Last month I was down in Florida working with my sister on our book about Uncle Harry. We’ve been assembling photos and letters for over ten years now. Our husbands and families can’t believe that we aren’t finished with this project but the more we do, the more we discover that we want to do. And since we’ve been blessed with new information from Uncle Harry’s wing man, still going strong at a young 92, this book keeps growing and growing.
At any rate, after I left sister’s, and before I had to be in Atlanta to pick up our Mothership Jan, I took a little mosey across the state of Florida. I stayed off the interstates and headed cross state on Hwy 40. It had been raining off and on all week and it was still raining when I came across the little town of Barberville. Though my windshield wipers were going full blast, I couldn’t miss the large colorfully-painted animals standing alongside the road. I literally did a double take seeing the large chickens, giraffes, apes and tigers standing silently in the rain. Turning around as soon as possible, I parked across the road and took a few shots out the window. Then driving back slowly took a few more photos. This unique three acre roadside store started about 20 years ago as a produce stand. It recently changed hands and is now owned by a former Miami car dealer. He says his life is no longer as stressful and he doesn’t miss the city one bit. But Mr. Pendola doesn’t sell just produce – a visitor will also find giant painted animals and metal art, furniture and Mexican Talavera – a hand painted type of pottery. The animals are all recycled cast aluminum and are painted right on the property. In addition there are fountains, gazing balls, ceramic bowls, and any kind of painted animal or insect you could dream up, and then there is the local honey and peanut brittle. Think your backyard needs a little sprucing up? How about a elephant fountain with the water shooting out of its trunk? If you grew up loving that giant chicken adorning the local fried chicken place in your hometown – well, don’t fret child, you will find one right here!
But there I was without a raincoat or an umbrella so after making a couple of passes – I moved on down the road. It’s definitely on my list for my next trip because the town has something called a Pioneer Settlement. Students from all around this area come here to learn about early Florida settlers – yes, that means before air-conditioning and Disney World. Back when fabric for clothes and bedding had to be spun and woven and then constructed. Back when food was all grown on the farm and meat came from animals either raised or hunted. There are several seasonal programs but the Rites of Spring program looks like it would be really fun. Children get to see and learn about bees, they can plant seeds and they get to make a small basket. Does it sound like I miss Florida? In one word – yes.
Taking my time wandering aimlessly west, I caught sight of a small sign advertising Juniper Springs. I made a very quick tire-squealing turn into the gates and paid my $5.30. Driving on to the parking area, I sat for a second wondering why there were NO other cars anywhere. There was a big sign warning of bears and alligators which gave me pause plus the fact that it was really raining! But, tucking my camera under my shirt, I made a dash down a tree-covered walk to a building seen through the trees. Standing under the eaves of the concession building, the only other person was the park ranger. Although he probably thought I was kind of nuts coming to this place in the rain – he was glad to see me and he even loaned me his ranger raincoat. Usually there are lots of people enjoying swimming in the spring and on hot sunny days – it’s packed. It’s one of the oldest recreational areas in the state. Way back in the 1930’s, President Roosevelt started a program to help move our country out of the Great Depression. The Civilian Conservation Corps gathered thousands of young, unmarried, unemployed men from all over the country, trained them and then moved them to select states to build bridges, state parks, and more. This movement not only helped these unskilled men to grow stronger physically and mentally, but the CCC “led to a greater public awareness and appreciation of the outdoors and the nation’s natural resources, and the continued need for a carefully planned, comprehensive national program for the protection and development of natural resources.”  The CCC also built one of my favorite places – Highlands Hammock. The trails, the catwalks through the swamp, the open picnic areas and the wonderful old buildings built with big beams and tabby rock are so special. The buildings were always so cool on a hot day (before AC) and one of them had a huge fossilized tortoise which was awesome to me as a child. (Still is.) “During the time of the CCC, enrollees planted nearly 3 billion trees to help reforest America, constructed more than 800 parks nationwide and upgraded most state parks, updated forest fire fighting methods, and built a network of service buildings and public roadways in remote areas.”
So the next time you go to a state park – you might need to say a silent thank you to the boys of the CCC. They built things to last.
The page below was a happy discovery. I was looking at the photos that I’d taken at Juniper Springs. I’d gone on one of the short walks around the springs and taken a photo of a plaque right outside the old mill house. Once home, with all my photos safely in Historian, I enlarged the photo hoping I could read the descriptions of the construction of the park in 1933-35. What did catch my eye was an oak tree which stood at the head of the pool in front of the old mill. And when I checked one of my photos – there was the same oak tree. So through hurricanes and storms, construction and future rebuilding – the tree remained. I’m guessing none of the people shown swimming in the spring are still around, but there’s that tree. I’m wondering if it was a young sapling when peoples from the Seminole tribe came to the springs in search of fresh water? Many tools and weapons and animal bones have been found at the springs left from the paleo-Indians who lived and hunted in what is now the Ocala National Forest. When the Europeans came to Florida in the early 1500’s, there were probably 350,000 Indians. But in less than 200 years, the tribes were almost eliminated by disease, war, and slave raids. The natives had no defenses against smallpox and influenza.
As usual I digress! But it got me to thinking that a very fun project would be to do some research of a favorite place and then compare the photos taken way-back-when to photos that have been taken recently. I know our Main Street has changed amazingly just in the last 10 years. So comparing photos from the 1950’s when it was a thriving textile town to now, when textiles have been replaced with restaurants and antique shops, you’d see a big change.
So happy memory making and I hope you make some trips down some old back roads soon too.
PS. All of us here at pixels2Pages are hoping that you’ll make the trip to Atlanta on September 24-27 for the Forever first-ever convention. Three fun-filled days! If you love digital scrapbooking or if you love traditional scrapbooking – there will be plenty of time for both! You’ll get to meet the creators of your favorite software programs, Artisan and Historian. You’ll hear more about why preserving your photos “forever” with Forever is so important. And how fun will it be for you to meet some of your favorite designers? All of the US pixies will be there in force along with Pixie Shelley flying in from Doha! So make your plans NOW and get in on that early bird special of 20% off for a low low price of $159.20! See you there!
PSS Did I mention a goody bag worth more than $200.00?
- Robert Allen Ermentrout, “Forgotten Men: The Civilian Conservation Corps.”
- CCC Legacy Web site