Lacoochee – Lorises Corner



Lorise’s Corner (1971)

This article by Lorise Abraham appeared in the Dade City Banner on April 15, 1971.

On October 29th, when the Dade City News Courier was Dade City’s second newspaper (before they bought the Banner) I wrote an article about the place Lacoochee once was; not insinuating that Lacoochee isn’t a place of business now, because it most definitely is, and several stores are open and doing fine. What I had reference to at that time was how Lacoochee once really was a thriving town and enjoying the largest payroll in Pasco County.

Much to my joy, I have had numerous folks ask me to repeat that article because they did not see the Courier then missed it. Of course, I am only too happy to do that and so here goes . . .

It may come as a surprise to you that Lacoochee at one time had a two story – 30 room hotel, two bakeries, two movies, two drug stores, three garages, two filling stations, two department stores, six grocery stores, three barber shops, one dry cleaner, several restaurants, a Cummer commissary, two doctors, four churches, two Railroads, one constable and over 1,000 registered voters. There were almost 1,100 employees of Cummer Sons Cypress Company, working either at the mill or in the logging woods, and Lacoochee had the largest payroll in the county!

The Cummer Company was started in 1922. They built the sawmill, planing mill, crate mill, veneer mill, machine shop, power plant, and company houses for their employees. Those houses rented for 50 cents a room per week and that included water and garbage service. Electricity cost 5 cents a room each week.

Not only did The Cummer Company mill cut cypress, of which there was an abundance all round here, but they cut pine and gum from which they made shipping containers. At the height of the fruit season, the mill would ship as many as 25 box car loads a day, each car containing three to four thousand knocked down boxes.

You all know the value and the beauty of “Pecky” Cypress, which is heart cypress in which worms have eaten irregular shaped holes. Well, this lumber was considered worthless and hundreds of car loads were burned! The lumber would sell now for perhaps $200.00 or more per 1,000 board feet. There are quite a few buildings and homes in Pasco County today that were finished with this pecky cypress, among which are the Sunday School rooms at the First Presbyterian Church.

I must not forget that we also had a thriving baseball park. Every Sunday afternoon, during the season, that park was packed with loyal fans who came to boost their team to victory. At one time there was quite a competitive spirit between the Lacoochee and the Dade City teams and many games were spent settling some argument that had arisen between them.

After printing that article, my Mom remembered too that Lacoochee had a 10 cent store and a Dairy that I had failed to mention, so I add them now.

Some day I would love to do an article on the children who were raised in Lacoochee then and what they are doing now. All us Lacoocheeites are mighty proud that many of them have gone on to really make a place for themselves in this world. In order to do that article, I’m going to need some assistance from some Lacoochee people, telling me about the people they know, where they are and what they are now doing. How about calling me today!”

Lorise’s Corner (1971)

This article by Lorise Abraham appeared in the Dade City Banner on April 22, 1971.

In last week’s column, I asked for news of former Lacoochee people so this week I am going to begin bringing you who are interested, up to date on as many as I can. I repeat the request to let me know about any news you may have!

Louise Fowler Champion called to give me some news on Ouida and Troy Slater. Ouida, you know, was Ouida Mock of Lacoochee and Troy is a Dade City boy. Troy has just completed his 23rd year in the Navy and has the rating of Master Chief Store Keeper. He and Ouida re currently living in Santee, California. They have three children: son. Jerry, who is now in the NROTC unit at the University of Texas in Austin. Daughters, Brenda, 15, and Amanda, 13, are, of course, still at home.

I happen to personally know about Claude and Gate Andrews sons, so I can give forth with that right now. Bill is an Attorney in Gainesville and also is State Representative in Tallahassee for Alachua and Marion Counties. He is married to the former Dodie Platt of Dade City and they have three children, Claudia, 12, Will, 9, and Suzanne, 5. Bill earned his Law Degree at the University of Florida Law School and he and Dodie have been living there ever since.

Bob Andrews is a Chemical Engineer with the Shell Oil Company currently in New Orleans, La. He is married to the former Sally Wilson of Orlando and they have two sons, Bobby, 9, and Jodie, 5. Last year, Bob was sent to The Hague for one year. Sally and the boys were with him and while there, they were able to tour quite a bit of Europe.

I was very pleased to have a letter from Mary Shoard Brooks, recalling some happy days in Lacoochee. Mary’s Dad, Happy Shoard, was the operator of one of Lacoochee’s Bakeries and later his brother had one for awhile in the other part of town. Mary reminded me of the days when the grade school kids were transported to Trilby school and the high school kids to Dade City school.

She had some happy reminisces of Mr. Jeff Mobley playing his fiddle in her Dad’s Bakery on Saturday afternoon. Mary also said that Mr. Mobley taught Austin to play the fiddle but I’ve known Splash for over 20 years and I haven’t heard any music from him as yet! She remembered Carl May “scaring” the kids with some hair raising Ghost Stories and Clark May entertaining them with his Yodeling and Mouth Harp playing. I remember Clark May coming home in his Marine Dress Blues and all us girls following him all over town, swooning! Clark had the patience of Job to put up with us.

Next week — some more news about other Lacoochee people, where they are and what they are doing now.

Lorise’s Corner (1971)

This article by Lorise Abraham appeared in the Dade City Banner on June 10, 1971.

Don’t know if anyone missed me or not (I know Virginia Reed and Louise Champion did because they called and I thank them for that’) but I’ve been away on a short vacation. Now, I’m back and ready to resume this “Corner” again. Sure hope you are ready to read it.

Before I took off Ollie Newsome [real name: Olis Newsome–jm] called to tell me he had a story about Lacoochee that involved my Dad’s store too. Of course, I was interested so I got Ollie’s story and want to share it with you today. Sure hope you won’t think this column is strictly to write something about the “Abe’s” because it isn’t. Guess when anyone writes me or tells me something, they just naturally are going to remember things that involved my folks.

Ollie’s father J. A. “Jake” Newsome, moved his family from Chipley, Florida to Lacoochee on July 15, 1923. Ollie was 10 years old at the time that his Dad went to work for Cummer at the Saw Mill. Ollie began working at the Veneer Mill, for Charlie Ferrell, in 1927. After awhile though Ollie went to work at Compresco for N.E. Ba Andrews Later, G. F. Robinson took over the logging operation from Ba and , when Mr. Robinson retired, he was replaced by W. R. Hyatt. By that time, Ollie had worked up to assistant superintendent of logging woods.

Cummer bought out Wilson Cypress Co., in Deland, so the dismantling of Compresco began, as logging operations were moved to Crows Bluff. Ollie was in charge of dismantling the over head skidders, caterpillar tractors, and locomotive engines which were all loaded on flat cars and shipped by rail to Crows Bluff. He also reassembled all that equipment so that logging could begin in Crows Bluff When the mill burned down, Ollie left Cummer and went to work at Pasco Packing Co. In 1956, he opened Newsome Welding and Repair and he’s been at that ever since.

Ollie especially wanted to tell me the story about a Mesh bag he bought for Edna Stevens, now Mrs. Newsome, from Dad’s store in 1930. He was courting Edna then and Dad had two Mesh bags on display inside the round glass topped tables in the drug store. Ollie and Joe Quick were good friends but an argument almost developed between them when both wanted to buy the same Mesh bag for his girl. In order to preserve peace between them, Abe made a deal with them. He said that the first man in the store on pay day Saturday would get the Mesh bag. Ollie and Joe agreed to that arrangement. Come Saturday afternoon, when the whistle blew, Ollie and Joe both beat a track to the pay office Ollie out ran Joe and was two people ahead of him in the line Then they ran from the office to the store, about 6 city blocks with Ollie ahead all the way. As he went into the store, he looked back and saw Joe was just crossing the Seaboard Railroad tracks but too late. Abe had the money and Ollie had the bag. That was 41 years ago and Mrs. Newsome still has that bag in perfect condition. She is saving it now for her 15 year old granddaughter, Fran Newsome.

On April 30th, Ollie and Edna celebrated their 39th Wedding Anniversary and, although this is a little late, I’d like to congratulate them now and wish them many more. I tried to buy that Mesh bag from them but they wouldn’t even discuss it!

Before leaving for my vacation, I was very pleased to have a letter from Ouida Mock Slater which I would like to print in full as I thought it was very interesting.

“Ouida Mock Slater, born in Lacoochee on March 30, 1927. Delivered by Dr. Cannon and kept alive and healthy by Dr. Walters. Lived in one house, near the lumber yard and school for 18 years. Reared and educated in Pasco County by the greatest teachers. Now, as a Navy wife of 23 years and still traveling, having had 18 homes due to following Troy with Navy assignments. Lacoochee, I love, the homey, small town, friendly atmosphere. Always remember those ice cream cones from Abe’s. The little Cummer locomotive, the “Goat,” Atlantic Coast Line Train that ran between Sanford and Trilby.

Friday afternoon pay days at Cummer’s office. Ed Madill’s furniture truck there to collect bills. Mr. Gideon with fresh mullet from the Bay. The Commissary full of groceries. Someone always selling peanuts … 5 cents a bag. Remember Mrs. Fisher, my favorite Sunday School teacher, now lives in Jacksonville, Florida, a widow. Mrs. Starr M. Cox, former Lacoochee school teacher, lives in Decatur, Georgia. Juanita Rhoden Croft now lives in Virginia.

Remember the medicine shows that would come to town and that chewy candy they sold. I remember my school mates in Lacoochee. I liked them all. Dorothy Boyette lives in Jacksonville, Florida. W. J. Gideons is a Baptist Minister, Jack Carlton, a Radiology technician at Orange General Hospital in Orlando and Joe Westberry lives in Orlando too.

I remember when Miss Coulter had a handicraft class at her home on the Withlacoochee River, and Lewis Abe made the wooden doll house and you kept it in your front yard in Lacoochee. And when the flood waters came all the way up to the Methodist Church.

And, during World War II, we had German prisoners working at the mill. And had an Observation tower (Civil Defense) near the water tank, kept record of planes: And how on Friday mornings Mr. Hyatt and Mr. Claude Andrews and Mr. B. D. Thomas would meet the train at the Coastline Depot to get the Pay Roll Pouch for all Cummer employees. On the memories, I love them. Growing up there taught me: Respect of persons. Respect of property, and Respect of privileges.

At one time Lacoochee was a hustling, busy, booming town. Today, it is my home town and important to me.

Hello to: Mrs. Jarvis, Mrs. Sykes, Mrs. Agatha Andrews, Mrs. C. D. May, Mrs. Bernice Parham, The Trowell family, the Pinkstons, The Nobles, Mrs. Baxley, Mrs. Pitts, Eunice Pennington, The Bauknights, Dan Johnson, Mrs. Rosa Pope, Mrs. Turnage, Mrs. Wise, The Burnseds, The Holts and all the people I’ve known and each one held and holds a special place in my life. I learned from these people because I listened.”

In the past 23 years, Ouida has lived almost everywhere and I thought it especially good that she still carries all those good memories of Lacoochee. She and Troy and their family spent 3 years in Argentina on a Diplomatic tour of duty. All their children are bi-lingual in Spanish and English.

She and Troy have an 18 year old son. Jerry, at NROTC, University of Texas in Austin; a 16 year old daughter, Brenda, a senior at Santana High in Santee, California; a 13 year old daughter, Amanda, in the 8th grade at Cajon Park School in Santee.

Many thanks to Ouida for writing. Looking forward to beaming from you again soon!

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