An Easter Morn To Remember

Note from Author James B. Tippin’s daughter:  This post is by my Father, Jim Tippin, about an Easter morning many years ago.  You can read more about the adventures of his boyhood in The Great Depression in his book, available at  http://amzn.to/1CWeFk9

It was 1934. The Great Depression gripped our family , then three boys and Mom and Dad. 1936 would see yet another boy baby join our family.

Our parents always treated Easter Morning as a capital event There was no cash but we raised chickens. This provided a surfeit of eggs, which our parents decorated during the wee hours of Easter mornings, often with intricate and colorful hand painted scenes. This year we were to follow an entirely different pattern.

Saturday evening found my mother packing a picnic basket of noteworthy proportions. At one AM on Easter Morning we boys were awakened. Our Sunday clothes were laid out for us. By two AM we were in our old, rusted out Pontiac, headed west out of Indian River County Florida, deep canals on both sides of the puny pocked highway being ominous enough to prevent our dozing. My father announced that we were on our way to some mysterious place with the placid name, “Lake Wales, Florida.” The
pleasant aroma drifting up from the ample picnic basket was reassuring.

Bok Tower in Lake Wales, Florida. © Shutterstock.com

Bok Tower in Lake Wales, Florida. © Shutterstock.com

It was black dark when our father announced that we had arrived, he with relief that the old Pontiac had made the trip without incident, we wide eyed boys wondering why we were yet far from civilization. Following a climbing, expertly maintained dirt trail, headlights reflecting upon flower gardens of unbelievable precision and beauty, we soon entered a flat area where uniformed police, with flashlights assisted us and an endless line of other autos, to orderly designated parking spaces.Friendly guides with flashlights then began to lead us along precise,

Wooded path at Bok Tower.  © Shutterstock.com

Wooded path at Bok Tower.
© Shutterstock.com

Friendly guides with flashlights then began to lead us along precise, flower bordered paths to a seating area where scores of padded folding chairs, formed half circle rows in depth beyond the guides’ flashlight beam. We were again in the blackest night from which came soft but invigorating renditions of sacred music from a variety of musical instruments.

I could not see, but had a sense that some huge structure was directly in front of us. From somewhere a robust Choir broke the predawn quiet with familiar Easter Hymns.
Though faint the first light of day began to arrive. I could now see, rising before us up to the faintly visible clouds, a structure so unusual and beautiful that it defied belief. Quite suddenly loud and beautiful bells in this structure began to sound.

Window detail, Bok Tower © Shutterstock.com

Window detail, Bok Tower
© Shutterstock.com

The edge of the rising sun was reflected from a massive tower jutting 205 feet into the early morning sun, its melodious bells announcing Easter morning to us and to the surrounding countryside.
Constructed of marble and coquina rock, carved in detail, it had, in 1929, been a gift to the American people by Netherlands native, Edward Bok.

This had been an Easter morning never to be forgotten .

Sundial detail at Bok Tower. © Shutterstock.com

Sundial detail at Bok Tower.
© Shutterstock.com

These Florida Dolls Wear Many Colors

Around 1935, if you lived in Indian River County, Florida and you were dear to my mother, sooner or later, at Christmas or birthday, you would receive a very colorful American Indian doll.

The thousands of wetlands, then known as the “marsh”—west of Vero Beach in Indian River county—were the home of the proud Seminoles. These people could perform sartorial magic with hand-crank sewing machines, and were masters of balanced geometric design. They understood the natural fibers around them, particularly palmetto palm husk fiber. This bore a resemblance to the mane of a well-groomed, roan horse. Brightly-colored cotton cloth was expertly sewn by these artisans into intricately designed strips. From these materials, with the palmetto palm husk fiber forming the body, these talented women produced florid Seminole dolls, ranging in height from six to approximately 14 inches.

The author's daughter received this Seminole doll in the early 1960s from her Dad on a trip to Miami, Florida.

The author’s daughter received this Seminole doll in the early 1960s from her Dad on a trip to Miami, Florida.

On Saturdays, the Seminole women came into town from their wetland empire and sold these dolls, walking from one automobile to the next, as they were parked around the town square. These Native Americans soon learned that in the back seat of one of the most careworn automobiles would be my mother. While the scene for a sale was not always promising, they had long ago discovered that this lady, obviously of small means, would have discovered somewhere the coins with which to complete a purchase.

 

 

 

King Orange

James B. Tippin, Jr., author of “Encouragement, Loyalty and Make-Do” remembers learning about pyrotechnics from the “King Orange.”

King OrangeDuring the late 1970′s I began a thirteen  year tour with the California Court system. A California Lawyer/citrus grower who knew of my childhood reliance on Florida citrus invited me to tour a modern citrus concentrate plant. The first interesting fact to greet me was the knowledge that our visit would take place in the sunshine as the plant operated only at night. This was the result of the extraordinary difference in electrical power cost between day and night, a difference calculated in thousands of dollar per week. As I proceeded through the huge plant each place of change in the consistency of the citrus was explained. I noted a small, solid, thick steel building located in a place of isolation. I asked its purpose. “Oh, the explosive part goes there.” was the response. Only then did I recall my early childhood experience with the charmless King Orange during the great Depression.
 
There were those harboring deep affection for the very large, swarthy, thick skinned, unsymmetrical fruit with an unusual though pleasant aroma and slightly unbalanced flavor, known as the “King Orange,” kingdom not specified. Their attraction for the fruit was certified in the New York markets by a willingness to spend during very difficult times. The problem was finding them, a very thin population. 
 
The author's son tests the theory - it works!

The author’s son tests the theory – it works!

There were only a small group of king orange trees on Storm Grove in Vero Beach, Florida. Most likely it was July 5, around 1935. All the red, white and blue fireworks items, so carefully preserved and ogled for weeks, lay about the yard as burned out hulks. While I moped around, my older brother asked that I pick a King Orange while he recovered a box of kitchen matches. Later he instructed that after he struck a match I should squeeze the king orange skin near the flame. Eureka!…. Many Lilliputian sky rockets! That experience I recalled that day in California upon encountering the armored building. EXPLOSIVES from citrus. 

Knuckle Down, Boys.

James B. Tippin, Jr., author of “Encouragement, Loyalty and Make-Do” shares his memory of “shooters”, “bankers” and the innovations the game of marbles experienced during the Great Depression. The marbles shown in the images are treasured keepsakes of the family.

Cigar Box with Marbles

Gambling Hit Florida County schools about 1936. It was the time that “Knuckle Down” came into fashion, a phrase yet used at half time, during television interviews football coaches from major schools.

Usually there was a grandpa or uncle who provided the prize, a cigar box. Ever so carefully a hole the exact size of a standard glass marble was cut in the top. Now one found a “banker,” a kid a year or so older whose pockets bulged with marbles. “I’ll give you six for three.” was the offer. In other words the banker invested three marbles if your box looked promising, knowing that by afternoon he would have a 100% return without effort or risk.

Winner Takes All

Now you were in business but you faced a chilling risk for the first few customers. The object was for the customer to attempt to drop from belt buckle height, a single marble through the whole in the top of your cigar box. If successful, the player was handed his or her marble and one more, maybe two as a “come on,” if you were really into the “game.” If the player missed, the marble became the property of the cigar box owner. Misses prevailed by a significant margin. The notoriety of this cigar box gang grew over night. When the bell for recess tolled all the little gamblers running down the hall with cigar boxes half full of loose marbles sounded like Derby day at Churchill Downs. Aha! “Sharp eye Spade”, the Principle, was troubled by this noise. Boxes were collected. Threats were made. We assumed “Sharp eye” used the boxes for his fishing tackle.

Grade School Gambling

The comparative peace of the game of marbles returned wherein a circle was drawn in the sand, marbles from each player were placed in the circle, and, in turn, players attempted to knock them out of the circle with their “shooter,” a favorite marble propelled by the thumb. Their hand could have only one knuckle touching the ground. Thus we have “knuckle down” as in, “I don’t know but we’ll sure have to ‘knuckle down’ in the second half!” In time, the game experienced certain escalation when some innovative sixth grader showed up with a “shooter” five times the size of a standard marble.

Crack shot, trained on hare, awarded military honors

James B. Tippin, the author of “Encouragement, Loyalty and Make-Do” recounts hunting for survival with his oldest brother in Vero Beach, Florida.

Tracking hare in the disced fields of Vero BeachIt was a time of Great Depression groaning. My father sold his technical reference books so that my older brother, with the aid of groups of Lutheran Farmers, could enter pre-seminary study in a small town in Missouri. He would often arrive back home for a visit following closely behind my completion of the discing of summer fire guards around Storm Grove, 160 acres of citrus trees. Lush green plant tid- bits would again be poking up where I had so recently disced, This was an overwhelming temptation to the large population of rabbits of that day. A platter of fried rabbit would well feed our family of six.

We had a 1926 model T truck. One of my other brothers had boosted the head lamps. Ultimately my seminary brother would raise the money to by a box of 22 caliber ammunition. The sun would set. I would crank the old model T Ford. My seminary brother would climb up in the back with a wired together, single-shot, 22 cal. rifle and away to the fire guard we would go. I would drive and brother would shoot over my head as the head lights reflected from the rabbits’ eyes. We made so much noise that the shooting distance would be twenty to thirty yards. Many a platter of rabbit came from these forays, happy relief from Great Depression fare. At that time I told my father ” in cleaning those rabbits, I several times, encountered fully intact bunnies, minus eyes.

No one had ever known that the eldest brother had been awarded the bronze star.

No one had ever known that the eldest brother had been awarded the bronze star.

WWII came down upon us all and my seminary brother enlisted in the navy. Soon he was a diesel engineer on a Destroyer Escort. They were part of the protection for convoys to North Africa, Italy and Sicily. My brother’s battle station was as a gunner on a 20mm deck gun. In one of the attacks from the air, in the Mediterranean, The Destroyer Escort was credited with shooting down two German JU 88 bombers.

Recently my brother, long retired from the ministry, died. His wife telephoned in an effort to learn if my brother had ever told me that he had been awarded the Bronze Star. She knew nothing about it. A veteran’s group had approached her to honor my brother for the bronze star award at the grave side services. I did not nor did any of the other living relatives.

I went back to walk that old fire guard. I couldn’t. It is full of houses and children’s laughter………….

Dad’s can of gold

This can of bronzing powders was transported to Florida nearly 100 years ago by the author's father.

This can of bronzing powder was transported to Florida nearly 100 years ago by the author’s father.

There was a can of silver colored powder and a can of very finely ground gold colored powder on a shelf in the barn where my Dad kept his sea chest of tools under lock and key. These had been acquired during his service in the “Emergency Fleet” throughout the world unpleasantness of 1917-18.

These powders were obviously intended to be mixed with some medium in order to produce metallic gold and silver paint. From experience I know that linseed oil was not the intended medium.

In first grade, during the 1934/35 school year, our class was chosen to present an operetta. My teacher made the mistake of assigning to me the part of the “Indian Chief.” My one line consisted of “Pale face mistress likes me best of ‘um bunch.” This alone should have alerted the Principal not to invite the school board. My mother attempted to piece together from burlap fertilizer sacks something that might pass for Indian clothing. My father accepted the high honor of decorating this ill-favored snarl. He resorted to great gobs of gold powder held together with Linseed oil.

The next morning I did notice that I left a patina of gold on the seat of the school bus. When time came to stand and move to the stage for the big show my small chair was attached permanently to my somewhat whiffy Indian Chief suit. The result was not pleasant.

In the second grade I applied the silver mix to a model plane cut and scraped from a hickory broom handle with a dull paring knife. It was placed on a table at the fair with a “Do not touch” warning. By the time I arrived at the fair to review my exhibit the area was covered with long ugly grey streaks of silver gray smears left by those who,having disregarding the no touch sign, searched for a surface on which to leave the gunk on their hands.

I never learned the truth, always convinced that ultimately the “gold” and “silver” would see the family through the Great Depression.

Smoldering parachutes…

An old Curtiss SB2C Helldiver sitting in an airfield in the Philippines. Photo taken by Edward Madden.

Curtiss SB2C Helldiver sitting in an airfield in the Philippines similar to the one that struck the stump in Vero Beach.
Photo taken by Edward Madden.

James B. Tippin, the author of “Encouragement, Loyalty and Make-Do” recounts the events of one evening during his senior year in high school when tragedy struck a Navy crew over Vero Beach, Florida.

The senior high school class had the soft drink concession at the local football games. Failure to recover the empties from the deserted playing field area would consume the anticipated profit of a five cent refund per bottle. Those dauntless high school seniors willing to bend and recover, long after the midnight hour, were few but dedicated. Hands full of sand spurs but empty bottles safe in storage, the polyglot but untainted crew left for home, me to the far outback.

Near home I could hear the cataclysmal scream and growl of an SB2C Curtis Helldiver in deep trouble. The intense light from flares fired by the Navy pilot bathed the woods in extremely bright and piercing light…a thunderous explosion…then flames twenty feet high filled the slash pine woods with reflecting ghouls. Even at a thousand feet distance I knew the eye-burning, radiating heat could not be penetrated without special gear. I cried. No help came. It was first light before the belly tank of aviation fuel had consumed itself. I suppose no location fix from the pilot had been possible since the Navy had not yet appeared. It was obvious that silk parachutes yet were used in training service… for smoldering closely packed silk produces a gag inducing odor. Add two humans now little more than chalk …a melted scout knife the only remains of the rear seat gunner.

As I ran from the scene the sun was winking over the horizon. The landscape for miles in every direction was covered with slash pine forest…in every direction save one. With his flares the pilot had located a bare strip where some farmer had cleared a twenty foot wide, several hundred foot long strip for tomato planting. What the pilot could not see was a first growth pine stump about 5 feet in diameter at the end of the former tomato field.

We might do well to insist that those who would declare war first spend a day in the smoke from burning silk….

We’re now on Facebook

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We’re anxious to get the word out about “Encouragement, Loyalty and Make-Do” so we’ve wired ourselves up with a new Facebook page. We’ll be posting bits and pieces from our archives over time, so if you’re interested in the history of Florida, the Great Depression, Tom Mix or WWII aviation be sure to “like” the page and stay tuned for more.
We’d be remiss in our duties, however, if we didn’t also put in a plug for the book itself. It’s available now direct from us, and soon from local stores and other online venues!

Encouragement, Loyalty and Make-Do (ISBN 978-1-933251-78-3) is published by Parkway Publishers for a retail price of $24.99. It is available in local bookstores or can be ordered directly from the publisher online (here) at www.citrusandcypress.com. All orders include an additional $5.00 for shipping and handling costs. North Carolina residents will also be charged sales tax as required by law.


Book available for sale!

Encouragement Book CoverBeginning May 17, 2013 “Encouragement Loyalty and Make-Do” a new novel by James B. Tippin, Jr. is available for sale!

This book presents an uncharted view of a population largely overlooked in accounts of the Great Depression. You will travel along, with callused feed, patched overalls, wired together shoes, shirts made from animal feed sacks, on a daily, 32-mile one-way bus ride to an awful interruption known as “first grade.”

With humor and an often sobering truth, Tippin will  lead you on a journey of life lessons and events as one of the most challenging chapters in our American history unfold. From before the official crash of the American economy in 1929 through the events leading up to WWII, you will partner up with James and his uncommonly insightful partner, a black lab puppy named “Jerry” who was the descendant of a favored dog of the veteran actor Tom Mix.

South Florida Map

 

You are invited to enjoy this unique and heartwarming book and to experience a special history, told from the heart and the pen of a boy and the trust, affection and camaraderie of his big, urbane dog.

Encouragement, Loyalty and Make-Do (ISBN 978-1-933251-78-3) is published by Parkway Publishers for a retail price of $24.99. It is available in local bookstores or can be ordered directly from the publisher online (here) at www.citrusandcypress.com. All orders include an additional $5.00 for shipping and handling costs. North Carolina residents will also be charged sales tax as required by law.