Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Conch Republic

I fell in love with the spirit of the conchs, as folks who were born and raised on Key West are called. From what we were told they had (and continue to have) indomitable spirit and a delightful quirkiness.  
A prime example of this was the establishment of the sovereign nation called "The Conch Republic".  To understand how this revolution came about one has to understand a bit of the history of Key West. The early economy of the area was based on salvaged goods sold by "wreckers". Wreckers would watch the sea, looking for ships that fell afoul of the reefs surrounding Key West. They would salvage the goods and sell them. One half of the value was paid to the town, one quarter was paid to the Wrecker, and the other quarter was split between the crew working for the wrecker. Once better warning lights were erected, the wrecking business was shot. Fishing provided the only other income stream, until transportation and sources for water were established, then tourism became the major source of income for the Keys. 
In 1982, U.S. immigration set up check points going on and off the keys. They searched every car, causing delays of four hours or more. This dissuaded visitors and tourism dollars shrunk. The Key West governing agencies sent representatives to talk to the Department of Immigration. They shared their plight. They suggested that since the Keys are part of the U.S., there shouldn't be border guards stopping traffic. Their pleas to stop the inspections fell on deaf ears. Out of exasperation, the Keys decided to "secede" from the State of Florida, since they were being treated as a foreign entity. They called themselves the Conch Republic. They designed a flag. They declared war on the U.S., and almost immediately surrendered. Then, asked for megabucks in foreign aid! Although this was all (somewhat) in jest, the point was taken and the inspection stations were removed. But, the flag still flies, and the locals proudly declare that they are the Conch Republic, and celebrate Independence Day on April 23 each year. 

Adding to the quirkiness of Key West, the hens and roosters running through town. (We were awakened on more than one morning by roosters crowing near (under?) the motorhome!) it seems that years ago, residents were taxed on the number of fowl they owned. The solution? Let the hens and chickens run free!
Local roosters
"I told you I wanted scratch, not scratch paper!"
Another oddity, in the early years homes were only taxed when they were completed. These folks weren't dumb, they simply didn't paint their homes! Today you can still see "naked" homes - even though the tax law was rescinded.

A "naked" house 

Here are some pictures from our Key West adventure:


The end of the line

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The Audubon House.... where Audubon never actually stayed!


A 4th generation kitty relaxes on Hemingway's bed.
The headboard is actually an old, metal gate.

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Hemingway frequented this bar when it was Sloppy Joe's
He would write until noon, then head to the saloon

Several of the bars had much of their proceeds stapled to the ceiling. 

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