Street Talk

By Mickey Howley

My sister Peggy lives in Safety Harbor, Florida. It is a small town of 17,000 at the top of Tampa Bay. The much bigger towns of Clearwater, St. Petersburg, and Tampa are nearby. She has a nice old style ranch house a couple of blocks from the water, several moss draped live oaks shade her home. 

Right as the town meets the bay sits a spa resort that’s been there since 1925. There’s a nice downtown and the city is neat and orderly. Often when people there pronounce the town’s name they put a bit of extra emphasis on the “Safety” part of the name. The residents are proud of the town and its quaintness. 

Why am I saying all this about my sister’s town? Because Safety Harbor owns the current Guinness World Record for the largest watermelon eating contest at 259 contestants. Your Water Valley Chamber of Commerce aims to beat it. I would also like that, Thanksgiving is not so far away. I need something, anything, to one up my little sister.  Right now, I got nothing.

 I already know how it is going to go if we fail.  I will have nothing to interrupt her telling of her May to June trip in southern England and Normandy this year. The 75th D-Day Anniversary. She went.  Understand that Peggy is a collector of military vehicles, like a deuce and half, a Willys MB Jeep, a M274 Mechanical Mule, and even a six wheel Pinzgauer. I’ve driven the Pinzgauer, it’s one bad machine. 

Anyway, she spent several weeks bouncing around England, crossing the Channel, and riding around Normandy in a World War II 10-wheel, two and half ton truck. Brag she will. No new watermelon record for the Valley and I’m going down like Silent Sam come turkey time.

Speaking of across the Pond, that’s where this whole Guinness thing started. In 1951 Sir Hugh Beaver, who was the managing director of Guinness Breweries in Ireland, was on a bird hunting trip. He took a shot and missed at a golden plover. 

Later that evening while the hunting party was at a pub, Sir Beaver said his miss was due to the plover being the fastest game bird. His buddies said no, the red grouse was the fastest. Sir Beaver then had an inspiration, maybe after drinking one or two of his products, that this type of search for the superlative must happen often all across the British Isles’ 81,000 pubs. That there would be a need for a definitive book to settle pub arguments of this, perhaps silly, sort. 

 And while he might have not been the best shot, Sir Beaver was on the mark twice, the plover is the fastest and the Guinness book is now one of the most popular on the planet. The evolution of the subsequent record system still features the name of his breweries first and foremost. Proof is last week our Chamber is promoting the Guinness event and the Guinness name was the top headline in this paper. 

For a business like a brewery, that’s promotional magic. Cheers and Brilliant Sir Beaver!

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