Burying “Old Man Gloom” by Elaine
NOTE: The following is an edited
version of a column written in the late 1990s for the
News-Sun. It was one of a series dealing with “Yesterday” in
County. Reprinted by permission.
In the early 1920s,
was a young, aggressive and tremendously optimistic
industrial community. The town bragged the other nearby
communities could have the tourists.
Avon Park would have the industry.
Industry was thriving, with crate and
lumber mills, turpentine stills, a citrus cannery and
construction going in all directions. Sewers and sidewalks
were being laid and the streets were being paved. The
boom was in full swing.
But by 1925, things began to slow
down. Suddenly, the boom days were over. Gloom set in. By
1930, the town was barely moving. Folks thought it might
turn into a ghost town.
But then someone suggested that the
trouble with the town that it was “wrapped in gloom” -- and
that this imposter should be buried.
The Chamber of Commerce, latching on
to the idea, made plans to bury “Old Man Gloom.”
On June 26, 1930, chamber members
staged a funeral procession down Main St. to the grave site
Donaldson Park. One member, E.E. Melton, decked out
in a high hat and monocle, led the funeral atop an old brown
Then came the band, followed by pall
bearers carrying a casket with the remains of “Old Man
Gloom.” Mourners, veiled in heavy black, followed. Next came
a bathing beauty section, a children’s section, pirate
section, and comic strip characters that made up the
four-block-long parade. At the grave site, Claude Pepper --
then a member of the
Florida House of Representatives -- delivered the
Maybe the funeral did the trick.
never became the “ghost town” that so many had predicted.