HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
My Lacoochee Days
of Cummer’s engines. Courtesy of Artie Mims Taylor.
By ARTIE MIMS TAYLOR
"My parents were Louie Thomas and Rosa Mims. They were born in South Georgia as was my sister, Mary Helen, and I. My brother, Louie Thomas Jr, better know back then as L. T. was born in Wellborn, FL. After two years of poor farming crops, we moved to Dade City in 1942 when Dad started hauling citrus fruit for Pasco Packing Co.
When the fruit hauling season was over, my dad took a job with a Mr. Kirkland hauling logs to Cummer Sons Cypress Company’s sawmill in Lacoochee, so we moved there.
When Mr. Kirkland decided to sell the business my Dad bought the equipment and went into business for himself but that didn’t work out for him. That was in 1943 when I started school in Lacoochee and we lived in a large old house that was back of Mr. and Mrs. MacDade’s on CR 575 east of Lacoochee.
Mother took in laundry and ironing to help with living expenses. I remember living there during World War II. When the bombers from MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, FL. flew over Lacoochee sirens would go off and we would douse all lamps in the house and pull the dark shades down. When the clear signal siren would go off, we knew it was safe to open the shades and light the lamps again.
After giving up on having his own hauling business Dad hauling logs for Tommy Morris. We moved into a house that Mr. Morris and his wife Ruby owned. This to us was living “Up town.” The Morris’ lived next door to us. Our house was behind the First Baptist Church Cemetery and on the side was the back of Sykes Grocery. Our out door toilet (outhouse) was at the back of the property next to the cemetery. I remember being afraid to go out there after dark. It was here I met Norma Morgan (a friend of sister Mary). I remember that Mary and I played paper dolls. Most paper dolls were cut out of the Sears Roebuck catalog before it was taken to the outhouse and used as toilet paper. Mother was working at the crate mill by that time.
The stores downtown as I remember them consisted of a drug store (Abrahams), O’Quinn’s Grocery, Milton Hoak’s Dry Goods, a barber shop, Brabham’s Grocery, two liquor stores (one was McKendree’s and the other might have been a pool hall that sold drinks), May’s Dry Goods), a restaurant, a general store owned by C. C. Smith; a post office.
Stores on the other side of the railroad tracks on CR 575, included Vivian Gaskin’s movie theater, and Agner’s grocery across from the theater. Later the Woodmen of the World built a large community building behind the Theater parking lot where dinners were held and the Woodmen had their meetings. I seem to recall they might have had dances there also.
It cost 10 cents to get in the movie; popcorn and drinks were 10 cents. Cartoons were shown first, then a serial usually about Tarzan that ended each time with a cliff-hanger, followed with the regular movie. On weekends western movies were shown, usually ones featuring Roy Rogers or Gene Autry. Our family always went to the movie on Friday night.
After working for Mr. Morris, Dad worked for Cummer Sons Cypress Company driving a truck with a low-boy trailer which he purchased in Birmingham, AL. He hauled Cummer’s little train engine around from logging sites to logging sites. The low boy trailer was used when he had cypress logs that were too big to be hauled to the mill by train. I have a picture of Dad beside his truck with a huge cypress log on it and also one of the truck with the train on the trailer. (See picture below)
Cummer Sons Cypress Co. provided rental houses for their workers and built a two story, 30 room hotel. I remember when a hurricane was coming to our area a lot of the town people gathered in the hotel or in one of the warehouses on the mill site to weather out the storm. People brought their blankets, food, drinks and radios. Music was played, people danced, played cards and games. I don’t really know why people thought that the warehouse was a safe place. The wind could have had planks flying all over the place. I have spent the night in both as Dad was always very afraid of the storms.
Dr. Walters was the company doctor and his nurse was Maude Baxley. The doctor’s office was on the north end of the commissary. You could purchase a little of almost anything at the commissary, but mostly groceries. D. C. Taylor, my husband, worked there when we first married.
Dad was working with Cummer when the mill closed down. Mr. Cummer and Mr. Roe thought well of Dad and promoted him to foreman of a group of laborers to oversee the roads on their ranch located east of Dade City. Dad was also responsible for the upkeep of their hunting lodge. He made sure it was stocked with groceries and other supplies when Mr. Cummer and friends arrived for their hunting trips.
I think Dad was one of the few common laborers who received a company retirement from Cummer. Even though he was not able to do any work Cummer kept him their payroll until Dad died in September 1983 .
I remember that on payday Ed Madill’s furniture truck from Dade City was always parked near Cummer’s pay office. The driver collected from people who had already bought their furniture on credit. In fact, when we married we bought our furniture from Wyley Rosier who was working for Mr. Madill.
We were living in our first house in Lacoochee about a mile from Lacoochee Elementary when I entered school. Our Mother would walk with us to school each day. At Lacoochee School there were four buildings at that time, the first grade building, one that housed 2nd to 5th grades, one that housed 6th to 9th and one held an auditorium. The lunch room behind the first grade building. Later the school only went to the 6th grade. Mary went through the 9th grade there but I only went through to 6th grade there. After the 6th grade we were bused to Dade City.
A concrete sidewalk ran between the school road school and Cummer property. Every evening after doing homework we would meet on the sidewalk bringing our roller skates with us. I remember J. W. Hunnicutt, Joe Quick, Grethel Johns and others skating with us.
My brother, sisters and I attended the First Baptist in the old wooded building that had a big wood burning heater towards the back. Mother was raised Methodist but the Methodist Church in Lacoochee at that time met only once or twice a month. All the youth in the community went to either the First Baptist church or Church of God. Later Mother began attending the First Baptist and eventually Dad joined the church during a revival. Mother taught Sunday School there. Mr. Sullivan was our Pastor. After him followed an evangelical preacher, Marvin Kolb; then Mr. Forbes; then Al Butler who was there until I was married and moved away.
About 1948, Dad bought our first home on SR 575 west of town from Mrs. Shockley. This house had been built by Alvy Fowler’s father. After the Fowlers had lived in for a short time, they sold it to Mrs. Shockley. It was about a mile from town near the home we first lived in Lacoochee. So now we were back to walking further to school, cutting through the woods on a dirt road.
There was only electricity for lights in this house, no running water. We had a wood burning stove and an out house. Saturday was wash day. We had an iron wash pot and on wash days we kept a fire burning underneath to boil the clothes in hot water. Using a wooden paddle, we removed the clothes to a wash tub filled with cold clean water. After rinsing them the clothes were rung dry using an attached hand operated wringer.
We had an old fashioned scrub board for getting out stubborn stains. We hung the clean clothes on a line to dry. The clothes pins were kept in a bag that we could hang on the line as we went. We had to wipe the line clean before hanging cloths on it. We eventually got a washer with a wringer attached but Mom still liked her white clothes to be boiled. We used home made lye soap. To make lye soap we kept all used lard until we had enough to make a tubful of the lye soap using the iron pot. We later got running water to the back porch.
In this house, Mary and I had the front bedroom, Mom and Dad had the middle one and L.T. (Louie) had the back room off from the kitchen. There was a dining area between the living room and the kitchen. We got our first television just before I married in 1955. We did have a windup record player. This house is still standing and when I come back to Lacoochee I am always tempted to stop and ask if I can go inside of it. It was a fairly new house when Dad bought it but Dad had to put sheetrock up in the bedrooms and other cosmetic things to the inside but nothing to the outside. At that time it had a front porch with a flowering vine on one side and a swing.
To iron clothes we had two heavy irons. We had to use thick pot holders to hold them while ironing and we had to keep a fire going in the stove to keep them hot. In the summer this was terribly hot. In the winter it felt good. All our clothes were ironed back then. We kept the wood burning stove until it caught the roof on fire. Someone coming by told us the house was on fire and I remember running though the house, grabbing my good shoes and throwing them out the front door. After that we no longer had a wood burning stove and mother bought an electric iron from Abraham’s.
At this house Mother always raised baby chicks which she ordered through a mail order catalog and they were delivered in crates to the post office. We had our own laying hen also. I hated having to go in the hen house and gather the eggs and also hated catching a chicken to kill for Sunday dinner. We had a big chicken yard. There were two large Chinaberry trees, one by the house and one by the chicken yard. They were great for climbing. The one at the chicken yard had two limbs shaped just right for me to sit on and lean back and read. During the summer when the leaves were full and green it made a great place to hide and read. The berries were very hard and hurt when shot in a slingshot by your brother.
There were no green lawns back then. We had to hoe all the grass and weeds out of the yard and kept it swept clean with a bunch of small brushes, like dog fennel, tied together. Our yard was always filled with Mother’s flowers.
Every Sunday evening the Shockley family and ours would gather in a vacant lot on the other side of their house to play softball. Their house was next to ours.
In the vacant lot behind our house, Dad grew a garden. This garden was behind the chicken yard and wash shelter. We always had peanuts and peas in the garden. The rest of the land just grew weeds and dog-fennels which was often used to build a fort.
One day the straw in the back caught fire and Granny Mims was trying to put it out when Mrs. Shockley got caught between the fire and fence. She escaped the fire by climbing the fence.
There was a crippled man, Mr. Flowers, who drove an old car around the neighborhood selling Watkins or Rawleigh Products and cloth material. You would pick out the material from samples, tell him how many yards you wanted and next trip he would deliver it.
My mother and Granny Mims were great seamstresses. Granny Mims would stay with us for three months at a time and was always working on some embroidery piece. Most of her pillowcases were embroidery. And Granny Mims so loved her Hadacol. Remember that? It was sold in bottles as a patent medicine marketed as a vitamin supplement. Hadacol’s main attraction was the fact that it contained 12% alcohol, listed as a preservative on the label.
Most of our skirts were made from feed sacks and our underwear out of sugar sacks when we were younger. We would stop by a chicken farm between Dade City and Lacoochee and look through her sacks until we found two or three alike to make our large skirts. We had crinolines starched stiff under these skirts. In those days sugar came in very fine cotton sacks which were great for making underwear or for dish clothes. Chicken feed came in very colorful and large patterned sacks used as material in dresses and, in our case those big skirts. Boxes of oatmeal had cups, saucers and washcloths in them..
For Christmas we were lucky if we got a store bought doll or a book of cut out paper dolls. We always had a bag with an apple, orange and hard candy. Mother was very talented and she would make us girls a rag doll and embroider her a face. Once she made a bed for the doll out of an oatmeal box. We had hand cut Christmas trees from the woods decorated with hand made ornaments.
Allowances for chores were non-existent- you did your chores because you were told to. Since both our parents worked, Mary and I had all the chores to do “because we were girls.” When Granny Mims was there she fixed the dinners to be ready when our parents got home from work. A special treat was her bread pudding made from left over bread.
We didn’t realize then that we were “dirt poor” because our friends were just like us. We thought it was natural. As a teenager on Friday night it was movie night. On Saturday there was a wiener roast somewhere in the neighborhood. The boys brought the sodas and the girls brought either hotdogs or buns. Everyone was always invited. We always had a big bonfire.
When we lived on SR 575 west of town, we had a lot of rain one year. I don’t remember if it was from a hurricane or just a small disturbance but the river was way out of the banks almost up to the curve in the road. The bridge had to be anchored down with chains hooked to the bridge and to the cypress trees to keep the bridge from washing away. The water was way over the bridge. My mother who never owned a bathing suit put on one of Myrna Osbron’s and she, Myrna, Dad and kids went wading down the road to the bridge. (See picture below)
Dad loved to get us all in the car and we would go to Bayport for swimming in the bay and Dad would buy mullet fish and we would have a cookout. As children, along with neighbors, we would walk through the woods behind our house down to the river to go swimming. There was a sandbar that at certain times of the year you could walk across the river. Dad was furious when he found out that our brother, L. T., was floating down the river on logs.
Fond memories of First Baptist Church: GA girls and Sunday School (I don’t member much about); Training Union on Sunday night I remember and I treasure my Bible training. In Training Union we had Sword Drills that taught me how to locate the books of the Bible. I remember passing notes back and forth in church sitting back of wood burning fire heater. The skating trips every weekend to the Crystal Springs Skating Rink was such fun. Bobby Gideons cleared out back of his dry cleaning van and hauled us all to the skating rink. There was Bobby, Johnny McElveen, Theresa Osbron, Mary Helen, and myself. Might have been others but I don’t remember them. Bobby was and still is a great piano player. We always gathered after church at night and go over to Sunday School building where Bobby would play as we sang. He could not read music but he sure could make the piano talk. After Bobby moved away Eldridge Burnsed played for us.
The youth of all the churches got together on a Saturday night at a different church each week for singing and someone speaking. We had a lot of good youth speakers from our church. To name a few, Buddy Weeks, Earl Justice, Bunky Hays and Eldridge Parrish, who is now the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Lacoochee.
When I was in 10th grade I worked part time on Friday afternoon and Saturday at Milton Hoak’s Dry Good Store. The shoes were stacked with the smallest size on top. I always hated waiting on customers with large feet. They wanted to try on every shoe in the store and always believed they were a size or two smaller than reality which meant you took out two sizes of each one for them to try on and then put them back since they usually did not buy any. My 1953 W2 from Milton Hoak’s Dry Goods Store showed a total wage of $52.00.
That summer between 10th and 11th grade I worked in crate mill for Cummer. My W-2 for 1953 from that summer shows me making a whopping salary of $206.25. That was the summer I met D C. Taylor. He was working there in the summer also. Then he went back to Mississippi to finish his 12th grade in school and then returned the next summer.
Cummer siren going off when there was a fire and people went to help out.
Enjoying the Coke Floats from Abrahams Drug Store.
Mr. Daniels’ the grocery down from our house when we lived on West CR 575. On payday we got enough money from parents to buy a RC Cola and a bag of peanuts or candy. Those peanuts could really make that RC Cola foam when shaken.
Medicine shows that came to town was always a must “go to” event. They had rides and always sold some kind of cure-all medicine like snake oil and the hawker would get up and try to sell.
Memories of collecting moss from Oak trees to sell. We used fishing poles with hooks on end to snag and pull the moss out of the trees. Some trader would come by on his truck and pay us a little bit of change for all we had collected for him.
One memory that my children did not experience when they went to school was the Gideon Bible Company giving school children a little red Book of John for quoting John 3:16 to our teacher. Then after we quoted all the verses in that book, we got a New Testament. Those are precious memories that are no longer allowed.
D. C. and I were married in April before I graduated in May in 1955. Stupid now that I think how dumb I was. But back then you were not thinking about college. We moved in one of Cummer’s house upstairs over Mrs. Milton. One Thanksgiving when I had a day off work I was busy mopping my floors and Mrs. Milton went out back and called up to let me know I was causing water to leak on her dining room table. Never having lived up stairs I had no idea that there was nothing between us to keep the water from going through. Life is a learning lesson.
D. C. worked as Assistant Manager at the Commissary. Our son Steve was born in Oct, 1956 and we were living in the Cummer house that had been Mr. Wise’s which was on the corner from the Commissary and Cummer Office. I was working in the Treasury Dept of Lykes-Pasco in Dade City. We had Johnnie Mae Grant as our housekeeper and baby sitter. I can’t remember her married name. She was the twin sister of James “Mudcat” Grant, professional baseball player from Lacoochee. She did my cleaning, ironing, cooking plus taking care of our little boy for a whopping big amount of $10.00 a week.
After that we moved away but Lacoochee will always be in my heart and I will always treasure my “small town” upbringing.
Artie Mae Mims Taylor