Oct. 16 marked the first of two days students from the University of South Florida would conduct interviews in Progress Village, Florida for WUSF, the school’s radio station.
Seated in a long, narrow room covered with art made by children, Linda Washington, President of the Progress Village Civic Council, spoke.
Washington told her own story.
She was born just outside of Tallahassee on Sept. 24, 1957, in a town called Quincy and moved to Progress Village in 1961. Washington still cherishes memories from her time there as a child.
Washington said one lady, the candy lady, had an impact on her life. She remembed the candy lady vividly.
“Mrs. Washington was the candy lady that lived next door to me,” Washington said. “It’s nice to have someone in the neighborhood that still provides those little sweets.”
The candy lady was a welcome sight because stores were few and far between Washington said.
“Having a candy lady next door to get a frozen cup or penny cookies, that was ideal,” Washington said.
Washington said that she was on only child for 16 years, so being able to go out in the community and play really met something to her.
Bad memories proved hard to recall but Washington shared her memory of the storm that tore through the village in the mid ’60s.
As she grew up, Washington had many ideas as to how her life would unfold.
” Well I thought was going to be a teacher for the longest because I used to play school in my bedroom,” Washington said. “So I really thought that I was going to go to college and become a school teacher.”
Washington notes the happiest moment of her life was having her daughter. Before her daughter, she married and moved away from Progress Village, to Bloomingdale, Florida. Several years later, she and her daughter returned.
“You knew almost the entire community whether it was through church, school or just, you know, activities that took place in the community,” said Washington. “I was raising a daughter and I knew that I would have a support structure with my parents living in the community.”
Washington’s return to Progress Village occurred in a way that was almost too good to be true. There was a home available.
“It was on a Christmas Eve,” Washington said. “I’ll never forget it, and that’s what started the wheels rolling, like I’m going to move back to Progress Village.”
After returning to Progress Village, Washington began attending meetings for the civic council. She said she enjoyed going, as she wished to be a part of the community. Attending regularly earned her the spot of President.
“I started going to the civic council meetings, and at that time, Mr. Kemp was the president,” Washington said. “And so, for the 2011 elections I was voted president of the civic council.”
Although she was hesitant to take on the position, because she was working full time, Washington accepted and has not looked back. Washington led the community after the storm of 2011.
“I never knew about storms like that,” Washington said. “There was a lot of devastation, and it was all material things. No loss of life.”
Washington could recall what that storm was like.
“March of 2011, we had tornadoes that hit Progress Village, and that was a lot of damage to homes,” Washington said. “I mean, it was pretty destructive because there were several tornadoes. It wasn’t just one that hit.”
In addition to making sure Progress Village recovers when tragedies occur, Washington also works to organize the town reunions.
“Every 10 years or so we have our reunion and that is unique in itself,” Washington said. “This is a community reunion, where people come back and share in the memories of what it was like living in Progress Village, and that’s always fun.”
As a leader of Progress Village, Washington credits the former president of the civic council with teaching her to successfully carry out the role.
“I have to say that, our past president, Mr. Kemp has been very influential in my life,” Washington said.