ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
INTERVIEWEE: Robert Strawn
INTERVIEWER: Paul Weaver
DATE: June 11, 1977
W: This is Paul Weaver talking with Mr. Robert Strawn. Mr.
Strawn is the son of Theodore Strawn, one of the earliest
pioneers of the Florida citrus industry. I'm talking with
Mr. Strawn, June 11, 1977, at De Leon Springs, Florida.
We're at the Theodore Strawn and Company offices, and the
post office box is 68. Mr. Strawn, I'd like to ask you how
your family first became involved in the citrus industry.
S: It's a very interesting thing I believe. My grandmother
Strawn lived in the state of Illinois in the county of La
Salle. She was the mother of four children--three daughters
and one son. The son is my dad; the three daughters all
died spinsters, but they were very devoted to their mother.
They were taking her riding in a carriage out on the prairies
of Illinois one day, and they met a neighbor, and they stop-
ped and had a chat. This neighbor asked grandmother how she
was feeling, and she said she was suffering terribly from her
catarrh. Well, he answered and said, "You should go to Flor-
ida." So that night at the supper table grandmother recited
the incident to her husband, Robert Chalfont Strawn.
W: What was your grandmother's full name?
S: Elizabeth Strawn. And he said to her, "Elizabeth, you're
going to Florida," and sure enough she did. In Glenwood [he]
bought twenty acres on a ridge which as time has gone on has
proven to be the warm location coupled with good soil for the
growing of an orange tree. She set out in 1882 a seventeen
acre grove in five acre stages. The first five acre block
was planted in 1882, and we have the record of that in her own
handwriting yet today. She liked getting out when the woods
burned--getting out right in the smoke and breathing it. And
[she] got complete relief from her sinus trouble. So that is
the reason why the Strawns came into the citrus business.
W: When did your father,Theodore Strawn, become involved in the
S: The freeze of 1894 and 1895, of course, wiped out practically
all of the citrus in the then known citrus belt. But being
an unusually warm location for the areas that were then in
citrus, this grove came through in much better condition than
the average--much better. So Dad bought his three sisters
out and brought the grove back. He enjoyed hunting to the
fullest, and he used to come in the winter with his family
and spend the greater part of his time hunting. In about
1907 he said to my mother, "Candace, I'm too young a man to
spend so much of my time doing this. I've got to do something
to have an excuse for coming down here in the winter." And
so he started buying up little groves that were not paying.
His policy became buying a grove with the crop on it. He
figured to make the grove pay for itself in three years and
in nearly every case he succeeded in doing just that.
W: And when did you first become involved in the citrus industry?
S: Well, I went to work for him on the first day of September,
1920 and have been here ever since.
W: Would you describe what DeLand and the Glenwood area were like
when your grandmother and your father first arrived?
S: They brought me down first in the winter of 1903 or 1904--I
was born in 1898. But the pine timber was still standing--the
virgin growth. The greater portion of it even then was being
turpentined, but to find a block that was cut over, what you
might refer to as a stump lot, was a very rare thing. On the
road to Orange City from DeLand about half way on the west side
of the road, there was possibly an area of a hundred acres that
was in nothing but pine stumps--no timber. That was an unusual
sight. It was fascinating to lie on the ground in the daytime
when the breeze was stirring and hear the singing of the needles
in the pine tops. At that time it was all open in these pine
woods. You could see through the open woods for quite some
distances and sounds carried and revergerated there. Hearing
the cracker cowboy driving his cattle and popping his whip, mak-
ing a sound like a cannon roaring, was quite a thrilling thing.
W: What were transportation facilities like?
S: Well, we had the railroads when I came along. When my grand-
mother first came she landed at Hiland Park and went either by
mule cart or ox cart, I'm not just certain which, to Glenwood
to a family's home by the name of Neff that had come from Dayton,
Illinois. They stayed with the Neffs for a time. I don't re-
call just how long that was. But, incidentally, I'd like to
mention about this Neff couple. They were older people, but
they met a tragic end in the same house where my grandmother
and an aunt stayed when they first arrived in Florida. [Mr.
Neff] liked to kind of show off some I was told. He received
a check of $300.00 or $400.00 which was a fortune in those
days, and he got it cashed. Around the post office at Glen-
wood he liked to show that money or kind of incidentally show
it--open his pocketbook where somebody would see the big bills
and see the thickness of the wallet. At any rate it lead to
his doom, for the old couple were shot and the home burned
down to cover the evidence. I was told as a young man who did
it--a man that had been dead then for a number of years. So,
the party that told me felt free in calling the names.
W: When your grandmother first came here she came by steamboat,
S: [She came by] rail to Jacksonville. Then, the only artery of
travel was the St. Johns River, and she came down by steamboat
from Jacksonville to Hiland Park landing.
W: Do you recall how citrus was transported in those days?
S: Yes, all by either ox cart or mule team. They didn't use many
horses except for driving. For draft purposes it was mostly
mules with some oxen. Fruit was transported from the packing
house to the boat landing by a team.
W: And then what happened?
S: Then they loaded it on the steamboats and fruit was shipped in
barrels and, as I recall being told, packed in sawdust. But
here is a fact that I think has escaped many today, and that is
that citrus was never washed nor polished. It was put in its
container just as it came off the tree. For that reason an
orange was never picked from the tree until the dew had complete-
ly dried on it, and that limited the time in which a picker could
work. Of course, they worked late, maybe almost until dark. But
they couldn't start much before 10:00 in the morning even at the
very best. I can remember that change so well because Dad was
packing his fruit in a tent at that time, located right across
from the De Leon Springs depot. A white fly came in, and people
became desperate. They thought the industry was ruined. But it
brought about washing and polishing machines and other things
that we enjoy today in the handling of our citrus.
W: Would you describe what the packing house operation was like
from your earliest recollections and from things your father
S: Well, he first started out around 1906. He contracted with
a Florida cracker to put up his fruit for him, and there wasn't
very much to it other than picking it, which of course was a
chore, then hauling it, and packing it. All the oranges even
then were wrapped in paper and put in the box that was made of
veneer, though the ends in the early boxes were solid wood.
Later, they started making the ends by using veneer and the
strip around the four sides which cut down the weight consider-
ably. And they had no steel bands at that time. They used a
wooden hoop, but it was split. It was a little tree, maybe an
inch in diameter. They split that in half and in order to bend
it at a right angle around the box they put one at each end of
the box. I've forgotten whether they used one in the middle or
not, but at each end I'm certain of it. That hoop had to be
soaked in water overnight in order to bend around the right
angle of the corner of the box without breaking it. Then it
was loaded in the wagon and pulled from there to the railroad
siding. In some cases the packing house was built on the rail-
road, but in most cases not. The fruit was packed right at the
grove, and after being packed, it was loaded in a wagon oftimes
with a four mule hitch tandem team. That way they could pull
more boxes a load and cut the cost of hauling so much.
W: And the railroads were here, of course, in your earliest re-
S: Yes, in my earliest rememberance the railroad was here.i Never-
theless, my parents on several occasions took the boat down from
Jacksonville to DeLand. It was at Bearsford Landing where I
landed. Hiland Park I think had been cut out by that time.
W: Do you recall your family or other members of the citrus com-
munity in this area using the steamboats for transporting oranges
during your childhood?
S: No, the steamboat had gone out by the time I came along. The
railroad had taken its place.
W: When did trucks begin to replace railroads as the principal
form of transportation for citrus products in this area?
S: They followed the building of the hard road, but we steered
away from trucks just as long as we possibly could. We
never started using trucks until the very last of the fifties.
W: Why was that?
S: Well, the railroad had always been good to us. We liked the
railroad, and we are the kind of people that when we find
something satisfactory we don't change. We don't change for
change's sake. When we change, it's got to be for a reason
for the better. We felt that the railroad did the best job
that was being done up until that time in the hauling.
W: Are you still shipping any fruit by rail now?
S: No, the railroad has forsaken us, so I've forsaken them. They
took our switch out on us in spite of all my remonstrations.
W: What was the early packing house operation like?
S: Well, grades have been changed from what they used to be. We
used to have from eight to twelve different grades, but they've
been grouped together. Today they're really not but about two.
We can make three, but then one we simplified. Some of it I
like; some I wish that it was more like it used to be.
W: Would you be specific about some of the things that are done
today that were better before?
S: With the labor situation as it is today, we can't get our
fruit handled like we used to. We used no preservative what-
soever other than just plain parafin wax for polishing our
fruit. Today we have a material that takes the place of a lot
of that careful handling that we used to be able to require be
given our fruit. We seem to be getting by almost as well as
we did in the days gone by. But here's an instance I feel very
proud in telling. I think the year was 1916. It was a very
humid and warm winter--ideal for bacteria growth--and the rail-
roads hauling out the Florida citrus were besieged with claims.
My dad's house was the only house in the whole state of Florida
that had never entered the first claim for damage. The Atlantic
Coast Line sent a special representative to my dad to learn
the reason why he had never entered a claim. What was the
reason? They wanted to know it. So Dad told me, in recit-
ing the instance, that he didn't tell him a thing. He just
took him and said, "I want you to follow me." [He] took him
all through his packing house and showed him every stage of
it--how the fruit was dumped on a water cushion where there
was no chance of bruising; that fresh water passed through
his soaking tank continually; and that pressure of the water
being pointed against the fruit automatically shoved it up
on the conveyer. In all the changes from washing machine,
drying machine, grading belt, the sizer, there were no drops--
it was all rolling. There was no chance for bruising there.
The graders all wore gloves, and the packer also wore gloves.
The most extreme care was used in every single phase of oper-
ation, even loading the packing boxes in to the cars.
When he finished showing him all that he said, "Now I
want you to go with me to the grove." Well, there at the
grove he showed the picker wearing gloves also, and showed
him how the picker placed the ladder in the tree; there was
never any slanting of the ladder. It was gently put in the
tree and worked to a position of stance so that the picker
could safely climb it. And that picker had a special clipper
that almost made it impossible to in any way gouge the peel
as he placed it over the calyx of the orange to cut the stem.
Then the orange was carried by that picker in his gloved hand
and placed in a special designed pick bag which we made our-
selves. When the bag was full, the bag was never allowed to
be rested on the rung of the ladder so that there could be
no chance of any bruising of an orange while the bag was be-
ing filled by the picker. When the picker came down, he laid
this bag in a specially designed and built box only we used.
In fact we built this box ourselves. Then he picked up the
corners of the bag, and the fruit was actually laid in the
box. From then it was loaded on wagons that were specially
designed by my dad and built by our own carpenter. And the
boxes never touched. [One] rested on top of another until
it arrived at the packing house, and then one box was stack-
ed on top of the other four high. Our labor was so careful
that any orange sticking up above where the bottom of the
box above would touch it would be picked up and put on the
So as this railroad inspector rode back to the packing
house with Dad, he said, "You don't have to tell me a thing.
I see now why you have no trouble and the others are." I
attended a lecture of Professor Hume down the east coast one
time years ago, and he admonished the growers there that he
was talking to. He said, "If you people would stop handling
your fruit like they were rubber balls and go to handling
them like a fruit, you wouldn't have anything like the trouble
with decay that you've been having. [This is] why California
outsells you repeatedly." Yet Dad outsold California on the
New York auction without an exception to my knowledge. I re-
member in the 1929 fruit fly affair that fruit was condemned,
but under some special permission we got it to the auction.
It sold for $.75 a box higher than anything else on that auc-
tion that day. But of course, he used the finest cultural
methods that he knew how to use--and the fertilizers, too--
in the growing of his fruit.
W: Would you describe some of the growing methods that he used?
S: Well, we cultivated, and we mowed. He had his own ideas of a
certain time of year doing a certain thing andnot doing the
wrong thing at the wrong time of year. And I followed those
on out, and we still follow them. My son follows them even
W: Would you be specific about root stocks?
S: Yes, well, he believed strictly in sour root as a root stock.
The thing that he made his great reputation on, in fact where
we got that slogan of the "Famous For Flavor Orange," was the
Enterprise seedless variety. It was a mid-season orange; some
even called it an early, but I wouldn't call it an early. I
think it is strictly a mid-season orange. Dad used to send a
little girl and her papa fruit during the season. When he
started practicing law, they shared the same office. But Dad
didn't practice but two or three years. He was too closely
rooted to the soil. He gave it up, but he sent this old
friend two or three boxes every year. One of his little daugh-
ters said to him one time, "Daddy, when are we going to get some
more of those oranges that taste like perfumery smells?" The
well-grown Enterprise seedless--that about describes it, I be-
lieve. But because of Dad's methods, he was the first one to
ever successfully ship fresh Florida oranges to England. He
could get them over there in perfect condition.
W: When did he begin doing that?
S: He did that for the two last years of his lifetime. He
died in 1925. Parsons and Parsons, and old firm in I be-
lieve Liverpool sent their representative after his death.
This was the season of 1925 and 1926. They offered her
$3.50 F.O.B. for our entire crop, and I kind of wanted to
take it. Mother and I were running the business then, and
she said, "No," she wasn't going to do it. We had another
California freeze that year. We built our packing house,
incidentally, on the California freeze that occurred in
the first part of January, 1922. Anyhow, we averaged $4.00
a box F.O.B. for our fruit that year. So we never shipped
any more fruit to England after that. It was only two
seasons that we did ship. The fruit brought fantastic
prices over there, but the rate of exchange was so against
us that we didn't do any better over there than here. But
Dad got the satisfaction of doing something that hadn't
before been done.
W: Your father had quite a reputation not only in Florida but
throughout the nation.
S: Oh yes. Oh, his Bob White brand was known all through the
Middle West and the East. It was the highest selling orange
that went out of the state of Florida. He considered he
had only one rival, and that was Porche down at Rockledge.
But most of the time he outsold Porche.
W: Would you describe how citrus was marketed, going back to
your earliest recollection?
S: Well, that's a pleasure to do because I can remember it as
a boy. This particular area grew scarcely no Valencias
whatsoever, because of the fact that we're in the northern
tier of the citrus belt. They felt it was too much hazard
to take all of the cold risk for the whole winter. In fact,
citrus growers in my boyhood days felt like you ought to
have practically all of your fruit off by the end of Decem-
ber. I had been riding with my dad in a horse and buggy,
and we'd meet a cracker coming in with his light and one
horse wagon with from six to ten boxes of oranges that he
had gathered and packed--he and his family. He was coming
to the depot to send them off to a commission merchant.
And if one of those old crackers got back a good return,
naturally, he'd tell it. So every neighbor of his would
send his [fruit] to him. That's all so many of those com-
mission merchants did in those days. They'd make some very
attractive returns on occasions to fire up these people, and
then when they would send their fruit to him and he said,
"Oh,they hit a glutted market," or "There was so much decay
in it I had to sell it at a loss." And he'd send them back
for less than cost. That was the way that here in this area
most of the fruit was sent off. There were some large han-
dlers, though, that were different. If you got a dollar a
box on the tree--that was the going standard price--people
This thing of consigning fruit to the commission mer-
chant and having advantage taken [caused a lot of dissatis-
faction.] I know my dad consigned a car load of grapefruit
to a commissioned merchant in Philadelphia, and he got back
that sob story. He took mother with him, and they caught
the first train to Philadelphia, and he caught the fellow
unaware. My dad was a lawyer himself, and so it wound up
that he got a fantastic price for that load of fruit that
he wouldn't even have gotten his charges otherwise. It was
that sort of thing that led to the forming of the Florida
Citrus Exchange. I'm very proud of the fact that myself and
a brother just younger than I was taken by our parents over
to Eustis. I think it was in April of 1909 if my memory
don't fail me too bad. They had a picnic lunch just north
of the main part of Eustis next to the shore of that big
lake. Then of course there was the speaking following the
lunch, and after the speaking we went down and visited a
packing house enclosed in a brick building just on the edge
I can't help but remember one instance that sticks out
in that. Boys at that time had blouses. I was the bashful
type, but my brother Chester wasn't. And all those oranges
passing along that grading belt was more than Chester could
stand. So he started reaching up and putting oranges in his
blouse, and an employee came along and caught him. Boy, did
he lay him out. And he had him take out every one of those
oranges and put them back where he got them. Well, Dad didn't
know anything about it, but when he did, he came pretty near
giving Chester a thrashing right there on the spot. But he
waited till he got home, and Chester got his whipping that
night. That's the way parents did in those days. Well, Dad
joined the exchange when it was first formed, but he didn't
stay in long. I remember a resident of DeLand, Ned Stewart
was the first president of the Florida Citrus Exchange.
W: Was that the local area exchange?
S: No, that was the entire state. That was the state organi-
zation that was organized. They soon hired a Mr. Skelly as
their sales manager, and in my opinion he was the greatest
citrus salesman that the industry has ever known up until
this present day even. The American Fruit Growers, Crutch-
field and Woolfolk,organized in 1920. Their idea was then
to have just top quality, and that is why they managed to
talk dad into going in with them.
W: Is that why he left the exchange?
S: No, no, he didn't stay in the exchange long. See, the ex-
change organized either in 1909 or 1910--I don't know which.
I'm telling you about the meeting that was the beginning of
the organization of the Florida Citrus Exchange, which did
a great job for the citrus grower. They started selling
F.O.B. A grower knew what he was going to get before the
fruit left the packing house, or perhaps even he had a good
idea what he was going to get before it was picked from his
grove. Yes, that was a wonderful, wonderful thing. But for
ten years we were with the American. We knew Mr. Crutchfield
and Mr. Woolfolk. In fact, Mr. Cutchfield and Mr. Woolfolk
we dealt with personally. They were the people we did deal
with after Dad's death even. And Mr. Skelly died soon after
Dad died. A fellow named Pinky Williams took Skelly's place
there, but he wasn't 1-2-3 with Skelly.
But it's kind of interesting--I like the American. They
got more money for our Bob White brand than any other brand
that went out of the state of Florida. They handled Indian
River Fruit themselves, but they couldn't get as much money
for that as they could get for our Bob White. And so I was
satisfied with them. But in 1930 mother and I went in to
talk with Mr. Crutchfield, and she wanted more money than
he was perfectly willing to give. He would have given it,
I'm sure, but he was doing his best to hold her down a little
bit. But he handled her wrong. He made her mad, and as we
went out the door, she said to me, "Robert, we're going to
join the exchange," and sure enough we did. Why that was it
with no need of any further arguing. So we joined the ex-
change, and we're with them yet today,and our relationship
there has been very, very satisfactory.
W: Would you describe for me the effect of the flu epidemic
of 1918 on the use of citrus?
S: That's something that I don't believe too many Floridians
vividly recognize--the fact that it was in 1918 that oranges
stopped being eaten, and they started drinking them. I my-
self enlisted in World War I in 1918, and I came down with
the flu right after my enlistment before I had reported. I
was in a hotel at Evanston, Illinois, and my father was down
at the old Strawn home at Ottawa. He and one of his sisters
were both of them determined kind of people. They tried to
get in touch with me by phone, and I'd heard a rap on the
door. I was kind of in a stupor I realize now, and I didn't
answer. At any rate they just got on the train, came up
to Chicago, and came out to the hotel where they knew I was
registered. They insisted that the door be opened, and
there I was lying in bed. Well, the commandant gave them
permission to take me back home. I was taken to the very
room in which I was born, and in two weeks I was completely
recovered. During that terrible flu epidemic of 1918 that
killed more soldiers than German bullets, they learned that
orange juice was one of the finest things that could be
given a patient. They went to squeezing oranges, and quit
eating them. It used to be they'd cut an orange in half
and spoon it out. But much of that stopped, and they found
out how good it was just to drink the pure juice from fresh
oranges. That marked distinctly the point of consumption
in relation to production. Where twelve million boxes
prior would glut the market, why that was nothing as time
went on. And today, my, my, it's just unbelievable the
fact that we can get rid of this much citrus as we do.
W: Would you describe what effect the land boom of the twenties
had on citrus production in Florida?
S: Well, in my position I wasn't where I could make any very
intelligent statements on that. As far as we were concerned
here it cut no figure whatsoever.
W: It didn't affect the price of land?
S: Well, I'll tell you...it sure did. Land went up high. We
had an offer for our holdings here of a million dollars,
and they offered to pay a quarter of a million down.
W: Who was this who made the offer?
S: It was some developer. I wasn't interested enough to even
take particular note of their name. Well, he hung around
a couple of days, and I continued to work on machinery. I
had a truck or two torn down then. I never stopped work
even to talk to him except as I'd talk from underneath the
truck. And this, though, it did do. It raised values very,
very high for those days. But after it broke, land had no
value whatsoever. Lots in DeLand that are now in some of
the choice residential areas went for taxes. Years later
they were bought up in groups just for back taxes. But as
far as our business here was concerned, I had been the
manager practically my lifetime, and I never was interested
in it. I'm not interested today in selling our holdings
to the developer. I'm just an ingrained farmer I guess.
So it was the same thing back there in those days.
W: What was this man planning to do with the land?
S: Oh, they would develop and stake it out in lots and sell it.
I pointed out to mother, if the thing broke, which I was
looking for it to do, why, it would just ruin our holdings.
It'd be cut up in blocks, and we never could get it back
together again. She went along with me, and so we weren't
W: Would you recall when tractors were first introduced to the
cultivation of citrus?
S: Well, I've got an interesting little story to tell about
that. Henry Ford came out with his gasoline tractor. They
called it a Fordson, and dad bought two of those. Must have
been from the Ford dealer--the Ford car dealers handled the
tractors in those days. He bought two of these Fordsons.
He was clearing up some land to plant these Valencia groves
on, and they were all of course steel wheel--had the steel
spikes. In this sandy soil, why, if a wheel ever spun, it
dug down before you could depress your clutch to stop it.
But we used it. We had a disc plow that we hooked behind
one of them, and it did a better job of plowing than you
could do with a pair of mules. We used Acme harrows so much
in those days.
So with a tractor I put two of these Acme harrows to-
gether and fixed the double tree arrangement on it. We could
only use it in the young groves, of course. The spikes on
the steel wheels would have eaten up the limbs of the old
trees. In the young groves it seemed kind of like it's be
advantageous to use them. So the driver went down a little
hill, and that was all right. He turned at the end and
started back up the next, and there's where he stuck. It
made me so put out. I shouldn't have gotten angered at it
I don't suppose. I don't know what I was venting my wrath
upon. It might have been the dealer. He could have been
there watching the outcome. Well, I said, "I can get the
littlest mule on our job, and I'll just bet you she'll pick
those two Acme harrows up, going up that hill. She'll pick
them up and pull them to the top." And I just was perverse
enough that I did. I went and took her out of the team,
brought her there, and hooked her to the same clevis. Once
we cut the Acme loose from the tractor, it pulled itself
out, and I hooked her to that same clevis. She was an
honest beautiful dappled grey little mule--wouldn't weigh
over nine hundred fifty, maybe a thousand [pounds]. I
never weighed her, but I'd guess her near nine hundred fifty
than a thousand. I told her to go, and she just got down
practically on her knees. Some animals will fly back as
the old expression was, but not Daisy. She just got down
on her knees, and she moved that load, and I. let her. She
didn't stop till I told her. I let her go about ten feet,
and then I stopped her and let her catch a few deep breaths--
she had excellent wind. And then I told her to go again,
and I think in two or three stops she had it on top of the
W: Mr. Strawn, would you recall approximately what time the
tractor began to be used?
S: Well, dad bought these two Fordsons back around 1922 or
1923, but we didn't use them too long. The mules were on
the average a heap more satisfactory, but in 1929 we did
buy a large wheel tractor. We were able to equip it with
rubber tires, and we had a heavy new ground plow that we
used. After we got the rubber tires, we did use it a little
in grove work--the young groves at least. But I should say
it was around the latter part of the the thirties before
we really began to turn the mules off and go more to the
tractor. But we hauled with mules into our packing house
for a long time after truck hauling became very popular--
I mean truck hauling as from the grove to the packing house.
W: Besides the tractor what were some of the other machine-
powered implements that you used on your farm--the sprayers
and things like that?
S: We started with those in the early twenties. But we really
didn't get equipped right with machine-powered sprayers until
the latter years of the twenties.
W: What changes did the use of these tractors and other machine-
powered implements have on your business?
S: As long as we had the mules, we plowed. We plowed, and that
was a wonderful type of cultivation--one mule, one plow, one
man. So there was no such thing, you might say, as unemploy-
ment. The people in those days had to work, they were willing
to work, and so we made out with no troubles. We got along
happy. As far as I can see, I think people were just as happy
in those days as they are today, and the type of lives they
lived were a great deal different--more admirable I would
think than the average today. We certainly didn't start to
have the crime that we've got today.
W: What about some of the scientific innovations that have im-
proved citrus production, particularly the citrus culture?
S: Well, the thing that came along just in the nick of time to
save us was a material called dolomite, and it was mined at
two principal places. The mining of dolomite, as I under-
stand it--there may be more today--in those days was done in
Florida and Tennessee. We got ours here, of course, from
the Florida mines. It is just unbelievable the change that
it made. Less fertilizer went further, and our production
per tree trebled. And as I say, it lowered cost even. It's
what saved us and, innovations in fertilizer since that has
added much to the increase in per unit production of oranges.
W: When was this dolomite introduced?
S: I don't recall just when we started it. It must have been
somewhere in the middle thirties, or the early thirties
even when we started with it.
W: We mentioned trucks before, but again I would like to ask
you when trucks became an important means of transportation
for citrus products?
S: Well, I'm a fellow that stays so close home tending to my
own knitting--been out in the woods so much of that time--
that these things have happened around about me, and I haven't
been fully aware of them. But in our own instance we never
started trucking fruit until the very last of the fifties--
first part of the sixties. Then we still used the railroad
as long as we could. What really brought about the big change--
whether it's for the better or the worse I'm not here to say--
is the labor situation. Our people at the other end, the
commission merchants, wanted fruit. They used to pay so
much a box to have it unloaded out of the car at the rail-
road siding. Of course, they only had one railroad siding
coming right up to the commission house. Labor raised the
charge of unloading fruit from the railroad car and hauling
it to their commission house. They raised it so high it
became prohibitive. So they began putting the pressure
on us down here to ship them by truck, because the truck
would drive right straight to their commission house. I
was reluctant to leave the railroad. They always treated
us well, and they got our fruit up there in good condition.
I saw no reason for change, but the change was forced upon
W: Do you recall when road improvement began in this area?
S: Yes. Well, we didn't have a hard surfaced road from De Leon
to DeLand until the grade was put in the year of my dad's
death, 1925. In 1926 they put in a black top road from
De Leon to DeLand, and I think that the black top that runs
in front of our packing house was built along about 1929.
And it ran north.
W: When did the fist graded roads come into existence?
S: When we could get a clay road or a shell road, we were
tickled to pieces. The first years that I worked here
we were dependent on a pine straw road, and there isn't a
more picturesque road today than a pine straw road. A
good pine straw road is an excellent road even now. There's
nothing as beautiful as a pine straw road running through
virgin timber or even through a hammock. If we could get
our district commissioner to pay us, we'd do the job
cheaper than he could hire it done from somebody else, and
we'd do a much better job. We were delighted.
In some cases where he said he didn't have the money
even to pine straw the road, prices ran from $50 to $75 a
mile then for pine strawing a road. Why, then we'd pine
straw it ourselves, because our mules fared so much better.
In fact, if the road was too sandy, our Model T trucks
couldn't make it. These [trucks] were the ones that we
used at first to haul our fruit from the grove to the packing
house. The Model T truck couldn't go in the grove, though.
It couldn't go in and come out. Fruit had to be brought
out to the edge of the grove to be loaded on the Model T.
But we still continued to haul with our mules. They'd go
right into the grove, get the load, and bring it right to
the door of the packing house.
W: What were the roads other than the pine straw roads like in
the early days?
S: They were pure old sand. Another thing that many people I
don't suppose think of today is that the guage, which is
really the tread of the railroad, is fifty-six inches. Through-
out the North the standard wagon tread and buggy tread was
fifty-six inches. But the South had a tread of their own, and
that tread was sixty inches. Now automobile manufacturers in
those early days made two treads--a tread for the South and a
tread for the North. Cars weren't driven back and forth. I
remember the first trip north I ever made with my parents--
the first time they ever drove north in 1915. There were no
bridges over streams then. If a stream was too high, you
might had to get a pair of mules to pull you through. You
didn't dare run your engine through that deep water. I ferried
the Tennessee River at Guntersville. In 1915 that's the way
we went, and getting out of Florida we had to ferry the St.
Marys River up here for we went to Savannah that way.
W: You were going to describe maybe a little bit more about the
S: Oh yes, well, they were sand. If you brought your car from
the North down and it was following a wagon in the South
sixty inches [wide] or a car from the South sixty inches [wide],
you were pretty near stuck. Just four inches difference in
those sand ruts meant the difference of going and sticking.
So that was quite a consternation--that two tread business.
But that's what we had then. And if you ever struck a shell
road, oh, you just praised the Lord.
Glenwood had the smoothest road in all Volusia County
outside of Daytona Beach. There's where people like to go
in those days where they could open their cars up and run
forty or fifty miles an hour over on the beach at Daytona.
But Glenwood had one mile of shell that was really smooth.
My dad had a big, 1909 Peerless Six,and he gave people
there in Glenwood rides up and down that shell road. When
he would hit fifty miles an hour, they'd grab their coats
to hold together and their hats to hold it on their heads--
it was the biggest thrill they'd ever had in their lives.
W: I know in other areas of the state citrus businessmen were
very active in encouraging county and state road building
programs. I'd like to know how citrus businessmen in this
area were acting in that regard.
S: That's a question I have no answer for. I don't think that
they issued bonds for road building, but we were blessed with
some shell. Clay wasn't looked to as too good a material
for road building in those days. They used marl that existed
over on the east coast of our county. I think what they built
the roads over there with mostly was this marl. But here we
had shell. We had two kinds--the snail shell and then this
better shell from the old settlement time from the most fertile
fields in this whole country. The Indians farmed it even.
It's just out from De Leon Springs. Well, they found that
that soil was underlaid with this particular kind of shell
which made excellent roads, and that's what this part of the
country used. In fact, they loaded it on cars and shipped
it even as far as Jacksonville for roads. But those shell
roads were built as money could be gotten.
W: But you know of no individual citrus growers or groups of
growers who were actively encouraging road building?
S: Well, everything went by rail. They'd only be interested
in it locally and the automobile when it came in generated
an interest of course. But it was modest. In this neighbor-
hood it was very modest.
W: Were you going to mention about other groups who were pro-
moting citrus in this area?
S: No, I don't know of any groups that were promoting it. In-
dividuals is the things. Groves were individually owned.
A group might own a field as a partnership, but most of our
citrus in those days was owned individually.
W: When have some of the more serious freezes occurred in this
S: Well, the first freeze that I ever attended was in 1910.
We lived in Glenwood, and this was a three acre grapefruit
grove located in what is now the northeast part of DeLand.
[There are] a few of those grapefruit trees still living
in people's yards. But when Dad bought it, it was lined
on two sides with split pine wood. When this freeze of
January, 1910 came along, why he picked up his foreman
there at the foot of Glenwood and an old slavery negro who
lived a little further down the road. We had to come
through DeLand to get back out to the grove for then De-
Land was at least two miles away from this grove. So he
fired it for three nights and saved the fruit. It had a
thousand boxes of grapefruit on it, and he sold it for
$3.00 a box on the tree. That was a fortune in those
The next freeze of any consequence came in February,
1917, and that did a great deal of damage. Then the next
freeze of any consequence came in January, 1927. The year
following 1928, there was another freeze of lesser severity.
The next one after that came around December 12, 1934. The
next freeze following that was 1937, and that came around
December 7. We were spared a freeze until 1940. That
freeze came on the night of January 27, 28, and 29, and
that was a terrible cold. That defoliated practically
everything but tangerine trees. January had been an un-
usually cold month, and the orange trees were as dormant
as orange trees could get. If you saw a green orange tree
out in an orange grove, you pretty near knew it was a tan-
gerine tree. They didn't lose their foliage. But on the
day of November 16, 1940, a full moon, we got an unusually
cold spell for November. More wood was killed in that
November cold than was killed in the January freeze when
they were so extremely dormant. But it didn't affect the
fruit very much--the November freeze didn't. The crop, of
course, was light that year. Then in the fifties there
were several minor freezes. The next terrible freeze, which
I call the most disastrous citrus freeze that the state had
experienced since the one of 1894 and 1895, was the one in
December, 1962. It came almost exactly on the same days as
did the freeze of December, 1934. That was a terrible freeze.
W: What were the effects of the 1962 freeze?
S: Smaller yields and high prices for nearly five years--it was
a boom to the people that managed to come through better.
W: What about damage to the trees?
S: Yes, there was worlds of damage to the trees. For instance,
I thought one of the warmest groves in this part of the state
was on the road from Cassia to Eustis, up there in that high-
er hill. Say, I skipped the freeze of 1957 and 1958. Yes,
let's come back to that. I don't know how I could have for-
gotten the winter of 1957 and 1958, because that's unique in
one feature. At any rate this grove was killed to the ground
in 1962 and the freeze of 1957 and 1958--that's the only way
I was thinking of this grove--reminds me of that winter. In
1957 and 1958 that grove didn't even have a frozen orange on
it. But in the freeze of 1962 it went to the ground. It's
surprising. I wanted to touch on that freeze of 1957 and
1958. Again about the same time as the 1934 freeze around
December 12, 1957, we got a terrible two night freeze. That
same winter in January we had another freeze, and then in
February we had a third freeze. Usually, the Lord sends only
one freeze a winter. The exception of that was that winter
of 1957 and 1958 when le sent three freezes.
Then the great big exception, of course, was the freeze
of 1894 and 1895. Local history here dated from that freeze.
You'd ask somebody, "Well, when did this happen?" "Oh, that
happened so many years before the 'big freeze'." "Well, when
did this happen?" "Oh, that happened so many years after the
'big freeze'." The freeze of 1894 and 1895 just simply wiped
citrus out of the then citrus area of the state, because there
was no rail transportation then,--the artery of travel was the
St. Johns River. My grandmother came down that river when she
came here because of her catarrh. In 1894, the last three days
of December, a cold came that was of enough severity that it
froze all the oranges and knocked all the leaves off the trees.
But it didn't hurt the wood.
That was followed in January with rain and warm weather,
so those trees naturally wanted to put their leaves back on.
They came out in a white bloom and new foliage at the same
time. So as one old cracker told me--he's been dead many a
year, but his name was Bill Tedder--he said, "I thought I was
going to raise a grand masters crop after that December freeze
in 1894." He said, "The cold had defoliated my trees, and all
the insects that had gotten around the leaves were gone. All
things just looked so good."
And then came the freeze of February 17, 1895. The trees
were sappy, and vigorous growth had taken place. They weren't
in any state to withstand the freeze, and it just split the
bark from the ground to the top and killed practically every-
thing to the ground. It was just some few trees in some es-
pecially favored locations [that survived]. One was a pure
island grove in Volusia County that my parents had acquired
along about the turn of the century. People, they said, from
this whole countryside went to get bud-wood from to start
over again in citrus. I don't know whether people generally
take in why that was such a disastrous freeze, but it wasn't
that it was so extremely cold in February. It was very, very
cold--it was a true freeze--but it was a combination of freezes
you see. The freeze was severe enough the last of December to
defoliate. Then the warm weather and the rain in January flush-
ed those trees out and made them susceptible to a cold spell
that wiped the industry out. It was a combination of freezes
in one year.
Well, the only other freeze that I can recall where we
had more than one freeze was 1957 and 1958. We got three that
time. But it stayed cold all the way through. I think it was
as cold to me as it was in 1962, but it wasn't so disastrous.
In other words it could have been a heap more disastrous, but
the trees were already fairly dormant when that December, 1957,
a cold freeze came in. Now, that 1962 freeze was different
from any freeze that I've ever heard of in my lifetime or from
old timers ahead of me. It was really only a one night freeze,
and it was around December 12. But it came with a high wind--
it was practically a gale. That's why over there in Lake Coun-
ty that grove caught it so. Those groves on the tops of the
hills caught it worse than those at the bottoms, which ordinari-
ly are way colder. But the hill protected them from that gale,
and that's one reason why we got through as well as we did.
Of course, we fired [the grove]. You see, we have kept our
timber, and our groves were protected by timber where the other
fellows around here weren't. That's why we fared so much better
W: You mentioned firing of groves. I'd like to ask you what some
of the methods you used to protect your groves were.
S: Well, we used fat lighter wood. We used the fat lighter stump.
I don't know what the action was, but I just know the result.
That I know positively. We have a good deal of yellow virgin
pine yet today. Those stumps aren't pitchy and fat like the
turpentined stump. As I remarked previously in this recording,
when I was a boy, most of this pine timber land around here was
being turpentined. After the log was cut off the stump, the
stump was pitchier--a lot heavier. That's what we used. We
have to use dynamite to split it, and we built a special circle
saw. It takes two men to operate it. We tried chain saws but
the cost was prohibitive. This saw holds the cost down to a
minimum, and we're still using that saw. We have a few
stumps left, but very few. So I carried down now to the
1962 freeze, haven't I? Now, let's see. There have been
some freezes since, but not of a major kind until the one
W: How did the one this past winter affect you?
S: Oh, it was a terrible lick. We've got so little of our
pine wood left--it's just practically a thing of the past.
We spared the fire, and we suffered because of it. Oh, it
cost us thousands and thousands [of dollars]. If we burned
wood as we ordinarily would, we would have saved practically
all our Valencias, and it would have meant everything to us.
W: I wanted to ask you initially how harmful the fruit fly in-
festation of 1929 was to this area.
S: Well, that's a question I'm more delighted to give an answer
to than any you have asked me. This same old cracker, a
fine old gentleman, Bill Tedder, that I've already referred
to regarding the big freeze, raised a rather large family.
He lived just less than a mile from our packing house. These
children did well, and they went into the work of the state
plant board. Two of the daughters married state plant board
men. I think it was the month of April, 1929, that they were
having a family reunion out at their papa's place. These men
knew of some findings of what they felt quite sure was the
Mediterranean fruit fly--a dread to this industry. During
the afternoon two or three of them said, "Well, let's go out
into the grove here and see what we can find." So they went
to a grapefruit tree, picked up a grapefruit, and cut it.
Sure enough there was a larvae in there--a maggot. So they
gathered several, and the next morning--this was on a Sunday--
the next morning they turned it into the laboratory I believe
is located in Orlando. And that same day before I knew it, a
big fellow, a state plant board man, was in here with a crew,
showing us some worms in a bottle he said he'd cut out of a
dropped grapefruit in one of our groves. Well, they'd already
formulated some regulations at that time. But I was just un-
aware of all this, or I would have done something about it.
I made the boast on more than one occasion, "We'll never be
caught in any zone one." But before we knew it, we were.
In this area the only place they ever found that so-
called--I'm going to put it that way--Mediterranean fruit
fly larvae, was in a dropped grapefruit. So I'll tell you
that next day I had everything we had picking up all the
dropped grapefruit in all our groves and destroying them.
And they never did find any more infestation on us. I
jumped right in to cooperate, and practically all the neigh-
bors did. A few old crackers with their grape arbors kind
of remonstrated, and one county judge claimed that there was
no law ever made to take God-given fruit out of a man's mouth.
I think they had a lot of trouble destroying his cowpea patch.
In fact, I don't know whether he ever did or not. But at any
rate most everyone cooperated, and they had a list of hosts,
oh, that'd fill a page. They made me a captain of the clean-
up. I think they had five areas in this county, and they
elected me the captain of this area here, and we got the rib-
bon. They gave a prize for the best clean-up job, and our
area here won that prize. That makes me feel kind of good
looking back over that part.
After this list of hosts had been eliminated according
to their specifications, they offered in this [area] what
they called a zone two. Now, I have forgotten justhowbig
that zone was, but I know that it had to be a distance of a
mile from the center or the border of this zone one. We had
a young Valencia grove that was classed in zone two, and I
sincerely thought it was. But a busybody individual here,
who enjoyed tending more to other folks business than his
own, discovered that we were a few feet less than a mile
from this zone one to this Valencia grove. In the meantime
they had examined this grove and given us a clean bill of
health. As the regulations were, we couldn't haul the fruit
from this zone. Our packing house was not in zone one, but
we couldn't haul the fruit through zone one to the packing
house. We had to go around, which we, of course, were glad
It turned out there were five carloads of fruit in this
grove they could find nothing wrong with. Three carloads
had been packed and shipped to the destination with the New
York auction, and we had one at our siding, at the packing
house, that was packed. The fifth and last car was half-
packed and half-loaded, and the rest of it was stacked on
the floor of the packing house, waiting to be loaded in the
car. It was discovered that the zone two grove from which
this fruit had come was not actually a zone two grove. It
lacked a few feet of being mile distance there. There was
a big lake between. The lake was about a mile and a half
long and perhaps three-eighths of a mile wide at this point.
So it wasn't possible to directly measure with a tape on
account of the lake. But anyhow it was discovered that it
lacked a few feet of being a mile, and so there was so much
pressure brought to bear.
The man in charge was very fair. He represented the
state plant board I presume. His name was Brown. Now the
busybody wanted the three cars that were already on their
way to market brought back at our expense. We pay the freight
at the stopping point, then pay the freight back here, and
then at our expense bury them. We had to dig a hole and bury
them at least three feet, pour oil and quicklime over them,
and then put two feet of earth over that. That was specifica-
tions required for destroying the fruit. They made mother
and I this proposition--they'd let the three cars that were
in route go, providing that we would unload the loaded car
here and the fruit on the floor and bury that fruit according
to the specifications at our expense. Well, mother and I
figured that a half a loaf was a whole lot better than no loaf
at all, and so we agreed to it.
Incidentally, those three loads of Valencias sold--this
was in I think either the very last of May or the first part
of June--but they sold $.75 a box higher on the New York
auction than any other California or Florida citrus that went
in there. Three months later the commission man that had
bought most, not all, of this fruit had three or four boxes
left. We were affiliated with the American Fruit Growers at
that time, and so this representative had taken me around. He
said I want you to see that fruit. Well, I was anxious to see
it, because from what we had heard down here it'd be eaten up
with worms, you see. And it was wonderful to look at. The
oranges were just as firm as when they came off the tree, and
the man said he'd paid $7.00 or $8.00 a box for them up there
when he'd bought them. He'd held them in cold storage and
dribbled them out so as to get the high price. As I understand
it, he sold them out to stores and got $14.00 and better a box.
That's what he got. So you can see his profit. But he was also
enthusiastic. He said to me, "Your brand is the only brand in
the state of Florida that will hold like this." He said, "I
think that yours will hold from the end of one season to the
beginning of the next." Well, I said, "I hope you never try."
But all those three cars they had given perfect satisfaction.
I and two others here in Florida, Joe Scarlett, an
attorney, and Mr. Chapman, who was later warden at Raiford
for many, many years, testified before a joint congressional
committee of congressmen and senators--Russell of Georgia
was among them, Ellender of Louisiana, Wiley of Wisconsin--
some men thatlater became big names in our Congress. I was
the last one to testify. They'd had about nine stops. They
were taken around by Senator Andrews of Florida, and when
they got through, they questioned me and told me, "We've been
around (this was either their last or next to last stop) and
you told us things we've never heard anywhere else." [I]
had really gotten their attention. But I told them that after
we had been given this bulletin on the life history of the
Mediterranean fruit fly, and I began to compare that life
history with the findings of the plant board here and I came
to three conclusions. I told them that time itself had proven
how right I was.
W: What were the three conclusions that you came to?
S: Well, one of them was that it was a fly a good deal like the
white fly. They thought that the white fly was something that
had just come in from nowhere all at once. The white fly is
the thing that brought about packing houses and machinery. It
later was believed by many to have been an insect that had been
here all the time, but suddenly developed an appetite for citrus.
And one of my conclusions on the Med fly is that it has been
here all the time. I'd seen worms in oranges as long as I could
remember--that is dropped ones, decayed ones or ones on the
tree that had had a bird peck in it. I thought there was that
possibility, because they had told us that the fly was a sluggish
fly. He couldn't travel on his own power for very great dis-
tances. He'd have to hike a ride on a train or something like
that to get somewhere. In other words his dissemination would
be very slow. Sour orange was another fruit that they found
this larvae in--grapefruit and sour orange. In our area here
they never found it in sweet orange, but they found the larvae
in every shell mound in the St. Johns River swamps around here.
They were miles away from these groves. That's another thing
that led me to believe that it was a fly like the white fly
that had just developed a sudden appetite for it.
But one of the things that I'd like to stress is that
the puny effort of man never eradicated that fly. The United
States Department of Agriculture had $7 million dollars on
hand for this kind of thing, and they turned it over to the
state to use to combat the fly. Well, the state said that
they just simply could not annihilate this fly on $7 million
dollars, and they applied for $30 million. The man that
headed the House Appropriations Committee--that's where this
$30 million that the state plant board was asking for would
have to generate from--was Congressman Wood. And he was what
was called here locally a hardboiled Hoosier from Lafayette,
Indiana. He came down here and made an investigation, and
when he got through he said, "Well, I want your credit to
stay good." And he recommended that the United States gov-
ernment appropriate enough money to pay all the bills that
the state plant board had incurred, and they got it. We
stayed on an even keel financially the many, many years that
Congressman Wood from Indiana chairmaned that House Appropria-
tions Committee. But what I want to add is that they didn't
get any more money from the United States government or any-
where else to my knowledge other than to pay the debts that
they had already incurred. But the fly disappeared--it dis-
Now, another conclusion that I had come to when I got
this knowledge was that that fly might not have been able to
adapt itself environmentally to this climate. It's been many
years since I read that bulletin, but as I recall, it stated
that in muggy wet weather the true Mediterranean fruit fly
did not thrive. Anyhow, the fly disappeared. Our department
here did a great job with citrus canker--I haven't got any-
thing but praise there--but this Med fly was as mishandled as
it could be. If they'd have gotten some more money sent, they
wouldn't have annihilated the fly because the Lord Almighty
did that anyhow. It isn't till recent years that they found
a few cases of it down the east coast. But they used good
common sense in handling that, and the industry hasn't suf-
fered. But back in 1929 we never came as close to going
broke as we did then. It led ultimately to the division of
our family. That Mediterranean was terrible and as mishandled
as it could be.
W: What about the effect of the fly on financial institutions in
S: Oh yes. I'd like to tell that story. The county agent in
Volusia County here was Tom Brown. He was a good enough fellow,
but boy, those fellows, they'd been just Tom Browns before, but
they were Mr. Tom Brown after that fly came in. He called
together all the packing house operators in this county, and
there was one from Oak Hill, Mr. Putnam, and a couple from
New Smyrna, Seville, Pierson, and DeLand. There were ten or
twelve of us there that night. I've forgotten just which
month that was--the early part of the summer, or it could
have been in April even. But I do know that he told that
group that it could well be five years before another box of
oranges would be shipped out of Volusia County. Think of it.
Our banks had been weakened anyhow from what they call that
Florida boom of 1925 and 1926. But they were kind of getting
a hold of things and getting a little stronger.
But after that irresponsible remark from that county
agent, Tom Brown, we had two banks here in DeLand and with-
drawals started. They started gradually at first, and then
they got stronger. One of our most substantial citizens here,
Ray Conrad, went to Jacksonville, got somewhere between $200
and $400 thousand dollars, and brought it to the bank we hap-
pened to be doing business with to try to stop this run. But
the point I'm making is that our banks were getting along.
Now whether they had been able to pull through the stock mar-
ket crash of 1929 or not I do not know. I do know that they
were weathering the bust of the boom, which was a terrible
thing. But withdrawals started then and I stated just as
plainly as I am now before that joint committee that it started
after that remark.
W: Would you tell me what other insects and diseases have threat-
ened citrus production other than the Med fly?
S: Well, the white fly I think had greater impact than anything
else. But there's a saying, there's a silver lining behind
every cloud. Well, the white fly had a silver lining. I
think I've already mentioned the way it was when oranges never
got washed before they were packed. The dew had to dry on
the tree before they could be picked. You couldn't pick an
orange until that happened, and I think that ten o'clock would
be a pretty good hour to set as the time when picking used to
begin. Of course, they could work till dark, which they would
do in those days. But with the washing of the oranges, it
don't make any difference when you pick them.
W: What about the canker?
S: Well, that would have been a serious thing. That came ahead
of my time a little bit. My dad went through it, and he'd
even buy new clothing for a picker that came in from somewhere
strange to him. He'd take their clothing,burn it, and buy
them a new outfit before he'd allow them in his grove. That's
just the kind of an individual he was. [The canker] was seri-
ous, but the state plant board did an excellent job. And I
guess they were going to do the same thing with the Med fly,
but the Lord Almighty had something to do with that.
W: Would you describe what the condition of Florida citrus and
particularly this area was after the fruit fly infestation?
S: Well, in our case some of that $7 million dollars was spent
on an arsenic spray, something that is against the law. I
think they have allowed some of that to go on in the case of
grapefruit. I don't think it ripens it, but it sweetens it
earlier, and I think they've allowed it. The use of arsenic
has been illegal, but, of course, in combating the fly they
made it legal. And it so affected our trees. Oh, it had such
a terrible effect on the tree itself that we didn't use our
high quality brand for two years. We went to our second and
third brand. We had three brands at that time. We still have
them, but we only use two of them today. It was astonishing.
What we had won out on all through the years was our keeping
quality first and second that unusual flavor. I expect it's
the flavor of our orange--that unusual eating quality--that
has made us stand out--plus the keeping quality. But it hurt
us. It cost us at least $.75 a box for two years.
W: How was your business during the Depression?
S: Well, maybe this is a little personal, but it's the way to
understand things. Chicago was our best market. We sold
F.O.B. During the Depression years we were able to keep our
heads above water. We could make more than we spent just be-
cause of our outstanding quality. But I'd like to go back to
the winter of 1923 and 1924. Chicago was our best market.
Our dealer up there was paying us $3.00 F.O.B. for our Bob
White. At that time we were with American Fruit Growers, but
right here in DeLand the exchange house couldn't get enough
back to pay packing charges and all of the freight bill. Of
course, later on prices went...well, today you'd call it sky
high when it come to Valencia time. But there were no Valencias
of any consequence in this area.
Dad's policy never was to try to hit the high places.
That's the way it used to be here. The market would go up,
and he'd say about his neighbors here, "Hooperah boys, get
them off." And then they'd glut the market, and they'd
shut down. But he kept going a steady pace all the way
through, and he averaged it up--the high with the low. He
went to one commission man, and he stayed with him. He
selected the commission man that had his regular customers,
so it was the same people buying dad's fruit all the time.
He didn't have to hunt a new market. So that is how he kept
a regular demand. I have tried to stick with that way of
merchandising all the way through--to sell to the consumer,
really, but of course through the commission man and the
retailer, and it's worked out. It's working today for us.
For instance, we're about the only fresh fruit house left
in this area, and we run when others have to shut down. It's
just the consumer demanding our brand, and it gives us the
opportunity of going on.
W: What major changes have occurred within the industry since
the development of frozen concentrate processing?
S: Well, I would say it's caused the navel [orange] production
to double, triple, quadruple. The cannery puts the product
on the market the whole year round. It's certainly been a
boon to the industry in many ways. And I can't help but
think that the consumer has benefited because I know myself...
I just can't get along without my citrus. Citrus is oranges,
and oranges are my favorite fruit. I never get tired of them.
Oh, I like good peaches; I like a good apple; I like a good
pear and a good plum; most all of those fruits I like them.
But after a time I tire of them. But I never tire of a good
orange. I just don't know how I could get along without them.
W: What has been the attitude of the fresh fruit shippers towards
the processing industry since the processing boom began?
S: Well, I don't think there's been any animosity between them
ever. Of course, in our particular case we were all fresh
fruit--we didn't have too much interest. But it's worked out
good for us too, because we graded closer. Well, we've had
to. I don't know why, but in these later years we've been
plagued more with melanoids, and it gave us an outlet for that
W: And finally, I'd like to know how you view the future of
the Florida citrus industry.
S: Well, I'm glad you asked that question. I really am glad
you asked that question. I have heard local people say,
"Well, the growing of citrus is a gamble." I said, "No,
you couldn't be more wrong." I said, "It's risky. That's
for sure. There are many, many other agricultural pursuits
that don't embody the risk that the growing of citrus em-
bodies." But I said, "It's a God requirement. It's a food."
People used to think that an orange was a luxury. It was
just meat and potatoes. But as they've made more discoveries,
they found that citrus is really an essential food, and being
such, it's one of the things that God has required. Now any-
thing that God does is not gambling. Gambling is a man-made
device, but the growing of citrus is a requirement of God.
I'm glad to be in it, and I'm just hoping my children will
feel like I do. I've got three fine sons. Only one is in
the business with me, but he is just something extra. And
[I] even got some fine grandchildren. There's five genera-
tions of us so far, and I'd like to see a whole lot more
myself. I'm trying to hold things together to give them a
W: Well, Mr. Strawn, thank you very much for this interview. I
want to tell you before we stop that in exchange for the in-
terview you'll receive a transcript from the University of
Florida. You'll have an opportunity to check this transcript
for any possible errors that you might find and also to close
off any portion of the transcript for a period of time left
to your discretion. And I want to again thankyou very much.
It's been a real pleasure talking with you.
S: Well, it's been a pleasure.