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Past a present for city's 100th

A new book's nine authors found Largo has such a rich history that the hardest part was keeping to a word limit.

Published August 14, 2005

LARGO - It's kind of a 100th birthday present for Largo, a book about the city's history.

From Pines and Palmettos: A Portrait of Largo, Florida was supposed to be ready for the city of Largo's centennial on June 5, but writing 64,000 words turned out to be a little more difficult than the writers expected.

"It was more involved than we thought," said writing committee co-chair Marilyn Short of Largo. "It was very intense."

The nine-member committee spent 21/2 years researching, writing and editing 224 pages and choosing 276 pictures for the book. It was a team effort; no individual authors are listed.

"In the back we have a picture of nine people," said Elmer Williams, 65, president of the Largo Historical Society. "We did it all together."

The committee held most of their meetings at Largo Public Library, where they used the library's collection of primary sources, such as documents and newspapers. Committee members and other volunteers also recorded oral histories with Largo residents.

"I learned quite a few things about my hometown," Short said. The retired former legal secretary has lived in the Largo area for more than 50 years.

Deciding what to leave out posed a problem. "We probably could have had five or six more books," Short said.

"We found out we are pretty wordy people," Williams said. When each committee member had finished his or her first assignment, they were 20,000 words over their limit with three chapters still left to write.

"Some of my favorite stories didn't make the book," he said.

What did make the book fits into seven chapters, each covering about 20 years of Largo history. City mottos serve as the chapter titles. "Setting the Stage" runs from prehistoric times, followed by "A Town is Born," covering the town's founding. "A Citrus City," "Fair City," "Hub of Peerless Pinellas," "The Clean Air Capital," and "The City of Progress" follow. The last is the city's current motto.

The book is available at the Largo Public Library bookstore, the Chamber of Commerce and Heritage Village. The hardcover book sells for $45.96 including tax, and a limited number of leatherbound and numbered volumes are available for $107.

"We have a tremendous loan to pay back," Williams said. Fifth Third Bank paid $48,000 to fund the project with a no-interest loan.

The book's title came from what many of the town's first settlers said about the area when they arrived and found nothing but pines and palmettos.

Williams said finding the perfect title wasn't an easy task. "We probably had 20 titles," he said.

"We're all still speaking, which I think is an accomplishment," Williams said with a chuckle. "It was much harder than we thought writing a book would be."

[Last modified August 14, 2005, 00:53:19]

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