George Wilkens Class of  1967


George and Linda

George and Linda about a year ago. (No, the kid is
borrowed, my cousin's.)

George Wilkens    Portrait by Jeff Fain

George R. Wilkens


Tampa Tribune, staff writer

Tampa suburb of Wesley Chapel

Hobbies: Travel; photography; computers

  I went to the 10th and 30th reunions, and people inevitably ask, "So,George, what did you do after graduation?" I don't mince words: "Went over to Larry Zimmerman's house - - his dad let us have beer ! "

  Actually, in September of 1967 I fled Florida where I'd lived since kindergarten and went to Lawrence, Kan., for journalism school. Actually, that was a homecoming of sorts, in that during the summer of' 1966, several SWHS seniors-to-be traveled there for the Midwestern Music & Art Camp, a high school program at the University of Kansas. Peggy Goalstone and I (co-editors on The Lancer our senior year) studied journalism there for six weeks. My then-girlfriend Gail Van Duyne studied German there that summer. Someone else who was at the camp that year, and who signed the camp "yearbook" I still have, was a teen from Wichita who decades later achieved stardom - - Kirstie Alley. She was studying drama.  Returning home for the summer of 68, I landed a part-time job for ABC News at the Republican National Convention, Miami Beach. I then went on to Chicago for the Democratic National Convention, and THAT was an experience. History in the making and I had a front-row seat. Had my parents known what was ahead, they surely would not have let me go. (Andy Moscrip, class of 68, Aquilla staff, worked in Miami with me that summer, but chose not to go to Chicago). Anyway, after college, returned to Miami and later landed my first reporting job at a daily newspaper in Dade City, a small eastern Pasco County town about 35 miles NE of Tampa. Lived there and in nearby Zephyrhills for 5 years before I got a job offer from a New York Times chain newspaper, The Ocala Star-Banner. They wanted someone to open their first suburban bureau and I had been recommend through a former boss who had ties to the Star-Banner. So I moved to Inverness, 30 miles south of Ocala.  Some 18 months later got a job offer from The Tampa Tribune, and moved across the street to their Inverness bureau. Over the years I've covered everything from nuclear power to mass murder, religion, etc. I was sent to Charleston, S.C. to cover Hurricane Hugo, to Florida's Panhandle to cover floods and to Ocala National Forest to cover huge wildfires. I've even been to Miami many times to do feature stories on anything from the Beagle Brigade fruit-sniffing USDA dogs at Miami International, to Chalk's Airlines (the seaplanes on Watson Island) and the largest school in the state ,Sunset High, which I compared with Florida's smallest high school, Cedar Key, SW of Gainesville.

  Anyway, in Nov. 1995 the Tribune decided to scale back because of rising newsprint costs and shut down several bureaus, including Inverness. I was transferred to Tampa, commuted for 2 years (700 miles/week) before buying a house in the north Tampa suburb of Wesley Chapel in December 1997. Ironically, I'm back in Pasco County, where it all started for me some three decades ago. I will mark 20 years with the Tribune next month. would like to retire in 4 years.  My mom died in 1996 (my dad in 73), but I still own the Sunset Park home where I lived while attending Blue Lakes Elem., Riviera/Glades Jr. highs and SW. Was there for several weekends in a row recently to repaint, etc. for a new tenant. On one visit I saw Kent Lewis and talked on the phone with John Breslin, both of whom still live in SW Miami but did not make the 30th reunion.  The old neighborhood has changed a tad, and where the Sunset Park Palladium once stood is now a shopping center with House of Pancakes and other assorted stores.  The adjacent park where neighborhood couples used to "park" is still there. As I walked the old neighborhood, it was hard not to think of the houses, 30-some years later, as still being the homes of classmates once living there, be it Jeannie Cook or Debbie Mello or Jeff Claxton. It's been great reading all the news of classmates and teachers I knew, and
even the many I didn't.

Bio May 21, 2000


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