Sir Peter Anderson
Thirty years ago a man named Peter Anderson arrived in Key West and Key West has been the benefactor ever since. Several years after his arrival, Peter Anderson was appointed by the mayor, saloon owner Captain Tony, as the Secretary General of the Conch Republic. He was also knighted by the King of the Conch Republic, Mel Fisher, thus carrying the title of "Sir Peter Anderson", of which he was very proud indeed.
His first main focus in being the Secretary General first was to ensure the floundering Conch Republic Days, the celebration of the independence of the Conch Republic, would continue on. This he did extraordinarily well and because of his gallant efforts over the years, to this day the festival is booming! He also started the Conch Republic Days Parade! Yahoo!!!
(Sir Peter Anderson leads the 1998 Conch Republic Parade. Picture by Rob O'Neil)
My first introduction to Sir Peter was in 2006, I think it was? Because of the idiotic rules that the U.S. has for Cuban immigrants.( if they come here by boat or raft as immigrants, they must land on U.S. soil. If intercepted on water, they are repatriated to Cuba) In this case, a group of Cubans sailed on a raft to the U.S. and landed on one of the abutments of the Seven Mile Bridge here in the Florida Keys. Because they didn't reach dry land, but rather one of the supports for the old bridge, they were collected and sent back to Cuba. Sir Peter consequently went to the Seven Mile Bridge and declared it Sovereign Conch Republic Territory. The rest of the Conch Republic territory, from the Dry Tortugas through all of the Keys, is joint U.S.and Conch Republic. However, as the U.S. did not recognize the old Seven Mile Bridge as territory and sending the Cubans back, Sir Peter claimed is as sovereign Conch Republic. Additionally, his proposal was to build affordable housing on top of it! Apparently, somewhere there are architectural plans drawn up for it!
For me, a songwriter living in Miami at the time, with a serious eye on moving to the Keys, this was too good to pass up, so I wrote a song about it! It actually was supposed to be on my album "Shanghai'd and Marooned in Key West (things could be worse)" but on the day we were completing the rhythm section of the tracks on the CD, I was just completely out of gas, so to speak and when Richard Crooks said "Ok! What do we have next? The Seven Mile Bridge" I was just too tired and it never was recorded.
I do have a demo however and here it is:
While writing the song, I contacted Sir Peter for the first time. What I found was a man who possesed the very rare combination of a completely off the wall sense of humor, combined with an intelect that was very clearly far into the genious level. Now, take these two very uncommon attributes and add to it the fact that the man was anchored, as solid as concrete, with, get this: common sense and logic. Plus, he was a great proponent of having fun and incorporating fun into everything he did.
After I moved here, one of my first order of business was to meet Sir Peter Anderson in person. This didn't take too long as he was a part of the 2008 Phlockers Gone Wild party at the Blue Heaven restaurant's outside stage area. He swore in the entire crowd there , with beer in hand, as Conch Republic citizens! The lead off picture of this blog, is him doing so that day.
Here's another picture from that day, Sir Peter can be seen in white at the bar.
Sir Peter also came up with all of the utterly fantastic sayings you'll hear regarding the Conch Republic. Things like "A Sovereign State of Mind", "We Seceded Where Others Have Failed", and "The Mitigation of World Tension Through the Exercise of Humor". Sir Peter also got the Conch Republic passports rolling. I am a proud holder of one of these.
He also set up the Conch Republic website. Be sure to check it out!
The Conch Republic flag was also Sir Peter's doing. Back when I made my business cards I asked permission to use it for the card. Naturally, without hesitation he said "Of course!" after a moment he said "Would you do me a favor? Would you mind putting 'Used with permission' under it? It can be microscopic if you want. All I ask is that it's there". I immediately said absolutely and it's been on the cards since they've first been printed.
Sir Peter was as well, a great proponent and organizer of good causes and charatible events, such as Reef Relief, of which he was elected president and Habitat for Humanity.
I don't think I would get any arguments at all if I stated that Sir Peter Anderson was the biggest proponent of the Conch Republic itself. He actually was able to make a living out of it. He was a true ambassador for this silly little country, this "fifth world state of mind" as he also acronymed it.
(Sir Peter Anderson explains the history of the Conch Republic at Schooner Wharf Bar)
His actions tought me a lot. As this little archipelago of islands, I quickly came to believe, having a long extensive sales background, that it is all of our responsibilities, to do our part in promoting the Conch Republic. That's why I write this blog for the most part. Chances are actually maybe one in a hundred that individually we might gain somthing ourselves out of it. However we don't do it for ourselves, we do it for all of us who live on these islands. "The needs of the many out weighs the needs of the few" as Mr. Spok had said. Being the wise, logical, man that I saw him as, when I spoke up on a subject Sir Peter spoke on, I'd always bang the same drum. Sir Peter always had the best interests of all and the Conch Republic at hand.
On a funny note: I recall several years ago I had heard that Mel Fisher had been the King of the Conch Republic, however he had passed away and I couldn't find who was the current king. So, naturally I asked Sir Peter and he gave a very quick answer, without hesitation. "Mel Fisher!" was his retort. So I said "Well, Mel Fisher has been gone for several years." and he answered "Yeah, so?" and I naturally replied "So even though he's dead, he's still the king?" and Sir Peter answered "Of course!!" I laughed my ass off! It's that sort of humor that just encompass the Conch Republic.
Any conversation I've ever had with Sir Peter was always peppered with laughter, from both of us. Humor was one of our similar attributes and in our conversations it reared it's ridiculous head all the time. His favorite regular spot to watch the Key West sunset was always Louie's Backyard and he was always enjoying a quality beer... another similar attribute we shared!
On Tuesday, 16th of July, 2014 we lost Sir Peter Anderson to cancer. Back in October he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Ironically, from a man who never smoked. Unfair as it was, he fought a gallant battle and won on many fronts. He was back from the hospital and was in at least two parade events and a ridiculouse running event that went across the Cow Key Bridge from Key West to Stock Island... about 100 yards!
On my next batch of cards the release will be augmented to:
"Used with permission of Sir Peter Anderson"
Godspeed Sir Peter! It was an honor ato know you and you were a true inspiration. Thank you!
Sometimes when in the presence of greatness, one only realizes after they are gone. This was never the case with Sir Peter Anderson. I knew it from the start. For this man knew how to have FUN!!!
And in closing I will quote Sir Peter Anderson:
"Long Live The Conch Republic and Long Live Every One of You"
(Picture by Ralph DePalma)
To obtain my music:
My CD is available on iTunes, CD Baby, CD Universe, Rhapsody, and Beachfront Radio.
Search: Key West Chris
Thank you everyone!!