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A Look Back: The Travels of Edgar Spaulding – Part 6

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Looking back to Edgar Spaulding’s journal he kept when, in 1926, he and his family went on a Motor Camping trip. Last week they have finally arrived in Florida, and that is where Part 6 begins….

There are many fine parks in Jacksonville here and there throughout the city. Flowers were in bloom and aside from the clouds and rain it looked more like June than November to us. Quite cool nights, however.

Phoenix Park Camp is a big place in an oak grove on the edge of the city. At the time we were there, over 600 outfits were on the grounds, with an estimated population of over 2,000 souls. The rate is one dollar per week. A poor man’s paradise. There is a big community building with free entertainment nearly every night, and Church services on Sunday nights.

Neese and Wood came in from Lake City on the third day. They seemed like old friends. Now that our party was together again we had our own campfire each night and even if there was clouds and rain, it was not such a bad life after all. The best fuel in the world for the campfire is an old automobile tire. They burn with a bright hot blaze that lasts well and can be lighted with a single newspaper. We used to spend our spare time hunting for them and had from 3 to 5 tires each night.

After 10 days of Phoenix Park, the three outfits of us move to St. Augustine. Nine-foot brick road nearly all the way. Had not gone more than 20 miles before the sun was shining and it looked like a different world. All along this road land is being cleared for this or that. Big signs tell us that we are for sure to be rich if we will but buy lots in some “Heights” or some “Shores” or some “Gables” and all is beautiful, the sign says so!

At St. Augustine we stopped at Dillon’s Camp. A small privately-owned place, good and clean.  St. Augustine, as everyone knows, is the oldest city in the United States and is very fascinating with its old fort, its old buildings and narrow streets. Treasury street is only six feet and two inches wide at one end. The post office is in the “Governor’s Mansion,” which if I remember correctly, was built in 1630.

We visited the old “City Gates” and old Fort Marion with its dungeons, its bastions, water towers and oat. Built of coquina (a shell rock of natural formation), it looks as if it might stand forever.

Neese and I spend much time fishing. We fish from the bridge and also from the island, where sand is being pumped from the harbor to form “Davis Shores.” The light blue of the sky, with dark blue of the water together with the bright sun overhead was wonderfully fascinating. Away out on the outer beach were thousands upon thousands of birds.

We would have been willing to make a longer stay in old St. Augustine but the campground was too small and too crowded besides we were obliged to keep our cat tied by the rules of the camp. This Ethel did not approve of. Wood left first and we have not seen him since. Neese and I spent one night at New Smyrna but not like it came back to Daytona Beach. No satisfactory campground being available in that place, we move on to DeLand.

Fifty years ago, Henry A. Deland of Fairport, New York, who had been a world traveler built a home in this section with the idea of building a model town, this part of the State being a wilderness at the time. In carrying out this idea, he enlisted the aid of a personal friend, John B. Stetson of Philadelphia, the history of the city and its university being closely associated with these two men. DeLand is 110 miles south of Jacksonville, 19 miles from the Atlantic Ocean and 3½ miles from the St. John’s River. It is in the heart of the orange belt with a population of about 8,000 in the summer and double in the winter.

DeLand’s Model tourist auto camp is a high rolling park of 10 acres, densely shaded by towering pines, is located but three blocks from the city’s business center, has 100s of campsites, four recreation grounds, a large pavilion with fireplaces in the center of the park for recreational, civic and religious gatherings, men and women’s restrooms, showers, baths, running water, eclectic lights, a custodian constantly in charge and police protections, all for the cost of $1.50 a week. We had intended to spend the winter in St. Petersburg, but on my first trip downtown was offered a situation by the Reeve Studio, which, as we liked the town, I accepted. Neese stayed until Thanksgiving, now being located at Lake Land.

As we are now settled for the winter, let’s see what kind of people these campers are. There are some 175 outfits in this camp from 25 different states. Camp is divided into four sections, A, B, C, D, we are in Section B. Speaking of my neighbors, on my left in the next tent an automobile salesman from Michigan, down here for his health, and to buy a little real estate to sell at a profit…

The final part will be next week. Remember that you can come down and visit us at the Lucy Bensley Center located at 23 North Buffalo St., Springville, on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Email us at lucybensleycenter@gmail.com or give us a call at 592-0094.

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