My family moved down here in 1949. We lived briefly on Canton Street. We rented a house that was knocked down for I-4. And while we lived there my parents built the house at 913 Silver Drive so we would visit very often.
LISTEN (18:51) College Park resident Lynda Swenk describes growing up in College Park in the 1950’s.
The homes on Silver Drive under construction, circa 1950. VIEW.
913 Silver Drive under construction, circa 1950. VIEW.
Sisters, Lynda and Donna Hope, on the front lawn of their College Park home at 913 Silver Drive, circa 1950’s
One of the things that I remember, our neighbors that lived behind us, our yards butted up against each other, his name was Harvey Kelsey. And he and his wife were long time Florida residents. They were from, I know Martha Kelsey’s mother was from Oviedo. And dad and Harvey were very close friends. They dug the wells in the back yard together at the same time. It took them very little time to find a vein of water. I don’t think they had to go very deep and those wells are still operable.
Lynda Hope’s backyard at 913 Silver Drive, circa 1950’s. VIEW
Fishing in Oviedo
But dad and Harvey kind of hung out with each other. One thing they would do is they would go fishing in Oviedo on, I’m not sure what river it is, probably the Econlockhatchee.
Lee Hope cleans the fresh caught fish on the backyard table as daughters Donna and Lynda watch.
And they would bring back fish and they would also chop down a sabal palm [for swamp cabbage]. And his wife Martha they would fry the fish in the backyard.
Lynda and Donna Hope play on the swings in their backyard.
She made awesome hush puppies. And she would cook the swamp cabbage in cream and salt pork. It was just, it was wonderful. And, of course, we all ran freely in the backyard because there were no fences. Harvey would come over almost every morning I remember him coming over in the morning and having coffee with my parents. The back doors were unlocked so he would just come over and have coffee in the morning.
Lynda Hope’s backyard at 913 Silver Lake Drive in College Park, circa 1950’s.
Gary’s Duck Inn
He and dad used to go to Gary’s Duck Inn that was on 441. And I think they stopped doing the special after the last time Dad and Harvey went there. They had all the lobster you could eat. And I think they ate like 20 lobsters. So I think that was the end of that deal after they did that… But also in the backyard, you know your garbage can were metal aluminum containers and they were right outside your kitchen door.
Lynda Hope’s dog, Cookie, in his party hat in front of the garbage cans.
So the garbage man would just come right outside your backyard in the morning when you were having coffee and would say “hello” and they’d pick up the garbage, “thank you”…
Lynda Hope on a pony in her yard, circa 1950’s.
And then when I was in third grade my best friend, actually my all time best friend moved in next door to us. Her name was Marilee and she was a very bubbly personality. She came right over and introduced herself and luckily they put us in the same classroom that year. So it was a lot of fun being in the same classroom, but we were both very competitive. So not only did we have to have a perfect paper, but then it had to be turned in first. So I think the time that we had the relay race up the aisle to get our paper turned in first was the day they decided never to put us in the classroom together again… And then she and I everyday after school we’d walk down to College Park… and we would just find whatever we could eat at each store.
Lynda Hope, Orlando 1955.
And then on the other side was Albert’s Drugstore which, of course, had the fountain and we could get chocolate cokes, vanilla cokes, or cherry cokes. And also, if you got a prescription there you got a free Coke so you could sip your Coke while waiting for the prescription. And my parents had a charge account so I went as a teenager I would always get a vanilla coke, and a Seventeen magazine, and a lipstick and charge it to my parents account which my dad was not totally thrilled with when he opened the bills on Friday. And next to that was a bakery and I can’t remember who ran that. But there was a sewing store that had fabrics and stuff. There was a Wilson shoes on the other side that had a little merry go round that kids could play on. There was another dress store for women…
San Juan Hotel
Oh, we used to go to the San Juan to eat downtown. And for kids they had stuffed bananas. They had bananas with peanut butter. It was kind of a neat place. It was sad when it burned down.
Saint James Church
We went to Saint James when my parents first moved down here. I vaguely remember the wooden church. And then they built the present church. Shortly after, we moved to Kentucky for a couple of years when I was four we lived there for a couple years and came back. When I came back the church had brought another piece of property and was developing Saint Charles Parish.
Lynda Hope, in the pink dress, with her family on Sunday morning at Saint Charles Church in College Park, circa 1960’s.
Saint Charles Parish
So my parents got a letter – “You are now assigned to St. Charles Parish.” Because back then it was all zoned. It still is zoned. You’re zoned for different parishes. Now people cross lines all the time and back then they didn’t. My parents they really didn’t want to go. But they did and they became charter members. They met at Edgewater’s auditorium for Mass.
The Mass Procession at Bishop Moore School, circa 1960’s.
Bishop Moore High School
And later they built Bishop Moore. Bishop Moore had a cafeteria there so they had Mass in the Bishop Moore cafeteria which is where I made my First Communion.
And then they built not the present day church, but they built a church which burned down in the late ‘70’s sometime. And then they built the present structure which has been changed several times over the years.
Donna Hope skipping across the street on her First Communion Day, May 1956.
Lynda Hope in her living room on her First Communion Day, May 1956.
Lake Silver Elementary School
I went to public school. My mother wanted me, they both wanted me in public school. The schools were fabulous. Lake Silver. I think they still are. We had a population that was all middle class families. They all had values. There was a value in doing homework. We had a very intelligent population in the school. Lake Silver was very progressive. I had excellent teachers all the way through and Robert E. Lee was the same way. You know very progressive.
Donna and Lynda Hope playing on the swings at Lake Silver School.
Robert E. Lee Junior High School
When I was in 6th grade they changed. I know some of the people talked about how they had Robert E. Lee was a junior high so they had the classes divided into 7.1, 7.2 , and, of course, the kids knew 1 was the smarter kids and it went down progressively. But when I went there, I think it was around 1960, it was right after Sputnik had gone up. And there was this big change in American society that we weren’t academic enough especially in mathematics and science. So they had kind of IQ tested us all along. So they took the group that was the highest IQ and they put them in one class and then there was a second class. It’s amazing how kids figure out exactly where the divisions are. But they stopped calling it one and two.
College Park Schools
They just called it academically talented. And there were two classes that were academically talented and then there was the rest of everybody; which, the rest of those people that were in those other classes are now doctors and lawyers. You know it was kind of an artificial way of disseminating who was going to be successful in society. That’s the way it went. And we did get the best teachers all the way through. First of all in junior high I had a teacher that was fluent in Spanish and French so I was able to take Spanish and French in junior high and then continued with those in high school. And then we got Russian, we got German, we got Latin. I mean I went to a private Catholic college and those kids went to boarding school and I had a better education. I had a more in depth education than most of them did from Edgewater. So I can’t say enough about College Park schools.
Lynda Hope’s dad, Lee Hope, Orlando, 1955.
In junior high we went to football games… My father would drive a lot of times and we all liked him to drive because he would stop at a red light and let us play Chinese fire drill. We hopped out of the car and ran out of the car and ran back in. I don’t know, it was fun…. I would go over to Donna’s place a lot and her father died young of lung cancer. I think he was 48. And my next door neighbor came to the classroom and she called me to the door and she said, “Coach Lowe just died” And Donna went to school that day and there was a football game that night. And she went to the football game because that’s what her father would have wanted her to do…. In the summer we played Canasta. So we’d meet and play Canasta all summer. We had a group of us. Within two years of each other and we would just go from house to house at night and just visit. We were all in love with Tony Dow on “Leave it to Beaver”. He was the older brother. I don’t know it was just a lot of fun and very wholesome. There were no drugs or alcohol…
Above: Saint Charles First Communion, May 1956. Lynda Hope is the 5th one on the 2nd row from the left.
Pictured from the left on the 1st row are the Mulatta twins, Judy and Jill, separated by Ruth Zimorsky whose parents were also founding members of St. Charles Church. Next to Lynda Swenk is Marilyn Mimi Mueller, an Edgewater graduate, along with Dee Dee Gentile (another big Orlando family), then Maureen O’Brien (Bishop Moore 1966) whose father, Bill was a builder in Orlando. (They had a house in Lynda Swenk’s neighborhood, then built in Ardsley when it was established.) From left to right on the 1st boys’ row, the 6th boy is Jim Cole, also a graduate of Edgewater.
The priest is Monsignor Charles Bartok, first pastor of St. Charles and a formidable presence. He patrolled the grounds with his collie, George. He often mowed the property himself. He was also the pastor of Bishop Moore High School.
An Old-Fashioned on Sundays
Once I turned 16 I was allowed to have a drink on Sundays before dinner. I had an Old-Fashioned. Isn’t that old fashioned? And Sunday dinner, the main meal was on Sunday. It was always that we went to church. First of all you had to fast from midnight before so you couldn’t eat. Then we would come home and have the main meal, usually a roast or something major…
Miss Lynda Hope in her Sunday best on the front porch, circa 1960’s.
This was pretty rustic down here. No air conditioning. Our classrooms they were never air conditioned when I was in school. The library at Edgewater was air conditioned. Later they air conditioned everything. But you just got used to it. You know you opened certain windows. My mother would open the back windows in the morning and then in the afternoon since we faced south she would close all the southern windows and then just leave the back ones open.
Lynda Hope’s mom, Sophia Hope, Orlando, 1955.
And she made us come in and rest which I don’t think we really ever wanted to, but we had to come in and rest so we didn’t get overheated or anything. But you just kind of dealt with it.
Lynda’s sister, Donna, their Aunt Vicki Onitsky, left, and their mother, Sophia Hope in the kitchen at 913 Silver Drive, circa 1950’s.
And I know she ended up with a few snakes here and there. They only had one car. People didn’t have two cars back then. So they had one car and dad would take it to work. And she had a snake, I think it was just a black snake, but of course, she had to call dad and he came home and they killed it back then. I know we did have a rattlesnake one time when the orange grove was there and he got it. He cut off its head with a shovel. But I know we were all just intrigued watching it. So it’s kind of sad. Now you don’t do that. You kind of let the wildlife be on its own. But it was pretty wild.
Lynda Swenk’s Aunt Vicky and Uncle Joe Onitsky hanging clothes in Lynda’s backyard. The orange groves can be seen be in the distance.
When they did take the orange grove down I had to stay at Charlene Denmark’s house because they were afraid of the rats and snakes coming out. The rats like the oranges and then rattlesnakes like rats. So you have both of those if you have an orange grove. But you have oranges that are right at reach and the orange blossoms. You know every spring the whole town smelled like orange blossoms and you very rarely get that any more. And then you could smell Minute Maid when they processed the oranges. You could smell that in the air, too. You don’t smell that any more, things that are kind of missing from College Park now….
There was another store, Cooper’s Florist that was there for years and years… they sold their house to their niece. And we ended up buying their house from that niece. Our house was built in 1947. And it was all wood paneled. I’m sure it was a little cracker box house. I’m sure they added the whole back part on themselves. And he was into trains so he had tracks. But it’s kind of neat buying a house we know where the house came from. And my son just recently bought my mother’s house…. So you still enjoy living in College Park? I love it. I was tempted to move at one point… I just couldn’t get myself to. I was scared to death to leave College Park. I was afraid I’d be unhappy. And it’s significantly changed now. It’s not like it used to be. I mean before when I went to Publix I mean I knew everybody in the store which is not that way anymore. But there is still a close knit base. Because I see there’s still people that know each other and stop and gab. So it’s still got a small town flavor to it.
Interview: Lynda Hope Swenk
Interviewer: Jane Tracy
Date: November 19, 2014
Place: Lynda Swenk’s home in College Park.
For more on growing up in College Park in the 1950’s by Lynda Swenk please see her short stories on Orlando Memory and College Park Oral History Night.
A short story about Robert E. Lee High School by College Park resident Lynda Swenk who writes with her church group from Saint James Cathedral.
A short story about the days when Charles Chips were delivered to the home by College Park resident Lynda Swenk who writes with her church group from Saint James Cathedral.
A short story about childhood memories of heating the home by College Park resident Lynda Swenk who writes with her church group from Saint James Cathedral.
A short story about Orlando by College Park resident Lynda Swenk who writes with her church group from Saint James Cathedral.
A short story about dating and courtship in Orlando by College Park resident Lynda Swenk who writes with her church group from Saint James Cathedral.
A short story about friendship between two girls growing up in College Park in the 1950's by College Park resident Lynda Swenk. Mrs. Swenk writes with her church group from Saint James Cathedral.
A short story about neighborhood friends and fun in College Park during the 1950's by College Park resident Lynda Swenk. Mrs. Swenk writes with her church group from Saint James Cathedral.