Sunday, October 26, 2008

Watermelon on the porch

My dad was a big time photographer. He recorded all four of his kids from the time they were born on both print and movie film. He used a 8mm movie camera that of course in the 1950s didn't have sound. We have all kinds of film he shot of us, from cruises down a river in France, my sister Cathy throwing up multiple times to JV football practice.

A few years ago the old home movies were copied to a DVD. We had taken the 8 mm film and converted to VHS about 20 years ago for my parents. It still wasn't very convenient to watch because there is probably 15 hours of tape. With the DVD I could fast forward and skip parts.

An interesting discovery was the video my dad took at my grandfather's house in Perry. Mixed into the two DVDs are several different trips we visited him and each time it shows us eating watermelon.

My grandfather, Millard Fillmore Green lived in a small wooden house but had two empty lots on either side. He always grew big gardens and had something growing year round.

When he was over 80 years old he was still selling his vegetables to the local grocery store. I don't remember him growing watermelon but I guess he did, because it seems like every time we visited there we were eating watermelon on his porch. This one has me, my brother Ben, sisters Cathy and Carol and cousins Karen and Debra Parramore.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Tacos and Jell-O

The two things I remember that my mother served at the table every week were Tacos on Saturday night and Jell-O that had some kind of fruit congealed in the middle on Wednesday night.

She would have used any fruit but it seems like all she ever had were apples and bananas. When she put bananas in the Jell-O they were mushy and brown, not very appealing. We used to joke about it but we ate it.

Tacos were fried in oil but she used soft corn tacos so that they could still be rolled up with hamburger, tomatoes, lettuce, grated Velveeta cheese and anything else we had handy. The Tacos were much more popular than the Jell-O and pretty much the entire family would have voted for them anyway if she had given us the choice. I even cooked them myself in the same way after I moved out on my own. You can't find then like this in restaurants. They either serve the hard fried ones or the soft ones made of flour.

I never knew until recently that we had Tacos so often because she learned how to cook them from her former sister in law, soon after getting married. My dad's brother William Bryant Green had married Eva Smith in California about 1931 and they divorced after their daughter Eva Virginia Green was born in 1933. My dad stayed in touch with her and his niece, so when my folks moved to California in 1949 they spent time with Eva and her husband Warren Wilson Sugg. Eva was from Canada but after living in California for 15 years she had learned how to make tacos and taught my mother.

In 2005 when my mother was visiting us in Memphis she told me the story so I decided to try and locate Eva. Sure enough, I found her listed in the phone book in Camarillo, California. Her husband had died in 1995 and she was 90 years old and living in a nursing home but still had her number listed in the phone book. We had a nice visit with her and it lead to me looking up her granddaughter, my cousin Allison Lynn Elliott who was living in Oregon. We hadn't talked to her in almost twenty years. So a story about why we ate Tacos every Saturday night had a good ending.
PS - after starting this post I found out that Eva Green Sugg died on May 8, 2008 at age 93.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Pirate's Gold

William Lundy bought 120 acres of land on the north side of the Manatee river in 1890. This is in the area that Native Americans built villages and left their remains buried in large shell filled mounds five hundred years earlier.

Indian mounds were discovered all around Florida as it became populated and are found in other parts of the country also. One thing that is unique about those in south Florida is the shell material used to cover up the bones and valuables. Since the land was flat and if you dug more than a couple feet you would hit water, they choose to build the huge shell mounds and they became easy finds for the white settlers.

This same section of the Manatee River is believed to be the location of Angola. This was a community of runaway slaves and Seminole Indians that lived there from 1812 to 1821, before Andrew Jackson's troops found and destroyed the village. There are excavations going on today both on land and in the river to try and locate the Angola settlement within a mile or so of where the Lundys lived.

As it turned out some other early residents left their own mementos in this section of land. As William Lundy planted his orange and grapefruit groves and the vegetables he sold to northern markets he uncovered a treasure chest of pirate's gold with his plow.

The family story that has been passed down among his grandchildren was that as his children married he gave each of them enough gold to buy 10 acres of land along with another $1,000 in gold pieces.

My great grandmother Ida Lundy Wilson and her husband supposedly used her gold to buy a farm in Oneco, Florida where my grandmother Edith was born. My great uncle, Walt Wilson told me the story was true. You have to believe what Walt says since he was also Santa Claus.
As far as I know all of the gold has been sold off. I've got a couple cousins who collect everything they see (you need to count the silver when they visit) so I wouldn't be surprised to have some of it turn up one day.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


I grew up in the panhandle of Florida and have driven Hwy 98, which runs along the coast many times but never had any idea it was somewhere I would later search for missing family. About 10 years ago I started looking for the grave of Elizabeth Green Wentworth. She was the sister of my great grandfather and my dad found two old letters in a family bible, written by her husband in 1889.

Elizabeth married James Hamilton Wentworth in 1883 in Taylor County Florida and they soon moved to Pensacola. James Hamilton Wentworth was a colorful person, a civil war veteran who was held as a POW and wrote a very detailed diary while in prison. He later worked as an Attorney, County Judge, School Teacher, Superintendent of Taylor County Schools and finally as a Missionary Baptist Preacher. He worked for several churches in the Pensacola area and then Santa Rosa County.

Elizabeth soon had four children, a son Elmore Clinton Wentworth born on November 15, 1883, son Clifton in February 1885 and twins Aquila and Priscilla on January 11, 1889.

The two old letters talked of the problems she had during the birth of the twins, their death after just a couple days and her death soon after. The post mark on the letters was Bilowry, Santa Rosa County Florida.

There was a town in Santa Rosa County called Billowry but it was not formed until after 1900. I found an old map of Florida from 1888 that showed a Bilowry in Santa Rosa County. It was located just off Hwy 98 on a small stretch of land between the gulf and Pensacola bay. Most of the property in this area is now part of Eglin Air Force base. There was a post office there for a few years but it was disbanded.

Elizabeth was the third wife of James Wentworth. His other two had died in Taylor County Florida and he had buried both of them in church cemeteries. I figured he would have done the same for Elizabeth but I have not located any church cemeteries that date back to 1889.

I've had help from several people who live in the area who went out to the oldest cemeteries in Santa Rosa County but so far haven't located the graves.
The may be on the air base property so that will be the next place to look. Hopefully they have surveyed and preserved any historic sites on the base.