First of two parts.
The following was recently written by Ruth Kempton McClanahan
and describes her recollections of moving to Avon Park with her
family in 1930.
“When the crash of 1929 hit Fairfield, Conn., our family
income came to a complete halt. We headed for the 30 acres lying
above Lake Isis in Avon Park. The property belonged to my aunt,
Dr. Mary E. Coffin of Pittsburgh.
“As we came to mid-Georgia, we saw the Spanish moss hanging
on the trees and knew were in the deep south. The white sand on
the road shoulders as we drove into Florida looked to us like
snow. The cattle sometimes were loose on the road.
“Later, when we had begun farming, a little heifer of our
broke out of our fence and was lost. My sister, Lee, and I put
on our hats and gloves, climbed into our car and went to find
it. We asked the first person we saw if she had seen a small
heifer. ‘He’ is brown with white spots, we said. She laughed
because she knew about farming.
“Everything seemed strange to an 18-year-old New England
girl, just as we must have seemed amusingly different to the
“The only pave road leading into Avon Park was the
north-south main highway. Central Avenue, which we walked to
town on, was clay. People used pine needles (called pine straw)
to keep the dust down on some of the roads.
“One of my vivid memories of 1930 was working for some weeks
in the Pittsburgh-Florida Packing House in Avon Park so we could
learn how to pack our own fruit. We had five acres of citrus. At
the packing house we were paid ten cents a box for oranges and
five cents a box for grapefruit. It was hard work. At the end of
a day, my fingers looked like 10 small purple sausages. But the
pleasant side of the experience came as my sister and I became
acquainted with the other women graders and packers. Their
friendliness to us and acceptance of us helped put us at ease.”