The University Club of Orlando… is an integral part of the history of Orlando. Listen as Orlando attorney William L. Eagan and his wife, Marjorie, share their memories of The University Club and our community in this oral history interview at The University Club of Orlando on February 26, 2016.
(Text highlights from audio recording.)
My father was a fisherman, an outdoor sportsman so we very early started in all sorts of outdoor sports, hunting and fishing. And we spent a lot of time outdoors, used to keep a lot of dogs, chase rabbits, and whatever. Spent a lot of time in Brooksville Hammock, squirrel hunting, and fishing in Tampa Bay, that area in the Gulf. So our recreation was mostly outdoor sports. We didn’t have much in the way of baseball teams or softball teams, occasional sandlot football, mostly outdoor stuff….
Bill Eagan as a boy rowing a boat in the Florida outdoors, circa 1940’s.
I had two brothers, no sisters. They all enjoyed outdoor sports… my older brother and I were about two years separated, we were very close. My younger brother was further apart, three plus years behind so his whole spectrum of sports was a little different than ours. He was more into the organized sports: baseball, softball, football, instead of hunting and fishing as much. He later became involved in fishing.
The Eagan brothers, pictured from left to right: Orlando Attorney William L. Eagan of Arnold, Matheny, and Eagan, P. A., School Principal and Coach David Eagan, and State Attorney J. Robert Eagan.
The Southwest Florida Snook and Skillet Cornbread Association
[I read on your membership application that you started an organization, that you were the founder of The Southwest Florida Snook and Skillet Cornbread Association.] That’s very formal. Well, we used to go down to Sanibel, to La Costa Key in Sanibel Key and snook fish a lot. And that was very popular here in Orlando and from Tampa. Go down there and camp from La Costa Key, fish all night, sleep a little bit in the morning before it got too hot. Get up and wander around, fish the grass beds, beaches for snook and trout, that sort of thing. So that was just a silly thing, people that got involved in that, a mythical organization.
Educated in Florida
I started school at Seminole School in Tampa, Florida and then we moved north into the country and I went to Magadelene School and Lake Magadelene Junior High School. Hillsborough High School in Tampa was a big downtown Seminole Heights High School. Good football team. I played some football there at Hillsborough…. I graduated high school in 1945
Bill Eagan’s high school photo, 1945.
And I got in one semester at the University of Florida before I went into the Navy.
William L. Eagan’s United States Navy photograph when he served in Company “786” United States Naval Training and Distribution Center, Camp Peary, Williamsburg, Virginia, January 1946.
I spent a year and a half in the Navy, got out, went back to the University of Florida to finish up and ultimately through law school. And graduated from the University of Florida Law School in ’61.
Mr. William W. Arnold
At the time of my graduation I met Mr. Billy Arnold, William W. Arnold, who was up there recruiting for some people to come to Orlando to work. So I wound up coming to Orlando and my brother was here. My brother was, I don’t think at that time with the State Attorney’s Office, but he knew Billy Arnold. And highly recommended that if I had an opportunity to come to Orlando that I’d do it so that’s what I did.
Arnold, Matheny, and Eagan, P. A.
I came and I joined Billy Arnold’s firm, Arnold and Matheny. It later became Arnold, Matheny and Eagan. And, we liked the area. We just liked this whole area. The people of Orlando and the countryside and everything. So we just stayed here, been here ever since.
Attorney William L. Eagan of the Central Florida law firm Arnold, Matheny, and Eagan, P. A.
The University Club
I knew several that were involved in The University Club. My brother Robert was a member. Dave Cunningham and some other folks. Leon Handley…. I was invited by various people. It was a prestigious club. And a lot of people with common interests. A lot of professional people in the club that you knew and worked with. Several of the judges I know, Judge McDonald and Judge Barker, Judge Smith. George Young, he was a federal judge. And, it was a nice group of people….
The University Club of Orlando Year Book, 1970-1971, with J. Robert Eagan listed as a member on page 45.
How did you join?
We used to go to lunch here very often. Colley, Trumbower & Howell (CPA), were an accounting firm and they did our accounting work and I became very close to them because I worked with them on some tax cases. And I liked them very much. Jerry Trumbower was a very fine guy and Colley and Howell were, Arnie Howell, all of them were very fine people. The University Club seemed like a very nice group of professional people that I would enjoy being with, associating with. So that’s how it worked out….
Mr. William L. Eagan’s University Club of Orlando photo.
We used to come to lunch here regularly and come to various events. They had some nice events through the year, Christmas party and things that were very nice. Easter. They always had a nice Easter brunch, dinner.
Tommy was a great host…
Well, Tommy was always on the spot. He was a great host. And Petrea, all the people were super people. I can’t remember the name of the barber. I used to get my haircut regularly here. Mrs. Eagan: Gina, Gina was the hostess early on. She was great! Mr. Eagan: Yeah, Gina was a great lady! Oh, it was great. Wonderful people. I don’t think I ever met anybody here I didn’t like. They were mostly very, very, very, nice people.
Tommy Singleton, the dining room manager, Gina Jones, hostess, and Jorge Porzella, masseur.
Top Law Firms Were Well Represented Here
And Leon Handley, Gurney, Gurney, and Handley were well represented here. That was one of the top law firms in town. And McEwan, Bill McEwan and other folks, they were a very, very prominent law firm [Sanders, McEwan, Mims, & McDonald, Attorneys] that I enjoyed knowing. And, of course, Gurney, Gurney, and Handley. Tom Gurney, and Tom Gurney, Jr., Leon Handley, they were always good friends, colleagues in a way, and in a way enemies in court. And we always had a good relationship, a good professional relationship with them….
They were members of the bar, but we were often on opposite sides. Leon Handley and I conflicted on cases from time to time. Mr. Handley’s always a huge prescence as you know. I always enjoyed working with him. He always treated me fair and I tried to treat him fair – as long as I could kick him in the rear. Mrs. Eagan: They were good friends though. Mr. Eagan: He’s a good man. And there were some others I’m trying to think of. Mrs. Eagan: The Carusos. Mr. Eagan: Yeah, the Carusos, I think they were active in the club for a long time. Jimmy Caruso and Austin, Joe. I’m not sure whether Joe was ever a member of the club, I guess he was. It’s a citrus area so there were a lot of citrus people involved in the club….
Catching Fish at the Bar
We probably caught more fish at the club than we did anywhere else as far as that went. But, yeah, we always talked about things like that.
William L. Eagan, pictured with two snooks.
There was a fellow that was a good friend of my brother, Cunningham, Dave Cunningham. Yeah, Dave Cunningham was a good friend of my brother, became a good friend of mine. He was a hunter and a sportsman. I have a good pre ’64 Model 70 Winchester that I got from Cunningham that I wouldn’t part with for anything. A real tack driver, if that means anything to you. Mainly it’s a very versatile cartridge. Good for deer hunting, most anything else you want to use it for. Extremely accurate in long ranges. One of the favorite cartridges of a real rifleman is a 270.
Denmark Sporting Goods
So we had some sportsmen in the club. Buckingham used to hunt all over the world it seems like. He would go to all sorts of faraway places and come back with tales to tell. And of course, the Denmark Sporting Goods was down the street and Tom Denmark and Walt Hudson. And those guys were always the latest word on what was happening in the world of fishing. So it was always fun to find out what was going on in that respect. So that was always a big topic of conversation around here. Who’d been catching fish and where….
Bill Eagan boating on Florida’s waterways.
We had lots of different folks. Sandy Dann was a big sportsman and he engaged in sports all over the world. He traveled a lot and I always enjoyed talking with him. I bought, it seems like I bought my 270 from Sandy Dann. He was a true worldwide sportsman. And I think that I got my rifle from him when he was having a dispersal sale, culling down his arsenal. Mrs. Eagan: He’s a member of the club. Mr. Eagan: He was an orthodonist….
My partner, William W. Arnold he knew everybody.
Mr. Billy Arnold and his wife pictured third from the left with Orlando leaders collecting for the Volos Relief Effort.
He knew absolutely everybody. And he was always active in the club. One reason that I joined, because he or Jerry Trumbower, I don’t remember which one of them sponsored me for membership. You had to be recommended for membership….
The Christmas Party
We used to enjoy the Christmas Party. They always had a great Christmas Party. Mrs. Eagan: Nobody missed The Christmas Party. Nobody. Mr. Eagan: They had this wonderful buffet and just a really good time. Mrs. Eagan: Standing room only. They had a shrimp buffet and they had a chocolate fountain. They had fabulous stations of food. Really. Pasta. Mr. Eagan: Yeah, The Christmas Party was a real highlight. Everybody enjoyed that. It was special. Very special….
The defense industry was one of the first things that moved in here.
The Glenn L. Martin Company plant site located four and a half miles south of Orlando on Orange Blossom Trail, 1956-1957. In 1956 the company purchased approximately 12 square miles of land for $1,950,000. Read more.
Martin was big. That stimulated a huge land boom out that way. And then the mouse that roared came a long, extended that land boom. Wiped out a lot of orange groves. Before that, land between here and Tampa on 441 was groves just as far as you could see. You drive across there just across the hill and see the world’s citrus crop. I don’t remember what percentage it was, but a huge percentage of the world’s citrus crop you could see from the top of the hill over there on the highway heading towards Tampa, out that way.
Fruit Concentrate Developed in Florida
And the first concentrate plant went in out there somewhere. My cousin [George Williams], I had a cousin, who majored in refrigeration, served in the Coast Guard that first developed the concept of citrus concentrate. And that’s when concentrate plants began to proliferate in Florida. I think the first concentrate plant was Pasco Packing in Dade City, Florida…. It was developed as another one of the war time things. You know, in war time they developed all sorts of concentrating food into packages that could be deployed with troops all around the world. Reconstituted with water, make all sorts of good stuff. I think he was into concentrate before the war though. But citrus concentrate became a big thing. You used to could buy a little package about that big and go home and dump it into a jar and add a quart of water and viola! Orange juice. So those were innovations that happened.
And then Disney came along of course and Disney stimulated one of the largest land booms that we’d ever seen around here. Land went just out of sight. People made a lot of money in land speculation….
The University Club Contributed to the Development of Orlando
You might say it is sort of an incubator for young people to get together and talk about ideas. Things to do and what ought to be done. And, what shouldn’t be done. And very careful about getting into politics sometimes, but if you had The University Club behind you, you had a leg up getting into things. The mayor … the first mayor I got involved with as a member, Langford, Carl Langford.…
Mayor Carl Langford, was elected the 29th mayor for the City of Orlando on March 7, 1967. Carl was born at 46 Hill Street in Orlando on July 23, 1918.
Thank you to The University Club Staff
Tommy [Singleton] was always a regular, a constant. Tommy was a good man. He ran things very efficently. And he was special in my opinion. And then there was somebody in the barber shop. Petrea sticks in my mind, she was the hostess for a long time. Mrs. Eagan: But Gina was the hostess before her and she planned our daughter’s wedding reception which we had here. Gina was good…. Mr. Eagan: Tommy was the manager of the dining room. I don’t know how deep the managership went, but he was a constant. He was always on the ball, on time, on the mark. He was all right. Everybody liked Tommy. And we always had some good people in the club… Mrs. Eagan: They had wonderful facilities for things like that, wedding receptions. Mr. Eagan: Yeah, they always did a great job. Staff’s always done a great job with anything like that….
The Future of the University Club
Well, I think they made a big step when they opened up The University Club to women. And I think that will continue to grow in the future. There will be more female members of The University Club and that will enrich programs a lot I’m sure. Other than that, keep a part of the history of Orlando. It is an integral part of the history of Orlando. And it will probably remain so.
Ringling Art School
Mrs. Eagan: Well, in his schooling… he failed to mention going to Ringling Art School.
Bill Eagan and Marjorie Young met in Sarasota when they were students at The Ringling School of Art, circa 1940s.
He left out where he met me…..
Bill Eagan and Marjorie Young in Sarasota, circa 1940’s.
Mr. and Mrs. Eagan on their wedding day, March 6, 1949.
By the time he got to law school we had two children. So I did work for Maas Brothers in Tampa while he went to law school and then we joined him up there…. Mr. Eagan: I went into the Navy at the tail end of the war and earned enough GI Bill time to go back to the University of Florida when I got out and lived in Flavet Village. Mrs. Eagan: For $35.00 a month we had a little apartment from an old barracks that they made into housing for Florida veterans.
Flavet Village at the University of Florida – Gainesville, Florida. 1946. Black & white photoprint, 4 x 5 in. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.
Mr. Eagan: While you worked at the library and I went to law school and worked part time for Billy Pepper at The Gainesville Sun…. I would do illustrations for him to do ads for people…. which was fun. I enjoyed that. We were able to do that and it helped me get through law school.
Highest Grade on the Bar Exam
You were working and going to school at the same time and you got the the highest grade on the bar exam in the year you graduated… and because of that you were selected to give the acceptance speech at The Florida Supreme Court? Right. Yeah, I did that. What was that like for you because you were still young weren’t you? Well, I was old enough to crack corn with my teeth as they say. And I was able to make that acceptance speech. And I enjoyed that. It was quite an honor. It was an honor to do that. We had a great graduating class that year and we all went up to Tallahassee together to The Florida Supreme Court and got sworn in together. And then we wound up back in Orlando hacking away at it.
Life in Orlando
I think the thing that impressed us most was that you had the same neighbors two years in a row…. We had lived in Sarasota and other places in which the population was very transient. I mean you didn’t have the same neighbors two years in a row…. One thing that we really appreciated and our children appreciated that you had the same neighbors two years in a row…. the children loved to make friends, you know…. So our children seemed to be very happy here in Orlando….
Mr. and Mrs. Eagan’s home at 1311 Palmer Avenue.
The University Club of Orlando
Well, I always enjoyed the club. It’s a nice group of people. They are some of the shakers and movers and just some of the decent people. I’ve always enjoyed them.
Mr. and Mrs. Eagan at The University Club of Orlando, March 11, 2016.
Interview: William L. Eagan
Interviewer: Jane E. Tracy
Date: February 26, 2016
Place: The University Club of Orlando