Page 1

Special

Issue

Celebrating a Milestone


National Nursing Home Week at OHCF!

Okeechobee Health Care Facility celebrated Patriotic Day with a reception for Senator Denise Grimsley (center) who toured OHCF and then shared her announcement with the residents and employees that she was running for the 2018 Florida Secretary of Agriculture. Left to Right: Florida Health Care Chief Lobbyist Bob Azstolas, Corporate Compliance Officer Allen Patterson, Administrator Andy McKillop, Director of Nurses Jody Heenan, Senator Grimsley, Assistant Director of Nursing Patty Ebanks, Certified Dietary Manager Cindy Bestol, Resident Council President Linda Korpi and Administrator-in-Training Sandy Perry.

Julia Huff enjoys some cotton candy with Physical Therapist Kathy Walsh during Carnival Games Day.

C.N.A. Bianca Ramirez and RN Vincent Bontogon with Gerald Matthews in their Cowboy Day attire.

Some of the employees who dressed up for Wacky Wednesday.

We LOVE to CARE! Okeechobee Health Care Facility

Rehab Care • Long Term Care • Memory Care • Personal Nursing Care 24/7 5 Star Federal and State Rated Only 1 of 37 Nursing Homes in FL to be Awarded the Governor’s Gold-Seal Award

1646 US Highway 441 North • Okeechobee, Florida 34972

★★★★★

863-763-2226 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

www.Okeechobeehealthcare.com


Dr. Charles W. Bartels Board Certified Optometric Physician

(863) 763-3937 We Accept and Bill Most Major Insurance, Medicaid, Medicare & BlueCross Blue Shield Healthy Kids

606 North Parrott Ave Okeechobee   863-763-3937   Visit : www.biglakeeyecare.com


Publisher’s Note

T

his special issue is dedicated to the Okeechobee community in celebration of the Okeechobee County Centennial.

In this issue, we celebrate those pioneers who drove the formation of the new Okeechobee County government. We also look back at early modes of transportation and communication and the many businesses that paved the road to Okeechobee’s growth over the past century. Our Behind the Business features celebrate our two oldest family-owned businesses, Gilbert Oil Company and Domer’s, Inc. Yesterday – We need to learn from the past. History is made every day. Please do not forget to continue to preserve it. In 100 years, our future generations need to be able to look back on how we live today and learn, as we have continued to look back at our parents, grandparents and greatgrandparents’ generations and how they lived their lives. Today – We need to live in the present. Okeechobee’s pioneers helped create the county we have become 100 years later. Now is the time we need to develop the vision and leadership of the future Okeechobee community we want to leave for our sons, daughters and grandchildren to build on. Tomorrow – We need to build for the future. One hundred years from now, how will our great-great-grandchildren remember us? Will they be proud of the legacy we have left them? There are many factors beyond our control — but as of today, the future is bright for Okeechobee County. We all have a responsibility to help preserve our history and we at Okeechobee The Magazine will continue to do our part in capturing our community’s moments of time, because after all, it is Okeechobee The Magazine – Your Magazine.

Susan Giddings

Volume 11, Number 4 │August 2017

Publisher Susan Giddings Creative Director Lorraine Vogel Graphic Designer Valerie Wegener Editor Chris Felker Writer Raye Deusinger Photographers Gary Burks Sharon Cannon Jane Kaufman Sandra Pearce Contributors Maureen Burroughs Terry Burroughs Magi Cable Judge William L. Hendry Okeechobee Historical Society Haynes E. Williams Betty Chandler Williamson Account Executive Trish Grygo Office Manager Patti Berglund OTM Publications, Inc. DBA Okeechobee The Magazine 316 N.W. Fifth Street Okeechobee, FL 34972 Phone: (863) 467-0054 www.OkeechobeeTheMagazine.com President Susan Giddings Founder Maureen Budjinski

All good men and women must take responsibility to create legacies that will take the next generation to a level we could only imagine.

4 | August 2017

~ Jim Rohn

OKEECHOBEE THE MAGAZINE

Okeechobee The Magazine, is published bi-monthly in Okeechobee, Florida. Copyright 2017, all rights reserved by OTM Publications, Inc. Contents may not be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publisher. The publisher reserves the right to refuse advertising. The publisher accepts no responsibility for advertisement errors beyond the cost of the space occupied by the error within the advertisement itself. The publisher accepts no responsibility for submitted materials. All submitted materials subject to editing.


Better Care...for a Better Community

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PHARMACY THE WAY IT’S SUPPOSE TO BE

• Best cash price in town • FREE same day home delivery • FREE Rx mail delivery upon request • We match all Competitors Generic Prescription Drug Programs • We Accept All Insurances Including Medicaid, Medicard, Part-D and Worker’s Compensation • Flu and Pneumonia shots available • Now providing non-sterile RX Compounding

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A neighborhood housewarming where you get the gifts.

It’s our Sprint Store Grand Opening. We’ve filled the shelves with some of the latest devices, low-priced plans and wall-to-wall accessories. Now we’re ready to throw our housewarming party. And you’re invited for limited-time “neighbors only” deals. Coupon Code 20PERCENTACC 9,6,7<285635,1735()(55('5(7$,/(5

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2))$1<$&&(6625< :LWKQHZDFWLYDWLRQ$GGLWLRQDOUHVWULFWLRQVPD\DSSO\6HHVWRUHIRUGHWDLOV


I

nside this issue

August 2017

18

80 Features:

Okeechobee's Story On Our Mind..18 By Magi Cable

Okeechobee’s Early Businesses......30

30 Community Events: Economic Council Spring Social....10 Centennial Birthday Bash................14

By Betty Chandler Williamson

OHS Scholarship Night...................22

Early Transportation..........................72

Veterans Appreciation Day..............26

By Betty Chandler Williamson

Departments:

Looking Back...................................60 By Judge William Hendry

Behind the Business: Gilbert Oil Company........................88 Domer's, Inc....................................92

YOUNIFIED Rally.............................52 Mother-Son Superhero Party..........56 Eagle Release..................................66 Memorial Day..................................70 Rockin’ Rods Car Show..................80 Father-Daughter Dance...................84

Columns: Like Us on Facebook. Look for the video and camera icons, then visit www.OkeechobeeTheMagazine.com to view videos and additional photos!

8 | August 2017

OKEECHOBEE THE MAGAZINE

56

Preserving Our History....................96 Looking to the Future....................100 Around Okeechobee.....................104 Advertiser Index............................106

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• BEAUTIFUL LODGING • SPORTING CLAYS • • QUAIL, TURKEY AND PHEASANT HUNTING • • WEDDINGS • CORPORATE EVENTS • SPECIAL EVENTS • Open Late Friday Nights for Shooting Under the Stars

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Quail Creek Plantation 12399 NE 224th St. Okeechobee, FL 34972 www.quailcreekplantation.com Open to the public Wednesday thru Sunday, 8am-5pm


Community Event

Sheriff Noel Stephen and County Administrator Robbi Chartier.

Greg Patterson, Pam Bruner, Jessie, Logan and Sandy Perry.

Economic Councilâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Social Well-Attended

Wes Williamson, Councilman Mike O'Connor and ECO Chairman Frank Irby.

The Economic Council of Okeechobee threw its annual Spring Social at Quail Creek Plantation on April 28. Members and guests enjoyed a wonderful buffet dinner and music by Greg Patterson. The ECOâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s mission is to create an environment that promotes prudent economic growth and improves the quality of life in Okeechobee County.

ECO board members: Sandy Perry, Dawn Hoover, Rick Chartier, Chairman Frank Irby, Executive Director Jennifer Tewksberry, Hoot Worley, Wes Williamson, Fred Fanizzi, Todd Clemons and Stephanie Mitrione.

10 | August 2017

OKEECHOBEE THE MAGAZINE


Photos by Gary Burks

Making Dreams Come True for 30 years Mack “Hoot” Worley

A State Certified General Contractor St. Lic. CGC1507657

Hoot and Joy Worley

Kristi and Wayne Morgan.

110 NW 5th Street, Okeechobee, FL 34972

863-467-2541

gmworleyinc@gmail.com • www.facebook.com/G.M.Worley, Inc.

Councilwoman Monica Clark and husband Jim.

Tina and Todd Clemons. www.OkeechobeeTheMagazine.com

August 2017 | 11


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Community Event

Centennial Birthday Bash Entertains All Ages The County Centennial Committee hosted a 100th Birthday Extravaganza at the Agri-Civic Center on May 6. This family fun day included a kidsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; zone, historical displays, BBQ, family barn dance, cake contest and more.


Photos by Jane Kaufman and Susan Giddings

www.OkeechobeeTheMagazine.com

August 2017 | 15


{

WE ARE RAULERSON:

founded on integrity, driven by quality, inspired by caring.

{

Two-year old Isaac was a brave patient in the Emergency Department.

Crystal Malone recounted how her son Isaac tripped and fell while climbing the steps in to his daycare, causing a deep cut on his face. She rushed him to Raulerson Hospital’s ER. She said “Isaac had no wait time in the Emergency Room. They took us right back.” Crystal said the ER doctor and nurses took great care of her son, who required stitches to close the wound.  “He received excellent treatment

and the ER staff even took care of me.” Crystal explained how she began feeling worried and weak after seeing all of the blood from his facial injury. Crystal was comforted and reassured by the ER staff that her son was going to be fine. “They kept talking to me and that calming communication is what I needed to get through that scary morning,” she said.

Raulerson Hospital honors the 100TH ANNIVERSARY of Okeechobee County!

24/7 EMERGENCY CARE for you & your family

To see our average ER wait times, visit

RaulersonHospital.com

Share your story of caring by leaving a review on our facebook page.


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Okeechobee s’ Story On Our Mind

The area’s pioneers worked hard to reap the land and water’s harvests and pushed for locally-based authority to help create the thriving, vibrant county that Okeechobee has become 100 years later. Cattle and fishing were our first industries and remain important today, albeit in different forms.

O

By Magi Cable

keechobee on my mind, just thinking about Okeechobee”! These words from Sam Thompson’s song serve as the soundtrack to accompany this look back at how Okeechobee County came into existence in the spring of 1917. It probably would help if there were a 18 | August 2017

bit of context as to what was going on in this area that would prompt such a momentous accomplishment. The City of Okeechobee had been formed two years earlier due to the feeling that the services local people were getting from St. Lucie County were lacking, so

the early settlers took it upon themselves to form a local government. There was a lot of activity in this area. The first trains on the Florida East Coast Railroad tracks were coming through town; business and community leaders had organized the Okeechobee Board of Trade, which had some 90 members; the commercial

OKEECHOBEE THE MAGAZINE

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fishing business was booming; we had a newspaper and a new school under construction for the 1,800 residents; the center of town along Flagler Park was filling up; and local churches were holding services. It was a bustling time, but all the business brought up more concerns about tax money being sent to the county seats of Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Osceola counties. For residents, it was very inconvenient to conduct business in such distant places. To travel by horseback to St. Lucie County could take a day and a half, which meant filing deeds and doing any sort of governmental work took quite an effort. A committee made up of Dr. Charles Darrow, Smith J. Drawdy and Charles Hatch went to Fort Pierce and hired a gentleman by the name of Otis R. Parker to formulate a bill to set up a new county. Once the bill was written, it was introduced in the Legislature by St. Lucie County Rep. J.M. Swain in April 1917. Was it easy? Was it destined to be a success? From the following excerpts concerning the formation of the county, you might be inclined to answer those questions with a resounding no. The original bill passed by the Senate in April called for the inclusion of a portion of eastern DeSoto County, including the Fort Basinger area. In the House, Rep. W.C. Langford of DeSoto opposed slicing off any of his county, so the House passed an amendment to the bill eliminating any part of DeSoto from the new county. The Senate concurred in the House amendment, and Okeechobee County officially came into being May 8, 1917, although the law did not take effect until Aug. 7, 1917. The new county included land from Osceola, St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties and had an area of 487,040 acres.

The Fort Pierce News, in its issue of May, 4, 1917 (with a dateline of May 3, Tallahassee), said: “Against the determined fight of representatives from DeSoto and other counties, J.H. Walker of Basinger and W.L. Coats of Okeechobee, who represented the committee on Okeechobee County organization, and who are assisted by S.J. Drawdy of Okeechobee, who came on his own account in the interests of the new county, the delegation made one of the most remarkable fights for the creation of a new county that has been witnessed in many sessions. The efforts of Mr. Walker, who is one of the largest cattlemen in Osceola County, and Mr. Coats of Okeechobee, who has been prominent in the development of one of the state’s newest towns, deserves the hearty commendation of the people of what will be the new county of Okeechobee with Okeechobee City as the county seat... Mr. Coats who has worked so hard for the creation of Okeechobee County has become known at the Capitol as "Okeechobee Bill." The delegation, having secured the passage of the bill, left the Capitol tonight for their homes.” That was the official rendering of the process in which Okeechobee County was formed, but in 1992 during the

History Has Smiled on Okeechobee Over Century Since County Formed 75th anniversary of the founding of Okeechobee County, Ada Coats Williams, daughter of William “Okeechobee Bill” Coats, gave another look “behind the curtain.” “William Lee Coats, with the help of others, went to Tallahassee to help form a new county. It was a laughable matter. These North Florida politicians, “pork choppers,” were accustomed to running this state and that these people could create a county? My daddy became known as Okeechobee Bill in the fight to form this county. 

Tax and service concerns drove formation of the new county government, but it didn’t happen without a fight against North Florida ‘pork choppers,’ a parochial ploy by DeSoto County representatives and a forceful effort by a pioneer known as ‘Okeechobee Bill’ Coats (who later almost became governor).

“Okeechobee Bill” Coats.

www.OkeechobeeTheMagazine.com

August 2017 | 19

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‘ … The delegation made one of the most remarkable fights for the creation of a new county that has been witnessed in many sessions.’ ~ The Fort Pierce News, May 4, 1917

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Smith J. Drawdy.

J.W. Swain.

John Hardy Walker.

Alto Adams shared the story of a Senatorial Committee of pompous legislators looking down their noses. They asked my father just what the geographical area of the proposed Okeechobee County will be, and he replied 18 miles wide, 36 miles long and four feet deep. Okee Bill had a friend who was on the Supreme Court and asked if he could help him with the paperwork to create a new county. The judge declined due to the possibility that the case may come before the Supreme Court but told my daddy that if he came by later that day, his secretary would have a form to help. When Okee Bill went by the office, the form was all beautifully drawn up. He then took the petition to an office where there was not a soul. On the desk was a petition that was opposing the formation of the county. My daddy told me, ‘Could you believe anybody would be so careless with a thing like that? Why, it could be knocked off into the trash can or something.’ He said he sat there and held his paper until they got there and he handed it to them. I don’t know what my father was trying to tell me about the other petition. 20 | August 2017

OKEECHOBEE THE MAGAZINE

But he served as the first representative, and Okeechobee narrowly missed having a governor from this area. Ed Ball, who was a very powerful man, wanted my daddy to run, but my father’s wife, Ada, had died six weeks after giving birth to their third child and he had no desire to be campaigning and away from his family. Ed Ball then sponsored Sidney Katz, who went onto winning the governorship.” Okee Bill was quite the citizen who had an impressive résumé. He started out as a pharmacist who opened a drug store in Fort Pierce in the early 1900s. He was appointed a deputy sheriff in 1905 when St. Lucie County was formed. In 1910, he married Ada Raulerson, one of Peter and Louisiana Raulerson’s daughters. In 1911, he was the city marshal of Fort Pierce. Around 1914, Bill and Ada moved to Okeechobee, where they constructed and operated the first hotel, “Hotel Okeechobee.” He was appointed to serve on the first city council of Okeechobee in 1915, along with his father-in-law Peter Raulerson, mayor

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and brother-in-law Lewis. He then worked diligently on the formation of Okeechobee County and served as our representative in the state legislature from 1918 to 1920. In a publication from the St. Lucie County Board of Trade in 1915 was this description of Okeechobee. At the time of this publication, we were still part of St. Lucie County and the city had just formed, so this was an attempt by the Board of Trade to market the area. “Try to imagine an infinitely big country that grows the finest corn, cane, oranges, grapefruit and other fruits, vegetables of all kinds and provides pasture for livestock in every month in the year, with a mild and delightful climate, warmed by tropical breezes in winter and cooled by the same breezes in summer, and you have a faint conception of this God’s country, which is destined to become one of the greatest food-producing sections in the Union. To sum up, Okeechobee will be supported by the tourist, the fisherman, the general farmer, the livestock farmer, the lumberman, the fruit grower and truck farmer. Situated at the gateway of the great

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Everglades, backed up by the products of thousands of acres of fertile land, located on the banks of a vast inland sea, blessed by ideal climatic conditions, populated by wide-awake progressive and able businessmen, Okeechobee should grow into a great, busy permanent community.” So the county came into being and here we are 100 years later, reflecting as to what transpired over those many years. We began as an agricultural area where cattle and fishing were our first industries and they remain important today, although maybe not in the same form. We still have many of the founding families active in our community. We still retain that small community feeling, but there have been changes, too. Other industries have come and gone, but the tie to agriculture is still a strong influence throughout. People from other places have moved in and become part of the fabric of the community. Yes, there is a lot of history in 100 years, but the “sense of community” has remained the same. The values of the community are still in common with those early pioneers: respect the environment and each other, work hard and work together.

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‘They asked my father just what the geographical area of the proposed Okeechobee County will be, and he replied 18 miles wide, 36 miles long and four feet deep.’ ~ Ada Coats Williams, daughter of W.L. ‘Okee Bill’ Coats, on the county’s 75th anniversary in 1992

www.OkeechobeeTheMagazine.com

August 2017 | 21

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Community Event

Adam Bryant Minimal Regatta – Nathan Center, Jerry Bryant and Giovanny Garcia.

Flora May Walpole – Trevor Gordon Thomas, Rachel Walpole and Riylie Norton.

Law Firm of Hoskins, Turco, Lloyd & Lloyd – Susie Pickering and Brilyn Sell.

Nearly $2.9M Awarded on

Total Roadside Service – Jeremy LaRue, Mason Faulk and Tabitha LaRue.

Eli's Western Wear – Front, from left: Jacey Mullis. Center: Evan Soto and Nichole Schoonmaker. Back: Samantha Durrance, Cody Louthan, Robert Mulholland, Natalie Trimble and Lynda Durrance.

22 | August 2017

OKEECHOBEE THE MAGAZINE

OHS’ Scholarship Night Scholarship Night took place at Okeechobee High School on May 11. A total of $2,884,453 worth of scholarships were presented to 144 students, with local scholarships totaling $606,453.

National FFA Chevy Truck, Sponsored by Gilbert Chevrolet – Hunter Sills and Dawn Hoover.


Photos courtesy of Okeechobee High School

Paul M. Buxton Memorial – Marilyn Buxton, Raylee Coleman and Matthew Buxton. Raulerson Hospital Nursing – Front, from left: Lizeth Reyes, Taylor Anuez, Jenny Pung, Kasey Durand and Maria Carrillo. Back: Orbelin Calvillo, Jasmine Romero, Jessieca Pittman, Maliah J. Wright and Verenice Leon.

Golden Corral – Kasey Durand, Deborah Hall and Maliah J. Wright.

Glades Electric – Barney Goodman, Trevor Gordon Thomas, Hunter Sills and Josianne Griffin.

Skull Hill Steel – Mason Faulk and Brandon Baughman.

Seminole Brighton Casino – Front, from left: Riylie Norton, Miranda McClanahan, Seairra Moore, Kaylie Yingling and Michaela Myers. Back: Trevor Gordon Thomas, Cassandra Adams, Robert H. Jones and Jennifer Ehrlich. www.OkeechobeeTheMagazine.com

August 2017 | 23


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Mixon Real Estate Group is Proud to Celebrate . . Okeechobee County’s Centennial

The original Mixon homestead was built by the eldest son in 1927 down on the lake near Hardenville.

Robert and Mabel Mixon

Elvis and Minnie Lee (Harden) Mixon

Robert Mixon was a well driller and part-time preacher before he and his wife, Mabel, came to Okeechobee in 1926. He was the preacher of Church of God until 1930. They had nine children.

Ron and Lori Mixon

Elvis and Minnie Lee Mixon married in 1932. Elvis operated a machine shop on Park Street right next to their home. Minnie owned the first drop-off laundry in the area. When the home and business burned to the ground in 1966, they moved south towards the lake on Parrott Ave. where Elvis had a dragline business and Minnie opened a gift shop and garden center. They had four children. Their only son is Ronnie Mixon.

Ron and Lori Mixon married in 1974 after meeting in Tucson while he was in the Air Force. They moved back to Okeechobee with their two sons in 1983. Lori’s real estate career started in 2002 and she opened Mixon Real Estate in 2010.

863.763.6000

1306 SW 2nd Ave. • Okeechobee, FL 34974 • www. MixonGroup.com


Community Event

Hank Rivera, Bill Dillehay, Pastor John Glenn and Dan Hunt received Quilts of Valor.

Alpha Ministries Shows Vets Some Love for a 7th Year

Joy Jarriel sang the national anthem.

Vietnam Veterans Okeechobee Chapter #1086 raffled off a rifle.

26 | August 2017

OKEECHOBEE THE MAGAZINE

The seventh annual Veterans Appreciation Day was observed on May 13, at Freedom Ranch. Various service organizations were represented at the event to assist and educate veterans and their families. Pastor John Glenn told an inspirational story about his involvement as a medic when he was in Vietnam. A delicious barbecue lunch was served by members of Alpha Ministries.


Photos by Gary Burks

Pastor John Glenn and Krystal Sims.

863 467-1545

Turning your vision into Rebecca Ott.

Reality! Residential• Commercial• Remodel• Docks / Seawalls• Metal Buildings•

License #CGC048773

863.467.0831

www.closeconstruction.us

Bill and Jane Dillehay. www.OkeechobeeTheMagazine.com

August 2017 | 27


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Many Varied Businesses I Southland Hotel.

t would be difficult to name all the early businesses in existence during the first century of Okeechobee County. In 1917, our county was carved out from three counties â&#x20AC;&#x201D; Osceola, St. Lucie and Palm Beach. It will be impossible to name each of those enterprising entrepreneurs, but an effort will be made.

Little did Peter and Louisiana Chandler Raulerson realize when they arrived at what is now Okeechobee, there would be honors attached to their name for over a hundred years. This family of nine (two parents and 30 | August 2017

OKEECHOBEE THE MAGAZINE

Paved Road to Okeechobeeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Sustained Growth Over Last Century By Betty Chandler Williamson

seven children) left their home in Basinger, near the Kissimmee River, in 1896 to raise their cattle and begin a new life in the wilderness. None of them had any idea how this area would expand and become

a county of 40,000 to 50,000 residents within the hundred-plus years of time. The first businesses here were tending cattle, farming and catfishing. The fish

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Steamboats transported fish on the lake.

industry expanded when the Okeechobee Ice Plant was constructed in 1918, one year after the county was formed. Before that, large steamboats transported fish to other places on the lake for sale. When the Florida East Coast Railroad began service into this area in 1915, fish could be placed in large tin-lined barrels, iced and shipped to various places for processing and sale. Timber would be hauled to larger sawmills, while the vegetables grown in the regionâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s rich soil found their way to cities where there was no room for farming but a great need for food. With the lake, fertile soil, large tracts of land and the train, this area now had everything needed for growth. The location was perfect, as it was centrally located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. ď ľ

The Boromei family arrived in 1915 and soon bought a fish company and began the Boromei Fish Co., which was in business for many years.

Catfish were abundant in Lake Okeechobee.

A picture of South Park Street in 1940 showing the Raulerson Building, A & P Grocery Store, Wise Grocery Store, The Waffle Shop, Park Drugs, Scharfschwerdt Hardware and the Okeechobee Hardware Store. www.OkeechobeeTheMagazine.com

August 2017 | 31

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3434343434343434343 Much of our early history was shared when the City of Okeechobee celebrated its centennial in 2015. Some information may overlap, but a try will be made to stay on track, citing other events of our county, which was formed in 1917. Various ethnic groups represent many of the colorful characters who have been residents of our county throughout this century of Okeechobee County. Some of our early professionals did not have designated locations and used their homes for their “headquarters.” Some of those were physicians, ranchers and hotel owners. Several of the newly constructed hotels had good sized living quarters for their families inside their establishments. Many were built in the 1920s. Some of the octogenarians and nonagenarians living today remember the deterioration of those abandoned hotels. I recall when, in the 1940s, the Southern Hotel, which was downtown on West Fifth Avenue (Osceola), had been deserted by the owners, slowly falling down, ruins lying on the sidewalk. As students

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Seminole Indian ladies frequented Okeechobee to shop and visit.

on our way to school, we stepped out into the street because we were anxious about walking near the debris. The decline of those hotels began after the “boom” ended in 1929. Kyle Van Landingham gathered information from a 1918 directory published for St. Lucie/Okeechobee counties. Some of the facts gleaned from this publication

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Hotel rooms had small sinks in them so gentlemen could shave in their rooms.

named several general merchandise and department stores. Owners included: Lewis Raulerson, George Frese, Mr. Slesinger, Okeechobee Supply Co. and Z.K. Simmons, proprietor of the Simmons Mercantile Co. Also named were three grocery stores: McCarthy & Co., W.F. Owens’s Cash & Carry, and a meat market owned by Henry T. Bass. The Scharfschwerdt brothers operated a garage, and there were two other garages, the Okeechobee Garage Co. and the Walston Auto Shop. Remember, the automobile inventory was growing

A photo of Osceola Avenue in 1924, depicting the businesses on this busy street. The picture looking north shows the Southern and Northern Hotels along with the other businesses on Fifth Avenue.

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The Sherman Sawmill was located east of town on State Road 710 in the 1930s.

rapidly and the need for car mechanics increased. Ellis Meserve opened the first hardware store, and Mr. O.O. Davis was the owner of the first furniture store. Charles Winkler was an early barber (his shoe-shine stand is preserved at the Okeechobee Historical Museum). Minor Holmes owned the Star Barber Shop. The two drugstores available at that time were Park Drugs and Okeechobee Drugs. Places to eat were the Echo and Serena Jones restaurants. The Bank of Okeechobee was first located in the Boardwalk building, as was the telegraph/ telegram office. This historic building is still standing and has been repainted to look good for another century. Two attorneys were in practice, R.E. Hamrick and George V. Parker. Five physicians had their shingles hung. They were: Drs. C.R. and Anna Darrow, A.F. Thomason, Frank Lopez and George Hubbard. Carter Randolph Bibb and Mace Bean were the community’s two dentists. Dr. Bibb pulled my first “baby tooth,” and I cried because it hurt! There were three real estate firms in business locally. They were headed by D.R.

Mr. McCarthy, an early grocery store owner, with two Seminole Indian customers.

McNeil, D.E. Austin and Thomas B. Owens. There were four hotels at that time in Okeechobee, which included the Lovvorn Hotel, owned by Mr. and Mrs. J. Lovvorn, who arrived the first year of our county’s incorporation. I recall walking by their establishment near the East Coast Railway and seeing a man seated at a desk wearing a green visor on his head. I suppose it was Judge Lovvorn, who was at one time elected Okeechobee County judge. The other three hotels were the Hillsboro,

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the Southern Hotel and the Northern Hotel. My family lived for a short while in 1947 at the Northern Hotel, while our modest home on Fifth Avenue (near the old jail) was being built. I remember thinking it strange for each of the rented rooms to have small sinks in them. I found out later, this was the custom for hotels … gentlemen could shave in their rooms. The bathroom was upstairs, which could have been inconvenient except for the fact that we were the only people living there. George Clay from West Virginia had purchased this quaint hotel in the 1940s. I do recall his grandson, Freddie Clay, a photographer, having a  www.OkeechobeeTheMagazine.com

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The Okeechobee Hardware store was located on Park Street. At one time, the owners, Ellis and Faith Meserve, lived above the store. Later, they constructed a new store also on Park Street. About this time, they moved into their lovely home on Parrott Avenue. The Scharfschwerdt brothers, of German descent, arrived in Okeechobee in 1915. Their names were Edward, Louis and Otto, and they operated a hardware store and a garage. Behind this garage,

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Beauty Lou and the Country Beast September 30, 2017 Peter and the Wolf November 8, 2017 The Holiday Festival & Tree Lighting November 14, 2017 The Gilbert Theatre opened in 1933.

they opened the first movie house two years prior to 1917. It was reported that over 200 people were on hand for the opening of this large venue. I remember the Scharfschwerdt store as it was next door to the Park Drug Store, where I was employed as a teenage “soda jerk.” I remember going into the hardware store one day and several men were sitting on stools with quarters spread on the counter and a punch-board in their hands. This was a game in which you paid a 25-cent fee and used something the size of a match to punch a rolledup number through the board. I never played, as it was for adults only. This occurred around 1948 and soon after was considered gambling and was removed from the public eye. The Gilbert Theatre, owned by Gilbert Culbreth, was built in 1933. This was the most exciting place in town; one could see thrilling movies, first in black and white and then in Technicolor. I will always appreciate the Christmas parties given by the Culbreth family throughout my youth. The anticipation of free cartoons and a paper sack full of fruit, candy and nuts whetted my appetite for the holiday all year. 

The 29th Annual Living Christmas Tree December 3, 2017 The Modern Gentlemen January 8, 2018 3 Redneck Tenors January 18, 2018 The Glenn Miller Orchestra January 23, 2018 Cirque Zuma Zuma February 1, 2018 Disco Inferno: a 70’s Celebration February 8, 2018 Live from Nashville: Country Legends February 19, 2018 Comedian Ventriloquist Taylor Mason February 23, 2018 The Annie Moses Band March 1, 2018 Million Dollar Quartet March 14, 2018 The MACG Band March 16, 2018 On Golden Pond March 23, 2018 All dates, artists and programs subject to change.

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Inside the livestock market where buyers bid for cattle.

Okeechobee Livestock Market's exterior located on Highway 98 North.

A typical set of cowpens with Braford cattle in the foreground. 36 | August 2017

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Tom Conely III, a local attorney, gave an interesting review of early Okeechobee during the Diamond Jubilee (75th anniversary) in 1992. His father, T.W. Conely Jr., had many titles during his residency in our town. He had practiced law before arriving from Marianna in 1921. He was a mayor of Okeechobee and was also elected to be our representative in the Florida House. Judge Conely was an Okeechobee County judge when I worked in the Okeechobee County Clerk’s office in the 1950s.

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There was no mandatory fencing until the late 1940s. The cattle to be sold were driven through town to the holding pens and dipping vats near where the livestock market is now situated on U.S. 98 North. The railroad arrived two years before the inception of the county. Cattle were then placed in boxcars to go to feeding lots elsewhere. The Okeechobee Livestock Market, established in 1937 with once-a-week cattle sales, was an immediate success. During the Second World War, the Dixie Cattlemen’s Association was formed and many of their cattle were sold at the local market. Through the years, the livestock business prospered. Two sales are now staged weekly. Various owners have operated this enterprising cattle market. The Clemons family, Pete and sons Jeff and Todd, are the present owners. Hundreds 

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Okeechobee Sawmill, 1913.

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Because Okeechobee was centrally located, the Florida East Coast Railroad hauled fish, timber and vegetables across the state.

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Timber: Harvesting resin or rosin from pine trees. 38 | August 2017

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of beef and dairy cows are handled weekly at the original site near the railroad tracks on U.S. 98 North. There have been several sawmills in our town. The first was one owned and operated by the pioneer Raulerson family. A larger mill was at Sherman, a small village on State Road 710 East. W.C. Sherman was the owner (Bill Sherman, son of W.C., was the Okeechobee County appraiser for many years). I recall the curve in the road with Australian pines growing where workers’ houses once stood. The road has since been straightened. There is little to mark this important industry. Several other sawmills have been in operation in our small town. I recall one in the mid-1940s across the railroad tracks on the east side of U.S. 441 North near where Glades AC is now located. Our Girl Scout leader, Mrs. Eva Mae Williams, took our troop on a hike to enjoy a picnic and to play on the hill of sawdust. Mr. Hubie Boree owned that sawmill in 1945. He sold it later to Van Lightsey. Lewis O’Cain owned a sawmill located off U.S. 441 North on the Evergreen Cemetery road. He leased the land from Dave Coker and opened the business in 1971. There may have been others I have inadvertently omitted. 

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First telephone company was installed by T. A. Sizemore in 1917. A mural sponsored by Main Street depicts a scene of that era.

The earliest mention of a Western Union was a sign on the Boardwalk building, which also housed the first Bank of Okeechobee. The location of this building is at the corner of Northwest Park Street and Northwest Fifth Avenue. The bank was later moved to the next block east and closed in 1926. The Western Union was a very important part of our lives. It has had several locations during the years. One was in the Southland Hotel. It was used for business contacts and personal family communication. Our family used the telegram system often to keep in touch with members living elsewhere, as we did not have a telephone in our house. The first telephone system was installed in Okeechobee by T.A. Sizemore in 1917. There is a mural depicting the arrival of the telephone on the Century Link telephone building on Parrott Avenue. The users either paid their telephone bills at this site or sent them in by mail. Many young women were employed as operators until the office closed in 1972. Some of my earliest remembrances are from the late 1930s. I fondly recall going with my family to town on an early Saturday night to buy groceries. Most laborers,

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WE NEED YOU! Elliott's Pawn Shop and former Western Union, located in one of the oldest buildings on Park Street.

as was my father, were paid on Saturday after a six-day workweek. Beginning in the 1940s, I recall the A&P Grocery Store, McCarthyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Grocery Store and also the Cash and Carry stores, such as Wise Grocery Store and the Raulerson meat market. There is a picture showing the Jellico Grocery Store operating in the second location of the Bank of Okeechobee after the bank failed in 1926. Later it became Hunt Bros. Grocery Store (Earnest and Omar Hunt were the owners). My father was employed as a butcher in their meat market. The store was later sold to brothers Jessie and Jackson Davis and became known as ď ľ

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the Davis Grocery Store. I saw my first frozen food chest for vegetables and ice cream at this location. This historic building is now owned by Gilbert Culbreth & Associates and is adorned with beautiful murals sponsored by Okeechobee Main Street.

The old Bank of Okeechobee building is now known for its beautiful murals on the windows.

Raulerson Department Store was where you purchased dry goods, such as shoes, clothing, patterns and material for sewing. Some families bought (from a feed store) colorful, used feed bags that had been washed and stacked for sale. I remember a lady telling me she could make a dress out 42 | August 2017

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Burgess Paint Store was founded by R. A. Burgess in 1945.

of two matched sacks and two small boys shirts from one of the bags. Every home had a treadle Singer sewing machine, and almost all of us made our own clothes. We learned to sew either at home or from our home economics classes. H.L. Chandler had an early dairy herd. He advertised in a 1918 issue of the Okeechobee Call newspaper, “Pure milk from a herd of pure Jerseys delivered to your door morning or evening.” I recall having milk delivered when Sonny and I were first married and lived in town. I believe the Bass family owned a dairy that was located near the American Legion Hall, south of City Hall. The Burgess Paint Store was opened and operated by R.A. “Red” Burgess in 1945. The store is presently owned and managed by Bobby Burgess, son of Red and Nina Burgess. Red was first the manager of the A&P Grocery Store (it was situated in the old building in which Nutmegs is now located). Dozier Clements, at 13, worked for Mr. Burgess, and the store has been in operation for over seven decades. 

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3434343434343434343 Cattle first came into Florida with the Spaniards in the 1500s in the St. Augustine area. It is interesting to notice that this was decades before cattle were introduced into the Western United States. The beef cattle that Peter Raulerson brought into this area were decendants from that Spanish stock, which were cattle of European origin. Big changes in the Florida cattle business began to happen after World War II. Pastures were improved by clearing the native wire-grass and palmetto vegetation and planting grasses and clovers for much better grazing. Until then the cattle breeds were descendants of the British breeds, Hereford, Angus and Shorthorn. But a new breed came on the scene, the Brahma, one from India that was very different. When Brahma cattle were crossed with the British-bred cattle, the hybrid vigor was dramatic. In a short while these purebred crosses were named: Brahman/Angus cross was named Brangus; Brahman/Hereford were called Braford; and the cross, Brahman and Shorthorn, done first by the King Ranch in Texas, were named Santa Gertrudis.

WOKC radio station was first located in the Southland Hotel. Sadly, when this historic hotel was demolished in 1968, the station moved to South 441. WOKC is presently located at 210 N.W. Park Street.

In the late 1950s and early â&#x20AC;&#x2122;60s, dairies migrated from Dade and Broward counties into the Okeechobee area. Some of those first dairies were owned by the McArthurs, Larsons, Butlers, Goolsbys, Ruckses and others. When these new dairymen arrived, they found one dairy already here, operated by the local families of Joe and Jack Wolff. Due to the water quality issues raised by nutrients found in the runoff water flowing into Lake Okeechobee, many

restrictions were placed on agriculture. A large number of the dairies moved away, some to Georgia. Some stayed, and today still produce milk for the huge market in counties to the south. The dairies of Butler, Larson, McArthur and Rucks, to name a few, remain in Okeechobee. Radio station WOKC first broadcast from the Southland Hotel in the early 1960s. It was located near the intersection of U.S. 441 and State Road 70. Sadly, in 1968 the historic hotel was

Early cattle were called cracker, scrub or guinea cattle. 44 | August 2017

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demolished to make room for the widening of the roads. The new station was constructed on U.S. 441 South and was ready for transmitting before the old building was razed. This popular radio station continues to serve the community with country music, the latest news and weather and much more from its present location at 210 N.W. Park St. When I was a young teenager, the nearest radio station that our generation had was situated in Belle Glade. It expanded its reach to cover us country bumpkins. We could send a postcard for three cents, request a song, and it could be dedicated to someone or simply be a favorite song we wanted to hear. Life was so full of simple pleasures in the middle 1940s and â&#x20AC;&#x2122;50s.

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Radio station WOKC first broadcast from the Southland Hotel in 1962.

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Education has been a priority since the first settlers built a palmetto shack for a school in 1898. From this meager beginning, the Okeechobee County school system is now one of the largest businesses in town. It has many teachers/ employees, schools and other buildings, including auditoriums, gymnasiums and lunch rooms, also bus barns and ball fields. I cannot name all the assets of our public schools. The main one is its role in educating our youth, which is done well. Locals can brag that there is now an extension of Indian River State College in Okeechobee County. It is located on the Dixon-Hendry Campus. Many of our students are able to live at home, have part-time jobs and attend classes in Okeechobee. Some of the subjects offered are at the main campus in St. Lucie County, but many can be obtained locally. Our students are proud to receive a diploma from this great institution. ď ľ www.OkeechobeeTheMagazine.com

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3434343434343434343 The Okeechobee News was first called the Okeechobee Call when it was established in 1914. This business is the longest-running one in what is now Okeechobee. We want to say a big â&#x20AC;&#x153;thank youâ&#x20AC;? to the Okeechobee News for continuing through the decades to bring us our news. Orange and grapefruit groves have played a large part in our community. Peter Raulerson and Henry Hancock planted early groves of fruit north of town. Even though there are no citrus processing plants locally, the management and picking of the fruit has helped the economy. A picture of a picker is shown emptying his picking bag on Williamson

The Okeechobee News was established in 1914 and was called the Okeechobee Call.

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Citrus groves were first planted north of town in the early 1900s by Peter Raulerson & Henry Hancock.

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Farming: Several laborers shown harvesting vegetables in the fertile fields of our area. 46 | August 2017

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Cattle Co. land that, along with their cattle, has acres of citrus. Almost all the people involved in citrus have an office or a part of their home designated to keeping safe the many records required to run a business.

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There are over three dozen restaurants now listed in the telephone directory. It’s surprising that we have five or more ethnic eating places. The first one, after half a century, was Caso’s. Mama Caso cooked and served the best lasagna ever! We now have several ethnic restaurants; Chinese, Vietnamese, Mexican and Italian. The first Mexican one, in my remembrance, is Los Cocos Restaurant, owned and operated by Juan and Yolanda Solorano for over three decades. We have numerous restaurants, and the one in operation for the longest continuous time is Gladys’. It originated with Dozier Clements’s father, C.D. Clements, and was operated by his first wife. It was called “Mary’s Restaurant.” 

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3434343434343434343 After Mary’s death, Mr. Clements remarried and Merle Clements became the owner. Gladys Clay purchased the café in 1951. She signed it over to her daughter, Alberta Griffis, in 1991. The restaurant celebrated 50 years of family ownership in 2001. Paul E. Wilson has been the owner/manager for eight years.

The popular Crossroads Restaurant, known for its home-cooked buffet, is owned and operated by David and Carolyn Douglas. We have Lightsey’s Restaurant, which began with a longtime local family. I do not mean to omit anyone, but we have a lot of good-eating places in our town.

Several of our former Okeechobee High School students are managing their own eating establishments. Some that come to mind are Kahootz, owner Tommy Hoover; nutmeg’s, owner Megan Hardy Mattson; and Tin Fish, whose owners and operators are Courtney Lapp and Dakota Maraschino.

There are multiple churches in our community, and their outreach is tremendous. Several distribute food to the needy through their mission houses. Four have already celebrated their centennial. They are: the Church of God, the Catholic Church, First Baptist of Okeechobee and the Methodist Church.

Louisiana Chandler Raulerson Hospital was constructed in 1948 and was utilized until 1961.

The first hospital constructed here was in 1948, named for Louisiana Chandler Raulerson, my great-aunt Anna. We natives of Okeechobee were perhaps the most appreciative of the addition of a hospital. Before it was constructed, those needing a hospital had to travel to Sebring or Fort Pierce for medical service. The present hospital is named for the pioneer Raulersons’ great-grandson: Dr. H.H. “Raulie” Raulerson. We have had excellent administrators, and the present one is Brian Melear. He, along with the many physicians, nurses, aides and all the other employees, are doing a wonderful job, and we appreciate them all. In 1984, Faye Abney Williamson Haverlock had the foresight to know what was needed for our community. She worked unrelentingly for over two years to have the plans for the Okeechobee Health Care Facility approved. I recall my husband and I attending an open house before any clients arrived, and our friends and us kidding about “reserving our rooms.” We have seen many of our friends being cared for at this local health care facility. Faye, we appreciate you and your staff.

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Many housewives in Okeechobee worked for the first time at the Markham Canning Plant during WWII while the men were in the service.

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Markham Brothers Canning Plant was the first factory here. It opened for business in the late 1930s, and it served the public well with local employees. 48 | August 2017

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Security Systems Fire Alarm Systems Access Controls Security Cameras Central Vacuum Systems RESIDENTIAL & COMMERCIAL Locally Family Owned / Operated Sales & Installations 24 Hour Monitoring Services P 863.763.1866 803 SW Park Street Okeechobee, FL 34972 F 863.763.1867

Gladys' Restaurant, thought to be the oldest café in Okeechobee.

I want to end this report of businesses with one that affected almost every resident in Okeechobee, beginning in the late 1930s and serving our community for several decades. I’m speaking of the Markham Canning Plant, owned by Allen and Roscoe Markham. We had never had a factory in our small town where many people, mostly men, were employed. During World War II, many of the eligible men joined or were drafted into the military service. Housewives were hired to assist with the processing of the vegetables. This made a change in their lifestyles, as most had never worked, except for caring for their small armies of children. They learned to balance a workday and a “home life.” The extra money was welcomed, I know, as my mother, Sadie, was one of the workers. Tommy (son of Allen Markham), we appreciate the work made available to us through your family partnership. There is not enough room in this publication to acknowledge everyone who contributes to our community. We are like a quilt of many colors, and each one is important to complete the coverlet. The Okeechobee area has a business to meet almost every need.

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Featuring contemporary Christian hip-hop artists and a crowd of teens ready to hear them, Okeechobeeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s annual YOUNIFIED Youth Rally took place on May 13, at Osceola Middle School. Local musicians led worship songs while visiting artists rapped Christian teachings to the youth in attendance.

Leighanne Herrin, Emma Wilkerson and Maycee Elliott.

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Community Event

e h r r o e p u Party A Fun Night for B.R.A.T. Members

The B.R.A.T. Club threw its second Mother-Son Superhero Party on May 13, at the Freshman Campus auditorium to further its efforts at â&#x20AC;&#x153;Building Relationships Among Teens.â&#x20AC;? Mothers and sons dressed up as their favorite superheroes and enjoyed an evening of food and fun.

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Photos by Susan Giddings

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August 2017 | 57


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C E N T E N N I A L

Looking Back sponsored by

Okeechobee County's

!Early!

Communities By Judge William Hendry

O

keechobee County was created by legislative act in 1917, which, in turn, was ratified by voters in a special election conducted on August 7, 1917, in only those parts of Osceola, Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties described in the legislative act. Within the boundary of the new county were the City of Okeechobee, as the county seat, and several unincorporated hamlets or villages, some dating back to the Civil War years of the 1860s. Basinger and Fort Drum are the only unincorporated communities still active as such. Fort Drum has a cemetery and Basinger has a cemetery and a community center. Each formerly had a post office and a two-room schoolhouse, and both have been polling places for many years. The smaller former communities may have had one or more of these features to identify it as a community: a one-room rural school, a post office, a railroad station, a polling place, or a store or industry. Information about these communities is very limited, and photos are almost nonexistent. The location of each is shown on the map, right.

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Osowaw

Osowaw is said to mean “bird” in the Seminole language. Osowaw began as a village called Midway, settled in the late 1800s by some of the Swain, McLaughlin, Hare, Padgett and other families. Midway was located between Fort Drum and Olney in Brevard County at that time. The community was known to have had a one-room school in 1894. Osowaw began as a station on the Kissimmee Valley Branch of the Florida East Coast Railroad in 1914 and bypassed Midway by a mile or so to the east. The area became part of St. Lucie County in 1905, and by 1916 a plat was filed, developing real estate on each side of the railroad called “Osowaw.” This area became Okeechobee County in August 1917, and by 1922 there were only seven lots of this subdivision listed on the county tax roll. By 1919, the Midway school became Osowaw school. The post office, established in 1917, was discontinued in August 1922. In 1936, the school was consolidated with the Fort Drum school, and the railroad was gone by 1946.

Greeley

Plat of Osowaw.

Greeley was a town site of the Southern Colonization Company, with a station on the South Florida & Gulf Railroad about five miles north of Basinger. There is no record of a post office there, but the school board of Osceola County authorized a one-room rural school there in 1911. A room from Basinger School #28, also in Osceola County at that time, was removed and relocated to Greeley. Neither the school nor the railroad was in operation when the area became part of Okeechobee County in August 1917. The rails were removed, the roadbed became the Peavine Trail, and the town site is now pasture.

Sherman

The community of Sherman was located about four miles southeast of the City of Okeechobee near State Road 710 (formerly the “Old Jupiter Trail”). The community began as “Oak Grove” in 1914 when a school and a church were built there. A deed for the school property was never obtained by the school board of St. Lucie County, so the exact location is not known. The 1916 enrollment was reported to be 37 pupils. In 1924, Walter C. Sherman, president of the St. Andrews Bay Lumber Co., purchased more than 1,000 acres and constructed W.C. Sherman Lumber Company Sawmill – Photo Courtesy of Bill Sherman. and operated a large lumber mill there. According to the Miami Herald, April 30, 1926, the mill employed over 1,000 men and produced 200,000 board feet of lumber per day. A post office was established in 1925 with F.H. Baggott as postmaster. Mr. Baggott was bookkeeper for the mill and served as a county commissioner from 1927 to 1933 and school superintendent from 1933 to 1937. From 1926 to 1932, the polling place at Sherman was the barber shop. Several subdivision plats were filed and many homes constructed, as well as a hotel and boardinghouses, making Sherman the largest unincorporated community in the county. The mill was badly damaged by the 1928 hurricane, but the school was destroyed, as well as the community house and more than 50 homes. By 1937, the mill had closed as well as the post office, and the community of Sherman just faded away. In 1938, over 1,000 acres of the mill property was sold to Wesley Harvey, a cattleman, and most of the property is pasture today.  www.OkeechobeeTheMagazine.com

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Olney

The village of Olney was located on U.S. 441 about a mile south of the Okeechobee-Osceola County line and about eight miles northwest of Fort Drum. It has been written that James Tippen Padgett, who served as a lieutenant in the Ninth Regiment Florida Infantry, founded the community of Olney soon after the Civil War and received a homestead patent in 1891 for 160 acres. Mr. Padgett operated a general store and served as postmaster. The post office was established in 1895 and was discontinued in 1913. According to Brevard County School Board records, a rural, one-room school was listed there as #15, East Coast Advocate, Brevard County Drum Creek, and later renamed Oct. 25, 1901. Orangedale. By 1905, Olney became part of St. Lucie County and the school, due to low attendance, was consolidated with the Midway school in 1913. The Midway community became known as Osowaw in 1914.

St. Lucie County Tribune Sept. 15, 1905.

As of 2017, there are few homes and a communication tower in the former village of Olney, but the store and service station there have been closed many years.

Midway School – Built in 1897 Photo Courtesy of Sheila Parcell.

Opal

According to historian Albert DeVane of Lake Placid, “Opal” was a Seminole word meaning owl. The community of Opal was located about five miles northeast of the City of Okeechobee. Soon after 1900, H.H. Hancock, Peter Raulerson, L.M. Raulerson and others established seedling orange and grapefruit groves in the area that became Opal in 1914 when the Kissimmee Valley Branch of the Florida East Coast Railroad arrived and a station and water tank were constructed. There were also several patches of sugarcane and one or more syrup mills in this area. By 1923, a post office was established, but was discontinued by the end of 1926. For a brief time, a number of families working for the McNeill turpentine company still lived in the area, and their children attended the colored school at the logging camp. During the 1940s, Opal was a popular hiking and camping area enjoyed by the Okeechobee Boy Scouts troop. The railroad was discontinued by 1946, and the area now is devoted to cattle and citrus. 62 | August 2017

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Hilolo

According to DeVane of Lake Placid, “hilolo” was a Seminole word meaning white ibis. In 1914, Hilolo began as a station on the Kissimmee Valley Branch of the Florida East Coast Railroad, with terminus at Okeechobee. Hilolo was located about five miles south of Fort Drum. In the 1920s, a logging camp was established there by the lumber mill at Sherman. As a result of this population increase, a post office was established there in July 1926. In April 1928, the school board agreed to establish a rural school there; patrons of the community were to furnish a one-room schoolhouse and the school board to provide the teacher. The 1928-29 school term enrolled 12 girls and seven boys. The board of county commissioners designated a voting precinct there in 1930, with voting at the schoolhouse. The 1930 U.S. Census recorded about 170 persons at Hilolo, but there is no record of the school after 1931. The Hilolo post office was discontinued in January 1931 and the railroad was discontinued by 1946, leaving Hilolo as a road junction serving some ranches and citrus groves.

Utopia

Utopia School – Palm Beach County 1910 Photo Courtesy of Zelda Johnson Mixon.

Clifford Joseph Clements, born 1870, established Utopia in Dade County in 1897. He built a home, operated a general store, taught school and became postmaster there. Utopia and a small adjoining area on Lake Okeechobee extending west to the Kissimmee River became part of Palm Beach County in 1909. In 1912, the school board authorized the first school building, ordering the materials from Fort Myers, which were delivered to Utopia by boat across Lake Okeechobee. The 1915 city directory of West Palm Beach, which included the Village of Utopia, Precinct No. 8, listed 14 families there, including Drawdy, Hulsey, Rudd and Carlisle Thomas. The Palm Beach County Commission on July 3, 1917, adopted a resolution calling for a special election on August 7, 1917, to determine whether the voters of Utopia and adjoining area were to become part of Okeechobee County. The polling place was designated as Clements Store at Utopia, and the election officials were Howard Crouch, Harmon Jordan, J.F. Douglas and C.J. Clements. The post office, established in 1908, was discontinued in December 1921 and the school closed in 1925. Utopia is now a highway intersection connecting U.S. 441 and SR 710 by County Road 15B, and the primary industry of the area appears to be mobile home parks. www.OkeechobeeTheMagazine.com

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Community Event

Eagle Release Helps Centers’ Future Missions

Waste Management/Okeechobee Landfill hosted an event dubbed “Flight Back to Freedom” for an eagle release on May 27. John Jones of SCS Engineers discovered the injured American bald eagle and, through the efforts of Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and the Treasure Coast Wildlife Center, the eagle was treated and rehabilitated, and has now been returned to the wild. All proceeds from the event benefited both organizations.

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Photos by Sandra Pearce and Susan Giddings


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August 2017 | 67


More than 27% of children in Okeechobee County struggle with food insecurity. Help provide healthy meals for children at stophunger.org/donate.

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Community Event

Fallen American Heroes Memorialized on Their Day

In observance of Memorial Day, residents of Okeechobee gathered at Veterans Park and paid solemn but proud tribute to the men and women of our armed forces who made the ultimate sacrifice. Guest speakers were Marty Faulkner and Dayton Buxton.

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August 2017 | 71


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Transportation and Communication

Early Modes of

By Betty Chandler Williamson

O

f course, we all know the first transportation anywhere was walking, establishing trails or paths. The second had to be conquering the waterways of our area by dugout canoe, boat or barge. Riding by horseback became a necessity to round up cattle or see a neighboring homesteader who lived too far down a trail to walk to visit. The Bend, a name first used for this area by Peter Raulerson, became Tantie in 1902. With more people settling here, there was a need for mail delivery.

Horses, steam engines, dugouts and barges were indispensable to mobility in Okeechobee Countyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s pre-automobile early years, driving the arrival of the U.S. mail, the expansion of commerce and the transport of livestock in the region. The original trails went through heavy growth of palmettos, hammocks and marshes. This photo shows a modern pathway, now used by cattle.

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Boats and barges on Taylor Creek, near where the present-day Burger King is located on State Road 70 East.

The U.S. mail was carried by Raulerson on horseback for no pay. He became the first postmaster, and his daughter Mattie R. Walker became the first postmistress of what is now Okeechobee. He would ride from Tantie with outgoing mail to Fort Drum and return with the incoming mail.

A modern version of original canoes.

This process took several days, and the mail usually arrived each week. It had come on steamboats into the Basinger area where the Kissimmee River flowed by the small country town, and was then transported on to Fort Drum. Females and young children learned early to ride a horse, with or without a saddle. Some ladies had a horse and carriage so they could make short trips to visit neighbors or go into the settlement for household items. Later, the automobiles made their way into what is now Okeechobee. Just dirt trails and roads, which were used for

Peter Raulerson on white horse, with family members saddled up for tending their herd of cattle. ď ľ www.OkeechobeeTheMagazine.com

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Peter and Louisiana (Chandler) Raulerson standing by their new car.

The Okeechobee County Airport was used for the training of pilots during World War II. One of the first cars with surveying-type tools shown protruding from the window in a watery area.

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YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY horse and buggies, existed. At times, palmettos were cut and placed in the ruts to give the tires traction to move. An early picture of the first settlers of this area, Louisiana (Chandler) and Peter Raulerson, show the couple in front of their automobile on the dirt road of Parrott Avenue. It is said that one of their sons chauffeured them around the area. Remember, roads were not paved for many years after the Raulersons’ arrival in 1896. Elda Mae Bass tells of learning to roller skate in 1948 on the newly paved road in Basinger off U.S. Highway 98 North. In 1915, the first passenger train came into Okeechobee. It’s interesting to note that Ellis Meserve from St. Augustine was on board. He had come south due to poor health. The warmer weather improved his health issue. He later married Faith, the pioneer Raulerson family’s daughter. He is responsible for the first hardware store and funeral home in town. In 1921, E.M. Meserve, as undertaker, signed my grandmother Ellen Williams Chandler’s death certificate. As proprietor, he oversaw the daily operation of his business and was continuously at the store.

The first diesel train arrived in Okeechobee in the 1930s.

A sister of Ellis Meserve shown arriving on the Florida East Coast train. Ellis was the only person to come into Okeechobee on the first passenger train. 74 | August 2017

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The first passenger train of the Florida East Coast Railway is shown at the Opal station in 1915. As it was a wood-burning steam engine train, it stopped at this location to take on wood and water for fuel.

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This aircraft was the first airplane to fly into Okeechobee in 1918.

When I was a child, the mail came in on the train. You would hear the whistle blow twice a day, once in the midmorning and again in the afternoon. The mail was placed in the U.S. post office boxes two times a day. During my youth, this official office was in the Southland Hotel building. Some people received their mail at a “general delivery” address in this office. There was a fee for a postal box but none for the general delivery mail. There was no home delivery until around the 1960s. I recall as a child, stamps were three cents per letter and one cent for a postcard. Air travel became available to the public after World War I. In 1918, the first local landing of any aircraft was recorded. We’re sure it was rough landing in all the palmettos. In 1942-43, the present Okeechobee County Airport, with two paved runways, was constructed by the federal government. It was used as one of several practice airports in Florida for the training of pilots during World War II. After the war was over, the airport and other similar airfields were excellent for

This homemade school bus was built and driven by Robert Lightsey. It traveled from the Kissimmee River on State Road 78 West to U.S. 441 and on to the first brick school constructed in 1916-17.

training civilian pilots. Following the war, several veterans used their “G.I. Bill of Rights” to learn to fly, and some of our locals became crop dusters. During our newfound “peace” time, many airplanes began to use our county airport. Today, it is very busy with many landings daily. It also has a popular place to eat, the Landing Strip. During the Great Depression, a homemade school bus was built by Robert

Transportation for students was made easier when Okeechobee County provided travel to the new school constructed in 1916.

Lightsey (Walter Veasey’s grandfather). Lightsey drove the bus to school with his children and other students. The area, with several homes, was located on the ridge, a few miles this side of the Kissimmee River bridge on State Road 78 West. I recall seeing two school bus photos of that era. Some of our residents used Fort Pierce for their banking, physicians, dentists and hospital needs. We did not have a local hospital until 1948, and it was named Louisiana Raulerson Hospital, for the first Caucasian female of Okeechobee, my great-aunt, Louisiana (Chandler) Raulerson.

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Before we had automobiles, a horse and buggy or someone on horseback made the 36-mile trip to the county seat to take care of legal matters. It was a difficult journey, but remember, our downtown section was in St. Lucie  www.OkeechobeeTheMagazine.com

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A cloth-covered wagon pulled by oxen with family nearby. (Note their frontier-type clothing.)

Greyhound buses used this area for their station during World War II into the 1960s.

County until we became incorporated. In 1917, Okeechobee County was carved out from Osceola, Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties. During World War II, I recall riding in a small bus, rather like a long station wagon, to Fort Pierce on some Saturdays. This service was provided by Thomas Nix and his sons, Herbert and Robert. Due to gas rationing during World War II, we were able to travel to this nearest city for business and shopping. If we could not go, the driver would pick up what we needed. The cost, plus a 50-cent service fee, was a huge savings to us. Many people used this method for special items not available in our city. Early in the â&#x20AC;&#x153;Depression time,â&#x20AC;? small private buses hauled people to Fort Pierce for their business needs. Many of the roads during that time were not paved but rough and sandy.

Wooden carts pulled by oxen with early settlers. 76 | August 2017

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Buses, such as the Greyhound line, were much in demand, especially during World War II, as the trains were usually occupied by our service men and women. Here in Okeechobee, where not everyone had a car, one could step out close to the main highway and signal a bus to stop. The driver would tell you the charge and let you ride into town. Returning to the same place for a ride home was very economical.

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The bus station was located next to the Standard Oil station near the stoplight at U.S. 441 and State Road 70. Bob’s Café, owned by Bob and Eunice Lamb, was where the large buses parked so the travelers could eat, and many locals frequented this restaurant.

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Before we had automobiles, a horse & buggy or someone on horseback made the 36-mile trip to the county seat to take care of legal matters.

Even though the patent for bicycles was registered in 1866, this mode of transportation became popular in our area between World Wars I and II. We have a picture of J.O. Wolff Sr., a pharmacist, riding a bicycle. Perhaps he rode it to work, as he and his family lived within the city limits. He arrived in Okeechobee in the early 1920s and became the owner of a pharmacy located in the Park Drug Store in downtown Okeechobee. We did not have a full-time medical doctor here. Doc Wolff assisted with our survival, of which we are all appreciative. Bicycles eventually became an important means of transportation all over America. During my school years, a number of students rode their bikes to school and on errands. In the 1940s, 

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my mother purchased a “victory bike,” which was a regular bike with thinner rubber tires than usual, to ride to work at the Markham Cannery. A fact was explained to us that the width of the tire saved rubber, which was needed by the war effort. I remember telegrams being delivered by a young man on a bicycle. The Western Union was popular for transmitting messages during World War II. My parents used it to contact my brother who was in the Navy. A bad part was realizing that sad information was also brought by this method of communication. Several local families received one of those dreaded telegrams, delivered by this employee of the Western Union. He would ride his bike down overgrown trails and rutted roads to deliver the message in a positive way. But all realized that when you received a telegram edged in black from the U.S. War Department it was sad news. The message began, “We are sorry to inform you…”

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Community Event

Sid Estrada and County Commissioner Bryant Culpepper.

Rockin’ Rods Features Cars Plus Archery Tourney The second Rockin’ Rods Car Show and Swap Meet was staged June 3, at the Philippine American Cultural Center. Skull Hill Steel conducted an archery tournament in conjunction with the car show.

WInner of Best Motor – owned by Adrian Rogers.

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Photos by Sharon Cannon

Brandon Baughman.

Visit your Sprint Store: 3457 US Highway 441. Okeechobee, FL 34974 863-467-0006

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Next to Publix Jeremy Morgan won Best Truck. www.OkeechobeeTheMagazine.com

August 2017 | 81


Syfrett Feed Co. manufactures fresh Beef, Swine, Poultry, Sheep, Goat, Deer, Game feed and more! We have feed programs— from great starter/growers and finish/withdraws, to a special layer ration for poultry. Drive into The FeederyTM, buy your feed direct from the mill in any quantity. Bring your own container [any size], drive up and be well taken care. If you don’t have a container or need more, we carry barrels w/lids [up to 300 lbs], sacks [up to 100 lbs], or super sacks [up to 2000 lbs]. Feed is also available in 50 lb. bags. Give us a try, experience superior nutrition, unsurpassed support and competitive pricing. Custom Blends Available 50 lb BAGS 17% Special Layer Pellets Medicated 18% Special Layer Pellets 22% Poultry Starter Full Line: Safeguard® De-worming Products 20% Syfrett Buck ConditionerTM Livestock Minerals • Soybean Meal 18% Swine Starter • 13% Swine Finisher Horse Feeds: grow/premium Dog Feeds: pups/adults

BULK 12% Bull Grower 14% Heifer Developer 20% Calf Pellets 16% Layer Pellets 20% Broiler Starter/Grower medicated 18% Broiler Finisher/Withdrawal 14% Sheep/Goat Grower 17% Swine Grower Medicated Whole & Cracked Corn

FRESH | LOCAL | 3RD GENERATION FAMILY OWNED & OPERATED OPEN | M-F 7:30 - 5:30 SAT 8 - 2 3079 NW 8th St | Okeechobee, FL 34972 • Office: 863.763.5586 Jose | 863.634.6547

82 | August 2017

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Brown Cow Sweetery Sandwiches • Salads • Quiche Coffee • Lattes • Frozen Blends Chocolate • Ice Cream 863.357.3357

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August 2017 | 83


Community Event

Dads, Daughters Bond at 3rd Annual

B.R.A.T. Dance

The B.R.A.T. (Building Relationships Among Teens) Club hosted its third annual Father-Daughter Dance on June 17, at the Okeechobee Shrine Club. Dads and daughters spent a wonderful night together creating memories.

84 | August 2017

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Photos by Susan Giddings

Rick Chartier (863) 467.9090 • Sales • Service • Audio Visual • Networking

COMPUTERS

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Accepting New Patients We Now do DOE Physicals

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50 OFF Keto 3 Diet 100 OFF of HCG Diet

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Provider Amanda Williams, ARNP, FNP-BC and Introducing Rachel Erwin DNP, ARNP, FNP-BC joining our staff

www.OkeechobeeTheMagazine.com

August 2017 | 85


Your Top Realty Company In Okeechobee That Your Family Can Trust To Be There For You!

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86 | August 2017

OKEECHOBEE THE MAGAZINE


Looking for a local Primary Care Physician? Meet Denise Ricketts, M.D. with Treasure Coast Medical Specialists. Accepting new patients • Walk-ins welcome

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1713 Hwy 441 North | Suite C | Okeechobee, FL 34972 (in the Okeechobee Medical Park building, located directly across from the hospital)

863-467-2159

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August 2017 | 87


G

T Y R N A E P B M O IL C L I O

Gilbert Family Of Companies Built On Dad’s ‘DNA’ Legacy By Raye Deusinger Photos Courtesy of Gilbert Experience

a year later bought Watford out. In 1928, he became a wholesale agent for Sinclair Refining Co., which was the start of Gilbert Oil Co. that today supplies fuel and related products to dairies, businesses and the public. When it began, those deliveries were made in small delivery trucks; today, each truck hauls 4,500 gallons. Gilbert never stopped working with and for the town he loved. In ’32, he bought

a service station, which today is the site of their company offices and Gilbert Outdoors, which sells golf carts, lawn mowers and Line-X. About the same time, he bought a building on North Park Street that ultimately became known as Gilbert Chevrolet. Chevrolet was expanding with dealerships across the country and offered one to Gilbert. He accepted but also sold at that site refrigerators, washers, dryers and Goodyear tires. His DNA might have stood for “Diversify to New Adventures,” as his businesses helped him make

Gilbert (Gil) Culbreth Jr. said that his father’s DNA, passed down to the present generation, is what has made the Gilbert Family of Companies one of Okeechobee's oldest and finest. This is the business story.

“Gilbert Culbreth Sr. only had a 10thgrade education, but his DNA contained a work ethic and a desire to help and build,” Gil said. “He and his parents were on the way from their home in Madrid, Ala., to Miami but stopped overnight in Okeechobee and never left.” Gil Sr. quickly got a job hauling rock during the construction of present-day U.S. 441 S.E. At only 20, he partnered with his uncle, Walter Watford, in a service station, but 88 | August 2017

OKEECHOBEE THE MAGAZINE

The Gilbert Oil team from left: seated Marie and Gil Culbreth. Center: Island Hoover. Second row: Zoe Butler, Lauren Throop, Bert Culbreth, Susie Hoover, Christa Luna, Shannon Stossel, Buddy Lisle and Raybo Lisle. Back: Ashley Roberson, Howdy Pattison, Linda Boree, Gerald Malone, Courtney Bobst and Elia Suarez.


BEHIND THE BUSINESS

a living while the country was coming out of the Depression. In ’34, he built the Gilbert Theater next to the dealership. Beginning in 1939, each Christmas he held a party where all Okeechobee's children could come to the theater for a movie and to meet Santa Claus. The tradition continued into the early ’60s. Gilbert married and had a daughter, Virginia Lee, but his wife died soon after. He later married Leona Walker, and they had two children, Gilbert Jr. and Susanne (Susie) Hoover. When the war came in 1941, his successful car business almost died. Because Chevrolet put its production into tanks, they only shipped one or two cars a year to their dealers. But Gilbert’s product diversification had paid off. By 1950, he had an auto agency, a hardware/appliance store, a service station and a theater. By 1960, Gil Jr. was working with his dad and learning to pump gas and sell lawn mowers and stoves. The main operations included Parrott Tire and Appliance and the sale of Chevrolets, Oldsmobiles and Willis Jeeps. After graduating in 1963, Gil Jr. went off to college for a few years, then joined the Navy. “I knew I could try another field,” said Gil, “but I loved our business and Okeechobee; I was taught well. My dad would say, ‘You can do anything you set your mind to, just don't quit. If you fall, get up and keep going.’ He was a gen-

erous man, teaching us there is no class distinction, just treat everyone well.” Gil married Marie Allen in 1969, and both still work in the business. By the early ’70s, Gil Jr. was co-listed with his father as a designated Chevrolet dealer. Appliances were phased out and they sold Snapper lawnmowers, tires and gas at their service station. He soon got his broker’s license and opened an office known today as Gilbert Realty. He still retains his license. Gil lost his father in 1977.

the Chevrolet dealership, which they are now converting into a Fleet Operations building to better serve the many companies that purchase their vehicles from the Gilbert Companies. It will also house the main offices of Gilbert Ford. In 1957, the company employed 25 people; today, they have more than 145 employees. The Gilbert Family of Companies now includes Gilbert Chevrolet, Gilbert Ford, Gilbert Outdoors, Gilbert Oil Co., The Collision Center, Gilbert Realty, Line-X and Experience Productions.

Ground was broken in ’87 for the present location of Gilbert Chevrolet, and in 2013 they acquired the Ford dealership from Dowling Watford, Walter Watford's grandson, and expanded and developed it into Gilbert Ford, which is run by the Culbreths’ son, Bert, with the Chevrolet dealership run by their daughter, Christa.

Gil said: “Our family loves Okeechobee because it offers the people and the lifestyle we enjoy; there is no other place we want to be. Bert and Krissy Culbreth have a daughter Madelyn; Christa and Mark Luna have two children, Alex and Grace. We each might take a short vacation, but all of us are very contented working in and serving the city my parents helped build.”

Saying he is glad he has his father's DNA, Gil is continuing the expansion of the family enterprises. They recently bought the shopping center across from

Gilbert Oil Company 303 N.W. Ninth Street 863-763-0666 www.GilbertHasIt.com

Log on to OkeechobeeTheMagazine.com and click on the “Behind the Business” tab to learn more about Gilbert Oil Company. www.OkeechobeeTheMagazine.com

August 2017 | 89


{ Benjamin Epstein, DO { Board Certified in Orthopaedic Surgery

• Total hip and knee replacement • Custom knee replacement • Arthroscopic surgery • And more

WILLIAMSON CATTLE COMPANY Presents Ms. DIAMOND JUBILEE

RaulersonOrtho.com

(75th Anniversary of Okeechobee County, Florida)

1924 Hwy 441 N. | Okeechobee, FL 34972 | 863-357-0540

SNEIDER LAW Eva Mae Williams was selected “Ms. Diamond Jubilee” in 1992. She and husband Zibe Williams, celebrated over one-half a century of marriage. This popular couple had several children. Ms. Williams was active in many organizations. She served as my Girl Scout leader and is the Great grandmother to “our” Great grandchildren, Marshall and Delainey Rucks.

Submitted by Betty Chandler Williamson 90 | August 2017

OKEECHOBEE THE MAGAZINE

Glenn J. Sneider Attorney at Law

Helping good people facing tough problems. Divorce

Custody

Paternity

DUI

Criminal Law

200 SW 9th Street•Okeechobee, FL 34974

863-467-6570 www.SneiderLaw.com


BOUTIQUE Hello from the Mira Realty Team! We are so excited to be in business with you!

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At Mira Realty, LLC, the word is flexibility. Real Estate comes in all shapes and sizes.There is no cookie cutter you can fit every customer into. We embrace digital modernization, while at the same time, we offer a personal touch that comes with a deep knowledge of the Okeechobee area. Our goal is to provide our customers with a personalized and up to date integrated real estate experience!

Celebrating 86 Years Serving the Glades

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August 2017 | 91


, S ’ . R C N E I M O D

1926, Domer's was becoming vital to the town of Okeechobee.

Justin, Jacob Domer Continue Family’s Service Tradition Into 4th Generation

In 1920, Victor and family visited friends in West Palm Beach. On returning to Ohio, Victor and his wife, Emma, talked about Florida. Four years later, they moved to West Palm, where he opened a business as a watchmaker/jeweler.

Victor, Emma and children, Esther and Russell, loved Okeechobee. But the September 1926 hurricane damaged towns all around the lake. Then the ’28 hurricane hit Okeechobee even worse than that in ’26. Recovery was hampered by the encroaching Depression.

Florida real estate was booming in a small town to the west called Okeechobee. Victor visited on a real estate tour, loved what he saw and bought a small, unfinished house in Okeechobee. He hung a sign in his yard saying, ‘We fix anything — gramophones, guns, shoes, locks and keys,’ and he did. By early

Victor didn't give up. He encouraged, helped everyone and even bought and donated a property to Grace Brethren Church (now Christ Fellowship) where Emma was active. He also sought and held a seat on the Okeechobee City Council for four years. He expanded his business into hardware, pumps and

By Raye Deusinger

Domer's, Inc., one of Okeechobee's

oldest businesses, is still located on the same site and run by the same family as when it began in 1925 as a “fix-it” shop. The founder was Victor Domer, the great-grandfather of Justin and Jacob, the current owners of Domer’s. Today, it is a seller of industrial hardware, a fix-it shop, a metalworking shop, a well driller and more. Its customer base is agricultural producers, local businesses and homeowners whom they serve with family pride. 92 | August 2017

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Front: Justin Domer, Jacob Domer, Jodi Raulerson, Juan Castijella and Johnny Rodriguez. Back: Linda Staton, Sylvia Larramore, Karla Grugel, Christina Norman, Maureen Thomas, David Straight, Joe Rodriguez and Cesar Alonso.Not pictured: Todd Bennett, Alan Cornell.


BEHIND THE BUSINESS

drilling equipment to serve and improve the growing farming and agriculture community. Son Russell, whose wife, Martha, was the great-great-granddaughter of Okeechobee's first settler, Peter Raulerson, served in World War II. Returning home, he bought Domer’s from his father. Over the years, as Domer’s has passed from father to son, it has done so through purchase, not inheritance. Like Victor, Russell served his city as a councilman and was master of the Okeechobee Masonic Lodge three times. Russell helped Domer’s customer base grow to include local businesses, home builders and land developers in what might be called “a hardware store on steroids.” His only son Ray Domer was born one year before Russell bought the store from Victor. Ray graduated high school, attended college for a time and moved to Louisiana, where he advanced quickly to foreman at a shipyard. In 1978, he got a call from his father saying if he didn't move back home and buy the business, it would be sold to someone else. He returned and bought the business at only 22, and helped it grow by expanding to include the needs of industry as well as agriculture. Ray married wife Ginger Greenberger four years later and had son Justin Domer in 1987. After purchasing the company he, on the original piece of real estate, erected a new building, expanded

stock and carried on the ever-growing tradition of enlarging both Domer’s size and service, as well as serving his community through three terms on the Okeechobee County Commission. After Ginger's sudden death in 1987, Ray married Cindi Woodham in 1989; they had a son, Jacob Domer, in 1995. Justin became the first in the line to graduate college and considered other fields, but moved back to Okeechobee to learn the business firsthand from Ray. Jacob also became involved. Justin said Jacob has been actively involved in the business as long as he can remember and that he has skills and abilities that fit the family business perfectly. Following the sudden death of their father, Ray, in 2014, Justin and Jacob teamed up to continue their family's legacy and, on Jan. 1, 2017, they bought the company. “We have a sense of history and the responsibility that goes with it,” Justin said. He values so many long-term employees like Maureen Thomas, who has been with Domer’s for 31 years. “The past three years,” said Justin, “we have been moving ahead, maintaining Domer's reputation while moving into

the future. We are adjusting prices, adding new products and expanding existing services. One of our expanded departments is a water service to provide everything in water treatment and supplies for the smallest house or the largest farm. “Through info@domersinc.com, customers can inquire about new products, ask questions and fill out inquiry forms. We want to hear from our customers because we don't know what they need until they tell us. We urge our customers to check out our website, as it is updated regularly as new technology and product warrants. “We will continue to hire the most skilled workers in various trades, to improve our service and help our community,” said Justin. “We thank the county for the honor, May 25th, of naming 10th Avenue, Domer Avenue. We are only eight years from celebrating our centennial, and we want to keep growing with Okeechobee.” Domer’s, Inc. 204 S.E. 10th Avenue 863-763-3417 www.DomersInc.com

Log on to OkeechobeeTheMagazine.com and click on the “Behind the Business” tab to learn more about Domer's, Inc. www.OkeechobeeTheMagazine.com

August 2017 | 93


Specially Priced

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OKEECHOBEE THE MAGAZINE


SAND • FILL • SHELL • ROCK House Pads Land Clearing Debris Removal

Demolition Culverts Driveways

Located on the Rim Canal of Lake Okeechobee, Water's Edge is just minutes from shopping and restaurants in the nearby community of Okeechobee. The Resort is only a short distance from the Seminole Casino, I-95 and the East Coast of Florida, with major malls and some of the most beautiful beaches of Florida.

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August 2017 | 95


History

Preserving Our

The Importance Of Keeping History Alive By Haynes E. Williams

I

was not born in Okeechobee, but my family and I began coming to this town in 1937. Then we moved here from Brighton in 1941 so I could attend high school. I wish everybody could have grown up here like I did … Okeechobee was a wonderful place inhabited by very nice people. When my family and I lived on North Parrott Avenue where my office is presently located, the road was dirt and we would get all excited when a car drove by. We never locked our doors at night or had to worry about our safety. When the United States entered into World War II, many of Okeechobee’s finest young men enlisted in the armed forces, and some of them did not come back. The war brought rationing, plane spotting, blackouts and war bond drives. The newsreels at the picture shows kept us informed about the war and other current events of the time. Times were tough, but Okeechobee was our refuge — our safe place. Okeechobee has changed so much since I moved here. Since this area was first settled in the late 1800s, a lot of its history has been recorded in several publications, including the book Strolling Down Country Roads: Okeechobee County, a pictorial history, written by Betty Chandler Williamson and Twila 96 | August 2017

OKEECHOBEE THE MAGAZINE

Valentine. This wonderful book — chock full of stories of the early settlers and their descendants, descriptions of historical events, and interesting photographs — was published in 1993, and that is where the recorded history of Okeechobee ends. Yes, we have the archives of the Okeechobee News to research and we can look back at past editions of Okeechobee The Magazine to see what happened in recent years, but there is not a single place we can go to follow the historical events that have taken place in Okeechobee since 1993.

For many of us, life is moving so fast and keeping us so busy that we do not take time to look back, reflect upon and record the recent important events in our community. We all enjoy looking back in time thanks to the many photographs provided by Tommy Markham, Charles LaMartin and the Okeechobee County Historical Society. Okeechobee needs to

have its most recent history recorded in print and photographs so future generations can look back in time to see how we live today. My nephew, John Williams, and my sisters, Grace and Wanda Sue, have each written historical accounts about the Williams and the Whidden families. My mother, Eva Mae, recorded her memories of growing up in the early 1900s as her family moved to wherever her father, Walter Whidden, was called to preach — Chokoloskee, Miami, Nocatee, to name a few towns. Without these accounts, my family’s future generations will not have any knowledge of their family’s history in 50 years when most of us will be gone. Okeechobee’s future generations of citizens should have a way to look back on our times of today, and we owe it to them to preserve the history of this still wonderful place to live. Each and every one of us needs to grab a pen and paper and begin writing, or open up a laptop and begin typing, or turn on a recorder and begin speaking, or take a video camera and begin recording Okeechobee as it looks today. A repository can be set up at the Okeechobee County Historic Courthouse or the library for such recordings of history being made in these times for the enjoyment of Okeechobee’s citizens in the not-too-distant future. We are making history each day here in Okeechobee … now let’s start preserving it.


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August 2017 | 97


A good neighbor has your back.

A good neighbor has your back.

Life’s a combination of good days and bad. I have your back for both. And who has my back? The company more people have trusted for 90 years. I’m here to help life go rightTM. CALL ME TODAY.

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Caring Evaluation and Treatment of Women’s Health Issues*

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98 | August 2017

State Farm Bloomington, IL

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Porcelain Esthetics

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Chemical Peels Microdermabrasion Light therapies Therapeutic customized facials Acne treatment Resurfacing

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401 NW 3rd Street

863-467-0831 rec@closeconstruction.us www.OkeechobeeTheMagazine.com

August 2017 | 99


Looking to the

FUTURE

The Next Hundred Years By Terry Burroughs County Commissioner District 4

A

s we review the span of a lifetime, 100 years is one of the ultimate milestones that a county or city can achieve. The first 100 years are where the seeds are planted and roots begin to grow. The next 100 years are where the community begins to change into a mature and viable home for our children’s children. As we cast our view into the crystal ball, our current focus is to set in place a path of prosperous growth, but have a constant focus on not losing an idyllic lifestyle that our parents experienced. To move ahead, it is often stated one must look back. The economic environment we live in today will be a different picture nurtured through changing demographics as well as geographical and industrial developments, which will assist in changing the landscape of the county. To communicate this futuristic picture simply and clearly to you requires our current and future leaders to create an understandable and transparent method when planning. Because of our geographic location, Okeechobee County’s economy will continue to grow into something very special, increasing not only in size but also in quality. As a result, the standard of living for all who live in the area will improve, there will be more wealth to 100 | August 2017

OKEECHOBEE THE MAGAZINE

pay for “quality of life” amenities, and we will not rely upon people moving to the county in order to bring new money to the area.

The county must confront its challenges and execute bold action in the next 100 years in maintaining its unique style of living. Population growth and development are on the doorstep. Open space and natural resources need to be protected so they don’t disappear forever. Economic development is needed to boost the economy, providing quality jobs and supporting government services. The expansion of education and health services will be needed for a growing population.

However, there are still many factors that will play a role in Okeechobee County’s future, including population growth, development pressure and sprawl, agricultural challenges, economic needs, education and health concerns, and environmental issues. In addition, the existing tools and funding available to the county will prove to be sufficient to address the scale and complexity of any challenges that lie ahead. The quality of life in Okeechobee County is unique and residents believe it is worth preserving.

To be successful in the future, Okeechobee County must continue to plan for the future. We need the ability to manage, use and optimize resources differently. We need to forecast our resources and basic needs differently. Rather than looking in the past to make projections, we need to look to the future, anticipate the changes and plan ahead for a sustainable future. The question before you now is very simple. Will our community have the will and leadership to cause the community to become “enriched,” or will you simply do nothing and allow it to degenerate into a giant bedroom for other counties? This is the challenge for the future of our county.


www.OkeechobeeTheMagazine.com

August 2017 | 101


The best service, best prices…

Naturally…the BEST in RVs

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Title Insurance • Real Estate Closings 202 NW 5th Street • Okeechobee, FL 34972 Telephone: 863.824.6776 Fax: 863.824.6778 titleandlegal@ymail.com

Visit your Sprint Store: 3457 US Highway 441 Okeechobee, FL 34974 863-467-0006

SW 32nd St.

Next to Publix 102 | August 2017

OKEECHOBEE THE MAGAZINE

US-441

Northlake Village Shopping Center


NATIONALLY ACCREDITED

Peace Lutheran School

We accept VPK and Step Up for Students Serving Children ages 2-K Small Class Sizes

Office: 863-763-7566

750 NW 23rd Street • Okeechobee, FL 34972 • peaceschoolinokeechobee@yahoo.com • FMI visit www.peacelutheranschool-okeechobee.org

Why advertise with us?

Because if you're reading this...there's a good chance your customers are too.

MATC H ICE

PR

CH

Worry FREE $75 A/C Maintenance

PR

Family Owned and Operated Since 1975!

I C E M AT

863.763.6461

LIC #CAC053793 LIC #CFC022585

www.echolsplumbingandac.com

316 N.W. Fifth Street Okeechobee, FL 34972

Phone: 863.467.0054

www.OkeechobeeTheMagazine.com www.OkeechobeeTheMagazine.com

August 2017 | 103


Around Okeechobee

When only the best will do.

Brought to You By:

Chamber Ribbon-Cuttings

Director of Program Services Homer Gutierrez leads a tour of the Fresh Food Processing Plant during the grand opening.

Girl With A Gun Tanning

Treasure Coast Food Bank Launches Fresh Produce Processing Plant On March 16, Treasure Coast Food Bank held a grand opening for its $2.4 million Fresh Produce Processing Plant that will channel 25 million pounds of fresh, nutritious produce each year from area farms to those in need throughout Okeechobee and the Treasure Coast. The kettle cook/chill plant includes a wash/chop/packaging system to convert whole produce into pre-cut, refrigerated portions since space is limited and a cook/ vacuum-pack system to process raw vegetables into ready-to-use products. It was set to begin full operation Aug. 1.

Mark of Excellence Award.

Sprint

Gilbert Stays in GMâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Circle of Excellence

Through hard work and dedication to customer service, Gilbert Chevrolet once again was proud to earn the coveted GM Mark of Excellence for 2016. This annual award is given only to a small percentage of the more than 4,000 General Motors dealerships. 104 | August 2017

OKEECHOBEE THE MAGAZINE


Around Okeechobee

When only the best will do.

Brought to You By:

Main Street Mixers

Silver Palms RV Resort

Tin Fish

Grimsley Speaks on Ag Concerns at Fundraiser

Todd Clemons and Denise Grimsley.

On Friday, May 19, a fundraiser took place at the Okeechobee Livestock Market to support Sen. Denise Grimsley (D-26th House District) in her run to become Florida’s next agriculture commissioner. Dozens of community leaders and local businessmen and women gathered to hear about Sen. Grimsley’s concerns about current issues facing the agricultural industry and her plans for the Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services if elected. Grimsley announced her candidacy in early February to replace Commissioner Adam Putnam, who has filed to run for governor in 2018.

Domer’s, Inc. Honored with Renamed Road

The Domer family was honored by the Okeechobee County and the City of Okeechobee governments on Thursday, May 25, with a special ceremony at Domer’s, Inc. to mark the rechristening of the road outside their business, formerly Southeast 10th Avenue, as Domer Avenue. Domer’s, Inc. has been in that location for 91 years, performing services, such as water treatment, welding, well drilling and others, and creating industrial supplies From left: Jean Domer Rogers, Jill Robertson Pitts, Alvina Domer Robertson, Commissioner and branding irons in its machine shop. Terry Burroughs, Mayor Dowling Watford, Commissioner David Hazellief, Commissioner

Brad Goodbread, Commissioner Kelly Owens, Commissioner Bryant Culpepper, Jacob H. Domer, Cindi Domer and Justin Ray Domer. www.OkeechobeeTheMagazine.com

August 2017 | 105


List of Advertisers 14K Gold Store .................................94

Gilbert Chevrolet............................107

Pritchards and Associates..................42

Gilbert Ford.......................................65

Pueblo Viejo VI Restaurant.................43

A & G Pools........................................77

Glades AC..........................................47

Abney Building & Consulting, Inc.......39

Glenn Sneider, Attorney.....................90

Quail Creek Plantation.........................9

Addington Satellite TV.......................67

Golden Corral.....................................12

Quality Air Conditioning...............27, 42

Advanced Alarm....................................49

Grad Night Thank You.......................101 Rabon's Country Feed........................99

American Drilling Services.................77 Anchor Dental...................................64

Heartland Discount Pharmacy..............5

Raulerson Gyn, LLC............................98

Anderson Realty.................................86

Highland Pest Control.......................94

Raulerson Hospital.............................17 Raulerson Orthopaedic Specialists.....90

Andrea Noelle's Boutique..................91

Okeechobee The Magazine is a stellar publication and I appreciate that every issue is a collector's item. I am proud to be a part of it and this wonderful community." — Vicki Anderson,

Bad Apple Salon.................................67

ICS Computers...................................85

Raulerson Surgical Specialists...........95

Inkwell Tattoos................................102

Remington Real Estate......................58 Royal's Furniture................................91

Badcock Furniture.............................83 Berger Real Estate..............................83

Lake O Real Estate.............................53

Big Lake Eye Care.................................3

Lake Okeechobee Digestive Disease......78

S. Cruz Lawn Service..........................97

Big Lake Foot & Ankle Specialists......49

Lakeside Grill.....................................97

SK Services.........................................67

Brown Cow Sweetery.........................83

Lawnwood Regional Medical Ctr......108

Sandra Pearce Photography...............82

Bull Bash...........................................16

Lehman Auto Body Service Center......94

Schuler, Halvorson, Weisser,

Buxton & Bass Funeral Home............47

Lillies & Lace......................................45

Zoeller & Overbeck...............................79

Los Cocos Mexican Restaurant...........78

Seacoast Bank....................................55

Anderson Realty Co.

Seminole Brighton Casino..................69

Carpenter Insurance...........................97

Receive 6 Issues of

mailed directly to your home or office.

Only $18.00 a Year!

Clear Title & Legal Services...............102

M&M Auto Brokers............................40

Shoe Box...........................................95

Close Construction, LLC................27, 99

Main Street Salon..............................87

Sprint Wireless Connection...................6

Cooling Refrigeration Services...........37

Mary Kay...........................................57

Staffords Salon...................................37

Crossroads Restaurant........................87

Mill Iron Metalworks, Inc....................40

State Farm.........................................98

Custom Sights and Sounds.................53

Mira Realty LLC..................................91

Superior Water Works.........................57

Custom Window Treatments.............43

Mixon Real Estate Group...................25

Syfrett Feed........................................82

Mohawk Construction, Inc.................95 D4 Powersports..................................83

Morgan's Furniture.............................41

Teez 2 Pleez.......................................97

D&G Catering.....................................39

Murray Insurance Services.................45

Tenniswood Dental Associates...........28

Continental U.S.A. Only!

Doctors Clinic Family Health Center.....78

Keep up with “Your Community!”

Dolly Hand Cultural Arts Center..........35

Okee-Tantie Title Company, Inc..........34

Total Roadside Services........................7

Don's Appliances................................99

Okeechobee Community Theatre.......97

Treasure Coast Food Bank...................68

Okeechobee Dental Care....................71

Treasure Coast Medical Specialists......87

Echols Plumbing & A/C....................103

Okeechobee Health Care Facility..........2

Trinidad Garcia, M.D..........................97

Edwards Jones...................................83

Okeechobee Livestock Market

Eli's Western Wear..............................24

Restaurant.......................................101

Everglades Pediatric Dentistry...........59

Okeechobee Medical Reserve Corps...41

Enclose a check for $18.00 (made payable to Okeechobee The Magazine) and mail along with this completed form to:

Okeechobee The Magazine 316 NW 5th Street Okeechobee, FL 34972

Tin Fish............................................103

Visiting Nurse Association..................50

Please Print Neatly

Name: Address: City/State/Zip: Phone: 106 | August 2017

OKEECHOBEE THE MAGAZINE

U.S. Sugar...........................................13

Family Dentistry of Okeechobee.........51

PCS/Sprint..................................81, 102

Family Health & Wellness...................85

Peace Lutheran School.....................103

Water's Edge RV Resort......................95

Florida Outdoors RV.........................102

Penrod Construction..........................34

Wemmer Family Orthodontics..........68

Florida Public Utilities........................29

Platinum Performance Builders...........54

Williamson Cattle Company.............90

Flower Petals.....................................94

Plaza 300.............................................98

WOKC 100.9 FM.................................86

Porcelain Esthetics.............................99

Worley Construction..........................11


There are dealerships all around me, but I chose to drive an hour to get my new Suburban because of Gilbert's great reputation. -Lindsey Sebring

500

Over

NEW and Pre-Owned Vehicles to Choose From!

(863) 763-3154 3550 U.S. Highway 441 South Okeechobee, FL 34974

www.GilbertChevrolet.com Serving the Okeechobee Area for over 90 Years!


Your

Go-To ER Emergencies happen without warning, and in a true emergency, you need treatment immediately. Minutes matter during a serious medical event like a heart attack or stroke, and quick response is crucial to the best outcome. You never have to schedule an appointment for ER care at our award-winning facilities. We’re nearby and ready to treat you or your loved one right when you need us. Emergencies can’t wait — neither should you.

For average ER wait times, visit HCAEastFlorida.com. To speak to a Nurse 24/7 or for a physician referral, call Consult-A-Nurse® at 800-382-3522.

Treasure coast healthcare system LAWNWOOD REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER & HEART INSTITUTE RAULERSON HOSPITAL ST. LUCIE MEDICAL CENTER

Okeechobee The Magazine August 2017  
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