The Sugar Palm Club
December 31, 1997 thru April 3, 1999

Introduction - Forward

There was a seed of greatness planted in Tampa’s Ybor City in 1997.  Having an authentic feel and movie atmosphere, the Sugar Palm was totally dedicated to one thing - Swing.  Most people who visited the Sugar Palm were acutely aware of something else in the aura.  It was subtle, but it was also good natured and passionate.  We were in the midst of a connection with what many call America’s Greatest Generation.  It made us feel good.  When the music played at the Sugar Palm that connection came to life.

We became aware of the life and times of the spirited American people in the 1930’s and 40’s who pulled together with such grace, took a stand for the greater good, and sacrificed so much more than their share.  Huge accomplishments that we have since taken for granted, like Democracy, Freedom and the American way-of-life were painfully earned through the punishing times and the tough decisions of this wonderful generation.  Our generation hardly gave it a thought. This era of people miraculously survived a Great Depression whose devastating effects lasted from 1929 through the end of the 30s for most of America’s families.  While there were only 132 million people in America at the time, 16 million of  them courageously fought in World War II  from December 1941 to August 15, 1945, accumulating 418,500 American casualties.  American citizens proudly supported them every single day with their thoughts, deeds, work and talents while suffering severe shortages and rations at home.

The most amazing thing also happened.  During the worst of times America still produced some of the most talented musicians, actors, writers, dancers and artists that have ever been.  The American spirit was stronger than anyone could have imagined.  You can see it in the movies and dances of the time, and you can hear it and feel it in their music. 

  During the 30's and 40's many thousands of people experienced the legendary Harlem Savoy Ballroom where Jazz, Blues and Swing inspired incredibly fun dances like the Lindy Hop and the Jitterbug.  Norma Miller, one of the pioneers of the Lindy Hop and the undisputed Queen of Swing, says, “Swing Dancing is the Salvation of the World”.  It takes quite a while to understand that, but when you find out about Norma, you recognize that she saw that dream come true in her life.

There is something that completely transcends bickery and bitterness in Swing Dancing.  Physiologically it changes the way you feel.  Could be the aura or the chemistry or the spirit of what created it.  In Ybor City, the Sugar Palm was the hub that attracted people of every race, color, creed, religion or willful lack-of- and no one cared.  After the music started it gave us our next breath of life and nothing else mattered anymore.  Customers were drawn into an alluring phenomenon that had a life of its own.  But it didn’t happen by accident.  There were certain key people that contributed, recognized and nurtured this club’s magic.  This series of chapters is about those people, the events, the venue, and the difference the Sugar Palm experience has made in the lives of a still expanding association of people.

           One thing is for sure.  You have to experience it to know it …and it sometimes takes a guide to get you to take that first step.   We are lucky to have Frank Katzenmeyer writing his memoirs about the Sugar Palm.  He, more than anyone I know, can make you feel like you were there with someone who knew what was going on as it was happening.  Many people could have passed on by without knowing, but meeting Frank at the front door was like having a Holy Instant.  His character and demeanor made you surprisingly aware there was so much more here than meets the eye.  It changed Frank, and it changed everyone who came inside and felt it.  He knew as they were building the place that the seed of something great was planted in our own neighborhood. 

 ~Carson
 

Back to the Story's Main Page