Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 in Review

I made 186 Visual Ephemera posts in 2009 and I thought I'd review some of the highlights and update their status.

On January 3rd I listed some spots in Florida I wanted to visit, and I'm happy to say I hit most of them. I just returned from South Florida, although I wont' have any new blogs about the trip until 2010. While I didn't see Monkey Jungle, Parrot Jungle (Jungle Island now), or the Everglades, I did see the Coral Castle, Viscaya, the Biltmore and South Beach. And I listed a goal to visit the attractions in my backyard like Big Tree Park, The Citrus Tower and Hall of Presidents (yes on all 3.) While I didn't get to Tarpon Springs or Warm Mineral Springs, I did make trips to Weeki Wachee, Homosassa Springs, Sunken Gardens, Sarasota Jungle Gardens and Cypress Gardens.

Cypress Gardens, the granddaddy of all Florida attractions, is still closed and at this point its future is uncertain. My wish for 2010 is that it re-opens in some capacity, so Floridians and visitors can enjoy the beauty of its famed gardens again.

On January 12th, I blogged about the discovery of more Fountains of Youth in Florida, including the sculpture at Tomoka State Park which I just visited on Christmas Eve. I'll continue to explore the theme of Ponce de Leon and the Fountain of Youth in Florida's popular culture, and I have more discoveries on the the subject that I'll share in 2010. One of the highlights for me was visiting Punta Gorda, and finding several monuments to Ponce's adventures around Southwest Florida.

On February 19th, I introduced the late Florida artist Joy Postle. Since that initial post, a wikipedia page has been set up for Joy and an article came out in the Reflections journal of the Orange County Regional History Center. As a result there appears to be more awareness of Joy and her work, and we are hoping to put together an exhibition of work in the future. And the murals that were stored in an attic in Ormond Beach are now safely in the hands of the individual who is the caretaker of Joy's legacy.

In March I examined the plight of two Orlando institutions; one has stayed open, the other has remained closed. Kaley Elementary remained open when the local newspaper discovered the school board was not following the proper procedure in studying school closures, so they kept the schools slated for closures running this year. The Cheyenne Saloon, however, remains closed. My hope is that when the new arena opens next Fall, someone will re-open it because of its then desirable location.

In April I blogged about Casper's Ostrich and Alligator Farm, a long defunct St. Augustine attraction. I am happy to say that I recently received a Vintage Roadside shirt sporting the Caspers logo so I can do my part in keeping the memory of that unique Florida business alive.

May 21st's post on Sanlando Springs generated more comments than any other blog. Apparently there are many Central Floridians with fond memories of swimming there, who wish they could still visit it. The Springs development built around the popular spring was recently in the news when a resident was attacked by a Florida Black Bear. Later the man was charged with feeding the bears around his house after the bear that scratched him had to be put down.

July's post about the Sam Stoltz house in Mt. Plymouth produced many responses as well, and as luck would have it I met the man who would come to own the house. Florida artist Martin Cushman is now the loving steward of this unique architectural masterpiece and after many delays he has finally moved into his new home.

In August I utilized my contacts to help a friend find her ancestor's church. Since then she has made a commitment to speak at the church, and found her grandfather's gravesite at Greenwood Cemetery.

The city of Orlando is working to find ways to finance the repair of the Lake Eola fountain, the city's symbol for years, originally blogged about on September 3rd. However, the city of Winter Park continues to look for a way to expand its Central Park by moving the post office with no mention of the preservation of its unique mid-century murals.

November's post on the water skiing elephants of De Leon Springs led to an email interview with Liz Green Dane, who as a teenager appeared with her elephant Queenie at the spring. I have plans to meet with Liz in person next month to learn even more.

And this month I had the privilege of taking part in an interview with Ginger Stanley Rogers, who appeared in the iconic Creature from the Black Lagoon. She will be appearing at the History Center in March.

2009 has been a wonderful year for me, as my fascination with Florida's history and popular culture has grown as I've explored and learned more about the colorful state I'm in. I'm grateful for anyone who stumbles across my blog and my only hope is that if they are in Florida they take time to appreciate the uniqueness of this state, because it is changing rapidly, and the things that make Florida so wonderful are always at risk.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Monumental sculpture in Tomoka State Park

I have to admit I hadn't been familiar with Tomoka State Park even though it is just over an hour away and I've passed the sign for it on numerous occasions. It was only when I purchased a vintage brochure of Florida State Parks at the Floridiana Festival in February that I became interested, mainly because of the fascinating sculpture featured on the brochure's cover. The 40 foot sculpture of "Chief Tomokie" was created in 1955 by artist Fred Dana Marsh.

Chief Tomokie was a legendary chief of Timucuan warriors who failed to believe in mystical powers of a sacred spring, according to author Marian S. Tomblin. Tomokie's drinking of the sacred water from the spring enraged other Indians and a war ensued between Tomokie's warriors and those who believed the sacred water should not be touched by man. But the water seemed to make Tomokie invincible as his enemies' arrows seemingly could not harm him. But a lovely Indian princess named Oleeta took aim at Tomokie and released an arrow that fatally wounded the massive warrior. Grabbing the sacred cup from his hand, Oleeta herself was critically wounded by an arrow, but her fellow tribes members were so moved by her death that they wiped out the remaining members of Tomokie's war party.

The statue has taken almost as much of a beating as the poor Indians in the legend; the bows and arrows once held by the Indian warriors are gone as is Tomokie's spear. The figure of Oleeta, directly beneath Tomokie, is badly damaged and unrecognizable. But still the sculpture has an unmistakable presence.

According to the State Archives, the statue was created by Marsh in 1955, the reflecting pool (now dry) added in 1956 and the sculpture was dedicated in 1957. Marsh probably chose the legend of Tomokie as the subject for his sculpture because the site of the park is the location of the former Timucuan village of Nocoroco.

The 1957 dedication of the sculpture and reflecting pool featured a full orchestra

The statue's creator, Frederick Dana Marsh was educated at the Chicago Art Institute in the late 19th century. He lived in Paris at the turn of the century before returning to the US and moving to New York. He moved to Ormond Beach in 1930 and split his time between New York and Florida until his death in 1961. Up until recently, there was a museum at the park with more examples of Marsh's work. But due to the recent state budget crisis, the museum has been closed and the work has been relocated to a museum in South Florida.

Frederick Dana Marsh

The Lady in Scarlet by Fred Dana Marsh - circa 1900

Recently preserved work on ceramic tile by Marsh, New York

Grayscale images from the State Archives of Florida

Friday, December 18, 2009

Great Florida gifts ideas

In my efforts to keep it local this year, here are some of my recommendations for gifts from the Sunshine State:

Davidson of Dundee - this Polk County business offers a wide array of citrus themed products from Tangelo marmalade to Honeybell Orange candy. Available at citrus stands statewide, I purchased several items at Conway's Red Hill Groves, which has been in business since 1962. We've been enjoying a bag of super-sweet Tangelos we bought there last week. Good ol' fashioned Florida fun!

Tropic Bee Honey - also available at most citrus stands, this Edgewater Florida business has been around since 1940.

The History Emporium at the Orange County Regional History Center- has great Florida items including Florida-themed books, vintage citrus labels and plastic lawn flamingoes. Recently featured in Southern Living, the flamingoes have been flying off the shelves after a mention in the magazine. They also have the very sweet Florida citrus wines, which are great for making Sangria. And they have my favorite, Moon Soup from Polk County's Chalet Suzanne Restaurant which was established in 1931.

Big World Studios

Big World Studio features hand-crafted jewelry that is intricate, beautiful and reasonably-priced. My friend Wendy lovingly creates these little masterpieces in her home studio. Likewise for my friend Sonja who makes these beautiful pieces.

Sonja Bone

Florida Art Pottery Studio - at Renningers Antique Market in Mt. Dora features pottery by Martin Cushman. Martin is often there, working at the pottery wheel, throwing pots. In addition to his Florida themed pottery he also has an amazing collection of Florida-themed art.

Martin Cushman

Dawn Schreiner - promotes her work with a Facebook page where she does a doodle of the day, often of members of her Facebook group. I've commissioned her to do several small pieces, which are all on recycled materials (usually the back of cereal boxes.) Her work can be found at Seven Sisters Coffee House, which features fair trade organic coffee. And located right behind Seven Sisters is Wild Woman Chocolate, making hand-crafted organic chocolates like nothing else you have ever tasted. They take their chocolate serious there, and if you do too, this is the place for you!

Yours truly by Dawn Schreiner

Seven Sisters Coffee

Wild Woman Chocolate

These are just a few ideas from Central Florida. I urge you to think what you can do to support individuals in your own community this year.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Florida Christmas

It was the time of the year when I normally start working on sending out Christmas cards, and I realized I hadn't bought any cards yet. This year I'm trying to keep my gift buying local as much as possible and I really wanted to do something to promote my mission of creating more awareness of the unique culture and history of Florida. A brief scan around my studio revealed a couple of one-color postcards purchased at the Museum of Seminole County History showing Calvin Coolidge and his wife at "The Senator", Florida's big tree. A quick phone call later and the Museum had 60 postcards in the mail to me. I morphed the Coolidges into Mr. and Mrs. Claus and found this link to Christmas: at the time of Christ's birth in Bethelhem, the giant Cypress tree was already 1,500 years old. That has to make it the oldest living thing in the state. And when Ponce de Leon was first stumbling across the state, the tree was an astounding 3,000 years old. I'm glad the folks back in Calvin Coolidge's day had the foresight to preserve such an icon.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Courtesy of Marineland

Speaking of science fiction movies filmed in Florida, I stumbled upon Zaat the other day. What's Zaat you say? Zaat, based solely on the content of the movie trailer, is one of the hokiest looking sci-fi films ever made. Filmed at Marineland, Rainbow Springs and the town of Green Cove Springs, I'd love to get my hands on a copy of it someday to see if it is hideous as it appears. For more info see ZAAT.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Bathing beauty from the creature feature

State Archives of Florida

I recently had the honor of chatting with Ginger Stanley Hallowell, a lovely lady who had a front row seat for much of Florida's entertainment history in the 1950s and '60s. As a young beauty queen in Ocala, Ginger was recruited to be a mermaid by Newt Perry. Perry, the innovator of underwater entertainment and promotion at first Wakulla Springs and then Weeki Wachee, admired Ginger's "mermaid-like" blonde hair. It was at Weeki Wachee where Ginger met Ricou Browning, the man who would become a science fiction legend by playing the "Creature from the Black Lagoon". So when they need stunt double to do the swimming for actress Julie Adams, Ricou suggested Ginger.

Newt Perry's underwater bubble at Wakulla Springs
State Archives of Florida

Ricou Browning as the Creature

State Archives of Florida

Ginger told me about how the movie's producers asked her to dye her hair to match Adams' brunette locks and when they tried to dye it back to blonde after the movie's conclusion they could only accomplish an auburn tint. She mesmerized me with stories about how difficult it was for Browning to swim in the costume and how his signal for needing air was to simply "go limp" in the water.

Ginger also starred in the sequel, "Revenge of the Creature" filmed almost entirely at Marine Studios at Marineland. She remembers being placed in the large saltwater tanks with sharks and moray eels swimming about. To ensure her safety, the sharks were fed unusually large amounts of food prior to shooting with hopes they would be too full to notice Ginger! I asked her about an unknown actor in appearing making his first film appearance in "Revenge". "He was tall and good looking and very clean cut; his role was small as a scientist in a lab coat," she said of the then unknown Clint Eastwood.

She also posed for holiday pictures at Marineland with an underwater Christmas tree and dolphins trained to bring her ornaments to place on the tree.

Film production at Marine Studios (Marineland)
Courtesy of Marineland

Ginger also talked about appearing as the underwater weather girl with Dick Van Dyke in New York City. They built a tank in the studio with heavily chlorinated "city water" that ended up turning her hair green. Van Dyke would give the forecast and Ginger would draw on a glass map of the US with white make-up pencil to match the weather patterns.

Courtesy of Ginger Stanley Hallowell

The young beauty was also the "primary model" for Bruce Mozert's underwater images shot at Silver Springs, according to Gary Monroe in his book Silver Springs: the Underwater Photography of Bruce Mozart. One of the best stories she told us about her Silver Springs days, was when Howard Hughes premiered his film "Underwater" by showing the motion picture, underwater at Ocala attraction. Movie stars from Hollywood were flown in by Hughes for the promotion, but they were all upstaged by an unknown in a scandalous red bikini named Jayne Mansfield, (the Internet Movie Database reports that Mansfield was hired to perform in an underwater skit and intentionally "lost" her bikini top to attract attention.)

Ginger at Silver Springs
State Archives of Florida

More Mozert magic
Courtesy of Ginger Stanley Hallowell

It was a thrill for me to meet Ginger and she actually lives a short distance from Studio Hourglass. She was warm, witty and had a wonderful laugh. Her stories are amazing and colorful and I am eagerly anticipating hearing her again when she speaks at the Orange County Regional History Center in March.

Ginger did the underwater sequences for Esther Williams
Jupiter's Darling
(Esther Williams top left, Ginger top right)
Courtesy of Ginger Stanley Hallowell