My job often involves sorting through old documents, whether I'm looking for information on Palmetto's historic district, checking out old grant applications, or researching long closed businesses.
I often come across information compiled by Palmetto historian Alice Myers. These reminders of Alice make me miss her even more than I usually do. Hardly a day goes by here at the park without something occurring, making me wish I could pick up the phone to ask her a Palmetto history question. Odds are good that Alice would have known the answer!
Speaking of odds, in digging though files, I came across research Alice did on the Palmetto City Lottery. Yes, at one time, Palmetto had a city lottery! One of Alice's sources in researching the lottery was her mother, Eloise Myers. Eloise told her that this all happened in the mid-1930s.
According to another source, the lottery lasted about a year and the drawings were held at the Palmetto's Farmers Market on Eighth Avenue. The Farmers Market was also used for gladiola and produce sales. You could purchase a ticket for 10 cents or $1. A 10-cent ticket paid the winner $7, the seller $1 and the City of Palmetto $2. The $1 ticket paid the winner $70, the seller $10 and the City of Palmetto $20.
There seems to be some debate as to how the city used its profits. Some seem to think the money was to be used to build a farmer's market and others believe it paid the city's bills. Either way, the winnings were a far cry from today's state lotteries.
The lottery was a social occasion. The city band played for about 20 minutes before the drawing. So not only did Palmetto have a city lottery, it also had a city band!
Alice's notes mention Mr. Victor Guthrie who lived across from the waterworks/fire station/jail -- now the location of Manatee County Agricultural Museum. His home would have been at the back of Sutton Park. Mr. Guthrie recalled that one of the band members was Hudson Colwell. Mr. Colwell's main instrument was the French horn, but he also played other instruments.
His city band not only played at the farmer's market, but the local musicians would sit out in front of the city jail, right beside Victor Guthrie's home, and play their instruments. These musicians were serenading not only local residents, but presumably jail inmates.
Apparently there were also illegal lotteries in the city. Even Alice admitted to winning $17.50, betting a quarter on the football score by which Palmetto beat Bradenton! Alice's bet wasn't placed until 1946, long after the end of the city lottery. The illegal lotteries led to the demise of the city lottery. The city had to crack down on the illegal gambling and so officials felt that it was inappropriate for the city to be in the gambling business.
The lottery was a short-lived thrill for Palmetto residents, but I'm willing to bet those were pretty exciting evenings at the Palmetto Farmer's Market.
Amanda Polson, Palmetto Historical Park supervisor, grew up in Palmetto and feels historic because her high school annual is part of the museum's permanent collection. Mandy can be reached at email@example.com or 941-723-4991.