Web  design by Theresa Osbron Smith; logo picture from J. W. Hunnicutt collection
Web  design by Theresa Osbron Smith; logo picture from J. W. Hunnicutt collection
Memories of Robert Missouri
By Wayne Groover
     I am not sure whether these thoughts would be considered a story or just memories, but as I was walking earlier, I began to think of Robert Missouri and the influence he, among many other adults in Lacoochee, had on my life during the decade following World War II. 
     Robert was so much more to me than just an African American.  In fact I did not even think of him as "colored" as the term for black people was then known at that time. I thought of him as a wonderful friend, teacher, and pancake breakfast provider. 
     On many mornings I would walk hand in hand with Robert to his home to sit with him and his family and eat pancakes.  His wife, Seal, could absolutely cook the best pancakes I have even eaten.  As we would sit around their table, the talk would often center around me.  I was their guest, and they treated me as they might have treated a future king. It was as if I was their focus, although in their kitchen and adjoining dining room were their own four children, two at the breakfast table and a couple of others in a nearby crib. 
     Comments that I remember are such as, "I think you will be taller than your father, just look at the way you are growing up and you have such big hands." 
     Then after listening to their kind words and eating all the pancakes I could pack into my five year old frame, I would tell Robert's wife how much I liked her cooking and Robert would walk with me back to my home by Cummer's office.
     After speaking to my mother and leaving me with her, my friend Robert would walk next door to the office to continue his daily chores of keeping every inside room clean and the grounds on the outside landscaped with the lawn mowing and hedge clipping.
     Robert's transportation to get Cummer's mail delivery at the post office was an old bicycle with a seat above the back tire for the mail.  One day when I was seated on the back of his bike and holding the mail bag as we were returning to the office, my right heel got caught in the spokes of the back wheel.  Suddenly realizing that his pedaling was harder than normal, Robert looked back about the same time that I began to cry from the pain. "Oh my goodness look what has happened now," he said.  "I'll carry you right home."
     I do not recall what Robert did with the old bicycle, but I do remember the concerned look on his face and how he apologized to my mother again and again when she came to the door to see why Robert and I were standing at the back door.
     Robert, as so many of those special people who made Lacoochee that never to be forgotten town, have passed on now, but those wonderful memories that they helped create will be with those of us who wait our turn.
Wayne Groover

ONE DAY IN LACOOCHEE, FLORIDA
By J.W. Hunnicutt

1946 
                                           The call whistle at the mill just blew so it must be 7:45. I will just sit
                                            here on Aunt Ruby's front porch for a while then go over to the
                                            school and skate.
                                                  James Turner said they might tear up the board walks and put
                                            cement walks all over town next year.  That will be better.  Those
                                            little walks at school are not wide enough for many to skate at the
                                            same time.
                                                   I hope Margaret Ann Baldwin will not be there.  She thinks the
                                            walk between the lunch room and sixth grade is her private
                                            property.
                                                   There's the last whistle.  If I take a short cut through the
                                            cemetery, I can get there before anyone else.  I'd better walk around
                                            Mrs. Jensen's grave.  My sister said if you ask Mrs. Jensen what she
                                            is doing she will say, "Nothing."
                                                  Momma said all the graves along the front fence are our family. 
                                            Here's my sister, Evelyn's, grave.  She died before I was born.  Most
                                            of the graves are covered with clam shells.  I guess that keeps the
                                            rain from washing them away.  Mrs. Jensen's grave has a granite
                                            slab and iron fence around it.  She must have been rich.  James said
                                            that Mr. Jensen sleeps in a casket every night. 
                                                 Momma said my great-great grandmother, Tobitha Goff Brown,
                                            planted those two big camphor trees in the cemetery.  I might climb
                                            one on the way back.
       There's Mrs. Baldwin and Margaret Ann gong to town.  Good!  I can claim the lunchroom walk as mine today.
       Nobody else is here yet.  I can practice going downhill backwards without running into anyone.  Oh no, here comes Grethel Johns.  She's the best skater at school and she also likes the lunchroom walk.  "Hey, Grethel, the lunchroom walk is mine today.  When James and Leroy get here we are going to have a race around the whole school and girls aren't allowed."
       James Turner is my best friend.  He lives near the school and he skates every day.
       I rode in with Daddy today.  We live about a mile out of town next to my uncles' farms.  It sure would be nice to live in town and get to skate whenever you want to and go to Abe's drug store to get a chop suey every day.  I've got fifteen cents today so I can get a chop suey and a funny book  after lunch.  I see a penny under the monkey bars.  I can get some bubble gum too.    
       I can eat lunch at Aunt Ruby's or go down to Brabham's Grocery.  Momma will make me a sandwich with whatever I choose from the meat counter.  I think I will go to the store.  The ice man comes early to fill the drink case so the Nehi strawberry should be really cold by lunch time.  I will take my lunch over to the depot and watch the Silver Meteor come through.  Mr. Rhodes, the depot agent and Old Man Price will probably be playing checkers.  Old Man Price drives my school bus and he stays at the depot between runs.  He usually goes there during the summer too.
       I was at the depot last year when Mr. Carlson was killed by a train.  The wheels ran over his head.  He was the first dead man I ever saw.
       I guess James and Leroy aren't coming after all.  "Hey, Grethel, want to race?  I'll give you a head start!"
      There's the lunch whistle.  Most of the men who work at the mill walk home for lunch.  Aunt Ruby is Daddy's sister.  He brings his lunch to her house and eats on the front porch.  After lunch Uncle Jim always sits in the swing on the porch and tells a story.  Several other men from the neighborhood usually stop for this event. Jim Head is known throughout the area for his colorful stories laced with mild cussing.
      I think I will eat at Aunt Ruby's, hear the story and then go to the depot and Brabham's Grocery.
      I made the right choice.  Aunt Ruby baked a chocolate marshmallow cake this morning.  The marshmallows are baked in the cake and when the cake is done they are like pockets of sweet goo.  This is my favorite cake. 
      "Hey, Mrs. Head, that chocolate cake sure looks good.  Buster, are you spending the day in town?"  That's Mary Alice Jones.  She lives across the street from Aunt Ruby.  I don't know about other towns, but in Lacoochee people take short cuts.  Not just through yards but through houses.  When the Joneses and others go to town they come in through Aunt Ruby's front door, pass through the dining room and kitchen and go out the back door.  They cross the stile to the Milton's yard and town is just across the railroad tracks in front of their house. 
      Downtown consists of the Post Office, Uncle Johnnie Morgan's barber shop, Brabham's Grocery, Abraham's Drug Store, the Saloon,  May's Dry  Goods, O'Quinn's Grocery and Smith's General Store.  The stores are all in a row on the north side of the paved road.  The Seaboard Railroad and Atlantic Coastline Railroad depots are on the south side of the paved road across from the stores.  The railroads intersect between the depots making a big "X" right in the middle of town.
      The Vivian Theater, a two story wooden structure, is in the eastern apex of the "X" and the "Bungalow", a house used by the mill owners when they are in town, is in the western apex.  There are three distinct housing areas for the mill workers with board walks and picket fences.  The mill provides electricity for the company houses for lighting only.  Everyone has an ice box and uses an oil or wood burning stove to cook.  The company houses also have running water and inside bathrooms.
      All of the streets in the residential areas are sand.  The paved road in town goes to the mill which is the largest cypress mill in the world.  Frequently a rail car or flatbed truck will carry a single large cypress log.  A hotel, commissary, doctor's office and gas station are located near the mill.
      After two slices of cake I was ready to go to town.  The Silver Meteor had already passed by, but I hear a freight train coming now.  Think I'll put this penny I found at school on the track and let the train flatten it.  I've turned Lincoln's head toward the other rail so his head will be short and flat.  James said it is against the law to put a penny on the track but I do not believe that.  Here it comes!  The penny fell off after the train ran over it.  I see it on the cross-tie.  It's shaped like an egg now.  The flagman is waving from the caboose.  I'll wait 'til he gets out sight before I pick up the penny.
     "Hey, Momma, look at the penny I just flattened on the train track.  No, I wasn't fooling around the tracks.  I was on the loading dock a long time before the train even got close to the depot.  Remember, I saw Mr. Carlson get killed last year and I know to be careful around trains.  You know, I'm ten now."
     "Abe, I will take this Captain Marvel funny book, but I can't have a chop suey today.  I just had two big slices of cake at Aunt Ruby's."  There's Skinny, Uncle Jim's bird dog sleeping under the bench in front of the saloon.  He spends most of the day here.  "Skinny," want to race home.  We need to get there before the quittin' whistle blows."
      Oh Boy!  Aunt Ruby wrapped up some cake for me to take home.  I will eat that tomorrow when Sonny and I go looking for turtles. 
      Momma and Mrs. Brabham are just closing the store.  Looks like Momma's bringing some cold drinks home.  I'll take one to have with my cake tomorrow.  Maybe I'll leave my skates in the car in case I go to town again this week.
      Sonny's
at the cattle gap.  From the way he is wagging his tail he must have caught something today.  There's Chester Couey getting Uncle Johnnie's slop for their hogs.  "Hey, Chester, want to do something tomorrow?"
      I'll water the orange trees before supper.  Maybe I will go over to the Putnam place tomorrow and try to find that jar of money they say Mr. Putnam buried near the well years ago.  Chester and I might go down to the creek and make a fort out of dog fennels or look for arrowheads. 
      It's going to a good summer.

REMEMBERING THE FERRELL'S
By Nell Moody Woodcock
And
Wayne Groover
Nell's Memory
    Of all the five children born to Charlie and Nell Ferrell I remember two of them distinctly.
    Gene Ferrell was a 12-year-classmate and friend from first grade at Lacoochee's elementary school through graduation ceremonies at Pasco High in Dade City. World War II ended the next year in 1945.
    His older sister Alice Ferrell worked as a clerk in the local post office. As a teenager, her flair for stylish clothes impressed me. She lived at home and I believe her dresses were made by Mrs. Troy Jones, a popular seamstress in Lacoochee.
    Years later at the 2010 annual Lacoochee Reunion an old friend, Irene Parmenter, handed me a black and white picture. I immediately recognized the pink linen dress with rows of white ric-rac at the neck and waist. The straight skirt hit just below my knees. The dress in the picture had been a gift from my friend Alice Ferrell.
    During the war years Alice and I would run into each other at local dances. The U.S.O. Hall was located on the second floor of the Massey Building in Dade City. There was an Army Air Force band at the Zephyrhills Army Airfield.
    Alice married Ed McMahon in 1945 and they were divorced in 1974. I met her husband at a dance they were attending at the National Guard Armory in Dade City. By then I was married to the leader of that band, Roddy Woodcock.
    The local 8-piece band had evolved from a 3-piece group. Two members of the original trio had played in the Army band while attending Zephyrhills High. Johnny Gore also from Zephyrhills had a brief stint with the 8-piece band. He became a member of the famous Mel Tillis' band. Gore and his Saxophone were receiving top billing at the time of his death.
    According to information on Google, In January 1942 the 1930's Zephyrhills municipal airfield was taken over by the U.S.Air Corp. The Zephyrhills Army Airfield was assigned as a sub-base to the Army Air Forces School of Applied Tactics at Orlando's Army Field.

Wayne's Memory
    When my sister Melanie and I were kids in Lacoochee in the early fifties, there were at least two summers that I recall Alice and Ed McMahon visiting her parents, Charlie and Nellie Ferrell, who lived a few doors down from us closer to the crate mill.
    During these summer visits Claudia and Michael McMahon, Ed and Alice's two adorable children, would wander down to our yard to play Hop Scotch and Hide and Seek.  When their dad, Ed, thought his children had played with us neighborhood kids long enough, he would walk to our yard to take them back to the Ferrells. As soon as Claudia and Michael heard their dad call their names, they would run excitedly to greet him.  He would immediately lean down and lift Michael to his shoulders, and then reach for Claudia to help her climb onto his back for their walk home.
    Melanie and I would listen as the three of them laughed all the way down to the Ferrells where their mom and grandparents were waiting on the Ferrell's front porch.
    To read more about Ed McMahon,  Google "Sealtest Big Top" and you will find it was sponsored by Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia and in paragraph 10 you'll note that it states that "old newspaper from that era in their listings refer to local WCAU announce Ed McMahon (his first national exposure) as a clown.