the entrepreneur (v)

Through all the success, Dan remained “odd,” being removed from the usual business circles of church, civic club, country club, and clan. He was at the Great Door of The Old City Hall Museum every day it was open, which was every day except Christmas and Easter. He was the last one to leave, everyday, walking the three blocks to his home. He left for lunch at 11:30am, stopped at the bank to make deposits, then the post office, then home for lunch. He had a housekeeper and a handyman that cared for his home which had been steadily restored over the years.

In 1965, St. Augustine celebrated its 400th birthday and Dan his 50th. He used this coincidence to announce the opening of a new exhibit at The Old City Hall Museum. A full page ad in the Sunday’s “Record” described the new display as a “Museum of Ancient Mystery and Misery, Deceit and Misfortune.”

The ad copy was strong. “Since the day Cain raised his hand against Able, mankind has sought ways to deceive and corrupt the world by bringing the horrors of disastrous misfortunes onto each other. This educational and honest exhibit revels history’s most vile misfits and the unspeakable adversities they once brought on their fellow human beings.”

The Chamber of Commerce protested and with the the Association of Attractions of St. Augustine started legal action against Dan. The “Record” would take no more adverting from The Old City Hall Museum that mentioned the exhibit, and ran an editorial calling it “...disgusting and near pornographic. In a city where history is so important, this is not the message we want to perpetrate. This is not the history we should portray.”

The City Commission appointed three former mayors to visit the exhibit with a history professor from the University of Florida to determine the historical accuracy. Their report said that the some artifacts may have been most likely what they were to be, everything was more or less authentic, and nearly all was unrelated to the city’s history. The panel added that the exhibit “...portrayed the city in a negative light, as if authenticity is not important. It continues the image of St. Augustine when it was cluttered with roadside attractions, and not genuine historical attractions.”

After eight years and court battles that went to the Florida State Supreme Court, Dan had won every fight, but now he wanted to fight no more.

No comments: