Reverend Eugene Zimmerman and Mrs. Emily Ann Zimmerman Oral History Interview

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Reverend Eugene Zimmerman and Mrs. Emily Ann Zimmerman Oral History Interview

Reverend Eugene Zimmerman and Mrs. Emily Ann Zimmerman Oral History Interview

February 16, 2017

     I'm Emily Ann Zimmerman and I was born in Night Station which is just a little bit north of Plant City, but I grew up from a age six in East Palatka in Palatka, Florida.

     I'm Gene Zimmerman. I was born in Crystal Beach which is about five miles south of Tarpon Springs on the coast. My family home, the generational home was at Dunedin fives miles south and that's where some of the other family members were born. But, that's the location. I grew up on the coast. Loved it.

Listen as Florida natives Emily Ann Zimmerman and Gene Zimmerman detail their life of service in the Methodist Church in Florida in this oral history interview with the Zimmermans on July 25, 2016 at Orlando Lutheran Towers.

LISTEN  Part I  (20:13)          (Text highlights from audio recordings.)

What is your earliest memory of Orlando?

Emily Ann: We moved here in 1969 and that was the first time we'd ever been here, but we knew about Orlando, of course, but that was 1969 before Disney came. We lived in a parsonage which was over in Lancaster Park because Gene was the District Superintendent of this area of The United Methodist Church.

Gene: Which means that I supervised all of the Methodist Churches from Tavares all the way to Kissimmee and a whole circle, there were probably 45 or 50 of them.

What was a typical Sunday like for you both growing up?

Emily Ann: We were Methodist. It became, you know, United Methodist later on. We went to church every Sunday for a while at a little frame church in East Palatka. But then that soon closed maybe after two to three years so we went across the river to St. James Methodist Church. So Sunday was the day to go to church and most of the time stay for church. I'm one of seven and we were all still at home at this tine. When the war started two of my brothers went almost immediately. So my sister and the rest of us would go to Sunday School and church. But as long as everybody was home everybody went. We always had a big lunch. We called it lunch or Sunday dinner, I guess because it was the middle of the day... But anyways always a really big Sunday dinner. And many times somebody came home with us or some of the neighbor boys and girls dropped in. There were always a lot of people around our table Sunday.   

Many times in the winter we would go by the ice house and get a 50 pound block of ice which we took home and made a freezer of ice cream, which, of course, you had to chip the ice with an ice pick to get it small enough pieces to churn and by hand. We did not have an electric ice cream churn. And as the older ones left, many times on Sunday afternoon we would go on a country drive. Daddy and mama would take the four youngest and we would go through the country....

Gene: I grew up as a child in Dunedin, FL. I went to grammar school there... this was right in the middle of the Depression and finding work was quite different for a lot of people including my dad. And so we moved to Miami I think sometime in the mid-30s. And in terms of church, my father was a good man, but not a church man. My mother was a lovely lady with a deep spiritual heart and that sort of thing. And so, I got more of my religious feelings and faith from her. But going to church was not easy sometimes in moving about.... 

LISTEN  Part II  (21:21)

In Rivers of Living Water: a History of First United Methodist Church in Orlando, Florida they noted that in the newspaper you were known for being able to articulate complex religion in a way that was very accessible to everyday people.... this is a mini-sermon by you... they've republished it here. It's very short. I wonder if you wouldn't mind reading it for us? (This mini-sermon was done in June of '73.)

Down the street from where we once lived was a life size cast iron dog that stood watch over a two story house. We became so attached to him we named him Ironsides. And out daughter would shout and wave at him as we went by. Ironsides was an admirable dog and represented the highest loyalty to his breed. For he guarded the house night and day and let nothing alter his stance neither a bone nor a lady dog not even a well placed cake. He was a veritable Gibraltar. I like that kind of loyalty. It's both comforting and encouraging to go by and always find him at his post. 

However, one thing spoiled the picture of his loyalty. Ironsides was hollow inside. He stood there because somebody poured him in a cast, placed him in a fixed position and brought him to rigid attention in the front yard. Man could have been created this way. He could have been molded into a fixed position made to be good and pointed in whatever direction God chose. But like Ironsides we'd be hollow inside. Good is only good when a person has a choice of doing evil. Love is only love where the possibility of hate exists. God took a terrible risk when he gave man a will of his own, but that's the only was we can ever be truly alive. What a joy it must be to him who took this risk when we choose to be loyal, to be steadfast, to be loving, to be good.  





Interview: Emily Ann Zimmerman and Gene Zimmerman
Interviewer: Jane Tracy
Date: July 25, 2016

PlaceOrlando Lutheran Towers


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