This week in West Orange County history: March 2, 2023

These are the people and events making headlines in West Orange County's past.

  • West Orange Times & Observer
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90 years ago

Eight small pupils were enrolled in the kindergarten conducted by Mrs. Cohen Bray. They were Junior Wheatley, Betty Ann Bray, Joan Kirkland, Jennie DuBujac, Bert Dieffenwierth, Billy Martin, Donald Tyndall and Harold Kannon. The school was to last six weeks.

55 years ago

At the annual meeting of the West Orange Country Club, Gibbs Ashley was elected president; Bill Arrington, vice president; and Jack Veech, secretary-treasurer. Elected to the board of directors were Ward Britt, Jerry Chicone Jr., Blossom Davis, Dan McKinnon, Harry Smith, Charles Strube, Gerald Thompson and Ned Vick.

50 years ago

A beauty contest to end all beauty contests was held at Ocoee High School to raise funds for the Junior/Senior Prom. Each “girl” walked a runway, showing off their feminine charms, and then entertained the students with their dancing. The candidates were Robert (Bert) Benoit, Tempest (Tommy) Breeze, Bertha (Bobby) Britt, Gigi (Gene) Dyer, Stephanie (Steve) Griffis, Marguerita (Mark) Hammons, Andrea (Andrew) Jenkins, Melba (Melvin) Johnson), Reba (Ricky) Maxey, Zsa Zsa (John) McAdory, Rachel (Robert) Robbe, Rhonda (Ronnie) Rodgers, Squirrelie (Jim) Shirley and Delila (Donald) Wise. The winner, Shirley, was chosen by giving a penny per vote.

40 years ago

Services were held for George W. Bray Jr., a longtime Winter Garden resident who spent nearly 40 years in the family hardware business.

30 years ago

Clarke Road, the largest construction project ever undertaken by the city of Ocoee, officially opened following four ribbon cuttings. Mayor Scott Vandergrift cut the ribbon at Highway 50, former Mayor Lester Dabbs cut the ribbon at White Road, former Mayor Tom Ison cut the one at Silver Star Road, and former Mayor Bill Breeze cut the final one at A.D. Mims Road.

20 years ago

In connection with the proposed restoration of the Garden Theatre in Winter Garden, Phil Baker and Andy Crabtree created a computer graphics draft of the theater it was operating in 1955. Assistance was sought for local citizens who remember how the theater appeared at that time. The Winter Garden Heritage Foundation was interested in having the re-created theater’s appearance as authentic as possible.

Some big-name country stars agreed to help Winter Garden observe its 100th anniversary during the city’s Centennial Celebration in the fall. In the concert lineup were Marty Stuart, the Rockin’ Roadhouse Tour (with Tracy Lawrence, Mark Chesnutt and Joe Diffie), John Conlee, Tammy Cochran, Pinmonkey, Jeff Bates and emcee and singer Cledus T. Judd.


Feb. 22, 1946

The West Orange News ran an advertisement in 1946 announcing the opening of Marine and Sports Equipment, operated by Bob Kerr in Winter Garden. The enterprise was an authorized Dunphy dealer and included the sale of outboards, sailboats, rowboats and a new air-cooled motor inboard.

Also stocked were firearms, ammunition, fishing tackle, marine hardware, propellers, boat trailers, power lawn mowers, marine engines, bicycles, power light plants and more. A service repair department was on site as well.

To place an order for preference delivery, folks could call 242 Green.


Joe Johnson was a veteran and prominent member of east Winter Garden. Upon his enlistment, the Army transferred him directly to the battlefields of France. Johnson wrote home, requesting a family photo from his wife, Mary. Upon receiving the desired photograph, Johnson cried. He survived the war and returned home to live a long life dedicated to his extended family and community. He and his wife built several affordable homes for black citizens on property they owned along West Crown Point Road, several of which survive today.

Johnson is featured in the next exhibit opening this week at the Winter Garden Heritage Museum titled “World War II and West Orange County.”


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