Recollections I: A Collection of Historical Photographs, Documents, Letters, Diaries, Stories, Recipes, Sayings, and other Memorabilia about Arcadia and DeSoto County, Florida, Revised Edition, collected and edited by Carol Mahler, begins a serial history of Arcadia and DeSoto County, with each edition a miscellany, including many facets of the history of Arcadia and DeSoto County. Included are twenty-eight articles by many voices past and present.
The stories span a wide range from seven-year-old Steven Ames’ amusing “How to Teach a Fish to Jump” to the scientific in two contributions by John Arvine Reynolds. In “The Acline Discovery,” he educates us that he, an amateur paleontologist, at Acline, once a sawmill community at now Punta Gorda, discovered in a pit several species of a sand dollar, which are now in the Smithsonian, and in “Disappearing Wildlife,” recalls topics as diverse as cattle dipping vats in the 1930s, controlled burns, and dwindling Northern Bobwhite Quail, gopher tortoises, “spreading adders,” and burrowing owls.
Forest Reynolds in “’Cracker’ Crumbs and Cures” offers a nostalgic look at folk remedies as diverse as “poke salads,” Vicks Salve, elderberry syrup, and citrus. To which, appropriately, a brochure of Sunny South Packing Company contained this poem: “Oranges grown under Southern Skies, Where Winter is always Summer, Will bring wealth and health to family ties, and Joys too many to number,” which Peace River Valley Citrus Growers might consider.
“Fish ‘n’ Grits as told by Harold McLeod recalls his boyhood of his family’s camping and fishing along the Myakka River and eating their catch of perch, bream or trout—but, he informs us, not then catfish—and later as a young man at Montgomery Ranch in DeSoto County where he caught more fish in thirty minutes than he could eat. Detailed are the preparation, ingredients used in cooking the fish, served with hushpuppies, grits and tomato gravy, with a breakfast the next morning that Tom McEwen would envy.
The African-American experience is related in three articles, two by Verlene Stebbins Hickson and the other by Fred Carter. In “Building a School: One Block at a Time,” Hickson tells how the students’ “sweat equity” led to the construction of Smith-Brown School in 1946. Also, she relates of Minnie L. Brown’s Brown’s Funeral Home, which in 1960 was purchased by her and her husband Eugene Hickson, a mortician. Fred Carter describes the football game of October 13, 1955 when his Dunbar High School of Fort Myers, admonished by their coach, ‘Y’all cannot let them orange pickers beat you,” defeated Smith-Brown of Arcadia; ironically, Carter in later years taught at Smith-Brown.
Bea Hollingsworth shares her recipe for Florida chocolate-orange cake, best baked with a lot of doses of love and affection, while Verlene Hickson, who likes to give baked goods for Christmas and throughout the year because it is a more personal way of giving, stirs up her old-fashioned bread pudding.
There are also features on such diverse subjects as “DeSoto Abstract Company,” in which Elise Zarli abstracts the abstract firm of John L. Jones; “Local Currency” by Carol Mahler, in which she discusses scrip, Babbitt money and doubloons; “Old Newspaper Archives” in which John Lawhorne researches the archives of the newspapers of Arcadia; and Ruth Reynolds Dunn profiles Delia Twiss, one of Arcadia’s early rodeo queens. And much more.
Recollections I grants us a gratifying insight into the people and history of DeSoto County. It contains 52 pages, contents, introduction, 30 illustrations, and an index. It is published by the DeSoto County Historica Society, P.O. Box 1824, Arcadia, FL 34265.
Copies sell for $7 and are available at the Basket Peddler, 108 W. Oak St., Arcadia; the Historic Parker House B&B, 427 W. Hickory Ave., Arcadia; and Mary Margaret's Tea and Biscuit, 14 S. Polk Ave., Arcadia; or send $7 plus $2 shipping and handling to the DeSoto County Historical Society, P.O. Box 1824, Arcadia, FL 34265. All proceeds will help the Society preserve and promote the history of DeSoto County for future generations.
Note: I added this to my website on September 22, 2010. It was published in the Arcadian (Arcadia, DeSoto County, Florida), pages 11 and 23, December 2, 2010 and The Herald-Advocate (Wauchula, Hardee County, Florida), 3C, December 9, 2010.
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