I’m Dann Pottinger and I’m from Orlando, one of those rare creatures that spent all my life here… My career being in the banking business. I was the founder and president of First State Financial and also president later of Commercial State Bank…I opened Village Realty in Winter Park and have been in the real estate business. I’m mostly retired now at this point, but I’ve also demonstrated my love of history. I’ve been past president of the Orange County Historical Society, past chairman of Orlando Remembered, and alongside the Historical Society, President of the Orange County History Museum. It’s my love. It’s my avocation…
Oral History Interview with Dann Pottinger at the Orlando Public Library, April 18, 2013.
Part I LISTEN 14:56
Growing up in College Park.
I grew up going to Concord Park Elementary which was a wonderful little twelve room school with a full auditorium, lunch room, just a nice little playground. It was located where it became later McNamara Pontiac, corner of Colonial Drive and 441, on the that would be the southeast corner of 441 & 50. It was a wonderful place to grow up. We walked to school. When they widened Colonial Drive and 441 they put underpasses under the highway for those of us students, almost all, 95% of the students lived on another quadrant of that corner either towards Lake Adair on the north or the northwest side on Spring Lake Terrace, Orlando Country Club side, or on the southwest side which was another very nice subdivision at that time….
Concord Park Elementary School
Well, it was either going to the Methodist Church or St. Luke’s Church downtown. I grew up there at both of those during that time. Wound up as a candle bearer and then an acolyte, you work your way on up, first server and so forth at the Cathedral Church. And as time had it and I got to be an older functioning fellow in the Church I became senior warden…great enjoyment and a lot of pleasure from that… Afternoons, summertime was spent probably at the pool at the Orlando Country Club. That was everyone was on their own at our house on Sunday evening. So my dad and I got in the kitchen so without fail we fixed scrambled eggs sandwiches, the men’s gourmet chef duties. Usually we had eaten out there on Sundays or mother had fixed something for a noon or early afternoon lunch. Sundays were a time of a lot of peace and quiet at the house. Sunday evening, you know it depended on whose household you were in, but ours was one that watched “The Ed Sullivan Show”, an hour long program, one of the few hour long programs in those days…
…no one had pools in the backyard then. It would sound hard to believe for anyone today, for what was then a pretty affluent neighborhood, that there was not a single swimming pool on the street, Seville Place, nor was there a single swimming pool on Lake Adair Circle. In about 1958 or 1959, sometime in that time, the Hilbert Sapp Family who lived in the old Reynolds Tobacco Home there in the point [where] Alameda and Seville split, they put a pool in and I think that was the first one. Later on Dr. Bone had a pool on Seville Place and the Gibbs family, that owned Gibbs Louis, that lived on Overbrook Drive, they had a pool…. In the summertime, again, swimming pools, the swimming pool of our area was the Country Club. Other people used the Aquaseum up on North Orange Avenue at New Hampshire Street was a complex that was the Coliseum…
And remember there wasn’t a lot of air conditioning. There were a few homes that had air conditioning. I had the first air conditioning unit put in our house, was in the window, back window of my bedroom…the door stayed open so that the air conditioning could go through… Fans were used everywhere. In our sun parlor we had a ceiling fan, a big Hunter fan that was just until a few years ago still being used by the family that we sold the home to… A few homes began to spring up with central air conditioning. I remember you could spot them as you drove by almost because of a very slow turning sprinkler because there were water to air units. In theaters and hotels you could see on the roof a cooling unit with water flowing over it and such and these were a similar method of, it required a well, usually sidewalks would be stained with copper stain from wells that were constantly drawing. But, oh, it was nice on a July day to go into one of those air conditioned homes. Again, later our home had wall units and window units and such as did most of the homes there….
I felt so fortunate, I had an August birthday and, gosh, you know, entertainment was not as plentiful as it is today, in the days of Disney and such. But we had great fun! You might have, when you were real little, have a party in the sprinkler in the backyard. Or you might be at the Country Club pool where two wonderful ladies put up with us there, Dottie and Curlie, two wonderful black ladies that worked the snack bar there, that are in I’m sure the memory of far more people in Orlando than myself. They were just great. The help there was so good to us and the same was true at Dubsdread. I know there were folks that had birthday parties at Dubsdread. And another big thing, talking now before the days of I-4, so it was a day trip that you made for a birthday out to Sanlando Springs, which is where, called just “The Springs” today at 434 and I-4….
Part II LISTEN 14:56
We were fortunate to have the use of a wonderful place on Sand Lake. It was owned at that time by Heil Brothers, but it was originally the Hollingsworth Candy Company family’s winter home. And at that point in time hard to believe today, but there were only, I think, three homes on big Sand Lake. This home, Mr. Walter Phillips home, he was one of the Dr. Phillips sons, and I think the Dann family had a camp out there but I believe it was kind of tucked up into little Sand Lake. Great spot! White, white sand beach, pebbles, clean, clear water. Their caretaker that lived on did all the mowing and cleaning up around there, keeping things looking spiffy. It’s a great space to spend a month or so. A neighbor family of ours, the Banks family were there and we were there guests often. He was the general manager of Hall Brothers….
We’d often go to the beach. My family had property at Cocoa Beach and that became the east coast destination. But often we went to Redington Shores over on the Gulf. My dad liked it because it was more calm water and my mother liked to fish and fishing was good. So it was a great spot. In those days you took the maid with you. You didn’t have the conveniences of home but you had help…
Living where we lived we were fortunate there were a lot of kids in the neighborhood. My next door neighbors were Donald and David Boone, and their older sister, Beverly. And on the other side of them was Bill Eaton who is a retired judge up in Seminole County now. The Boone family, Mr. Boone was a CPA, and also one of the founders of Radiation Corporation in Melbourne. It began in Orlando, actually. And Mr. Eaton on the other side was head of the installment loan department at First National Bank which became the Sun Bank and then became Sun Trust. Great neighborhood. In back were the Branham’s and the Pittman’s and the Riddle’s. We had bought our home from the Riddle’s and they had gone back there and built a smaller house on Overbrook Drive. The Mayfield’s, he was head of commercial lending at Sun Bank. And a wonderful family, the Ron Rudd family that lived at the corner of Overbrook Drive and Lake Adair Boulevard. Just a great block. Again, Francis and Dick Simpson lived up the street. They sold their home to Dr. Frank Bone and Peggy his wife who had two boys, Chip and Mike, just slightly younger than I. And that pretty well covers that part of the block.
But if you went up the street, the Barnes, Raymond Barnes and his daughters Becky and Lane, and the Patterson’s, with their son Tommy, the Banks with their three children, Gail and Tommy and Lyle. The Kazaros , wonderful Armenian family, many people don’t know it, but Orlando was blessed with for some reason, to have been a center of Armenians coming in here. And they brought a wonderful high class quality to the area. They were citrus growers, all of them, they still are to my knowledge here in the area. But just mighty fine people….
But as young kids we could ride our bikes, and I’m talking, you know, seven, eight years old. We would ride our bikes several of us together up to College Park where we went to Hall’s Barber Shop to have a haircut that was fifty cents. And next door to that if they were busy, certainly you went next door first if the barber shop was busy. If not, you got your haircut first and then went next door to Pickerill’s Sporting Goods, the home of every model airplane that you could buy in a little box for a dollar and three cent tax. You needed a $1.03 cents. You could buy one of the plastic ones that you assembled. Usually they had a little tube of glue in there and some decals. You could step it on up to one of the bigger things that might be, were you know that might be far more detailed but they were $3-$5.00…
Albert’s Drug Store that had a soda fountain that was always a delight over there… There was a Quick Check Market which became I think it had originally been Lovett’s, then Quick Check, then Winn Dixie, then it was the Christian Bookstore for many years, and I think it’s a Dollar Store in there now on Edgewater Drive.
There were several little, on the way up there, or again close enough to ride your bike, there were some little stores that had coolers full of ice and soft drinks.. There was one I can remember actually on Lakeview Drive right across from those big estates. Right across from the Swope Home and Fletcher Rush’s home. It was called O’Henry’s, O’Henry’s Market. And we’d go up there and buy cheese crackers and a Coke. There was another one at the corner of Shady Lane and Edgewater Drive, caddy corner from the ABC Liquor and straight across the street from Jessie Dykes Motors…
Pressley’s Men’s Shop which was originally Renn’s and then became Pressley’s. The Toy Parade was not yet built. Bruner’s Toy Parade it cam later on. Actually, where it was built was an open field on that corner lot and at Christmas time, Donald Boone and I would sell holly and mistletoe that we would pull from trees and bushes and such around til we could get about $5.00 to go do our Christmas shopping. And then maybe an extra couple of dollars because on that vacant lot there was always a couple of rides. The Bullet, and, you know, some other fast spinning or turning ride, rollercoaster or whatever it would be….
Part III LISTEN 14:57
Getting Around Town
I don’t think there was a single soul around there at least until perhaps senior in high school that had an automobile. When our kids were in high school we lived in Southern Oaks and I think one time we counted coming out of Southern Oaks there were 14 cars going to Boone High School and probably 18 kids going to Boone High School. So you know in those days you would pile in. I would bring Beth Gibbs and Christine Kazaros home often. I carpooled with Dr. Bone’s sons… But we used our mother’s car, you know most mothers didn’t work so rotating around… you know it wasn’t a difficulty. But in any event, I rode the bus. I remember riding the bus as a sophomore in high school…
We would ride that same bus sometimes on the weekends downtown to see a movie at the Beacham Theater or the Astor Theater. Theaters were of course, air cooled or air conditioned, so they were a good place for summer Saturdays too, or summer days. During the week my father’s office was downtown. It was the corner of 43 Central, corner of Central and Court Street. And so we could ride home with him, but riding downtown we would take the bus… Going to those theaters there were matinees on Saturday that had 2-3 movies together, popcorn was a dime or .25 at most. Then you could wander about. Most of us boys learned how to get to the rooftop of all the skyscrapers like the seven story Metcalf Building or the top of the Angebilt Hotel. Oh, to get there you felt like you were on the top of the Empire State Building….
My first job was downtown, Johnson’s Men’s Shop. I worked for C.A. Johnson and his mother, Mrs. Johnson…It was a wonderful opportunity. I got to meet half the town that would come in. The top men’s store in town was Rutland’s, no doubt about it, but Johnson’s came in under that with a little bit less pricey material and yet attracted a lot of fine folks and it was a great spot to be. I think I remember when minimum wage went from a $1.10 to $1.25, nice little raise for a high school boy working 20 hours a week or something. My pocket was fluid during all that time….
The Halcyon Days of Orlando
Those were the halcyon days of Orlando… we did not have the entertainment venues that exist today but we also didn’t have the neighborhood mentality. Someone was there watching whether you were a little boy with a fishing pole down on Lake Adair or over on Lake Concord skiing or whatever. I wish I had a dollar for every hour we boys in the neighborhood spent on the creek between, that divided the Overbrook Drives. There was a creek that flowed continuously out of Spring Lake over at the Orlando Country Club, flows today under 441 and reaches Lake Adair and again there’s an outflow at the southeast corner of that that flows over into Lake Concord and then from Lake Concord its an under stream that goes to Lake Formosa which is the beginning of the Howell chain, what it used to be called. It was the Howell, Winter Park chain of lakes that flowed from Lake Rowena to Lake Sue again through what’s called the Howell Canal through Mead Gardens under the streets over there, Lake Virginia, Lake Osceola, to Lake Maitland, then picks up on the Howell Canal and eventually that water came out of Spring Lake winds up in the St. Johns River. But that canal that ran between 441 and Lake Adair was a great spot. Any kid there knew, if you mentioned Big Alley, or Tar Alley, or Snake Alley, we had each little wide spot in that name and you knew if you said, “I’ll meet you at Tar Alley” it was because when one of those homes were built the construction people had dumped a pile of tar in the middle of the stream and it survived obviously, at least 20-30 years…Snake Alley came because we once saw a snake.. But Big Alley was, of course, because it was big and Kat Mayfield would watch out for us across the street and Mrs. Gibbs on the other side. Just a great spot….
After the Army
So when I got out of the Army in January end of January little earlier than my February enlistment date [Feb. 29, 1968]. Came back to Fort Dixon…then came home to reality that when I came home, I was at my mother’s house and she said, “Just make yourself comfortable and whatever you need I’ll just be happy to cook or fix for you or whatever, but you have 30 days and you’re to be out on your own”. I never appreciated what that probably did for me, but it was good….
The Banking Business
I was invited to a Peter Nero concert and sitting in front of me that evening were the Guernsey family, Joe from Orlando Federal Savings & Loan, and Jim Snelling, Jim and Jean. They didn’t know I was home from overseas but in any event he said, “I’d like you to come by my office”…. And the afternoon, Monday afternoon, I got a call from his secretary who said, “Mr. Snelling was expecting you today.” And I said, “Oh, I didn’t know he meant today.” And I thought he was trying to get me for Kiwanis or Rotary or something so I wasn’t in any push. But in any event, I was offered the job. I remember going to my sister who was teaching school at the time. And she said, “Well, you know you ought to take that, that’s a wonderful opportunity for you.” I said, “Well, you know they don’t pay much in banks.” She said, “Well, I don’t think so either.” I said, “Well, what do you think?” She said, “Well, I’m making 3800 a year teaching.” …Well when they offered me…Mr. Snelling said, “We’re prepared to offer you $7500. [a year]”. And I must have looked a little bit stunned because he said, “But that’s not our last offer.” I said, “No sir, that’s all right. That’s good.” In any event, began the work and it went well. Business was good. Those were the heydays of the savings and loan business when they did all the lending, mortgage lending… and it was a very good time, very prosperous….
Those pictures were great, those postcards, a lot of them were pictures of homes, postcards of homes, hotels. I remember a series of them that I had from the old Wyoming Hotel, Wyoming Hotel was on the block that Orange County Courthouse was on. It was on the corner of Amelia and Magnolia and it was a large beautifully landscaped for the season brought in a tremendous amount of northerners there. Beautiful dining room. It was run by the Miller family, Dewitt Miller’s family. And the Lucerne Hotel was on Rosalind Street. A number of guest houses around that took in people for the winter and I probably missed some of the big hotels that were here. I even had one from the Tremont Hotel which was part of it was the old courthouse which was used before the 1897 courthouse was built. And it was moved by rolling it on logs over to its location somewhere about where this library is or within a block or so of here. Again, it became a winter residence as most of them closed during the summer months like the Alabama Hotel in Winter Park and the Seminole Hotel in Winter Park. They closed, they would have been closed by the end of this month (April) for certain and not open again until probably October 1….
Interesting little tidbit as I think about that and the closings, my in laws, my wife’s mother and father, Mr. and Mrs. John Carter, when he got out of WWII in 1945, they came to Orlando and his family had been in the retail business forever and they encouraged him to get into it. It’s what he knew growing up and they rented a building from Senator Walter Rose downstairs. Senator Rose’s office which was the next building north of the Angebilt Hotel right straight across from the Beacham Theater. And they were there about a year or two when the rent controls went off and they tripled the rent on them. The name of the store was Carter’s and it was gifts and luggage, leather goods and so forth, pocketbooks and suitcases and so forth. So there came a need to relocate and their big decision, they found space on Park Avenue in Winter Park next in the same office building, the post office was in the Cone Building and they found a similar situation on Dillard Street in Winter Garden. And the amount of mental exercise that went into deciding where they would wind up was great because Winter Park though it was a nice shopping area, you know, smaller town, and certainly affluent Yankees were down here in the winter time. But, you know, Rollins had no summer programs in those days and most of the stores on Park Avenue, or a great many of them closed. They took their goods and they went to Oyster Bay… one of the winter resorts up in Maine, Massachusetts, wherever it might be. And Winter Garden was a year around economy, though not so wealthy. So it was a big decision that they fortunately chose right and wound up opening on Park Avenue where they were for many years. The longest continuously operated store on Park Avenue….
You know it is easy to blame the developers for having done the damage to many of our historic places here, but I tell you that a lot of it has been done by governmental or quasi-governmental agencies, expressways and street widening and county office buildings. I sit here with this beautiful view here in the library which many of us still will call the Albertson Public Library, but I think of the gorgeous buildings that Orlando Federal had at the foot of Magnolia which when it was built was Main Street. But they were duplicates of, built to exact replica of buildings of Williamsburg Era. Because the back of one of those buildings was 7 feet into a footprint that an architect or engineer had put that edge of the new county courthouse, the whole area of the most beautiful buildings in downtown Orlando were torn down and you know they could have been a welcome center…. You know we have some historic buildings that need to be preserved. Some of them just because they’re old does not mean that they need to be preserved.
Certainly, I remember a big fight about keeping the old Woolworth Building. Well, when that building was built, the land was owned by the Guernsey family and Joe Guernsey would be the first to tell you that there was never in all the years that they owned the land lease there did anyone ever compliment them on that building. It was just a plain building. We can waste a lot of energy there trying to save a building like that just because it was old, but if it as opposed to let’s say the Dolive Building, a beautiful building at north west corner of Orange and Washington Street. If you stand outside that building or across the street and look up at the detail on it. It was a boom time building built before the Woolworth Building which was in the Depression. This was built in the early twenties by the Dolive family, a very old and prominent local family. Its beautifully detailed, beautifully detailed, well worth trying to preserve, if nothing more some of the façade. If the rest of the building is not salvageable certainly some of the façade could be saved…
The Cathedral Church of St. Luke’s downtown, go inside that church and you feel like you’re in Chartres Cathedral in Europe. I would hate to see it torn down and replaced by steel girders and aluminum sides….
Part IV LISTEN 2:54
Orange County Old Timers Meeting
Well, I thank you for the opportunity and I hope somebody will enjoy this and as I leave here today I’m going to a wonderful annual event and its called the Orange County Old Timers Meeting. We have a BBQ its this afternoon from 4-6. Its at the fairgrounds which for old Orlandoans, when I speak of the fairgrounds its not that area downtown, its out where the incinerator and the prison camp used to be when we were kids. And its in one of those buildings which in today’s day would hold a cattle and such for a show. But we get together about 300, 350 men, it’s the OOL Times Meeting. I have to be there a little early because I’m the president and I have to get things set up. I’ll be leaving here and heading directly there.
Dann Pottinger, part II
Dann Pottinger, part III
Dann Pottinger, part IV
Dann Pottinger, part V
Dann Pottinger, part VI