From Florida InfoGuide to Informational Tour Guide • St Pete Catalyst

Bob Marcus loves to talk to people. He loves history, St. Petersburg, and talking to people about the history of St. Petersburg.

He also loves to drive, which makes launching an extensive media tour of the region seem like a logical next step in the evolution of an eclectic career. Originally from Chicago, Marcus has enjoyed DJ stints on two local radio stations, cruise ship manager, standup comedy, and most recently the ubiquitous Florida Infoguide publisher.

After dealing with most of the daily InfoGuide—mixing local advertising with area facts, trivia, and maps—for nearly 30 years, Marcus is beginning to think about the next chapter in life. He said he considered volunteering at the hospital, maybe becoming a part-time DJ again, and then his eureka moment came.

So then I said, ‘Well, why don’t I do what I like to do? So, it all came together,” Marcus said.

Marcus, who was already a local history buff, said he began looking for books, videos, and anything or anyone who could increase his knowledge of the area. In the middle of the sentence, he cuts to himself to add another detail of the history of Fort De Soto that he forgot to mention a few minutes earlier – German U-boats patrolled the area during World War II, just nine miles offshore.

One of Marcus’ favorite stops on the tour – Fort De Soto State Park. It conveys a detailed history of the Civil War during World War II.

Marcos does this often throughout the four-hour tour of southern Pinellas. There are always more facts, more tidbits of information to impart and more personal insights and stories from my 40 years in the region.

“It’s like I’m a teacher,” he said. “It’s a great part-time party for me, but I think I should have done it years ago – that’s how much I love it.”

A few weeks ago, Marcus bought a luxury minivan and launched Bay Area Info Tours. The 2022 Toyota Sienna can carry seven people—Marcus would take at least two—and he’s paid for an upgraded audio system that offers intercom, letting passengers in the last row hear his story through an abundance of speakers.

He also chose a lustrous copper lacquer to distinguish himself from the regular black or white colors typically found on a touring car.

Marcus begins his tour by asking passengers to guess how many miles they will be driving that day. Whoever guesses the closest wins the prize. Then he heads off to Don CeSar, focusing on the love story between Thomas Rowe, who opened the hotel in 1928, and his love interest Lucinda.

Like Romeo and Juliet, the story is a romantic tragedy.

“(Roe) died of a heart attack right there in the hallway, and they claim there’s a Thomas Roe ghost – everywhere,” Marcus said. “And the people swear by God that they will see him in his white suit, and she wears her black dress near the fountain.”

This isn’t the only story in the tour that has a hint of the supernatural, and it’s all told with the kind of voice it sounds like intended for narration.

Marcus then heads down the palm-lined streets to the historic beach towns of Pas a Grill and Tira Verde, where he relays a story about August III’s part-time resident of Anheuser-Busch fame, or Gussie, as Marcus said locals called him. . Marcus said Bush would host celebrities and buy everyone rounds of beer at the local watering hole, calling it “the first Norm of the year.” cheers. ”

Next stop is Fort De Soto, where he leads a walking tour of the state park that offers panoramic views of the pristine beach, the Egmont Key Lighthouse, and an up-close look at the old barracks and artillery.

“The most shark-infested waters in Florida are here,” Marcus claimed. In fact, there was an ancient shark called ‘Old Hitler’. ”

Before heading back to St. Petersburg, Marcus and Parks stop along the shoreline as commuters gaze at the uninterrupted views of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge from afar. Marcus relays the tragic disaster from 1980, when a freighter collided with the original bridge, causing a partial collapse that killed 35 people.

Then Marcus pulls out a file—usually filled with copies of old historical photos of the places he describes—to show passengers what the new LED-lit bridge looks like at night. The photo is recent, with the Skyway line overflowing in yellow and blue to show solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

Egmont Key and its lighthouse, as seen from Fort De Soto. Marcus said the waters are full of sharks, including ancient sharks that local fishermen call “Old Hitler.”

Marcos hits every part of St Pete which makes the town unique. Charming neighborhoods like Roser Park – with its steep hills, creek and 19yCemetery Century – murals, micro breweries, pier and beach. There’s the historic Vinoy – and more ghost stories.

While he was clearly passionate about history, Marcus said he appreciates the city’s transformation in recent years. However, he said some of his friends bemoan the recent growth and sharp decline in the average lifespan of St Pete’s.

“Do you know what to tell them?” Marcus asked. “It is progress and it will happen.

“You can’t stay the same.”

Shortly after that statement, Marcus was driving near a small baseball field downtown. There, he said, the softball association is made up of players 75 and older who wear 1920s uniforms and get diamonds. “Some players are very good – one said he’s 90 and still playing,” he added.

The extended, detailed tour ends in Gulfport, a quaint and eclectic city that he said still epitomizes “Old Florida.” Marcus explains that the broad, grassy medians between many of the city’s roads were once home to trolley tracks, which carried commuters from St. Pete before automobiles spread. He said many locals had no idea.

As the tour draws to a close, Marcus said he’s trying to offer the riders a little bit of everything before interfering with his thinking with more trifles from the seemingly endless supply.

“I try to give them a little bit of history, the architecture, the ghosts, the frescoes — there are so many different things, and people don’t realize the history,” he said. “I mean Florida, I don’t know if you realize that – it was more than a hundred miles in the bay.”

For more information on Bay Area Info Tours, visit the website here.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: