African American communities in Sarasota, one resident shared some of the traditions her family and neighbors shared in the community.

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Harriet Moore is principal of McIntosh Middle School in Sarasota and grew up in Newtown. Her parent’s owned a grocery store there and that shaped her childhood in the 1960’s and 70’s.

Moore said for holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas, her parents and other members of the community would do special things for families who couldn’t afford to celebrate.

“They would get with the other business owners and we would make baskets, you know, turkey baskets with all the trimmings and all the food,” she said. “Way before All Faiths Food Bank there was, you know, 27th St. and all the black business owners.”

Moore said the business owners would take those baskets and deliver them to families so they could have a good Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas. They had other Christmas traditions as well.

“My dad had a great big truck that he would get all the produce and things from for the store,” she began. “And so we had a gentleman, a young guy who would dress like Santa. He'd sit on the back of the truck and we had little white bags and in the bags were nuts and really good fruit, apples and oranges, candy canes, and he'd sit on the back of the truck and the kids would get on and ask for their wish and they’d go off with a little bag of goodies.”

“And so people would drive all through Newtown with the bullhorn, ‘Santa Claus is at Eddie’s Fruit Stand!’ ‘Santa Claus is at Eddie’s Fruit Stand!’ and all the kids would come up. But it was just so awesome because I would just kind of stand on the side because I knew the secret, you know, I knew who Santa was. And, you know, I remember the days of bagging all those things up but it was just a really, really great place to be. People really loved and cared about one another.”

Telling Tampa Bay Stories is an annual series WUSF has produced for the past four years that highlights different communities around the region people may not always hear about. We tell these stories with help from the people who call these places home. This year focuses on Newtown, one of the first African American community in Sarasota.

The series is produced in partnership with University of South Florida journalism students. WUSF reporter Stephanie Colombini and USF student journalist Rebecca Lee contributed to this story. Conversations were recorded at the Robert L. Taylor Community Complex in Newtown.