By Donald Benham
My home in Florida was on U.S. Route 1. I was about 25 miles from Cape Canaveral and I saw “pert near” all of the shuttle launches while I was in residence. My friend was the photographer for Cape Canaveral and he gave me passes for the viewing area of the launches. The most spectacular launches were the night launches where we could follow the fire up through the atmosphere until it disappeared into the dark sky. One memorable launch occurred as I was driving home on U.S. Route 1 from New Smyrna. In front of me were several cars that had stopped and I saw the shuttle launch. As I was watching it I saw the explosion of the shuttle. That is not a happy memory for me. When a shuttle lands at Cape Canaveral there is a big loud bang that rattles your knick knacks on your walls. There are two large bangs when it enters the sound barrier.
I don’t know why anyone in the eastern United States would travel out of the country to see a white sandy beach along the ocean. The area along New Smyrna and Daytona Florida have, in my estimation, the finest white sand beaches. You can even drive on them. They are full of sea shells. One thing we have to watch for when we walk close to the water are the jelly fish. They can give you a nasty sting. So watch where you are walking if you happen to be there. Now that Matthew has come through that area I’m sure the beach has taken a beating.
As you travel along the main roads in Florida you can see one of the two deciduous conifers. The Cypress tree is one and I can’t remember the other one that grow in Florida. One peculiarity of the Cypress tree is knobs that comes up from the roots away from the tree. They grow in wet areas and swamps. A Cypress log will not float in water. It also weathers well when used in building. It grows slowly. The house I lived most of my youth in had Cypress siding. It was impervious to the weather. You can no long use Cypress in construction because they don’t produce it anymore.
Getting away from Florida and traveling on the interstates through North and South Carolina you see kudzu growing up the trees and blocking your view of things behind it. Kudzu is a vine imported into the United States and is almost impossible to destroy it. It hangs like a curtain along the highways. Spanish moss, which hangs on trees, is not destructive like kudzu. It is said that early settlers stuffed their mattresses with Spanish moss.
One of the things I’ve missed, having moved out of Florida, is the fruit and vegetable stands where I could get the pink grapefruit and the navel oranges which are absolutely delicious. A lot of those trees have been destroyed by frost. So the fruit growers have moved further south in Florida. Circumstances have changed my life and I now live in Ohio away from all those goodies. Then, on the other hand, in this area we have other goodies.
Because it’s close to Christmas, in Florida, where I spent thirty-four Christmases, I recall this one particular Christmas. My daughter and son-in-law were visiting. On the 24th it was a nice day and on the 25th after breakfast, Ed came into the kitchen dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. He went outside and went about 10 feet only to rush back into the house to change his clothes. The temperature had dropped to nineteen degrees which resulted in destroying all of the citrus fruit. Whole orchards were destroyed. That was not a really good memory because of the loss of the fruit. They used to use pots with burning oil to keep the trees safe but that was not enough. They have sprinkler systems now that protect the trees. In the next article we will leave Florida and take another trip west. Happy New Year!
Donald Benham was born Nov. 28, 1919 in Ashtabula. He served in World War II in the Army Transportation Corps, worked on the railroad for 38 years and in contracting for 12. He was married for 69 years to Flora and has three daughters. He’s traveled extensively in the U. S., Canada and Mexico, lived in Florida for 35 years and now resides at Brooks House Assisted Living in Hiram.