CARROLLWOOD – It started as a labor of love for Josh McMorrow-Hernandez.
He started out on a search to find the real Carrollwood. Books have been published about most of the historic towns in the Tampa Bay area, but nothing on Carrollwood. Surely somebody had to have some photos or some memories of Carrollwood past, right?
It wasn’t that easy, so McMorrow-Hernandez set off on a journey to document the history of Carrollwood. It culminated when he had his book, “Images of America: Tampa’s Carrollwood,” published this month. He scoured libraries, talked to the descendants of Carrollwood’s founders and came up with a trove of photos dating back more than 100 years.
He had plenty of help from his fiancée, or as he calls her, his “cheerleader,” Katya Weikel, his father, Rudy, and his sister, Kelly. The main inspiration was his mother, Susie, who recently passed.
It was a project that started whimsically, just wondering about the history of Carrollwood. A history buff, McMorrow-Hernandez had printed a couple of self-published books in the past – he learned he wanted to be a writer at a very young age – but decided to take a shot at the big time. He hooked up with Arcadia Publishing and spent 18 months digging for photos and stories.
McMorrow-Hernandez grew up in Carrollwood and spent much of his childhood in Northdale. He started writing at the age of 5 and said he knew, even at that age, that he wanted to be a writer. At 32, he has finally realized his dream of being a writer published by someone beside himself.
“I always had a knack for history and writing so I decided to combine them,” McMorrow-Hernandez said. “There was a story to tell and there was a need to tell it that wasn’t fulfilled. Nobody ever wrote a book about Carrollwood. I grew up here and I wanted to learn about my community.”
Carrollwood goes way back to the 1880s and has had several different names along the way, but it really became Carrollwood in 1959. If you check the book, you will see a Dale Mabry Highway with no strip malls or gas stations or fast food restaurants. It was 1959, the gas was cheap and the roadway was flanked by fields and farms where cattle roamed.
Obviously that has changed, and after spending an estimated 800 hours on his project, McMorrow-Hernandez said that it is interesting to show a Carrollwood that is completely different than it is today.
He is now doing book signings and may be doing radio appearances in the near future. He has aspirations to do a book on the history of Busch Gardens.