Sarasota 1965

January 30 2014

Part of David of Sarasota, a silly undated film sponsored by the Sarasota County Chamber of Commerce, produced by LeRoy Crooks. Via Florida Memory, an initiative of State Archives of Florida. The 14-minute version has a clip of Toynbee, a charter faculty member of New College and in residence from December 20 (probably) 1964 until April 8 1965.

The College, an initiative of local citizens led by the Chamber of Commerce, had been founded in 1960. Toynbee’s appointment was announced October 5 1963 (St Petersburg Times, October 6, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, October 6). The College opened its doors to students in the fall of 1964.

The trustees had bought the former Charles Edward Ringling estate on Sarasota Bay and an area of airport land for the campus and were bequeathed the former home of Ellen and Ralph Caples.

Charles Ringling (1863-1926) of the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus was the older brother of John Nicholas Ringling (1866-1936). The Ringling Brothers Circus acquired Barnum and Bailey in 1907.

Near the campus is the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, John Ringling’s gift to Florida, “the museum the circus built”, with its bronze replica of Michelangelo’s David; on its property are the Museum of the Circus and the Asolo Repertory Theater, whose late eighteenth-century interior was shipped from Asolo, near Venice, in 1949.

We are shown the Ringling complex, and the Players Community Theater, Florida West Coast Symphony Orchestra, Sarasota Concert Band, Sarasota High School and its Sailor Circus, Emmett Kelly, Ben Stahl, Thornton Outes, Syd SolomonAl BuellJohn D McDonaldIrving Vendig, beach life and sport, Florida Ballet Art School and Hilton Leech Gallery.

Material from Toynbee’s New College lectures found its way into Change and Habit. From 1955 to 1967, Toynbee exploited the possibilities of the American lecture circuit. “Each time he used his host institutions as a base from which to travel far and wide in pursuit of additional lecture fees.” (McNeill) 

Tempting as it would be to call this post Bread from circuses, New College was not a Ringling foundation (though the Ringling School of Art was).

The lectures – one was on Food and Population – are likely to have been in the usual mould. Did these recycled talks justify the fees? And as McNeill asks, were his side-trips fair on his hosts, who were paying to have him on their campus?

Florida Memory is wrong in dating the film to “ca. 1950s”. It is 1965, though, admittedly, most of the time Sarasota looks as if it is stuck in a more than ordinarily complete southern time-warp.

Toynbee to Columba Cary-Elwes, February 24:

The students here (all 100 of them, all straight of out high school) are of a very high level, and are very much worth trying to help, but we don’t like this part of Florida. After Denver, where we were very happy, it seems un-genuine.

He had taught at the University of Denver in the last quarter of 1964. April 5:

Though the students at New College are good, in every sense, we shall not be sorry to leave Sarasota: you have here the worst side of American life: frivolity combined with militant conservatism.

Sunday April 11 1965 New College news release to Bradenton Herald (extracts):

“His three months here included:

“Seven major lectures to New College students and guests.

“Appearances on campuses in South Carolina, Tennessee, Gainesville and Miami, Florida [on March 4 he had spoken on The Role of the Generalist in the University Stadium, University of Florida, Gainesville].

“Weekly seminars with students.

“‘Bull Sessions’ with students after each of his formal lectures.

“Appearance with other world figures at the ‘Pacem in Terris’ conference in New York to discuss ways to achieve world peace.

“Broadcasts and telecasts on every major television and radio network at the time of the death of Sir Winston Churchill.

“Special appearance on the Today Show on the NBC network.

“Selected guest appearances, numerous dinners and social occasions.

“Completion of the manuscript for a new book [Hannibal’s Legacy].

“Aside from his public appearances and rigorous class and work schedule, Dr. Toynbee lived quietly with his wife in a home in the Uplands. They were often seen walking in the neighbourhood and the sight of the historian crossing the campus from his home to College Hall was a familiar one.

“Student recollections of Dr. Toynbee will always be of a man of great gentleness, unfailing kindness, simplicity in his approach to even great matters, and directness in his reply to even the most complex questions.”

He had been honest enough to share something of the feeling about Florida that he had expressed to Columba:

“Interesting was his comment that life in Florida somehow seems to be ‘unreal’. He explained that so many people now in Florida had formed their lives in different communities, had lived their working days elsewhere, and had then moved here attempting to begin another life, often a different way of living.”

It was becoming a state of migrants. Low taxes, air conditioning and the Interstate highway system had brought retirees from the Northeast, Midwest and Canada. The Cuban Revolution of 1959 produced a wave of Cuban immigration. There were Haitian and other Caribbean and Central and South American migrants. Since the early twentieth century much of the old African American population had been migrating to the north.

The black population of Florida had been 44 percent at the beginning of the century. It was still 16.5 percent, and Sarasota was presumably not a statistical exception, but you don’t see a single black face in the fourteen minutes of David of Sarasota. De facto apartheid will have added to the feeling of unreality. (Stanley K Smith, Florida Population Growth: Past, Present and Future, Bureau of Economic and Business Research, University of Florida, Gainesville, June 2005)

We have met Toynbee at that first, 1965 Pacem in Terris conference already: New York 1965: Ideology and Intervention (old post). If the audio links there and in Santa Barbara 1967, and the age of planning aren’t working, I hope to restore them.

To Columba, February 24:

I got back late last night from the Pacem in Terris Convocation (I was one of the speakers yesterday morning, [footnote: A.J.T.’s speech was the basis of “Change – Minus Bloodshed,” published in Rotarian 106, no. 6 (June 1965): 40-41.] with Senator Fulbright in the chair). The best of the chairmen was Barbara Ward.

According to the Online Archive of California, the event had ended on February 20. Fulbright opposed the Vietnam policy of the Johnson administration.

My main impression was that Pope John’s love and concern for his fellow human beings has broken through all barriers. Communists, Asians, Africans all spoke about him with affection and gratitude, and I am sure they were being sincere. This is one of those timely acts that cannot be undone. Pope John has “made history”, I should say, in the deepest sense.

He is referring to Pacem in Terris, the encyclical John issued on April 11 1963, a few weeks before he died. It made history because it was explicitly addressed not only to Catholics, but to “all men of good will”.

My second impression is that the American people are committing, pretty heavily, the sin of pride, and are thereby drawing on themselves the moral disapproval of the rest of the world. They are refusing to admit that they may have made a mistake [in Vietnam], that mistakes have to be paid for, and that America cannot be – and ought not to be – always 100 per cent victorious. The choice before them, and this in the near future, is either a compromise over Vietnam or MacNamara’s 1 to 7 million American casualties [where does he get that from?], but they do not seem to be facing the choice. Certainly they are not in our “blood and tears” mood of June, 1940. This is very disturbing in a nation which has mankind’s fate in its hands.

News release, op cit:

“Thursday the college officially bade the Toynbees farewell at a tea in their honor in College Hall. Students, faculty, and staff gathered in the Music Room and many of the College family found it difficult to move away from the historian after they had shaken his hand, reluctant to say goodby [sic] to this British couple who had been such a part of their lives.”

Reminiscences of his time there are in Sarasota Herald-Tribune, October 23 1975. He had a high opinion of the Florida students. He believed that the “bull sessions” and seminars were of more value to them than the lectures.

Christian B Peper, editor, An Historian’s Conscience, The Correspondence of Arnold J. Toynbee and Columba Cary-Elwes, Monk of Ampleforth, with a Foreword by Lawrence L Toynbee, OUP, by arrangement with Beacon Press, Boston, 1986, posthumous

One Response to “Sarasota 1965”

  1. davidderrick Says:

    Whatever the “unreality”, the Florida of that time, down to the Keys, must have been a seductive place.

    The Hispanic minority was still new in 1965. Since the mid-’90s it has become larger than the black minority.


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