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At long last, a city in need takes the plunge

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By JAN GLIDEWELL, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published January 10, 2003

It is satisfying, as the end of my career approaches, to see coming to resolution causes that have held grave personal import to me.

Take bathrooms, for instance.

East Pasco County has always been strong on charm and bucolic splendor -- but short on public restroom facilities.

Nearly two years ago the city of Dade City gave me the honor of the first flush in its new public facilities, in response to two decades of written whining on my part about the city's dearth of facilities.

This week the city of San Antonio announced that it had quietly opened the doors of its new $30,000 restrooms in the downtown city park.

Believe it or not, bathrooms in San Antonio were a spiritedly debated issue back in 1976, when the nation was celebrating its bicentennial, and somebody decided that public bathrooms would be a good idea. Generally speaking it isn't a big issue, but every October when thousands of visitors flock to the city park for the annual Rattlesnake Festival, the lack of facilities is notable. Portable toilets help, but toward the end of a day, they, well, don't.

Some forward-thinking San Antonio residents back then thought public restrooms would be a good expense of funds allocated to the city for observance of the bicentennial, but anti-bathroom forces surfaced in what I, an alliterationist rehab drop-out, could not resist dubbing the "Battle of the Bicentennial Bathrooms."

The anti-bathroom folks were opposed because they said public restrooms would draw perverts.

As near as I could establish it, statistically speaking, San Antonio back then was entitled to only three, maybe four, perverts. Even with intervening growth, it probably doesn't rate more than six today.

The city in 1976 finally decided to use the funds to instead build a sprinkler system, making it, I am pretty sure, the only municipality in the country with a bicentennial sprinkler system.

Dade City used its bicentennial funds to buy a time capsule, which turned out to be a piece of capped PVC pipe from some outfit that based its marketing practices on what P.T. Barnum said about one being born every minute.

It was buried in a cemetery burial vault in front of the Library complete with a marker, and I had to do some checking around before I found a library employee who said the marker is still there, but obscured by Ivy. If I'm not still around writing obnoxious letters to the editor in 2076, maybe an electronic file search will turn up this column and the information on how to find the capsule.

But, back to San Antonio, let's just say I am flush with joy that the patient bathroom advocates finally won out.

On another matter, I have resisted the temptation to make fun of Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville, accidentally voting Democratic on her first vote in Congress. Freshman members of Congress have a lot to absorb in a short period of time and, as a colleague noted, the voting button for that seat, after years of being pushed by Karen Thurman, may well have been stuck that way.

Besides, we in the Dade City office were officially humbled Wednesday when a Dade City businessman asked us why the front page of the Pasco Times was posted on the door of the Quaker Bar next door to our office.

What piece of cutting edge Journalism, we wondered, might have caught the Quaker management and customers' attention? My column making fun of the Clone-Aid hoax, a story about a new Presbyterian minister in New Port Richey?

Probably not, we decided, given that medical ethics, and UFO cult opinions of human origins, and church appointments are not frequent subjects of conversation in neighborhood bars.

Was it the Epiphany celebration? A former journalist's contact with Tony Curtis? Or were we looking at the one side, was it posted so those inside could see as public notice of a hearing on adult businesses? Was the Quaker going topless?

Finally one of our crack reporters had a great idea, walked over and asked.

"Nah," they said, "the sun was in our eyes."

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