Price Last Name History & Origin

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El Gaitero
© Carroll Straus 1996

He was tall, with dark wavy hair and a dashing mustache, and a slight Southern drawl. All the waiters inn the Cuban restaurant in Tampa -- and its sub-city, Ybor City -- called him El Gaitero. I called him Daddy.

Ybor City is a neighborhood with its own soul, a soul rooted in Cuba. In the fifties, it still held sway as the heir to the Cuban cigar tradition in Florida. But I know nothing of that. All I knew is that I loved my Daddy, I loved the Cuban food, and I loved to hear the waiters call him "El Gaitero -- I loved that they knew him, my charismatic father.

The waiters there were even older than he was, and had been there for years. There was a permanence then, and there, that I have not found in Los Angeles, nor anywhere else I have lived since those days. The walls of this venerable institution were painted with murals, and in those murals, there was one panel I still remember. A young man stood, with an air of eternal optimism, holding the drone of a Spanish bag-pipe under his arm. This picture had been painted by my father's friend Harry Bearss, and was the reason all the waiters know him, and called him the Bagpipe Man.

My father was one of the aves so rare today -- a man born and raised in Tampa Florida, and who lived most of his life there. Many of the old oak trees standing in Hyde Park were planted by his father, with his help, in the early 1900's. According to family legend, his father brought the first klaxon horn to Tampa. Back then, horse drawn carriages were far more common in town than cars, and another family legend -- a tale oft-told by my father as he played out his self-assigned role as raconteur, (or maybe shenachie) was of preventing a beating being administered to a hapless horse by its driver.

Even as a child I think I knew some of my father's tales were a wee bit tall -- but the times they described were real enough. And where ever he went, people were drawn to him, and that was enough for me. he was life itself, smiling, vibrant and handsome beyond words. The eccentrics he knew! Dick Willis, the orchid aficionado, who lived in the delightfully ramshackle and decaying mansion on the far side of the Alafia River. I could never find that place today, but the air of mystery-- and of relaxation of the usual dreary rules of adulthood --made it one of my favorite places. And every year at the orchid exhibit at the Hillsborough County Fair, Daddy and Dick would talk, and I would wish we could visit Dick at his house again.

All that is gone, now, as is my Dad. But I think of my father whenever I hear a bagpipe played. I miss him, and I miss the slower pace of life we all lived then Play on, old bagpipe man, wherever you are!
Oct 27, 2012 · Reply