Louis Roney: A decisive trip

We had still not figured out exactly why we had bought a house in Winter Park, where we had no particular reason to be. But reasons soon surfaced.

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  • | 12:19 p.m. March 5, 2014
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
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We came out of City Hall and grabbed a cab to Columbus Circle. We got my car out of the underground garage and drove over to Central Park South.

I double parked for a moment, dashed up to my apartment, and grabbed my dog and two packed suitcases inside the door. I made a U-turn on 59th Street and headed for the Lincoln Tunnel. I got on the Jersey Turnpike and headed south. Oh yes! The whole time there was a good-looking blonde next to me in the front seat, a gal with a brand new wedding ring on third finger left.

We spent our honeymoon night in Virginia Beach and the next day headed for Florida where b.w. wanted to see “the little town I came from.” My old Orlando friend Sally Duncan Pace invited us to stay with her for a few days. Sally, a recent widow, was busy in “what else?” Yes, real estate, and soon she had showed us a Gamble Rogers lakefront house in Winter Park, which, minutes after we walked in the door, we bought! When we drove north, we left a place where we were now “homeowners!”

Natch, we soon returned to visit our real estate. My boyhood friend, Hope Strong, later mayor of Winter Park, threw us a nice party in his lovely home on Lake Osceola. His wife Peggy (Caldwell) had been my next-door neighbor in Forest Hills all through my earlier years.

B.w. and I returned to Winter Park a couple of times and soon bought a Steinway grand, which we put in our living room. With the piano, we had the makings of a party that we soon had. About 50 people came to renew old acquaintances, and b.w. played some songs for me to sing.

We had still not figured out exactly why we had bought a house in Winter Park, where we had no particular reason to be. But reasons soon surfaced: the University of Central Florida—which I had not known existed— offered me a position as a tenured Distinguished Professor of Voice, which was reason enough! And I ended up teaching on the faculty at UCF for the next 24 years.

Early on, b.w. and I founded the Orlando Celebrity Concert Association — an organization which we headed for 17 years before retiring — which brought five world-renowned symphony orchestras to the Bob Carr annually.

I retired from UCF at 85, where getting to know the students had brought me lasting pleasure.

Sometime later I started the Tuesday Evening Eating Meeting with a group of friends who meet for a pleasant evening out, good food and conversation at a favorite restaurant.

Life in Winter Park is about as good as it gets anywhere for people who own a house and have provided themselves with comfortable living in their later years. There are a multitude of cultured retirees here who are full of energy and the social graces. The Central Florida weather doesn’t take long to convince people that it is much preferable to anything above the St. Johns River. And Orlando is, to boot, a big, convenient city with an International Airport that can get you almost anywhere you might want to go. Central Floridians have plenty of friends “up North” who are just “dying” to spend a few days in our sunshine and are just waiting for an invitation.

Memories flood back upon me when I drive by the old field where we practiced football at Winter Park High School, and when I see the Lake Virginia stretch of shore where there were formerly two wooden docks on the Rollins College lakefront that jutted far out into the lake and provided the location for the annual Florida State Swimming and Diving Championships.

The Dinky Dock has ceased to exist, along with the short trains of oranges the Dinky Railroad used to carry some 11 miles from Orlando to a loading zone. We kids used to hop on and off the train for short rides despite being told endlessly not to do so!

Lots of things I remember are gone — gone with my fond youth that I still recall with misty-eyed enthusiasm.