Pauline "Polly" Stinson Walther
First 'bathing beauty'
Her postcards helped promote Venice

Venice Gondolier Sun (FL) - Saturday, October 11, 2014

One of the most charming mementos of early Venice is the diary and scrapbook compiled in the 1930s by Pauline "Polly" Stinson Walther.

Appropriately, the book is now housed in the Venice Archives and Area Historical Collection in the Triangle Inn, which her parents, the late Lockie and William Baxter Stinson, owned from 1939 to 1946.

Polly Stinson died Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014, in Venice. She was 95.

Born in Yazoo City, Miss., on Feb. 16, 1919, she came to Florida with her parents at the age of 5, living first in Bradenton.

The family then moved to Nokomis and finally to Venice, where she and several high school-age girlfriends would pose in swimsuits for tourist postcards of the era that were used to promote the city and its miles of beach.

It was during those years that she created the diary and scrapbook.

Stinson began the diary on June 18, 1931.

"I started this diary because I had nothing to do all summer and which I think I will fill in during my spare time," she wrote at the top of the first page.

KMI Boys:

The 1930 U.S. Census population of Venice was 400. Instead of an influx of winter tourists during those days of the Great Depression, there was a slight increase in population with the post-Christmas arrival of cadets, faculty and staff of the Kentucky Military Institute from Lyndon, Ky., the prep school that wintered in Venice from 1931 to 1970

The good-looking teenager seems to have been as popular with the cadets at KMI as they were with her, judging by the number of dance cards and programs from KMI vesper services carefully collected and preserved within the pages of the book, which appears to have been bound for use as a business ledger.

Often, she was with her friends Trixie and Sugar. For example, from Wednesday, Jan. 3, 1932:

"I met three KMI boys named Jimmy Magenta, Phil Datillo and Fred Lippicci with my friends Trixie and Sugar Thompson. Jimmy had a red Ford."

On Jan. 6, there is a notation about going to the beach with Trixie and Sugar, where they met some other boys.

According to Pat Winegard, a friend from St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Sugar remained a friend until her own death in the area a few weeks ago.

Treasure Trove:

The scrapbook has hundreds of entries such as this, but the things Stinson collected help tell a more complete story about that era, and especially what it was like to be a teenage girl in Venice at that time.

Included are news clippings about school sports; telegrams from her KMI friends during their summer breaks at home; an envelope of cigarette butts belonging to Myrtle Davis; the Dec. 14, 1935, wrapper from a peanut butter and cheese sandwich made by Jacobs Cookie Company of Tampa; and the script of "The Whole Town is Talking," in which she portrayed "Ethel Simmons, a society girl and heroine."

The KMI dance cards seemed to grow fancier as the years progressed and the country, including Venice, recovered from the Depression.

A poster advertises a fishing tournament with an entry fee of $9. Stinson is pictured on the poster with several friends in swimsuits at the beach.

In a separate archival folder is her diploma from Venice-Nokomis High School, dated June 1, 1936. Wrapped in tissue and included in the same folder is the tassel
from her mortarboard. There were 16 in her class, Winegard said.

Later Years:

After graduation, Stinson married Frank Walther, a 1936 KMI graduate, and moved to Atlanta, where they lived for several years. She worked for the Internal Revenue Service.

After retirement, she traveled, eventually moving back to Venice.

She played golf and bridge and was an avid fan of football and the Kentucky Derby. She was active in the Altar Guild at St. Mark's Church and worked at the St. Mark's Thrift Shop for more than 25 years.

Son Frank (KMI  1962), his wife, Lisa, of Cranford, Colo., granddaughter Julia Paul and a great-grandson survive her.

There will be a memorial service at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 513 Nassau St., Venice, at 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 16.

Venice Gondolier Sun () , obit for Pauline "Polly" Stinson Walther - First 'bathing beauty' Her postcards helped promote Venice,)

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