HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY

Lacoochee

A young Lewis and Lorise; picture courtesy of Lisa Rodenberry

The late Lewis Abraham and his sister Lorise Abraham were the unofficial historians of Lacoochee during their lifetimes. Both left film and written documentation to that fact. And Lewis always had a funny, personal story to tell. Fortunately, his daughter Lisa Abraham Rodenberry recorded many of them which she has shared with EPHS.

At his death on November 2, 2004, the St. Petersburg Times described Lewis as a Dade City business man, civic leader, friend and dreamer. He was 79 years old. Those of us who grew up in Lacoochee remember him as the first born of Elias and Esther Abraham. The young boy behind the soda fountain of their drug store in Lacoochee. The youth who rode the school bus with us to high school in Dade City. The young man who married Mildred Phillips, raised a family and was a success in life. He and his sister Lorise co-owned Zip Fuel Company in Dade City for more than 50 years.

Like her brother, Lorise was outgoing, a successful business woman and writer. She had a popular column about Lacoochee “Lorise’s Corner” that ran in the The Dade City Banner for many years. She died on May 10, 2007.

During their lifetimes Lewis and Lorise sponsored the popular annual Lacoochee Reunions which continue today. The next one is set for September 24, 2011 at the First United Methodist Church, Christian Life Center, 37628 Church Street, Dade City.


Hang Him for Murder

By LEWIS ABRAHAM and LISA RODENBERRY

From my dark past comes this thrilling story of a dark and dreary night that I thought the hanging tree was my sure escape from eternity to the fiery domain of the underworld.

The store was the center of all Lacoochee’s life. We carried no prescription drugs, just patient medicines, hose, costume jewelry and all the trimmings that went with our wonderful marble-countered soda fountain.

Many a great story of marriages started, baseball games played and politics discussed happened across that beauty of a fountain.

Dad and I were staying up till the 10 p. m. closing time, enjoying each other’s company and discussing the world at large. For some reason, Dad needed to be gone and guess who he left in charge, instantly becoming the “manager” of Abe’s Drug store. Ha Ha, it was me. Excitement knew no limits. I was the manager in charge of a drug store at 10 p.m. at night with no customers. That mere item of having no customers did not keep me from enjoying that delicious moment of being in charge. The forthcoming gloom was to soon change my euphoria into impending doom.

Enter one and only one lone customer. Mr. Brooks had wandered into the store for his monthly supply of Nitroglycerine pills for his ailing heart. “Could you get it for me, Lewis?” was speedily answered with “Sure!” I knew exactly where Dad kept the nitro, which was in the little alcove of medicines on the back shelf. Quickly I delivered his purchase, and just as quickly he charged it and left.

Shortly, Dad returned and I proudly announced my great sale only to see my dad turn as white as it was possible for a dark-skinned Lebanese to turn. He raced back to the alcove and asked which bottle had I given Mr. Brooks? Upon showing him the bottle, Dad turned from white to a ghastly glowing gray. “Son,” he said, “Mr. Brooks takes 20 grams of nitro pills and you have given him 40 gram pills! We have to find him quick!” I felt the noose slip gently over my head, and the electric chair began to hum in my ears. The prison door squeaked as it slowly closed on the rest of my life. All this happened in a nanosecond in my mind and all at the same time.

Dad quickly closed the store and we both set out to correct my terrible mistake. Dad drove us down to the general area of Mr. Brooks home, we found the first house surrounded by quite a few people. Dad asked what was going on and was immediately told there had been a death. My heart stopped, the door underneath the hangman’s noose dropped, and the switch was thrown on old Sparky the chair. I was a dead man.

I felt the blood return to my face and breath return to my lungs upon hearing that is was a baby that had died and not Mr. Brooks. I felt bad about the baby, but I was spared.

We finally found Mr. Brooks and retrieved the wrong medicine. We found out later from Dr. Willy that Mr. Brooks had been on nitro for so long that a 100 grams would not have even hurt him. Hurt or not, I did not want to ever manage the store again.


The Black Belt of Education

By LEWIS ABRAHAM and LISA RODENBERRY

Lacoochee, in fact, no place that I knew about when I was a boy, had a formal recreation program for kids. We didn’t need one because we kids had thousands of acres of playground and miles of swimming pools called the Withlacoochee River. Left to our imagination, we could think of thousands of things to amuse ourselves and pass the day. We played marbles, caught doodle bugs, and rolled hoops. We made skate boards, went swimming in the river, rolled in the warm sand, went fishing, dug caves and many more self-created activities.

The rule of my day was when the 5 o’clock mill whistle blew, I was to come home, no matter what I happened to be doing. That rule was written in stone, with no exceptions. (What would happen if we did not was never mentioned as I did not want to know.)

The month was June and our days were awful long. It took a lot of imagination to fill a day. A bunch of us were doing just that when we ended up playing on the mighty Withlacoochee River. Our standard summer uniform usually consisted of a pair of shorts or overall and nothing more. It did not matter if we got wet as we would dry and it was the rule of the day to get wet and dry off several times before that whistle blew. Somehow we ended up at our favorite swimming hole called Morgan’s fjord. With four or five boys, the swimming could get pretty rough, rowdy and loud. Lord knows it must have been loud that day as we missed that 5 o’clock whistle and we didn’t even do it on purpose. The sun was high, our spirits were higher and the play went on and on and on.

My daddy was not aware of our innocent activities and began his worrying instead. My mom was in a total panic as she was sure her darling son had positively drowned. Dad rounded up five or six of his friends and the posse set out to retrieve the body. There was no other reason for my not being home. The group headed to the river to hunt for our remains. About half way to the river, our remains come walking up the road. Everybody greeted us and told us how happy they were to see us and how glad they all were that we were safe and all that stuff. Not knowing that we were lost left us boys little to celebrate. Everybody headed to the store, had some cokes then went home, happy and joking. All except me. I got taken to the downstairs bedroom at the back of the store, laid across the bed and got a PHD with my daddy’s black belt.

I never again missed that 5 o’clock mill whistle and that was my one and only PHD.

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