Tampa Bay’s seawall master

Back in the late 1990s, I worked as a writer for the Tampa Bay Business Journal, covering the business of sports, commercial real estate and the local advertising and marketing business. It was a good place to work and I enjoyed my time there. I don’t really remember doing this story, but I do dimly remember that I used to drive by this place of business on my way to and from work.

Staff Writer

Bill McNamara wasn’t thinking much about docks and seawalls when he was installing chain link fences around schools and prisons in Philadelphia. But when he moved to the Bay Area in the early 1970s, he found there wasn’t much of a market for chain link fences here.

“There was no money in it, no volume, and it was too competitive,” McNamara recalled of his Florida chain link fence prospects. “It got old.”

He needed something else to do, but he didn’t know what. To fill in the time, he started doing some work for a Clearwater-based company that installed boat lifts.

“I just started putting in boat lifts,” said McNamara, whose McNamara & Son is now the biggest dock builder in the Bay Area. “We made one connection after another, and things started to grow for us, just like things were starting to grow for Tampa. I had to hire help, and soon we were doing everything. Before long, we were all the way at the top. We are bigger than anyone as far as residential stuff is concerned.”

“We” is really McNamara, his 36-year-old son Kevin, and a group of employees and subcontractors that right now stands at around 15 people. The 60-year-old McNamara usually stays close to the company’s offices on West Hillsborough Avenue. The younger McNamara can usually be found on one of the company’s barges, placing seawall material or overseeing dock construction.

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The man who married Norma Jean

I never thought that a move to Maine from Boston would lead to me writing about Marilyn Monroe. But in 1990, not long before I left my second tour with UPI, I heard that Marilyn Monroe’s first husband was living in Sabattus, not far from Lewiston. I found him, got in touch, and he was very friendly and willing to talk. Here is the story that resulted.


SABATTUS, Maine (UPI) – Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller may remember Marilyn Monroe, but James Dougherty thinks back to a schoolgirl named Norma Jean, who ended their marriage to become an actress, sex symbol and national obsession.

In 1943, the woman who was to become the nation’s favorite blonde bombshell was still Norma Jean Mortensen. She married Dougherty – her first husband – in their home town of Van Nuys, Calif.

He was 21. She had just turned 16.

“I never knew Marilyn Monroe and I don’t claim to have any insights about her to this day,” Dougherty said. “I knew and loved Norma Jean.”

A former Los Angeles police officer, Dougherty, 68, retired to Maine 11 years ago. He is married to his third wife, Rita, a Maine native.

His relationship with Norma Jean began casually. She attended Van Nuys High School and he sometimes walked her home after class.

“I had graduated from high school and I was working at Lockheed,” he said. “The war hadn’t started yet. Norma Jean was going to high school and I was taking her home, but I was going with a girl up at Santa Barbara High School, going up there on weekends.”

Norma Jean was 15 at the time, living with a foster family in Van Nuys because her mother had been committed to a mental institution. Her foster mother was a good friend of Dougherty’s mother. The two mothers began talking about a marriage between Dougherty and Norma Jean when the foster family began thinking about moving to another state.


Jim Dougherty and Norma Jean Mortensen on their wedding day

“They wanted to move back to Virginia, and they couldn’t take Norma Jean,” Dougherty said. “She would have gone back to an orphanage or another foster home, so her foster mother suggested I marry her.”

“I thought she was awful young, but I took her to a dance. She was a pretty mature girl, and physically she was mature, of course. We talked and we got on pretty good.”

Dougherty continued to see Norma Jean for the next year, giving up on the girl in Santa Barbara. A year later, the two were married.

The young couple lived in a Sherman Oaks apartment for a while and then moved back to Van Nuys, . I World War II, Dougherty joined the Merchant Marine and was assigned to teach sea safety on Catalina Island, off the California coast.

“She (Norma Jean) was just a housewife,” Dougherty said. “We would go down to the beach on weekends, and have luaus on Saturday night. She loved it over there. It was like being on a honeymoon for a year.”

Then Dougherty was sent overseas. Norma Jean got a job and moved in with Dougherty’s mother in Van Nuys.

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Animal stories/Rockport Harbor II

While Andre the Seal held the title of most-written-about animal in Rockport Harbor, there were other animal stories that occasionally originated in that seacoast town. This story was about a baby sperm whale that floated into the harbor, and the efforts to keep it alive. I don’t recall the outcome of this story, whether the baby whale lived or died.


ROCKPORT, Maine (UPI) – They built a sling out of beams and fish nets, and gently eased the newborn sperm whale over it in the shallow water near the shore at Rockport Harbor.

Straps that usually hoist boats from the water were drawn up and the baby whale, weak from hunger and close to death, was moved onto a dock and into the back of a large red and white van for the ride down the turnpike to Boston.

The little whale had floated into the harbor early Monday. At first it swam in lazy circles. Then it floated up and rested on the sand near shore.

People waded out and tried to push the whale back into deep water, but it kept turning about and moving back near the shore. Hundreds of people lined the beach and watched the whale as it lay in the shallow water.

Biology students from the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor came to Rockport and helped experts from the New England Aquarium in Boston check over the whale. At first it was thought eh animal was about a year old, but Dr. Joseph Geraci, a veterinarian at the New England Aquarium, and aquarium director John Prescott said the whale was a baby which had been separated from or rejected by its mother,,

They said the baby whale hadn’t been fed in some time. They said it was dehydrated and had lost as much as a third of its weight, which at birth is about 3,000 pounds.

A private plane was sent aloft to search the coast for the mother. If she had been found, the baby would have been towed out to meet her. But she wasn’t found, and Prescott and Dr. Geraci began making plans to move the whale to the New York Aquarium.

The examination early Tuesday, however, indicated the whale wouldn’t survive the trip. It was decided to take it to the aquarium in Boston.

Harry Goodridge, the local harbormaster, had been with the whale since it first came into the harbor.

“They gave him massive doses of antibiotics,” Goodridge said. “There is a lot of interest in him because he’s the first live sperm whale anyone’s ever had.”

Louis Garibaldi, the New England Aquarium’s curator, cautioned that chances of saving the little whale were slim.

“The animal is in very poor condition,” he said. “It is a recent newborn, it’s very thin and it’s had little nutrition.”

“The prognosis is poor, and it appears the whale may die no matter what we do.”

Animal stories: Andre the Seal

There are some stories that get written once a year, over and over again. In Maine, the king of all once-a-year stories was Andre the Seal. Maine reporters cringed every year when Andre, a harbor seal that had been abandoned as a baby by his mother, would return to Rockport Harbor. I must have written this story at least a half-dozen times. This was the 1976 version.

Andre returns to Maine 


ROCKPORT, Maine (UPI) – When the sky lightened over a foggy Rockport Harbor Monday, Andre was there.

Andre, a fat 16-year-old harbor seal, had spent most of the past two weeks lounging in a series of rowboats from Port Clyde to Cape Rosier. His trainer, Harry Goodridge, Rockport’s harbormaster, was beginning to think that Andre had decided to stay free.

ImageGoodridge found Andre when he was a small pup, not long after the seal had been abandoned by his mother. Goodridge kept the little seal in his bathtub for a while, and later built him a pen in the harbor.

Andre learned tricks, and the seal and his trainer have been entertaining visitors to Rockport since the early 1960s.

In the winter, Andre would swim south, and spent some time in the harbor in Marblehead, Mass. But the past three years Goodridge has taken Andrew to the New England Aquarium in Boston for the winter.

In the spring, Andre has been taken to Marblehead and set free. A few days later, he shows up in Rockport.

Andre usually makes the swim in three or four days. But this year was different.

Andre visited some people along the coast and played games with boaters before arriving in Port Clyde, a few miles south of Rockport. He climbed into a rowboat, moored 200 feet offshore, and went to sleep.

Andre stayed in the boat for two days, sleeping and sunning himself. A local resident said the seal would occasionally scoop up a flipperful of water from the bottom of the boat and lazily splash himself. His next visit was at Deer Isle, about 20 miles east of Rockport. He spent some time in a rowboat there, and then was spotted in a boat in Cape Rozier.

But two boys were at Goodridge’s house early Monday.

“They told me he was back,” Goodridge said. “I went down to the harbor and and he was there heckling a lobsterman.”

“When he saw me, he jumped riight into  his cage.”

Goodridge said Andre looked good, and said he had lost some of the weight he had gained over the winter at the aquarium.

“He was just enjoying his vacation, I guess,” Goodridge said. “I began to get a little worried when he didn’t come home, but I kept thinking that he was free for years, and that he always came back.”

When Andre spent his winters free, he would sometimes take off for extended periods.

“He was gone for more than three months once,” Goodridge said. “Probably went to the North Pole.”

While Goodridge and his wife worry about Andre when he’s gone, they both have hoped that the seal would one day leave Rockport Harbor and learn to live on his own.

“We’ve always hoped he would go wild,” Mrs. Goodridge said. “We hate to keep him cooped up all year.”

“But if he comes back, There’s a place for him, and plenty of fish.”



Covering the news media

Writing about the news media was one of my beats when I worked for a business newspaper in Tampa. It was fun and an interesting coverage area, but even in the mid-1990s the print business was in decline. That made for some uncomfortable stories, and also for some uncomfortable news business executives. They didn’t like it when reporters would write negative stories about them. I could always count on a ringing telephone the day after writing a story about a newspaper that was less than glowing. This story was about the Tampa TRIBUNE, a newspaper that has been in second place to the St. Petersburg TIMES (now the Tampa Bay TIMES) over on the other side of Tampa Bay. The Tribune is still hanging on, but its future is cloudy.

Arthur Frederick
Staff Writer

A team of Pennsylvania-based consultants has been hired to study the nooks and crannies of the Tampa Tribune, and is searching out ways to cut costs and boost efficiency.

Publisher Jack Butcher said the move was simply a matter of the newspaper business trying to catch up with other industries.

“The word that comes to mind is `archaic.’ Every other industry did this eight or 10 years ago,” Butcher said. “We are trying to make our company more productive and more customer-friendly — what just about any company in America has to do to survive.”

But to some Tribune news staffers, the study is little more than a cover for the further elimination of jobs which has been rumored at the paper for some time.

Tribune managers won’t discount the possibility of layoffs. But they say the study is really aimed at finding more efficient processes which will improve news reporting, and make the paper stronger and more competitive.

“This is an ongoing process that probably will take at least six or seven more months,” said Michael Kilgore, the Tribune’s promotion director and chief spokesman. “We aren’t looking at money to be saved or people to be employed. We’re looking at processes. We’ve told our employees that in some departments we might need fewer people, and in others we might need more.”

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Trade shows: Writing for industry gatherings

On several occasions I’ve been hired to attend and write about trade show gatherings. In this example, I was hired by the annual Fuel Cell Seminar & Exposition, which met at Disney World near Orlando, Fla. in 2011. In this case, the group was looking for someone to do interviews and attend sessions, and then turn out  stories for an industry newsletter. These assignments can be fun, and sometimes they are good revenue generators. This example is one of the newsletter stories.

Industry leaders optimistic about fuel cell industry’s future

In spite of the sluggish economy and reductions in financial support by the federal government, a number of fuel cell industry leaders we spoke to were surprisingly upbeat about the future.

During the 2011 Fuel Cell Seminar & Exposition at Disney World in Orlando, Fla., we asked a number of attendees one simple question: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of the industry? Here is what they had to say:

MORRY MARKOWITZ, Executive Director, Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association: “I am very optimistic about the future. My background, both in the electric utility industry and the automotive industry,  has given me the foundation to understand the past, present and future of this industry, and I think the future is very bright.

“On the mobile side, the fuel cell vehicle is the only zero-emission vehicle that is on the horizon that will be able to exactly replicate the current driver’s needs in driving an automobile by having the range that it needs of 300-400 miles per tankful, being able to refuel in two-to-five minutes, and to be able to do that hopefully in multiple places.

“On the stationary side, the simplicity and reliability of fuel cell technology will provide a bridge for our current system of centralized generation of transmission lines having to go through vast areas and distribution lines that are increasingly vulnerable to weather  and even some future activities, both by nature and manmade.

“The idea of the simplicity and availability of fuel cells is an appropriate bridge for those technologies.”

SAM LOGAN, chief executive officer, LOGAN Energy Corp., Roswell, Ga.: “In the shorter term, the industry is going to be bucking the headwinds of the really difficult economy.  And coupled with that is the diminished ability of the government to provide the kinds of appropriated funds for product improvements, manufacturing improvement and deployments. Continue reading

News coverage: writing about the environment

Since I spent so much time working as a journalist in Maine, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that writing about the environment was an almost-daily assignment. A lot of Maine people consider themselves to be environmentalists, and newspaper editors knew that and loved to get environmental stories from the wire services. Back in the 70s, power generating projects tended to be huge. In Maine, there were two big proposed power generating projects — the Passamaquoddy project, which was to generate power from ebbing and flowing tides; and the Dickey-Lincoln Hydroelectric project, two dams that would have flooded thousands of acres of forest land in northern Maine. I wrote scores of stories about both, mostly Dickey-Lincoln. Neither project was ever built.


AUGUSTA, Maine (UPI) – The head of the Maine Natural Resources Council told the legislative Committee on Energy Wednesday that the proposed Dickey Lincoln Hydroelectric Project could result in more than 30,000 acres of exposed mudflats during several weeks of the year.

Clifford Goodall said the hydroelectric project is flawed because the area would not have enough water to operate efficiently.

The Dickey Lincoln dam would create a long, slender lake instead of a lake concentrated in one area, and dropping the level of the lake to make room for spring runoff waters would result in 33,600 acres of exposed mudflats.

“Hydroelectric projects require water, and there just isn’t that much water up there,” Goodall said. “Passamaquoddy has the water. Dickey Lincoln has practically none.”

“If you’re going to dam up all this water in the spring, you have about a 10-month span in which you are going to let it out,” he said.

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I’ve worked in a number of political campaigns over the years, from U.S. Senate campaigns down to the local level. Usually, I’ve served as communications advisor — press secretary, writer, positions guy. This is a typical position paper, prepared for a candidate for Pinellas County sheriff. In this case, I prepared a number of position papers on different subjects and we posted them on the campaign web site. I like to think that I’m pretty good at taking a complex political subject and presenting it in easy-to-understand language — that’s really the definition of journalism.

Grow houses versus pill mills

Shrinking budgets demand better decision-making within the Sheriff’s Office, as well as throughout county government and, to be sure, throughout government at all levels.

When it comes to enforcing our drug laws, a lack of good judgment leads to policies that fail to differentiate between big problems and small ones. And, this lack of good judgment illustrates just how the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office has been mismanaged.

Pinellas County has the unpleasant distinction of leading the state in opiate-related deaths. While it should be obvious that pill-related law enforcement tactics should top the priority list, the PCSO has spent huge amounts of money on the surveillance of a hydroponics shop in Largo. (Hydroponics refers to the growing of plants in nutrient-rich water, without soil.)

It is believed that hydroponics shops are favored by people who operate “grow houses” – usually residential homes where large quantities of marijuana are grown.

The PCSO mounted a surveillance camera on a pole outside the Largo shop, then noted the license plate numbers of the cars that were parked there. Deputies would then go to the home addresses of the car owners. Sometimes they would take search warrants with them, and sometimes they would simply ask for permission to search the homes. Some of those search warrants have been found to have been obtained with manufactured evidence.

As a result of these shoddy law enforcement practices, a number of arrests made during these grow house investigations are likely to be thrown out by the courts.

While no one is denying that grow house operators are breaking the law, such operations are not threatening to public safety. The same cannot be said for so-called “pill mills,” which distribute oxycodone and other extremely dangerous prescription drugs.

Applying limited law enforcement resources to grow house investigations while pill mills are operating is a good example of the mismanagement we see at the PCSO on a daily basis.

I’ve been writing and shooting pictures forever. Almost.

I’ve worked for newspapers, wire services, ad agencies, PR shops, big corporations, politicians, colleges and all kinds of businesses, large and small.

I’ve written feature stories, obituaries and travel pieces. Speeches, ad copy and press releases.  Articles for trade journals, newsletters and motorcycle magazines.  I’ve photographed everything from wood furnaces to candles to dog shows to birds (actually, lots and LOTS of birds).

Recently, a prospective client said she would like to see my portfolio, and I was somewhat startled to realize that I had never put one together.  I’ve had a website for many years that focuses on my public relations business; but a portfolio that actually showcases my writing and my photos? For some reason, I simply never thought of it.

So I’ve spent some time scouring the Internet, looking through my computer files and paging through my dusty old filing cabinets in search of examples of my work. It’s been fun, and I’ve found quite a few examples that I don’t mind sharing (And a few things I would NEVER share in a million years. But that’s another story).

I decided the best way to showcase all this material was on a blog, where I can mix up words and pictures and post things as I find them. Since this is a blog, and newer stuff ends up on top of the pile, you may want to scroll all the way down to the bottom and then work your way back to the top.  But it really doesn’t matter; it’s all going to be a bit of a jumble anyway.

Thanks for visiting. If there is something you see here that sparks some sort of reaction in you, I’d love to hear it.

(And by the way… I have a separate blog now dedicated to my photo work. Take a look by clicking HERE.)

Bill Frederick

There’s one thing that you might find a little confusing. Most people know me as Bill, but my real first name is Arthur, and as a journalist I always wrote under my real name – Arthur Frederick. So if you see a story that is topped by a byline that says “By ARTHUR FREDERICK”, that’s why.