Welcome to Florida Time, a weekly column about Florida history. Today, we hear about the Everglades, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Civil Rights movement and more.
Readers: Last week we provided part one of a history of Florida through its voices. Here’s more, from the Depression through the start of the Space Age.
"Cross Creek belongs to the wind and the rain, to the sun and the seasons, to the cosmic secrecy of seeds, and beyond all, to time.'' — The last lines of north-central Florida author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' 1942 memoir Cross Creek. Rawlings, who died in 1953 at 57, wrote nine books that provided Americans a glimpse of a Florida far from the beaches and resort hotels.
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"It was my first trip to Florida. I didn't like the experience." — Frank Leonard Terry, only survivor of 36 sailors aboard the W.D. Anderson, which sunk 12 miles north of Jupiter on Feb. 22, 1942. As America entered World War II, German U-boats sank 24 ships that year off Florida alone, confounding the American military and terrifying Floridians.
"There are no other Everglades in the world. They are, they always have been, one of the unique regions of the earth, remote, never wholly known ... It is a river of grass.'' — Marjory Stoneman Douglas' introduction to her famed 1947 book, which helped spark an environmental movement in South Florida and make her an icon. The same year, Everglades National Park was founded.
"He was registering black voters and organizing black citrus workers. That's what got him killed, in my opinion. At the time of his death, 31 percent of all eligible blacks in Florida were registered to vote. That was 50 percent higher than any other Southern state, and Moore did it.'' — Tallahassee's Ben Green, author of a book detailing the assassination on Christmas night, 1951, of Brevard County civil rights leader Harry T. Moore and his wife.
"We'll be back after the trouble is over.'' — Francisco Batista, brother of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, at the Palm Beach Biltmore Hotel days after the family fled Fidel Castro in the early hours of Jan. 1, 1959.
"While it may be legally acceptable, it is morally wrong.'' — Gov. LeRoy Collins, in a March 20, 1960, televised speech challenging state laws that let department stores refuse lunch-counter service to blacks. Gov. Collins is credited with shepherding Florida through desegregation with less pain than any Southern state. He is considered one of Florida's greatest governors and was declared "Floridian of the century" by the Legislature at his death in March 1991.
"I wanted to participate because I believe communism is the worst thing in the world. I wanted to make Cuba free again.'' — Bay of Pigs veteran Jose Trincheria in 1983, on the 20th anniversary of the ill-fated invasion. About 1,400 exiles, trained in South Florida, came ashore on April 17, 1961. When promised air cover never came, Cuban forces killed 114 and captured the rest. Fighters spent 20 months in prison before being ransomed for $53 million in food and medicine.
"It was generally supposed that the bombers carried atomic weapons. I remember thinking that whatever would happen would happen suddenly.'' — West Palm Beach businessman Tom Tilford in 1987 on the 25th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, recalling the B-47s that landed at Palm Beach International Airport the day after President Kennedy's Oct. 22, 1962, speech brought the standoff to the point of a nuclear war that threatened to make South Florida ground zero.
"If we have to go to jail, we are going. We are determined to make this city the kind of place that the oldest city in our nation ought to be.'' — Civil rights leader the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the night before he was arrested June 11, 1964, for demanding service at a St. Augustine hotel's restaurant.
Next week: Into a new millennium
Last week: From slavery to the real estate boom, these Florida voices share all
From a reader: “Would love to see something on Hamilton Disston made his mark on Florida but few people know what he did and why. The lake I live on (a tributary to the St. Johns River) is about the only thing in Florida that carries his name. I am enjoying your series, thanks.” — Ann, Lake Disston
Eliot Kleinberg is a staff writer for the past three decades at The Palm Beach Post in West Palm Beach, and the author of 10 books about Florida (www.ekfla.com). Florida Time is a product of GateHouse Media and publishes online in their 22 Florida markets. Submit your questions, comments or memories to FloridaTime@Gatehousemedia.com. Include your full name and hometown. Sorry; no personal replies.