Back in my childhood home after a lifetime away, I recall constantly things that have long been buried in my memory. Where these unseen activities have been hiding all these years is a wonder that I may never solve. The great thing is that they do reappear on command and become a part of a living present.
In high school at the end of the year, I often took up a collection among my classmates who wanted to take a trip and spend a day on the beach at Daytona, New Smyrna or other attractive places. I was always thinking up things members of our class might enjoy doing together, and often this included a cheap trip out of town. If any of the group couldn’t afford the fare, others would pitch in to make it possible.
This was in the days of the early Depression in 1931 on, and such an outing was something to celebrate. My neighbor, Bob Pratt, had a brother-in-law who owned a large empty truck open in the back. The brother-in-law and I made an agreement for $2 a head for kids to sit on the truck floor. He picked us up before we left, would take us wherever we wanted to go, and bring us safely back. After a trip to the beach in Daytona, we felt that we had enjoyed a windfall, and returned home, tired, sunburned, and ready for dinner and bed.
Another trip we took was a picnic at Big Tree Park, and later one to Wekiwa Springs. I remember also a day when we visited the manatees in springs about an hour west of Orlando. Great times! The most adventurous trip was perhaps for a luncheon at the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City, near Tampa and spending a happy time visiting Southern College in Lakeland.
To earn money in those days, after school I would cut peoples grass, cut up fallen pine trees for fireplace wood, and wash cars. All of these activities were outdoors and healthy. I had no lust to be inside while the sun was shining. Besides, I wanted to stay in shape for the next football season! Football was a big thing in my life in high school, and I played center on the Winter Park team for three years. We had some pretty good players and I remember well Ralph Jackson, Gerald Cook, George Harper, and Ed Niedt among my colleagues. Ralph went on to play for the Citadel in Charlestown.
I also remember many great professional baseball teams who held their spring training at Harper-Shepherd Field in Winter Park. People, of course, just walked in free and stood along the sidelines.
We had many night intercollegiate basketball games in the Winter Park High School gym, and I attended most of them, although I never played basketball.
A few of my classmates drove their families’ cars to school, but I used my bike, which through the years provided me with legs that were shapely, muscled and strong. All of my trips anywhere were on my bike.
Going to Oviedo was a “big ” trip — but as b.w. warns me, “Don’t over exaggerate!”
In my senior year my family did allow me to use their car to go on dates to the movies and to high school dances held at the Winter Park Woman’s Club. I obeyed my mother’s orders not to drive over 25 miles an hour, and gave her hearty thanks for using the car. Our dances were chaperoned by our teachers who had to be invited for at least one dance with each boy. We held our teachers quite far from us as we danced and tried not to step on the toes of anybody who was going to be giving us grades in the near future. All in all, the teachers were a grand lot and we cared much for them personally. I looked back on Miss Wharton and several others warmly in my early days at Harvard, feeling that they had given me great preparation.
Even in the depths of the Depression, Winter Park was a choice place — a little city with charm and grace that few places in the state had.
I was proud to live here and still am!