June is here, bringing both summer (June 21) and hurricane season (June 1). It seems like the perfect time to breathe and share some reader thoughts, inspired by recent Flashbacks. But first, let’s tip our hat to some notable June dates in Florida’s past.
On June 1, 1937, for example, aviation legend Amelia Earhart took off from a Miami-area airport on her fatal last flight. On June 2, 2008, rock icon Bo Diddley died at his home in Archer. And on June 11, 1953, the sabal palmetto officially became Florida’s state tree.
Sure, it may not cut the handsome silhouette of a noble live oak or a glamorous royal palm, but the sturdy sabal palmetto, or cabbage palm, is about as “Florida” as you can get. (South Carolina also claims it as its state tree, but whatever.)
The saw palmetto provided Floridians with shelter, logs for making roads through swamps, dock pilings, porch columns, hats, baskets, brooms, and food. “Florida’s greatest vegetable,” as Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings called hearts of palm, was served in joints as bloated as the Ritz Hotel in New York, Rawlings wrote in 1942.
Serving this delicacy meant the death of a saw palmetto, Rawlings noted, so harvesting hearts of palm is not something to be done carelessly. The 1953 designation as a state tree provided some protection against indiscriminate logging.
So, with a salute to the palm leaves and a wish to give them a good trim as hurricane season begins, let’s dive into the mailbag for some readers’ thoughts.
“I grew up at Fort Des Moines Army Base in Des Moines, Iowa, where basic housing was made available to Army families after World War II ended in 1945. There was a great housing shortage at the time. We lived there from about 1945 to 1952. May baskets were a very important part of my childhood. Later, I taught a 5th grade class how to make the baskets like my friends and I did when we were kids. I even remember braiding a maypole once, at school, I’m sure.
— Terry Gillam, Winter Park
“Reading May Day certainly brought back wonderful memories of maypoles and delivering baskets to neighbors in New Hampshire. And I was interested, too, in the mention of Oleander Point in Cocoa [now home to the Oleander Pointe Condominium community and the site of May Day picnics in the early 20th century]. It is a beautiful site overlooking the now unhealthy Indian River Lagoon.
— Marcia Barrere, Cocoa
“My birthday is at the end of April, and when I was a little kid and my older sister and her friends were doing a maypole dance, I thought this was for me! Growing up in Canada, I don’t don’t remember any May baskets, but we made baskets for Easter to give to friends and seniors.Of course, on May Day in Canada, the only flowers that came out were daffodils.
— Edward Meyer, Winter Park
“The photo of Jordan Marsh accompanying your May 8 ‘Flashback’ caught my eye and brought back memories. Jordan Marsh was a weekend haunt for me for many years after I moved to Orlando in 1972. On Saturdays my husband and I would drive to Jordan Marsh and then have lunch at nearby Steak and Shake.
— Linda Rice, Orlando
“I loved the Jordan Marsh department store too. There was a wonderful restaurant on the fourth floor, and I seem to remember a piano playing and a candy counter that would customize your order. I also remember the personalized gift wrapping. Credit cards were rare back then, but I remember in high school I would go to Jordan Marsh to buy something and my mom called ahead to alert the store that I had her permission. to use their card. Our shopping adventures in Jordan Marsh usually included a trip to Ronnie’s restaurant for lunch or a fabulous dessert, or just a visit to the bakery. Wonderful memories.
— Gina Room, Orlando
“A long time ago a young boy rode with his mother and younger brother on the cart from the Hahne & Co. department store to Newark in Bloomfield, New Jersey. The next time was a bus, but still from home Hahne. Sometimes it was Bamberger’s, but mostly Hahne’s. Mother always loved Hahne. Now Hahne is gone. Mother is gone. “Bam’s,” as everyone called it, is Macy’s. But the memories remain, and indeed what matters are the people we meet along the way, perhaps on the trolley, listening to Kate Smith.
— Reverend Anthony Borka, Orlando