A Partial and Unauthorized History of the Clearwater Beach Association
Written by Anne McKay Garris
The Clearwater Beach Association is Clearwater’s oldest civic association. In 1944, when the CBA was begun, Clearwater Beach was sparsely settled with waterfront homes. A few businesses and a couple of “tourist courts” were scattered along Mandalay Avenue. The few permanent residents decided to start an organization to “look after things in the neighborhood,” or, as one member commented, “Because there wasn’t much else to do.” At this time Island Estates was a string of mangrove islands in Clearwater Bay, and Sand Key was an uninhabited island, accessible only by boat.
After World War II the CBA backed their own candidate for City Commission as the island began to be developed. Because, at that time, Clearwater itself was sparsely populated, Clearwater Beach could be sure of an influence at City Hall.
Shortly thereafter, the CBA successfully sued the City to stop the leasing of city-owned land for a high rise hotel at the island’s entrance, where the Roundabout now is. The rent was to be $10,000 a year for 99 years.
Then CBA went on to lobby for a civic center on the disputed entrance land and collected $25,000 from the community residents and businesses, in pledges of $25 and $50 amounts, to furnish the center, which housed an auditorium, library, police office and welcome center. Later CBA lobbied for a recreation center on Bay Esplanade. CBA volunteers staffed it for years until the City was ready to provide the staffing. Meantime the CBA held fish fries, political rallies and other functions to raise money for the Center.
Then they started the church! At a CBA meeting in 1949, a Canadian Winter Visitor, named Nora Atkins suggested that the children of Clearwater Beach needed a Sunday School, so the island needed a church. The CBA president invited anyone interested in starting a church to talk with Mrs. Atkins after the meeting. A committee was formed and, in 1952 the Chapel-By-The-Sea was built on “the most valuable piece of land on Clearwater Beach,” according to Francis Skinner of Dunedin, who donated the land for the church.
When developers proposed to pump up the land around the mangrove islands in Clearwater Bay, the CBA was mostly in opposition to the move, concerned about clarity of the water and destruction of fishing holes, not to mention traffic congestion on the Memorial Causeway.
Later, however, when a bridge to Sand Key was built in order to allow that strip of unpeopled sand to be developed, the CBA did not take a stand.
It has never been all work and no play for CBA members who have enjoyed Christmas parties, boat parties and, once, a Croquette event with players dressed in the requisite white outfits.
During the 50s and 60s there was an annual “day at the races” when CBA rented a Greyhound bus to carry members to the dog races in Tampa.
Two traditions were established during this period. Incoming presidents were “hatted,” the first one being Don Winner who was crowned with a paper admiral’s hat, made from a copy of the local weekly, Beach Views. Over the years, the hats became more creative. Two years in a row incoming presidents were hatted with battle helmets in recognition of a continuing fight with City Hall over zoning issues.
The traditional “People Bingo” which still encourages interaction among party goers has been a longstanding feature at the CBA annual meetings and holiday parties, as members sign their names in the blocks to be used for Bingo calling.
In the seventies, CBA successfully lobbied the City for tennis courts, and the replacement of the swimming pool. Members decorated trees at the Marina for Christmas and sponsored Christmas caroling, participated in the Beach Blue Ribbon Task Force for planning for the Beach, and establishing of Sunsets At Pier 60, as well as influencing flood insurance issues and sand dune destruction problems.
In 71 years the CBA has worked diligently for the betterment of our community and the neighborliness of our residents and visitors. The current officers and members are still working hard to maintain the momentum.