Old World and New World Florida

Being a bit of a history buff, I miss being in one of the thirteen original colonies. Our fair city of Orlando in Central Florida is not like the ones you see up north, along the Atlantic seaboard or on the coast. Our history beyond the orange groves, old ranches and fruit, flower, and vegetable farms is practically non-existent. There are only a handful of old buildings near the railroad tracks, Church Street Station. Old World Florida is not far away.

001Florida really didn’t get very well settled until the advent of “refrigerated air” in the fifties. Air-conditioning brought hoards down and there was a boom in resorts being established. It became a vacation spot. The beaches have always been a draw, but the interior took even longer to develop.

 

The cool crystal clear springs, like Silver Springs where the movie and Tarzan series was filmed, all had resort communities established around them. Glass bottom boats were the rage.

The resorts spread from the panhandle to the Keys. Miami exploded into haven for the rich and famous. People from all over the country flocked to Florida and many retired here to avoid the cold winters. Snowbirds continue to winter over here, but millions have made Florida their permanent home.

The Orlando area was backwoods swamp country, cattle range and orange grove before Disney came to town. Much of the area was drained to make way for new development. An agricultural hub, many immigrants settled here after years of nomadic fruit and vegetable picking. The community is vastly culturally diverse.

Mansions sit next door to shacks all over the community.

As Orlando grew, with dozens of theme parks, the metropolitan area covered three counties. Everything is new. All the tall buildings, the condos, banks, towering office complexes, expressways and several hospitals were constructed in the past forty years. New World Florida found a foothold.

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We have traffic issues that resulted from the population explosion and local government’s inability to keep up. But it is still a very pretty town. There are little parks and lakes galore. Florida is like a sponge with ponds and lakes on every corner. The terrain is flat and the only winding you see is when a road meanders around a lake. There are numerous enclaves of diverse populations  with colorful open air markets, festivals and al fresco dining on artsy sidewalks that line the cobblestoned streets.

 

This next image is heading south on Orange Avenue directly through the center of downtown.

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Here are a few photos of my favorite park on Lake Eola. It’s located in the center of town where you can dine overlooking the New World Florida cityscape. Yet, it maintains a tropical feel and enough cypress and palms to recall Old World Florida.

What is the history of your community?

Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of Tiffany Glass and Art

While the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum is awe inspiring, the history of Louis Comfort Tiffany and the founding of the museum are equally impressive.  Most famous for the Tiffany lamps designed by his students and himself, there is so much more to see.  A small sample of the most comprehensive collection of Tiffany’s work and a hint of the history behind it can be seen in this video:

Like a rock hound, I seek out Florida’s hidden gems.  This rare gem is tucked away behind the curtains of Spanish moss that drape a live oak shaded cobbled avenue in Winter Park. The museum and its impressive art nouveau collection is the crown jewel of the Winter Park shopping and historic district near Orlando.

If you are ever in the Orlando area the museum is simply a “must see”.  Its focal point, a chapel rescued from the fire that destroyed the Tiffany Estate, Laurelton Hall, in 1957, was designed and constructed exclusively for display in 1893 at the World’s Columbian Exposition (also known as The World’s Fair) in Chicago. The chapel is made of mosaic glass tiles that reflect patterns of colored light from every angle. The cross shaped “electrolier”, as Tiffany called it, is suspended above.

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Another Tiffany masterpiece, The Daffodil Terrace, restored at the museum, is temporarily installed at the Metropolitan Museum and is larger than many Manhattan apartments. Its tall marble columns are topped with clusters of yellow flowers — daffodils — made of blown glass, the material in which Tiffany achieved his greatest eloquence.

The Daffodil Terrace once connected the dining room and the gardens at Laurelton Hall, the grand estate that Tiffany built for himself from 1902 to 1905 on 580 extensively landscaped acres overlooking Long Island Sound. Can you imagine the grandeur of such a place?

You can read more about the chapel and the museum founders here: http://orlando.about.com/od/museumarticles/a/tiffany.htm

#ReliefPH – Call For Help For The Yolanda/Haiyan Victims

Help the Philippines. Meet Luokeshan, a lovely lady and one of the associate editors of Green Embers Recommends.

Luokeshan's Blog

If you’ve been following my blog, you would know that I am a Filipino living in Cebu. The Visayas group of islands (where Cebu is part of) has been struck by severe disasters just within a month. A 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Bohol on October 15, also affecting Cebu and other Visayas islands. Last Friday, November 8 Super Typhoon Haiyan, a category 5 typhoon made landfall 6 times on different Visayas islands. Tacloban was hit hard and authorities have been reported to expect over 10,000 deaths.

My family and I in Cebu are safe and sound however our Kababayans (fellow countrymen) in Tacloban, Bohol, and other severely hit islands did not fair well. We need all the help we can get. This post is late as I did not get my internet connection back until yesterday. There has been several compilations of the different organizations mobilizing and deploying major relief…

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An Unlikely Soldier

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Today is Veteran’s Day in the U.S.A. , when we honor all of those who served.  This is Roseendhar Dasilma, an unlikely war hero, but a woman who put her life on the line many times to insure the freedoms we have, and to assure those civil liberties, those legal and natural inalienable rights, to others.

Rose comes from the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, Haiti.  She lives near Orlando, Florida now and appreciates more than most the freedoms, liberty, and prosperity of this great country.  She cherishes her American citizenship like a jewel, when so many born here take it all for granted, not having a clue how much it means to so many who don’t know the freedom or the prosperity. Roseendhar Dasilma served in the U.S. Army in Iraq.

I could have written about my great forefathers who served in wars over the years of our family’s history in this country. How they served in The Revolutionary War, the two Great World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam.  I could have, and I appreciate them, but I often feel that those who have recently served or who continue to serve today don’t get the recognition they deserve.

Rose worked with me as Nurse.  Sometimes she told us stories of having to stir shit in a bucket that burned over a fire for hours at night, because you couldn’t leave anything behind when you left camp, not even your turds.  She told us of having to move in convoys of tanks that she could see in front of her being picked off by carefully placed roadside bombs, and knowing her tank was the next one in the row to go if her C.O. pressed forward as ordered.

  Knowing that you just might not make it home.

 Knowing that comrades had fallen before you.VeteransDayPoembyjudybonzer

Her family and friends in Haiti will never be forgotten by her, and her family and friends here in America treasure her, and know her to truly be one of a kind.  This is her sister proudly wearing her Operation Iraqi Freedom jacket.1379243_10101024705948137_405266744_n

A B.S.N. prepared Nurse, Rose is working on her Master’s Degree in nursing now.  She is divorced with a lovely young daughter who is the apple of her eye.  She has worked hard to earn her place in our society and I, for one, am happy to have her. Honored to have known her.  Her name is on the back of my paperback so I will never forget it.

  Roseendhar Dasilma loves her country. We love, admire, and respect her!

I am honored to call you, friend.

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How Are You Inspired to Choose the Dedications in Your Books?

In the front matter to my book, “Red Clay and Roses”, there is a dedication, as many provide when they author a book.  I want to share with you the story behind the dedication.  It is not an ordinary dedication for supportive family and friends.  It is a dedication to a man whose name I never knew.  Well, it is to some degree, because I do mention my loving and supportive husband, Greg.   Read as follows and then I will explain:

While visiting my grandparent’s farm in my youth, an elderly African American man told me,

“If your children can look at my grandchildren and not see color, then we have made progress.”

This book is dedicated to him, the progress that we have made,

and to my loving and supportive husband, Greg.

Back story:

I am more than a half century in age at 52 years.  I was born in 1960 in Georgia.  Schools in my hometown were not integrated until 1971.  In 1972, I went into Foster Care.  In Foster Care, I was at home with other children of many races.  I did not give race much thought.  Same was true after I went to live in an orphanage in 1974.  By then, all of the schools in the area were integrated.  Most neighborhoods were exclusive, and many still are in the Deep South.  Things were very different in my grandparent’s time.

My grandparents lived on property that has been in my grandmother’s family since the land lottery of 1827.  My greatest American ancestor, Thomas Holland, won this 500 acre lot and one other lot for his war service in the American Revolutionary War.  It has been occupied by my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins ever since that time.  Though only one home survived the Civil War, the land did.  My grandfather’s family’s Baptist Church stands on one end of the property and my grandmother’s family’s Methodist Church stands on the other end.

During my time growing up, throughout the time spent in Foster Care and the Orphanage, I was able to spend time with my many cousins and the hired help (mostly black) and their families on my grandparent’s farm.  This was primarily weekends, holidays, and summers

As I matured, I spent six months in New York City, and a few years in Atlanta Georgia.  City life was much different than time on the farm or in my small hometown.

The dedication and why it is meaningful to me:

I was not as deeply indoctrinated with racial opinions and bias as many others in my community growing up.  My grandparents; however, were very deeply indoctrinated.  While they were respectful in many ways, treated their hired help kindly, and paid them well.  They still had their set ways of thinking and acting.  Not having been very much influenced by the Civil Rights Movement, being way out in the country, they internalized the community around them, as most do.

The story:

When I was 19 years old, had a small child, and was already divorced, I spent some brief time in my grandparent’s home.  A female friend from North Georgia had come down to visit.

We were gathered at the dining room table having the noontime meal (called dinner in the South, not lunch).  The dog started barking and we heard a truck pull up into the driveway.  My grandfather got up from the table to go see what the ruckus was all about.  A few moments later, we heard him call out, “Mama, yo nigger is here to plow yo field!” very loudly.  He slammed the front door.

My friend and I looked at each other with our mouths agape.  Grandfather came back to the dining room and continued his meal, while Grandmother went to the bedroom to fetch her purse to pay the man.  A black man, an African-American, on invitation, had come with his rototiller to prepare Grandmother’s garden.

I got up from the table and went out onto the front porch where the elderly black man stood with his hat in his hands on the front steps.

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“Sir, I am so sorry for my Grandfather’s behavior,” I apologized.

“Whatever are you apologizing for?” he asked.

“Well, he called you a nigger and slammed the door in your face.  That was rude and I am ashamed for him,” I went on.

“Little lady,” he said with a wide smile, “I ain’t never been nothin but a nigger. For all my long life, nothin but a nigger.  Your Grandpappy, he ain’t never knowed me as nothin but a nigger, all his long life.  But if your children can look at my grandchildren and not see color, well then, we has made some progress!”

His statement resonated with me for my whole lifetime.  I raised my children to not see color.  We sang “Everybody’s Beautiful” and “Jesus Loves the Little Children” before they were able to talk good.  Their friends were always welcome in our home regardless of color or national origin.  My two grandchildren are of mixed race, although they look nothing alike.  I could not imagine not accepting their father as family.

We are, each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another.

~Luciano de Crescenzo

After I wrote “Red Clay and Roses”, which was highly influenced by my life experiences and those of my family, I had to come up with what I felt was a meaningful dedication.  I did not feel the typical, “Thanks, to my supportive….,” would suffice.  The book has a significant amount of racial tension in it.  This African American man’s words came back to me.  We have made progress, and for that I am grateful.

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How do you decide what to write as a dedication in your books?  What inspires you to be grateful?  What progress do you see?

Interracial Relations, “Trendy?”

The 50th Anniversary of MLK’s march on Washington reminds us of the great strides we have made in overcoming the racial prejudice that existed during the era when the political machine took on a whole new color.

If you click on the image of Martin Luther King, Jr. you will see a video from “Rolling Stone”.  The following link tells the stories of people who lived through the transitions of the era.  Their stories should not be forgotten.

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The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom or “The Great March on Washington“, as styled in a sound recording released after the event, was one of the largest political rallies for human rights in United States history and called for civil and economic rights for African Americans. It took place in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, August 28, 1963. Martin Luther King, Jr., standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial, delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech advocating that racial harmony should prevail upon the march. (Wikipedia)

The march was organized by a group of civil rights, labor, and religious organizations, under the theme “jobs, and freedom”. Estimates of the number of participants varied from 200,000 to 300,000. Observers estimated that 75–80% of the marchers were black.

Racism results from oppression, poverty and ignorance.  These three things are the greatest influences on society’s reluctance and inability to become more than tolerant, but to embrace and accept the changing tide in this country.

I have been reading many articles and blogs on the issues of racism over the past few days, and what I am seeing is that interracial relations are currently considered, “Trendy.”  My daughter, who has racially mixed children, agrees.  I can only pray that it is much more permanent than trendy.

My granddaughter has the Hispanic phenotype of her father, a Puerto Rican.  My grandson has the Arian phenotype of his mother, a German/English/Cherokee.  The Puerto Ricans are a mix of Spanish, African-American, and Island Indians.  They are a mixed race family and not unlike many families in the Orlando area.   My daughter feels that, while we are far from “post racial”, we are moving closer toward an accepting society where race is less of an issue than it was 50 years ago, but her life experiences with these children let her know that we are not there yet.

She has had people ask her if she was babysitting.  She has had people ask her if she adopted, and to go so far as to congratulate her on adopting, “Typically less than adoptable children.”  She has had day care staff members assume that she was picking up a child other than her own daughter simply because she is white and her daughter is not, asking her for I.D. to prove she is the parent of the child.

The Trayvon Martin-Mark Zimmerman case reminds us that there is much progress to be made if we are to truly see people and not color.  I am hopeful that we can get there soon.

“Red Clay and Roses” speaks to the issue of racism as it was fifty years ago, and to the issue of Civil Rights and Women’s Rights.  It is fiction based on the true stories of those who lived during the era and faced the challenges of it directly.  It is an historical reminder why we should strive for acceptance and assure that we never go back to where we were fifty years ago.  These are issues worth remembering.

Charlie Joseph’s, a LaGrange, Georgia, Icon

Charlie Joseph’s

Do you have one of those places visited in your childhood that you will never forget?  Is there an iconic restaurant that you dined in as a child or a place that you were allowed to be grown up in?  Is it still there?774_content___media_external_images_media_8 (1)

Charlie Joseph’s is one of those places to me.  My father would send us from his uptown office to Charlie Joseph’s with a few dollars, real money, along with his order.  We would walk up to the outside window and order tube steaks with chili and cheese, and chips to take back to the office for lunch.  It made us feel so grown up to be given that responsibility.

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Charlie Joseph’s is iconic in my small town.  It has been there since time immemorial.  My Aunt would take us there as small children where we dined inside to the juke box sounds.  She said that Charlie made his own hot dogs from fresh meats, spiced just right, ground and stuffed right there.  Although I do not believe that they do this anymore.  Only Coke-a-Cola products are served at Charlie Joseph’s774_content___media_external_images_media_10

Trent sends Sybil out for tube steaks from Charlie Joseph’s in “Red Clay and Roses”.  It is the only dining establishment in my small hometown from my youth that remains fully functioning on Bull Street Downtown.  They have even opened another one on West Point Road.  It has been passed through three generations.560_IMG_0002 (1)

History:  

Joey Keeth’s grandfather, Charlie Joseph originated from Zahle, Lebanon.  Before 1920, he migrated to LaGrange, Georgia, and peddled fruit from a horse and buggy in the LaGrange and surrounding areas.  In 1920,  He started the Charlie Joseph’s Restaurant at 107 Main Street, LaGrange, Georgia.  Charlie Joseph and his wife successfully ran the restaurant for twenty-six years together.

 

  Sometime in 1946, the restaurant was moved to 128 Bull Street, where the oldest location is today.  Charlie Joseph passed away suddenly two weeks before the restaurant location was moved, and the ownership was changed to Solomon Joseph, Charlie Joseph’s son. 

 

In 1985, Joey Keeth purchased Charlie Joseph’s from his uncle, Solomon Joseph, and opened a new location at 2238 West Point Road, LaGrange, Georgia in 1992.  Joey Keeth has worked at Charlie Joseph’s for over thirty-eight years.  Joey Keeth values the lessons learned over the years working with his family, and looks forward to sharing them with future generations in his family to come.

What Icons remain in your hometown? What responsibilities did you have as a child that made you feel grown up, or important?