Venetian Canal: Coming to the End Don Sondag Jr.
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CONTENTS FALL 2020
FEATURES 22 | CANAL ZONE Winter Park’s Scenic Boat Tour remains as idyllic as ever, while the skippers add a dash of personal quirkiness. By Greg Dawson, photography by Rafael Tongol 34 | HERE’S THE BUZZ Barber to the stars Reggie Jones has perhaps the last Black-owned business in historic Hannibal Square. But Jones’ eyes are set firmly on the future. By Greg Dawson, photography by Rafael Tongol EXCLUSIVE BOOK EXCERPT 42 | A MASTER CLASS IN CHAOS The story of a blustering “boy wonder,” an ailing academic icon, a mild-mannered math prof and the rancor at Rollins College that split the campus and the community for decades. By Randy Noles, digital art by Will Setzer/Circle 7 Design Studio SPECIAL PLACES 62 | A (BABY) GRAND EXPANSION Scott Hillman, president of Fannie Hillman + Associates, pays homage to the Baby Grand Theater, which originally occupied his South Park Avenue location. By Randy Noles, photography by Rafael Tongol
6 WIN T E R P A R K M A G A ZI N E | FALL 2020
64 | CALL OF FALL It’s time to be grateful and hopeful — and to make masks a fashion accessory. Photography by Rafael Tongol, styling by Marianne Ilunga, makeup and hair by Elsie Knab IN MEMORIAM 72 | ROBERT DUTTON AND MARGARET HELEN O’ROURKE Cancer recently took the lives of two intriguing and creative people who left indelible impressions on the community. By Randy Noles
DEPARTMENTS PROFILE 16 | SEQUENTIAL ARTISTRY John Nadeau draws comic books — but not like the ones you remember reading as a kid. And he’s making some noise in the fine art world, too. By Randy Noles, photography by Rafael Tongol DINING 78 | A DEFIANT STEAKHOUSE Joanne McMahon, a veteran Winter Park restaurateur, had more than her share of obstacles while opening BoVine. It’s a story of perseverance, very well done. By Rona Gindin, photography by Rafael Tongol
IN EVERY ISSUE 8 | FIRST WORD 12 | COVER ARTIST 74 | SHOPPING 84 | EVENTS 98 | OUR TOWN 100 | THE POEM
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HISTORY (SORT OF) REPEATS ITSELF
Many of the same safety protocols used to combat the spread of COVID-19 were in effect during the more deadly Spanish flu pandemic in 1918. In Winter Park, however, disruption of business and daily life has been more severe today than a century ago.
eople fall ill and some die of an illness at first presumed to be seasonal influenza, but which later proves to be a mysterious new pathogen that’s highly contagious. There’s no vaccine and no effective treatment. The disease kills the elderly, as influenza sometimes does, but it also impacts children and young adults, and causes a bizarre array of unexpected symptoms. As scientists scramble to identify the malady and quell its spread, the illness multiplies exponentially around the world. In the U.S., the federal government’s response is one of denial and obfuscation. Individual municipalities are left to implement their own policies with varying degrees of rigor. In some places, masks and social distancing are required and large gatherings are banned. In other places, thousands attend parades and rallies that ultimately become superspreaders — even as hospitals are overwhelmed and funeral homes are compelled to stack corpses like cordwood in makeshift structures. The year is 1918, not 2020, and the illness is the Spanish flu (misnamed, since it likely originated in the U.S.), not COVID-19. Over the course of two years, the Spanish flu killed at least 50 million people worldwide. Yet this pandemic — which caused more deaths than any outbreak of disease in human history — was essentially forgotten until recently, when COVID-19 prompted inevitable comparisons. Given the death toll of the novel coronavirus — which is, at this point, orders of magnitude less than the Spanish flu — it’s difficult to understand why the more lethal scourge from a century ago isn’t seared into our collective consciousness. Part of the reason is because newspapers were, in many cases, complicit in playing it down. The U.S. had entered World War I in 1917. President Woodrow Wilson created a Committee on Public Information to flood newspapers with upbeat press releases — which were often published word for word — extolling patriotism and building morale. The Sedition Act, adopted just months before the war ended, made it illegal to “utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous or abusive language about the government of the United States.” The govern-
8 WIN T E R P A R K M A G A ZI N E | FALL 2020
ment wanted no news disseminated that might damage the war effort — First Amendment be damned. In fact, no newspaper was ever prosecuted for writing stories about the pandemic — it was impossible to ignore — but coverage was notably subdued. Some newspapers surely self-censored for fear of retribution. After all, reports of an easily transmissible illness that seemed to disproportionally impact young people would hardly have been welcome news to soldiers or their families. In Winter Park, not much seemed to change. Mayor W.H. Schultz did issue an order prohibiting public meetings and suspending school for 10 days in October 1918. The document also read: “I further request the parents of all children to prohibit promiscuous visiting from house to house and suggest that … each family stay as much as possible in the open air.” There are few other headlines regarding the pandemic in local newspapers of the era, including the Orlando Morning Sentinel. Only passing mentions of it could be found in The Sandspur, the campus newspaper at Rollins College, or in various Winter Park weeklies. However, several ads tout the safety of various businesses, such as drug-store soda fountains, and the efficacy of several patent medicines. There are also admonitions to wash your hands often and refrain from spitting in public. Even Claire Leavitt Macdowell’s Chronological History of Winter Park, which recounts the city’s history almost day by day from the 1880s through 1950, never mentions the Spanish flu. This is truly extraordinary, given the book’s obsessive thoroughness. Macdowell records with equal gravity events that range from a visit by President Chester A. Arthur to a campaign by the Board of Trade to rid the city of flies by offering a bounty to people who turned in the most insect carcasses. I don’t know how many people who lived in Winter Park died of the Spanish flu. According to Eve Bacon’s history of Orlando, fatalities there amounted to only 10. (It appears that Tampa and Jacksonville fared far more poorly.) Perhaps the dearth of information regarding the impact of the pandemic on Winter Park is because there wasn’t much impact at all. My guess is — with all due respect to Eve Bacon — far more people in Winter Park died of the Spanish flu than have died (or will die) of COVID-19. But the response in 1918, at least locally, involved no prolonged disruptions. If you didn’t get sick, you likely didn’t alter your life or routine in any appreciable way. Why not? Here’s a hypothesis: A century ago, people routinely died of ailments that are easily treatable today. It could be that everyone was simply more nonchalant about the possibility of contracting an illness that had no cure. After all, plenty of illnesses that we no longer worry much about couldn’t be cured — or even effectively treated — back then. Frankly, I’m glad our expectations of medicine are somewhat higher these days. And I’m looking forward to the day when we can meet for drinks — unmasked — and discuss up close and in person whether the cure was worse than the disease in the case of COVID-19. That day, I’m sure you’ll agree, couldn’t come soon enough.
Randy Noles CEO/Editor/Publisher email@example.com
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RANDY NOLES | Editor and Publisher THERESA SWANSON | Group Publisher/Director of Sales PHYLLIS M. MILLER | Director of Administration KATHY BYRD | Associate Publisher/Senior Account Executive DENA BUONICONTI | Associate Publisher/Account Executive CAROLYN EDMUNDS | Art Director MYRON CARDEN | Distribution Manager RAFAEL TONGOL | Photographer WILL SETZER | Digital Artist RONA GINDIN | Dining Editor MARIANNE ILUNGA | Fashion Editor HARRY WESSEL | Contributing Editor BILLY COLLINS, GREG DAWSON, MICHAEL MCLEOD | Contributing Writers
WINTER PARK PUBLISHING COMPANY LLC RANDY NOLES | Chief Executive Officer ALLAN E. KEEN | Co-Chairman, Board of Managers JANE HAMES | Co-Chairman, Board of Managers THERESA SWANSON | Vice Chairman, Board of Managers MICHAEL OKATY, ESQ. | General Counsel, Foley & Lardner LLP
COMMUNITY PARTNERS Larry and Joanne Adams; The Albertson Company, Ltd.; Richard O. Baldwin Jr.; Jim and Diana Barnes; Brad Blum; Ken and Ruth Bradley; John and Dede Caron; Bruce Douglas; Steve Goldman; Hal George; Michael Gonick; Micky Grindstaff; Sharon and Marc Hagle; Larry and Jane Hames; Eric and Diane Holm; Garry and Isis Jones; Allan E. and Linda S. Keen; Knob Hill Group (Rick and Trish Walsh, Jim and Beth DeSimone, Chris Schmidt); FAN Fund; Kevin and Jacqueline Maddron; Drew and Paula Madsen; Kenneth J. Meister; Ann Hicks Murrah; Jack Myers; Michael P. O’Donnell; Nicole and Mike Okaty; Bill and Jody Orosz; Martin and Ellen Prague; Serge and Kerri Rivera; Jon C. and Theresa Swanson; Sam and Heather Stark; Randall B. Robertson; George Sprinkel; Philip Tiedtke; Roger K. Thompson; Ed Timberlake; Harold and Libby Ward; Warren “Chip” Weston; Tom and Penny Yochum; and Victor and Jackie A. Zollo.
Copyright 2020 by Winter Park Publishing Company LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part is prohibited without written permission of the copyright holder. Winter Park Magazine is published four times yearly by Winter Park Publishing Company LLC, 201 West Canton Avenue, Suite 125B, Winter Park, Florida 32789.
FOR GENERAL INFORMATION, CALL: 407-647-0225 For advertising information, call: Kathy Byrd, 407-399-7111; Theresa Swanson, 407-448-8414; or Dena Buoniconti, 407-832-9542 Like us on Facebook or visit us online at winterparkmag.com
10 W I N T E R P A R K M A G A ZI N E | FALL 2020
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SALUTING ‘THE VENICE OF AMERICA’
DON SONDAG CAPTURES THE TROPICAL BEAUTY OF WINTER PARK’S CANALS.
on Sondag has painted two of the past three Sondag, a native of Winter Park, earned a BFA from the covers of Winter Park Magazine, and a total Rhode Island School of Design. He also studied painting of four in all — the most of any single artist. and portraiture at the National Academy of Design and Somehow, though, we don’t think our readers the Art Students League in New York City. will tire of seeing Sondag’s extraordinary images — espeIn addition to painting, Sondag teaches at the Crealdé cially his photorealistic landscapes. School of Art, where he joined the faculty in 1990. He has In this issue, writer Greg Dawson explores the history of also taught at Seminole State College, Walt Disney ImagiWinter Park’s iconic Scenic Boat Tour — and we were lookneering and Walt Disney Feature Animation. ing for an image of the canals through which the familiar He has accepted portrait commissions from the Dr. P. pontoon boats travel. Phillips Foundation, Seminole State College, Tupperware As luck would have it, Sondag had in April staged an exBrands Corporation and the University of Central Florida, hibition of original pieces called Venetian Canals of Winter among many other institutional clients. His image of the Park: The Art of Don Sondag, which ran through April 12 at iconic Fred Rogers (Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood) hangs in the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens. (Because Don Sondag is known for portraits, but the lobby of Tiedtke Concert Hall on the campus of Rollins. of COVID-19, the exhibition had to be viewed online.) Sondag’s work has also been featured on posters for the he’s also a world-class plein air artist. A painting of the Fern Canal as it opens onto Lake OsceWinter Park Sidewalk Art Festival and Casa Feliz, and is ola — which was part of that collection — graces this issue’s prominent in many private collections. “I paint portraits cover. Featured prominently are the banana trees that boat tour operators say primarily but love to paint outdoors,” he says. “Capturing the light, color and are so fascinating to many out-of-town riders. The title: Venetian Canal: Comform is what I try to compose in my paintings.” ing to the End. — Randy Noles
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PALM HILLS Coming soon to Winter Park’s booming shopping and dining district along U.S. Highway 17-92 is an extraordinary and upscale new destination, brought to you by the developers of Park Hill Townhomes on North Park Avenue. It’s a commercial project that will feature all the design sensibilities you’ll find in Hill Gray Seven LLC’s magnificent custom homes. It will be the gem of what was once called Winter Park’s Million Dollar Mile. Palm Hills will offer 25,000 square feet of luxury dining and retail space. The opportunity exists now to lease space in these stunning new buildings, which are destined to become landmarks. Palm Hills is yet another legacy project from Hill Gray Seven LLC
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“I was that kid who drew all the time,” recalls John Nadeau. “In middle school, I discovered comics. And I decided: ‘I want to do that.’” Nadeau still draws mind-bending comics, but has recently begun to display his oil paintings at one-man shows.
SEQUENTIAL ARTISTRY John Nadeau draws comic books — but not like the ones you remember reading as a kid. And he’s making some noise in the fine art world, too. BY RANDY NOLES PHOTOGRAPHY BY RAFAEL TONGOL
16 W I N T E R P A R K M A G A ZI N E | FALL 2020
ohn Nadeau was a senior at Winter Park High School when he landed his first professional gig as a comic book artist. He penciled a western called Best of the West for Americomics, a Longwood-based independent publisher that specialized in Golden Age-style adventure and superhero titles. He thought, in retrospect, that his 1989 effort looked awful. Luckily, he says, veteran comic book inker Dick Ayers took the penciled pages and “cleaned them up considerably” by adding depth, weight and richness with his pen and brush. “I didn’t actually see it in print until I was away at college,” says Nadeau, who admits that his high school “cool quotient” increased exponentially at having a forthcoming professional credit. “They mailed a copy to me. My excitement at doing anything at all eclipsed the fact that I didn’t think it was very good.” Comics, for the uninitiated, are often drawn in pencil. Then, for purposes of reproduction, another artist embellishes the pencils with India ink. A good inker brings his or her own flair to the penciled pages. Ayers — who in the 1960s had been the primary inker on the legendary Jack Kirby’s artwork for Marvel Comics — was one of the greats. From Best of the West through Aliens and Star Wars, Nadeau, 49, has penciled and inked his way into the upper echelon of comic artists through his mastery of complex, futurist machinery and a vivid imagination that conjures up gigantic space colonies in which cities are enclosed in cylinders that float through deep space. Such a megalopolis is the setting for a recent series of selfpublished comics called Vector, which combine the seemingly disparate worlds of science fiction with fine-art smuggling. The stories are fun, but the real treat is Nadeau’s art, which depicts the self-contained colony and its denizens in exquisite detail. “I was that kid who drew all the time,” recalls Nadeau, who as a child moved to Maitland from Syracuse, New York, with his family. “In middle school, I discovered comics. And I decided: ‘I want to do that.’” More specifically, Nadeau discovered the work of Britishborn comic artist John Byrne, who in the late 1970s was teamed with writer Chris Claremont on Marvel Comics’ The X-Men. Byrne and Claremont revitalized the title and made its Canadian character, Wolverine, among the most popular in Marvel’s publishing history. If Marvel (whose characters included Spider-Man, the Hulk and the Fantastic Four) and D.C. (whose characters includ-
Nadeau, who briefly pursued a career as an aeronautical engineer, loves to render complex machinery and futuristic structures, such as the image from Vector (facing page) of a vehicle speeding along the streets of a floating space megalopolis.
FA L L 2 0 2 0 | W IN T ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
Nadeau didn’t much like his first published comic book work, 1989’s Best of the West (above), but says the retro shoot-’em-up was salvaged by inking from Dick Ayers, a former stalwart at Marvel Comics. More recently, Nadeau has continued drawing and publishing comics while expanding his horizons to encompass oil painting. Take, for example, Yellow Flower Tree (right), a view of Park Avenue from Central Park.
ed Superman, Batman and the Justice League of America) comprised the comic book equivalent of the major leagues, there were some far-more-accessible minor-leaguers doing good work as well. Nadeau connected with one of them, Americomics, when he met publisher Bill Black at a comic book convention at a hotel on Lee Road. Black was already an industry notable, having drawn stories for Warren Publishing’s popular black-and-white horror magazines Creepy and Eerie in the 1960s. Those now-defunct periodicals featured the work of Frank Frazetta, Reed Crandall, Joe Orlando, Wally Wood and others who were considered masters of the craft. Several had made their names at E.C. Comics, the company that published stories so gruesome that a U.S. Senate subcommittee on juvenile delinquency met to discuss “the problem of horror and crime comic books” in 1954. (As with rock ‘n’ roll, though, the grownups just didn’t get it. Still, the ensuing brouhaha pushed publishers to offer tamer — or, to be honest, duller — material until the superhero genre really took flight in the early 1960s. Some comic artists subsequently
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came to be regarded as rock stars, and “sequential art” as a discipline began to be regarded seriously.) Nadeau showed Black his portfolio, and shortly thereafter began getting scripts to illustrate. By that time, the comic book industry was no longer driven by single-copy sales at those ubiquitous revolving racks at drug stores (Hey Kids! Comics!) but through direct purchases by comic book retail shops. While having fun, Nadeau nonetheless recognized the need to earn a living and drifted away from comics, where creators remained poorly paid despite their increasing panache. He enrolled at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach to pursue study as an aerospace en-
gineer. “I realized, though, that I just didn’t have the math skills,” he recalls. “I hit the wall at differential equations.” Short and frustrating stints at Embry-Riddle and later Florida State University confirmed the futility of the effort. “The more I discovered my ineptitude in mathematics, the more I wanted to go back to comics,” says Nadeau, who began drawing again for Americomics in 1991. The title he was assigned was Femforce, an “allgirl” team of shapely superheroines that included some new characters and some that dated from the 1940s and had been resurrected from public domain. The characters were pure eye candy for young male readers, but there was a certain
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Nadeau is hard at work on issue three of Vector, a comic book that depicts a massive space colony and its denizens — some of whom are involved in art smuggling.
20 W I N T E R P A R K M A GAZI N E | FALL 2020
nostalgic quaintness to the series — which is still being published despite its political incorrectness. By the late 1990s, Nadeau had moved on to a galaxy far, far away with a series of Star Wars comics for Dark Horse, an Oregon-based publisher. A one-off issue that featured bounty hunter Boba Fett was voted “Best Original Star Wars Comic” by readers of Star Wars Galaxy, an officially licensed magazine that focused on collectibles related to the film series. Nadeau also drew Aliens-themed mini-comics, which were packaged with action figures from the screamworthy science fiction film, as well as several issues of Wolverine for Marvel and Green Lantern for D.C. Most comic artists love drawing iconic superheroes. But Nadeau was really more suited for the elaborate machinery and horrifying bug-like monsters in Aliens. Later, as the comic book industry slumped, Nadeau began to expand his horizons and completed a degree in film production technology from UCF. He also scripted and produced a low-budget feature film — never completed — which he describes as “a horrible idea involving pizza delivery drivers who get involved with murderers.” Discouraged, Nadeau returned again to drawing and found an outlet for his love of structures and contraptions as a commercial artist and architectural renderer. He worked for various clients in Central Florida and around the world, including GoCovergence, HHCP Architects, OBM International, Simiosys, Sonesta, the Walt Disney Company and others. He has subsequently sought to enter the fine art world by honing his painting skills through classes at the Crealdé School of Art. In 2018, he began doing oil paintings for The Art of Disney Galleries, and his creations have been featured in several one-man shows — including one earlier this year at Winter Park City Hall. But for Nadeau, the lure of comics remains strong. In 2017, he co-wrote and illustrated the series Murder Society for the Dark Horse anthology Dark Horse Presents. And two issues have been printed, but not yet distributed, of Vector, set in the meticulously rendered space colony. What’s the future of comic books? “I’m the last person to ask,” says Nadeau, who confesses that he enjoys creating comics but is generally ambivalent about the business model that keeps the industry afloat. “I suppose everything is going digital.” Well, hopefully not everything. Nadeau is currently hard at work — using a pencil and illustration board — on the third issue of Vector. “Making comics is better than making movies,” he says. “You have the scope of a big-budget movie, but you don’t have to depend on other people — and you have complete control.”
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Skipper Alan Woods points out the sights during a recent trip through the picturesque lakes and canals that comprise the venerable Scenic Boat Tour. In a normal year — which 2020 is decidedly not — the hourlong excursion attracts between 40,000 and 50,000 riders.
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CANAL ZONE WINTER PARK’S SCENIC BOAT TOUR REMAINS AS IDYLLIC AS EVER, WHILE THE SKIPPERS ADD A DASH OF PERSONAL QUIRKINESS.
; BY GREG DAWSON PHOTOGRAPHY BY RAFAEL TONGOL
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The scenery is amazing, but for many customers the nine skippers are the highlight of the boat tour. The team includes (left to right): Dan Lancaster, Alan Woods, Ron Hightower (the owner, who doesn’t pilot a boat), Drew Smith, Fred Austin, Lee Adler, David Wittman, Peter Rice, Wendell Phillips and Tom Smith. The adventure gets underway every day except Christmas from a modest boathouse (facing page) on the shores of Lake Osceola.
n high summer, the best time to take the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour is morning, on the first boat out at 10 a.m. Then, the lake is still glassy and the air fresh before the sultry afternoon doldrums descend. Such was the idyllic tableau the Monday morning in mid-August when I arrived at the venerable tour boathouse on the southwest shore of Lake Osceola, a 10-minute walk from downtown. I’d come to enjoy the excursion in preparation for a story on what is said to be the longest continuously operated tourist attraction in Florida. “I’m not the original driver,” quips Tom Smith as I board the pontoon boat. Smith, 67, is among the most senior of the boat tour’s nine pilots, more affectionately called “skippers” a la the bumbling, blustery Skipper on TV’s Gilligan’s Island. (Played by Alan Hale Jr., for all you trivia buffs.) Smith figures that in 10 years, he has conducted close to 13,000 tours of Winter Park’s lakes and canals. That means he’s guided his craft some 156,000 miles — all the while delivering good-natured banter (and more than a few corny jokes). He talks about the city’s history and calls upon a storehouse of factoids about the flora and fauna that are at times so close to the boat that passengers can reach out and touch swaying palms, grand cypress trees, lush ferns and riots of flourishing subtropical flowers. The Scenic Boat Tour, which was closed for most of March through May because of COVID-19, is back, once again wending its way along three of the city’s six canal-connected lakes (Osceola, Virginia and Maitland) and offering peeks into the manicured backyards of opulent homes, the residents of which mostly offer friendly waves. The driver at the helm of the first “Venice of America” tour on January 1, 1938, was the man who started it, Walt C. Meloon — better known as “W.C.”
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— a New England transplant and entrepreneur who would later found a boating empire. A vintage photo of the maiden voyage shows a grinning W.C. wearing what appears to be a yacht captain’s cap. Seated behind him in the long wooden boat are 25 city officials, businessmen and their spouses who have unwittingly (and literally) participated in the launch of what would become arguably the city’s most iconic business. Eighty-two years and a pandemic later, the scene was starkly different for my tour. The vessel — one of a fleet of six — was now an aluminum pontoon boat with a seating capacity of 18, reduced to nine by social distancing. (The drivers wear masks and the boats are disinfected after each outing.) And on this Monday morning, I was Skipper Tom’s only passenger. In a normal year B.C. — before COVID — the tour attracted about 120 riders per day, or between 40,000 to 50,000 riders per year. Despite wars and hurricanes, tours had been held almost every day (except Christmas) since the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. There had been no prolonged shutdowns until the virus arrived. “We’re now doing about 20 percent of our usual business,” says owner Ron Hightower. “This time of year, we depend mostly on international travelers. People come from around the world. One time I put up a map with pins, and after a month or two I couldn’t find anyplace people weren’t from. Obviously, right now no one is flying.” The federal Paycheck Protection Program helped pay the skippers and keep the business, well, afloat. “It’s been challenging,” Hightower says. It was indeed challenging — to say nothing of a bit awkward — for Smith to have an audience of only one to hear his entertaining shtick. It wasn’t unlike Steven Colbert or Jimmy Fallon doing jokes for empty theaters with
only the band present to offer titters and guffaws. I was the band on this trip. I told Smith to pretend there were other passengers and to do his normal routine. “OK,” he said. “If you like the tour, I’m Tom. If not, I’m Robert.” (Cue the rim shot.) The pontoon chugged away from the dock. Smith immediately busted through the fourth wall, turning and explaining: “By now I’ve usually told everyone how much better-looking I am in a mask.”
come a land baron,” says Walt Meloon, a Belle Isle resident. W.C., his wife and three sons moved to Orlando in 1924 from their farm on the Maine-New Hampshire border. The boom, however, went bust, ruining many who had journeyed to the Sunshine State to make their fortunes. But W.C. wasn’t easily deterred. “He looked around and saw a lot of water and all those lakes,” says his grandson. “So, he decided he needed to build boats.” Declaring that he intended to build watercraft “for the glory of God,” W.C. called his new venture in Pine Castle on South Orange Avenue the Florida Variety Boat Company. The story goes he changed the name to Correct Craft in 1936 after hearing a radio ad touting shoes with “the correct heel for your feet.” He liked the idea of pitching his boats as “the correct craft for you.” The fledgling company originally built and sold powerboats, race boats and even sailboats. But W.C. didn’t confine himself to water vessels. The company dredged sand from lakes for beaches. It won a contract to build a dam and waterslides for Sanlando Springs, a recreational area between Orlando and Sanford. It installed cypress-wood walls (subsequently replaced by concrete) to shore up the deteriorating banks of the Winter Park canals. It even built boathouses. In addition to becoming a leader in recreational watercraft, Correct Craft was contracted by the government during World War II to build pontoon-like boats that served as bridges to carry troops and armaments across rivers. In 2008, when the Meloons sold the last of their stock in the company, Correct Craft was the oldest family-owned boat maker in America. For all his wider renown, W.C.’s best-loved legacy remains the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour. This, too, was an idea he brought with him from New England, where his boating fixation was born. Says Walt Meloon: “He and his friends would ride around and find a lake where they could put a boat in and tacked up a sign: ‘Rides 45 cents.’” Yet, W.C.’s local venture might well have ended up the Lake Conway Scenic Boat Tour. The family, for a time in the 1930s, offered rides on the Conway Chain of Lakes (25 cents for adults, 10 cents for kids), recalled the late Ralph Meloon, one-time company president, in a 2014 interview. So why did W.C. plant his dream 14 miles away in Winter Park instead of just up the road from Correct Craft on South Orange Avenue? “About that time, there was more development of big homes and more wealth in a concentrated area, which was Winter Park,” says Walt Meloon. “It was much more attractive. And the canals were the clincher — the pure, raw beauty. The Conway lakes didn’t have anything like that.”
FROM TOUR GUIDE TO TYCOON
DO THE STORIES HOLD WATER?
God created the breathtaking Winter Park lakes, as well as the plant and animal life that these ecosystems support. Man, though, created the enchanting canals. Well, sort of. Swampy connectors apparently already existed but were basically impassable — and therefore useless for transportation or commerce until they were widened and bolstered. The City of Winter Park, which was originally envisioned as a New England-themed resort town, began its life as a rarified tourist attraction in the late 1880s. It just took an ambitious visionary like W.C. Meloon to make the elevated enclave more accessible to those who weren’t Northern industrialists occupying its so-called “cottages.” “W.C. was quite an entrepreneur — building, making, creating,” says his grandson Walt Meloon, one of many Walts in the lineage. “He had an inventor’s mind. He built a boat with a Model T engine and an airplane propeller. It was really an airboat. He did automotive repairs and had one of the first motels — or trail lodges — in New Hampshire.” Then his New Hampshire garage burned down, and W.C. — among countless others — heard that exotic Florida was the land of milk and honey. “There was a land boom going on and he decided to move to Florida to be-
“Duck your head!” Smith shouts as we pass under a low bridge on the Fern Canal. “This is the point where passengers usually decide to get up and introduce themselves.” Noting imperfections along the way, Smith says: “Lumberjacks did this. Looks like they had some cocktails before digging.” Sobriety aside, it seems to be true that lumber companies widened the clogged and narrow waterways in the 19th century to float harvested logs from nearby forests to sawmills. Later, between 1935 and 1938, private and public funds paid for rebuilding the rotting cypress barrier walls to make the canals more boater friendly. From 1976 to 1978, the City of Winter Park and the Florida Boating Improvement Program, a division of the Department of Environmental Protection, undertook another rehabilitation project. The results, as anyone who has ever taken the boat tour can attest, are stunning. Enveloped by a canopy of ferns, ancient oaks, banana plants, bamboo, cypress and palm trees, we glide past briefly glimpsed homes on either side and into the open water of Lake Virginia. Smith points to the Rollins College campus on the northern shore, where the school’s ski and rowing teams practice on the lake. “People ask about the thing that looks like the roof of a sunken house,” Smith says. “It’s the ski jump.” FA L L 2 0 2 0 | W IN T ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
The boat tour, which debuted in 1938, may be the longest continuously operated tourist attraction in Florida. This postcard from the early 1950s demonstrates that it has a long history of attracting plenty of customers — although its capacity is currently limited due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Especially in his Skipper Tom persona, Smith can be gently mischievous with visitors from distant places, such as Maine. Bobbing in the water near the ski jump are colorful buoys for a slalom course. When a passenger from the Pine Tree State wondered if they were lobster traps, Smith didn’t skip a beat: “Yes, fresh-water lobsters.” The geography and vegetation encountered along the canals are a mystery to many passengers. “People from places like Sweden and New York freak out when they see bananas,” says Smith as we meander through the Venetian Canal to Lake Maitland. “They’ve never seen bananas growing.” Some even point to one of the gaudy mansions in the distance and ask if Donald Trump lives there. No, Smith patiently explains, he lives in Mar-aLago, some 200 miles away. There are the inevitable questions about alligators, but according to Smith, none are ever seen along the route. “We don’t have them anymore,” he says. In fact, about 150 of the frightening reptiles were taken from the Winter Park Chain of Lakes and repatriated to Seminole County’s more primitive Lake Jesup in the late 1980s. Smith runs through a litany of places and stories familiar to locals. How the historic Capen-Showalter House was cut in two and transported on barges across Lake Osceola to the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens. “Fred and Ginger dancing across the lake,” as he describes the project. Then there’s the Brewer House, a 21-room mansion built in 1889 by industrialist Edward Hill Brewer. At the insistence of Brewer’s homesick wife, Edna, it was designed to be an exact replica of the family’s estate in New York. Sometimes, though, the stories should be taken with a proverbial grain of salt. Smith points out a red-brick house that he says was built (and occupied) by the indulgent parents of Fred Rogers (Rollins College, Class of 1951) so that the music composition major could have a proper piano on which to practice. “Well, that’s the story we tell,” Smith says with a grin. To be clear, the man who would become known to the world as Mister Rogers through the PBS series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, did retain a lifelong connection to Winter Park. He rented a house near Osceola Avenue for seasonal visits with his wife, Joanne, who also graduated from Rollins. But his parents, James and Nancy Rogers, lived in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. This is, of course, quibbling. Drivers are not allowed to identify current residents — famous or not — of lake homes. But they’re free to name-drop past residents. “There’s the house built by the founder of Walgreens,” Smith points out. “As soon as it was built, CVS put one up next door even bigger.” Tom Hanks never lived in the so-called “Tom Hanks House,” Smith notes
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of a Venetian-style home that can be seen from Lake Osceola. But it was, he says, used in filming Hanks’ HBO series From the Earth to the Moon, getting about 30 seconds of airtime as the home of an astronaut. He later points out the sprawling home of former Orlando Magic star Horace Grant, who turned the ballroom into a basketball court. And over there is the historic Alabama Hotel (now condominiums) whose guests included the likes of Margaret Mitchell, H.G. Wells and Sinclair Lewis. “And that’s my house to the right,” says Smith, ever the joker. Along the way, across the three lakes and two canals, Smith is hailed by friends in boathouses or kayaks. “Hey, Bobby, come ahead!” he shouts, offering right-of-way to a kayak coming at us through the narrow canal. “You’re good to go, guys!” he signals another, before yet again spying a familiar figure and calling out: “How ya doing, sweetie!” Smith turns to me and says: “I know way too many people here.”
‘IT JUST GIVES YOU A SPECIAL FEELING’ The boat tour has changed hands several times over the decades. Wanda Salerno, a legendary Winter Park booster, and her husband, Frank, bought it in 1981 and ran it for 14 years, pumping up its popularity with aggressive advertising on International Drive. In 1995, Hightower and his granddad Stanford Smith — a boat tour driver and manager since 1971 — jumped at a ticket to ride. “The Salernos were interested in selling and we were interested in carrying on the tradition,” Hightower says. “I grew up in Winter Park and worked down here in my early teens, gassing up boats and that sort of thing.” For Smith, who worked into his late 90s and died in 2013 at 100, the boat tour was a second career after retiring from the banking business at 58. His grandson, however, vows that there’ll be no second act for him. “This is my career,” says Hightower, a UCF grad with a degree in business administration. Winter Park’s “Venice of America” isn’t the only “Venice of America” and maybe not the first — even in Florida. In the 1920s, mangrove swamps around Fort Lauderdale were dredged to create a network of waterways including “finger island” subdivisions. The city adopted the “Venice of America” moniker, but it’s not clear if that happened before W.C. went into the boat tour business. Both cities lose out historically to a beachfront theme park/resort with canals near Los Angeles that opened in 1905 with the name “Venice of America.” The area later was absorbed by Los Angeles and became just plain Venice. “I only know we used [the slogan] from the very beginning in 1938,” Hightower says. “I never heard of the other.” Winter Park’s “Venice of America” was fortuitously well-positioned to hang on at a time when many small businesses succumbed to the pandemic economy. “We’ve worked hard to keep prices affordable for families,” Hightower says. Ticket prices are $14 for adults, $7 for children (under age 2 ride free). An undated brochure from the early days shows the price of a ticket at $1.50 for adults and 75 cents for kids. Adjusted for inflation, that $1.50 ticket today would be $27. And parking is free. So the experience remains a notable and refreshingly homespun bargain. In a city blessed with an embarrassment of tourist-attracting riches, the boat tour is tops, says Camellia Gurley, concierge at the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce. “It’s the No. 1 thing we promote,” she says. “It’s so loved. I don’t think anything compares to it. If someone from out of town comes to see me, I say, ‘Let’s do this!’ It just gives you a special feeling.” On the still placid waters of Lake Osceola, Skipper Tom concludes his narrative and guides the pontoon back to the dock after the hourlong tour, which, once again, has miraculously averted the fate of Gilligan’s marooned S.S. Minnow. “The canals are so unique that even if I didn’t say a word it would be a great trip,” he says. But not quite as great. And let the record show that Skipper Tom is actually better looking without a mask.
During the boat tour, you’ll see swaying palms, towering cypress trees, lush ferns and a variety of subtropical flowers as well as breathtaking views of opulent private homes lining the lakes and canals. But you likely won’t see alligators — they were rounded up and transplanted to more rustic Lake Jesup in the 1980s. FA L L 2 0 2 0 | W IN T ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
FORMER DRUMMER AND ACTOR Fred Austin, 70, was a real character even before he was paid to be one. He grew up in Yonkers, just north of New York City, with dreams of pursuing a career in theater. Instead, he says, “I pursued drumming for 25 years, playing in show bands.” But the acting bug beckoned and in 1992 Austin moved to Central Florida, where he joined Universal Orlando playing a series of real characters — including Merlin, Dudley Do-Right, Harry Henderson and Frankenstein’s monster. His final role was Wandkeeper at Ollivander’s Wand Shop in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Later a friend mentioned the Scenic Boat Tour, and Austin was intrigued. “I felt it was a good fit for me, especially with my mouth,” he says. “I enjoyed comedic acting, but I really wanted to be a stand-up comedian.” And now, that’s pretty much what he is (though standing up is an option). What did a kid from Yonkers know about boating? “I’ve been familiar with boating all my life,” Austin says. “I loved boats so much that I made sure I had friends who had boats.” Of course, during the tour Austin dispenses more than jokes. He’s there to inform as well as entertain. “I try to be spontaneous. If I see something in a boat going by that amuses me, I’ll say something,” he says. “But I try not to make it ‘The Fred Austin Show.’ It’s not about me, it’s about the boat tour.” Austin still draws on all those years portraying theme park characters. “We (drivers) all have funny lines that are kind of our routines,” he adds. “I learned that in the theme park, where you have a new audience for six shows a day. It’s never boring — I never get tired of doing this.”
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FORMER RESTAURATEUR, SOCIAL WORKER AND BARTENDER After graduating from the University of Florida in 1974, at age 21, Tom Smith opened a Domino’s franchise. “I lost my ass on that, but fell in love with Winter Park,” he says. “I’ve been in the same house on the west side of Lake Virginia since 1975. I’ve had a boat every day since I bought the house. The boat tour was one of the first things I did when I moved here, and it convinced me what a cool place this is.” It sounds like the gregarious Smith and the Scenic Boat Tour were made for one another — and perhaps they were. But first there were several landlubber careers: social worker, owner and manager of bars and restaurants, and a 21-year stint tending bar at Apopka’s legendary Townsend’s Fish House and Tavern, which closed in 2000. “I felt I did 10 times more social work tending bar,” says Smith, 67, laughing. It was, however, good basic training for his future gig as boat tour guide, where people skills are paramount. So were the chatty and informative walking excursions that he conducted for Winter Park City Tours. “It was short lived but made me learn as much as I could about the history of Winter Park,” he says. With 10 years and more than 10,000 trips under his belt, Smith is today one of the tour’s senior skippers. “I know an awful lot of people in Winter Park,” he says. “I probably have 1,000 regulars.” His presentation of “fun, facts and humor” obviously has worn well. “My whole goal,” he says, “is to give people a one-hour vacation.” FA L L 2 0 2 0 | W IN T ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
FORMER TV NEWS ANCHOR
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In a five-decade career highlighted by professional pinnacles, David Wittman, 70, was the lead anchor for major-market TV stations in Detroit, Boston, Cleveland and Orlando, where he manned the news desk at WKMG-Channel 6 for a decade and fell in love with Winter Park. But, as it happened, Wittman didn’t pursue his true calling until recently. Now, however, the erstwhile broadcaster — who’s still recognized by longtime locals — proudly describes his profession on LinkedIn as simply: “Tour guide at the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour.” Notes Wittman: “I think I always had it mind. I threatened Ron [Hightower, owner] that when I got out of the TV game, I was going to work for him or buy him out.” After leaving his final anchor gig in Cleveland, Wittman returned to Winter Park in 2018 and landed a job in the tour boat ticket office, “selling Cokes, cleaning toilets and emptying the trash. Eventually Ron said, ‘You want to drive?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I want to do that.’” Even before leaving Cleveland, Wittman and his wife had bought a condo on the Fern Canal, a leg of the tour. Ever the newsgatherer, he prepared for his stint as a driver by reading every book available about Winter Park history and spending countless hours combing through the archives and special collections area at Rollins College, where he uncovered fascinating tidbits to share with ticket buyers. The theme of Wittman’s tour narration: “The Secrets of Winter Park.” A typical nugget: “After Hurricane Donna in 1960, there was a push to widen the canals to a 100 feet because there was flooding. Thankfully, that did not survive a vote in local government. Just imagine how that would have changed things.”
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REGGIE JONES HAS PERHAPS THE LAST BLACK-OWNED BUSINESS IN HISTORIC HANNIBAL SQUARE. BUT HIS EYES ARE ON THE FUTURE.
By Greg Dawson Photography by Rafael Tongol
o one at West & Kennedy is named West or Kennedy, and you won’t find the Winter Park business at the corner of West and Kennedy because there are no streets in the city with those names. The moniker suggests lawyers, accountants or interior designers — pretty much anything but what it is: a barbershop transplanted from Eatonville. Located at the corner of West New England and Pennsylvania avenues in the historic Hannibal Square business district on the city’s traditionally African-American west side, West & Kennedy sits squarely at the intersection of the city’s storied past and evolving future. Reggie Jones’ shop is now, as nearly as can be determined, the only Blackowned business where African-American enterprises — banks, grocers, theaters, nightclubs, ice cream parlors, and candy and soda shops — once thrived before a period of decay and decline in the 1980s and 1990s. Then gentrification and boutique culture changed the west side’s commercial district. West New England Avenue is now a cavalcade of storefronts for high-end products and services such as medical spas, title agencies, luxury real estate, proms and weddings, beauty salons, and an EPCOT-worthy array of ethnic restaurants including Mexican, Italian, French and Indian. The nearest soul food restaurant is in downtown Orlando. A hair salon next door to West & Kennedy — Royal Salon and African Boutique — closed about five years ago. But at one time, there were more than two dozen Black-owned businesses in Hannibal Square, says Fairolyn Livingston, 74, a local historian who was born at home on the city’s west side. The African-American presence today has been reduced to Jones’ establishment, an obelisk across the street in front of Shady Park commemorating the historic neighborhood and the Hannibal Square Heritage Center,
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where displays and oral histories preserve memories of the neighborhood’s past. “For me it’s like being a stranger in our own land,” Livingston says. The irony is not lost on Jones, 51, but it’s just not the point. “It doesn’t mean anything to me,” he says. Jones is too busy cutting hair and running a business to spend time pondering the curiosity of his status as the solitary Black proprietor in Hannibal Square, which was set aside for Black businesses by the city’s founders in the 1880s. As a U.S. president once said, it is what it is. But make no mistake: Jones is keenly aware of “it,” runs his business in a way that he believes will allow him to survive and thrive in an area that’s both steeped in history and enlivened by activism over issues of inclusion and representation. Which brings us to the delphic name: West & Kennedy. When Jones opened the shop in 2009, it carried the same name as his successful shop in neighboring Eatonville: Superman Fades to Fros, a bow to his most famous client, former Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, dubbed “Superman” for his soaring slum dunks. The eight-time All Star now plays for the Los Angeles Lakers. Jones found that the words fades and fros — hair styles popular among Black men — didn’t resonate in Winter Park as they had in Eatonville. He had encountered the same problem with a short-lived shop in the Dr. Phillips area, prompting him to change the name from Superman Fades to Fros to Superman Pro Barber Shop. “It was a great location right off Turkey Lake Road,” Jones says. “The name change came when I realized Fades to Fros was like an urban name for the urban community. Most people didn’t know what we were doing.” It pained Jones to drop a name that had brought him a star-studded list of friends and clients from the world of sports, music, acting, journalism
Reggie Jones has what is likely the only Blackowned business in Hannibal Square. While he reveres the neighborhoodâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s history, he believes the key to success is bringing people together and serving a diverse clientele.
FA L L 2 0 2 0 | W INT ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
When Jones opened his Hannibal Square barbershop in 2009, it carried the same name as his previous location in neighboring Eatonville: Superman Fades to Fros, a bow to his most famous client, former Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, dubbed “Superman” for his soaring slum dunks. Howard’s signed jersey (above) is featured prominently at the shop, which was renamed West & Kennedy in 2010.
and haute cuisine. But being a clear-eyed realist, Jones saw the same writing on the wall for the Winter Park shop. In 2010, he changed its name to West & Kennedy, a subtle homage to the shop in Eatonville, which closed in 2016.
FROM FADES TO FROS Reggie Jones was born in Gainesville and grew up an only child in Williston in nearby Levy County. His father died when he was young. After graduating from high school in 1987, Jones moved to Orlando with a culinary career in mind. He landed a job at EPCOT working as a line cook under legendary chef Shawn Loving, who was summoned by the NBA this summer when players in Disney’s Wide World of Sports “bubble” found the fare most foul. But Jones kept returning to fond memories of childhood, when his mother cut his hair. “I always liked the idea of being a barber because my mother was a hair stylist,” he says. “That got me intrigued. I realized that was my true pas-
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sion. They had this great [barbering] program out in Houston, so I took my chances and moved to Texas. From there things started blossoming.” The owners of the barber school where Jones learned his trade were so impressed by his enthusiasm and aptitude that they invited him to train as an instructor, he says. He taught barbering until 1998, by which time he was married with two young sons. His wife, from whom he is now divorced, had 10 siblings in Central Florida, so the family returned. Jones joined an Eatonville shop where he rented a chair — a common practice in the barbering business — and was soon attracting a parade of clients. “The owner had an issue with that,” he says. “I was growing so fast, I got kicked out of the shop.” He spent 18 happier months at a shop on Forest City Road. But when the owner closed the business, Jones returned to Eatonville, the oldest Black-incorporated municipality in the U.S., and found a location where he could go out on his own. His former co-workers followed him and became employees of Fades to Fros. As in many Black communities, the business quickly became as much a community center as a barbershop. Penny Jordan, a Maitland photographer, shot countless rolls of film in Jones’ decidedly old-school operation for a pair of black-andwhite photography exhibitions that have been displayed at Orlando City Hall and the Crealdé
School of Art. “Every time I walked into the shop, time stopped,” says Jordan. “There was connection, there was conversation, there was counseling. A moment of pause in a fast-paced world.” Traditional barbershops, she adds, “are one of the last places where people connect; one of the last places where there’s something inimitable — something beneath the surface we don’t pay attention to anymore.” Fades to Fros benefited from word-of-mouth advertising that money can’t buy. DJs at Black-oriented radio stations gravitated to the shop and would always give the business a shout-out on the air. Tampa Bay Bucs players who were training at Disney also found their way to Eatonville, at times causing the shop’s small parking lot to resemble an exotic car emporium. Some of the star power of his clients rubbed off on Jones, who soon found himself being profiled in magazines and included on lists of best barbers. “Business was growing, and barbers wanted to come work at a well-known shop,” Jones says. Other Magic players, coaches and executives became regulars — including former player and general manager Otis Smith. Often, the Magic players brought along visitors such as superstar Kevin Durant, now a power forward with the Brooklyn Nets. From outside the arena of sport came the likes of comedian-actor Chris Tucker, Grammy-winning rapper-producer Rodney Jerkins and sports-
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REIMAGINING A LEGACY
“I see ’em all the same,” Jones says of the people, many of them regulars, who frequent his shop. “I’ve been around money and I’ve been around wealth. I’ve been around a lot of things I didn’t come from. My exposure to athletes and entertainers and other business guys — they made me comfortable with that. We try to take care of the entire community.”
writer-broadcaster (and former Orlando Sentinel sports columnist) Jemele Hill. Low-key Eatonville, it seemed, had become home base for a barber to the stars. Even Jones’ erstwhile employer, Shawn Loving — whose fare is favored by NBA players and who has worked as personal chef to Chauncey Billups, Ben Wallace, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace of the Detroit Pistons — patronized Fades to Fros. It was all good. And likely would have been the final career chapter for Jones if he hadn’t been approached by an anonymous “angel” to continue
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There had been a Black-owned barbershop on the corner for more than 60 years — but the storefront was now vacant. Would Jones be interested in relocating his business? The angel said she could connect Jones to the owner of the building, Darryl E. Straughter, an African-American property investor and school administrator who lived in Brooklyn but was born in Winter Park. Straughter’s father, known as “Speight,” had operated a drug and sundry shop in Hannibal Square in the 1940s, so given that background his son would likely have been eager to encourage Blackowned enterprises in the old neighborhood. “To this day I don’t know the name of the person who made the connection,” says Jones. “That’s why I call her an angel. But she gave me the opportunity to continue the legacy. All I had to do was continue growing.” Mission accomplished. West & Kennedy has continued to grow, but into something quite different and more reflective of what the business district has become. It’s a safe bet, for example, that West & Kennedy is the first barbershop in Hannibal Square to have a consultant with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in hospitality management. Allen English, 31, is a client who became Jones’
advisor two years ago. English, a graduate of UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management and Cornell University’s SC Johnson College of Business (otherwise known as “The Hotel School”), has become one of Jones’ most vocal boosters and an ideological soulmate. “We’ve kind of changed the vision of what it means to have a Black-owned barbershop on this corner,” says English, who notes that West & Kennedy attracts a multiracial clientele. Indeed, on any given day, the customers coming and going from Jones’ shop appear as diverse as a carefully curated CNN focus group. English, who grew up in Lake Mary, says he was looking for an African-American barber when he discovered Fades to Fros as a college student in 2007. “I found a barber shop that made me feel welcome,” he says. “Also, at that point Reggie was Dwight Howard’s barber, so the appeal of his celebrity also attracted me.” But it was Jones’ skill with a pair of hair clippers that kept him coming back. When he was away at Cornell, English adds, he let his hair grow out. “I wouldn’t get my hair cut for four or five months because I just didn’t trust anyone else,” he says. “I’d wait until I came home to have Reggie do it.” English, who in 2013 started a consulting firm called Horseshoe Hospitality, says he and Jones are considering ways to engage the community and promote social equity. And they’re seeking guidance
DR. DREW BYRNES from people who share their passion for leaving the world a better place than when they found it. “Reggie reached out a few years ago,” says John Rivers, philanthropist and owner of The Coop and 4 Rivers restaurants. “When someone isn’t trying to sell me something or asking for a donation, I’m willing to sit down and have a cup of coffee. What I saw in Reggie is that he’s got such a pure heart. He’s trying to be successful but wants to impact lives. He’s a special individual with a special business.” Haircuts at West & Kennedy are by appointment only. With just three chairs, the stylish interior is cozy and serene — and you won’t find customers waiting four and five hours for a haircut, as an amazed Penny Jordan did in Eatonville when taking photographs at Fades and Fros. Sometimes, Jones even tackles dire hair emergencies. “My granddaughter called me in tears when she was coming home from college,” says Winter Park Realtor Lief Erickson. “Someone screwed up her dreads, or whatever the kids call it. She said, ‘Grandpa, I need a Black woman to do my hair because a white woman just ruined my head!’ I took her to Reggie’s and she just fell in love with the place.” Just another day at the office for Jones. “I see ’em all the same,” he says of his rainbow-coalition clientele. “I’ve been around money and I’ve been around wealth. I’ve been around a lot of things I didn’t come from. My exposure to athletes and entertainers and other business guys — they made me comfortable with that. We try to take care of the entire community.” And there are Winter Parkers — especially those with a sense of history — who understand the symbolic importance of West & Kennedy. One of them is Mike Winn, partner of Erickson’s in ComReal Orlando, a commercial real estate brokerage on Morse Boulevard. When Straughter died in 2011, Winn immediately bought the building in which Jones now plys his trade. “The location intrigued me,” says Winn. “I had no prior aspirations for researching Black heritage or business, but I became interested in the history of Hannibal Square. There’s been a Black-owned barbershop on that corner for many years, and I wanted to preserve that. I did all I could as a landlord to make sure Reggie was going to make it.” Jones says that Winn’s support has been crucial. “If it wasn’t for Mike Winn, there wouldn’t be a West & Kennedy in Hannibal Square,” he notes. But the question remains: is West & Kennedy an anomaly or can other Black-owned businesses survive in Hannibal Square? Such speculation is not unimportant to Jones, who at once is proud of his stature as a survivor but determined to reach beyond race and become a community institution in which the color of one’s skin is irrelevant.
Perhaps both goals can be achieved. English recalls that he and Jones had dinner together at Chez Vincent, next door to the shop, on June 19, otherwise known as Juneteeth — the day on which the emancipation of enslaved people in the U.S. is commemorated. Earlier that day, Black Lives Matter protesters had marched along nearby Park Avenue. The pair happened to sit next to a white couple who had participated in the march. “We talked about the movement, and also about dessert,” recalls English. “They asked us if we had tried the chocolate soufflé. We said no, and they said, ‘We’re going to buy you dessert.’” Later, the couple bought dinner for Jones and English. “It was an incredible gesture given the climate that day,” English recalls. “What they did should be seen as a model for how a small gesture can go a long way in changing perspectives and bringing people together.”
‘EMBRACE OUR COMMONALITIES’ Most of the wall space in West & Kennedy is taken up by colorful photos of athletes, game jerseys and other memorabilia. But two black-andwhite photographs speak volumes about Jones and how he perceives and engages with the world around him. The larger of the prints shows the Rat Pack — Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. — in their Las Vegas heyday. At first blush it seems an outlier, a cultural antique. “That was Reggie’s idea,” English says, noting that Sinatra broke racial barriers by befriending Davis and refusing to perform in venues with discriminatory practices. “This is the message we want to convey,” he notes. “To embrace our commonalities, to positively lift up and support each other — not tear each other down because of differences.” The other photo was a gift from Penny Jordan, who admires Jones for continuing the tradition of operating a Black-owned barbershop on that corner in Hannibal Square. But she makes no secret of her disenchantment with its current iteration. “I would never photograph it,” she says. “It’s too modern for me.” That was a criticism that might sting a lesser man. But not Jones, who recently called Johnson and asked her to stop by the shop when she was in the neighborhood. “I get there, and he pulls out a photograph,” Johnson recalls. “It’s me at the Crealdé show. He says, ‘I want you to sign this.’ I wrote, ‘Thank you for being part of the barbershop documentary.’ “It’s on the wall right above a little table with his barber tools. He’s got me front and center! I said, ‘You gotta take me down, Reggie.’ He just smiled and said: ‘No, you mean the world to me.’”
WHEN IS IT SAFE TO RETURN TO THE DENTIST? With the high number of COVID-19 cases that Florida has seen, this is a question I have been getting asked a lot. The answer depends on two things: your dentist and your comfort level. At Park Smiles, our first core value is to always do the right thing. In this case, that means going above and beyond what’s required to keep you safe. Below, you’ll find a list of just some of the changes we’ve made since reopening: • 7 a.m. appointments for high-risk individuals • Virtual check-ins from your car • Mandatory temperature screenings • Anti-viral mouth rinse • Air purifiers • COVID-19 screening questions • N95 masks and face shields Nothing is as safe as staying home, but you can feel comfortable knowing that you’re as safe as possible returning to the dentist. To date, there’ve been no known COVID-19 outbreaks in a dental office setting. We need to remain as cautious as possible, while keeping in mind that a healthy mouth leads to a healthy body. Ignoring dental problems can often lead to more serious health issues, weakening the immune system. Most of our patients have already returned — but you shouldn’t return until you personally feel comfortable. When that time comes, we’ll be here for you. You can call or text (407) 645-4645 or schedule at DentistWinterPark.com.
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A recent SOKO in Shady Park drew a variety of participants. Among them were (standing, left to right): April Brown of April Brown Music, a singer; Joe Hokey and Kesha King-Hokey of KinJo Kolectiv, makers of custom jewelry; Paul Brown of Bomb Bay Customs, a maker of wood rings, necklaces and longboards; and Stephanie Burke of Power of Potential, a writer and motivational speaker. Others included (sitting, left to right): Baba Hector, an educator, spiritual advisor and author of Orishas The Children’s Book; and LaWanda Thompson, president of the Equity Council Corporation and creator of the monthly marketplace.
‘SOKO’ CULTIVATES ENTREPRENEURS Moving from Atlanta to Winter Park in 2012 was “cultural whiplash” for LaWanda Thompson. The only store she could find in the community that carried her favorite soap was Royal Salon and African Boutique on West New England Avenue in Hannibal Square. “In Atlanta you can find it anywhere,” she says. Royal Salon shut down five years ago, leaving Reggie Jones’ West & Kennedy barbershop next door as the only Black-owned business in a commercial district that once had many such enterprises. “Now if I want to get an African-American type product, I have to leave my community,” Thompson says. “I have to go downtown [Parramore] or even Ocoee, Sanford or Longwood. Nobody is paying attention to all this, and it’s wrong.” Correction: LaWanda Thompson is paying attention — and the record shows that attention must be paid to the 42-year-old activist and mother of three who has emerged as a forceful advocate in the local African-American community. In 2018, Thompson — working with other mothers of color — created The Equity Council Corporation, a multifaceted nonprofit that promotes economic and political justice while advocating for enhanced educational offerings in local public schools. Its first major project was The 1619 Fest, held in Shady Park in February during Black History Month.
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A mix of fun and facts and music, the event took its name from the Pulitzer-prize winning New York Times series exploring the history of slavery in America dating from the arrival of the first Africans in Virginia. Activities included a market for vendors and small businesses to sell products. The 1619 Fest’s success encouraged Thompson and Barbara Chandler, manager of the Hannibal Square Heritage Center, to approach the city with the idea for a SOKO — “market” in Swahili. It’s an event in Shady Park that provides a venue for entrepreneurs of color. Jason Seeley, director of the Parks and Recreation Department, loved the idea and arranged for the city to cover set-up and overhead costs. The first SOKO was held July 5, the first Sunday of the month, and is now held the first Sunday of every month from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Given the fact that it was a new event and happening during a pandemic, Thompson says she was “very happy” with the initial turnout of 20 or so vendors offering an array of goods and services including jewelry, wood crafts, candles and incense, custom shirts, children’s books, personal success coaching and all sorts of food offerings. DJs and musical performers are likewise welcomed. “The Equity Council has also been a great resource for our kids,” adds Seeley. He says the organization
has been instrumental in improving tutoring and other supplementary educational offerings at the west side’s Winter Park Community Center. A more controversial effort that Thompson has helped to spearhead is the effort to switch from atlarge to single-member district voting in Winter Park, giving Black residents clustered on the west side a better chance of gaining a seat on the city commission. (In August, commissioners voted 3-2 to draft an ordinance that would add the single-member districts question to the March 2021 ballot.) Thompson and her husband, Asante, have three children, now 8, 10 and 20. They are proud west side residents, and their home is the 53rd built by Habitat for Humanity of Winter Park-Maitland. Above the front door is a small plaque dedicating the home to Thaddeus Seymour and his wife, Polly. Seymour, who died in 2019, was co-founder and chairman of the local Habitat operation and past president of Rollins College. The SOKO Market, Thompson says, will hopefully outgrow Shady Park and even spawn some brick-and-mortar stores if participants are well supported. “Our community has always supported local businesses,” she observes. “Now we hope to get some of that love in return.” — Greg Dawson
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THE STORY OF A BLUSTERING ‘BOY WONDER,’ AN AILING ACADEMIC ICON, A MILDMANNERED MATH PROF AND THE RANCOR AT ROLLINS COLLEGE THAT SPLIT THE CAMPUS AND THE COMMUNITY FOR DECADES.
ORIGINAL IMAGE COURTESY OF THE ROLLINS COLLEGE ARCHIVES DIGITAL ART BY WILL SETZER/CIRCLE 7 DESIGN STUDIO
Rollins College President Paul Wagner faces an angry crowd of students during a tense on-campus confrontation outside the administration building. Wagner had been dismissed by college trustees but refused to vacate his office, claiming the dismissal was illegal.
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Editor’s Note: The following is a revised and condensed version of a chapter from a 2019 book entitled Rollins After Dark: The Hamilton Holt School’s Nontraditional Journeys. This chapter focuses on the tumultuous years immediately preceding the launching of a formal adult education program at Rollins College, which would be initiated by President Hugh F. McKean and directed by mathematics professor George Sauté. The program — the forerunner of today’s Hamilton Holt School — was, at least in part, a fence-mending response to the public relations damage wrought by the brief presidency of Paul A. Wagner.
eorge Sauté must have been puzzled by several questions on his faculty application for Rollins College when he filled it out in the summer of 1943. It appeared that President Hamilton Holt, whom Sauté had never met but whom he admired as an innovative educational reformer, was looking to weed out potential troublemakers. In addition to the usual questions about academic qualifications, the application asked: “Can you be counted upon for undeviating loyalty to the administration; or, in the event of disagreement, for frank and full discussion of the differences with the administration?” Answered Sauté: “Yes, indeed.” The application asked: “What importance does character assume in your conception of an educational program?” Answered Sauté: “Primary.” The application asked: “In your attitude and participation in political, ethical, religious, educational, etc., questions, is your general approach that of a reactionary, conservative, liberal or radical?” Answered Sauté: “Somewhere between conservative and liberal; a little to the latter.” The application asked: “Rollins, while not sectarian, is a Christian college in origin, also by purpose and intent. Are you in hearty and active sympathy with the character-forming ideals of such an institution, including cooperation with the chapel program?” Answered Sauté, judiciously: “Yes.” The questions may have seemed at best out-of-the-ordinary and at worst intrusive and inappropriate. But Holt had been more careful about faculty hiring since 1932, when he made a spur-of-the-moment decision to offer the iconoclastic John A. Rice a position as professor of classical studies. Rice, whom Holt fired to great upheaval just a year later, was accused of everything from parading about in public clad only in a jock strap (which he denied) to insulting religion and alienating members of the local clergy (which he did not deny). Not long after Rice’s arrival, during a conference dubbed “The Place of the Church in the Modern World,” he had publicly questioned the place of the church generally and in Winter Park, specifically. Addressing a roomful of clergymen, he asked what the impact might be if all the houses of worship along Interlachen Avenue vanished and were replaced by open space. “What difference would it make,” he asked, “and to whom?” Rice offended many others, most notably Frances “Fannie” Knowles Warren, donor of the Knowles Memorial Chapel, by describing the chapel’s inaugural Christmas service as “obscene” within earshot of one of the college’s most generous benefactors. Holt, proud of his tolerance for eccentrics, sent Rice packing. But the impact of Rice’s dismissal on Rollins was significant, causing the college to be censured by the American Association of University Professors over its malleable tenure policy and leading to an exodus of eight highly regarded faculty members who formed the experimental Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Further, the Rice controversy had exposed Holt’s autocratic streak and demonstrated that even the proud progressive had his limits. “Someone, Emerson I think, said that every institution was the lengthened shadow of a man,” wrote Rice in his 1942 memoir, I Came Out of the Eighteenth Century (reprinted in 2014 by the University of South Carolina Press). Rice continued: “He might as well have said a cloak to wear, a decoration, to catch the eye and keep it from the wearer; bootstraps for increasing one’s height; a screen to hide the thing he was; a dream and a hope, dim, but still
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hope — hope for his own salvation. Rollins was all of these, and Rollins was Holt and Holt was Rollins.”
ENLIGHTENMENT THROUGH ALGEBRA Holt, who did indeed cast a lengthy shadow, need not have been concerned about the easy-going Sauté — a brilliant mathematician with an eagerness to please and, apparently unknown to Holt, a shared passion for world government — the great cause of Holt’s life — which supported formation of an international governing body with the legislative authority to mediate disputes and a standing army at the ready to enforce its rulings. Much of Sauté’s previous experience was related to adult education. He came to Rollins from Cleveland College, founded in 1925 by Western Reserve University and the Case School of Applied Science for adult learners. Cleveland College offered both degree and nondegree programs in credit and noncredit classes. An early catalog stated the pioneering school’s philosophy: “Education has, in truth, become a lifelong process. The individual or the community that fails to recognize this fact will not only lose much of the richness, beauty, and joy of life, but will also fall hopelessly behind in the economic struggle.” The director of Cleveland College was A. Caswell Ellis, a veteran of Holt’s 1931 colloquium, “The Curriculum for the Liberal Arts College,” which was led by philosopher and educational reformer John Dewey. Ellis wrote Holt that Sauté was “well-liked by both his students and his colleagues; his scholarship, character and native ability are all of a very high order.” Sauté’s wife, Marie-Louise, was a vivacious woman who had studied acting at the Leland Powers Theatre School in Boston, and the couple had three young children: 11-year-old George DeWitt and 7-year-old twin girls, Louise and Marie, all of whom would eventually attend Rollins but graduate elsewhere.
“[Wagner’s] answer to one question impressed me about raising money for a small college. He said, ‘Oh, that’s nothing at all. I’ve been working for Bell & Howell and they have a $20 million budget. So your $500,000 budget is not anything to phase us.’ He was the only one of the fellows we interviewed who wasn’t worried about the money.”
— George Sauté Sauté, who was born in Belgium in 1903 but moved with his family to Rhode Island when he was a child, earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from Brown University and finished coursework for a Ph.D. from Harvard University, although he failed to complete his thesis. He considered teaching in California, as his wife would have preferred,
ORIGINAL IMAGE COURTESY OF THE ROLLINS COLLEGE ARCHIVES DIGITAL ART BY WILL SETZER/CIRCLE 7 DESIGN STUDIO
Mathematics Professor George Sauté was director of the first degree-granting adult education program at Rollins. But not before he clashed with the college’s unorthodox new president and was dismissed from his teaching position for reasons that he found unfathomable.
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COURTESY OF THE ROLLINS COLLEGE ARCHIVES
but instead took a job in 1930 as associate professor of mathematics at Cleveland College, where he also taught physics, trigonometry, analytical geometry and advanced calculus. Sauté had been hired by Holt as an assistant professor of mathematics, in part, to teach physics and mathematics for the Army’s Specialized Training and Reassignment (STAR) program, through which enlisted personnel were offered brief refresher courses, primarily in the sciences and languages, before transferring to larger state universities and completing 36-week terms in those subjects. At Rollins, as many as 50 uniformed service members at a time lived in the men’s dormitories, marching together to class and standing at attention along the so-called horseshoe — the walkway surrounding the campus green — at 5 p.m. when the flag was lowered. “To teach physics, I had to study a lot myself,” said Sauté in an oral history interview conducted in 1969. “I became interested in the atom and atomic energy. The year before [the atomic bomb was dropped on] Hiroshima, I foresaw some activity in that direction. That led Dr. Holt to ask me to lecture on atomic energy. He took a fancy to me because I knew my stuff pretty well.” Sauté believed that mathematics, or at least the thought processes required to master mathematics, could make a difference in society. In 1942, he wrote an article for The American Mathematical Monthly called “Mathematics and the War Effort,” quoting at length a statement from Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet. According to Nimitz, most college freshmen could not pass a basic mathematics skills test required for acceptance into the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps. While this was obviously a problem for the war effort, Sauté wrote, mathematics had nontechnical applications that few seemed to appreciate. Algebra and trigonometry, for example, could foster logical thinking about social and political issues. “There are other values besides the ones tied up with military problems to be derived from a knowledge of mathematics,” he wrote. “It is not likely that human engineering or sociology will become less complex after the war. Scientific methods of solving [social] problems will go further and be more reliable than rule-of-thumb methods.” Enlightenment through algebra? It is not an argument that would have occurred to Holt, who looked to writers, historians and political scientists as his most likely academic allies. But he asked Sauté, in addition to his teaching duties, to head the college’s nascent Institute for World Government. In addition, Holt sent Sauté to the 1947 Convention of the United World Federalists held in St. Louis and asked him to determine how the college could participate locally. The movement was, in fact, enjoying a brief resurgence in the years between the end of World War II and the start of the Korean War. Gallup Polls in 1946, 1947 and 1948 asked: “Do you think the U.N. should be strengthened to make it a world government with the power to control the armed forces of all nations, including the U.S.?” In each of those three years, around 55 percent answered yes. The percentage of favorable responses began dropping in 1949 and bottomed out at 40 percent in the mid-1950s. Still, it is inaccurate to contend that the concept of world government was never broadly popular — after two world wars in 20 years, many in the late 1940s were at least willing to listen. In 1947, following a meeting of internationalist groups in Montreux, Switzerland, a global coalition called the World Federalist Movement was formed and quickly claimed 56 member-groups in 22 countries with some 156,000 members. In the U.S., the Asheville, North Carolina-based United World Federalists (later renamed the World Federalist Association, then Citizens for Global Solutions) was growing, and claimed membership of 20,000 throughout hundreds of local chapters.
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Arthur Enyart, the college’s dean of men since 1911, almost immediately clashed with Wagner and was forced out. Like many in the community, Enyart followed media coverage of Wagner’s tumultuous presidency with a sense of disbelief. But he must have been pleased when Holt, his old boss, spoke up to call for Wagner’s resignation.
President Truman, at the 1948 dedication of a war memorial monument in Nebraska, did not endorse world government — he was speaking in general of arbitration — but sounded very much like Holt when he declared that disputes between nations should be solved in the same way as disputes between states within nations: “When Kansas and Colorado fall out over the waters in the Arkansas River, they don’t go to war over it; they go to the Supreme Court of the United States, and the matter is settled in a just and honorable way. There is not a difficulty in the whole world that cannot be settled in exactly the same way in a world court.” Sauté was energized by the meeting in St. Louis. “This crusade is not one to join, talk about, go home and forget,” he reported to Holt upon his return. “It is a crusade that will continue until a rule of law is established for the settlement of international disputes; then and only then can we enjoy lasting peace.” Clearly Sauté was preaching to the choir with Holt, who was nonetheless pleased to have found a faculty surrogate with whom to share the burden of advocacy. And share it they would. Sauté possessed the physical endurance that Holt, now past 70, found it more difficult to muster. Over the next several years, scarcely a civic organization in Central Florida — indeed, scarcely a civic organization in the state — did not hear an address on world government from the indefatigable mathematician. One headline announcing a Sauté presentation at a Florida church most accurately described his ambitious objective: “Sauté Charts Course Needed to Save World.” Sauté helped organize local United World Federalist chapters on campus and in Winter Park. He even launched a weekly radio program, “World Government and You,” on Orlando station WORZ-AM, and was interviewed over Voice of America radio speaking entirely in French. Yet Sauté seemed an unlikely crusader, according to a profile in The Corner Cupboard, a local weekly newspaper: “A man with an enviable philosophy of life is George Sauté. He lives life
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COURTESY OF THE ROLLINS COLLEGE ARCHIVES
Hamilton Holt believed that Wagner was an ideal successor. But his remarks at a retirement ceremony, made in a light-hearted fashion, were nonetheless pointed: “If you lose the friendly feeling on the campus that now prevails between faculty and students ... then you may hear that creaking sound as I turn over in my grave.”
as it comes, day by day, with a deep conviction in the power of prayer to set things right. In his own affairs, Prof. Sauté takes a middle-of-the-road position. He is not one to have more courage than wisdom. Rather, his is a moral courage that has the patience and the self-control to await the outcome of events.” Soon Sauté’s patience and self-control would be tested in ways that he could not have imagined.
CHARISMA AND CONTROVERSY Holt, noting that “it is better to quit when they want you to stay than to stay when they want you to quit,” submitted his resignation as college president in early 1948, but agreed to remain until his successor was chosen the following year. The man selected to become the college’s ninth president, 32-year-old Paul
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A. Wagner, arrived to great fanfare in 1949 but departed in 1951 following a bitter brouhaha that roiled the campus and the community and permanently soured friendships of long standing. Of course, controversial characters had come and gone with some regularity at the college. But never had one person, not even John A. Rice, wreaked such utter havoc. The so-called Wagner Affair, in retrospect, seems preternatural, as though the script might have been written by Rod Serling or Gabriel García Márquez. Only one conclusion can surely be drawn: Paul Wagner, at least in the beginning, could sell anything to anyone. Wagner’s charisma is apparent from this breathless description from the Miami News of a November 1949 presentation he gave to the Florida Conference of Parents and Teachers, a consortium of PTAs: “A packed house at last night’s session heard the star performer, Paul A. Wagner, president of Rollins College, who lived up to his reputation as a speaker with a challenge. Dr. Wagner, developing the convention theme, used a large amount of personal magnetism, a pair of very expressive hands, a voice that is as resonate as that of Orson Welles, and a number of visual aids, in which he believes as a master of educational methods.” Wagner and Holt had known one another casually, although the circumstances of their original meeting are unclear. Holt later said that he had “discovered” Wagner through Louis Lochner, a peace activist prior to World War I and a journalist during World War II who had won a 1939 Pulitzer Prize for Correspondence. Otherwise, however, there are no obvious connections between Lochner and Wagner. In any case, Wagner was subsequently described in college press releases as having completed a four-year course of study at the University of Chicago in three years, earning his undergraduate degree at the age of 19. Impressive, but not quite true. Wagner, who was born in September 1917, did indeed graduate from the University of Chicago, where he was a protégé of its respected chancellor, Robert M. Hutchins. But he graduated in August 1938, just prior to his 21st birthday, taking the standard length of time to earn an undergraduate degree in education. Wagner was a popular student who acted in dramatic productions and served as the official college videographer through a club he founded called Campus Newsreel. Following graduation, he taught high school at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, founded by John Dewey, where he was lauded for his innovative use of audiovisual technology. Then after earning a master’s degree in English at Yale, which he attended under a Carnegie Fellowship, he returned to Chicago and joined the faculty at his alma mater. Shortly thereafter, he was off to New York for an instructor stint at Teachers College, Columbia University. With the outbreak of World War II, Wagner became a civilian consultant to the Great Lakes Naval Training Station near Chicago, where he introduced the use of audiovisual aids in training recruits. In 1942, the Department of the Navy offered him a lieutenant’s commission to continue his work at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, where he developed training materials and made hundreds of films to support the college’s evolving curriculum. After the war, Wagner joined American Type Founders, a manufacturer of foundry type and printing presses, as assistant to the president. He then worked as a counselor to the Committee on Economic Development, a private consortium of executives formed to promote the free enterprise system. (The Washington, D.C.–based CED remains a potent advocacy group today.) In 1947, Wagner landed an ideal position at Bell & Howell, a leading manufacturer of motion-picture equipment, where he was first vice president reporting directly to another wunderkind, 29-year-old company president Charles H. Percy, who would later be elected to the U.S. Senate from Illinois.
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While at Bell & Howell, Wagner was involved in the making of promotional films — including one that featured Eddie Albert, who would later portray gentleman farmer Oliver Wendell Douglas on the sitcom Green Acres — and gave hundreds of presentations throughout the U.S., Mexico and Canada on the promise of technology in the classroom. In May 1949, when Wagner learned that Rollins was looking for a new president, he jetted to Florida and dazzled Holt and the search committee with his energy and intellect. In June — following equally compelling performances before faculty committees, student groups and the board of trustees — he was named Holt’s successor, effective in September. “I was impressed, as other people were, that [Wagner] was a go-getter and had all this energy and initiative,” recalled Sauté two years later in a deposition related to libel and slander lawsuits brought by Wagner against the college and a group of trustees.
“We entertained Paul Wagner at our house in January. … I introduced him as ‘Paul Wagner’ because I introduce all people by their first names, and we were having a very informal party. When I introduced him as ‘Paul Wagner’ he gave me a dirty look. So, I then introduced him as ‘President Wagner,’ and that seemed to please him. I think the man lacks, and never has had, a sense of humor.”
— Marie-Louise Sauté “His answer to one question impressed me about raising money for a small college,” continued Sauté. “He said, ‘Oh, that’s nothing at all. I’ve been working for Bell & Howell and they have a $20 million budget. So your $500,000 budget is not anything to phase us.’ He was the only one of the fellows we interviewed who wasn’t worried about the money.” Holt, who had advocated for Wagner, was optimistic that “the greatness of Rollins” would be preserved and enhanced under the mesmerizing upstart’s leadership. In a farewell address during June commencement ceremonies, 76-year old “Prexy” — who feigned surprise when he was awarded the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award — made it clear that whatever greatness the college had achieved had been due, in large part, to the institution’s personal, student-centered teaching approach. Said Holt: “If you lose the friendly feeling on the campus that now prevails between faculty and students, if the faculty reverts to the lecture-and-recitation system with its inevitable grades, marks and examination, all of which make the professor a detective and the student a bluffer, then you may hear that creaking sound as I turn over in my grave.” The guest speaker at Wagner’s formal inauguration, held at convocation during Founders’ Week in February 1950, was the University of Chicago’s Hutchins. “Paul Wagner is a stalwart and original young man,” Hutchins said. “I do not know what course he will take. But I predict that you will have an exciting and rewarding time, and that Rollins is entering a stirring and significant phase of its distinguished career.” The descriptors “stirring and significant” would prove to be accurate — just not in the way Hutchins had intended. The transition began peacefully enough when Wagner “edited” his first Animated Magazine. The lead speaker was Holt, now a winter visitor, whose
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topic, “The Hydrogen Bomb,” mattered less to attendees than the fact of his reassuring presence. The failing firebrand, whose retirement title was “honorary president,” awkwardly hobbled about due to a wooden prosthesis — his right leg had been amputated the previous September due to complications from diabetes — but he was in good spirits and was welcomed with nostalgic affection. Among the 14 other Animated Magazine speakers in 1950 were Ogden Nash, a popular writer of humorous verse, and Edward Everett Horton, a character actor whose voice would become iconic to baby boomers as narrator of “Fractured Fairy Tales” in The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Also of note during Founders’ Week was the premier of an original play, The Falcon, by English professor Edwin Granberry, which was staged at the Annie Russell Theatre, and the final John Martin Lecture Series, during which the semi-retired Martin commandeered his familiar pulpit at the First Congregational Church to ask, “Can Democracy Cover and Save the World?” There appeared to be little additional adult education activity that year except for a concert by the Rollins Chamber Orchestra and special exhibits at the Beal-Maltbie Shell Museum and at Casa Iberia, which housed the Central Florida Hispanic Institute. The robust assortment of events, lectures, noncredit courses and for-credit courses that comprised the adult education program prior to World War II had sadly dwindled. Wagner, though, was getting plenty of attention. Colliers dubbed him “education’s new boy wonder.” Newsweek also wrote a flattering story about the youthful dynamo, who seemed so full of novel ideas on how to prepare the college, and higher education in general, for a new era in which multiple modes of teaching would be available. An Associated Press story quoted the “broad-shouldered, square-jawed” Wagner as saying that he hoped graduates would be “generalists” who liked football as well as poetry, insisting that “such men will be the next leaders.” Wagner also rebuked colleges for eschewing sex education. “Now think of this,” Wagner told the AP reporter. “We spend about two thirds of our lives living with the opposite sex — and these schools practically ignore the subject.” Pacing and pontificating while chewing on the earpiece of his glasses, Wagner made it clear during the interview that he wanted students to be challenged, and one statement in particular was strikingly prescient, considering the state of American political discourse in 2020: “In totalitarian states, only a few people have to know the significance of facts. Here in America, everyone has to know what facts mean.” If the college community was entranced by Wagner, they were also charmed by his attractive family, including his wife, Paula (“a slim, pretty blonde,” according to a newspaper account), and their 3-year-old son Paul A. (The “A” stood for nothing; it was chosen by the Wagners so their son would not be “Paul Jr.” and could select his own middle name when he grew older.) One clearly not entranced was Marie-Louise Sauté, who found Wagner to be phony and pompous. During the 1951 deposition given by her and her husband, she related a revealing anecdote to attorney Howard C. Hadden: “We entertained Paul Wagner at our house in January. … I introduced him as ‘Paul Wagner’ because I introduce all people by their first names, and we were having a very informal party. When I introduced him as ‘Paul Wagner’ he gave me a dirty look. So, I then introduced him as ‘President Wagner,’ and that seemed to please him. I think the man lacks, and never has had, a sense of humor.” Marie-Louise said she warned her husband that Wagner “is not sincere; he can sell something because he has great power of persuasion without believing it himself. From the beginning, personally, I have never completely
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ORIGINAL IMAGE COURTESY OF THE ROLLINS COLLEGE ARCHIVES DIGITAL ART BY WILL SETZER/CIRCLE 7 DESIGN STUDIO
As Hamilton Holt’s portrait looms over him, movie-star handsome Wagner prepares to take the helm at Rollins College. Within two tumultuous years, Holt would be calling for his youthful successor to resign.
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trusted him. It may be womanly intuition, but I said it on different occasions to different members of the faculty.” At first, it appeared that the new president’s “great power of persuasion” would enable him to act first and explain later with impunity. For example, prior to the 1950 season he abolished the football program, which he said operated at a $57,000 deficit. During a meeting at the Annie Russell Theatre, using a plethora of slides and charts, he made a persuasive case that the college would be better served by increasing the emphasis on less costly sports, such as basketball, baseball, tennis and golf. “The history of Rollins can be summed up in four words,” said Wagner. “Constant lack of funds.” An editorial in The Sandspur described the decision as “a bitter pill,” but one worth swallowing for the college’s fiscal health. Charlie Wadsworth, featured columnist for the Orlando Morning Sentinel, reflected that “Rollins will get along just as well or better without football. It won’t be the same, but the school will get along.” Wagner, however, faced financial hurdles that abolition of football alone could not mitigate. First, most World War II veterans who used the G.I. Bill to attend college had completed their educations by 1951, and the post-war enrollment surge had receded considerably. Second, the impact of the Korean War on college enrollment remained unknown.
CRISIS ON CAMPUS Although student deferments were available, Wagner had been warned during a recent trip to Washington, D.C., that all 18-year-olds might be declared draft-eligible following the November presidential election. Those factors, plus the college’s debt of a quarter-million dollars, led Wagner to conclude that decisive action was required to ward off fiscal disaster. At the February 1951 board of trustees meeting, Wagner, employing dramatic language and a daunting deluge of charts and graphs, presented a budget that anticipated just 449 students in the coming year — a drop of 200 students, or nearly 30 percent. At that level, tuition revenue would drop by as much as $150,000. And since the budget anticipated no other sources of income, then cost reductions at least equal to $150,000 would be required to avoid an operating deficit. Vice President and Treasurer John Tiedtke, who had already identified $77,000 in nonfaculty cuts, followed and confirmed Wagner’s generally pessimistic outlook. But he reminded the trustees that Rollins offered a premium product: “We have a Cadillac assembly line, and we cannot turn out Cadillacs without fenders or radiators or wheels; nor can we turn out Fords, for we are not built that way.” Tiedtke, who had not been present during Wagner’s trademark tour de force, drew a vivid analogy regarding the impact of draconian cuts: “I look at this very much like a cancer. To save your life you may have to amputate your hand, but it is a serious matter to amputate your hand.” Appointed by Holt as interim treasurer in 1948, the no-nonsense Tiedtke had already saved the college from financial collapse once by postponing his honeymoon to accompany Holt to New York, where with the help of several trustees they had negotiated a $500,000 loan from Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company. And while the amputation argument was well-phrased, it was the treasurer’s seeming validation of the college’s grim financial situation that packed more punch. Wagner, however, soon found himself very much at odds with Tiedtke, who shortly thereafter told student groups and members of the press that Wagner had presented an incomplete picture of the college’s financial situation. Wagner had not, Tiedtke said, mentioned that gifts totaling $100,000 had been committed and were anticipated. Conflicting and confusing accounts about what the trustees were told
or not told emerged in the furor to come. This is puzzling because Wagner had, after all, predicated that only tuition, not gifts, be used in estimating the college’s income. The argument, it seems, ought to have been whether this was a reasonable premise on which to base a budget. Perhaps Wagner’s presentation style — to overwhelm listeners with data and deliver his conclusions with absolute certitude — contributed to the confusion. In any case, the trustees authorized Wagner to slash faculty positions based upon what they were told was a logical formula that would consider seniority and exempt “the only one in a division qualified to teach a particular subject that is considered essential.” The governing panel even awarded the president a $2,000 raise — an unseemly decision under the circumstances — and promised him an additional $500 annual increase until his salary reached $15,000. To insulate him from backlash, Wagner was extended a five-year contract and, through a split-decision bylaw change, was given “the sole power to hire and discharge employees and to fix administrative and educational policies of the college subject to the veto of the board of trustees.” According to John “Jack” Rich, an alumnus who was then the college’s dean of admissions, Wagner was the wronged party in the tumult soon to follow: “[The trustees] all were very loyal to Hamilton Holt, but sick and tired of seeing him go year after year with such terrible deficits, appealing to people, down on his knees. [They] said, ‘This can’t go on indefinitely,’ and they were right about that. So they brought in Wagner with the understanding that one of his first assignments would be to reduce the faculty.”
“[The trustees] all were very loyal to Hamilton Holt, but sick and tired of seeing him go year after year with such terrible deficits, appealing to people, down on his knees. [They] said, ‘This can’t go on indefinitely,’ and they were right about that. So they brought in Wagner with the understanding that one of his first assignments would be to reduce the faculty.”
— John “Jack” Rich Rich spoke at length about the Wagner Affair during a 2005 oral history interview. Although some of what Rich contended could not be corroborated, the passion with which he recounted his version of events is indicative of the decades-long rancor engendered by the Wagner Affair. On February 23, Wagner edited his second Animated Magazine. It was the first without Holt and his oversized blue pencil, although Prexy telephoned long distance from his home in Woodstock, Connecticut, and his familiar voice was amplified for the audience. Speakers included Wagner’s former boss, Percy, as well as retired Air Force Lieutenant General George H. Brett, cartoonist Roy Crane (Buz Sawyer), U.S. Senator Paul Douglas of Illinois, Major League Baseball manager Leo Durocher, Time magazine editor Thomas Stanley “T.S.” Matthews and actor Basil Rathbone. Then on March 8, believing that the trustees would supply cover, Wagner fired 19 full-time and four part-time faculty members — one-third of the entire teaching staff — many of whom had earned tenure. Wagner had warned of retrenchment and some dismissals had been expected, but nothing of this magnitude. Among those informed that their jobs would vanish in August was Sauté FA L L 2 0 2 0 | W INT ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
who, like many of his peers, had believed himself to be safe. After all, he had earned tenure and taught courses that were required for most science majors, including those in pre-medicine and pre-engineering. There was also a mathematics major, in which Sauté taught both introductory and advanced courses. “Nobody expected it to be in such a knot,” recalled Rich. “The faculty had been prepared for it, but the students hadn’t been prepared for it. I mean, the students during the day were in the classrooms with these men and women they admired so much. How can you prepare [them] for something like that?” On March 5, Wagner had written Holt in an obsequious attempt to explain his actions. Perhaps he also hoped to enlist his predecessor’s support — or to at least head off his opposition — during the anticipated upheaval. With higher costs and lower tuition, Wagner explained to Holt, he had no choice but to act: “This is the first time we have had to cut faculty personnel and although it is a terrible emotional experience I would not care to repeat, I am very much afraid it was an imperative one. … But despite this fact I know that there will be a tidal wave of resentment toward the youngster you picked as your successor. I am prepared for this eventuality, but I must admit that I would have given a great deal to have enjoyed a honeymoon period for at least three years.” If Wagner thought that Holt would offer sympathy, however, he was mistaken. After all, Wagner claimed that the college’s desperate circumstances were precipitated in part by Prexy’s longstanding negligence — a stance that was unlikely to earn an ally in Woodstock. In the chaotic several months that followed, students went on strike and The Sandspur published an issue in which every article excoriated Wagner, who in turn threatened to suspend the entire editorial staff unless a retraction was forthcoming. “We stand behind all the material presented,” said editor Betsy Fletcher, who promised a special edition “in elaboration of the first one.” Fletcher was not one to be bullied by Wagner or anyone else. Born in West Virginia, she contracted polio as a child, and gradually recovered after undergoing a controversial treatment regimen. She later graduated from Rollins and, although it was thought she could never have children, she eventually married and gave birth to three girls. On campus, there were mass meetings, both spontaneous and planned, at which animosity was aggravated by the seemingly random nature of the firings and the president’s imperious (and at times petulant) attitude toward those who questioned his wisdom. “I will be the most hated college president in America,” Wagner claimed he had told the trustees before launching his austerity campaign. “Now I’m afraid that has come to pass.” A three-member trustee committee was appointed by Winthrop Bancroft, a Jacksonville attorney who chaired the board of trustees, to investigate the agitation. The committee members were fellow trustees H. George Carrison, also an attorney; Milton Warner, a retired railroad executive (and Holt’s roommate at Yale); and Eldridge Haynes, a magazine publisher and international business consultant. Not surprisingly, the mood grew increasingly edgy, with charges and countercharges hurled. Sauté told an assembly of students that Wagner had, in fact, devised a “mathematical formula” to guide faculty dismissals but had “twisted the formula” and instead conducted a purge driven by his personal whims. Later the besieged president fired back, reading from a memorandum written by Sauté that contained obsequious praise: “I admire you more every time I meet with you, Paul, and sympathize with you on the problems you have to face.” Wagner, waving the document above his head, seemed incredulous: “Just a very few days after [Sauté] wrote this, he was accusing a man whom he had admired of twisting the formula to suit another end.” Sauté, in turn,
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revealed that the correspondence had been written in November — not “a very few days” but exactly 122 days before dismissal notices were issued. The otherwise agreeable mathematician further accused Wagner of “violating a confidence” by making portions of the communication public. “Then as now, I place my personal integrity of character first,” he said. “In accord with that, I do not propose here or in any public meeting to reveal matters written by me or received by me in the same spirit.” In his 1951 deposition, Sauté offered more detail about the mysterious memorandum, explaining that in the early days of his administration Wagner had met in his office with a group of several faculty members regarding “a tough decision” pending in the science department. Wagner had asked for additional thoughts in writing, and Sauté had responded accordingly. “The essence of [the memorandum] was, if the man had integrity, he should be kept; if he lacked integrity, he should be fired,” Sauté recalled. “I felt pretty good. I praised [Wagner] because I thought he was doing it the right way.” He further told attorney Hadden that Wagner had offered no explanation for his firing when the two met privately. Yes, Sauté insisted, he had pressed the president for specifics, but no, he had not elicited an answer other than “it had to be done.” Sauté’s wife Marie-Louise — whose “womanly intuition,” it appeared, should be overlooked at one’s peril — interjected that Wagner’s animus for her husband may have been the result of yet another petty personal slight during a farewell gathering at the president’s residence in Holt’s honor. “We felt very close to Dr. Holt,” she told Hadden. “I just loved Dr. Holt as though he were a father. I went over and kissed him and said, ‘You’ll always be president to us.’ That was in Mr. and Mrs. Wagner’s presence. She gave me a dirty look. And I think Mr. Wagner had a feeling of jealousy.”
“I doubt if there is a living man who can succeed in leading Rollins College through the staggering problems ahead without the good will and cooperative support of all elements interested in its future. I therefore appeal to President Wagner to resign immediately. If he resigns now, he may save himself and the college. If he does not resign, he may ruin the college and himself.”
— Hamilton Holt Marie-Louise had managed during two social occasions to elicit dirty looks from both Paul and Paula Wagner. One can imagine — perhaps even understand — the incoming president’s pique over Marie-Louise’s passive-aggressive disrespect. But was spousal tactlessness a firing offense? In Wagner’s world, it seemed possible.
PREXY’S LAST CRUSADE Holt, quizzed by reporters in Woodstock about turbulence at the college, at first cautiously defended Wagner, whom he described ambiguously to a UPI reporter as “a very remarkable man.” He said that although the dismissals were “a very regrettable thing,” he was certain that the trustees must have given the matter careful consideration before authorizing such a drastic measure. Still, the old crusader averred, he was retired and did not know enough
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COURTESY OF THE ROLLINS COLLEGE ARCHIVES
Hugh F. McKean (standing), an art professor and soon-to-be president, told a trustees’ committee: “We are some of the members of the faculty who think that Mr. Wagner should resign as president. We do not wish to take up your time with conversation; we just wish to show ourselves and make this statement.”
about the situation to offer further comments. In fact he knew plenty, having been in constant touch with troubled trustees and furious faculty members. Almost certainly Holt was reminded of 1932, when another powerful personality — John A. Rice — had won his confidence only to wreak havoc once unleashed. On April 10, Holt wrote Wagner a letter calling upon him “with reluctance and grief ” to resign before he was ousted. “You must see that if you are not dismissed [by the trustees] that you will still lose out for you have lost the confidence, to say the least, of an overwhelming majority of faculty, students and alumni in addition to a strong possibility of a majority of the trustees.” Even if a bare majority of trustees stuck with him, Holt warned, the atmosphere was too toxic to deal with the challenges Wagner faced: “Such a convulsion would follow your retention that you and the trustees loyal to you cannot possibly surmount the difficulties confronting you.” On April 11, via telephone, Holt expressed the same opinion to the New
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York Chapter of the Rollins College Alumni Association, as did Dean of Women Marian Cleveland and Alumni Association President Howard Showalter Jr. The group also heard from others, including Eugene R. Smith, a member of the executive committee who supported Wagner. The outcome of the vote — 55-2 in favor of a resolution calling for the president’s immediate resignation — was never in serious doubt. Even a diminished Holt cast a “lengthened shadow” at Rollins. Prexy then issued a statement to the Orlando Sentinel that read, in part: “I doubt if there is a living man who can succeed in leading Rollins College through the staggering problems ahead without the good will and cooperative support of all elements interested in its future. I therefore appeal to President Wagner to resign immediately. If he resigns now, he may save himself and the college. If he does not resign, he may ruin the college and himself.” Holt’s statement also outlined ways in which the crisis might have been averted, including an expanded adult education program and a temporary across-the-board salary reduction such as he had implemented in 1933. “In regard to the methods, manners and morals of the way in which the dismissals were made, all I wish to say is that the things that make a college great are the quality of those who teach and of those who are taught,” Prexy wrote. “All else, however important, is secondary.” Holt, a seeker of peace, finally found it on April 26, 1951. His health had
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been in precipitous decline since his leg amputation, and he died at home of a heart attack at age 79. The Wagner Affair, although it remained unresolved, was careening toward a messy conclusion. In the meantime, the campus response to Holt’s passing must surely have weighed on Wagner; flags were flown at half-mast, classes were dismissed and a play at the Annie Russell Theatre, Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, went on that evening only because the cast decided that “the grand old trouper” would have wanted it that way.
“I am still president of the college and will remain so unless legally removed by the board of trustees. I will be in the president’s office as usual. The basic story is simple. I was given orders by the board of trustees. I carried out those orders, and now some of the individuals who gave me those orders do not have the moral courage to face the consequences of their own actions.”
— Paul A. Wagner Holt’s last public act, after all, had been to try and save his beloved college from Wagner, now viewed as a reckless man-child who appeared in every way to be the anti-Holt with his boardroom prattle about running the college as a business, his obsession with obtuse charts and graphs and, most egregious on a campus where democratic governance was espoused — if not always practiced — his authoritarianism. The Sandspur rushed to produce a commemorative edition in which every Holt tribute, some composed by faculty members who would soon be unemployed, seemed by implication to be a condemnation of Wagner. “I believe [Holt] was the greatest man I ever had the privilege of knowing,” wrote Rhea Marsh Smith, a professor of history whose job had been spared. “He is responsible for making Rollins a college of distinction. He built the spirit of the Rollins family.” Nathan C. Starr, a popular professor of English who had been dismissed, added: “All of [Holt’s] achievements were less than the man himself. Those of us who were close to him were truly uplifted by his greatness of spirit, and our hearts were warmed by his humanity.” Continued Starr: “He was a man of humility in the deepest sense of the word, a man who looked at the foibles and perplexities of the world with a tolerant eye. His tolerance and his sense of proportion lay behind the waggish sense of humor, which he had in abundance.” Sauté recalled an incident from Holt’s final visit to Winter Park “that illustrated how much he taught by his example.” Despite difficulty walking because of his wooden leg, Holt had insisted upon honoring a commitment to speak before a small civic group in Volusia County. “He could reasonably have asked to be excused,” wrote Sauté. “But he said he would go. Mrs. Sauté and I took him in our own car. At the meeting he spoke with his usual eloquence for over an hour, as if there had been thousands in the audience.” Continued Sauté: “During the question period, a frustrated old man monopolized the time with pointed, unfair questions, which Dr. Holt answered generously. Afterward, when asked how he could be so tolerant with a heckler, he answered simply, ‘Everyone has a right to speak.’” As Holt became larger in death, Wagner seemed to become smaller in life.
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A cadre of trustees, some now claiming that they had been bamboozled, finally acted to quell the outrage. At an April 27 meeting in New York, 11 members — 10, including college attorney Raymer F. Maguire Jr., did not attend — agreed to ask Wagner to resign and, as a face-saving measure, to offer him chairmanship of a nebulous commission to study the financial problems of liberal arts colleges. He would be given a deadline of May 3 to accept or reject the offer, but either way Hugh F. McKean, professor of art, would then be named acting president. By the time the clock ran out, however, Wagner had rejected alternatives, refuted the legality of the out-of-state meeting and refused to vacate his office. Behind-the-scenes wrangling continued until May 13, when the exasperated trustees publicly announced that Wagner had been dismissed “because his services on behalf of the college have not contributed to the best interests of the institution.” Wagner, in turn, announced that he was still president and would report to his office the following morning as usual. “I am still president of the college and will remain so unless legally removed by the board of trustees,” Wagner said. “I will be in the president’s office as usual. The basic story is simple. I was given orders by the board of trustees. I carried out those orders, and now some of the individuals who gave me those orders do not have the moral courage to face the consequences of their own actions.” “It is of no material consequence where Mr. Wagner chooses to sit,” McKean told the Orlando Sentinel on May 15 from his own office at the Morse Gallery of Art, which had now been recognized by the college’s deans as the official seat of campus authority. “Rollins College has returned to life. Classes are meeting in a happy atmosphere and all other college activities are humming along. This is no tribute to any individuals. It is simply a release of our vitality and energy and a demonstration of the loyalty of us all to our college.” Just two days earlier, after the vote to dismiss Wagner was announced, at least some of that vitality and energy had been released on Horace A. Tollefson, the college librarian whom Wagner had appointed as a special assistant. Tollefson reported to police that a pair of professors — James Russell, professor of psychology, and U.T. Bradley, professor of history and government and coach of the crew team — had roughed him up and kidnapped him as he was moving files from his beleaguered boss’s office. The alleged assailants replied they had simply escorted Tollefson away from a threatening gathering of students and perhaps, quite by accident, injured his arm in the process.
“It is of no material consequence where Mr. Wagner chooses to sit. Rollins College has returned to life. Classes are meeting in a happy atmosphere and all other college activities are humming along. This is no tribute to any individuals. It is simply a release of our vitality and energy and a demonstration of the loyalty of us all to our college.”
— Hugh F. McKean Part of that story was true; Wagner and his wife also ventured onto the campus that night to find the administration building surrounded by students, faculty members and curious onlookers. Police escorted the couple safely through the throng, which remained strangely silent. Among the students milling about would have been one Fred McFeely
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Photography ©Cucciaioni Photography, ©CJ Walker 2020
Rogers, a talented music composition major from Latrobe, Pennsylvania, who was by all accounts every bit as sweet-natured then as he appeared to be in adulthood, when he created the now-iconic PBS series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Even the young man who would later profess to like everyone “just the way you are” disliked Wagner and agitated for his removal. McKean’s sanguine pronouncements notwithstanding, the battle raged on. A never-say-die group called “Citizens Committee for Rollins College” placed a series of full-page ads in the Orlando Sentinel that sought to rally locals around Wagner. Winter Park Mayor William H. McCauley scheduled — and then abruptly canceled — a public hearing at which he promised “the nature of the true issues of the conflict” would be revealed. McCauley apparently believed that the college’s tax-exempt status somehow brought its personnel matters within the purview of municipal government. But, in an unexpected twist, it was the State Legislature that gave Wagner reason for hope. On May 24, a bill offered by Representatives Edward R. Kirkland and Charles O. Andrews was passed that would have ousted most out-of-state trustees and replaced them with a slate of pre-selected local appointees. “I was entirely unaware of this,” a straight-faced Wagner told reporters.
“[Wagner’s] downfall left the college with a deep sense of what might have been. He deprived Rollins of his exceptional insight into the future of higher education and the opportunity of placing itself in the forefront of the coming 21st century technological innovations in higher education.”
— Jack C. Lane The bill — a local measure of little if any interest to most who blithely voted for it — was introduced at the behest of the citizens committee, whose members persuaded Kirkland and Andrews, both from Orange County, that only legislative intervention could save the college from collapse. However, faced with a furious backlash, the lawmakers decided on May 28 that the entire effort “had been a mistake.” Among those who weighed in was Ralph Himstead, secretary of the American Association of University Professors, who warned that legislative meddling could endanger the college’s accreditation. Added McKean: “This unwarranted interference in the private affairs of Rollins College … is a gross misappropriation and misuse of political power and has done a terrible wrong to the college.” The House and Senate, after initially refusing to reconsider passage, backpedaled and voted to recall the bill from Governor Fuller Warren. Kirkland told a contingent of more than 200 students who had descended upon Tallahassee to protest the measure that the missing-in-action Andrews was so upset by the whole matter that he had taken to his bed. On May 30, four trustees resigned and a reconfigured panel meeting on campus upheld Wagner’s dismissal. McKean, in turn, named Tiedtke and Alfred J. Hanna, professor of history, as executive assistants. And although McKean did not revive football, he did immediately reinstate the fired faculty — including Sauté. On June 8, Wagner finally surrendered his keys “under protest” and vacated his office and the president’s residence. In March 1952, Wagner
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dropped the $500,000 libel and slander suit that he had filed against the 11 trustees who had engineered his dismissal. An additional $100,000 suit against the college was settled for $50,000 because, according to a joint statement from the litigants’ attorneys, “it was thought by the contending parties to be in the best interest of Rollins College, in which everyone concerned maintains a sincere interest.” Wagner, however, ignored the paragraph of the settlement that stipulated “neither of the parties will … attempt to publicize or issue statements to the press with respect to the matters heretofore in controversy.” In April 1952, he gave a talk at Roosevelt College in Chicago entitled “Academic Lynchings,” which prompted the Orlando Sentinel to editorialize that “this new activity makes [Wagner] a poor sport, at least.” The speech was less about Rollins — although Wagner included numerous references to his mistreatment in Winter Park — and more about ways in which college presidents in general are wronged by faculty organizations, boards of trustees, alumni associations, newspaper reporters and members of communities at large. “Many men [have become college presidents] because they think it is a glamorous thing,” Wagner lamented. “Many of them take it because they think they will be thought leaders. … What happens to the college president? This is the college president — spread-eagled all over, crucified on the cross of his own convictions.” Trustees should grant college presidents permanent tenure, Wagner said, so they could be free to take unpopular but necessary actions. The Lakeland Ledger waggishly wondered what sort of person could survive a Rollins presidency, speculating that requisite skills should range from a tightrope-walker to a contortionist. Wrote The Ledger: “If he has all these qualifications, he may gradually adjust himself to the hazardous occupation of college president and go along for three or four years before faculty, students, alumni and townspeople begin calling him a liar, a thief and maybe a backslidden Democrat.” Still, not surprisingly for a man of Wagner’s undeniable gifts, he bounced back. The deposed president went on to become founding executive director of the Chicago-based Film Council of America, funded by the Ford Foundation, then vice president of the New York-based public relations firm Hill & Knowlton in Manhattan. In 1958 he divorced Paula, and in 1965 married Jeanette Sarkisian, who later became vice president of the Estee Lauder Companies. Writes college historian Jack C. Lane: “Paul Wagner’s demise was tragic in the sense that his good intentions were doomed by the man’s own hubris. He brought plight on an institution he was trying to guide into a new era of educational change. His downfall left the college with a deep sense of what might have been. He deprived Rollins of his exceptional insight into the future of higher education and the opportunity of placing itself in the forefront of the coming 21st century technological innovations in higher education.” Said Sauté in an oral history interview conducted in 1969: “Things got pretty sticky here around 1950 and 1951 with the Wagner explosion. When Wagner was through, and McKean, Tiedtke and Hanna formed kind of a triumvirate to get the college going again, I volunteered to help the cause by setting up some evening courses, which I thought would be good public relations. The community was split right down the middle after that affair. But as a result, I had some of the best students I’ve ever had in my career.” More than a decade later — prompted by motivations unknown — McKean moved to help ensure that Wagner’s tenure would fade from memory. Perhaps someone was asking uncomfortable questions. Whatever the reason, in a 1964 memo to the college archives, McKean wrote: “Official notification is hereby given. No one, under any circumstance, shall access to the Paul Wagner material (locked in the restricted file in the vault of the Mills Memorial Library) before the year 2014, 50 years from the present date.”
A (Baby) Grand Expansion Plan
PHOTO BY RAFAEL TONGOL
BY RANDY NOLES
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Scott Hillman pays homage to the Baby Grand Theater, which originally occupied his South Park Avenue location. The building later housed the Winter Park Land Company, making it the address for both the city’s first movie house and its first real estate office.
thought we were going to make a statement when we opened a location on Park Avenue,” says Scott Hillman, president of Fannie Hillman + Associates, one of the city’s largest real estate companies. “You could say this move has surpassed my expectations.” Hillman, a Winter Park native, was familiar with much of the history surrounding the building in which his nearly 40-year-old agency opened an office in 2019. But the more he found out, the more intriguing it all became. It’s a little complex, with some twists and turns, but please bear with us as we try to sort it out and connect the dots. In 1917, industrialist Charles Hosmer Morse — who since 1904 had owned most of the undeveloped property in Winter Park — erected a brick building that today encompasses the addresses 122, 128 and 132 South Park Avenue for a cost of $15,000. The Winter Park Land Company, incorporated that year by Morse as the city’s first real estate firm, occupied 132; a reading room for the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), whose mission was supported by Morse, occupied 128; and the Baby Grand Theater, the city’s first movie-house, occupied 122. Residential apartments were upstairs. The Baby Grand, which seated 336 people, began showing silent films accompanied by piano in a large open space at the building’s rear. The debut film was a melodrama called Stolen Paradise featuring Ethel Clayton and Edward Langford. Tickets cost a dime. The venue also hosted vaudeville shows and community meetings. The theater was originally operated by Rollins College and University of Virginia School of Law graduate Braxton “Bonnie” Beacham Jr., manager of Grand Amusement Company (GAC). The family enterprise appears to have been founded around 1913 by the younger Beacham’s parents, Braxton Sr., who was mayor of Orlando from 1904 to 1905, and Roberta, a socially active patron of the arts. GAC managed several other movie houses in Central Florida, such as the Grand, the Lucerne and the Phillips Theater (owned by Dr. Phillip Phillips, for whom today’s Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is named). But the iconic Beacham Theater, which operates today as a nightclub, wasn’t opened until 1921. Although the Baby Grand is often said to have been the Beacham’s “little sister,” the Park Avenue theater, in fact, predated the familiar Orange Avenue landmark by several years. The Baby Grand, now under the management of E.J. Sparks of Orlando Enterprises, was remodeled in 1928 with a $10,000 pipe organ and Vitaphone and Movietone equipment to accommodate sound pictures. Its first talkie was 1929’s
The Baby Grand’s first talkie was 1929’s The Rainbow Man, a pre-code musical starring Eddie Dowling and marking the film debut of George “Gabby” Hayes.
The Rainbow Man, a pre-code musical starring Eddie Dowling and marking the film debut of George “Gabby” Hayes. By then, the Baby Grand was owned by Paramount Pictures. (In fact, many movie theaters were owned by motion picture companies until 1948, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the practice was a violation of antitrust laws.) Winter Park’s first theater closed in 1940, when the 850-seat Colony Theater, also managed by GAC (and today a Pottery Barn retail outlet) opened across the street. The Baby Grand’s last feature — for the time being — was I Take This Woman starring Spencer Tracy and Hedy Lemarr. In 1947, however, it mounted a short-lived comeback showing primarily westerns and second-run films before closing for good the following year. It must also be said that the Baby Grand was restricted to whites only. The west side of Winter Park
had its own movie theater, The Famous and later The Star, which operated at least through the early 1960s. The theater showed films with all-Black casts as well as second-run mainstream features. In 1950, the Baby Grand space was remodeled for the Winter Park Land Company, which relocated from two doors down. The theater area, however, remained a large open space with a few desks scattered about. It was in this location where the company celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2017. In the meantime, business was booming for Hillman, whose main offices are nearby at 205 West Fairbanks Avenue. The company was founded in 1981 by Scott Hillman’s mother, Fannie, previously the top producer at Don Saunders Realty in Winter Park. Fannie Hillman’s son, a graduate of Florida State University, joined the following year and was named president in 1994. The company’s namesake, now a spry 86 and a resident of the Mayflower at Winter Park, “still checks in to see how we’re doing,” says her hard-charging offspring, whose lengthy civic resumé includes a stint as junior varsity football coach at Winter Park High School. Today, Hillman oversees an operation that employs 85 agents and racked up more than $300 million in gross sales in 2019. “For years, though, I had a vision of being on Park Avenue,” says Hillman, who adds that he redoubled his expansion effort as his company’s 40th anniversary approached. Hillman bought the assets of the Winter Park Land Company — perhaps the oldest continually operating real estate company in Florida — from the owner of both the business and the building, the Elizabeth Morse Genius Foundation. Genius was the only daughter of the legendary Morse (1833–1921) and the grandmother of Jeannette Genius McKean (1909–1989), whose husband was former Rollins College President Hugh F. McKean (1908–1995). An artist and a businesswoman, Jeannette Genius McKean began the foundation — which today supports the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art and other good causes — in 1959. She was also president of the Winter Park Land Company and operated the Center Street Gallery at 132 South Park Avenue, which was the original location of the Winter Park Land Company. The foundation still owns the building that Charles Hosmer Morse built. But Hillman says he hopes to find ways to highlight its significance as home to both the city’s first theater and its first real estate office. A visitor can see that he’s still in awe of his surroundings, pointing out the quirky architectural features — such as a pressed tin ceiling — in the theater area. Says Hillman: “I want to get a historic marker for this building.” Such a marker would celebrate the past, but Hillman is certain that there’s more history to be made at 122 South Park Avenue South. FA L L 2 0 2 0 | W IN T ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
CALL FALL of
IT’S TIME TO BE GRATEFUL AND HOPEFUL — AND TO MAKE MASKS A FASHION ACCESSORY. Winter Park Magazine’s fall fashion shoot happened to correspond with the 2020 Parade of Homes, sponsored by the Maitland-based Home Builders Association of Metro Orlando. During the parade, homebuilders unveil their finest work and invite the public to stop by and have a look. One of the coolest houses in this year’s parade, in our opinion, was a $2.85 million, 4,831-square-foot modernist masterpiece by M. Lahr Homes in the Merritt Park neighborhood, nestled between Lake Sue and Lake Rowena. So that’s where we set up shop to showcase the newest looks for the season. Our camera crew wanted to move in, but alas had to leave after a day of shooting. At press time, you could still check out the home (pictured below) at 1718 Lakeside Drive.
PHOTOGRAPHY: RAFAEL TONGOL STYLING: MARIANNE ILUNGA MAKEUP/HAIR: ELSIE KNAB MODEL: SOPHIA FROM NEW VERSION MODELS LOCATION: A NEW CUSTOM HOME BY M. LAHR HOMES IN MERRITT PARK ON LAKE ROWENA
Sophia wears black shorts ($188) and a green and white paisley print shirt dress ($495), both by Alice + Olivia, and carries a forest green shoulder bag by Valentino ($2,575), all from Neiman Marcus Orlando. The gold-tone and emerald short necklace ($149) and green wood long chain ($189) are both by Dora Mae Jewelry on Lake Ivanhoe. The green trench coat and black fedora hat are the stylist’s own. The knee-high boots are the model’s own. FA L L 2 0 2 0 W IN T ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
Sophia wears a gold maxi dress by Grade and Gather ($88), a silk scarf by German Fuentes ($34) and a cowhide cuff bracelet with bumblebee detail by Shiver Duke ($150), all from Arabella on Morse Boulevard in Winter Park. Her sunglasses by Tom Ford ($595) are from Tuni on Park Avenue. She also wears two gold-tone adorned cuffs ($149 each) as well as a pair of cameo drop earrings with puff details ($149), both by Dora Mae Jewelry on Lake Ivanhoe.
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Sophia wears a black faux leather shirt ($242) and a black mini skirt ($172), both by David Lerner, as well as gold ankle boots by Dolce Vita ($180) and a black and gold headband by Shiraleah ($42), all from Dear Jane in Winter Park. She also wears a pair of cat-eye sunglasses by Rein ($166) from Dear Jane in Winter Park. Her gold-tone link earrings ($99), gold-tone link necklace ($68) and black geometric beaded chain ($189) are all by Dora Mae Jewelry on Lake Ivanhoe. FA L L 2 0 2 0 W IN T ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
Sophia wears a multicolor zebra print poncho dress by Trina Turk ($298) from Tuni on Park, Avenue as well as a Red Cross body bag by Chloe ($1,150) from Neiman Marcus. Her white fringe face mask by Neon Cowboys ($30) is from neoncowboys.com. The high knee boots are the modelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own.
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Sophia wears a polka dot blouse ($995) and a black tulle skirt ($1,395), both by Dolce & Gabbana, as well as black high-top sneakers by Chanel ($995), all from Neiman Marcus Orlando. Her pearl necklace by Crown Linen ($88) is from Arabella on Morse Boulevard.
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Sophia wears a green sleeveless dress with side-slit details by Alexis ($550) and from Tuni on Park Avenue, as well as a pair of lavender and green glass tassel earrings by Dora Mae Jewelry on Lake Ivanhoe ($99). The gold sandals are the stylistâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own.
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Margaret Helen O'Rourke
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Cancer recently took the lives of two intriguing and creative people who left indelible impressions on the community. One inspired local students and delighted lovers of theater with quirky original stage plays, while the other traveled the world and applied her design aesthetic to numerous beautiful buildings that helped to transform the Hannibal Square business district.
ROBERT (BOB) DUTTON • 1961–2020 Robert (Bob) Dutton, 59, a writer, teacher, producer, actor, theater and film buff, was described by friends as a Renaissance man in the arts world. A native of Poughkeepsie, New York, he attended Emerson College in Boston and graduated with a BFA in theater directing. Later, living on Martha’s Vineyard, he opened an iconic video store and appeared in regional productions before moving to Winter Park with his family, wife Molly Conole — a singer and actress — and children, Amelia and Simon. Dutton worked as an actor at Universal Studios and Disney World and started a magazine, Classic TV, and a video store in the Mills 50 District. He worked as a marketing director for SAK Theatre and the Starlight Dinner Theater and began writing plays, several of which were staged at the Fringe Festival. He also taught English and drama at Glenridge Middle School and Winter Park High School for 13 years. “His classes were full of creativity and not textbook-based,” says Conole. “He pushed his students to think outside the box, be creative, honest in writing and acting, and to work hard.” Dutton was named Best Teacher by Orlando Home & Leisure Magazine in 2011. Two years later, the family returned to Martha’s Vineyard, where Dutton managed the Martha’s Vineyard Film So-
ciety and taught lively film classes. Episodes of his recorded series Film Talk can be found on the film society website. In an outpouring of love and support, friends from throughout Dutton’s life and career — including many from Central Florida — came together during the week before he died to produce a live reading, via Zoom, of his three-act play with lyrics, The Ivory Door. Among the actors and crew taking part in the virtual play — 33 in all — were more than a dozen castmates from Dutton’s years as a character actor at Walt Disney World’s Adventure Club. Dutton died the evening before the virtual play was to have been performed — but did watch the dress rehearsal from his home, where he was under Hospice care. Still, the show went on just as Dutton would have wished. During an online remembrance service the following week — attendees were asked to wear costumes — dozens of friends and colleagues tearfully (and joyfully) recalled Dutton’s intellect, humor, kindness and unflagging optimism. Several former drama students from Dutton's stint at Winter Park High School described their former teacher's caring manner and his diligence in staying in touch after graduation to celebrate their successes and achievements.
MARGARET (PEGGY) O’ROURKE • 1964–2020 Margaret Helen (Peggy) O’Rourke, 55, helped change the look of Winter Park. A graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in architecture and interior design, she designed seven buildings in Hannibal Square as well as renovations to Grant Chapel, a historic church that was moved from its original location in 2013 and repurposed as a wedding and event venue. “Peggy had an incredible sense of style and scale,” says Dan Bellows, president of Sydgen Corporation, which redeveloped the Hannibal Square business district in the 1990s. “She dismissed her ego, which allowed her to freely collaborate on her designs with her clients.” One of those clients was Bellows, who met O’Rourke when both were teenagers — she was a student at Lyman High School (where she was the only female drafting student) and he was a student at Winter Park High School. They later lost touch, but reconnected through a chance meeting on Park Avenue in the late 1990s. Shortly thereafter they began collaborating on Sydgen’s projects, including Hannibal
Square and Ravaudage. At the time, O’Rourke had just returned to Winter Park from New York City, where she was proud to have been one of only two female designers for 200 West Street, the international headquarters of Goldman Sachs in Lower Manhattan. Locally, she started her own firm, Margaret O’Rourke Designs. Although she battled cancer for many years, friends describe O’Rourke as a world-traveling free spirit who never met a stranger. She loved outdoor activities such as waterskiing, biking and boating as well as the joys of savoring gourmet food and wine. She also cherished the arts and attended performances wherever she happened to be. The South of France, though, was her favorite spot in the world. Her final resting place is in Villefranche-sur-Mer, a picturesque beach village on the Mediterranean coast just east of Nice. O’Rourke is survived by her parents, a brother, a sister, nieces and nephews and her dog Hunter, an ebullient Weimaraner that could often be found in O’Rourke’s office or accompanying her to job sites.
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the DISTRICT The Spice & Tea Exchange of Winter Park Florida Sunshine Grinder, $13.95 More than 85 custom salt and spice blends made right in our store. 309 North Park Avenue 407-647-7423 spiceandtea.com/winter-park
Current by John Craig Charyli Frankies Terry Set, $210 Frankies Bikinis terrybutton front top with matching pull-on shorts; available in sand. 400 Park Avenue South, Suite 120 407-455-1983 charylistores.com
John Craig Clothier Arabella Sunset Maxi, $164 This off-the-shoulder dress is flattering on any silhouette. 115 East Morse Boulevard 407-636-8343 arabellaonmorse.com
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Peter Millar, $150 The Crown Collection from Peter Millar. 132 Park Avenue South 407-629-7944 JohnCraigClothier.com
Paige Jeans, $150 Paige is a California-based brand offering denim, jackets, shirts and accessories. 128 Park Avenue South 407-628-1087 CurrentMen.com
New General Shroom Avocado Toast, $12 Avocado mash, garlicky mushrooms, fresh thyme and everything seasoning on toasted Olde Hearth sourdough bread (vegan/gluten-free optional). 155 East New England Avenue 321-972-2819 newgeneral.us
Through the Looking Glass Designer-inspired necklaces, $30 Necklaces are three separate lengths. 110 North Park Avenue 321-972-3985
The Ancient Olive Gourmet gift boxes, $50 Gift boxes and baskets filled with the finest, most unique and delicious gourmet foods and accessories from around the globe, from $25 to $500. 324 North Park Avenue 321-972-1899 theancientolive.com
dear jane White Orchid Canister, $130 The Michael Aram White Orchid Collection illuminates the ethereal spirit of the orchid flower. Evocative of purity, delicacy, femininity and grace, the white metal version offers a strikingly different appeal than its black counterpart. While the sculpture is just as exuberant and detailed, in white, these flowers take on a simplicity that is completely unique. 329 North Park Avenue, Suite 105 407-951-8890 dearjanewinterpark.com FA L L 2 0 2 0 | W INT ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
New General Blue Majik Smoothie Bowl, $13 Bananas, mango, lime, coconut, blue magic and orange, topped with chocolate granola, wild blueberries, coconut and goji berries. Organic, gluten-free and vegan. 155 East New England Avenue 321-972-2819 newgeneral.us
Cocina 214 Fried Avocado Bites, $10 Lightly breaded and fried Hass avocados served with a chipotle cream sauce. 151 East Welbourne 407-790-7997 cocina214.com
Reynolds & Co. Jewelers 18K diamond band by Mira Fine Jewelry, $5,500 25% off any regular-priced jewelry. 232 North Park Avenue 407-645-2278 reynoldsjeweler.com
The Partridge Tree Gift Shop Corkcicle canteens, tumblers and more, $26 Corkcicle products are made of three-layer insulated stainless steel. Beverages stay cold for more than 25 hours or hot for more than 12 hours. 316 South Park Avenue 407-645-4788 thepartridgetree.com
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SALA Wine Bar and Bistro Picanha Chimichurri, $28 Brazilian prime-cut steak accompanied with crispy fries, housemade chimichurri and cilantro garlic mayonnaise. 528 South Park Avenue 407-636-7222 salawinebar.com
310 Park South California Chicken Salad Sandwich, $12 Housemade chicken salad, everything seasoning, avocado smash, field greens, tomato, bacon and croissant. 310 South Park Avenue 407- 647-7277 310restaurant.com
BoVine Steakhouse Dry-aged, bone-in ribeye, $68 Our signature item from Linz Heritage of Chicago is 22 ounces of Angus Beef, wet-aged for 30 days before being dry-aged for another 30. 319 South Park Avenue 407-794-1850 bovinesteakhouse.com
blu on the avenue blu Lobster Cobb, $20 Maine lobster, Boston lettuce, tomatoes, English cucumber, domestic prosciutto, avocado and bacon blue cheese dressing. 326 South Park Avenue 407-960-3778 bluontheavenue.com
Sarah Grafton President, Park Avenue District
ocated in the heart of downtown Winter Park, the Park Avenue District is home to worldclass dining, art, shopping, hotels, happenings and unrivaled culture. The District is deeply rooted in Winter Park’s rich history. Park Avenue has always been the heart of downtown, anchored on the south by Rollins College, which developed its campus along the shore of Lake Virginia as the town was taking shape. Winter Park was marketed in the late 19th century throughout the Northeast by founders Loring Chase and Oliver Chapman and quickly gained popularity as an arts and literary colony. In 2019, businesses and property owners along historic Park Avenue joined to establish an organization that attracts visitors from all over the world to our vibrant District. The mission is to enhance the Avenue through historic preservation, small business support, joint marketing efforts and special events.
See you on the Avenue, Sarah Grafton President, Park Avenue District
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Opening a new restaurant is never easy. But owner Joanne McMahon (seated); Tony Krueger, executive chef (standing, left); and Ben Peters, chef (standing, right) debuted their upscale steakhouse on Park Avenue just as the COVID-19 pandemic was spiking in Florida.
A DEFIANT STEAKHOUSE Joanne McMahon, a veteran Winter Park restaurateur, had more than her share of obstacles while opening BoVine. It’s a story of perseverance, very well done. BY RONA GINDIN PHOTOGRAPHY BY RAFAEL TONGOL
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wner of two popular Park Avenue eateries, Joanne McMahon, faced a daunting challenge: to create a new restaurant in the space that was occupied for 36 years by the iconic Park Plaza Gardens — regarded by many Central Floridians as the epitome of special-occasion dining. Over the decades, countless Winter Parkers had strolled into this Park Avenue institution toting gift bags to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, babies and business coups. Patrons lingered in the foliage-filled dining room with its partial glass ceiling. And the sidewalk seats were prized for people-watching with a drink and a nibble. The food? It was at times exceptional, depending upon the chef. But the quality of the cuisine was almost beside the point. Locals simply had a communal emotional attachment to the space. But Park Plaza Gardens unceremoniously closed in 2016 during a rancorous dispute between the owner and the landlord over conditions in the restaurant space. (The building, nearly a century old, is enveloped by the charming 28-room Park Plaza Hotel, a separate business.) McMahon, truly an entrepreneur’s entrepreneur, had the chutzpah to step into the empty space and create something new — something that wouldn’t make people forget Park Plaza Gardens but would be a worthy successor to it. She already owned 310 Park South and Blu on the Avenue, so McMahon knows the boutique-lined boulevard and what it takes to run a successful restaurant there. The dining room dynamo signed a lease and commenced to turning the once-bustling location into BoVine Steakhouse. Of course, a major renovation always uncovers surprises — usually not good ones. Just ask anyone who has ever hired a home remodeler. But in addition to the usual construction hassles, a pandemic hit just as the restaurant was finally about to open. Still, BoVine Steakhouse welcomed its first guests on June 18, 2020. No grand opening party took place, no marketing reps handed samples to food writers. McMahon simply unlocked the door and ushered in the first diners seeking a socially distanced seat. We suspect that none of those early diners, especially the carnivores, left disappointed Meals at BoVine are mostly traditional steakhouse fare with a few trendy upticks. McMahon developed the menu in collaboration with Executive Chef Tony Krueger, who has worked in McMahon’s kitchens since 2008. They chose beef shipped directly from Linz, a Chicagobased producer of black-hide Black Angus cattle, pampered and corn-fed for their final 150 days. Vegans, though, will find two entrées just for them, while appetizers such as salmon tartare offer light alternatives. As for the famous atrium-style dining room — you won’t recognize it. The revamped (and now atrium-free space) has brick walls, some of them original. The tables have white table-
BoVine’s lobster bisque (top left) is made with sherry and lobster broth. The crab-stuffed salmon (top right) is Scottish salmon stuffed with jumbo crab mix and topped with béarnaise sauce. The dry-aged, bone-in ribeye (bottom) is superb and, like all BoVine meat, is shipped directly from Linz, a Chicago-based purveyor. FA L L 2 0 2 0 | W INT ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
Desserts at BoVine, as one would expect, are housemade. The triple-chocolate layer cake, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, is particularly homey and satisfying â&#x20AC;&#x201D; the ideal conclusion to a first-class steakhouse meal.
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The interior of BoVine, with its stately brick walls, bears no resemblance to the atrium-style dining room at Park Plaza Gardens, which previously occupied the space.
cloths, and there’s a bar and a banquette as well as loads of booths. The goal: elegant enough for an upscale experience yet welcoming enough to enjoy dinner while clad in shorts and a polo shirt. “Since the space was iconic Winter Park, we wanted to make it something nice, where people who used to go there would feel comfortable coming back,” McMahon says. Hence the conservative, vintage steakhouse look. But oh, my! It was no easy task for BoVine to configure its operation to serve crab-stuffed salmon; dry-aged, bone-in ribeye (superb!); and veal chop topped with fontina (cheese) and speck (ham) either at the bar, in the dining room or packaged to take home. Back when we were still maskless, hugging each other and innocently sharing food platters, McMahon was unearthing the former Park Plaza Gardens foundation. “Nothing had been done to it for years,” McMahon explains. “Nothing was up to code. We basically gutted it.” That meant a new roof, floors, ceilings and bricks as well as a bar and every sort of kitchen equipment. The restrooms were moved for easier access. Those glass ceilings that were a signature feature of Park Plaza Gardens? Not code-compliant and now history. And whoa, what’s that? An old chimney? Really? “Things were intermingled,” McMahon reports. “Every stone we turned, we’d see something and
wonder, ‘Oh my God, where did that come from?’” For many months, Winter Parkers — assuming the pandemic would someday abate, or that we’d at least learn to live with it — eagerly awaited a new restaurant in this hallowed space. And McMahon was determined to give it to them. She and her crews cleared out rubbish and installed a sparkling new food-service system, from state-of-the-art air-conditioning with enhanced filtering capacity — a boon in these crazy times — to copper and black and white Villeroy & Boch Glow plates. Says McMahon: “We had to start from the beginning to do it all right.” The menus were printed and the staff was hired — then a mandatory lockdown was imposed that temporarily prohibited restaurants from hosting inside diners. “We were about to start training,” McMahon says. “It’s a three-week training process. At least we hadn’t ordered the food yet.” Some good news, at least. Still, training proceeded apace. “Everyone had to wear a mask,” says McMahon. “Everyone sat six feet apart.” She added pandemic-related instruction, since masks, temperature checks, social distancing, frequent cleaning and super-sonic sanitizing were required. Then, with a slightly reduced menu since so much takeout was expected, BoVine swung its glass door open. And, surprise! People did indeed request takeout — but, once reopening be-
gan, many more wanted to dine indoors. Maybe they were comforted by the website’s homepage, which lists an array of sanitation and safety precautions. Perhaps most importantly, with 200 seats, BoVine is big enough to spread guests out. For now, only two tables inhabit the long-popular sidewalk area. “If you’re going to buy a nice steak, you’re not going to sit outside and eat it in the summer. It’s just too hot,” McMahon says. She’ll add more tables there when the temperature drops. On a recent Thursday night in August, I overheard staffers say that they had 22 dine-in reservations for that evening. Other customers would surely call to take home a meal, each item secured in eco-friendly paper packaging, with wines and to-go cocktail add-ons optional. A little thank you note goes into the bag, too. The situation can only get easier for BoVine from here on, it seems. Kudos to McMahon for not being intimidated by the space’s reputation, discouraged by construction snags or prevented from bringing a new business to Park Avenue by a nasty virus that has done enough damage to our community already. BoVine Steakhouse 319 South Park Avenue, Winter Park 407-794-1850 bovinesteakhouse.com FA L L 2 0 2 0 | W INT ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
WELCOME TO WINTER PARK Index to Chamber Members Index to Chamber Members Apparel
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FA L L 2 0 2 0 | W IN T ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
EVENTS ART, HISTORY, ENTERTAINMENT AND MORE
MAESTRO: ‘PEOPLE NEED MUSIC’ SINCLAIR SAYS BACH FESTIVAL WILL OUTLAST TROUBLED TIMES.
John Sinclair’s Rollins College office is awash in sheet music and concert programs, lined with scholarly tomes and stocked with recordings of classical music. That’s just what you’d expect for the workplace of a multitasking maestro who teaches music at the college, chairs its music department and serves as artistic director and conductor of one of the community’s cultural treasures: the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park. The society — founded in 1935 to celebrate the German master’s 250th birthday — encompasses a volunteer, 160-member choir and full orchestra that presents an annual slate of programs often featuring world-renowned guest artists. Although performances of all sorts are held year-round, the Bach Festival itself is held in February and March. Unquestionably, however, the 2020–21 season is proving to be the most challenging yet due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The sheer spectacle of a fullon Bach Festival extravaganza in the breathtakingly beautiful Knowles Memorial Chapel has for decades provided an unforgettable experience for audiences in Central Florida. It seemed unlikely, however, that the upcoming slate of performances could be presented in the traditional manner. Still, Sinclair was determined that the festival would not take its first hiatus in 85 years of existence. Indeed, nobody who knows Sinclair truly believed that the music would stop. And that includes members of the Bach Festival Choir, a few of whom have been part of the organization even longer than its white-bearded conductor, who has wielded the baton since 1990. The choir is indeed an elite troupe, filled with doctors, lawyers, educators and business professionals as well as current students who spend untold hours rehearsing music that calls for some of the most disciplined and demanding vocalizing ever created. Several commute for hours to attend rigorous rehearsals (which have been suspended during the pandemic). “We trust John Sinclair,” says Beverly Slaughter, a soprano who has sung in the choir for 45 years. “We’ve gone over every mountain and every rock with him.”
84 W I N T E R P A R K M A GAZI N E | FALL 2020
Adds Jodi Tassos, another longtime member: “He knows how to get the best out of us. Yet he’s so kind and caring. I consider him a best friend.” Athalia Copes agrees. At 78, she has sung with the choir for 60 years and is its longest-tenured member. Like everyone else, she appreciates Sinclair’s sense of humor: “Sometimes, even when he corrects us, he’ll do it in a funny way. He’ll say, ‘You sound like a bunch of lumberjacks.” Sinclair, in fact, went shopping last season for a selection of humorous T-shirts to wear during the grueling rehearsals. One of them read, “I’m sorry for the hurtful but true things I’m about to say to you.” He gave the shirts away — freshly laundered, of course — to outstanding choir members at the end of the season.
A SHOW-ME STATE WORK ETHIC
Sinclair, a notorious workaholic, also finds time to conduct the Messiah Choral Society of Winter Park, the International Moravian Music Festivals and the annual Walt Disney World Candlelight Processional at EPCOT during the holidays. He also has a collection of great composers’ autographs on faded letters, legal documents, notes and scores tucked away in a drawer near his desk. There’s Giuseppe Verdi’s swirling flourish, Arturo Toscanini’s neatly underscored moniker and John Philip Sousa’s autograph on a small card, penned beneath a bar of music from “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” There’s even a 19th-century shopping list for groceries signed by Gioacchino Rossini — a source of amusement to Sinclair, who’s well-versed enough to know that the The Barber of Seville’s portly composer was something of an epicurean. The only thing that seems a little out of place is an old-fashioned cash register in the corner — the kind that goes ca-ching! and pops the cash drawer out when you ring up a sale. But the truth is, the vintage machine says just as much about the heart and soul of the 66-year-old Sinclair as the rest of the ephemera. Maybe even more. “Doc,” as his students and colleagues affectionately call him, grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, but as
a child lived in Camden, a small farming community of several hundred people about 40 miles east. The town was said to boast a population of 200, but Sinclair believes that “they may have also been counting the dogs.” His father, Dee, worked for General Motors — in what capacity, exactly, Sinclair has no idea — and his mother, Marilyn, was an elementary-school music teacher. She taught her son to play the piano and nudged him toward classical music, although he preferred rock and ragtime. Marilyn’s people were Jacksons, directly descended from Old Hickory and proud of their lineage. Buck and Agnes Jackson, Sinclair’s maternal grandparents, operated the Jackson General Store, a Camden institution that offered everything from groceries to hardware to sporting goods. The old-school emporium, complete with the requisite pot-bellied stove and candies in glass jars on the hewn walnut counter, had been in business long enough that there were stories about how both Yanks and Rebs took turns plundering it during the Civil War. Jesse James, it was said, had shopped there — and by all accounts paid for his purchases. The store was a cultural crossroads, as such stores often were. When Sinclair was a boy, he spent afterschool hours there, absorbing the town’s gossip and sweeping the store’s saw-cut floors while taking in the homespun storytelling and absorbing his grandfather’s admonitions about doing a good job without expecting a pat on the back for your efforts. Says Sinclair: “I keep that cash register in my office to remind me of my roots.” The family moved to Independence — famous as the home of Harry Truman — when Sinclair was 11. There he attended Chrisman High School, where he played trumpet in the band — he was a fan of brassheavy rock groups such as Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears — and was active in sports, especially baseball and basketball. At band practice, he recalls, the youthful musicians would sometimes spy Truman taking one of his legendary unescorted afternoon strolls, prompting hur-
PHOTO BY RAFAEL TONGOL
The Bach Festival and Orchestra’s artistic director John Sinclair has spent considerable time trying to figure out how to safely present content — and the situation is constantly in flux. “I keep telling everyone, people will forgive us if we try and then fail to present a season,” Sinclair says. “But what they won’t forgive is if we don’t try. People need music. And there’s going to be a real need for it, going forward from this.”
FA L L 2 0 2 0 | W INT ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
PHOTO BY RAFAEL TONGOL
John Sinclair’s Rollins College office is inundated by sheet music and concert programs, lined with scholarly tomes and stocked with recordings of classical music. That’s just what you’d expect for the workplace of a workaholic who, among other things, teaches music at the college, chairs its music department, and serves as artistic director and conductor of the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park.
ried but heartfelt renditions of “Hail to the Chief.” After graduation, Sinclair worked as a middleschool choral director in Belton, a suburb of Kansas City, in part to be near his high-school girlfriend, Gail Duvé, who was completing her English degree. The couple married in 1977, and both got jobs teaching high school in Sedalia, Missouri. The next stop for the Sinclairs was Marshall, Texas, a funky mid-sized city that proclaims itself “the birthplace of boogie-woogie.” John became director of choirs at East Texas Baptist University, while Gail taught high school English. When the department chair position at Rollins became available in 1985, it was a trio of quintessential Winter Park characters — Rollins President Thaddeus Seymour, former Rollins President Hugh McKean and businessman John Tiedtke, now all deceased — who lured the Sinclairs to Winter Park and
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ultimately kept them here. “I interviewed with Thad Seymour,” recalls Sinclair. “I was so impressed that the college president would bother to meet with a lowly assistant professor. He said to me, J‘ ohn, Rollins is the sort of place where one person can make a difference. I think that person is you.’” At 6-foot-6, the charismatic Seymour, who died in 2019 at age 91, cut an imposing figure and made a persuasive case. But what truly attracted Sinclair was the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park, which he expected to head as artistic director and conductor. The society’s longtime artistic director, Ward Woodbury, had just stepped down after suffering a stroke. Woodbury, a Rollins music professor, had been replaced by Murray Somerville, who concurrently served as choirmaster at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke in Orlando. The society’s artistic director had always been a Rollins faculty member. Therefore, it was assumed that Somerville’s tenure would be temporary. Somerville, however, assumed otherwise. It was five years before Sinclair ascended to his dream job.
‘I’M BASICALLY THE HEAD WAITER’
It doesn’t take long to learn that the years haven’t diminished Sinclair’s passion for what he does, which is to combine meticulous classical-music steward-
ship with studying the lives and works of musical giants, about whom he is an ebullient encyclopedia of knowledge. It’s that combination of teacher and artist that has made “Central Florida’s resident composer” — a moniker once bestowed upon Sinclair by a newspaper reporter — a favorite among music lovers ranging from first-year college students to weathered (and fiercely loyal) veterans of the Bach choir. “When you get right down to it, in my profession, I’m basically the head waiter,” Sinclair says. “My job is to deliver a product, and do it in a beautiful, elegant manner. But I’m not the creator. I’m just the guy in the control room, fiddling with the dials.” He’s also the guy who doesn’t decorate his office with his degrees and honors. But for the record, his masters and doctoral degrees are in music education from the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music and Dance. He has earned pretty much every honor Rollins hands out to distinguished faculty members. There was an Arthur Vining Davis Fellowship in 2000, presented annually by the Jacksonville-based foundation for achievements in teaching, academic research and community outreach. There was the Hugh and Jeannette McKean Faculty Grant in 2005, which Sinclair used to record a
CD of seldom-heard Moravian music performed by the Bach Festival Choir and Orchestra. There was the William E. Barden Distinguished Teaching Award in 2012, which was the result of a vote by students at the Hamilton Holt School, the college’s evening program. There was the Cornell Distinguished Service Award in 2013, the recipients of which are selected by a panel of deans and up to four past winners. Sinclair has twice been named Outstanding Music Educator of the Year by United Arts of Central Florida. The list continues, but a recognition that Sinclair appears to particularly cherish came in 2013, when William Jewell College saluted him and two other notable alumni at its annual Celebration of Achievement ceremony. The other honorees included a CEO and a federal district judge. Not that Sinclair intends to rest on his laurels. Or to rest at all, for that matter. During his three decades at the helm, he has guided the society through its most productive period. In addition to supervising the festival and related year-round events, the choir has made four European tours and performed with the Bach Choir of London in Royal Albert Hall and in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. On top of all that, most Sundays, Sinclair leads the choir at the First Congregational Church of Winter Park, a “temporary” job that has now lasted 29 years. (The church’s choral program, at this writing, has been suspended because of the pandemic — although Sinclair is exploring digital options as services have moved indefinitely online.) The church and the college are not formally affiliated, but the Congregational Association of Florida, led by members of the local church, founded Rollins in 1885, and the neighboring institutions have enjoyed close ties throughout the ensuing 130 years. The first president of Rollins, Edward Hooker, was also the church’s first minister. “Working with the church is a great opportunity for [Rollins] students,” says Sinclair, who seeds the choir with collegiate singers and supplements the omnipresent organ with various instrumental ensembles. “It’s like a medical school having a teaching hospital.” One Sunday several years ago, when the senior minister was on sabbatical, Sinclair even delivered the sermon, albeit a highly ecumenical and selfdeprecating one he titled “The Gospel According to the Not-So-Saintly John.” But there’s another, less practical and more poignant reason that Sinclair retains an affinity for worship services. “My grandmother once told me something I’ve always remembered,” he recalls. “She said, ‘John, God gave you this talent. So you need to be somewhere using it on Sunday mornings.’”
‘WELL, YOU KEPT UP THE BEAT’
Sinclair is also a habitual storyteller, having absorbed the gift of gab from that general store along with his work ethic. Ask him to talk about the power of music to evoke as well as inspire, for example, and
he may well come up with a nugget like this: “There was an Austrian composer named Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf. He wrote an orchestral piece, Tournament of Temperaments. It has six sections — each one devoted to a different human emotion.” But Sinclair is also humble enough to tell a story or two in which he serves as the butt of the joke — such as the one about the time he fell briefly asleep on his feet while conducting. “Afterwards, I asked some of the people in the choir how I looked,” he says. “They told me: ‘Well, you kept up the beat.’” Sinclair is so attuned to sharing anecdotes that he even wrote a book, Falling off the Podium, filled with vignettes from what he describes as “a remarkable, unremarkable life.” A handful of the stories are about his friendship with Fred Rogers, the Rollins music composition graduate — Class of 1951 — who became an iconic figure through the PBS series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Over the years, Rogers and his wife, Joanne, continued to spend time in Winter Park and became close to the Sinclairs. One year, Sinclair recalls, Rogers went missing from a holiday gathering at their home. He was eventually found outside, happily visiting with the children as the adults nibbled appetizers. Says Sinclair: “Fred was who he seemed to be in every way.” Rogers was also funny — he and Sinclair swapped absurd or ironic Christmas gifts for years — and a brilliant musician who sometimes showed up at Sinclair’s rehearsals and gently offered advice afterward. “People don’t always remember that Fred was a serious and accomplished composer,” he adds. Toward the end of Rogers’ life, Sinclair remembers, the man who professed to generations — with utter sincerity — that he liked everyone “just the way you are” attended the Candlelight Processional at EPCOT, which is narrated by professional actors with holiday music sung primarily by high-school choirs. When the frail but familiar figure appeared backstage at the American Garden Theater, hundreds of awestruck teenagers spontaneously began to serenade him with an impromptu version of “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” Unsurprisingly, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. This year, in honor of Sinclair’s 30th anniversary as artistic director and conductor, the Bach Festival Society board of directors created a fund to establish the John V. Sinclair Endowed Fund for Artistic Direction. Its purpose is to ensure that the society will always have the funds to maintain a standard of excellence when hiring new directors. Not that Sinclair is in any hurry to step down from the podium. He intends to keep a promise he made years ago to John Tiedtke, a legendary local philanthropist and former festival chairman of the board, who asked him to remain at his post until he was 75. “Mr. Tiedtke really wanted me to stick around until I was 80, but we negotiated,” says Sinclair, still using a formal title to refer to the wealthy sugar grower who was one of the society’s primary funders until
his death in 2003 at age 97. Just before Tiedtke’s passing, Rollins established the John M. Tiedtke Endowed Chair of Music, which Sinclair holds. An anonymous donor who ponied up $250,000 was later revealed to be Fred Rogers. It should be noted that the society is technically a separate operation from Rollins and is funded by grants, donations, ticket sales and an endowment that was initially bolstered by gifts from Tiedtke and the Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust, founded by Richard Genius and Jeannette Genius McKean in memory of their mother. But the college and the society are so intertwined that few ticket buyers discern any distinction between them. Sinclair’s prominent role in both organizations further strengthens the historic bond, although whether of not the organizations will remain in simpatico when the indefatigable Sinclair finally puts away his baton is unknown.
THE SHOW MUST GO ON
But what form will the Bach Festival take this season, when crowds in enclosed spaces enhance the danger of contracting a potentially lethal infection? Like everyone else in the arts, Sinclair has spent considerable time trying to figure out how to safely present content — and the situation is constantly in flux. “It’s been like reading a book, where you have no idea what you’re going to see when you turn a page,” he says. Sinclair has spent much of the year reshuffling the schedule, checking with medical sources, educating himself about air-filtering systems and devising ways to both perform and rehearse virtually in order to present a season while protecting both musicians and audience members from the virus. “I keep telling everyone, people will forgive us if we try and then fail to present a season,” Sinclair says. “But what they won’t forgive is if we don’t try. People need music. And there’s going to be a real need for it, going forward from this.” On page 97, then, is the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park’s schedule as it stood in September of 2020. Because of the constantly evolving public health situation, much remains tentative — even the city’s annual Christmas in the Park, at which the choir and orchestra perform. Times and, in some cases, locations are not confirmed, and events that have a live component will likely allow only limited seating based on current guidelines from Rollins and the CDC. All performances will be taped and digitally streamed — a first for the festival. So best to check bachfestivalflorida.org for more information prior to making plans. Says Athalia Copes: “I’m a Quaker, and we talk of creating ‘thin spaces’ — places where you can reach out and touch God, and he can touch you. I’ve experienced it many times with this choir.” Surely that’s something most of us would appreciate experiencing during this troubled season. — Michael McLeod FA L L 2 0 2 0 | W INT ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
BACH FESTIVAL HAS A BRAVURA BACKSTORY
COURTESY OF THE ROLLINS COLLEGE ARCHIVES
The Bach Festival Society of Winter Park, founded in 1935, sprang from a Vespers service presented that year on the Rollins College campus at Knowles Memorial Chapel. The event was organized by Christopher Honaas, dean of the college’s whimsically named Division of Expressive Arts. At the urging of then-President Hamilton Holt, a committee of professors and community leaders formed a Bach Festival Committee in 1937 “to present to the public for its enlightenment, education, pleasure and enjoyment musical presentations, both orchestral and choral.” The Bach Festival Society was incorporated in 1940. By the time artistic director John Sinclair arrived, the society and its annual festival had for decades been the personal domain of John Tiedtke, a shrewd businessman who had made his fortune growing sugar, citrus and corn in South Florida. Hugh McKean, then president of the college, had asked his boyhood friend to take charge of the festival in 1950, when founding society President Isabelle Sprague-Smith died and the organization’s future seemed in doubt. The no-nonsense Tiedtke proved a fortuitous choice. He loved music — he played a little piano, but mostly enjoyed listening and was a consistent and generous donor to community-based arts organizations. At Rollins, he had been treasurer and chairman of the board of trustees. McKean, an iconic Winter Park figure, had been an art professor at Rollins before his elevation to the presidency. He had also married Jeannette Genius, granddaughter of Charles Hosmer Morse, a benevolent industrialist who had helped shape modern Winter Park. Together, the McKeans had created the Morse Museum of American Art, which they stocked with salvaged and restored works by Louis Comfort Tiffany. “Mr. Tiedtke and Dr. McKean understood that with great wealth comes responsibility,” says Sinclair. “They would have lunch together
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every Saturday. They started inviting me to come along, and those lunches were hugely interesting.” Sinclair, who says he sometimes felt “a little like a third wheel,” would listen in awe as the old friends discussed art, philosophy and the events of the day. They would even spar over who should pay the tab. After 40 years of lunches, McKean joked, he remembered only a handful of times when Tiedtke picked up the bill. But when the subject of the society came up, it was clear that Tiedtke, the primary funder as well as the hands-on boss, called the shots. There would be a new artistic director only when Tiedtke decided that there ought to be. John Sinclair was hired in 1985 as chair of the college’s music department and, he assumed, artistic director of the festival, a position then held by Murray Sommerville on what was thought to be a temporary basis. But after nearly five years passed with Somerville still at the helm, Sinclair felt that an impasse had been reached. The Sinclairs had two children and loved Rollins and their comfortable home in Maitland. Still, several high profile institutions, including Penn State, were making overtures. And Sinclair was tempted to explore them. The unflappable McKean, at Tiedtke’s request, persuaded Sinclair to stay put and counseled patience. Shortly thereafter, Somerville left for a position as organist and choirmaster at Harvard University’s Memorial Church and Sinclair finally took up the baton. “Mr. Tiedtke knew I had strong opinions,” recalls Sinclair. “But he could be persuaded in some instances. Basically, he said, ‘You pick what you want to do, and I get veto power.’” Today, what started as a single Sunday performance has grown into a full-fledged festival with a 160-member choir, a permanent orchestra and a packed schedule of concerts, many of which feature internationally renowned guest soloists. Living up to the examples set by Tiedtke and McKean has been a continuing priority for Sinclair. Tiedtke believed that well-run, wellsupported arts organizations were integral to any enlightened community, and McKean believed that any academician worth his salt was first and foremost a classroom teacher. Eric Ravndal, society president since 2004, is a retired Episcopal priest and a Tiedtke cousin. Under his leadership, the organization has been revamped as a more traditionally structured not-for-profit, with a diverse board and a paid staff. Although Ravndal’s collaborative management style is a departure for the society, he, like his legendary predecessor, recognizes that his artistic director brings more to the position of artistic director and conductor than an unerring ear for music. “John is a natural educator,” says Ravndal. “I attend nearly every rehearsal. And I can tell you that the musicians never leave a rehearsal without having learned more about the music they’re performing. It’s an incredible gift.”
2020–21 SEASON OCTOBER 2020 Visiting Artist Series October 1–18 Adam Golka, piano (Beethoven Sonatas) Tiedtke Concert Hall Time TBA
February 20 and 21 Either: American Spirituals and Folksongs Knowles Memorial Chapel or Organ, Bass and Choir Knowles Memorial Chapel Time TBA
IN PERSON AND STREAMED ONLINE
IN PERSON AND STREAMED ONLINE
October 24 or 25 Silver Screen Symphonic Masterpieces Outdoors location to be determined Time TBA
February 27 Voces8 Either Tiedtke Concert Hall or Knowles Memorial Chapel Time TBA
IN PERSON AND STREAMED ONLINE
IN PERSON AND STREAMED ONLINE
NOVEMBER 2020 November 5 Insights & Sounds Sweet on Suites and Serenades Knowles Memorial Chapel Time TBA IN PERSON AND STREAMED ONLINE
November 19 Visiting Artist Series Diaz Trio Tiedtke Concert Hall Time TBA IN PERSON AND STREAMED ONLINE
DECEMBER 2020 December (Date TBA) Christmas in the Park (Tentative) Central Park December 12 and 13 Voctave Christmas Location and Time TBA IN PERSON AND STREAMED ONLINE
The Bach Festival was first held in 1935 as a single Sunday performance commemorating the namesake composer’s 250th birthday.
February 28 J.S. Bach Cantata Masterpieces Knowles Memorial Chapel Time TBA IN PERSON AND STREAMED ONLINE
THE 86TH ANNUAL BACH FESTIVAL
Insights & Sounds Humor in Music Tiedtke Concert Hall Time TBA
February 5 Organ Recital Knowles Memorial Chapel Time TBA IN PERSON AND STREAMED ONLINE
February 7 Spiritual Spaces Knowles Memorial Chapel Time TBA IN PERSON AND STREAMED ONLINE
February 12 and 13 Concertos by Candlelight Scandinavian Romantics: Grieg and Sibelius Knowles Memorial Chapel Time TBA IN PERSON AND STREAMED ONLINE
IN PERSON AND STREAMED ONLINE
MAY 2021 Choral Masterworks Dvorak, Lauridsen, Barber Knowles Memorial Chapel Time TBA IN PERSON AND STREAMED ONLINE
A series of instrumental chamber music performances will also be announced. Season tickets were not yet on sale at press time. Visit bachfestivalflorida.org for the most up to date information since the schedule is in flux and may change depending on the COVID-19 pandemic.
FA L L 2 0 2 0 | W INT ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
EVENTS NOTE: Due to COVID-19 mitigation efforts, venues may be closed or offering limited hours. Also, events are subject to cancellation and attendance capacities may be reduced. The dates and times in these listings are those of normal operation and will likely still be different by the time this issue of Winter Park Magazine reaches homes. Some, in fact, had not fully reopened at press time, although they were planning to do so in the coming weeks. So please use the contact information provided and check in advance before making your plans. We also encourage you to anticipate that masks may be required, as well as observance of social distancing protocols.
Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens. This lakeside museum, open since 1961, is dedicated to preserving works of the famed Czech sculptor for whom it was both home and studio for more than a decade. The museum offers tours of Polasek’s home Tuesdays through Saturdays. And it offers tours of the adjacent Capen-Showalter House three times weekly: Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11:30 a.m., and Saturdays at 10:15 a.m. Built in 1885, the Capen-Showalter House was saved from demolition several years ago and floated across Lake Osceola to its current location on the Polasek’s grounds. The museum’s current exhibition, The Puerto Rican Artist Collective, Keepers of Heritage: Evolving Identities, runs through March 2021 and includes paintings, mixed media and sculpture by artists honoring their cultural roots as members of the Puerto Rican diaspora. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, $3 for students and free for children. 633 Osceola Avenue, Winter Park. 407-647-6294. polasek.org. Art & History Museums — Maitland. The Maitland Art Center, one of five museums that anchor the city’s Cultural Corridor, was founded as an art colony in 1937 by visionary artist and architect J. André Smith. The center, located at 231 West Packwood Avenue, Maitland, is Central Florida’s only National Historic Landmark and one of the few surviving examples of Mayan Revival architecture in the Southeast. Admission to the art center’s galleries is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and students (ages 5 to 17) and free for children age 4 and under. Maitland residents receive a $1 discount. The Cultural Corridor also includes the Maitland Historical Museum and Telephone Museum at 221 West Packwood Avenue, and the Waterhouse Residence Museum and Carpentry Shop Museum, both built in the 1880s and located at 820 Lake Lily Drive. Continuing through February 2021 at the history museum is Growing Up Maitland, which explores how the city has changed for young people over the past century. 407-539-2181. artandhistory.org. Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art. With more than 19,000 square feet of gallery and public space, the Morse houses the world’s most important
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collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany creations, including jewelry, pottery, paintings, art glass and an entire chapel interior originally designed and built for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. On October 20, an elaborate fireplace hood designed by Tiffany for his own home will be installed. The museum’s latest exhibition is Portraits of Americans from the Morse Collection, featuring works by John Singer Sargent, Charles Hawthorne, Cecilia Beaux and others. As photography made romanticized depictions of well-known figures obsolete, these artists guided portraiture into the 20th century with compelling works that captured not only the physical likeness of their subjects, but their innate character as well. Also on view is Iridescence — A Celebration, which runs through September 2021. The dazzling display features works in enamel, pottery and art glass that replicate the shimmering optical effects previously only found in nature. Regular admission to the museum is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, $1 for students and free for children younger than age 12. At press time, appointments were required for admission and hours were 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. 445 North Park Avenue, Winter Park. 407-645-5311. morsemuseum.org. Cornell Fine Arts Museum. Located on the campus of Rollins College, the Cornell houses one of the oldest and most eclectic collections of fine art in Florida. Continuing through May 2021 is The Place as Metaphor: Collection Conversations, an examination of the multiple meanings of place through diverse representations across time and region. New exhibitions include E Pluribus Unum, featuring works by contemporary painter Marcus Jansen, who seeks to document the human condition critically, socially and politically; What Women Want, a collection of selfportraits by female artists who seek to construct new definitions of women in society; and Storied Objects: Relics and Tales from the Thomas R. Baker Museum, an eclectic array of objects that were donated to Rollins by collectors across the country after a fire in 1909 destroyed the original on-campus museum. All three run through January 3, 2021. Finally, continuing through December 31 is Ruptures and Remnants: Selections from the Permanent Collection, which offers material manifestations, from antiquity to the present day, of ruptures ranging from personal crises to nation-state upheavals. Opening on January 15, 2021 are Rania Matar: On Either Side of the Window, Portraits During COVID-19, which features images of individuals in quarantines caused by the pandemic; Pushing the Envelope: Mail Art from the Archives of American Art, a collection of works by artists who eschewed the traditional circuit of museums and commercial galleries in favor of the more accessible space of mailable objects such as letters, postcards and packages; and ReOrienting the Gaze, which features works by contemporary Middle Eastern and North African artists who challenge past and present echoes of Orientalist thought. Guided tours take place at 1 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays at the nearby Alfond Inn, where a selection of more than 400 works in the museum’s Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art are on view. Happy Hour tours of the Alfond Collection are also conducted on the first Wednesday of most months at 5:30 p.m. If you prefer historic works, Throwback Thursday tours are offered at the museum from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of most months. Admission is free,
courtesy of PNC Financial Services Group. 1000 Holt Avenue, Winter Park. 407-646-2526. rollins.edu/cfam. Crealdé School of Art. Established in 1975, this not-forprofit arts organization on Winter Park’s east side offers year-round visual-arts classes for all ages, taught by more than 40 working artists. Visitors may take a self-guided tour through its lakeside sculpture garden, which includes approximately 60 three-dimensional pieces of contemporary outdoor art and educational panels that describe the diversity of expressive styles and durable media. The current exhibition, What Is That You Express In Your Eyes?, is a collection of works by Colombian artist Alberto Gómez. It features the debut of a large three-panel mural on the history of immigration in the U.S. commissioned by Crealdé. Admission to the school’s galleries is free, although there are fees for art classes. 600 Saint Andrews Boulevard, Winter Park. 407-671-1886. crealde.org. Hannibal Square Heritage Center. Established in 2007 by the Crealdé School of Art in partnership with residents of Hannibal Square and the City of Winter Park, the center celebrates the city’s historically African-American west side with archival photographs, original artwork and oral histories from longtime residents that are collectively known as the Heritage Collection. Also ongoing is the Hannibal Square Timeline, which documents significant local and national events in African-American history since the Emancipation Proclamation. A new exhibition, On Love and Loss, is a series of black-and-white photographs by Cynthia Slaughter that document the daily life of her 94-year-old mother. The center also offers a walking tour of Hannibal Square, Now and Then, with Fairolyn Livingston, chief historian. The tour, offered on the third Saturday of each month from 10 to 11:30 a.m., requires reservations; the cost is $10, or $5 for those with student IDs. Historic sites include the Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, the Welbourne Avenue Nursery & Kindergarten and the Masonic Lodge, all built in the 1920s. 642 West New England Avenue, Winter Park. 407539-2680. hannibalsquareheritagecenter.org.
Annie Russell Theatre. “The Annie,” in continuous operation at Rollins College since 1932, is celebrating women’s voices in its 88th season, with every production penned by a female playwright. The season kicks off with Annie Stripped (October 9 through 17), a series of three oneact plays chronicling issues such as motherhood, mental illness and institutional racism. Next up is The Wolves (November 13 through 21), a 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Drama finalist about the struggles of a girls’ soccer team on and off the field. Then, for a change of pace, there’s As It Is in Heaven (February 12 through 20, 2021), an amusing and insightful tale about religious fanaticism in 1830s’ Appalachia directed by Rollins alum Beth Lincks. The season concludes with Legally Blonde: The Musical (April 16 through 24, 2021), the Broadway adaptation of 2001’s hit comedy about a seemingly superficial sorority girl who enrolls at Harvard Law School. In order to maintain social distancing, these shows may be limited to members of the college community, patrons of the theater or other select groups. Curtain times are 8 p.m., 4 p.m. or 2 p.m., depending upon the day of the week. Individual tickets are $20.
EVENTS 1000 Holt Avenue, Winter Park. 407-646-2145. rollins. edu/annie-russell-theatre. Winter Park Playhouse. Winter Park’s only professional, nonprofit theater has postponed its mainstage season until 2021, opening with A Grand Night for Singing (January 22 through February 20, 2021), a celebration of the classic compositions of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. The season continues with Respect: A Musical Journey of Women (March 19 through April 24, 2021), Five Course Love (May 14 through June 13, 2021), Crazy for Gershwin (July 30 through August 22, 2021), The Book of Merman (September 24 through October 17, 2021) and Christmas My Way: A Sinatra Holiday Bash (November 12 through December 18, 2021). Performances are Thursdays
through Sundays, with evening performances at 7:30 p.m. and matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets range in price from $20 for students to $45 for evening shows. 711 Orange Avenue, Winter Park. 407-645-0145. winterparkplayhouse.org.
ture appropriately spooky Halloween themes. A full schedule of titles and showtimes is available online. 1300 South Orlando Avenue, Maitland. 407-629-0054 (information line), 407-629-1088 (theater offices). enzian.org.
Popcorn Flicks in the Park. The City of Winter Park and the Enzian collaborate to offer classic, familyfriendly films free in Central Park on Park Avenue. These outdoor screenings are typically held on the second Thursday of each month and start at 7 or 8 p.m. Don’t forget to pack a picnic and blankets or chairs. 407-6291088. enzian.org.
At press time, these traditional holiday events were not confirmed due to COVID-19 and may not be held. Check each website for up-to-the-minute news. 42nd Annual Christmas in the Park: The Morse Museum of American Art and the City of Winter Park present this annual exhibition of century-old Tiffany windows combined with a free outdoor concert of holiday favorites by the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park’s choir and brass ensemble. This year’s event is tentatively set for December 3 from 6:15 to 8:30 p.m. in Central Park. 407-645-5311. morsemuseum.org. Winter on the Avenue. Park Avenue is transformed into a winter wonderland for this annual holiday street party, tentatively set for December 4 at 5 p.m. Festivities include the traditional tree-lighting ceremony at dusk, carolers, snow slides, s’mores and a visit from Santa Claus — the real one, not just a guy dressed up in a red suit. As a gift to the community, the Morse Museum of American Art will offer free admission from 4 to 8 p.m. 407-5993399. winterpark.org/winter-on-the-avenue.
GETTING BACK TO BUSINESS
PHOTO BY E. LANE GRESHAM (BARBARA BROWN TAYLOR)
Winter Park’s Economic Recovery Task Force, formed by the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, has proposed some creative ways to help support local businesses that have been hobbled by COVID-19 Strategies already implemented by the chamber and the City of Winter Park include dedicated curbside pickup zones for retail and restaurants, and public activities in Central Park. During September, for example, Music in the Park showcased local entertainers in Central Park. Upcoming events include Movie Night in the Park. In partnership with the Enzian Theater, movies will be shown every other Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Coming up October 8 is Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman in Central Park, followed on October 22 by a yet-to-be announced movie at Ward Park (Fields 1 and 2). Sidewalk Sales, in collaboration with the chamber and the Park Avenue District, will be held on the second weekend of each month through December. Participating shopping districts include Park Avenue and Hannibal Square. For Movie Night, you can reserve your 10-by10-foot movie pod for groups of up to six people at cityofwinterpark.org or call 407-599-3342 for more information.
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68th Annual Ye Olde Hometown Christmas Parade. This venerable tradition, tentatively scheduled for December 5 beginning at 9 a.m., has delighted locals since the early 1950s. More than 80 parade units are expected to make their way south along Park Avenue beginning at Cole Avenue and ending at Lyman Avenue. Participants in the 90-minute event include marching bands, dance troupes, police and fire departments, local dignitaries and, of course, Santa Claus — who will have appeared the night before at Winter on the Avenue. You can also help turn pancake batter into dough — the spending kind — for civic-leadership scholarships at the 22nd Annual Leadership Winter Park Pancake Breakfast from 7 to 10:30 a.m. The breakfast is served in Central Park near the outdoor stage. Tickets are $5 and proceeds benefit the Winter Park Improvement Foundation, a program sponsored by the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce. 407-644-8281. winterpark.org/christmasparade, winterpark.org/pancake-breakfast.
Enzian. This cozy, nonprofit alternative cinema offers a plethora of film series. Tickets are usually $12 for regular admission; $10 for matinees, students, seniors and military (with ID); and $9.50 for Enzian Film Society members. Children under age 12 are admitted free to Peanut Butter Matinee Family Films, shown the fourth Sunday of each month at noon. Other series include Saturday Matinee Classics (the second Saturday of each month at noon), Cult Classics (the second and last Tuesday of each month at 9:30 p.m.), and Midnight Movies (every Saturday night). FilmSlam, which spotlights Floridamade short films, takes place most months on the first or second Sunday at 1 p.m.; the next scheduled date is October 11. During October, many selected films fea-
Casa Feliz Historic Home Museum. This stunningly restored Spanish farmhouse-style home, designed by acclaimed architect James Gamble Rogers II, is now a community center and museum. Free open houses are hosted by docents on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Also, live music is featured in the large downstairs parlor most Sundays from noon to 3 p.m. At press time, these events had been postponed until further notice. 656 North Park Avenue (adjacent to the Winter Park Golf Course), Winter Park. 407-628-8200. casafeliz.us. Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center of Florida. The center is dedicated to combating antiSemitism, racism and prejudice, with the goal of developing a moral and just community through educational and cultural programs. It houses permanent and temporary exhibitions, archives and a research library. The museum’s ongoing exhibition, Tribute to the Holocaust, is a presentation of artifacts, videos, text, photographs and other works of art. Admission to the center is free. 851 North Maitland Avenue, Maitland. 407-628-0555. holocaustedu.org. Winter Park History Museum. Travel back in time to the city’s earliest days with ongoing displays that include artifacts dating from its beginnings as a New Englandstyle resort in the 1880s. The freshly refurbished museum will soon feature a new exhibition, Rollins College: The First 50 Years, which will showcase vintage photos of campus life, a re-created dorm room and other collegiate memorabilia. The date for the new exhibition has not been determined at press time, but in the meantime Wish You Were Here: The Hotels and Motels of Winter Park, has been extended. Admission is free. 200 West New England Avenue, Winter Park. 407-644-2330. wphistory.org. Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts. Eatonville is strongly associated with Harlem Renaissance writer and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston, who lived there as a girl and recorded her childhood memories in her classic autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road. The museum that bears her name provides information about the historic city, sponsors exhibitions featuring the works of African-American artists and is an integral part of the annual, weeklong Zora! Festival each January. Admission is free, though group tours require a reservation and are charged a fee. 227 East Kennedy Boulevard, Eatonville. 407-647-3188. zoranealehurstonmuseum.com.
Early Detection Makes a Difference By Kamy Kemp, MD Breast Surgeon, AdventHealth Medical Group
f you haven’t already noticed, you’ll soon see our city turn pink for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This transformation represents breast cancer awareness at a time when improved detection and treatments offer a cure or long-term survival for most. Breast cancer remains the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women, but early detection through mammography is making a difference. Mammograms and ultrasounds detect most breast cancers. However, even with normal imaging, a palpable mass should always lead to consultation with a physician, as a biopsy may still be indicated. Other signs to report include puckering, nipple scabbing or crusting, and discharge that comes out of the nipple without squeezing. Annual mammograms are the first step in screening. Ultrasound does not replace mammograms, since calcifications — which are not seen by ultrasound — can lead to the diagnosis of early breast cancer. During October, the tests are readily available at a highly reduced cost, and for those with insurance, screening mammograms are generally covered 100 percent. Many women complain of the discomfort from the compression of a mammogram. However, this compression forces the tissue to spread out, making abnormalities easier to detect. Please remember, the time in compression is only a matter of seconds. Think of those seconds as something that could save your life, so get your annual mammogram and let’s cure breast cancer!
When you’re ready, we’re ready.
We are open and taking every precaution to keep you safe and well, including social distancing, temperature scanning, masks worn by staff and visitors, and frequent cleaning. As you take the steps needed to get your life and healthcare back on track, we’re here to help you. Schedule your 3D, 30-minute mammogram by calling 866-366-PINK or schedule anytime online at ScheduleYourMammo.com.
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University Club of Winter Park. Nestled among the oaks and palms at the north end of Park Avenue’s downtown shopping district — a block beyond Casa Feliz — is another historic James Gamble Rogers II building, this one home to the University Club of Winter Park. Members are dedicated to the enjoyment of intellectual activities and socializing with one another. The club’s various activities, including lectures, are open to the public, although nonmembers are asked to make a $5 donation each time they attend. (Some events include a buffet lunch for an added fee.) A full schedule of events and speakers is available online. 841 North Park Avenue. 407-644-6149. uclubwp.org.
Bach Festival Society of Winter Park. See the feature beginning on page 84. Blue Bamboo Center for the Arts. This eclectic venue is part concert hall, part recording studio and part art gallery. It offers live performances most evenings, with an emphasis on jazz, classical and world music — although theater, dance and spoken-word presentations are sometimes on the schedule. Admission generally ranges from free to $25. As of press time, all concerts are being held virtually. 1905 Kentucky Avenue, Winter Park. 407-636-9951. bluebambooartcenter.com. Central Florida Folk. This Winter Park-based not-forprofit is dedicated to promoting and preserving live folk music, primarily through concerts usually held on the last Sunday of each month (unless a holiday intervenes) at 2 p.m. The group’s primary venue is the Winter Park Public Library, 460 East New England Avenue. Shows are expected to resume January 31, 2021 with the Chicago-based folk duo, Small Potatoes. Other upcoming acts are guitarist Brooks Williams (February 28, 2021) and eclectic singer-songwriters Dan Frechette & Laurel Thomsen (March 28, 2021). A donation of $15 for nonmembers is suggested. 407-679-6426. cffolk.org. Music at the Casa. The Casa Feliz Historic Home Museum presents acoustic performances on most Sunday afternoons from noon to 3 p.m. in the museum’s cozy main parlor. Past selections include opera, jazz guitar and flamenco dancers. A $5 donation is suggested. At press time, these events had been postponed until further notice. 656 North Park Avenue (adjacent to the Winter Park Golf Course), Winter Park. 407-628-8200. casafeliz.us. Performing Arts of Maitland. This not-for-profit group works with the City of Maitland and other organizations to promote performances for and by local musicians. It supports various groups, including the Maitland Symphony Orchestra, Maitland Market Music, the Maitland Stage Band and the Baroque Chamber Orchestra. A full schedule of events is available online. 407-339-5984, ext. 219. pamaitland.org.
Maitland Farmers’ Market. This year-round, open-air market — held each Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. — features fresh produce, seafood, breads and cheeses as well
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as plants, all-natural skin-care products and live music by Performing Arts of Maitland. The setting on Lake Lily boasts a boardwalk, jogging trails, a playground and picnic areas. 701 Lake Lily Drive, Maitland. itsmymaitland.com. Winter Park Farmers’ Market. The region’s busiest and arguably most popular farmers’ market is held every Saturday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. During the summer months, the market was held in the Central Park West Meadow, located at the corner of New York Avenue and Morse Boulevard, to allow for greater social distancing. However, by now it may have moved back to its usual location at the old railroad depot that also houses the Winter Park History Museum. The openair market offers baked goods, produce, plants, honey, cheese, meat, flowers, crafts and other specialty items. After shopping, make a morning of it with a stroll along nearby Park Avenue. Dogs are welcome to bring their people. 200 West New England Avenue, Winter Park. cityofwinterpark.org.
Florida Writers Association. Join fellow scribes for lectures by guest speakers and discussions led by local authors. The Orlando/Winter Park-Area chapter meets on the first Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the University Club of Winter Park, 841 North Park Avenue, Winter Park. The next scheduled event is slated for October 7 and will be held online. Another chapter, the Maitland Writers Group, meets on the second Thursday of each month from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The next scheduled event is slated for October 8 at the Maitland Public Library, 501 South Maitland Avenue, Maitland. floridawriters.net. Orlando Writers Critique Group. Writers gather under the guidance of author and writing coach Rik Feeney to review and critique their current works on the third Tuesday of each month from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Winter Park Public Library. The next scheduled event is October 20 and will be held online. 460 East New England Avenue, Winter Park. usabookcoach@gmail. com, wppl.org. Storytellers of Central Florida. Experienced and fledgling storytellers gather to share stories and practice their craft on the first Tuesday of each month from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Winter Park Public Library. As of press time, these events have been postponed until further notice. Meetings are hosted by professional storyteller Madeline Pots. 460 East New England Avenue, Winter Park. 321439-6020, email@example.com, wppl.org. Wednesday Open Words. One of the area’s longest-running open-mic poetry nights happens every Wednesday at 9 p.m. at Austin’s Coffee, 929 West Fairbanks Avenue, Winter Park. 407-975-3364. austinscoffee.com. Writers of Central Florida or Thereabouts. This group offers various free programs that attract writers of all stripes. Short Attention Span Storytelling Hour, a literary open-mic night, meets at 7 p.m. on the second Wednesday of most months. It’s for authors, poets, filmmakers, comedians, musicians, bloggers and others. Upcoming dates
are October 14, November 11 and December 9. Orlando WordLab, a workshop that challenges writers to experiment with new techniques or methods, meets at 7 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Upcoming dates are October 28, November 25 and December 23. Both events are currently being held online. meetup.com/ writers-of-central-florida-or-thereabouts, wppl.org.
At press time, it had not been determined if these events would be held in person with social distancing or moved online. Check each website for up-to-the-minute news. Good Morning Winter Park. Hosted by the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, these monthly gatherings attract business- and civic-minded locals who enjoy coffee and conversation about community issues. Scheduled for the second Friday of most months, the next scheduled events are October 2, November 6 and December 11. Networking begins at 8 a.m. followed by a 45-minute program at 8:30 a.m. Admission, which includes a complimentary continental breakfast, is free. Winter Park Welcome Center, 151 West Lyman Avenue, Winter Park. 407-644-8281. winterpark.org/good-morning-winter-park. Winter Park Professional Women. Hosted by the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, these gatherings — held on the first Monday of most months from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. — feature guest speakers and provide networking opportunities for women business owners. Topics revolve around leadership development, business growth and local initiatives of special interest to women. The next scheduled events are October 5, November 2 and December 7. Tickets, which include lunch, are $25 for chamber members and $50 for nonmembers. Reservations are required. Winter Park Welcome Center, 151 West Lyman Avenue, Winter Park. 407-644-8281. winterpark.org/winter-park-professional-women. Hot Seat Academy. Hosted by the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, this quarterly business-oriented series puts local executives in the spotlight as they offer advice and discuss entrepreneurism, leadership and sales-and-marketing techniques. The next scheduled gathering is January 22, 2021 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.; check the chamber website for information about the featured speaker. Tickets are $15 for members, $30 for nonmembers. Reservations are required. Winter Park Welcome Center, 151 West Lyman Avenue, Winter Park. 407-644-8281. winterpark.org/hot-seat-academy.
Keep Winter Park Beautiful. Volunteers who help the City of Winter Park collect litter around lakes Baldwin, Berry and Spier on November 7 receive breakfast, a T-shirt, a snack and water. Litter grabbers, safety vests, gloves and garbage bags are also provided. Kayakers and paddle boarders are welcome to participate; everyone is asked to bring a reusable water bottle. The 8 a.m. assembly point is 2000 South Lakemont Avenue, Winter Park. 407-599-3364. cityofwinterpark.eventbrite.com. Peacock Ball. The Winter Park History Museum’s annual fundraiser has been cancelled for 2020 but is
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CROSS AT THE CREEK | WHERE FOLKIES FROLICKED | A COLLEGE PAYS ITS DUES
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EVENTS scheduled to return November 13, 2021 to honor Rollins College professor of history emeritus Jack C. Lane. 407647-2330. wphistory.org. Backyard Biodiversity Day & Native Plant Sale. The local chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society will do more than just sell plants at Winter Park’s Mead Botanical Garden on October 17 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Free activities include guided hikes, workshops, food trucks and children’s activities. All proceeds from the sale — which includes native wildflowers, trees and shrubs — benefit ecological restoration projects ongoing at the garden. 1300 South Denning Drive, Winter Park. 407-622-6323. meadgarden.org. Cows ‘n’ Cabs. The 9th installment of this annual fundraiser features food from dozens of local restaurants and more than 200 varieties of wine. Best of all, 100 percent of the proceeds go to Elevate Orlando and After-School AllStars, two local not-for-profit programs that help underserved middle- and high school students. The November 7 event, which includes live music, begins at 6 p.m. in the West Meadow of Central Park. General admission tickets are $120; VIP tickets are $160. cowsncabs.com.
These events were still scheduled at press time. Check individual websites to make certain they have not been cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19. Best of Winter Park. Celebrate Winter Park’s fantastic businesses and cultural institutions at this block party where the winners in more than 30 “Best Of” categories will be announced. Come enjoy live music, beer, wine and light bites from Bolay, Outback Steakhouse, Salata and Sushi Pop. The event is held November 18 from 5 to 8 p.m., on West Lyman Avenue between New York and Park Avenues. Tickets are $25. 407-544-8281. winterpark. org/best-of-winter-park. Maitland Rotary Art Festival. The 44th edition of this boutique art festival brings the park around Lake Lily to life with artists, live entertainment and other free activities from November 13 through 15. Friday evening will see a return to its “Art Under the Stars” theme, lasting from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday’s hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., while Sunday’s hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Only 150 artists are admitted to this juried show, held near the heart of downtown Maitland. 701 Lake Lily Drive, Maitland. maitlandrotaryartfestival.com. Sip, Shop & Stroll. Experience the charm of Winter Park’s world-famous Park Avenue, the region’s premier shopping district, while enjoying wine and seasonal hors d’oeuvres at participating businesses. The December 9 event, organized by the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce and the Park Avenue Merchants Association, runs from 5 to 8 p.m. Check out fashions and holiday gift ideas. Tickets are $25; check in at the corner of Park Avenue and Morse Boulevard between 5 and 7 p.m. to receive your wine glass and “passport.” 407-644-8281. winterpark.org/sip-shop-stroll.
A Winter PArk trAdition Since 1938 Climb aboard an excursion boat and enjoy a narrated one-hour cruise through the beautiful lakes and canals of historic Winter Park. You’ll see tropical birds, plants and magnificent mansions as well as Rollins College, Kraft Azalea Gardens and the Isle of Sicily. A must for more than 80 years!
Tours leave on every hour m o fr r u o h the p.m. 4 to . m a. 0 1 ut every day b Christmas
Adults: $14 • Children (2–11): $7 • Children under 2: Free 407-644-4065 East Morse Boulevard off Interlachen on Lake Osceola scenicboattours.com FA L L 2 0 2 0 | W INT ER PARK MAGAZ IN E
OUR TOWN | MICHAEL MCLEOD
FOUND, LOST, THEN FOUND AGAIN
COURTESY OF THE MORSE MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART
Hugh McKean looks out over the ruins of Laurelton Hall, where he and his wife, Jeannette, salvaged truckloads of Tiffany creations before they could be scrapped.
In a year like this, it’s easy to forget that there’s such a thing as a nice surprise. Yet here I am, telling you about two of them. The first one materialized over the summer at the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, which had temporarily closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Shuttered away were the museum’s core galleries that celebrate decorative impresario Louis Comfort Tiffany’s personal Xanadu: Laurelton Hall. The early 20th-century Long Island country estate was designed by Tiffany and filled with some of his most dazzling creations — from a Byzantine-inspired chapel to his luminous, oversized stained-glass windows. Those now-priceless windows, plus numerous other architectural and decorative treasures from the elaborate home, had been rescued by the museum’s Winter Park founders, Hugh McKean and his wife, Jeannette Genius McKean, after Laurelton Hall had fallen into disrepair and was partially destroyed by fire in 1957. It seemed unlikely that any museum-worthy creation the McKeans might have missed would resurface after all these years. But one did. It’s a fireplace hood that had been suspended over the hearth in Laurelton Hall’s study to keep embers from escaping into the room — a functional object that would have been an ugly-duckling afterthought in any other home of the period. Tiffany, obsessive about turning everything within his line of sight into a thing of beauty, couldn’t leave
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it at that. He had the cast-iron hood forged in thin layers, as though from interlaced sheets of leather, then decorated it with long rows of translucent mica cutouts and the circular silhouettes of Japanese sword guard symbols collected on his travels. It must have been mesmerizing, sitting by a fire on a winter’s night, watching the play of light in that room. In the Art Nouveau extravaganza that was Laurelton Hall, even the shadows on the walls had their role to play. The fireplace hood, which had been in the hands of a private collector, was acquired by the museum earlier this year and will be installed in the hallway leading to the Laurelton Hall galleries by mid-October. As of this writing, the Morse has reopened — although you need to call ahead to reserve a time slot for your party, in keeping with the museum’s socialdistancing measures. Now to pleasant surprise No. 2, and yet another treasure lost and found. This one goes back to 1909, when a fire likely caused by faulty wiring destroyed the original Knowles Hall on the Rollins College campus. The building was home to a natural science museum filled with hundreds of specimens and artifacts assembled by science professor Thomas R. Baker. In the aftermath of the disaster, the college sent out a plea to collectors and institutions around the country, requesting donations of “museum quality” specimens for a new repository. The turn of the last century was an era when amateur archeologists embarked on freewheeling and often
unprincipled expeditions. Several of them responded to the college’s plea, sending thousands of antiquities, fossils and other culturally significant objects. All eventually were incorporated into a new museum, named after Baker. When that museum fell into disuse and closed in the 1970s, what was left of the collection, which had dwindled to several hundred objects, wound up mothballed in the vaults of the college’s Cornell Fine Arts Museum. There it languished, forgotten until four years ago, when Zachary Gilmore, a newly hired assistant professor of archeology, found a reference to it as he was leafing through departmental files. Now, roughly 70 of the long-hidden objects will be featured in an exhibition at the Cornell called Storied Objects: Relics and Tales from the Thomas R. Baker Museum. The exhibit is a collaborative effort between Gilmore, fellow archeology professor Robert Vander Poppen and their students. The objects themselves are interesting enough, ranging from a Mesoamerican statuette of a soccertype athlete to a Mesopotamian peace treaty that was etched on a cylinder and driven into a temple wall 5,000 years ago. But the emphasis of the exhibit is on those adventurous collectors of another time and place. One of them was Edgar Banks, often cited as one of the inspirations for whip-wielding celluloid archeologist Indiana Jones. Banks joined the U.S. Foreign Service in the early 1900s to get access to ancient ruins in what was then the Ottoman Empire. He collected hundreds of small Sumerian cuneiform tablets, one of the earliest examples of a writing system, and sold them to museums. His daughter, who studied at Rollins, donated part of her father’s collection to the college. The exhibit runs through January 3. Tell them Indiana Jones sent you.
Michael McLeod, firstname.lastname@example.org, is a contributing writer for Winter Park Magazine and an adjunct instructor in the English department at Rollins College.
COURTESY OF THE CHARLES HOSMER MORSE MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART (FIREPLACE HOOD) COURTESY OF THE CORNELL MUSEUM OF FINE ART (ARTIFACTS)
Louis Comfort Tiffany applied his aesthetic to even such mundane objects as a fireplace hood. You can see this one at the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art. Meanwhile, at the Cornell Museum of Fine Art at Rollins College, check out the eclectic array of artifacts that were donated to the college in the early 1900s after fire destroyed a previous museum.
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THE POEM | BILLY COLLINS
reece” starts out sounding like one of those melancholy Byronic poems where the poet — one foot on a slab of a temple, wistful look on his face — dwells on the melancholy theme that all things eventually perish, even empires. The Latin is sic transit gloria mundi — thus pass the glories of the world. But in the fourth stanza, the scene switches from Corinth to the shore, where beachgoers, like the fallen pillars, are seen through the lens of their mortality. The poet dashes off an existential question (his two lines for the day?) before doing the only thing he can, diving into the surf with a cry of momentary joy.
GREECE The ruins were taking their time falling apart, stones that once held up other stones now scattered on top of one another as if many centuries had to pass before they harkened to the call of gravity. And the few pillars still upright had nervous looks on their faces teetering there in the famous sunlight which descended on the grass and the disheveled stones. And that is precisely how the bathers appeared after we had changed at the cliff-side hotel and made our way down to the rocky beach —
Billy Collins is a former two-term U.S. poet laureate (2002-03) and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. “Greece” originally appeared in The Rain in Portugal (Random House, 2016).
pillars of flesh in bathing suits, two pillars tossing a colorful ball, one pillar lying with his arm around another, even a tiny pillar with a pail and shovel, all deaf to a voice as old as the surf itself.
PHOTO BY SUZANNAH GILMAN
Is not poetry a megaphone held up to the whispering lips of death? I wrote, before capping my pen and charging into the waves with a shout.
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