Thursday, February 18, 2016

Thanks For the Memories, Wauchula Part 5

And now the 5th and final installment from Harry E. Mann, Author of some of the memories growing up in Central Florida.

In my senior year, I discovered I had a gift for public speaking, once I got over my initial fear of facing the class.  It really came in handy later when I discovered, much to my surprise, a call to the Christian ministry.  Typing in my senior year was another subject that bore fruit for a lifetime.  I used typing the year after high school when I was learning to be a bookkeeper, as an Air Force Radio operator, to revise college notes, and all the years of my career to write sermons.  I can't think of another course that has been of more practical benefits than touch typing.

As I approached graduation, college seemed to be impossible for me.  My family was large and our income was small.  I had worked part-time from the age of 12 to pay for my school clothes, school supplies, and spending money.  In May of my junior year I enlisted in the Army National Guard battery at Avon Park and began to think of a career in the military.  Wauchula Elementary School and Hardee High School had opened to me a wide world of adventure, and I intended to see that world courtesy of the United States Air Force.  

On June 3, 1957 I graduated with my class, and the next day I boarded a Trailways bus for the induction center at Jacksonville.  As the bus rolled through town, I took one last look at the place that had shaped my life.  I had many memories of growing up there—of education, religious training, friends, playing trombone in the band, talent shows, camping trips with the Boy Scouts--and all I could think was, thanks for the memories, Wauchula.  I'm off to see the world.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Thanks for the Memories, Wauchula - Part 4

Seventh and eighth grade hold a couple of treasured memories for me.  In seventh grade social studies class, the father of one of the boys, Curtis Wilson, offered to take several of his son's classmates on a trip to Sarasota and the beach and come home by way of Highlands Hammock State Park.  I only realized later that Miss Jessie chose those of us whose parents probably couldn't afford to take us on such a jaunt.  Our payment for the good time at the beach was to write up the trip and give an oral report.  The memory of that trip warms my heart to this very day.

In eighth grade English I was blessed to be assigned to Miss Jessie's sister-in-law, Mrs. Exie Cathcart.  Mrs. Exie drilled us in declining nouns, conjugating verbs, and diagramming sentences.  She gave us such a good foundation in English grammar that the professor in my college freshman English class often called on me to help clarify a point of grammar.  Thankfully, I had just taken a refresher course at my Air Force base in Japan to get ready for college.  I hope this article pays her the tribute she so richly deserves.

I had always been an A and B student at school (except in conduct) until my sophomore year.  That year I learned I wasn't cut out for higher math and turned to ag-class for my final science.  I also learned I wasn't cut out to be a farmer either—too much hard work and my citrus seeds failed to come up.  However, in English lit class I shined.  Miss Louise Southerland actually encouraged us to talk in class.

**********Part 5 Coming Soon**********

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Thanks for the Memories, Wauchula - Part 3

If I recounted all my adventures on the “little side,” there wouldn't be room enough in the memoir, so I'll invite you to join me for a few memories of the second four grades.

It was a proud day when I was promoted to fifth grade and the “big side.”   For recess and physical education, we had a clay basketball court and the chinning bars.  I also lost a lot of marbles playing for keeps.  A lot happened in those four years, but I just want to mention a couple of things.  My most memorable grade was Mrs. MacDonald's fifth grade class.  One day one of the boys brought to class a beautiful white model sailboat.  During activity period, Mrs. Mac asked him to pass it around and let everyone get a good look.  One of the boys, Johnny Rhoden, colored the boat with a red crayon.   When his artwork was discovered, Mrs. MacDonald said, “Johnny, how would you like someone to do that to your property?”

“Well, Mrs. MacDonald,' he answered, “you've made some of my property red.”

Mrs. Mac burst into laughter and said, “Johnny, you always have to get the last word, don't you?”

Wauchula was blessed in the 40s and 50s to have not only a walk-in theatre but a drive-in theatre as well.  My other most memorable event that year was the talent show between the double feature on Friday night one week at the walk-in movie.  All week long one of the girls practiced singing a country song and yodeling at activity period.  

I'd been a singer all my life, and I thought I could do just as well.  So Friday night before the first feature, I screwed up my courage and found the manager of the theatre.  “I'd like to be in the talent show tonight.”

“Okay,” he said, and added my name to his list.

When the show began, several acts performed, including the young lady from my class.  Finally the master of ceremonies, I believe Albert Lane, called my name.

With some trepidation I made my way out on the stage and sang, without accompaniment, “There's a Tree in the Meadow.”  I was shocked when the audience, by their applause, awarded me third prize.  I had been stagestruck since my small speaking part in the first grade play.  Now I began dreaming of Hollywood.  I wish I could say I was sorry my classmate didn't win a prize, but I'm afraid my ego was too out-sized after my own triumph.  My dad bragged about my win to everyone he met that week, and I bathed in his praise.

***********Part 4 Coming Soon***********

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Thanks for the Memories, Wauchula - Part 2

As we moved into our new home in town, I began to anticipate starting school.  Since Uncle Jack Holland and Uncle Sam and Aunt Genie Murphy all drove school buses, I was disappointed to live too close to school to ride the bus.  However, it was a thrill when Mama walked with me the 10 blocks to Wauchula Elementary School to register.  

The “little side,” as we called the first four grades, had swings, the “giant swing,” see-saws, and a big slide to play on, not to mention dozens of other children to play with.  The building smelled of oiled floors, chalk dust, and exciting new things to learn.  One of the first things I learned was not to cross Miss Jessie Cathcart.  She caught me chewing wax at the rehearsal for the first grade play at the City Hall and swatted my behind with a bolo paddle.  I was humiliated that day, but I came to love Miss Jessie through the years as we all did.  Although she was a disciplinarian, her many kindnesses showed us that we were loved and appreciated.

One of my favorite memories of first grade is the field trips we made.  Our teachers escorted us to the canning plant one day to see how citrus was canned and then across the street to the warehouse where the skin of the orange was chopped up and baked for cow feed.  I can almost smell the warm, sweet smell of the newly processed food.  On another day we went to see the ice plant, and yet another day we were escorted to the movie to see The Wizard of Oz.  It was pure magic.

I also discovered romance that year.  I thought Aneta Stanton was the most beautiful creature I'd ever seen, and I felt my heart flutter in a way I'd never experienced.  One day I grabbed her on the playground and kissed her on the cheek.  She ran off crying and told her bigger friends in the second grade.  I won't call any names, but four or five of them pushed me down on the ground and kicked me.  When I started crying, Aneta sent her older brother Kenneth over to apologize.  I don't think she expected such swift or violent justice.

***********Part 3 Coming Soon***********

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Thanks For the Memories, Wauchula Part 1

Welcome readers! Over the next few weeks I will be posting stories of when I was growing up in Hardee County Florida. Hope you enjoy them and if there are any of my readers who grew up in the area I hope you will get in touch and post comments as well. I have broken them down into 4 or 5 parts and will be posted them daily till the final one. Enjoy!

My very first memories are of a little frame house in an orange grove between Wauchula and Zolfo Springs.  Mr. Miller was our landlord, and I only remember his name because Daddy and Mama referred to him as that.  I do remember, or at least I think I do, that for the Easter just before my second birthday he brought my brother Harley a chocolate bunny and me a little glass train engine filled with jelly beans.  During that time I remember staying by myself a few days with my mother's parents in a house near the Holland kin.  It never occurred to me until recently that it was because Mama was giving birth to my next brother.

After Tommy was born in July, we moved to a brick home on Old Dixie Highway that my parents called the Marvin Bailey place.  I vividly remember our few months there as Daddy let me try to milk our cow in Mama's tin measuring cup, and he accidentally ran over the puppy that my great Uncle Earnest Holland had given me.  It was my first brush with death.

We soon moved again to Sulfur Springs where we lived for three years during the Second World War.  Daddy drove a bus to MacDill Field and brought soldiers home for Sunday dinner.  We kids played war in the street and backyards and learned about blackout curtains and rationing of beef, butter, and gasoline.

As the war neared an end, we moved back to Hardee County and lived for a short time with Uncle Jack Holland, Aunt Minnie, and Grandpa Holland.  Then we moved into a little shotgun house up the road from the Hollands while Daddy built our old rough house in town.  He had bought an old frame house in an orange grove, tore it down, and used the timber to build a home on Eighth Avenue.  I lived in that house for 13 years, the longest I've lived anywhere until this day.  The house didn't look like much, but it was made of heart pine and nailed together with square (case-hardened) nails.  It withstood several hurricanes, including Charley in 2004.

***********Part 2 coming soon************

Friday, January 15, 2016

Calling All Outsiders

Have you ever felt like an outsider—that you don't fit any category or group acceptable by the majority? Well, that's how I've been feeling lately. My son-in-law, one of the first purchasers of Molly, found it too religious. My daughter couldn't get past the racism of the characters.

A friend who read the manuscript copy of the story suggested that I seek a Christian publisher. However, I feared it would be rejected because I had used a few curse words in the early part of the book for authenticity of some of the characters. About a dozen traditional publishers had thanked me for my submission but were uninterested in pursuing publication.

So far, only one person who has read the books—Molly, Brothers, and Generations--has failed to give them a positive review. He felt that Molly was more suitable for younger readers. Perhaps it lacked that swift action, violence, or sex that he was accustomed to as an adult reader.

One reader, after reading the first chapter of Generations to her husband, said, “I'm hooked.”

Another reader said, “I couldn't wait to get to the next chapter.”

Still another reader said, “I believe it was your best book yet.”

While critiquing Generations, members of my writers' group urged me to write new material about Matthew, one of Molly's grandsons. That section turned out to be one of the best pieces of writing I had done up to that time.

If you like books that are realistic to life as we experience it but not embarrassed by faith in God, I hope you'll try the three books of the Carroll Family Saga. It is a slice of history from the 1920s the 1970s as seen through the eyes of one north Florida farm family. It recounts the racism, war, and social upheaval that marked the twentieth century. If you feel like an outsider, you might just enjoy these books.

Written by Harry Mann

Friday, November 27, 2015

Christmas Poem/Sermon Now Available

My Christmas poem/sermon has just been published in Volume 3 of "Snowbird Christmas: Holiday Stories to Warm Your Heart." The book features poetry, short stories, and two novellas by local St. Johns County writers. My poem, Christmas Time at Our House," recalls the excitement of the holiday season in the small central Florida town of Wauchula. The book can be purchased for $5.00 from W. C. Publishing, 4625 Cedar Ford Blvd., Hastings, Fla. 32145 or on line from