Collecting a piece of airport history

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By Christine Osborn

By training, Ann Davis is a Certified Public Accountant.

But the airport's director of finance also has a passion for Tampa International Airport history. Over the years, she's pulled together an impressive collection of memorabilia reflecting the airport's rich past from its days as an Air Force base.

On display in her office is a glass from the Bartke's Restaurant that was a fixture at the original Tampa International Airport in 1952 and a plate created for the grand opening of the new Airport in 1971. Both are rare finds today.

On the desk is a framed postcard from a serviceman stationed at Drew Field to his brother stationed in Miami Beach dated June 6, 1942. "Tents and mosquitoes," he wrote, "but this is a new field, still being built."

Davis picked up that bit of nostalgia at a local antiques shop.

Postcards comprise the bulk of Davis' collection. She has a couple dozen more Tampa Airport postcards at home, some of them printed on linen with sketches of the airport that have the look of a watercolor painting. She recalls paying a few dollars each for the cards.

"It's a piece of history, and it's from the place where you work. I think that makes it pretty interesting," said Davis.

Davis isn't on the only one who thinks such items are interesting. On the internet auction site Ebay, thousands of postcards sell for from one cent to up to thousands of dollars for cards mailed by historic figures. Postcards of airports, airlines and aircraft are especially popular, with worldwide appeal.

Tampa International Airport postcards like Davis' in mint condition go for around $15 each.

Websites set up by postcard enthusiasts share information about rare and unusual finds. At trade shows, tables hold stacks of postcards of hotels, motels and bizarre roadside attractions.

"I still look around Ebay once in a while to see what might be out there," Davis said. "You never know what you're going to find."


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