Stopping in Clermont

Florida Citrus Tower 05-16-2014_5717Clermont, with its Citrus Tower and House of the Presidents, has been a stopping point since our family trip in 1960.

It was only logical that the Road Warriorettes Curator Jessica and Bike Partner Anne make a pit stop there on the final leg of our trip.

Built in 1955

Florida Citrus Tower 05-16-2014_5663A handwritten note on the elevator wall gave some interesting stats. An elevator ride to the top cost us $6 a head. (If Miz Jessica had slouched a little more so she looked like my granddaughter, we could have gotten her the ride for the $4 kid rate, but she’s too honest. There was no senior discount, because EVERYBODY in Florida is a senior.)

A gazillion citrus trees

Florida Citrus Tower 05-16-2014_5674When the Steinhoffs stood atop the tower in 1960, a sign proclaimed that we were looking out over a gazillion citrus trees, and the smell of orange blossoms washed over us.

When Post reporter Gayle Pallesen and I went up in the tower in 1990 when we were doing a story on U.S. 27 from Little Havana in Miami to Havana, Florida, in the Panhandle, we looked out over a gazillion dead trees killed by a series of disastrous cold fronts that moved through in the ’80s. The only smell was smoke from burning trees that had been bulldozed and piled up.

The landscape today is covered by gazillions of homes and businesses. There is no smell of orange blossoms.

With binoculars or a telephone lens, we could barely make out a square-shaped building on the horizon that we thought was the VAB at Cape Kennedy.

Mineola has been developed nicely

Florida Citrus Tower 05-16-2014_5682That’s Lake Mineola to the west. A bike trail starting there ties in with the West Orange Trail that goes all the way to Apopka. The development along the lake has done a nice job of integrating the homes into the surrounding hills and making it a very bike / pedestrian / jogger-friendly area. I’d love to sit on one of their porches looking at the sun set over the lake in the evening.

Click on the photos to make them larger.

A little green left

Florida Citrus Tower 05-16-2014_5678There’s still a little green left to the south. The highway is U.S. 27, which was once the main path to South Florida from the Midwest before I-95 and the Florida Turnpike were built.

The Penny Drop

Florida Citrus Tower 05-16-2014_5688I told Curator Jessica that I’d spot her a penny to drop over the edge.

“I can’t do that, it might kill someone,” she protested. [She, obviously, hasn’t read the debunking of the penny-dropped-from-the-Empire-State-Building urban legend.)

She and Anne took turns dropping coins down a conduit that goes all the way to the base of the tower. With their ears to pipes on the side of the box, they could hear it spin and ding all the way down. It doesn’t take much to amuse them.

House of Presidents

Florida Citrus Tower 05-16-2014_5680Southwest of the tower is a large white building looking a little worse for the wear, which is to be expected, because it was here in 1960.

Its website calls it the The Presidents Hall of Fame, but the sign on the front of the building still says House of Presidents. I recalled the tickets were a bit pricy, so we opted to stay on the outside.

“Like a 70’s porn star”

Jessica Cyders - House of the Presidents 05-16-2014I photographed Anne with Washington and Lincoln behind the wax museum when we passed through in 2013. Miz Jessica, though, made a beeline for Theodore Roosevelt.

“He looks like a 70’s porn star,” she remarked. I wisely opted not to ask about her expertise in that area. I’m sure her interest was purely academic.

She enjoys making period costumes, so Anne and I were edified about the benefits of crotchless pantaloons and why the cancan was such a scandalous dance. Between Jessica and Anne, who wrote Kiss and Tell: Secrets of Sexual Desire from Women 15 to 97, this Missouri boy got quite an education on our road trip.


Lincoln on KY Courthouse?

Caldwell County KY Courthouse 10-28-2013Curator Jessica can’t pass a sign that says “Historical” or any building older than me. One of those side-trips took us into downtown Princeton, Kentucky, where we looked at the monolithic Caldwell County Courthouse. Even I could recognize some of the Art Deco features.

I didn’t think the South was fond of Lincoln

Caldwell County KY Courthouse 10-28-2013One of the interesting touches was that over the entrance on each side was inscribed the compass direction: North, South, etc. Four visages peered out of the east and west walls.

I was surprised to see one of them was Abe Lincoln. I wouldn’t have expected him to be too popular on a Southern courthouse. Maybe his Kentucky roots made them cut him some slack.

Confederate soldier stands guard

Caldwell County KY Courthouse 10-28-2013A memorial to Confederate soldiers stands facing south. His back is to Lincoln, who is on the northeast wall.

Father of the country

Caldwell County KY Courthouse 10-28-2013George Washington is on the northwest wall.

Who is this?

Caldwell County KY Courthouse 10-28-2013

This fellow is stuck looking to the west from the southwest wall. Neither Jessica nor I had a clue who he is.

Another mystery figure

Caldwell County KY Courthouse 10-28-2013This man was on the southeast wall. The dark area under his nose isn’t a shadow. I don’t know if it was mold or if someone had disfigured the image. It was high up on the wall, so I doubt the latter was the case.

Jessica stopped a woman coming out of the courthouse to see if she could be of any help, but she admitted that she had never noticed the figures. It’s a possibility they were local important people.

First Friday

This is a reminder that I’ll be at Annie Laurie’s on Broadway on First Friday, November 1, from about 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Stop by, take a look at my 2013-2014 Snapshots of Cape Girardeau calendars and Smelterville books and give a Southeast Missouri welcome to Jessica who has trouble believing my stories about the region. Laurie says there will be cookies and hot apple cider on hand.


Picturesque Hamlet, Oriole

Oriole area 04-20-2011

John G. Putz rhapsodized about Oriole in the March 5, 1931, Missourian. The vocabulary and sentence structure would challenge today’s newspaper reader, but he paints an interesting picture of the “picturesque hamlet.” The Missourian’s story had some other information about the area if you are interested. Check out the front page for an account of the gas war that had regular at 14.5 cents and high test going for 17.5.

Perhaps the most poetic name of any town or village in Cape Girardeau County is that of the picturesque hamlet Oriole, which nestles among the rocky hills in the eastern part of this county. Along the banks of the headwaters of Indian Creek, on which Oriole is located, the bird whose name it bears nests in large numbers in swinging branches of the sycamores and elms overhanging the gravelly bed of the creeks.

Postmaster Witter named town

Oriole area 04-20-2011Erastus Witter, teacher, naturalist and philosopher, who was the first postmaster in Oriole, in casting about for a name, chose the name suggested by the graceful denizens of the trees, the orioles, and the postoffice department adopted that name for the office. Up until that time, the place was known as Lanesville, so called after John Lane, a Methodist minister, who had established a trading post or store on the high ridge a mile to the southeast from the present site of Oriole. This store was purchased by Erastus Witter, who later sold it to J. Benton Comer and moved to Seattle, Washington. Comer moved the post office to the present home of J.A. Armstrong, a short distance southeast from the site of Oriole, and the original building forms part of the present mercantile establishment of L. McLain, after several additions had been constructed. The original building was erected about 40 years ago, and housed the postoffice under various postmasters, until the office was discontinued with at the advent of the rural routes.

LaFern Stiver grew up here

McLain homeOriginally all the land within a wide area, several hundred acres, was owned by the Williams family, the original and first settler by that name, Charles Williams, coming from Virgina about the year 1796. He was the son of Col. Charles Williams, under George Washington, the inspector of arms at Harpers Ferry. The graves of Charles Williams, his consort and several other members of the family are located about 300 yards east of Oriole. George Williams, son of Charles Williams, became his successor as owner of most of the homestead and headright. H.H.M. Williams, son of George, became one of Jackson’s leading merchants, and for years conducted a general store on the corner of Main and South High Streets, where the Jackson Mercantile Company’s store is now located. Sam D. Williams, son of H.H.M. Williams, has a fine farm a few miles southwest of Jackson, and some of his seven sons have families of their own, their children now constituting the seventh generation of the Williams family in this county.

Baptists and sawmills

Oriole area 04-20-2011About 25 years ago a small congregation of Baptists concluded to erect a church near the Williams burial grounds, and the members of the Williams family contributed liberally towards the building fund. The church has fallen into decay, however, and is rarely opened for meetings.

A short distance northward from Oriole, down the creek, a large sawmill was formerly located, employing a number of men. The commissary was in charge of Sam Howard, who was widely known as a whittler, skilled with the knife, and could shape remarkable things from wood, such as wreaths, chains, fans and the like. One of his masterpieces, a wreath, carved from butternut wood, consisting of 126 pieces, all dovetailed and mortised together without the use of a nail, tack, bolt or screw, is in possession of a collector of curios in Jackson now.

Gibraltar of golden yellow ochre

Oriole area 04-20-2011Aside from the historic nimbus that surrounds Oriole like an aureola, the place has an indescribable air of pastoral peace and the added charm of picturesque topography. Between the two branches of Indian Creek headwaters juts out a miniature Gibraltar, the precipitous sides of which are composed of a golden yellow ochre, while the less steep hillsides are crisscrossed by the feet of domestic animals. All the “hog-back” ridges still bear the remnants of a once dense forest. In the deep recesses from which in flood-time emerge turbulent cataracts, formed by the water rushing down the steep sides of the gulches, comes the echoing repetition of every loud word spoken or song wafted into the air, while from the wood-crested ridges comes a baffling, sweet melody, floating on the current of the far wind.

In the west descends the golden sun to rest, while the land is sinking into the calm which evening ever brings to these hills. The oriole sends out it evening farewell song, and up McLain’s Hollow, down toward McLain’s Chapel or up toward the fern-covered saw-tooth ridge to the east, clatters the motor disturbing the spirit of the times long ago that hovers over the peaceful valley and its congenial inhabitants