There is no doubt about it, Pass-a-Grille is a funny
name for a beach. A funny name for anything.
It might be a hide-a-bed or even walk-a-thon.
Surely the beach was named something else, and this composite
name was thrust upon it by hordes of hamburger-grilling beach
visitors of the '40s.
Not so, historians say. Somewhere, a map charted in 1841 names
the southern tip of Long Key "Passe aux Grilleurs"
-- literally translated "passageway of the grillers"
or "grillers pass," says historian W.H. Straub.
"But I've never found the map," said historian Frank
Hurley. "I've contacted Rand McNally and the Library of
Congress, but nobody has ever found it. But one of these days
I'll find that original coast and geodetic survey map."
Hurley devotes 4 and a half pages to the myths and facts surrounding
the name in his latest edition of Surf, Sand and Post Card
Sunsets, published in 1989.
Why a French name, when the early settlers were Indians and
One theory is that John Levach, namesake of John's Pass, named
Pass-a-Grille. Levach -- sometimes written as Levique or Levich
-- plied the length of the beaches catching fish and turtles.
He was either French or Cajun. Levach signed his name with an
X, hence the variations in spelling and the pass that bears only
his first name.
But Hurley quotes early settler George Lizotte as saying a
settlement of French emigres from New Orleans lived along the
Manatee River. When the first coastal survey team mapped the
area in 1840, one of the Frenchmen was hired as a guide. The
guide is said to have told them about Passe aux Grillard, "Pass
where men grilled something."
The "something," Hurley said, was fish. "Of
course the early fishermen had no refrigeration. You had to smoke,
salt or grill everything you caught right away," he said.
There are other theories. The St. Petersburg directory of
1909 said "Pass-a-Grille" meant a "grilled passageway"
as "the channel opening out into the gulf through several
smaller ones disposed in grille shape."
Hurley found a another story of the name's origin: Paso de
Grillo, which is Spanish for "Pass of the Cricket."
But as the historian points out, "Pass-a-Grille has never
been known for a surfeit of crickets or grasshoppers."
In 1982, an Evening Independent reader quizzed columnist
Pat Fenner about the name's origin. She replied that "Pass-aux-Grillards"
means "pass of the grillers," but said other early
settlers thought it was Spanish for "over the bar."
A reader wrote in to disagree.
"The French meaning is: the pass with a gate. Probably
at some time or other there was a gate across the entrance to
that area," said reader Bill Cobbs.
Most long-time Pass-a-Grille residents agree on the meaning.
Harriet Latimer, a resident since 1930, remembers that Capt.
Kenneth Merry of Merry Pier told her Pass-a-Grille was a place
where "the old-timers came by and they would stop to grill