“The recipient of this year’s William “Billy” Applerouth Award is Bascom Grooms”, (applause, cheering, whooping.)
Bascom made his way to the front of the Key West Chamber of Commerce Installation and Awards Dinner and said, “I had no idea. Beth, did you know about this?”
The award, given to a long-time and heavily involved member, is part of a mounting collection Bascom is in the midst of compiling as a result of his inexorable enthusiasm for the Key West community.
The Weekly had a hunch the island was about to be ignited when, upon his installation as Noon Rotary President, Bascom announced, “We’re going to do a lot more partying!”
Only, this past chamber president, past Key West Association of Realtors president, and recent recipient of their community service award, puts philanthropy and family first.
“We were nine and ten-years old. We would vacuum out the rental cars, wipe the dashboard, and get it ready for the next customer,” Bascom candidly reminisced about part of his Key West childhood. “We didn’t have a lot of money.”
Bascom’s parents owned the Ugly Duckling Rental Car Company where The Bike Shop is situated now on Truman Avenue. They also rented electric cars and passed their nights with a pile of tourist pamphlets in one hand, a stapler in the other.
“After dinner we would put these glossy covered books together and get money for them,” Bascom recalled.
Seated up against the window of the Key West Yacht Club, Bascom’s easily recognizable with his surfer boy hair and mellow demeanor. He’s surrounded in the room by pals Jason Beeman, Jim Wilson, Andy Straube and Beth, his wife, who most agree, has an uncanny resemblance to Katie Couric.
After 30 minutes of chatting about Rotary, his party days in college, and growing up in Key West his eyes light up when he thinks back to the summer of ’96 when they met.
After hanging on Duval and cheering on the Dolphins with Beth’s son Ryan, the wave of romance made landing, when Hurricane George hit.
“Beth was living in Miami,” Bascom remembered. She called and said, ‘there’s a hurricane coming. What are you going to do?’ She’s freakin’ out, ‘you gotta get out of there!’”
Bascom bolted to her house and from there on out they spent every weekend together for two years before he made the commitment to mark the turn of the century.
“I proposed on Millennium night. I took her out to dinner and proposed. We got married a year later,” Bascom remembered vividly.
They’re now parents to two little girls. Kassidy, 5, and Kelci, 7, are the two reasons his iPhone is loaded with the likes of Miley Cyrus and his nights are spent reading princess books.
“I tell’em to pick a short one,” Bascom admitted, his strategy after logging hours at Bascom Grooms Real Estate. “But, it’s always princess books with these two.”
He admits he’s “scared to death” of the next 10 years as images of dates, driving, and dancing enter his head – memories with which he’s all too familiar.
“We partied it up. We had a good time,” he went on to describe the dirty deeds of teens in the 90’s. “The hangout was Astro City, the playground across from Higgs Beach. That was every Friday and Saturday night. I’d go out with my buddies. We weren’t old enough to get into the bars. So, we’d either go to someone’s house or there’d be 100 teenagers at Astro City.”
As soon as they were old enough to sweet-talk the bouncers, they’d rush in to Rick’s Upstairs.
“In the early 90’s… umm… we probably danced to some Salt n’ Peppa or the Humpty Dance. We always wanted to get in to Rick’s,” Grooms confessed as he rolled out the resume that made him renowned once he moved to Tallahassee to attend FSU.
“We had an entourage of Key West guys there. We had a party every weekend… at least two kegs! Or we’d leave after class on Friday, head to Key West, party non-stop, get up on Sunday and drive all the way back. Mondays,” he admitted, “were brutal!”
The practice, he divulged, makes it a little tough to be a disciplinarian when it comes to Ryan, who’s now a senior at Key West High.
“I try to have more of a discussion. I do loose my cool like anybody. But, instead of yelling I try to explain why.”
Bascom said he and Beth are “just tryin’ to raise’em good” with sound values and character so they make good decisions. He couldn’t imagine his life without his family, and he can’t imagine living anywhere but his hometown.
“I graduated from FSU on a Saturday and was in Key West by Sunday afternoon. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew I was going to build a career here and raise a family here. I think what I like best about it is that my kids still really appreciate me.
When they see me, they get excited. Their eyes light up. When I pick them up after school they yell, “Daddy!’ I’m not sure how long this is going to last.”
Bascom, who calls himself, “not too complex,” can be found at Tavern ‘n Town or Shanna Key, drinking a Bud Light with his buddies, or red wine with Beth over dinner at the yacht club.
As for the Applerouth Award, Bascom wondered aloud, “I’m still trying to figure out why they gave it to me.”
Bascom pictured at his installation as Noon Rotary Club President. Pictured from left to right are his stepfather, Gordon Smith, his mom Marge Smith, Beth Grooms, Bascom, Ryan, Kelci and Kassidy.
GirlsThis summer, if he has a smidgen of time to spare between beach clean-ups, raising money for Haiti relief and scholarship golf tournaments, he’d like to take Kelci and Kassidy to a place he’s still enchanted with after sharing the experience with his parents, Theatre of the Sea. “My parents used to take us there. It seems every time we drive past, we’re in too much of a hurry. I want to take my girls there.”