Groveland Through Depression
by Ann Dupee
This article was published in the South Lake Press, February 22, 2008.
The following was written by Groveland historian, Cyleta Lee Austin, and printed in the Feb. 11, 1988 South Lake Press in the “Remember When” column.Groveland Saga – The Great Depression In the turbulent days of the great depression of the ’30s, Groveland drifted and became smaller. Countless men joined the ranks of the unemployed. Hunger plagued the community after the Arnold Lumber Company closed down for the last time in 1932. Farmers grew abundant cops, but seldom had the good luck to sell enough to defray expenses. Poultry became a going “Money Crop” as chicken ranchers formed an association. Citrus prices were at an all time low. To make an extra nickel, Spanish Moss was pulled from trees and sold to a small moss packing plant in Groveland; it was used in connection with upholstering. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) created jobs for needy people, but not nearly enough to go around. Before losing their life savings in two bank failures, many people had been in affluent circumstances. Swallowing pride, any work that would put food on the table was taken. The WPA built the present Groveland School on Cherry Street in 1937. The city also gained a municipal auditorium by another such project. Used as a theatre for some years, the building was torn down after falling into disrepair to make room for a memorial park, a civic center – now called the E.L. Puryear Building, and a large library. The old Community Club on Lake David was built for Groveland by one of the recovery act projects of our government. Spearheaded by Mrs. L.G. Thomas, the site was prepared by interested citizens. The building’s rustic exterior keeps the look of yesterday. It is now used by the Groveland Woman’s Club. A waterfront recreation park was developed in the hectic days of the depression on the southern shore of Lake Catherine. Facilities at this popular beach included two rustic bathhouses, a huge barrel float and a boardwalk over the water. The former public beach on Lake Audrey (named for Audrey Beach who lived on its edge) was closed. Edge’s Grocery gave way for the Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (A&P) to lease their building for a chain food store; Mr. C.C. Heath was an early manager. Exciting was the year1935 when oil men moved in and started to drill for “black gold.” The main well derrick was located just off S. Highway 33 near the Polk County line. The economy of Groveland was helped somewhat by this endeavor, but it was a terrible disappointment when the expected gusher failed to blow in. All of this was under the direction of J.R. Arnold and his associates. Kinfolks, friends and neighbors grew closer, helping each other and learning to fully appreciate the best things in life that are always free. Crowds could be seen every Saturday night in the downtown spotlight as people shopped and visited. Another Saturday night treat in Groveland was the free movie sponsored by local merchants. At the beginning, the screen was hoisted up on the side of the bank building. One had to stand to enjoy the show. Later on, the “flickers” were shown from the Farmers Market shed on S.E. Broad Street where orange boxes were pressed into service for seating. No history of Groveland would be complete without words about the Christmas drawings. Several hundred excited and expectant ticket holders would gather on Christmas Eve to participate in the annual event, also sponsored by the storekeepers. Only a choice few were fortunate enough to win one of the useful and expensive gifts, but all returned home happy and proud for the ones who did. E.E. Edge died suddenly in 1934, leaving a grieving population behind. Groveland had been honored by having had him as a part of it. He was a credit to his country, to the state and to the town he helped to build. L.D. Edge, his son, grew into the business as he had been with his father in the stores for many years. In 1915 E.E. Edge was elected to the Florida House of Representatives and was to become the youngest Speaker of the House in 1923. Edge served in the Florida Senate from 1925 to 1927. There was talk of making him governor. His wife, Day Edge, was the Lake County Historical Society’s first president. As 1940 approached and distant war drums began to be heard, times grew some better with more employment available. The town saw two more business ventures. In 1938 Geneva and Rhea Williford turned the annex of Edge’s Pharmacy into the first modern beauty salon. Mrs. Nana Williford earned her degree in cosmetology and continued on in the beauty business. A feed store was put in at the Hunter Building by Mr. Flanders Holland.