Sunning in the Fort Harrisons backyard - 1932.
he Fort Harrison Hotel welcomed in 1930 and the new decade with yet another gala New Years Eve party. And fifteen seconds before midnight, old Father Time, complete with beard and scythe, made his way across the cleared dance floor. As the magic hour struck, the guests cheered as a winsome Miss 1930 was carried in on a palanquin supported by four costumed courtiers.
Next came the George Washingtons Birthday Ball in February, followed in turn by party after party; the Fort Harrison was doing its part in keeping the spirits of the snowbirds and the community high in the face of impending economic disaster.
By 1933, however, with 25% of the American work force unemployed and 40% of the nations banks failing, economic reality hit home in Clearwater. The tourist trade began to dwindle. By 1936, the traditional New Years black-tie bash had been reduced to a simple rooftop dinner. The hotel became more conservative in its promotion. Gone were the large newspaper ads extolling extravagant parties and the virtues of the hotel, replaced by smaller, modest announcements.
But despite less fanfare, the Fort Harrison continued to fulfill a morale-raising role in those dark times reminding visitors of the good old days and standing as a beacon of hope for future prosperity. The center of local high life, the hotel held fashion shows featuring local young beauties modeling the latest in beach togs, golf and tennis outfits, afternoon dresses, street clothes, dinner dresses and evening gowns. The Fort Harrison Hotel Orchestra provided musical accompaniment and all ladies in attendance were treated to tea after the show. Saturday night dinner dances were still held but now espoused benevolent causes, raising funds for charities such as the Upper Pinellas Branch of the Crippled Childrens Guild.
Through the 1930s, the Fort Harrison serviced its community, providing a center of gracious living during a troubled time. But with the country preparing for war it would soon find its role changing.
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