New Book Shares The History Of 309 Punk House Through The People Who Lived There
The 309 Punk House has meant a lot of things to a lot of people who have stayed there, played music there, cooked there, or made art there.
In the book “A Punkhouse in the Deep South: The Oral History of 309,” authors Scott Satterwhite and Aaron Cometbus highlight the people who made the punk house what it is by sharing their experiences living in the crowded and dilapidated home at 309 N. 6th Ave.
Satterwhite, an instructor at the University of West Florida, has been active in the local punk scene for decades. He said the idea for the oral history came from UWF assistant history professor Jamin Wells. UWF students conducted the last of the interviews right as things were starting to go into lockdown mode last year.
Initially, the plan was to archive the interviews. But Satterwhite said the pandemic was what helped turn the project into a book.
“If not for the COVID-19 lockdowns, the book probably wouldn't exist,” he said. “We both had time on our hands, and we were both heavily invested in seeing the students' work finished so we could add it to the 309 Punk Project's archives. That's when we realized this could be a book. It was really done in record speed, too. In less than a year, the entire book was complete and with the publishers. I'm totally amazed that we pulled it off.”
The book, which is published by University Press of Florida, is just one of a dozen academic books written about Pensacola and the only one — to Satterwhite’s knowledge — written about the punk scene.
“It’s the only nonfiction book about punk houses,” he said sitting in his daughter’s bedroom on Zoom. “(The 309 Punk House) is not the oldest, but it is the oldest punk house in the South and the fourth-oldest continuously inhabited in the country.”
Satterwhite was a resident at 309 after leaving the military in the late 90s. His years living there, he said, were some of the most formative years of his life.
“It was an education for me,” he said. “My life is totally defined by my time there.”
The house is where he met his wife, Lauren Anzaldo. It’s where he learned to cook and became a vegetarian. Most importantly, he said, it’s where he raised his first child, daughter Madailein, for the first two years of her life.
Some of his fondest memories, outside of raising his family, were the potlucks hosted at the house. People tried out new vegetarian or vegan recipes and sat together as a family for the meal.
“You can’t live with 100 people off and on without learning about the world and realizing the world is very, very different than what you thought it was before,” he said.
And his story is just one piece of the puzzle. The book collects stories from several past residents, including co-author Aaron Cometbus, End of the Line Café owner Jen Knight, musicians and punk veterans Ryan “Rymodee” Modee and Skott Cowgill, and UWF art professor Valerie George to name a few.
“Just about anybody who has been there has their own connection to the house whether they were sleeping on the couch for two weeks or whether they lived there for eight years,” said Satterwhite. “It’s a different house to every single person who’s lived there.”
The oral histories also tell a story of what was happening locally, nationally, and even globally as residents react and experience, which offers a different perspective when looking back on those years, said Satterwhite.
The punk house was not simply a home where punk kids lived. Satterwhite describes it as an “incubator” for the culture.
“It’s pretty rare people living in the house aren’t actively participating in the punk scene,” he said. “They play in bands, they’re organizing feminist reading groups, they’re writing zines.”
When people think of the Florida Panhandle, the words “punk rock” might not be the first to come to mind. That’s exactly why Satterwhite wanted to collect this history.
“Often when we look at Pensacola and the Deep South in general, what we often do is look at the politics of the town,” he said. “So, when we describe Pensacola as a conservative military town, that’s certainly an aspect of the town but it’s not the entire aspect of the town. The city itself has had a really broad and diverse history that is rarely recorded.”
What happens to a subculture if it’s not recorded? It’s erased. Already, the city of Pensacola and the neighborhood around the 309 house look different than it did during its heyday in the 1990s. New construction homes around the corner from the house are selling for upward of $300,000. Satterwhite admits it feels “a little weird” to see the changes.
That’s why Satterwhite and the board of directors behind the 309 Punk House Project launched a fundraising campaign in 2017 to purchase the house and keep its mission alive. The space will be a “DIY community center,” with a gallery space, a lecture hall for guest speakers or film screenings, a recording studio as well as a living space for artists in residence. It will also house the items from the Punksacola art exhibit that was on view at the Pensacola Museum of History.
Cometbus will be the first official artist in residence in October, which is when the house will be open to the public.
“That’s essentially the grand opening of the house,” said Satterwhite.
For anyone who hasn’t been to the 309 Punk House, Satterwhite hopes the book opens up the readers’ minds to some of the histories that don’t always make it in the textbooks.
“This is not just a space and not just a house,” he said. “These histories are just as relevant and valid as other histories.”
"A Punkhouse in the Deep South: The Oral History of 309" is available for preorder now and will be released in October. A book release party will be at the 309 Punk House at 6 p.m. Oct. 5.