Title: Interview with John Grimaldi (November 9, 1978)
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00006494/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with John Grimaldi (November 9, 1978)
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publication Date: November 9, 1978
Spatial Coverage: 12057
Hillsborough County (Fla.) -- History.
Funding: This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00006494
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location: This interview is part of the 'Hillsborough' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: HILL 17

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Full Text

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behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of

Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
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Hills Co 17A

Sub: John (Ray) Grimaldi

Int: Gary Mormino

Nov. 9, 1978


Page -1-

G: My name is Gary Mormino and I would like to get a sounding on

this particular recording. One, two, three. My name is Gary

Mormino and I'm talking to a group of....... Today is Thursday,

November 9th and I'm talking with Mr. Anthony Grimaldi.

A: I'm mAin -T r(-A. -

G: K,/- ui today is November 9th and I'm talking to John Grimaldi

at Columbia Bank. 4, you're president of Columbia Bank I believe.

J: Yes)I am.

G: Right. H* -Mr. Grimaldi, why don't we begin...... Maybe you could

tell me something about your family's background, your family's

connection 4* in Tampa? LrT i preferrably, beginning in the old

country, what you remember about your father telling you about

the old country.

J: Well my father was born in Tampa, Florida.

G: Oh, he was born in Tampa?

J: He's seventy-four years of age.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: My grandfather and grandmother on his side of the family came from

Naples in Italy.

G: Mmm hmm.

Hills Co 17A -2-

J: Most of the people in Tampa are Sicilian.

G: Right, right.

J, There are very few people who are not Sicilian.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: i he's one..... My family is one of the few that are not

Sicilian, who are not _

G: Mmm hmm. afr- 'd, What did he do in the old country?

J: And my grandfather was a student and he was an engineering student

and he got himself injo ,a lot of hot water and he left the old

country and he came to Boston.
G: And stories you can tell-z, you can expose on tape?

J: No, no. No. And tSi from Boston he migrated down to Tampa 404

just before the turn of the century, around 1890.

G: Mmm hmm. Q*e. :g-. s. a--. --.just a few questions to paint in

the background. hbT e-.-.". He was an engineering student you


J: Right.

G: So your family obviously was not ? They were...

fairly well off.

J: Yeah. Most of the people that came to Tampa, the Italian immigrants

were really peasants.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: Ar they were agricultural workers, they were nonskilled and when

they originally came to Tampa they really were not headed for

Tampa, they were headed out to the rural areas to work and pick

beans and work out in the agricultural fields. And they found

an opportunity to work in p cigar factories and rather than go out

Hills Co 17A -3-

J: into the field, they elected to stay in the city and work in the

cigar factories. And many of the Italians started working in

the cigar factories,4'f they don't have a great history of staying

with the factories because the owners were all Spanish and Cubans.

G: Right.

J: And so they were really suppressed in the ACSg opportunity to

promote themselves so they very quickly left the cigar factories

and went into private business. And today in Tampa, you'll find

that it's not the Spanish or the Cubans who are in private industry,

banking, and all the other businesses.

G: Right.

J: iJit's the Italians of the Cuban, Spanish Q 4t---Q +A .

G: Yeah, Gygdsaw would be a perfect of s=IPwLf,.

J: The hardware store. But almost every neAis1 the original people

that came over, you'll find that almost everyone of em worked

in a cigar factory. __

G: What do you attribute this to? ; .'-:-*$Why did Italians gravitate

to ua-e.f merchant fas, ...

J: Left the factories?

G: Yes.

J: Because the.--;-
G: Mmm hmmm. Right.

J: And j4j the Italians had to learn first the Spanish language. You'll

find in my generation and in any generation that is older than I am,

nothing _S __C_ _4_ by my children. They can't even speak Spanish

or Italian. But if you take 4.p my generation and the older generation

every single Italian can speak Spanish and no Spaniard can speak

Hills Co 17A -4-

J: Italian and that was out of necessity. Spaniards controlled

the cigar factories, they 1-ci ll C -4lr- in the newspapers

and all the books that they used to read to the factory workers

as they worked in Spanish.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: And all the orders came out in Spanish and the Italians had

to learn it. And their opportunities for advancement within

!ih the factories u.t; they just couldn't crack it because the

Spaniards got the preference. I mean y) know.....

G: Mmm hmm.

J: Not that they were prejudice as such, it was just the opportunities

were not available to the Italians t&'-!4, to get ahead.

G: Sure.

J: And they did and moved out of the cigar factories. But you'll

find that, like I said, Florida bLeirQ O'., f'$S. fl-cO "- she

worked as a cigar factory worker, es the t______niei

their own grocery store, they worked in the cigar factories

originally. Almost everybody did.

G: Right. Well when your .& WVH--W-your grandfather..... ell first

of all, why did he choose Tampa? Most Italians chose New York

or Philadelphia, one of the major urban areas.

J: I don't know. YX know I've always meant to find out and I've

never found out. But he had an advantage when he came to Tampa

among the Italian people in that he could read and write Italian and

he could read and write in English. L more of the immigrants that

came over were really for the most part illiterates. There were

a few people, like they were not illiterate.

Hills Co 17A -5-

G: Mmm hmm.

J: was a bright man.

G: Right.

J: He could read and write English. He didn't write Italian. So

(.Jx'tr-; f;'f- s-este jhey immediately advanced in the

colony. They're the ones that all the 14S C-rr< to see to

help em cause everybody brought .^ know the

first one that arrived, they brought the rest of the family over.

And my grandfather, in his case, _, was very

instrumental because he immediately saw the opportunity and he

became like an agent. And he would '.. f you were here and

you want to bring your mother, your father, your brother, your

sister, whatever it was, he would arrange all the passes to....

G: SN ,yeah.

J; To Srtir Island in New York and then he would provide the tickets

and everything, name tags, yA know you came with a name tag,

with fim4 ,eCret- hn a name tag as you arrived off the boat and

they would put you on a train and bring you down to Tampa. And

he was a Seaboard ticket agent and he was also a steamship agent.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: And he immediately saw the opportunity and t2^*...a' he went

into that field.

G: How old was he when hesT.-,s- f S arrived in Tampa and began

this enterprise?

J: Oh gosh. Grandpa died around the age of seventy-six in 1932.

(Chuckle) Y/ know I don't know. UI,. 1932 he was -uB' let's say

seventy-six )t4 four forty-four wrK--s --. he must've been

Hills Co 17A -6-

J: give or take thirty or thirty-five years of age.

G: Mmm hmm. Whate w6L -.h.is'.._ ., What were his first memories

of Tampa as,.o.,,'a' you recollect or your father told you when

he vO,-w'4A6"&6 arrived to Tampa? And what year did he arrive,

by the way?

J: Well Tampa was tr y know there was a railroad train that ran

from here to downtown Tampa, the streets were made out of sand, this

was really a -vhe cigar factory and all the individual

small homes with sidewalks.

G: What year are we talking about now?

J: d4, we're talking about 1890-95.

G: Eate--r nAay sounds right.

J: Turn of the century, 1900.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: T I\j >r bS. t ( 0( (telephone interruption) Hello.

G: You were aft relating your.-r,'....' .ydvt.grandfather's early experiences

in, .Z.t Tampa and he went into the .,-j,ebecame a travel agent in

effect. What are his memories about his relations with-4Se the

other ethnic groups in Tampa? Spaniards and Cubans? The stories

..-A'-o. P you have heard?

J: Well, yf, not just necessarily from my grandfather but from all

the people. The Italians,first of all, held the Cubans back

in those days..is4c. The Cubans, not the Spaniards now.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: The Cubans, in sort of a the were fun-loving,
Sthe e were of low n-aS l" moral
irresponsible people, t were of low moral
character, and if you went out with a,. no chaparonei, y- by--
ajrc n I

Hills Co 17A -7-

J: wild group, very happy, and if an Italianz..* girl was even

to go with an Italian boy, the father would disown her. -4.I-!

to the point where I can give you example after example.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: __-_ people I know who are still alive today. 2S;tW"

sirpthe father's dead now but if', daughters are still alive

who have married Cubans, y/ know from Cuba not the Spaniards from


G: Mmm hmm.

J: And t?*, the Italians wanted nothing to do with the--. --i'W;

Cubans and sort of rolled over to the Spaniards4/iAr sort of like
o^ /
the Jewish clan, yA know they don't want to intermarry there

because of their faith and reasons because of their heritage.

They didn't want their........

G: -eSStZ s did interact with Spaniards though, the Spanish.is .-T,.

jr do they?

J: Not in marriages Cause it happened in my own family.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: My mother is Spanish and a was tremendous amount of bitterness

in my own family that my father would marry my mother with so

many Italian girls. My grandfather arranged the marriage.. .w. ot

my grandfather, my uncle, with the help of my grandfather I'm sure.

But he was responsible because he was so much older. My daddy

is one of thirteen children. And fRi, my grandfather married a

ref y young girls and dCa he had thirteen children. And my uncle

was ...4t if he was alive today he'd be...-z. r e..r died two

years ago) /e'd be eighty-seven. And he arranged a marriage of

Hills Co 17A -8-

J: two of my i pfif aunts. And he picked out the sj- husband,

he arranged it, he talked to 4 _$_,1 families 4Y-

each home, and furnished them completely and gave the children

wedding presents. VY they were very proud. When their daughters

got married they u-v*-,,/he ones who could afford it, and many

of them could, they set em up with a complete household. My wife

for example, her mother is one of four daughters and their grandfather,
^ 4-
as each of em got married, build them each a home around his

own home, one next to the other. All four homes are together.

When I met my wife she was living there.

G: Uh huh.

J: F- there was very 2 i the old man 4t, wanted to arrange

for their daughters and wanted to arrange for their security A$

and these daughters did not go work at the factories. Their

mothers and fathers did but ib.-, or by then they were out. Like

one that I'm talking about would not work in the factory.

G: Right. So you're saying very few, /ike second generation Italian

girls worked at cigar factories?

J: But very few second generation.

G: That's interesting.

J: Third generation it's all over.

G: Right, right.

J: Forget it. No such thing.

G: Did your h grandfather or father ever have any direct contact

with cigar factories?

J: No, they were never ever involved with either owners nor anything.

We were in the clothing business, we were in the shoe business,

Hills Co 17A -9-

J: and then went into the insurance business in ESf-.'i 1911,

I think.

G: Uh huh.

J: My grandfather and my uncle went into the insurance business.

G: Right, right.

J: And we were in the insurance business until my dad got out of it

in 1967 and he turned it over to my brother-in-law who continued

and he is now merging to form associates.

G: Mmm hmm. Now as a. .... 'aa businessman, how .'. ".I'S.Tt were your

tegI sTr'family affected by the strikes?

J: Strikes?

G: The cigar strikes 1g^T.in T,.'-:cS Tampa? Do you recall any

specific incidents that itfsi that might've effected their family

debts or anything like that?

J: 6Po1 no.

G: No?

J: I never remember any..,. Of course, I had to have been very

young because we're talking about now in the 30s I think.

G: Right, right.

J: And I was a very young man. I was born in 1926.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: And they had some real toughies in the early30-r,;-'wtee 30s.... P

avfY strikes.

G: Right.

J: And ulih.-' Bu.t I could not appreciate at that age, the economic


G: Sure. Right.

Hills Co 17A -10-

J: And I never re:.'-.T<..' lt 1,nee remember it being discussed

at home.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: ,Ur we fortunately, were always ..-c.-;r.v-:l had plenty to eat, had

always had good employment and cSl-O -g living.

G: Right, yeah. l"7 Tell me something about your

father. Your father is a renowned character in YZr City.

He was born in 1903, 1904?
1 V04-1
J: MX9 -O-fo uZ..

G: N-- -e feYIVfr.

J: T6_pt'ni1sJh;i He married a Spanish lady, my mother.

G: Uh huh.

J: Who was born in V-ewiwh, Mexico.

G: What's her maiden name?

J: Uf, Sanchez.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: my grandmother ti' tIh,.,: ,;;. ..t they migrated to Mexico. My mother was

born there. My grandfather died at the age of twenty-one. O', he was shot

and killed.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: In an accident, hunting accident..like -Ltd-ul-you. d--asm.u And my

grandmother brought my dM mother to Tampa. My grandmother was a business

woman and she had been a business woman in acr family in the dry good

business and when she came to Tampa she opened up a dry good store immediately.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: And she used to import from Spain and Mexico all kinds of dry goods and

things and L$5 o \ -a.-buy locally and the _:_

Hills Co 17A -11-

J: post savers would sell it.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: And she had several stores and if, and so consequently, once my daddy

married my mother, he began very involved with the Spaniards. Not the

Cubans people now, but with the Spaniards and his involvement with the

Spaniards, he was a member of the _, they

had a very active imat club. YA know young married people and you

went to all the picnics and you were officers and you were in all the

plays and all the dances and daddy was one of the few Italians who was

really deeply involved with the Spaniards.

G: Mm hmm.

J: gNp not many people have that. To this point, I'm on the board of directors

of the H __ General Hospital.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: Very much involved with the hospital. Thke arB still bank V4____uS

J8, we've just loaned P million dollars 4t-oth8e c- 'C-1 vr .

G: Right.

J: The Spanish people have been very involved with my family. Both of my

grandmothers __ my father _

probably moreso than the Italians.

G: Hmmm.

J: So probably &w my father gives the Spaniards a great deal of credit for

what they did for his economic success in that they patronized his

business insurance in the banking business.

G: The Cubans did not?

J: f, again,
G: Right, right.

Hills Co 17A -12-

J: Obf again, he was also involved with the Cubans.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: _f1 cause there's no bigotry or prejudices......

G: Right.

J: And you wouldn't know the Spanish girl_

G: Sure.

J: And _aiX^ my grandmother lived with us all her life. One day my grandmother

do in 1942.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: And so 0$6 she raised me q\ my brother and my sister.

G: Right.

J, And Vj he got along with the Cubans. He was very much involved with

_, which is strictly a Cuban organization.

-,--, -yS,be helped bail'em out back in the 30s when they

had a lot of financial trouble and Do-o allowed

them to raise money to build a club house and what have yg. So he was also

involved with em. He has never had any problem with either the Spanish,

Italians, or Cubans. But the Spaniards are really the ones who ae- patronized
4- OlcC
our business. But that's not to say that the Italians haven't, -0eS.?
G: What ,did...... /id the Spaniards have an image of being <* sort of the

aristocrats ? Or was that merely a few who had a tremendous amount of money?

J: You've got to understand the. -r -;7t),ie history of Spain. The Mo s conquered

Spain just aboutpr-;-, until they got to the province of Aui ko"$ .

G: Mmm hmm.

J: And 5 Spanish history, the mere y@ou .o....

able to conquer all of AsjLu L and acgkloa -the Spaniards who

came to Tampa.

Hills Co 17A -13-

G: Right.

J: But for the most part they were all-.44 peons. VN my sister's married

to a Spanish boy. His father had never seen plumbing in his life until he

arrived here as a young man of sixteen. Never seen a toilet or tub, running

water, or a faucet or m1 tCi the water. And for the most

part they were all peasants. 4$0Wbut they were very, very very, proud,

proud, proud people. Very proud. Dy but hard-headed as a devil and they

were not innovators, just like they're not innovators until maybe recently

in Spain either. They never have been. They get caught up in a particular

culture and they've stayed dominate and they're strong creatures of habit

and they just won't change. .%Et they stick to it. But they had

tremendous family Bmu4e. They brought their family over from Spain and

they would stay with their kids but they were not as outgoing as the Italians.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: Maybe the Italians did out of necessity and they were very happy in the

cigar factories. _____, as, and they were

very....... And they thought that was ya know, forever. tjy-^c They just

didn't realize the economic system and for the-most.part uneducated.
/ A
G: Mmm hmm, right.

J: And they...... As the Italians were too but the Italians had to move

o0A- 7 because ty/;'.y.v, they just had to.

G: Right, right.

J: Not that anyone'd intentionally hurt anyone. It just happened that way.

G: Right. Lt^''e'R.*'4?aLet's deal with your life now. Ws I'll talk to your

father at a later date. I'm sure he'd take a couple days.

J: Oh he can talk a lot. Oh he'll talk your ears off cause he's seventy-four.

G: Uh huh, yeah. ol-wear- W You're fifty-two you say?

Hills Co 17A -14-

J: Fifty-two.

G: So you're born in 1926?
J: i-si-.

G: TM..t s. Ui what are your..... first of all, where was your family

living then?

J: When I was born?

G: Were they still living in Y$bor City?

J: Yes. My family has nr/ lived in Y bor since I was born in YAbor City. I

was born..... In fact, I was born in a house, not in a hospital.

G: Uh huh.

J: Uh, my i father delivered me who is Dr. Joseph __

G: Mmm hmm.

J: A ag I'm sorry, not my godfather. Dr. delivered me.

U...... (someone saysom thing ;in the backsgrgund) O-iK,-tiger.

(tape s uts off or a moment

G: So your family was.-e..wars living in YAbor City at the time.

J: I was born onaXgtJ,?w n llth Avenue and 4th Street. House is still there.

G: Right. Whatare .i. If you had to classify your ul ?rsryor parents

status and ui how would you have classified them in relation to other

people in Y^or City? Were you well off, not so well off?

J: Uh, my dad 6f tT, Yes, my grandfather was well off.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: He was a director of a bank, he helpedrV.O, the Bank of Y bor City.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: My uncle was one-of th founders of this bank, he was vice president from

the day it was satsed until the day that he retired and it was just two

years ago that he died.

Hills Co 17A -15-

G: Right, right.

J: He died right after, hwasr-. ,

G: Yeah.

J: ^SJ he lived in a fine home, my grandfather lived in a fine home and was

able to give.,, ie sent my uncle to military school in Cornell. Cornell.

He sent my
........ Dad didn't want to go to school.

G: Uh huh.

J: Wi) he wanted to work and make a living. He got married at nineteen, twenty

years old.

G: Yeah.

J: U4 they were financially well off. They made money compared to the fifteen

twenty dollars you could make ,cgg doing something else.

G: Right. What were your first memories of Y&bor City ? Of uhgi:f the y/ know,

any event that I guess in Ybor City?

J: C _ C i really when I was probably about eight years old.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: Or when I was eight yt;' .c.S to age ten I used to catch a trolley, come

down Columbus Drive for food and get off at 22nd Street and 7th Avenue

and walk to our insurance office on 19th Street up byjf-iee by the

bank. And I would sit after school and do chores such as stamp envelopes

with our return adress,insurance ;policies, and later I would sweep all the

floors, the sidewalk, empty all the trash cans, and mother and dad would

take me home.

G' Mmm hmm.

J: And that's really when I started to see 7th Avenue which was a business district.

I was }f eight or-.xfItt ten years of age when I started doing that and I did

Hills Co 17A -16-

J: that until I was about thirteen.

G: Mmm hmm. ;Rf^ ^S P What was 7th Avenue like in 1935?

J: W4-f

G: 1940?

J: UhI, ia y, happy, all the.... just you did business in Y bor City or

you went downtown, there was no place else to do business. In Y bor City 9ur

all the people who lived in Cessna we Plant City-t-, Riverview, Ruskin, all

the surrounding rural areas south and east of Tampa all came

to Yfbor City shopping. They would not go downtown.

G: Hmmm.

J: No more than the Latins would because when you went downtown you had to

dress. Y) know, it was a prestigious thing. t-'fb; I guess they carry

like the blacks have. Let's sayy, know, you..... Before 1950 a black

walking by Walgreens didn't dare go in Walgreens. Sort of an idea y/know.

G: Right. Mmm hmm.

J: That was the nglo part of Tampa and I'm sure that they felt very uncomfortable

because everybody, as I said, in Y bor City all the merchants were either

Jewish or Italian .cy or Spanish.

G: This was in YAbor City?

J: Y/bor City.

G: Right.

J: All Jewish, Spanish, or Italian.

G: Hmmm.

J: And 1h they all catered to each other. The families continued to grow

and they all prospered.

G: Uh huh.

J: Zrfflaots r I remember all the merchants prospered.

Hills Co 17A -17-

G: Describe a ajs-svt- typical walk down Y.bor City Saturday night. lTn

Ss yj.i^^ where you might find.........

J: .0f Stl-e-y it yu mightfin......'..U.r-.e,. we would walk from home.

^4, this was when I was twelve, thirteen, fourteen, "i7
old. By then the war broke out and stopped. So, I think it was 1941.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: A;s2 I 1 a-S eight to ten A, eleven years old,every

Saturday night .,,-, I would come to Yabor City and we would walk down 7th

Avenue to 15th Street, cross the street, evme back to.90;.-..-17th Street,

cross, and back. The girls walked in the opposite direction.

G: (chuckle)

J: 6E. so we would get to see the girls constantly everytime we walked a few

blocks and back and forth you'd get to see the girls andZe.a" and this was

it. All we did was walk and they would walk. I never ever remember seeing

anyone smooching. Yd know, ft -. get a girl and they'd walk in arm and .....

The boys never walked with the girls, never went off and smooched with the

girls. It was just an opportunity to see em and if you liked a girl and

she liked you from school you got back and forth. And then

we'd walk home. Around 9:30, 10:00 the shops close and t we would walk

on home. We'd stop at Lililo's and have ice cream or we'd stop someplace

and get someAof pastry to \ Many times right in front of the

__on 16th Street there's a place called "The Express Buffet"

and we would go in there and get ice cream, lady fingers, and I remember

I used to love those lady fingers.

G: (chuckle) j2g e'.wt i.-iq. What were the hot spots on 7th Avenue? Any

particular restaurants, nightclubs?

J: There were no nightclubs that I remember of any kind.

Hills Co 17A -18-

G: Right.
J: No nightclubs of any kind and we never went to the restaurants y/ know.

G: Right.

J: We want to walk around 7th Avenue.

G: Right.

J: Just....... I guess it takes up from the old customs that every town in

Italy or in Spain had squares and apparently, on Saturday nights all the

people from the town and around in the rural area would walk around the

fountain or the park in one direction and the girls in the other and it

apparently picked up here and so far as I remember, it happened all of my

life until the war broke out in 1941.

G: Yeah. Were most of the restaurants tdt. tiny affairs? I mean, were there

really elegant restaurants like the Columbia then?

J: The Columbia was there.

G: Or were most of them family style?

J: That was very elegant.

G: It was?

J: They...... Ahe kids ... none of.... Yt know?

G: Sure.

J: You just didn't walk into the place. It was an elegant restaurant and

was another restaurant. -It at'-tp.-. When I was

a kid it was upstairs.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: And was not on the corner. It was little 14-f block upstairs over Molly.

MVX' Molly Music Store is.

G: Mmm hmm.

Hills Co 17A

J: There's a bowling alley where Mollys at and a furniture store afterwards.

And tW% but there were tons of tiny little restaurants. Way more than there

is now. _was fte was a

place where you.-Ec- whee@y9 rcs get sherbets, not ice cream, but sherbets

and it was packed all the time. ftSb

G: A lot of people still lived around,.v--B, in the area?

J: Well the whole area was...... Yeah.

G: Right.

J: Jh'-.it's hard to believe but we never locked our doors.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: We have a very friendly neighborhood. VI1 I woul rCoa-e on 12th Avenue

between 10th Street and Nebraska and ,v\crot 1-t^ house. And it was a

mi a-;;,. mixed neighborhood of Spanish, Italian, and Cuban. Ja-r vo$-S aroc-

Ir p -c \o ., and we lived in tons of kids and we lived in each others

house constantly. I could go running into the front door anybody's home to

the kitchen, get a glass of water, run outside and play, and we played out

in the streets constantly.st-7e cause we had a.-*..;a-paved street. jtr a mixture

of like asphalt and something that made it look like concrete and it wasn't

bricks and we could play games on it. We could roller skate on it, we could

do all kinds of stuff on it. And we had a..a street weh kids

from the other street where they had bricks and you couldn't play out there.

You could roller skate out the sidewalks but not in the streets. They would

come down there........ We had an army troop. We had games at night, j*a, all

kinda wild games.

G: Right.

J: Then when I tell my kids they don't believe it. I mean we really..... You won't

believe the games that we used to have.

Hills Co 17A -20-

G: Yeah.

J: And all the kids were outside and all the parents were sitti:nut on the


G: Speaking of games, what was the role*.ts--t oa of sports in Y bor City?

J: The what?

G: The role of sports. I mean what didrt-ibat- dld sports represent.r- to irk,

4r young kids?

J: Until they built Cascade Park there was really no place for kids to play

sports except when you went to the high school and you participated in high

school activities....... football and baseball. 1j, they built _

Park. I mean not Park, I mean Cascade Park-at, in thet30s. It

was WPA Project when I was seven, eight years old.

G: Uh huh.

J: And so, I belonged, I played every summer softball there, I was on the team

every summer. ?*ye My god I wore out that pool swimming in the summer there

and 4q0A 1 ...

G: Mete'the. ..-. re eamS.o. How were teams organized?

J: The.:.. .' ., I've got to guess now but, I've got to assume that StCvr the

city recreation department or county recreation department utp hadc4. people

at all the playgrounds. UJft for example, not only did I....... Jou could

go also to dfqe Cascade Park but at Robert E. Lee you could have a big double

court for basketball. In the daytime they had counselors B,;..lbe the teachers

or something and then we had checker games and crafts. This is in the 30s now.

G: Mmm hmm.

J:*, ,- ., They entertained us. Y/ know all of. us would go down

and we'd play.softball, we played football without.......

Hills Co 17A -21-

G: But were they organized by.... id the Cubans tend to play on one team and

the Italian kids who....

J: No.

G: By the time your generation?

J: No / hhlE^i T^ew ien I was growing up sy it didn't

make a particle of difference.

G: Uh huh.

J: When I was growing up it. my parents y jnai never told me you can't cf g

,jUon ii and I don't know of any other parents that did.

G: Right.

J: This stuff all happened prior to 1930.

G: Mmm hmm.
4-b -
J: But the 1930s e A- I think ws-h all this bigotry between the Italian people
and the Spanish '_

G: Right.

J: JUt the resentment of any marriage in the present day l gone.

G: .

G: Were sports kind of a way out? I mean, like today, we typically think of

sports as a.A ..a ladder of upward mobility for blacks out of the ghetto.

Was it like thathki, in Y bor City?

J: No.

G: IV.tfe I'm not saying it was a ghetto but r.b you get the idea that.....

J: No, sports wasn't a way of getting out of anything.

G: Mmm hmmm.

J: Like let's say, New York in boxing. The four Irish boys, the four Irish-Italians

went to fighting as a way of getting up in New York, Chicago, and the big

Hills Co 17A -22-

J: cities. Ar. that wasn't really true uh 'ibi in ..s.i t Tampa and others

I remember and I used to go to the fights for Cubans and

the fights American Legion.

G: Were those big events then?

J: Yeah, they were huge. Oh god, i. Y:;iYSWno':jh4 it was just fantastic. I

hadj,< a babysitter, ,____ babysit or me since my grandmother

worked in the daytime, my mother and dad, they both worked.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: And a block away was a t very dear friend of my grandmother's from Spain
and they had the name Caster, they had a lot of children and one was a son

Max ui* who when I was six years old, was seventeen. He used to drag me

everywhere. UF.,e s my,..,. He'd take me swimming at _Park,

he'd take me swimming at Cascade Park, he'd take me to football games at

Plant Field. He'd take me everywhere. Take me to the fights.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: ,tAi;.he was like my babysitter.

G: Right.

J: AC\\ iL3\C00 and I loved him to death and he took me everywhere. 9

Qcdwsi;6 Big fellow taking me everywhere.

G: Yo ..,. You were born in twenftry-w so, yotrlh;.-.-~;n Prohibition ended in

t-Air4Tyi =t.. ,Whac,. What stories do you remember about ti bootlegging

in Y bor City?

J: )JIUr the only thing that I remember is when I was very young and-this has

garta be in the early 30s, is during election time.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: Cl. we had a precinct a block away and none of the kids were ever allowed out
"of the house cause they felt like there were so many problems
of the houseqbh cause they felt like there were so many problems y-^-7- ^P

Hills Co 17A -23-

J: V N4+ fights.

G: During the election?

J: During the election day. They had the precinct a block away.

G: Uh huh.

J: It was held at Anthony tax collectors father, he

was the dog catcher, that was his home and @ _____ in the garage

in back and there was so much problem with fighting and that the kid went

That's the only event that I ever remembered I was ever


G: Mmm hmm.

J: I was never prohibited from walking.

G: Right.

J: My sister, all the kids walked from home to 7th Avenue and back which ended

up in the I never remember a rape or even a mugging in my life.


G: Whf.Ct7.-ta-.- How do you react when people tell you well, a?% YAbor City
was crime infested, ya know __ and all these other things?

40e- How would you respond to that?

j: Well
as I see it now looking back and I try to see what they're looking at, is that

the fact that the Spanish, Italians, and Cubans were the participants in

playing what they believein. And as a result of their playing, mteK .<

they've emitted certain people to make a profit.
G: Mmm hmm.

J: And these people who made a profit were able to get enough money so that

time the economy, the 20s and the 30s and especially in the 30s, there being....

politicianss couldn't build roads and build buildings so they got their money

Hills Co 17A -24-

J: out of the illegal activities such as. let's say,

G: Mmm hmm.

J: And they were able to enter politics and manipulate the politicians and

9h1 the had a great deal of power. And i-c wv so many people that Vo' '

that they could get their family to vote for bti politician and so there

were very powerful political organization and.-rsard in that sense, I can

well understand now aSf how that would be so detrimental to a society. But

that the killings, yA know the twenty murders, whatever they are fifteen,

twenty murders that we had, that's never spilled over into the hooV.SC

I know of no 2_-^r an innocent bystander we*rwas ever shot except for

let's say for the wife or the chauffeur of one of the guys that was being

shot, that was a target.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: I remember one lady, [ 6c_ got shot when her husband

G: Right.

J: But no A know, never was there a shoot-out in the middle of the street

G: Right.

J: Tif they never bothered anyone. We didn't have an extortion _-d ----

protection, extortion, we never had any of that.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: 0FT there was never organizetaur prostitution where they take the girls out

of the homes and, yA know/and ctaislave'a-"

G: Mmm hmm. Right.

J: But the narcotics traffic, La I never remember it. You heard that some person

who smoked marijuana you thought that he was,-r y' know he was like filth.

Hills Co 17A -25-

G: Mmmm hmm.

J: When I was a kid yd know y_ know a guy who smokes marijuana
I / 7/__
you heard he was arrested for _*c__') I never remember any

G: Mmm hmm.

J: 9wyou never saw any. .s

G: Right.

J: You never saw it. S ever. Don't know of anyone who used it, didn't

know anyone that -bay e it, know anyone that sold it, wouldn't know where to

go buy it,.-^a teenager or an older person.

G: Right.

J: 4.-1^

J: It did not effect.... it just did not corrupt the people. They... they gambled

like in Las Vegas.

G: Mmm hmm.
J: like
J: like like Las Vegas is now except that it's illegal here

and legal there. Well, I'm sure that the casino is to a certain extent controlled.

The government of the /ity of Nevada 7 controlled

our city government.and county government. Now whether that was good or bad,

I don't know.

G: Right, right.

J; 't peolgI know if it was bad. br Ta. r....

G: Mmm hmm. -YarL ree- You were still a.y.or young -yD'oftg boy when the

Depression ....

J: Hit.
G: H*( hit. eBh most people et _-Cr in 1941,vwete- How did the Depression

effect your family and I A more generally, Y bor City?

Hills Co 17A -26-

J: Uh....

G: Were you aware that there was a Depression?

J: Only cause the people were saying it and s^ let's say in 1936 I lSsame

Ty Y S \ *I0 I didn't get anymore than any other kid in the

neighborhood although, lIsf feel like maybe dad could've afforded it.
G: Mmm hmm.

J: t;, but we went to the movies. Every kid got either a nickel or dime, something

to drink, ectF get em in the movies. 9- all of us had our dime. There

were no empty houses in our area. There were no houses that were foreclosed.

All the fathers were working and we had people in every walk of life We

had the cigar factory worker, people that worked in stores, that owned stores,

that had grocery stores, that worked in grocery stores. f*'Vi I think that

our neighborhood represented just about every person y know, just .-w-all walks

of life of sor- of our community. And no one was hungry. Very few people

had cars. Kids got good toys. No oneO' had holes in their shoes.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: We weren't ragged and .,e, 'ir no one talked bad about how poor

anyone was. Everybody ate well. I don't remember 4-lP.bread lines, I don't

remember any soup lines in Ybor City.

G: Right.

J: I'm sure there was unemployment, I'm sure there were people that were having

financial trouble just like they're having now and I'm not aware of it.

G: Right, right.

J: And there were big families. May make fifteen dollars a week and support five

or six people in the family. But they didn't go anywhere. They didn't do


G: Right.

Hills Co 17A -27-

J: They'd sit on their porch. They didn't need it.

G: Yeah.

J: And )i c .9' "' than we do now.

G: Yeah. December 7, '41, what do you remember?

J: I was at the Columbia restaurant having dinner with my family in December.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: .And dty another family Dr. Ddmingus who's still alive.

G: Doctor who?

J: Dfmingus.

G: Uh huh.

J: Ui; Dr. Dlmingus. He's retired now. H's. __ lM-l s and the two

families and all the kids were at the gate and one of the waiters came running

in saying that war had broke out, we'd been attacked. And all of us ran out

to the car and on the car radio. And we sat out in the car listening to the


G: Hmmm. ie l;', Well, do you remember what your father said then? What were

your own reactions being fifteen? -Ti ..

J: UI5 I was hoping that ttp^t;t the war would last long enough so I could go

into the service and be a flyer.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: I was all excited to go to war and I was all excited that.... I just hoping

uoCci^ '4 [(C U before I could enlist and become a flyer.

G: M4m hmm. h

J: I used to ride my bicycle all the way down +0 -c' to see the

planes D0- o.

G: Right, yeah.

J: All the time.

Hills Co 17A -28-

J: And I enlisted

G: -Wu.e;7--uv. You did enlist?

J: I did.

G: Yeah.

J: My dad was on the draft board and I was g let him draft me anyway.

G: -WE How did the war effect Y bor City?

J: M1hy I was gone.

G: You were in school.r"

J: I went to college and I was just gone.

G: Oh right. Right.

J: Well I went to military school.

G: Oh, uh huh.
i c-$ 1q.
J: -Sxt-n -and- e a- I graduated from high school, I went to military school

in Atlanta, Georgia.

G: Oh.

J: So I was gone.

G: Mmm hnm.

J: And -ipitthen I went into the service and then I came out and I wentAt1Wei...

Before I went I went to went in

the service and came out of the service and went to University of Florida

and I didn't come till (qg r
A SC-"
G: It must've been..... It must've seen worlds apart being in a structured

military environment with all men. '1Q looking back, how do you see .z%, Y bor

City having shaped your early life?

J: Well......

G: Compared maybe the other military......

Hills Co 17A -29-

J: Wasn't the'military environment of the service, it was my prior education in

military school. And I went off to military school and we had breakfast at

6:30 in the morning and I cT1e never had in all my life, I had never even had a pork

chop in my life, I'd never even seen one. I'd never seen fried ham, I had never

seen bacon, I had never eaten an egg for breakfast ever, never had ceral, and
I'd had coffee and milk and usually a piece of x, long pire of bread toasted

and buttered and I'd dunk it and I'd eat it. That was my breakfast everyday

of my life. And all of the sudden then having breakfast at 6:30 with grits

that I didn't even know existed. With chopped bacon, eggs, and what I called

American coffee and I was shocked. First of all,

my grandmother told me that if I ever ate a pork chop, I was goaa get sick.

G: Jv^,e.

J: Trichinosis and _which s, .e YL know it's a health.,y Ya know

for health reasons like most of the Jewish laws about being kosher. They're

really hell.

G: Yeah.

J: And I had never in my life even seen a porkchop.

G: Hmmm.

J: And that rocked me but I survived that for two years and so of course when I

went to the service I had already outlived it. But I suffered the first few

months that I went to military school because these kids y know how they

eat bacon and eggs and good god I couldn't. (chuckle) -Iws-.. I used

to get milk and try to color it with American coffee and dunk the toast in

it and that's what I would eat for breakfast and all the kids eating grits and

bacon and ham.

Hills Co 17A -30-

G: Well most of them must've been Anglos surely.

J: Almost all of em.

G: Yeah. Did you see yourself as different?
J: About ninety-nine and ninety-nine of em. No. UIj-y know I could speak

English well. There were some kids from Cuba for example, and a couple of

South American countries who spoke English very poorly and they caught hell

yAknow. Some of em were little fat boys and they'd been pampered to death

all their life and .-y.anQ they used to get picked on. I was never picked on.

G: The perceived you as being a ror or anything like that?

J: Yeah. No. No, I never had any splurgeff- I never have a problem in my life.

G: O-.. well vOduf-'-e.. -t'fe'.L. I'm gonna check this. "Q.K-. Y.-g5 .
-- I :5 I
You came back to Yibor City in fift-ene. What i.." .Whfttt. What difference did

you see?

-. -
G: In the Tampa you left or the YYbor City you left and the Yibor City you returned


J: The area had deteriorated tremendously and people started...... Like we moved

out in 1950 out of Y bor City. My family did and then moved over to _

Estates and *gu the area just started ...... The housing weren't being kept

up. It was deteriorating real real fast and the people that were living

in YFbor City &a the real folks because all the kids had gone to.... in the

service and had gone to college with me. And if you wanted to take

advantage of the G.I. Bill/you could get tremendous blessing for all the....

they all had the opportunity to get an education real quick and very inexpensive.

And we all came home and none of us came to live in Ylbor City or as I call it,

West Tampa which is just like Y4bor City to me.

G: Right, right.

Hills Co 17A -31-

J: And the area just deteriorated and the blacks started moving in real quick.

G: Mm hmm.

J: And a houses were being sold real cheap and ir the people were just stuffing

tons of families into ) i ._and- housing Just

seeing the houses fall apart. Then Urban Renewal came in in early 60s and

just cleaned out the place. They had no plans for redevelopment of Ygbor

City. Thei' ?. I called it an abortion. They 1r- t rMh<-cI.

G: Could it have been saved? Could Ydbor City have been saved?

J: 4 yeah a lot of the people like when you take my units or my wife's aunts

who wanted to stay where they're at. You knew where the store was at, the

cleaning, you had everything right around yt. Drugstore. And they would've

stayed there and iA just a matter of the government had to put together a plan

where they'd taken one block at a time and figured out a proper way to redevelop

it a-givK the- They're pulling away now like mad.

very 04 redevelopment. tft-r-.. They're just throwing money away.
But they could have bought these people's home and bought the lot, give han

4o-r t -c a to rebuild a small house.

G: Right.
J: They couldn't afford.... Ya know you can't..... hey give you $6,000.00 for
the house and a new house is gonna cost you fifteen. AiAt no way. YA know

they're living on social security. AE"

G: Do you see any-r-.Aniyvillains in this Z c -j- s-drama that ruined Yjbor City?

J: Politicians are idiots. The-h' tvels They get carried away and $ X yf

know some people profitted. But they displaced hundreds of people who

lkSS- all four aunts would've been just.... In'fact, they used to scream and

yell. /f I used to discuss it with em how it was impossible for them. Yl know
they werestay there.
they were a stay there.

Hills Co 17A -32-

; G: Mm hmm.

J: Build em... And they wanted little houses. (C ^o\,' you gotta have

a 200-foot lot y kno1 and a 1200 square foot house and you have to have a

new zoning.

G: Is there any key factors I mean, fir5 y, that in this deterioration of Y bor

City? Any one factor that you could put your finger on?

G: Or any one factor that might have saved Y/bor City?

J: Well, first of all, like when the government cos Cre3"nJ and they're

building so many safeguards into the laws to try to prevent corruption, trying

to keep people from profitting and getting money that there was so much fantastic

beauracracy, so much fantastic red tape that it was almost impossible to do

anything without going through tremendous amounts of channels and a lot of

planning and a lot of procrastination and everyone was constantly coming up

with) y know some people visualize.... ..vision things that were unrealistic.

A wall city, a trademark. Y know just tons of things that they would

have enough power to screw up everything/ y know and so that eFtte simple

projects just couldn't get off the ground. I can give an example. I drive in

right here on 8th Avenue. It took us four and a half years to get Urban

Renewal to sell that little piece of land. And we were dying because there

was no way for us to expand our Ive a facilities and we had one drive-in.

On Friday nights the cars used to back up all the way past 20th Street.

You'd at least have to wait thirty minutes in line and it was killing my customers.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: Just killing us business-wise. Four and a half years to get Urban Renewal to

allow \ to sell it because that property had been zoned for entertainment

Hills Co 17A -33-

J: and tourists zone. Part of the city or that wouldn't even

Just wild things. Just people come up with ideas and they have enough political

pull in getting the zoning put in and then no one can do anything (f Ar C.

G: When you look around Y bor City today, what do you think? W y.

J: It's a tragedy. For sure.

G: Mnm hmm. And (&, what .*-<'hat about the future? Where does YAbor City go?

J: Chb-ner^a never come back. The days of this being a Spanish area anymore

than a French Quarter is ever going to be a French Quarter with French people

in it. Forget it.

G: Right.

J: It's a honkey-tonk. It's a tourist trap, y know. And Yfbor City can not make

it as long as Y4bor City is situated where it's predominate black surrounding

it. And some of the highest crime area is the Nebraska Avenue projects-_ rcQl

about in the paper. The 22nd Street projects down around Lake Avenue, these
are the highest crime areas.

G: Sure.

J: I mean it's really bad news.

G: Right.

J: I'm not scared of it but I can understand why so many people are scared. So

you cannot get into YAbor City unless you come in from the north and no one

can use 22nd Street. No one will use Nebraska and Tampa l 4i- s which is

now solid black. No one can come in from downtown to the Nebrask'area and to
14th Street because it's all solid black. And you can't come off of Adam

or make a left hand turn east bound because it's prohibited: all the way.

Now you'd have to do loopity-loops, go down towards Palmetto Beach, when you

finally get to 19th or 21st and you come back down another street and there's

only three streets available, 19th, 22 e,- 21st and 22nd on one of those streets.

Hills Co 17A -34-

J: It's only really 21st...... (End of side one) This is not to be derogatory

about the blacks, don't misunderstand me. H^ I'm sure that the Anglos are just

as scared of the Italians and the Cubans and the Spaniards aZW their first

n-e____ Y know when you have something that you're not used to and

not comfortable with, you're just scared of it. It's a natural instict
We opened up Adam and we have a branch on Adam 4. and 21st, four blocks

from here and just to give an example, we have the largest growth in the history

of this bank in the last two years. Just surpassed anything we've ever had.

J34 amounting because we opened that facility. Ninety-nine people. The first

year and a half we had a profile sheet of every new account we opened. Ninety-

nine out of a hundred people. Cause I hate to say 100 of 100 but really I

should say that lever have been to Ybor City.

G: Is that right?

J: Never, have never been to Ytbor City. Have never crossed Adam north bound

on either 17th, 19th, 21st, or 22nd. Never drove in Y bor City.

?: Do you believe that? (faded voice in background)

G: Yeah.

J: Never heae driven just to see what the hell


G: So you're pe imistic whether YAbor City can ever come back. can it
Zn -
go ci1, deteriorate any further? I guess that's the question.

J: It can't. It cannot deteriorate any further 0, but it can never be a Spanish}

Italian, or Cuban residential colony. It's gone. The zoning has ,^ did that.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: The zoning prohibits from single family dwellings, it prohibits multifamily
dwellings 4tZ/, to go in. Again, I believe that the reason that was put in

Hills Co 17A -35-

J: to those laws eventually in one way or the other and why those prohibitions

were there is to keep probably white people from building rinky-dink concrete

block historic buildings and moving tons of blacks into the area.... and then

really iii' Y bor City forever. At least that was their feeling and

their thoughts, that they would lose it forever. Whether it's true or not,

I don't know.

G: .iAxAk? Right.

J: And so you can only have commercial stuff going through Ybor City now.

G: Right.

J: And eventually, they have the junior college, they now have the sheriff complex,

we have the environmental protection place. I personally believe that there is

nowhere4e, in the city that you could buy land, vacant land, for the price

that you could buy this land to be so perfectly, totally,/ e centrally, situated

to everything.

G: Right.

J: I think. I've got to think it's the most valuable thing there is for private

industry. We bought the whole two blocks behind us.. t@ by December develop

it into a new bank and close this one down. We just bought it so we could

control it and when the county was thinking about the sheriff complex two and

a half years later we submitted it and we agreed to sell it back to the county

for exactly what we paid for it and absorb the interest and tax investment,

everything. &,T so to encourage it we sold em that whole thing for $103,000.00.

Four and a half acres. You cannot buy four and a half acres nowhere for yf know

less than $25,000.00 *bR an acre. You can't buy a lot for $25,000.00.

G: Right, right.

J: And a -aa- that's the only opportunity that's available. .

Hills Co 17A -36-

J: And again, you've go t get people to deliver the idea that you've goJt go

through the blAck areas. Tampa Heights is all black)l, and you have

G: Mmm hmm.

J: Blacks and it's black everywhere and all this is black. This is go cw have

a hard time developing for anything although it's perfect in idea.

G: Yeah. Whate s. What do you think historians will remember? Or if you

had a great-grandson listen# to this fifty years u4 in just a w-14 capsule

summary? W gPO:r. What was Y4bor Cityg,, when you.-IrefO were a young

man and when your father was a young man?

J: It was crime-free except for the ganT-a killings, it never spilled over to

the population.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: There wast.L,1 mrSP-a s absolutely no extortion, there was..... it was a happy,

happy, happy place where people lived outdoors. 4I, people walked up and down

the streets, _- people were always er the porch every evening watching

the kids play down the sidewalks and the streets. These kids were happy. I never

knew of rapes or wegst the doors to their homes were open. There were totally

and absolutely... /,Jhere was no fear, I mean absolutely no fear that you were

"ga get hurt out in the streets at any hour of the day.

J: Parents were totally...e, they just didn't worry that anything was 'Tn happen

to their daughters or their sons. And it was a very happy happy place, we didn't

have the affluent..... the affluency that we have now. Everybody didn't have

cars. /o going to the beach was a ;i 'exciting thing. Everybody

drive their

G: Right.

Hills Co 17A -37

J: Going shopping was a great thing.

G: Right. One question I forgot to ask you. WHTnii,W-ih-- How

much influence did churches have? Catholic church in Ybor City?

J: Church? 6ft-: at the beginning it was very influential because it was a

parochial school and all the parents who could afford it would send their children

to the parochial schools. Twelve years ago, a well run school by the nuns.

G: Mmm hmm.

J: 4V (mumbles and can't understand) and I think it was a very good influence on

the children and it kept the families together and mothers and fathers liked

all their kids icm. very very good good...

G: Would men go to church?

J: Yes.

G: Immigrant men went to church, right.

J: Not like they did today. Women went to church every night.

G: B;e. (chuckle)
J: YA know they lived..... U r at lunch time g<, they lit a candle for everytime
they sneezed and a little misfortune and yd know they lived.... the women lived

in church.

G: Mmm.

J: TV ,-Q^not live in church.

G: Right.

J: church. My daddy was a' CAJ4-_ _..

G: Right. Have I missed any major points, any that you can think of?

J: No.

G: Anything else to add?

J: They'll never come back, neither in this city or any place else in this country

Hills Co 17A -38-

J: and they're probably being lost all over the world because of the elevation

of standard of living for everybody.

G: Mmm hmm. Right.

J: ij and people think that that's where happiness is at, by elevating

the standard of living. They don't know how.-gq good it is down/ to be

down UIcjj with the earth.
G: Right. Thank-you very much, Mr. Grim ldi. I appreciate it.

(End of interview)

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