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Sunday, October 28, 2012


Rattlesnake was king, and antivenin was near, in 1930s Tampa
 
The sign says “Dignified — Fascinating — Educational,” all part of the allure of George K. End’s famous 1930s “Rattlesnake Cannery and Reptilorium” in Tampa, just east of the Gandy Bridge
 By Jeff Klinkenberg, Times Staff Writer
from-- tampabay.com
 Sunday, October 28, 2012
TAMPA -- George K. End, who was born in Wisconsin and educated in New York in the craft of journalism, became instead Florida's king of the rattlesnakes.

He loved everything about those Eastern diamondbacks, from their beauty to their danger. But more than anything, he was fond of their potential to grab headlines and add money to his bank account.

Catching them by the thousands, he sold their venom, hides, rattles and even their meat in a neighborhood he founded on the Tampa side of the Gandy Bridge in 1937. He called it Rattlesnake, Fla.
 
[Courtesy of An End McQuaig]
George K. End was purveyor of all things rattlesnake, from meat, to venom to purses and shoes. And fascination.

Like P.T. Barnum, the charismatic End was a natural-born promoter. In Rattlesnake, Fla., his thrilled customers included soldier boys from a nearby military base, bored sailors from the port and wide-eyed tourists. Their applause washed over him as he transferred buzzing 6-foot rattlers from a pit to the milking table.

Afterward, trembling spectators who purchased a can of creamed rattlesnake for $1.25 went home with a prized membership card to the "Subtle Society of Snake Snackers."

[Florida Photographic Collection/Department of State]
Jennie, like her husband, feared no rattlesnake. Here, in a Tampa field, she drops one from her catch-hook into a bag held open by a helper.

To the world outside the Deep South, rattlesnakes were a dangerous novelty like something out of an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel. And a daredevil like End was right up there with Frank Buck or Tarzan. End's name and handsome visage showed up in Time magazine. A local celebrity, he was frequently photographed in the Tampa Tribune with his son, Richard, stalking rattlesnakes among the pines and palmettos out back. His beautiful wife, Jennie, meanwhile, was pictured stirring sausagelike snakes in enormous pans.

He had tried to be a farmer once, in Central Florida before turning to rattlesnakes in 1931. "The rattlesnakes were more prolific than the crops I planted,'' he once told a reporter. Moving his snake operation to Tampa he took possession of a two-story building to house his famous "Rattlesnake Cannery and Reptilorium.''

It drew so many customers he eventually persuaded the federal government to let him open a post office. Folks all over the country soon learned to treasure the letters and mysterious packages that arrived on their frozen doorsteps bearing the coveted "Rattlesnake, FLA" postmark.
 
 [Florida Photographic Collection/Department of State]
George K. End’s first rattlesnake operation began in Arcadia in 1931.
Before long he would set up shop in a Tampa neighborhood he created, “Rattlesnake, Fla.,” and begin his operations. That included milking snake venom and serving snake meat to stouthearted tourists.
Now it's all gone, even the post office. Not a brick or even a plaque marks George K. End's old stomping grounds on the corner of Bridge Street and Gandy Boulevard. Automobiles hurry by on their way to Starbucks and CVS and Wendy's. As far as North America's largest venomous snake is concerned, Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are in short supply, too.
read more--
http://www.tampabay.com/features/article1257966.ece



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