Blog writing: Real estate

I haven’t posted any examples of real estate writing to this point, but I’ve done quite a lot of it, and here’s why: My wife Beth is a Re/Max real estate agent and she has a blog, I’ve written quite a lot of copy for that blog over the past few years, a lot of it under her name. Most of the blog stories have to do with fun or interesting things to see and do in North Pinellas County, where we live and where she works. As with all aspects of my life, I often find interesting or offbeat things to write about. If you just keep your eyes open, you will find all kinds of interesting stories and photo subjects. The fellow mentioned in this story made a big contribution to the war effort back in the 1930s, but he might have been forgotten were it not for a small brass plaque that I found one day while out for a walk.


Donald Roebling didn’t have to work, and he could trace that very good fortune all the way back to the Brooklyn Bridge.

Roebling’s great-grandfather, John Roebling, was the original chief engineer for the Brooklyn Bridge project, the construction of which began in 1870. But John Roebling was injured at the construction site and had to turn his chief engineer duties over to his son, Washington Roebling. John Roebling died of an infection related to his injury before the bridge opened to traffic in 1883.

Which leads us back to Washington Roebling’s grandson, Donald.

In the 1930s, Donald Roebling was living a comfortable life in Clearwater, Fla., where he had build an impressive estate on the shore of the Intercoastal Waterway. Then in his 30s, Donald didn’t need to work, but he did share his grandfather’s and great-grandfather’s interest in mathematics and engineering.

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, three powerful hurricanes struck Florida. Many people were injured and killed, and many others were left stranded for days and weeks because there was simply no way to reach them through the wreckage and the flooded ground. Donald Roebling read about all the hurricane-related carnage and decided to do something about it.

He had a modern, well-equipped machine shop built on the grounds of his estate; he hired a staff of workers; and he set about designing a vehicle that could travel on land was well as through water. Such a vehicle, he thought, could make it through deep water and over blow-downs, and could be used to rescue people should another hurricane come ashore in Florida.

The result was an ungainly-looking two-tracked vehicle with a large open compartment that could hold people or equipment. Roebling called it the “Alligator.”

Roebling thought the Alligator would make a dandy military vehicle, and he tried to sell that idea to the U.S. Government. Try as he might, however, he could not get anyone to listen to his story.


Donald Roebling’s Alligator

Finally, however, he did get a Life Magazine reporter to write about the Alligator, and that got things rolling.  Marine Corps officials saw the article and kicked the Life clipping up the ladder.  Before long, Marine Corps officials were in Clearwater, looking closely at Roebling’s creation.

They liked the Alligator and thought it would be great for transporting troops from ships onto beaches and then back again. The trouble was that the Marine Corps didn’t have any money that could be spent on research and development of equipment. That didn’t really bother the wealthy Roebling, however; he agreed to do the research at his own expense, and turn out a new version of the Alligator that might make a better application for military use.

Within a few months, Roebling’s newer design was approved, and Alligators were being manufactured in Lakeland for the Marine Corps. Not long afterwards, four factories were turning out thousands of the amphibious machines, which saw much action at Guadacanal and throughout the South Pacific during World War II. The machines also were used in Korea and Vietnam, and the modern military amphibious vehicles  in use today trace their lineage directly back to Roebling’s original 1930s design.

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Bringing a conference back home

In 2010 I attended the annual convention of the National Council for Marketing & Public Relations in Albuquerque on behalf of my then-employer, St. Petersburg College. Rather than simply soak up four days of seminars and conferences, I put together a WordPress blog (a bit like the one you are reading) and reported on each of the conference sessions so my colleagues back in St. Pete could benefit from them. (That blog is still up and you can see it if you want to). The following is one of the stories I produced at that conference. This isn’t an example of great writing, but rather an illustration of how journalism can contribute to institutional knowledge and expand the value of things like conferences and seminars.

Four culprits contribute to stalled growth

This session was presented by Steve McKee, a partner in an Albuquerque-based ad agency, McKee Wallwork Cleveland, and author of “When Growth Stalls,”a book that examines the hows and whys of a business phenomenon that many businesses, even successful ones, run into.

That sudden slowdown is just what happened to McKee’s own business just a few years after launch. The new company went through rapid growth and was even cited by a national magazine as being one of the fastest-growing new companies in America. But just a few years later, much of the air seemed to escape from the balloon, and McKee Wallwork entered a period of the blahs. McKee Wallwork remained busy, but the previously steep growth curve went flat.

As a marketer, McKee was not only worried about the sudden negative turn; he also was curious about the reasons for the sudden change, and he wondered whether other companies experienced the same slowdown after steep initial growth. He decided to do some research.

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