Why do they call it that? Cockroach Bay and MacDill Air Force Base

3:41 AM, May 20, 2010   |    comments
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  • A KC-135 Stratotanker based at MacDill Air Force Base flies over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

What did Lt. Col. Leslie MacDill do to get an Air Force base named after him? And why has no one changed the nasty name of Cockroach Bay after all these years?

Why do they call it Cockroach Bay?

Mosquito County once took a bite out of the east coast of Florida. That name got changed.

Red Bug had people in a Polk County town scratching their heads. So they decided Lakeland would be a better name for their city.

Ahh, but unlucky Cockroach Bay has kept its creepy crawly name right up to this day.

"Certainly one of our grosser-sounding place names," admitted Rodney Kite-Powell, the curator of history at the Tampa Bay History Center.

Kite-Powell says one theory behind the name of Cockroach Bay turns out to be bug-free.

"Explorers may have seen the horseshoe crabs at the edge of the bay, and from a distance -- or up close, even -- maybe they thought they were cockroaches, or they looked like cockroaches," he said.

"The other theory would be that they saw a bunch of cockroaches, and that's not nearly as pleasant."

Those other places -- Mosquito County and Red Bug -- ditched their insect-inspired names. But this Hillsborough County waterway stayed that way. Why?

Kite-Powell says those other places filled up with settlers, who likely worried about the image of their new hometowns.

"Nobody ever developed Cockroach Bay. Had it been developed, it definitely would have been something much more pleasant," he said.

Why do they call it MacDill Air Force Base?

South Tampa's military past goes all the way back to future U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt.

Roosevelt and his Rough Riders headed off to fight in the Spanish-American War from a port right outside what's now the fenceline of MacDill.

The base itself was built a bit more than 40 years later, right at the start of World War II.

Originally, the under-construction base had the generic name Southeast Air Base, Tampa. Before it opened, though, the base was given a new name. Some more than half-century old items on display at the Tampa Bay History Center show that new name: MacDill Field.

The name honored the man flying an experimental Army plane when it crashed in Washington, D.C. in 1938.

Private Joseph Gloxner was killed in the crash, as was the pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Leslie MacDill.

Why do they call it that? Now you know.

There are a lot more places out there with names that could use explaining. If you want to ask "Why do they call it that?" send an e-mail with a name that has you curious to Grayson Kamm using this link.

We'll be featuring new places and stories each Wednesday on The Morning Show from 5-7 a.m. on 10 Connects.

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