ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
INTERVIEWEE: J. J. Parrish
INTERVIEWER: Paul Weaver
DATE: June 10, 1977
W: This is Paul Weaver. I'm talking with Mr. J. J. Parrish,
Jr. Mr. Parrish is chairman of the board and president
of the Nevins Fruit Company, which is one of the oldest
companies in Florida, and which has shipped fruit since
1898. Mr. Parrish is the son of J. J. Parrish, Sr., one
of the pioneers of the Indian River growing area and one
of the leading growers of citrus not only in the Indian
River area but in Florida as well. Mr. Parrish, Sr. was
a state senator who along with Senator Spessard Holland
co-introduced the bill which eventually led to the crea-
tion of the Florida Citrus Commission. Mr. J. J. Parrish,
Jr. has been associated throughout his lifetime with a
multitude of citrus organizations including the Florida
Citrus Commission which he served as chairman and also
as a commissioner under the administration of six different
governors. I'm talking with Mr. Parrish on June 10, 1977
at the Nevins Fruit Company, Titusville, Florida. The
address of Nevins Fruit Company is 2800 Parrish Road. It's
approximately 9:15 in the morning. Mr. Parrish, I'd like
to begin by asking you when you first became involved in
the Florida citrus industry.
P: I was born in the Florida citrus industry figuratively
speaking. My family, and my father's family were engaged
in citrus. Thus, I was born in the industry on December
10, 1912 in Titusville, Florida.
W: What were some of your early experiences as a member of
a family-owned citrus business?
P: As a very early teenager, I started by performing tasks
from planting trees to harvesting and loading transport
for market. I accompanied my father to New York and the
northern markets to observe citrus sales and the selling
of our particular product. I've been involved in the
packing and actual handling of fruit in packing houses
in preparation for marketing the fruit.
W: When exactly did your father, J. J. Parrish, Sr., become
involved in citrus?
P: He too was born into citrus. His father was in the cattle,
citrus, and produce business--had a ranch in Bolling Green,
Florida. My father was born in 1877.
W: So there's two generations of citrus family.
P: I'm the third. It's now going into the fifth generation.
W: Would you tell me what were some of the companies and
corporations your father organized?
P: To begin with my father traveled for A. F. Young and Company,
which was a very large produce receiver in New York City.
When he left A. F. Young and Company, several other executives
left at the same time; and they organized a similar business
in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. Later, Egan Fickett
and Company, was incorporated as a Delaware corporation in
1913. This was a sales organization or "commission house"
as they called them in those days, selling citrus fruits and
produce with principal offices in New York City, Boston and
Philadelphia, and with citrus grove and packing interests
in Florida. Parrish Sr. together with Egan and Fickett or-
ganized Nevins Fruit Company in 1915. Nevins owned packing
houses and citrus groves. These corporations or their suc-
cessor corporations are still very substantially involved
in Florida citrus, particularly here on the Indian River.
Of course, the business in which these corporations were and
are engaged was carried on by the principals for a considerable
period of time prior to the incorporations. The first com-
mercial shipments under the Nevins label, were in 1898 by
Thomas F. Nevins, who was fire chief of New York. The Nevins
label has been on the market every year since.
W: When did your father come to the Indian River area and settle
P: He came to the Indian River area around the turn of the
century. He actually moved to the Indian River and estab-
lished his home in Titusville in 1910.
W: Would you describe what the Indian River area was like when
he first arrived?
P: It was primitive, and by that I mean that there was absolutely
no development as we know development today. The roads were
not paved, the transportation was by horse and buggy, and
the product was transported by mules and wagons. The citrus
groves were in and out of very dense hammock lands along the
shores of the Indian River. We had paddle wheeled steamers
plying the waters of the Indian River toward markets which
were used by the citrus people. We also had barges and tugs.
Around the turn of the century we connected with the
northern markets by rail transportation, which originally
was the Florida East Coast Railway. The produce was--I'm
thinking of my father's operation--was grown on Merritt
Island, which is across the river just east of Cocoa. The
fruit was packed on a dock extending into the Indian River
from Merritt Island across Cocoa; from there it was trans-
ported to Cocoa, which was the mainland, by barge and tug.
There it was loaded on to wagons pulled by mules and hauled
westward approximately half a mile to the railroad where
it was then shipped to New York and the eastern markets of
the United States.
The fruit was hand graded as it is today. It was also
hand sized and placed in barrels for transport. The packing
house machinery was cranked by hand in large part, and the
fruit was placed in barrels and cushioned in Spanish moss
for keeping. At that time they thought the Spanish moss
gave it some actual protection from decay.
Citrus on the Indian River was grown largely in the
hammocks bordering the Indian River. Prior to cleaning,
these hammocks were a veritable jungle. The soil was
naturally extremely fertile and required very little fer-
tilizer. Many palmetto trees were left in the groves
supposedly for frost protection. And many very large oak
trees were girdled and left in place to die because the
grower did not have the means of economically pulling and
disposing of these giants. Because of the water table,
citrus on the Indian River has a very shallow root system.
The groves were cultivated by mule power, plow and disc--
never over two inches deep. Otherwise, substantial root
damage would be experienced.
W: Were seedlings very prevalent around this area?
P: The original trees that we had, were seedling trees. Sub-
sequently, we went into budded stock.
W: Were seedlings still being used when you first entered the
P: I still have some seedling trees.
W: Dating back to the time when your father was just getting
involved in the business, would you describe the marketing
process in a little bit of detail?
P: The Indian River area marketed exclusively in the auction
markets--primarily the eastern seaboard markets of Philadelphia,
New York and Boston. The fruit was shipped either by rail or
by boat to these markets. These markets were highly accessible
to water transportation as well as rail. Samples of the various
lots were placed on display, and during the morning the buyers
came into an assigned room and bid on the product. That was
exclusively the way it was sold in those days.
W: Do you recall about what time the nailed crates replaced the
P: Very early on the crates replaced barrels for a number of
reasons. It was an established container, it was easier to
handle, and the fruit was ventilated through ports in these
boxes. And the fruit was wrapped by hand in paper. Immediately
prior to World War I the boxes came in. That was a little
before my time, but by the time I was an early teenager, we
had the standard box. We used it for many years until the
bruce [box] and the carton replaced it.
W: From recollections of your father and from your knowledge of
the area, would you be able to describe what effect the build-
ing of the Florida East Coast Railroad had on the Indian River
P: The building of the Florida East Coast Railway literally opened
up the area not only for a great influx of people but also for
the rapid transport of our product. The Indian River had quite
a large vegetable produce business as well as citrus. One of
the capitals of the pineapple industry was Fort Pierce, and
the pineapple industry largely accounted for a substantial growth
in that particular area. Thousands of acres were planted in
five acre tracts, called citrus tracts, which had been sold to
northern people in various promotions. Many tracts were never
actually planted; however, they were purchased and right-of-ways
were established into the back country, which later proved to
be a good thing for the extension of citrus. Title to much
of that unimproved property, following depressions, went into
the state of Florida, came back out as so-called tax land, and
was acquired for little or nothing by many people who started
some of your larger citrus holdings.
W: About what time was this land planted and sold to these north-
P: Around 1912, 1913, 1914, and 1915. There was a lull during
World War I, and then they came back in and continued.
W: Was this land sold in one block or was it sub-divided?
P: It was acquired in one block by the promoters who were not
citrus people. Vast salt marshes were planted for citrus,
which no one would think of planting citrus there today.
W: Do you recall the individuals or the company who was doing
P: The Ellis Company was one company that was prominent. They
actually constructed a canal from the St. Johns River to the
Indian River, which is the only canal connecting those two
famous rivers. Indian River plantations [was] another very
large development. In the Vero Beach area, one of the first
really legitimate expansionists was Waldo Saxton. His son
is a very prominent man in Vero Beach now. Mr. Saxton organ-
ized a very famous area called Tiger Hammock, west of Vero
Beach, which proved to be some of the finest citrus plantings
on the Indian River.
W: You said they were northerners. Were any of the large banks
P: No, they were individuals who acquired these properties. I
had occasion to run into this operation to a certain extent
fifteen-eighteen years ago. I was putting together a ranch
and found that quite a number of five acre tracts were still
held by families that purchased them in 1913. I went to
Philadelphia and spent a week assembling and acquiring tracts.
I know some were still held by families in New York all these
years. They were generally spread out among people that
could buy five and twenty-five acres. Some could buy twenty-
five acres, some fifty, some one hundred, but it was generally
spread out. There was no one large land owner outside of the
original promoters that I know of.
W: Why were these investors attracted to the Indian River area?
P: In these particular citrus promotions, they were told there
was a vast amount of money they could make out of citrus
planting; and that it was not a hazardous business like gen-
eral farming. (When I say in the North, I'm speaking of
everything north of Florida.) They were told very lavish
tales of the economic worth of planting citrus and the markets.
Of course, it was a profitable business for the "crackers"
down here. However, very few of the people--I'm talking
about 1913, 1914, 1915--ever actually planted very much of
W: How did the system work? Were agents of these land holders
sent up north to encourage investment from these individuals?
P: They were advertised in the large newspapers to a limited
degree very much like land promotions are carried on today
in Florida. They were able to reach the public one way or
another because they did sell most of these tracts.
W: I'd like to know if you know how the concept of citrus
production was used to entice railroad development in the
Indian River area.
P: Mr. Flagler originally had an idea that he could sustain the
railroad and make money. However, it was a competitive thing
with him. Mr. Plant was building the railroad down the west
coast of Florida, and there was some jealousies between the
two men. Of course, Flagler was anxious to develop the east
coast of Florida. He had largely conquered the field of oil
and other financial endeavors. He didn't put in agricultural
developments as much as he did hotels and places which would
indicate that he was thinking more of passenger traffic than
of freight traffic. However, the possibilities of freight
traffic obviously did come into the picture, and the rail-
road did consider that. All during my lifetime they have
been extremely solicitous of produce and citrus freight
generally. Of course, today passenger business generally
in America is a losing proposition for the railroads, and
freight traffic is the ultimate. So I'm sure they were
interested in developing the area.
W: Do you recall any citrus growers or individuals from the
citrus community who were involved with Mr. Flagler either
directly in his company or indirectly as lobbyists for rail-
road building in this area?
P: I knew Captain Thomas Knight, who was a resident of Titus-
ville. He was a very wealthy multi-millionaire, originally
from Long Island, who bought a large part of Titusville. He
owned a very prominent geographic area extending into the
Indian River called Sandpoint. On this land Mr. Flagler wanted
to build his Royal Poinciana Hotel. (He ultimately built it
in Palm Beach). He went to Captain Knight to negotiate, and
Captain Knight refused to sell him not only that but several
alternate sites. Captain Knight enjoyed the sleepy little
village and his hunting and fishing and did not care for
development. He told Mr. Flagler that, and Mr. Flagler
told him he'd make a flagstop out of Titusville. Fifty
or sixty years thereafter he finally did make a flagstop
out of Titusville.
W: Can you think of anyone other than Mr. Knight who was in-
volved in this railroad promotion?
P: Many early families came into the area to serve the railroad
and ultimately ended up owning citrus groves and promoting
citrus. Whether they did it for the railroad or whether they
did it for themselves I don't know. C. B. Kingman was the
agent for the railroad here; he was one of the pioneer
growers of this area. His son was born in 1900 and is still
here. He sold his groves in 1976 I think.
W: Would you recall from the recollections of your father how
the freeze of 1895 affected the Indian River area?
P: We had icicles four feet long as far south as Wabasso, which
is just ten or eleven miles north of Vero Beach. It froze
all the citrus in Florida according to history; but actually
their communications were not too good in those days, and
it didn't freeze all the citrus. It did freeze an awful lot
of it, but in any area you'd go the old timers would say,
"It froze all the citrus in Florida except the five acres
my grandfather owned right out here." If you add all those
five acres up you had a pretty good jag of citrus tracts
that were not frozen out.
The effect was to diminish the supply of citrus for many
years and also to impress upon the industry the necessity of
planting in warm areas. Thereafter, the growers sought out
warm areas which could be identified by the natural foliage
on the ground and other factors. Site selection for future
plantings was one of the great factors coming out of that
freeze. The industry generally moved south--considerably
south of where it was beginning to center at that time. There
was very little citrus planted south of Fort Pierce and St.
Lucie so far as commercial development was concerned. A num-
ber of people who went through that freeze subsequently
bounced back into being very large citrus factors in the in-
dustry. When the industry was rebuilt it was not as subject
to freeze damage as it would have been had we not had that
Brevard County was very prominent in the early develop-
ment of Indian River citrus. Brevard County is roughly
seventy-five miles long and encompasses a large part of the
Indian River. Today the big volume of fruit is in St. Lucie
County, Indian River County, and Martin County here on the
W: Would you tell me who some of the important citrus pioneers
of the Indian River area were?
P: [Some of the early citrus pioneers] were Captain Carlile,
C. W. Carlile, P. W. Roberts, Sr., who was connected with
the American Fruit Growers, a national organization, E. P.
Porcher, and Thomas Nevins.
W: Would you tell me where exactly these men were located?
P: P.W. Roberts was located in Mims, which is about four miles
north of Titusville. C. W. Carlile and the Carlile family
were located in LaGrange, which is about three miles north
of Titusville. J. B. Egan was connected with my father and
was prominent in the area in owning citrus groves and pack-
ing houses. L. A. Brady and E. L. Brady subsequently
moved to Miami, but their groves are still verile and viable
W: Where are they located?
P: About a mile from where you're sitting right now in the
Titusville area. A. C. Terwilligar put in one of the first
citrus canning plants in the state. Captain Terwilligar had
one of the first groves. That grove came through the '95
freeze in large part. Today its seventy-five-eighty years
old. Terwilligar was a Scotsman, and was quite a colorful
man. Being a Scotsman, he was quite tight. Even at ten
cents a day he hated to pay the blacks to do the hoeing
around the trees. Everything was hand worked in those days,
so he imported a herd of goats. The goats did the job of
keeping the grass down, but they also had a proclivity toward
eating the barks of the trees. A citrus tree will die if
the cambium layer is disturbed. The goats disturbed the
cambium layer under the bark and the trees were dying. Captain
Terwilligar corralled the goats once again and knocked out
all the front teeth of the goats to keep them from chewing
the bark of the trees. The goats starved to death one at a
time; and as they did, he dug a hole and buried them under
citrus trees. So they provided, in the end result, a very
fine fertilization program for that grove for years after.
To go on south of here, E. P. Porcher was with American
Fruit Growers at one time and was one of the large ones in
that area and later J. V. D'Albora, who is still alive.
Dr. Hill around the turn of the century had one of the largest
groves on Merritt Island, and his son is still alive. The
Roache family also was one of the largest ones in that area.
Thomas F. Nevins was a fire chief in New York City and was
the original Nevins that I spoke of.
W: How did Mr. Nevins come to Florida?
P: He originally was a visitor and had a winter home on Merritt
Island. He did a lot of hunting. Deer, ducks, and quail
were very prolific on Merritt Island. He brought down a
lot of his political friends and associates and used his
large and lovely home to entertain many famous people. He
was one of the first to start setting citrus, and it was
his brand "Nevins" that I spoke of earlier. As a matter of
fact, he advertised Nevins fruit on his fire chief's buggy
and created the first ordinance in that borough of New York
prohibiting an employee from advertising private brands on
city equipment. That story is told and retold and was pub-
lished the last time about ten years ago in one of the north-
ern newspapers; I assume it is a true story.
Going on further south, you find Governor Dan McCarty's
father, [other] McCartys, the Frank Fees in the Fort Pierce
area; the Waldo Saxtons, Senator Tony Young, and the Graves
brothers in the Vero Beach area; Bill Mosely, who had the
largest cooperative operation on the Indian River, in the
Fort Pierce area; and A. B. Michael, who with E. P. Porcher,
was one of the original ones identified with American Fruit
Growers. Those largely were the larger early developers of
W: Would you tell me approximately when the Indian River area
began to be distinct from other citrus producing regions of
P: The Indian River, we believe, was the original citrus area;
it held its distinction from the very beginning. Of course,
the distinction was obvious to even those not engaged in
citrus but in purely eating the fruit. They didn't know what
it was at the time. We have, over the years, capitalized
on these various attributes of Indian River citrus.
W: Would you describe some of those attributes?
P: It's consistently a thinner skinned piece of fruit; it's a
finer textured piece of fruit which makes a much more pre-
sentable piece of fruit; it's a heavier bodied piece of
fruit which contains generally higher bricks or higher sugar
content; and it generally is more palatable. One of the
great things is the consistency of the product. Consistency
is a virtue of this area, and quality is the watchword here.
Other distinctions that actually brought about this en-
hancement of quality is the soil conditions here are differ-
ent generally speaking. Although you have similar soil con-
ditions over the state in various areas, it is fairly uniform
in this area. The climate and the atmospheric conditions
are different here. You're in close proximity to the ocean
and to the Indian River which is a salt water body. The root
stock that we have over here is primarily sour orange root
stock, which generally grows a better and thicker bodied
piece of fruit. We have a shallow root system here. The
water table is so close to the surface in this general area
that obviously the roots cannot go down very deep. The
size and the conformation of the trees are generally differ-
ent. One of the disadvantages is the trees generally are
smaller, and we do not have the volume of fruit per acre.
Of necessity, we have to go for quality and thus get a
premium price for this fruit. Otherwise, we couldn't com-
petitively stay in business.
W: Other than the quality of the fruit, what has made the Indian
River citrus area distinctive from the ridge area or other
regions of the state?
P: There are a number of things. The growers are very conscious
of the necessity for growing quality and you have a uniformity
of quality. In the interior one day outof packing house you
may get quality equally as good as the River; but the buyer
out of that same packing house later in the afternoon may get
a load that is grossly inferior that appears on the surface
to be approximately what he bought that morning. There is
confidence among the buyers that they will get consistent
quality without intermingling with other areas. In the in-
terior, even in certain areas where they grow very fine quality
fruit, they intermingle the fruit. We don't over here. Of
course we are distinctive in that we label and identify our
fruit, and by law we have prevented anyone else from using the
Indian River label on fruit that is not actually grown on the
Indian River. We therefore do not have any proliferation of
fruit from other areas coming into this area.
W: What were some of the early cooperative and promotional organ-
izations that were particular to the Indian River growing area?
P: The then Florida Citrus Exchange was the original and primary
cooperative endeavor in the state. On the River it took the
form of the Indian River Sub-exchange, which was a subsidiary
of the state citrus exchange. That, as I recall, was the first
cooperative here in Titusville. My father sold them the site
where they had and still have a packing house. He sold that
site to them in 1929, so the cooperative endeavor came way way
later in the development of citrus. It did grow under Franklin
Roosevelt in the New Deal.
The cooperative endeavor actually had its big push during
the Depression when about the only place you could get any
money was out of the federal government. Cooperatives in those
days were income tax exempt. The federal government in the
New Deal was pushing cooperatives as the answer to the farmer's
problems. I am biased to some extent because I have been an
independent so far as one facet of citrus is concerned--the
fresh fruit selling. The cooperative endeavor did grow be-
cause people had to go cooperative to get the money to run
their packing houses, and many independents in those days
turned cooperative for the sole reason of not having to pay
income taxes. Some of them were just as independent as I
am, but the corporate structure was cooperative. That is
particularly true if we went into frozen concentrate. You
could build a fairly good fresh fruit packing plant in those
days for $500,000. In frozen concentrate it required an
initial investment of $2,500,000, so you still have a lot
of cooperatives in the concentrate field.
As far as volume is concerned, the sub-exchange, which
is now Flori-gold on the Indian River, handled approximately
half the tonnage at one time. They have been declining in
recent years and only handle an approximation of their orig-
inal tonnage. Many of the cooperatives have elected to pay
income taxes in order to have more freedom of action. Some
of the early incentives are not there today. Insurance
companies are more prone to loan large sums of money for con-
centrate plants, and banks are much more liberal in financing
all facets of citrus. It is an industry now and not just a
haphazard farming operation. It has a reputation of stabil-
ity which, of course, took many many years to develop.
W: What have been some of the other promotional and/or trade
associations which have been particular to the Indian River
P: The Indian River Citrus League is an organization of growers.
In fact, everyone in the citrus business in the Indian River
area is in the Indian River Citrus League. Originally it
was just a very loose association of people formed to protect
the boundaries of the Indian River and to keep other fruit
from being trucked into here and sold as Indian River fruit.
Its offices were in the offices of one of the members, and
it was primarily a one man deal sustained by an occasional
donation from first one and then another. After World War
II having practiced law and being faced with the necessity
of having protection from various attacks under the law
against meetings and getting together, I strongly suggested
that we reincorporate the Indian River. I went to A. B.
Michael and to Bill Mosely, who for practical purposes was
the head of the Indian River sub-exchange. We met and
brought in a few others, and a number of meetings were held
from which the Indian River Citrus League evolved as a
cooperative marketing organization. It did not physically
market the fruit, but it did afford a legal forum for us
to discuss problems, to promote the Indian River area, and
to put teeth in our decision to protect the Indian River
area--to establish a definitive boundary. We have through
the years performed a tremendous job in protecting the
Indian River area. I'm the sole surviving member of our
original board and chairman of the executive committee of
the board of the league.
The league added tremendous support to other organ-
izations over the state. The league is credited with
establishing the pattern for the organization of Florida
Citrus Mutual, which is a state-wide, 16,000 member grow-
er organization. I was on the original board of directors
of mutual, so I could detail that but I will restrict my
remarks to the Indian River. The Indian River gave mutual
the necessary percentage to go over the top by joining.
The Indian River also was very helpful in organizing the
statewide Fresh Fruit Shippers Association. And the Indian
River and the League have furnished not only many commission-
ers on the Florida Citrus Commission, but also afforded
quite a number of chairman. The Indian River Citrus League
was extremely helpful in passing the Florida Citrus Code
in 1949. The Florida Citrus Code is the darling of in-
dustry now but at that time and since has been called the
hardest legislative fight ever experienced in Tallahassee
outside of pari-mutual betting. It was finally passed,
and the league was quite active in it.
W: Where was the opposition coming from?
P: The opposition was coming primarily from the interior.
The code was actually written in my offices at United in
Orlando. It was largely promoted by independents which
were growers and shippers in United; so it immediately
drew the fire of the cooperatives. Now everybody is
supposed to be the father of the code, but at that time it
was a very bitter fight. The code prevented the addition
of sugar and other additives to concentrate. This gave
us the pure concentrate on which we have built our reputa-
tion and our entire industry. We had to compromise grape-
fruit out of that restriction, and the grapefruit concen-
trate until just recently has never done a great deal. The
code established qualities that were written into the code
by a taste test panel, appointed by the Citrus Commission
of which I was chairman. The committee included most of
our so-called Ph.D.'s. That was the reason I was chairman,
because I was not a Ph.D. We developed the technical data
for this code.
W: What differences were there in these trade associations,
cooperatives, and other organizations in the Indian River
than in the interior and other regions of Florida?
P: We have pulled together for certain acknowledged goals and
in large part have set aside personal jealousies and com-
petitiveness to effect the overall goal of protecting the
Indian River. We do have a community of interest which,
of course, lends itself to a unity. We do not have the
fast buck boys that they have in the interior. Most of
our operations are and have been established for a great
many years, and competition from outside of the area has
not been generally successful. Many people have come from
organizations in the interior, attempted to start packing
plants here on the river, and almost invariably been un-
W: What have been some of the reasons they failed?
P: Without condemning those that did not, I would say that the
practices of the interior were much sharper than they were
here on the river. We never really had hungry people here
on the river. We remarkably transact a great amount of
business without even a written contract and still do as a
matter of fact. Word of mouth has been generally good.
Many years ago information was not as readily available to
the average man as it is today. Information on general crop
conditions, general crop volume, and the entire marketing
picture was the property of a fairly restricted number of
people. It was more or less like shooting fish in a barrel
W: How was the marketing system different in the Indian River?
P: Today we sell to the same chains that the interior sells to.
We sell basically at a premium, and particularly in grape-
fruit our premium is substantial. We do sell to all the
chains, and we sell on a FOB basis. We still sell some fruit
at auction market, and we sustain the auction markets. But
the big bulk of the fruit on the River, as it is in the in-
terior, is going to the chains on a FOB basis--bought at the
packing house and loaded out.
W: Would you describe how receptive early growers were to co-
operative marketing particularly in the Indian River area?
P: [Some] people were making a job for themselves in some in-
stances, and others on a legitimate basis believed that that
was the salvation of the grower. Some were very sincere in
this, and the idea generated quite a bit of interest. You
will always find in any community of individuals a group of
people who will band together to attempt to cut out as many
middle men as they can. This was sold to the grower on that
basis--cutting out all of the middle men between the grower
and the ultimate buyer. The fallacy in it is that where
the business is everybody's business, it's nobody's bus-
iness; therefore, I frankly have never found the cooperative
movement any particular competition. You've got people that
want to go that way, and I don't solicit them. I've got a
lot of people that were in the cooperative movement at one
time or another.
W: Would you tell me how the attitude of growers towards cooper-
ative marketing has changed during your lifetime?
P: So far as a change is concerned, the individual grower has
developed into a highly educated individual and is a much
more sophisticated businessman as opposed to a dirt farmer.
They now tend to watch their cost of production, their cost
of marketing, the return back on the tree. Some years ago
a grower was satisfied if it was costing him less to pack
his fruit and less to market his fruit on a fee basis or a
charge basis. Then he was satisfied that he was getting the
best deal. Today that grower computes his well-being or
lack of well-being on what his returns are per box back on
the tree or on his per acre return. He extends his mathema-
tics to his entire operation. The general attitude now is
not what it costs to pick, or to sell a box of fruit--the
attitude today is,"What am I netting back on the tree?"
They know those figures, and they realize that their salva-
tion is what they can net back on the tree regardless of
what these in-between charges may be.
These independent operations are cutting the cost of
those operations. For instance, my individual charges to
growers for our services in many instances are less than
the cooperative charges or actual cost. The secret of that
is the fact we own our own business, and we're watching our
own cost much closer than probably the cooperative is. That
is an idea; I don't know whether it's true or not. They prob-
ably do watch their cost, but I know we are right on top of
ours all the time; and with this additional volume, we can
still meet their costs and make a profit out of it--particular-
ly as our volume increases.
W: Would you describe what effect the land boom in the 1920s
had on the Indian River citrus area?
P: The land boom of the twenties had a substantial effect. A
lot of groves were on land that was actually river front
land and highly susceptible to development as it is today.
As prices went soaring, growers obviously sold their groves
and moved back into areas that were not so attractive for
development. The ironic and unfortunate part is that they
received five to ten per cent down, had their groves torn
up, and got the groves back. Some of them actually just
abandoned their groves. As far as that land development of
that time is concerned, the end result was the Depression.
W: Was there an influx of new growers to the area because of
P: You had an influx of people into the area, and many were
attracted to a citrus livelihood once they got here.
W: Were they attracted to the area by citrus?
P: I doubt that seriously. Some may have had in the back of
their mind that they would come here, plant a little grove,
and live happily the rest of their life. A lot of them were
going to bring a few cows and start a ranch. Some were going
to do commercial fishing; some were going to operate hotels.
That was just one of the many things that these people had
in mind when they came to Florida.
W: Do you know of any speculators who were promoting their land
specifically for the production of citrus?
P: Yes, there were some, but it was not as pronounced as it was
probably in other areas of the state. I can think of some
large ones over the state generally. Howey-in-the-hills was
a rather successful promotion of citrus. In a small way we've
had a number of them in this general area. But as a business
nothing of that era ever touched anything that they were doing
in the last ten years here in Florida, where they were plant-
ing thousands of acres cut into ten acre groves.
W: Would you describe what the land boom did to the price of
P: The land boom didn't last that long to seriously effect it,
but the price of land went from $25.00 an acre up to $500.00,
$1,000.00, $5,000.00 an acre depending on whether it was on
the river or whether it was in the back country. After the
boom, it went back to fifty cents on the dollar. Some of
the people today probably are very happy that that whole se-
quence of events occurred, because after it reverted back to
the state for taxes, they were able to buy it at a very cheap
price and set a lot of citrus.
W: What affect did the collapse of the boom have on the area?
P: The collapse of the boom was so tied into the collapse of
the economy of America that it's difficult to separate one
from the other. Obviously the closing of the banks had a
tremendous effect. People lost their life's savings, and I
don't think there was a single bank in Brevard County that
was still open. It was a horrendous deal not only to citrus
but to everyone else. There were plenty of people like my
father that went all the way through the boom and never
bought or sold a piece of property. He had an idea that it
would not last, and he never did get involved in that. He
kept on planting groves and stayed strictly in citrus.
He [J. J. Parrish, Sr.] certainly did not get in any-
thing that was remotely related to loud speculation. How-
ever, he happened to have considerable stock in five or
six banks from Fort Pierce through here, some of which he
had never even been in the front door. They all went broke
with the rest of them. Those banks were fairly conservative
but were depending upon the bigger banks of New York and
Jacksonville. When they went under, it sucked in these
banks; so the Parrish family lost a considerable amount of
money. Plus, some people had extreme hardship cases, and
my father individually paid them what they had on deposit.
Everyone, whether they were involved in the boom or not,
W: After the collapse of these banks, wheredid the growers and
the Indian River citrus industry turn for financing?
P: The New Deal and the land bank and production credit came
along about that time. My father was one of the organizers
of production credit and land bank and he was closely asso-
ciated with the group in Columbia, which is the headquarters
for our Southeastern bank division. If it had not been for
the production credit and the land bank, we ourselves would
have gone broke--there's no doubt about that. Today the
growers themselves largely own that system, but it was a
farm credit system of the federal government at that time.
W: When did the region begin to come out of this depression?
P: Actually, it was coming out in the thirties. You could make
money on citrus during the thirties. We were selling for a
very cheap price, but our cost of production was very cheap,
too. Everything is relative, and I think you had as good an
economy probably in the thirties as-you have had in recent
years. Our prices have been higher but our cost of production
has just gone to the ceiling.
W: Would you tell me when tractors were introduced to the Indian
P: In the twenties.
W: Do you remember what these tractors were like, and how they
P: They replaced mules. They were not generally used until well
along in the twenties. I can well remember our operation as
mule-powered. Tractors were basically small, and they did
enable people to care for many more acres because you could
tend more in less time. Gasoline was cheap in those days,
and as growers could afford to buy tractors, they did. They
also turned to trucks about the same time. You had these
small Model T trucks. I recall seeing one of our very strong
individuals pick up the back of one of them for the purpose
of changing the tire. One of our blacks just backed up to
it, picked it up, and put a block under it to change the tire.
W: Would you describe some of the tasks that mules were required
P: They pulled the plows, harrows, and other equipment. Here
on the river, our root system has largely been within eigh-
teen inches of the surface. We had to plow very lightly--
not over two inches deep. They pulled the plow; they pulled
the harrows; they pulled logs; they pulled dead trees out.
Mules did everything that required any power. They operated
machinery by going around and around on a treadmill. In
some areas they'd use large horses, but large horses never
did adapt well to this area because of the heat and mosquitos.
Mules didn't eat as much and were very powerful. Apparently
mosquitos and other insects did not bother mules as much as
horses. In the Middle West you see horse-drawn equipment;
here we had no horse-drawn equipment. It was all mules.
W: At approximately what time did the mules stop being used in
P: In the twenties.
W: Besides tractors what other mechanically powered implements
have improved citrus production and cultivation?
P: Our modern spray machines are probably one of the biggest
factors--our fertilizer distributors, our water control
equipment. The water control equipment is very heavy equip-
ment--very heavy dieseled. Those are the major ones.
W: What changes did the use of these machine-powered implements
and other types of heavy equipment bring to the citrus indus-
try of this area?
P: You could never have cleared the land that we are clearing
today without bulldozers, land graders, and road graders.
You would never have the enormous acreages that we have today
if you did not have these machines. A lot of your fertiliz-
ing and spraying is done by plane today in certain areas.
You'd have a very limited industry without the bulk of this
W: What about the capital cost?
P: The capital cost, if you compare it against your hourly cost
of hand labor, is not prohibitive. In this day of income
taxes you can write off most of this machinery in three years-
four years. The secret of that is having something to write
it off against, and then you get back to your end product.
But, assuming that you are making money on your operation,
it is not insurmountable. One of the greatest things which
is maybe a drawback, too, is the availability of loan capital
today--they couldn't get it years ago. They are having no
trouble financing this heavy equipment. In fact the banks
W: What have been some of the important scientific innovations
which have improved the quality of fruit and enabled citrus
to go from a backyard industry to a giant agribusiness?
P: The greatest development is research, and I might say my
father was a pioneer in this and I have been extremely in-
terested in it. That's no novel observation. If you trace
the advancement of any industry today, you'll see research
and capital spread all over every page of the report. You
have the research to know in the first place what type of
soil that you need; what balance you need in the soil; the
acidity or alkalinity of your soil; your water content; to
analyze the water; to analyze your fertilizers to be sure
you're getting what you're paying for. You have legislation
backing a lot of these things.
You do have a lot of scientists engaged in citrus today
that you didn't have some years ago. You're able to chem-
ically analyze the root systems; you chemically analyze the
leaves of the trees; you can chemically analyze to tell
whether or not you are getting in fact the nutrition that
you are applying; you have entomology to a very great degree
in the state; you have sprays that are efficient that do the
job. You're not trying things in the sense of an individual
going out, "I'm going to try this, try that, or try the other."
A great amount of research has been done in all facets. You
may pioneer a particular project, but basically the facts are
already developed as to cause and effect of materials. The
steps have been gigantic, where before it was an intuitive
proposition among individuals.
You have weather forecasting. A lot of times you have
a program that works under certain weather conditions. You
put on a spray after moisture, you put on fertilizer after
moisture, or you do certain things in anticipation of mois-
ture or in anticipation of not getting moisture. So the
climatic conditions have a tremendous effect, and we recog-
nize that now. Forecasts are very helpful in knowing what
your chances are of having moisture tomorrow, the next day,
or the following day--what your chances are of having a
freeze and not having a freeze. The FEC Railroad would
come down the east coast, and they'd blow the whistle six
times as they went through each town. That meant they were
going to have a hell of a freeze that night. That was the
forecasting system they had. Today you can get ready. Flood-
ing the groves with seventy-eight degree water as we do, pro-
vides great protection. It sometimes takes several days to
bring that water table up to where you want it in the groves.
So the ability to forecast is important.
W: When did road improvement and paving begin in the Indian River
P: In the twenties.
W: And how were members of the citrus community in this area
actively influencing this road development?
P: In the Indian River citrus people have been extremely active
in the politics. In my own family we've had several mayors,
several state senators, and a lieutenant governor. That's also
true in many other citrus families in the Indian River. At
one time all of our state senators from the Indian River area
were citrus growers. One of the greatest changes in the
twenties were the roads in the state of Florida built by road
and bridge districts under the operation of the individual
counties. They all went broke. My father, together with
another senator, Senator Watson from Miami, introduced a bill
in the senate creating the Florida State Road Department,
which we have operated under all these many years. It accounts
for the construction of state and now federal-highways. Citrus
had some influence on that.
W: Were there any formal associations at county and at state level
among citrus growers of this region active in these road build-
P: We had the East Coast Highway Association, which through this
area was heavily influenced by citrus. I myself was on the
Board of Directors and on the Board of Directors of the Cross
State Highway Association which accounted for Highway 50 from
the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. Obviously the roads
are the lifeblood of citrus, particularly now where you're
hauling fruit to your processing plants as far as a hundred
and fifty miles. So your road networks are a vital part of
a successful operation of this citrus industry.
W: Would you tell me when some of the more severe freezes occur-
red and what damage they did to the Indian River area?
P: I wouldn't say that the freezes did any more damage to the
Indian River than they did to other parts of the state.
Going back I think they had one in 1934 and 1935. That is
uppermost in my mind where we had about five nights of it.
1940 was a very, very severe freeze. In 1947 we had a freeze
on the Indian River that they didn't have in the interior.
The records don't show that as a big state wide freeze but our
temperatures on the Indian River got lower in that 1947 freeze
than they did in this last famous freeze. The freeze came
over the interior during the day and stopped on us at night,
and it really got cold here. And we had the freezes of 1957,
1962, and 1971. Basically, we're warmer theoretically than
a lot of the other producing areas of the state. But there's
some areas in Indian River that are pretty cold, too. So,
we're probably not a great deal warmer than they are.
W: Would you describe some of the damage that freezes do to trees
and to fruit?
P: I've seen in 1947 and particularly in 1940 where it killed
seventy-five year old trees right stone dead in the ground.
It will split the bark. You can hear a sound like a pistol
or a rifle shot when the sun hits and the bark and the limbs
split. Obviously it will freeze the fruit and dry the fruit
out; it will make it useless so far as fresh-fruit market is
concerned; and it's a salvage proposition so far as the can-
neries are concerned. It requires a tremendous amount of
expense in pruning these dead limbs out of your groves, and
it cuts your production for the following year. It takes
probably two or three years after a severe freeze for the
industry to get back to prior production. So, it has a rather
W: What has been done to combat these freezes?
P: The ecologists have prevented us from using the old time
honored burning of various materials such as pine wood, tires
and things of that type. Today we have had research, and damp
ground will hold heat twice as long as dried ground. The
idea is to keep the ground damp in order to retain the day's
heat as long as you can. Clean cultivation is another pre-
ventative that will keep the temperature approximately three
degrees, theoretically, above an uncultivated area. And
three degrees is all fired important many, many nights. Also,
they're going into herbiciding, which would give you three
more degrees of warmth. I do a lot of both clean cultivation
and herbiciding. I can show you groves up here that weren't
even touched in this last freeze that I didn't do anything
Now they're getting away from burning oil and the pots
because of the tremendous expense. My family and my companies
are the only ones in this area that now fire groves. We have
an enormous number of pots. A little below here where they
do have good water wells, they flood the groves. Where they're
doing flood irrigation, they flood them and the water coming
out of those wells is roughly seventy-eight degrees. They'll
keep the middles between the trees full of water for the one
or two days that you have a freeze, and that is extremely
effective. We are developing systems, and we're abandoning
some fairly good systems just simply because of the cost of
them. During this freeze I fired probably half of the acreage
I was prepared to fire simply for the lack of manpower. I
couldn't get the people out to light the pots.
W: Is this flood irrigation distinctive to Indian River?
P: There are other areas in the state that have it, but I would
say that it's primarily Indian River. You can't do it on
rolling country. You've got to do it in flat country.
W: Being in the coastal area, I'd like to know how hurricanes
have affected citrus production.
P: The 1949-1950 hurricane probably did more damage than any
hurricane that we've ever had. It blew off all of the fruit
south from Highway 60, which is the highway going out of Vero
Beach to the interior. It closed all the packing plants in
Fort Pierce except my own so far as I can recall. Some others
may have opened up for a very brief period of time and closed
down. I don't recall whether they closed up the packing plants
for the year.
It not only blew the fruit off, but it blew the leaves
off the trees and uprooted many trees. It blew, according to
one of the scientists that examined the cambium layer of the
trees in the back country, over two hundred miles an hour.
The wind gage in Fort Pierce, at the Coast Guard Station,
went out at 165 miles an hour. It was a real humdinger.
That area was declared a national disaster, and the growers
were given disaster money. It took them five to seven years
to come back into real production again. Governor McCarty
had a young grove, 100 acres, that he had clean-cultivated.
The sand blasted the bark off the trees and killed that
grove stone dead...that entire 100 acres. It was a very
The only thing that we have had prior to that time of
any real consequence--now I'm not talking about some isolated
individual grower that might have been hurt; but I'm talking
about as an industry here on the river--has been wind scarring
fruit. Scar damage, some leaf damage, splitting the leaves--
I call it incidental damage. We've had incidental flooding.
I don't know of any groves properly cared for that have died,
but I have seen water over highways. If you can get the
water off of citrus within five days, it generally doesn't
hurt it too much.
W: Is salt damage a serious problem for the Indian River growers?
P: Yes, salt damage is part of the damage of hurricanes where
the wind comes over the salty Indian River. Where they're
close to the ocean, you get salt deposits and a lot of burned
leaves. Actually, it's not a permanent damage. It would be
if it occurred frequently, but it hasn't.
W: How much damage occurred in the Indian River area during the
fruit fly infestation of 1929?
P: The damage was to fruit. We had a lot of fruit that was em-
bargoed that we couldn't move. An extensive program was car-
ried out. As a kid I was hired on one of the teams to pull
fruit off. We had a long pole with a hook on the end of it,
and you went through pulling off all of the fruit that was
left after harvest. It was obviously a very serious matter.
The federal government joined with the state program. It
was a fight where local people all joined in to go into the
groves and help. They got rid of all the old fruit that was
left over. Where there might be pests, the fruit was destroy-
W: How was the Indian River area affected in contrast with other
P: I would say it was all about the same so far as I know.
W: How successful was the eradication program?
P: It was absolutely successful.
W: I'd like to ask you why citrus men such as your father, J. J.
Parrish, Sr., encouraged the establishment of the citrus com-
P: As the citrus industry expanded, we had a glut of citrus on
the markets. As is frequently stated, in times of disaster
the greatest innovations occur. The commission law was en-
acted in 1935. We had had some rather disastrous citrus years
occasioned in large part because we had no promotion--no organ-
ized cohesive marketing or advertising plan. Now the citrus
commission is charged with a number of things. You wouldn't
have quality today if you didn't have the citrus commission.
Their powers are very wide in the general regulation of the
industry. They're also charged with advertising and promotion
of the product. So, it is an all-encompassing organization
that pulls the industry into one more or less cohesive unit
that does promote and sell Florida citrus.
W: Would you describe the politics involved in the establishment
of the citrus commission?
P: It involved the famous search for eleven honest men. Some-
body said, "There wasn't eleven honest citrus men in the state."
That was a joke at the time, but I recall it well. However,
the commission has lived up to everything that it was supposed
to live up to, and it's accomplished a great many more things.
The industry is far beyond anybody's vision of that day.
The governor appoints the commission members. We amazingly
have had very little politics in the citrus commission appoint-
ments. One governor appointed the commission of eleven men
and only two of those commission members actually supported
that particular governor--and not too strong at that. He
nevertheless appointed people who had been very strong in
campaigning for the opposition. So it has been non-political
to a large extent.
The leaders in the industry have made recommendations to
the governor, and most of the governors have had citrus ad-
visory committees. Out of those committees have come recommend-
ations, and the governor hasn't really argued over nominees for
the citrus commission. By virtue of being fairly well agreed
upon before the governor actually appoints them, the industry
has been able to pull behind these people. If they had been
political appointees in the first place, you would not have
had an experienced group of people. You probably wouldn't
have the cooperation which is absolutely necessary for the
success of any program.
The citrus code, of course, is a different thing from
the citrus commission. People remember the citrus code as
a quality code and uppermost in their minds is the prohibition
against additives in frozen citrus concentrate. That has been
heralded as the biggest battle that they've ever had in the
Florida State Legislature outside of pari-mutual betting. We
did come out of that with a pure product and regardless of
the determined opposition, it is now the darling of the in-
dustry. It's hard to find anyone that wasn't in favor of it.
That legislation was written in my office. I was presi-
dent of United at the time, and the United office was in
Orlando, Florida. I could give you the attorneys' names and
so forth down the line. It was carried to Tallahassee and
promoted primarily by United--joined in by other organizations
that went along. That has made the concentrate industry,
because otherwise you'd have had nothing but what they call
belly wash. You'd had one person adding this amount of sugar
and another one that amount of sugar and no citrus concentrate.
You'd have had them adding cherry juice for color; you'd have
had red concentrate; you'd have had yellow concentrate; you'd
have had all types of additives; and we wouldn't have the
industry we have today if it had not been for the code.
W: Would you describe for me what effect World War II had on the
P: I think it established in the mind of a lot of the industries
that citrus was a very fine business to be in. There were
tremendous increases of planting during World War II or
immediately after. That is when we were beginning to get in
to large groves of five thousand acres. Before that we had
basically a hodgepodge of smaller acreages. During the war
we had citrus selling right at ceiling prices. If it was not
on the ceiling, it was worth whatever the price ceiling was.
They made a lot of money in citrus during the war. That was
indelibly impressed upon a lot of people who told their own
individual investment story. A lot of them bought acres or
stock in corporations such as Minute Maid, and made tremendous
money out of it. The war years gave the idea to the general
public that citrus was the thing to get into, which led to
these tremendous plantings in the following years.
W: How did the government requisition of canned products during
the war affect the industry?
P: Economically it made the industry. There is a considerable
amount of thought that bringing all of the men into the service
and serving the ,orange juice--many of whom had never tasted
orange juice believe it or not--created a general market.
Whether that is true or not I don't know. They did serve them
some very ordinary orange juice that probably was not condusive
to developing a habit for it. But at least it did expose an
awful lot of people to citrus products. My own assumption is
that it probably did us a great deal of good in getting know-
ledge that citrus and vitamin C is good for you--they probably
got it over pretty good to the troops. Also, it left us with
tremendous plantings. It's hard to believe, but in 1948 con-
centrate was a relatively new thing. We only put up five
hundred thousand gallons, I think, in 1948.
W: Was there a relationship between government loans to processors
and the concentrate boom after the war?
P: Well, when I say government loans, I'm talking about the bank
cooperatives, which is in the federal farm credit system. The-
oretically these organizations in the farm credit system are
now owned by the growers; the stock in them and the capital was
furnished by the government at one time. Over a great many years
they are now cooperative stock owned organizations. Commercial
bankers, the insurance companies, and other sources of capital,--
I'm also in the banking business as you may or may not know--
were reluctant to loan money on a new venture. Financing of
canneries had not been anything that was sought after by loan-
ing institutions, because the canning industry in Florida had
not been a stable business. When they came along with the
concentrate plants, it was extremely difficult to get money;
and the bank cooperative was about the only place they could
go cooperative and borrow.
W: That was an integral part of the development.
P: Oh, very definitely so. Minute Maid, General Foods, and some
of those large stock companies were able to finance because
they had big bankers on their boards. That wasn't that much
money to them, but it was to the average John Q. Grower here.
W: What changes have occurred within the citrus industry because
of frozen concentrate processing?
P: It's made the difference in day and night. We couldn't have
built the industry without it, and much of it would have gone
completely out of production. Our fresh fruit industry has
not increased that much; so, you just wouldn't have had the
industry we know today. The frozen concentrate and chilled
juice part of this industry is the industry.
W: Would you describe the real story behind the development of
the cutback process?
P: I'll very briefly run by the story that is generally known.
Charles F. Kettering, one of the greatest inventors of all
time, invented the self-starter, the automobile battery, and
the freon that you put in your air conditioner. There's not
a single day goes by that you don't benefit by something
Charles F. Kettering invented. I was privileged to drive
him--he was a friend of my father's--to Gainesville. He talk-
ed to Dr. Stahl who was working on some method of canning
orange juice. We had had dismal failure after dismal failure
on orange juice, and Dr. Kettering gave Dr. Stahl an idea of
doing it under a vacuum process which was merely a suggestion
within a framework. Not to discount Dr. Stahl at all, he went
there and developed that mechanical phase of our concentrate
industry. Unfortunately the product which came from that was
not palatable--it was far from palatable. One of our scien-
tists had some of it in the refrigerator one morning when he
particularly needed something cold to drink from activities
in which he had engaged the previous day. He was vainly
searching for something cold to drink, and he thought of this
concentrate. He reached out the window, pulled a fresh orange,
and squeezed juice in the concentrate for a little flavor.
That was the origin of addback, which makes the concentrate
such a delicious, normal, and fresh product. He was so ex-
cited over his discovery and the taste of it that he immedi-
ately forgot his current problems, experimented with the
addback, and found that a very slight addback would actually
give concentrate the flavor, the character, and aroma that
we seek in a very high quality juice. That was the morning
that put concentrate in business.
W: Would you describe the effect large corporations, such as
Coca-Cola and Tropicana, have had on the role of the in-
dividual in the citrus industry--particularly the grower,
the packer, and the shipper?
P: The entrance of the large corporations into the citrus in-
dustry was essential. Had it not been for their emergence,
you would not have the industry you have today. Minute Maid
for one taught us the ultimate principal of advertising and
promotion and following the product through to the ultimate
consumer in order to assure that it would not be damaged or
mishandled in transit. Minute Maid, by virtue of the price
differential between their product and the average product
going out of the state, proved to the industry the very
valuable asset of smart advertising--smart promotion. That's
equally true on a large scale with Clinton Foods who had
Snowcrop--a label which at one time was comparable to Minute
Maid. Minute Maid later acquired Clinton Foods, the Snow-
crop label, and the Snowcrop product, which is a little
different than the Minute Maid product. Tropicana came into
the scene with a chilled juice; developed chilled juice on a
tremendous scale; gave the industry the distribution that it
was lacking in chilled juice; showed the industry how to trans-
port chilled juice without deleteriously affecting its quality.
These large institutions and large corporations gave us the
distribution throughout the United States that was and is
essential to market our brand.
W: Haven't a lot of family-owned businesses and smaller opera-
tions been absorbed by the larger corporations?
P: The larger corporations have afforded in many instances a
market for family-owned businesses, which has been extremely
beneficial--particularly, where the founders or the guiding
factors had passed on. A number of them were more or less
floundering when they were acquired by these larger corpora-
tions. In the sense of going out and gobbling up small
competition, that has not been true. I don't know of any
instances where anyone has been forced to the wall by the
so-called large corporations. They have, in my opinion,
been extremely beneficial and have afforded a cash market
as well as a cooperative market which a grower otherwise
would not have had.
W: Regardless of the fact whether they were beneficial or not,
haven't a number of growers sold out for quite lucrative sums,
and been absorbed in that way?
P: Minute Maid in particular is the only one that really bought
a tremendous number of acres. In no instance that I know of--
I was on the Minute Maid Groves Board for quite a number of
years--did we go out so far as I can remember and seek acre-
age. It was brought or tendered to us. So far as I am aware,
Minute Maid, at least, paid the very top dollar; and the grow-
er actually benefited by Minute Maid being in the market. Snow-
crop bought some acreages, and Lykes Brothers, like Pasco,
bought acreage. But Tropicana owns relatively few acres. A
lot of these processors don't own any acreage themselves.
W: What about the attitude of fresh fruit shippers towards the
processing industry since the beginning of frozen concentrate?
P: I have been quoted as saying, which is true, that "God bless
them if they can pay more than I can pay to the grower." I'd
be very happy to close my plants down and sell them fruit from
my groves. They've been a lifesaver, and they have taken the
eliminations we had. Back in the old days, I can well recall
when we had cull piles--which the ecologists would not let you
do today--as high as the packing house by the end of the season.
They were really a stinko deal. Today the eliminations from
all of our packing plants are going into the concentrate and
chilled juice plants. We're getting a very good market for
it; therefore, we can afford to ship fresh a lot more fruit
than otherwise. If we had to throw that away, then your aver-
age crop, all that you picked off of the grove, obviously
would be considerably shorter than what it is today--not being
able to merchandise the eliminations from the packing houses.
So I think it has been a boom to the packing industry rather
than any opposition to it.
W: Initially, wasn't there a fear that the concentrate industry
would eliminate many of the fresh fruit shippers?
P: Well, I think undoubtedly it has eliminated some, but there
was a lot that had no business being in the deal in the first
place. Secondly, those who were relying upon a particular
type of orange for their livelihood were eliminated. They
were just paying more money, and the shipper voluntarily gave
up because he also was a grower. Most shippers were growers,
and he was just making so much money off going direct that he
didn't want to fool with this shipping organization. I think
the fact that they do use eliminations has enabled the fresh
fruit shipper to stay in business rather than to put him out
W: You mentioned that Nevins is a major shipper to foreign markets.
P: DNE Sales Inc., which is a combination of Nevins and a group
owned primarily by the Egan interests today, are the primary
exporters of citrus out of Florida.
W: Would you describe where you're sending your products?
P: The bulk of our export is grapefruit, and it's going into
Japan. However, we do export into Europe, too, and intend
to expand substantially next year. I believe that we export-
ed out of Florida to Japan last year. This year it will prob-
ably be roughly half.
W: What effect did the growth of the space industry have on citrus
production in the Indian River area?
P: In certain areas it wiped out the production completely. The
space industry hired 28,000 people at one time, which was a
tremendous boom to the economy of the area. Those people had
to have places to live, and a very substantial amount of citrus
was turned into subdivisions. However, applying it to the
percentage on the river or the percentage in the state, it
would be infinitesimal because you're talking about a number
of thousands of acres as opposed to the hundreds of thousands
of acres over the state.
W: Where were areas where there was a significant loss?
P: It just about took them off of Merritt Island. The govern-
ment actually condemned several thousand acres and took it
from the growers. However, they are currently leasing it
back to growers, and most of it is still in production.
W: Were citrus growers actively promoting the economic develop-
ment which the space industry stimulated?
P: Citrus people, being basically the business people of the
area, did have considerable influence. We did use largely
citrus money [to] organize all of the banks and financial
institutions here in Titusville. If you look at the board
of directors and the one below here and on the island, you'll
find that the basic ones were in many instances citrus people.
Most now belong to groups of banks over the state--Southeast,
Florida National group, Flagship and so forth. They are not
local banks now; however, they were during the boom.
W: How has urbanization affected other areas along the Indian
P: By pure attrition, a grove at a time, we are in the same pos-
ition as California except we are behind California. The areas
that you can grow citrus in are of sufficient height or ground
level to put in subdivisions. You've got water there. There's
some common ground between subdivisions and development and
citrus property. As these areas are growing, they're embrac-
ing more and more citrus. It's just a matter of attrition
over a period of years, and they will probably take over all
of the citrus within reasonable distances of the metropolitan
areas up and down the Indian River. In Pinellas County they've
had a tremendous exodus of citrus in favor of subdivisions.
W: Would you describe the history of the Nevins label for me?
P: The first Nevins label was Thomas F. Nevins--his name was
actually on it. He was one of the heroes of New York as the
firechief was always in those days. He capitalized on his
name to promote his Nevins label, and he did actually own the
packing house. My father came down and ran it for him for
a while very early on. It was Mr. Nevins, his associates, my
father, and Mr. Egan that were responsible for the commercial
development of the label and the sales in 1898, which is right
after the big freeze of 1895. So, they must have had something
to sell. I'm sure they didn't pack an awful lot that year, but
Merritt Island came through as well as any other area of the
state. It was because of the protection of the Indian River,
which is basically a mile and a quarter to a mile and a half
wide; that is a great barrier for frost protection. On the
east is the Banana River, and just on the other side of that
is the Atlantic Ocean. He developed the Nevins label, and
we still have it now. Nevins, my father, and Mr. Egan in-
corporated Nevins Fruit Company as New York corporation. It
was primarily doing business in Florida then, and for reasons
of our own we have changed the corporation. It's still Nevins
Fruit Company, but from a New York to a Delaware corporation,
which technically is a different corporation. The same own-
ership changed that to a Florida corporation because of certain
tax liabilities we were running into there. We changed it [in]
1964 to a Florida corporation.
W: How do you view the future of citrus in the Indian River area?
P: I think it has a bright future. That part of the citrus in-
dustry that is engaged in the fresh fruit sales of Florida
citrus will be Indian River as generally conceded by others
in the industry. It will survive. Whether it will ultimately
survive or not is anybody's guess, but it will be here long
after everybody else is gone. My father left home and started
selling insurance. He went back to the ranch and told my grand-
father he was going in to the citrus business. My grandfather
said, "They've got one hell of an over production in that now.
We can't even sell what we've got. We're up to a million boxes.
We'll never sell it."
When we had 54 million boxes, we thought we were lost.
When we got to 80 million, we thought we could not digest that.
We got up to 100 million; that was the last straw. In 1962 we
got up to 120 million. The freeze came along and took care of
that. We got up to 214 million this year, and we got the high-
est prices we've seen since 1962. It seems that the good lord
comes along, and that one big crop gets us over that hurdle.
Then we get up to that level without even batting an eye and
continue to go. You can foresee down the line five years and
to some degree ten years. This is because we know what we
have planted, and we know what the market will take. You've
got computers this day and time you didn't use to have. We
should have a fairly good industry for the next ten years.
Outside of that I couldn't make any prognostications.
W: Well, I have no more questions. I would just like to thank
you for permitting me to come here and interview you. I want
to tell you that in exchange for the interview you'll receive
a transcript from the University of Florida. You'll have the
right to check this transcript for any possible errors or for
points of clarification that you might like to make and the
right to close off any portion of the tape for any time left
to your discretion. Do you understand that?
P: Yes, I do. Thank you very much.