The Story of the Blue Flamingo

As told to Jim Manning

Abigail Pendergrass was married only a few months when the war started. Her husband, Lloyd Pendergrass, a former Navy Petty Officer with service in the prewar China Campaign, reenlisted after Pearl Harbor and rapidly advanced to commissioned status. In 1943 he was ordered to assume command of an amphibious vessel being fitted out in Boston Navy Yard. The small ship was scheduled for training exercises down the Atlantic coast, passage through the Panama Canal and then final exercises on the West coast before deployment to the South Pacific.

Abigail, not content sitting at home at her parents’ farm near Marrowbone, Kentucky, went by bus to be with her husband in Boston. When she learned of the ship’s itinerary she decided to travel by rail down the coast, then cross country to San Diego and follow him up the California coast until he got underway for his assignment in the Pacific. As he reached the ports along the way, they would have a few blissful days together before the next leg of his voyage.

And now for the Blue Flamingo… The details of Abigail’s journey were sketchy. However, as I understood her travels, she and her husband had time together after Boston in Bayonne, Norfolk, Charleston and Miami on the east coast and in San Diego, Long Beach and San Francisco out west. She always arrived at their destinations first, arranged lodging and waited for his ship to arrive. She said that at each port she always had a room with a harbor view, and she always knew it was the day of his arrival because a Blue Flamingo would fly by her window.

After the second Blue Flamingo sighting she related this phenomenon to other guests at her places of lodging. She was immediately told that there was no such thing as a Blue Flamingo and even if they did exist, they wouldn’t be as far north as Bayonne or Norfolk. When pressed for particulars she was short on details, but always commented on the vivid light blue feathers of the bird. Her description never varied, and she was emphatic that it was a Blue Flamingo.

It is now forty years later and so far I have no knowledge of this story. I have just completed construction of a swimming pool for the Pendergrass’ oldest daughter and her young family in the original Carrollwood section of Tampa. I arrived at the job site just as Abigail, visiting from Kentucky, is seeing the pool for the first time. She takes one look and shouts, “This is the color of the Blue Flamingo.” She was referring to the azure tone of crystal clear water in the presence of sunlight and the reflection of a cloudless sky. Not in five decades and over 2,000 pools completed have I seen someone so engrossed in the color of pool water.

Her excitement was contagious and resulted in her telling me the story of the Blue Flamingo. I also learned that Mr. Pendergrass survived the war. He remained on active duty through the Vietnam War, retiring with the rank of Commander. Abigail did most of the child rearing and when he retired they moved back to her family farm. Over the years they have visited each port where she had seen the Blue Flamingo. Search as they may, no Blue Flamingo was ever seen again, but her story lives in the beautiful blue water of a modern swimming pool.

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