Eustis Memories

from the 50's

Did ya ever stand in front of a glass case that was taller than you and oogle all the candy for sale when you were a kid?  I am not talking about your expensive hand dipped chocolate candy.  No, I am talking about all those penny candies.  Sometimes they were sold by the pound or buy part of a pound. 

 In Eustis, we were fortunate.  There were two, not just one, places you could do that.  It was wonderful to be old enough to walk to the downtown area and go to the 5 and 10¢ store.  They had the widest variety of candy.  Or to be able to ride your bicycle down the street (on the sidewalk – no less) in the other direction to Hunsucker’s Filling Station in the residential district.  Both had those boxes of candy cigarettes.  Boy  were they tasty.  They were white with a red tip. The red tip tasted just like the rest of the candy- no hot stuff on it.  (and if you blew in them a puff of power came out that looked like smoke!)

 There were two major events in town each year.  One was the Lake County Fair and Flower Show which happened in March.  The fairgrounds were almost downtown with buildings and the midway covering about 4 city blocks at the north end of the downtown area.

 There were livestock shows, a large area with completely screened in areas for birds – peacocks, ducks, you name them, we could see ‘em.  We had our own mini zoo for a week each year right in town.  One pen even had alligators in it.

 Fruit was on display since we had lots of groves in the area during that time. They even had a movie playing on what now looks like a TV screen showing aerial and land shots of things around- mostly groves.  We were called “The Friendly City” for years.  Then they changed it to “The Orange Capitol of the World” and now it’s “The City of Bright Tomorrows”.

 As with fairs of today, lots of different businesses had booths to show what they sold.  There was Cotton Candy,  Sno-Cones, Candied Apples,  Hot Dogs,  Hamburgers, Fries. Lots of other good food to eat, too.

 On the midway there were lots of rides, a haunted house, glass house.  One year, a new attraction was added to the rear of the midway- a pond was dug in the shape of the State of Florida.  In more recent years, the fairgrounds moved a couple of miles NW of Eustis and the Flower Show, one of the highlights with 2 different shows and judging during the week was changed and is held as a separate event.

 The other was our celebration of George Washington’s Birthday.  It is the longest running celebration in the State of Florida.  Each town had their own yearly event which was held on the day of the week - not a Saturday. 

 The main event, the parade lasted around two hours.  There were bands from the different schools in our town as well as surrounding towns.  A kiddie parade was the prelude for all the other entrants.  Mothers spent hours making costumes and decorating floats with Dad’s help.  There was judging for that too.  I remember one year a mother had her daughter all dressed up in Medieval costume with long braids hanging down from a castle turret and her son was pulling the cart with her on it.  Rapunzel let down your hair was the theme.  Majorettes, Scout troops, and the National Guard strutted.  There were lots of  police cars and fire trucks and bringing up the rear, the horses.  Business and civic groups vied for prizes for the best floats.  Those were usually either a car all gussied up or a flat bed trailer decorated.  There were companies who would design floats for those willing to pay. Bringing up the rear were the horses with the Lake Co. Sheriff, Willis McCall  always there in front riding his beauty.

 The rest of the day there were rides, food, entertainment, arts and crafts and last of all fireworks.  In the 50’s the fireworks were on the ground as well as in the air.  There were pinwheels that spun.  In the air, you could count on lots of bursts of color and loud booms.  The American Flag lit on a raised woodwork ended the fireworks.

 The first parades were held on the waters of Lake Eustis.  A boat parade is still sometimes part of the celebration.  When they moved on land, it covered the 4 blocks of downtown. 

 Everybody loves a parade.  We were no different.  We had a homecoming parade in high school.  It involved each home room of each grade having a float.  Our high school contained grades 7-12 and there were 3 homerooms for each grade.

 The floats were made over a period of a week working mostly nights.  We would use semi flat beds which the packing houses in the area lent us.  This was during the orange picking season so it was very kind of them to tie up their trucks this way.  We would cover the sides with chicken wire and then use lots of boxes of Kleenex making “flowers” to stick in the wire for cover.  Then spray paint was often added and big signs telling what the theme and the grade level was.  Some of the service clubs also had their own entries.  Judges had a hard time deciding who had the best. 

 The class who was fortunate enough to have the shop teacher as a sponsor was the one who usually won.  He was wonderful at making moving parts for the top of the float. He was a genius.

Return to Archives

This page created Nov. 20, 2009

Copyrighted 2009, Fran Smith