PeopleSkip to the content

Neil Wittenstein Speaks at College Park Oral History Night

LISTEN Part III (18:43)

College Park Resident Neil Wittenstein

My name is Neil Wittenstein and I was born on Rio Grande Street right across from Lake Silver School. My parents met in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and my grandfather [Peter David Wittenstein] came here around 1912 and bought some property on Rio Grande and it went all the way around to Maury Road to Edgewater. But Maury Road used to be called Wittenstein Road. I have an old Orlando map and it was named Wittenstein Road years ago. My uncle owned right across from Lake Silver back to Lake Fairview was all citrus grove. My uncle had a big house back there. He raised a lot of nursery plants and had a grove and he donated the property to Orange County to Robert E. Lee School. But he owned the biggest piece of property so they called it Wittenstein Road. Then after he died, I guess the Maury’s had a little more clout so they had the name changed to Maury Road. And Rio Grande, my dad was raised in Argentina and Rio Grande was like a big river. And between the lakes and everything else I think he liked the name Rio Grande and I think that’s where it came from because we had a big piece of property from Lake Silver back to the railroad track. And where Lake Daniel is, years ago it was called Lake Sunset.

The WPA

And when we had the dairy farm, we didn’t have a lot of money. I don’t remember if you all remember something called the WPA that Roosevelt had a few years ago, but they came and built a two holer out next to the barn, little outhouse. And water came from a well that we had and when we worked at the farm my dad and myself and my brother and we used to have one or two people milking cows and delivering milk. After work we’d go into Lake Sunset, took towels, soap, and take our bath and walk back home. That’s how it was back in the old days.

Dr. Philip Phillips

[Where was the dairy farm?] Right across from Lake Silver School, Lake Silver School wasn’t even there, that was all orange grove. And Dr. Phillips had a big house right in the middle of the grove. When I was a little boy I used to go to Dr. Phillips house. He had a big old farnhouse with a porch completely around the whole house. It was a big porch. And he and his wife and two boys lived in that house, Walter and Howard Phillips. And Dr. Phillips and my dad were really good friends and he loved my brother. And he would come over and play with my brother and talk to my brother all the time. But I was much younger. I was 11 years or 12 years younger than my brother. He was the oldest and I was the youngest. But I do remember Dr. Phillips and I remember the citrus grove and the big deal was the fenced in pasture on Rio Grande. And you had different sections because you had the bulls in one pasture and the cows in another. But when they got out of the fence they’d go across the street to the orange grove and they’d eat the oranges. And that was a big deal trying to round everybody up to get the cows to get back into the pasture. That was excitement back then. That was the excitement back in the old days.

Milking Cows on the Wittenstein Dairy Farm

Back then you milked the cows by hand. Just before they sold the dairy farm is when we got the electric milking machines, but before that we got up at three o’clock in the morning and milked the cows and three o’clock in the afternoon you milked the cows. And you milked them by hand. When I was a little boy my job was called “strip”. After you got done milking the cows you have to strip them to get all the milk out. And that was my job was to strip the milk. Anyhow it was a good life. You learned hard.

Fairvilla School

And when I went to school, I went to school the first school was the Fairvilla School which was a school on Silver Star Road. But Silver Star used to be called Fairvilla Road years ago. And there was one building with three rooms, eight grades. One, two, and three in one room, and four, five, six in a room, seventh and eighth where the principal was. And we had eight grades and we had 50 kids because it was back in the 30’s, early 40’s. And I went to school at Fairvilla School, I’d walk across the pasture, and walk to the school, I went there in the 7th grade and then they had Memorial Junior High School was on Lake Eola right across the street from the lake years ago. So my folks wanted me to go to a bigger school. So I went. I used to catch the school bus. I went to Memorial for the 7th grade. Then I went back to Fairvilla School for the 8th grade because you could graduate from that school. So then from there I went back to Orlando High School.

World War II

I went from Orlando High School and WWII was going on so in the 11th grade they gave you a test. If you could pass that test you could go to college. So I took the test and I went up to the University of Florida when I was 15 years old and I passed the test. So next thing I knew I was in college with the big boys…

The Florida Pipe and Supply Company

I went to work for a company in Orlando called the Florida Pipe and Supply Company years ago, and they changed the name to Southern Pipe and Supply, and they sold it. But anyhow, I went to work for that company and it was for a man named Ben Safir. Ben Safir lived in College Park for years and his daughter still lives here. And I worked for him for 21 years. Once I started then I just stayed there. Then I went into business for myself…

Clyde Ferris Plumbing

I ended up where Clyde Ferris Plumbing was on Edgewater Drive. I ended up to work for Clyde with the idea that his son and I, he was about the same age I was, and his son was going to end up with the business. However, his son was going down university Avenue off of Princeton, ran into the lake and got killed. So that was years ago, Clyde’s son. Clyde said, “Neal, would you like to have this business?” I said, “I sure would.” So I said, “If you’ll stay with me for a year.” And he did. And my brother made arrangements for me to get the money and I bought the corner there at Clayton and Edgewater where the plumbing shop was. And everytime I had an extra buck, I’d buy the property next to me. And my mother used to say, she said, “You better buy land because they’re not making any more of it.” She was the business woman and that’s what I would do. So I ended up with a little piece of property on Edgewater Drive. That’s the story on that. And I still got it.

Movie Night at Sinclair Gas

Back in the 30’s when I was just a little boy, on the corner of Princeton and Edgwater was a gasoline station that sold Sinclair Gas. I don’t know if anybody remembers that name or not but it was called Sinclair Gas. And the man that owned that station was named Pierce. And Mr. Pierce every Wednesday night he would take one of the bays, everything was open, and he would take an old camera he got and he would show films on the screen. He would charge us a nickel. And we would walk from Rio Grande down there and we’d all bring chairs and watch a movie for a nickle, one night a week.

Rexall Drug Store

And the only drug store here before Albert’s or anything else was a Rexall Store on the corner of Vassar and Edgewater, that was the only drugstore. So then when Albert’s came, that was years later, of course, that’s when everybody used to go for breakfast and everything like that. And Arnold Albert, the Albert brothers, they were super nice people. Of course, now we have an old group that meets at Einstein’s Bagels every morning for bagels and coffee. We meet and we straighten out all the problems from the area.

Seaboard Railroad – “The House to Get Something to Eat”

Back years ago the railroad track used to be called Seaboard Railroad years ago. And it used to run back through Lake County and so forth. And the hoboes and everything used to run across that track. And whenever somebody came to our house and said they were hungry my mother would give them something to eat. Because we had a garden, we had chickens, we had cows. We always had stuff to eat. So what we found out that all the hoboes would be walking off [to our house] – that they had a mark on one of the fenceposts that this is the house to go to get something to eat. And that’s how then we found out why so many people were stopping. True story.

Dove Hunting Season

And then we had the property that went from Edgewater back to the railroad tracks. And when dove hunting season came in the people with the guns would come in there and shoot. My dad used to have to go out there and say, “Hey, I got cows out there.” And they’d stand and they’d shoot from one side to the other trying to get some doves. So my dad used to have to go out there and scare the doves off to try to keep them from shooting. And Edgewater Drive, Rio Grande, was a clay road. Rio Grand was just a dirt road. And so was Wittstein Road.

College Park Dairy Milk Delivery

I started driving the milk truck when I was nine years old. Florida didn’t have licenses back then. My sister taught me how to drive. So we had the milk truck. I delivered all around Dubsdread and College Park and so forth and I would drive the milk truck delivering milk. Drivers license you paid a quarter to get your license… So everybody worked hard. All the roads, all the roads in Dubsdread were all dirt, everything was dirt roads back then…. All the old timers here in College Park, Burt Voorhees he had the Gulf Oil Station on the corner of Smith and Edgewater and he lived in College Park. And Mr. Hughes from Hughes Supply he used to live on Fairview Lane. A lot of old timers lived in College Park. It was a popular place, a good place to live…

Lake Lucerne and Lake Cherokee

However, I remember delivering milk to Dr. Phillips. Dr. Phillips bought a house on Lake Lucerne years ago. And I remember delivering milk to his house. I guess because he was friends of my dad and the dairy and so forth. So I did go around Lake Lucerne and Lake Cherokee some people there, Peter Barr. I don’t remember the names. But I remember some of them that we used to deliver milk to. Somebody by the name of Hillman across on the other side of Lake Cherokee and he was a citrus man. Mr. Thomas from Thomas Lumber Company he lived in that area. Then there were the Pittman’s that owned Pittman Lumber Company. That was an old time lumber company years ago… But most of it was around the College Park area. But I did go other places to deliver milk.

Parramore

And on Sunday to make extra money my brother and I would take the milk truck and we would load buttermilk, milk, we had eggs from the chickens. My mother would make cottage cheese and butter. And we’d go in a section from Westmoreland Drive between Parramore and Orange Blossom Trail back of Church Street, back in the black section. Back years ago it was called “Black Bottom”. And we’d go there and we’d ride dirt streets and we’d ride up and down it and I’d be hollering, “Buttermilk, sweet milk, eggs, cream.” And the people would come out of the houses and they would pay us a dime for a bottle of milk and they’d buy eggs. We did that every Sunday to make extra money. Because money was hard to come by. My dad came into the house one day and put his money on the table and said, “That’s all we got.” No money in the bank. That was it. But we had a garden, we always had food. We always had something to eat. I wore hand me downs. I wore my brother’s clothes, my mother would make them over. Sometimes I didn’t wear shoes to school, but school wasn’t that far it was only a mile….

LISTEN Part IV (11:29)

 

Holidays

Well, the holidays were mainly Jewish holidays. Although every Thanksgiving and every Christmas my dad would go to the grocery store and buy bags of food, flour, eggs, milk. And we would load the truck up and we’d go and we’d stop at different houses and we’d give them a bag of food. And then I started doing that when I owned Clyde Ferris Plumbing Company. I figured well, I’ll do the same thing. And I went to this one house there on Westmoreland Drive and Pine Street, something like that. A big woman was sitting there on the porch and I said, “I got something for you for Thanksgiving.” She says, “Is that all you gonna give me?” That’s the last time. I didn’t do it anymore. I quit. So anyhow, we still do a little bit, but not as much as we used to do.

Jewish

People talk about Dr. Phillips, he was Jewish. But his wife wasn’t. She was Catholic, I think. And he would come over to my house and speak with my dad. He would speak Jewish. My brother when he was little he spoke Jewish before he spoke English. And that’s why he really liked my brother because he would just hold him and talk to him and people don’t know that he [Dr. Philliips] was [Jewish] but he was. But he did do things at Christmas and Thanksgiving for all the employees and stuff like that.

Congregation Ohev Shalom

There was only one temple back when I was a little boy that was on the corner of Church Street and Eola. And the name of the temple was Ohev Shalom in Hebrew, but in English it means Lovers of Peace. And they’re still here. They’re right now down in Maitland right off of Maitland Boulevard, same synagogue is still there. That’s between I-4 and Maitland Avenue, the big Jewish center there…

What have you enjoyed most about growing up in this area?

Growing up here actually we worked. You know we’d go to school. You’d milk the cows in the morning and then you’d come home and you’d milk the cows again. And on the weekend, I delivered the milk so that there wasn’t much social activity. The only social activity that I ever had was the social dances from the high school and maybe if the folks would let me I’d go to a movie. Like I said, the old Rialto Theater and sometimes the old Vogue Theater in Colonialtown. And on Pine Street there was another theater called The Baby Grand, that was a little theater back years ago…. Believe it or not I still see a lot of people that I grew up with and know here in Orlando. I tell you who comes, Ted Eidson from Eidson Insurance Company. Ed grew up around here and he’s up in his eighties now. And he comes here and has coffee with us every morning. And Martie Keller from Keller Music, that’s an old time company. He’s down there every morning. We have our coffee and bagel… A lot of different ones I can’t think of all the names. But we take care of all the College Park problems while we’re out here….

LISTEN Part V (13:40)

 

Downtown Orlando

When I was a little boy MacElroy had a drug store on Orange Avenue and he used to serve curb service. And I would work, I was a soda jerk for a couple of years. Then I went out to Colonialtown where Mr. Moses had a drug store in Colonialtown, Moses Drugs. Then he moved to Orange Blossom Trail, Moses Pharmacy. I would be a curb hop. Nickle or dime, whatever it is, make yourself some extra money. And if you wanted anything, course the big hardware was Bumby Hardware. And then Wilson Leonard he built a hardware out on Orange Blossom Trail right next to Church Street. Just right down there. Right next to Moses Pharmacy.

VIEW

Yowell Duckworth’s Largest Store as seen in this January 1st, 1917 photo of the site for the United States Post Office in downtown Orlando as viewed from the southeast corner.

The two big stores in town years ago, everyone knows that were Dickson Ives and Yowell Drew’s, that was the only big stores. And right behind Yowell Drew was the only post office. One post office was right behind Yowell Drew. And then when Sears Roebuck came to town they built on the corner of Orange and Washington.

So then the big Catholic Church built there on Orange Avenue.

VIEW

Construction for the Saint James Cathedral Community Life Center began on September 2, 1979 and cost $1.5 million. Completed within a year, the Cathedral Center as it was later named, won the Annual Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects and a Beautification Award from the City of Orlando.

And also when they built the new big post office there on Robinson behind that was the Episcopal Church, St. Luke’s….

VIEW

St. Luke’s Cathedral can be seen in this May 1, 1940 photo of the site of the United States Post Office under construction in downtown Orlando.

I went there {St. Luke’s Cathedral] and I remember there was a dean… he was supposed to give a speech and it was getting late and everybody was tired. So he gets up and he says, “Well, I’m going to stand up and be seen. Speak and be heard. And sit down and be appreciated.” And that was it. Best speech I ever heard in my life. That’s it. I spoke enough. I’m going to sit down and be appreciated.

Read Joseph Wittenstein’s  Chronology of the Early Jewish Settlers in the Orange County Area From 1875 to 1925.

Interview: Neil Wittenstein
Interviewer: Jane Tracy
Date: September 28, 2014
Place: College Park Community Center in Orlando, Florida

Back to top
TAGS: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
ATTACHMENTS

Neil Wittenstein at the College Park Oral History Night

Special guest speaker and Orlando native Neil Wittenstein. The College Park Historical Committee hosted their sixth College Park Oral History Night on...

There are currently no audio related to this memory.
There are currently no video related to this memory.
There are currently no links related to this memory.
Early Jewish Settlers in Orange County

In this undated work, Joseph Wittenstein presents a chronology of the early Jewish settlers in the Orange County area from 1875 to about 1925. The print copy is located in the Florida Collection at FLORIDA 975.924 WIT.

He begins his work with the following:

"GREETINGS! My name is Joseph Wittenstein. I was born on the Shader farm, now the site of the Shader Industrial Park in Fairvilla. My parents were the late Morris Wittenstein and Esther Shader who came to Orlando from Pittsburg immediately after their marriage in 1913. I was the first of their four children, the other three being Florence Tobias, Tybe Kahn and Neil."

Mr. Wittenstein includes a number of "firsts" for the Jewish members of the Orlando community.
First Jewish doctor - Ophthalmologist Eugene Hoffman
First Jewish nurse - Belle Hoffman (Mrs. Eugene Hoffman)
First Jewish artist - Fred Speigel
First Jewish architect - Arthur Beck
First Jewish piano teacher - Ruth Beck (Mrs. Arthur Beck)
First Jewish lawyer - H. N. Roth
First Jewish CPA - J. B. Asher
First Jewish woman radio commentator - Pauline Beman (Mrs. Nat Beman)
First Jewish scoutmaster - H. N. Roth
First Jewish meat packer - Henry Levy
First Jewish dental assistant - Kitty Fields
First Jewish pharmacist - Sam Kleinman
First Jewish restaurant - Joe Faulk
First Jewish dress manufacturer - Sam Fischer
First Jewish waiter - Irving Kaplan
First Jewish milk processor - Morris Wittenstein
First Jewish milk producer - Israel Shader
First Jewish citrus packer and shipper - Dr. P. Phillips
First kosher butcher shop - Jonas Cohen
First Mohel and Shochet - Peter D. Wittenstein
First pawn broker - Harry Stalberg
First Jewish dentist - Roy Brown

Names or places mentioned: Joseph Wittenstein, Shader farm, Shader Industrial Park, Fairvilla, Morris Wittenstein, Esther Shader, Florence Tobias, Tybe Kahn, Neil Wittenstein, Peter Wittenstein, Jake Cohen, Charles Cohen, Mike Cohen, J. R.Cohen, J. J. Cone, Philip Geist, Joshua Jacobs, Benjamine Moses, F.H. Moses, J. J. Stein, David Berlin, A. H. Birnbaum, Walter Birnbaum, Morton Birnbaum, Rubin Goldin, Z. Mandhoff, L. K. Weinberg, S. Gumpert, Albert Bucksbaum, Jacob Abrams, Peter Habstein, Goldstein, T. Cohen, Rubin Goldin, Max Myerson, H. Leventhal, M. Schreiber, Jacob Marx, Nathan Gazan, Solomon Gittlesohn, Wolf Gittlesohn, Julius Mairson, Maurice Prag, Anne Kanner Samuels, Stella Moses Orrit, Gertrude Dingfelder, Saul Levy, Myer Shader, Aaron Kanner, Pauline Berman, Hatabel Hyer, Frank Seligman, Celia Seligman, Pauline Abrahams, Abe O. Abrahams, Harry Abrahams, Israel Abrahams, Ruth Abrahams, Anne Abrahams, Joe Meisterman, Bertha Hameister, Henry Benedict, Pepper, J. Feinberg, Eugene Duckworth, Dr. P. Phillips, Moses Kotz, Kotz and Makimson Hardware Company, Morris Kotz, Helen May Kotz, Thoba Kotz, Solomon, Aaron Kanner, Rosebud Friedman, Samuel Kanner, Nat Berman, Pauline Berman, Sylvia Berman, Al Prince, Zelda Berman, Jack Gross, Orlando Civic League, United Missionary Society, Young Women's Community Club, Lions Club, Benedict, Rose Levy, Rose Edith Jacobson, Peter David Wittenstein, Bella Wittenstein, Moses Levy, Lake Fairview, Lake Silver, Palomar, Robert E. Lee Junior High School, College Park, Maury Road, Harry Levine, Firestone Tire Store, Florida Leather Company, Louis Abramowitz, Morris Tetenbaum, Rose Shader, Israel Shader, Safer Torah, Meitin, Jacob Shader, Fannie Meitin, George Miller, Sarah Miller, Morris Wittenstein, Esther Wittenstein, Isadore Shader, Gittle Shader, Myer Shader, Beatrice Shader, Ben Shader, Bessie Shader, Rabbi William Wittenstein, Sheldon Wittenstein, Peter David Wittenstein, Daisy Muir, John L. Lewis, Henry Morganthau, Joseph Benedict, Florida Real Estate and Investment, Jacob Feinberg, Naomi Feinberg, Irving Kaplan, Harry Levine, Esther Levine, Max Isen, Harry Stalberg, Hannah Stalberg, Ansel Harris, Yetta Harris, Sabbath services, Levy Grove, Dr. Morton Levy, Moses Levy, Aaron Harry Levy, Lucille Fair, Greenberg, Paul Roseman, Richamn, Hirsch, Perry Weinberg, Hannah Stalberg, Harry Stalberg, Minnie Burman, San Juan Hotel, Ivan Burman, Tybell Burman, Dr. A. H. Spivack, W. H. Mouser, Cain-O-Berry Boiler Company, Pounds Crate Company, C. A. Marsh, Harry P. Leu Company, Fleisher family, Abraham Moses, Stella Moses, Morris Moses, Sam Benjamin, Clara Benjamin, Frank Benjamin, Isaac Schwartz, Fannie Schwartz, Dr. Roy Brown, Harry Bandel, Bertha Bandel, Saul Robbins, Faye Robbins, Milton Robbins, Al Raefield, Jewish Congregation, Julius Dingfelder, Gertrude Dingfelder, Margaret Dingfelder, Arthur Corey, Simon Dingfelder, Hyman Lieberman, Esther Lieberman, Ben Solomon, Bea Lippton, Irving Lippton, Orwin Lieberman, Louis Lieberman, Bertha Lieberman, William Lieberman, Sam Fleisher, Saul Levy, Isadore Shader, Morris Levine, Myer Shader, Pauline Berman, Liberty Bond Rallies, World War I, Synagoge, Seventh Day Adventists, Congregation Ohev Shalom, A. Stetner, Perry Weinberg, Samuel Klein, Phil Rosenberg, Sol Samuels, Astor Hotel, CNA Building, Rialto Theatre, I. N. Burman, Red Cross, Pauline Berman, Sorosis Club, Leader Department Store, Harry Stalberg, Waldorf Shop, Bergers Tavern, Dorothy Wilson, Emil Metzinger, Fort Gatlin Hotel, Herman's Loan Office and Jewelry Store, Lefkowitz, Hyman Roth, Mack's Dress Shop, Ben Labelman, LaBelle Furs, Sol Wittenstein, Dora Wittenstein, Orange County Parental Home, Morris Wittenstein, College Park Dairy, MMS Fruit Company, Zellwood Fruit Distributors, Ralph Meitin, Julian Meitin, Faulk's Orange Delicatessen, Sam Weinstein, Barbanels, kosher butcher shop, Morris Wilson, Sidney Blattner, Mickey Safer, Mary Safer, Jesse Rosen, Mollie Rosen, Orlando Fish and Poultry Company, Girl Scouts, Beth El Congregation, Congregation of Liberal Judaism, A. H. Moses, Charles Kanner, Ohev Shalom, J. B. Asher, William Berkowitz, Arstein Brothers, Morris Baker, I. J. Becker, Blam Family, Sidney Blattner family, Bonime family, Goldsmith family, Sam Fischer, Fischer Frocks, Fischer Seafoods, Louis Ehrlich, Gertrude Ehrlich, Leo Goldberg, Abraham Fox, David Hillman, Josephine Hillman, Abe Haimowitz, Bluma Haimowitz, Sam Haimowitz, Freida Haimowitz, Ben Greenberg, Louis Jacobson, Theresa Jacobson, John Jacobson, Sunshine Department Store, George Friedland, Bessie Friedland, Lavick Frankel, Rebecca Frankel, Harry Kottleman, Kamenoff, Sam Levenson, Philip Kessler, Meer family, Philip Metlin family, Ed Newald, Dodge Autos, Moss Leonard, Joe Ottenbert, Minnie Ottenberg, John Petosky, Philip Salonic, A. H. Soowal, A. F. Stone, F.W. Grand 5 and 10 cent Store, Rev. B. Safer, Morris Sigal, M. M. Segal, Sunshine Department Store, Albert Silverstein, George Silverstein, Fred Speigel, Fred Schiff, Blanche Schiff, Rosenbloom family, Southern Furniture Company, joseph Shapiro, Abe Shapiro, Shulsinger family, Nathan Stein, Reuben Tannerbaum, Freida Tannenbaum, Morris Wilson, Louis Wolly, Belle Hoffman, Eugene Hoffman, Arthur Beck.


Leave a Comment