Endings, Beginnings, Turpentine and more: Week of September 25th

Hello everyone,

As of this week I’ve finished up the requirements for my internship program! It’s been such an amazing experience to work with the Brevard County Historical Commission learning about history, technology, and my own community! I definitely feel a sense of accomplishment. During this internship I have worked on over 26 oral history videos and learned many new research and technological skills. I’ve gained experience working with Adobe video editing, proofreading techniques, used new research databases like Ancestry.com, utilized microfilm and archived materials, and interacted with patrons and volunteers at the library.

While I have met the original requirements for the internship, I have been invited to  remain working with the Brevard County Historical Commission on continuing projects. (That includes an original oral history that I began working on last week!)

So far, I have drafted potential interview questions, conducted a pre-interview background meeting, and began organizing an outline for the structure of the interview. The interview subject we are planning on is a gentleman named Bob Gross. He is a very interesting individual who has an extensive background in the historical and archaeological societies and organizations in Brevard County. I first met Bob at the Florida Historical Society when I was completing my undergraduate internship in 2015. He is a volunteer there and also volunteers at the Brevard County Historical Commission. He grew up in Melbourne, Florida after moving here as a young boy. One of his main interests is archaeology, and he was involved in the field from a young age.

Bob was a founding member of many archaeological societies in the region and still actively participates in site excavations and recording. Thus, this interview will focus mainly on his involvement with archaeology in Brevard County.

I will have lots more information on Bob as the interview draws nearer!


Updates:

  • In other news, the oral history panel for the Mosquito Beaters is officially up online! Check it out by clicking here, and take a look at last week’s post to get more information about its contents and importance!
  • I also was able to update and publish about a dozen playlists to the Brevard County Historical Commission’s YouTube page. This organizes the videos into categories which include location based playlists (Melbourne, Cocoa, etc.) and topic playlists (NASA, Black History, etc.) Check them out here!

This week I worked on two new oral histories from the Mims area. They are Lena Stokes and Juanita Wright. They are both very short interviews, less than 20 minutes each, however they have some interesting things to say about life in rural Mims.

  • The first is with Lena Curry-Stokes, and it is already available on YouTube here!

Lena Stokes was born in 1944 in Mims along State Road 46. She was born to a family working at the turpentine camp in the area. She describes the raised wooden house she lived in, the lack of electricity, and the lack of paved roads. Interestingly, she describes her best friend as a little white girl, and mentions how the camp was integrated with whites and blacks.

Harvesting turpentine was hard and dirty work, but it was very prevalent in Florida. It involved collecting resin from pine trees to be processed in such a way that it could be used by industries like the Navy.

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“Dipping and Scraping Pine Trees, Turpentine Industry in Florida” Image credit to Central Florida Memory

Once again, Ancestry.com came in handy supplying information via draft cards and other documents for identifying family names.

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Here is Lena Curry-Stoke’s father’s draft card confirming her mother’s name as Viola.

What I found particularly interesting about this brief interview is the discussion of folk medicine and home remedies. Several Oral histories have mentioned using spider webs to stop bleeding. At first I was skeptical, but after hearing it in so many oral histories and doing a quick Google search, it indeed does work as a way to stop bleeding and clot wounds! While that’s definitely a fun fact to file away, I don’t think I’ll be trying it anytime soon…


Finally, the interview with Juanita Wright will be posted next week and discusses some interesting information about how Mims has changed throughout the years. Juanita was born in 1922 and has seen many physical and cultural changes in her lifetime. Check back on my blog for more information and a link to YouTube!

Thank you for reading! I will continue to post updates to this blog as I finish up projects initiated by my internship with the Brevard County Historical Commission.

See you next time!

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Panels from Cocoa and Mims: Week of September 18th

Hello everyone,

Sorry that there’s been a little delay with my updates! I haven’t been at work due to a major storm that hit our area. Brevard County just weathered Hurricane Irma, which made quite a mess of things in Florida, including knocking out power at the Central Brevard Library in Cocoa, where I work.

Thankfully, things are returning back to normal, and my internship requirements are almost completely satisfied! I’m still learning a lot about history and technology as I work here, so I plan to continue contributing for as long as I am able!

On that note, I have been working on the two panels I mentioned in my last post. The first is the Mosquito Beater Panel. This great group of longtime, often lifetime, Brevard County residents are known for their annual meetings held to discuss the old days in Brevard County. It was great to work on this panel because it contained the founding member, George Harrell, known as “Speedy.” (If you are interested in the Mosquito Beaters, I suggest checking out my last blog post: Historic Homes and Panels: Week of August 28th).

In addition, there is also a lot of discussion of baseball in this panel. Baseball was an extremely popular sport in Brevard County and the area attracted many people who were interested in playing the sport. The interview talks about how businesses in Cocoa even shut down to let employees see local games! One of the more interesting mentions is of a ballplayer named Felipe Alou. He was a black player who came to Cocoa before he made it big in the Major League. Mr. Boonstra and I had to do a little searching to find information on his time on Cocoa, but here is a small passage from a larger article we found on the website for the Society for American Baseball Research:

Alou began his professional career in Lake Charles, Louisiana, helping to integrate the Evangeline League. Soon after he arrived, the league voted to expel Lake Charles and Lafayette (the two clubs that had black players).8 Instead, the blacks were shifted to other teams in other leagues; Alou, having just arrived in the United States, rode a bus to Cocoa, Florida to play in the Florida State League. Desperately homesick, and stung by racism for the first time in his life, he pulled it together enough to hit a league-leading .380 with 21 home runs. [source]

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  • I think this interview will be a popular one on our YouTube channel, check it out by clicking here!


The other panel I’ve been working on is of four gentlemen from Mims, Florida, which is in the north part of Brevard County. They are: Samuel Hendrix, Joseph Ricard, P.W. Robert, and Ralph Sharpe.

The panel is quite lengthy, with a 42 page printed transcript, but it contains some great information on the people and places that made the Mims community unique. What’s even better is that the four gentlemen are good friends and grew up knowing one another. Thus, there’s a lot of funny personal stories from their boyhood that are both entertaining and informative about what it was like growing up in the 1920s and 30s in rural Brevard.

As always, Ancestry.com has been a huge help in my research efforts. I was able to verify correct spellings, locate extended family members, and confirm occupation information for many of the individuals contained in this panel. Using Ancestry has been a great experience in learning how databases work, as I’m frequently challenged to find alternative means of looking up information. For instance, I am frequently conducting multiple searches based on location, last name, or occupation. Family members are best found when using census documents, but military draft cards can also supply next of kin information. Also, by expanding the parameters of the search, such as being flexible in the spelling of names, can yield more successful results.

Here is an instance of finding an individual through Ancestry under the draft card option. In this instance I did not have the correct spelling of “McLemore,” but took a guess with the flexible spelling option enabled, and was able to locate his information and confirm his identity with his place of residence (Mims, Florida).

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The Mims panel was particularly informative because it contained a lot of information about the Citrus Industry. This included information about the Blue Goose Packing House, in Mims. The panelists describe the process of picking, packing, and labeling the Indian Fruit before it went to market across the country. The families of these panelists were directly involved with this industry, including building the crates that were used to ship the fruit.

Here’s a vintage label from the Blue Goose Packing House:

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There is also discussion of the Great Depression, WPA projects, World War II, pastimes like hunting and horseback riding, and other local interests. This panel is particularly rich with personal stories that feature entertaining stories about creating moonshine, schoolboy pranks, going camping, and family gossip.

That panel should be posted by next week! I will link it here when it becomes available.


Finally, I have an exciting piece of news to share, I may be able to work on a brand new oral history! It will be filmed here at the Central Library and I will be able to work on research, creating questions, and conducting the interview! I’m very excited about this possibility, but can’t share too much information yet. It’s often difficult to get all the pieces to fall into place for these projects to happen, including scheduling, execution, and editing. However, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this prospect will turn into reality!

Thanks so much for reading! See you next time!

-Heather Pierce

Historic Homes and Panels: Week of August 28th

Hello, everyone!

This week I worked more on videos containing walk-throughs of historic buildings and homes. Finishing up from last week, I posted the Maytown video to YouTube. It can be found here.

Maytown is now an abandoned community in neighboring Volusia County, but some structures remain standing. These include an old post office and home seen here:

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Post office building seen in the Maytown Oral history. Photo credit to: http://www.florida-backroads-travel.com/maytown-road.html
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Photo credit to: http://www.florida-backroads-travel.com/maytown-road.html

The most notable part of the town was the railroad lines that intersected it. The train engine was known as “Old Buck” and was a familiar sight for locals living there. This kept the community alive until the lines were pulled out and the area became a ghost town.

I was able to find out a little more information about Maytown by checking out a website called “Florida Backroads Travel.” They had the above images and some additional information on where Maytown was located. Check out the webpage here.


Another oral history I’ve been working on is for the Taylor Dunn house. This home was built in 1910 in Mims, Florida and lived in by the Dunn family until 1966. Arthur Dunn was a Brevard County Commissioner for 24 years and his wife, Mayme Louise Taylor, was a descendant of one of the earliest families to settle in Brevard County.

The oral history is with their son, Taylor Dunn, who talks about the structure of the home and the memories he has of growing up in Mims. Taylor served in the Army Air Corps during World War II in the Pacific Theater, but came back home after the war to his hometown of Mims. He discusses fond memories of leisure activities such as swimming and fishing as a boy, as well as about the ruralness of the area.

The interesting thing about this home is that after it fell into a state of disrepair, it was selected to be a part of a unique project designed by the Parrish Medical Center in nearby Titusville, Florida. The Parrish Medical Center selected several neglected historic homes in north Brevard to be moved to their property and renovated to create a “Health Village.” This village houses physicians and other modern medical offices in buildings that evoke a sense of the past.

This is what the house looked like prior to restoration:

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Photo Credit to: https://www.flickr.com/photos/blackdoll/2207441999

And here is the house now:

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Photo credit to: https://www.flickr.com/photos/blackdoll/7298738706

What a transformation, right? I thought this was a really great idea to help the local community expand while still honoring its past!


Finally I started editing two panel interviews this week. The first is of three individuals from the organization known as the “Mosquito Beaters.” They are: George “Speedy” Harrell, Robert “Bob” Cowart, and Marion Paterson Jackson.

Here’s a little info from the YouTube description that I wrote:

The name “Mosquito Beater” comes from the palm frond switches used to swat away the many mosquitoes that plagued Brevard County prior to mosquito control. The Mosquito Beater organization was officially created in 1986 when George Harrell decided to organize an annual meeting for individuals who had lived in Brevard County prior to 1950. The idea was so popular, that each year in March over 1,000 people attend the event to discuss local history and catch up with family and friends in the area. Additionally, each year the group collects information and photographs to create the “Central Brevard Mosquito Beaters Memory Book,” which is an annual publication sold at their office in the Library of Florida History located at 435 Brevard Ave. in Cocoa, Florida.

This panel style interview allows for the interviewees and the audience to chat freely about personal memories and stories from Brevard County’s early days. Topics includes the trio’s earliest memories growing up in Brevard, the differences in everyday diets and routines, the arrival of important industries (such as the Banana River Air Station and the Space Center), and the all-important mosquito control program. The group also fields questions regarding the impact of World War II on the county, the progress made by important, local individuals, like County Commissioners, and the popularity of athletics, particularly baseball, in the Central Brevard region.

The interesting thing is that the Mosquito Beaters are housed at the same location as the Florida Historical Society, where I did my previous internship. In fact, I remember seeing Speedy there every morning chatting with other volunteers. It’s cool to work on that blast from the past!

You can read an article about the Mosquito Beaters from the Florida Historical Society by clicking here!

Finally, I worked on a panel of gentlemen from Mims, Florida talking about the area and their memories growing up. Their names were: Samuel Hendrix, Joseph Ricard, P.W. Robert, and Ralph Sharpe. That interview has just left the editing process, but I should have more information about it soon!

Thank you for reading!

-Heather Pierce