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Armenia: It's a country, a cigar and a street

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By ERNEST HOOPER, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published June 30, 2002

Armenia is not just a street in West Tampa.

Just ask Ferrell Middle Magnet School teacher Tracy Hinson. Hinson is preparing to make her second trip in as many years to Armenia, a country once part of the former Soviet Union.

"It was wonderful," said Hinson, who makes her next trip July 16. "I didn't know a whole lot about Armenia when I went but I was totally overwhelmed with their hospitality, intelligence and how wonderful and warm they were."

Hinson is part of a program set up by the U.S. State Department and Project Harmony, an international exchange group. As she did last year, she will help conduct workshops that help Armenians incorporate technology -- Ferrell is a magnet school for technology -- into their teaching.

The exchange of ideas has not only helped the Armenian teachers, but led to Ferrell students learning more about Armenia and winning a national award.

With Hinson's help, the students developed a school seal as part of Project Harmony's Armenia Connectivity contest. The seal, a collaborative effort involving Ferrell students in all three grades, incorporated the school mascot as well as the focus on technology with state symbols including oranges and the space shuttle.

"I was really impressed with what kids created," Hinson said.

So was everyone else. The seal was named the best among competing schools in the United States. Hinson said the goal now is to find a specialist who can add graphic color to the seal.

A wreck resulted in a car hitting four temporary pillars in front of the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City on Friday. Temporary pillars? Sure, they've been in place since a rock hauler slammed into the restaurant last August.

Somebody joked they should go ahead and open a drive-through. But seriously, it's time for some calming efforts for the traffic rumbling between Interstate 4 and the port.

My son Ethan survived slamming his middle finger in the car door Tuesday night, and he showed he has learned a little about civility in the process.

At the After Hours Pediatrics Clinic in Brandon, the X-ray technician asked him to stick out his injured finger and pull the other four back.

"Isn't that a bad thing?" he asked before flashing the famed derogatory symbol.

The X-ray technician explained it was okay at the doctor's office.

What he meant to say is that its okay at the doctor's office for people with injured fingers, not people with bruised feelings about their HMO.

From canoeing at Cockroach Bay to bird watching on the Alafia, a group of underserved kids from YMCA Success Centers spent an enjoyable week in the Marine Exploration Camp, a collaborative effort between the Port Authority and Tampa Prep.

The goal was to help kids learn more about how marine industries coexist with the environment. Port Authority public relations manager Lori Rafter said the pilot project could be expanded in the future.

So for those who were wondering, there is a reason one of our main streets is named Armenia, but it has nothing to do with the country.

Rodney Kite-Powell at the Tampa Bay History Center explained that the street was named after the Armina Cigar Company in the 1890s. For unknown reasons, the spelling was changed in the early 1900s, but the street name does derive from the cigar company.

Henceforth, we will refer to the county commission candidates being supported by conservative activist Ralph Hughes as "The Hughes Corporation." Pop music fans will recall there was a group called by a similar name, The Hues Corporation, in the mid '70s.

Hillsborough's edition of The Hughes Corporation is Jim Norman, Ronda Storms, Brian Blair, Denise Lasher, Gene Wells and Tom Scott, a Democrat who seems strangely out of place amid this group of Republicans.

Then again, The Hues Corporation's biggest hit was Rock The Boat, with the catchy phrase "Don't rock the boat, baby."

That's all I'm saying.

-- Ernest Hooper can be reached at (813) 226-3406 or

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