McDonald’s was coming to Longboat Key.
Gulf of Mexico Drive’s speed limit was lowered to 35 mph.
A child and a peacock fought in the Village. (Breathe a sigh of relief: The peacock wasn’t injured.)
Those were a few of the headlines in the Longboat Observer’s first April Fools’ edition April 1, 1999.
Two days of phone calls followed the publication, including both complaints and kudos. Adding to readers’ confusion was the fact that April Fools’ stories were mixed throughout the newspaper with actual stories.
We received approximately 50 phone calls: Twenty-two readers praised the issue, and another 10 callers said they were relieved it was a joke. At least 13 readers called to say they weren’t amused.
“I hope your paper never pulls another dumb stunt like that again,” one reader wrote.
Fourteen years later, that individual has finally gotten his or her wish. We will never, ever write an April Fools’ story again.
After the inaugural April Fools’ edition, however, the Longboat Observer learned its lesson and started placing all fictitious stories at the front of the paper so they wouldn’t be confused with actual news.
+ The wheel deal
A group of pedestrians wouldn’t yield to bicyclists, causing a scuffle to ensue, according to the March 28, 1980, issue of the Longboat Observer. They did, however, make way for roller skaters and an elderly tricycle rider.
The incident showed that some rules of the road weren’t completely clear:
The law stated clearly that bicycles were vehicles. But what about roller skaters? Were they vehicle operators or pedestrians?
The article cited a law stating all bicycles needed an operating sound device and that tricycles were required to have the same equipment as bicycles. The article pointed out the law didn’t clearly state whether a whistle or a shout could technically be considered equipment.
+ Good old fashioned school days
On March 27, 1913, a school opened on the south end of the Key, according to Ralph Hunter’s “From Calusas to Condominiums.”
The location is unknown, but approximately 25 children attended the school until it closed in 1921 — the year a major hurricane destroyed most of the Key’s structures.
The next school on Longboat Key opened in 1937 on Linley Street in the Longbeach Village and served approximately 10 children.