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The Oral History Program

The Oral History Program

In the early 1970s Hatabel Hyer (a member of one of Orlando’s oldest families) was interested in recording the history of our community and, taking a portable recorder into the homes of older residents to record their stories, she created the Pioneer Party Line.  The interest spread among the members of the Friends of the Orlando Public Library, who took on the project and it became the Oral History Program.  Between 1975 and 1978, 144 tapes were recorded of eighty four interviews with Orlandoans, including T.G. Lee (the dairy owner) and Harry P. Leu (of Leu Gardens.)

We are grateful for the Orange County Regional History Center‘s making these recordings available for Orlando Memory, and we are pleased to be able to share these recordings with you.  The original cassettes are now a part of the Orange County Regional History Center’s collections, along with transcripts of the recordings.  Please visit the history center’s Joseph L. Brechner Research Center to further your research of an Orlando memory oral history.

This material may not be suitable for all ages.  Please review it with discretion.  For further information, please review our Content Disclaimer.

Erna Achenbach founded and operated one of the earliest and longest running pre-schools in central Florida.

May Hartmyer Allen tells us about life in Taft, Florida back in 1912.

Martin Andersen  An interview with the publisher of the Orlando Sentinel and his wife, Gracia Barr.

Carolyn T. Anderson was born and raised in Winter Garden and living in the very same house at the time of this interview.

Rev. Dr. John F. Anderson served as Senior Minister of the First Presbyterian Church of Orlando from December 1, 1958 …

Dixie Barber Mrs. Barber was Supervisor of Elections for 24 years.

Judge Roger A. Barker Born here in 1912, Barker was respected for his kindness, skill and “extreme intellect.”

Sheriff Jim Black came to Orlando at the age of 17 in 1908 and served the county from January 6, 1941 until January 3, 1949.

Bernie Montague Bogue and Bessie Montague Warren were born and raised here in Orlando.

Eliza Bellamy Booker is about to celebrate her 101st birthday …

John T. Branham, Sr. (better known as Jack) is described by Orlando Sentinel columnist Jean Yothers as an Orlando pioneer.

Mary Branham – Local historian, teacher and lecturer.

A. E. Carpenter, Sr. – Attorney  Archer Eugene Carpenter’s family came to Orlando in 1912 when he was 15.

Frank W. Chase, Sr. was born in Sanford, Florida in 1908 and discusses Florida’s citrus industry.

Fanny and Donald Cheney – Hatabel Hyer interviewed Judge Cheney and his wife Fanny Sophia Robinson Cheney on June 20, 1974.

Judge Donald Cheney – Life long Orlandoan contributed much to our community including first juvenile court, Boy Scouts, and Historical Society.

Elizabeth Abbott Christ – Daughter of George Abbott and widow of Dr. Calviin D Christ, Elizabeth was active in community club works, president of Sorosis.

Ella Brown Clark – Born in 1893 Mrs. Clark talks of life growing up in Orlando.

Lena Cosby Cole – Born 1886, Mrs. Cole recalls her life and contributions to the community.

Dr. Charles Collins – One of the first OB/Gyn specialists in Orlando

Nixon S. Collins moved here from Chuluota (Florida) in 1920.

Wayne A. Cooper – Long time realtor, moved here in 1911.

Bess Coward – Long time land owner and cattle rancher in East Orange County.

Orville Rhoads Davis – Science teacher, football coach, high-school principal and Superintendent of Orange County Public School: A Leader in Education.

James Delaney – Of the Orange County Delaney and Anderson families.

Katie Bell Demps – “Oldest woman in Zellwood, Florida.”

Rev. Dr. Marshall C. Dendy and wife, Nan  – Former senior pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Orlando from June 1, 1942 to December 1952.

Corbett Dodd started his own dairy business at 17, served as Seminole County commissioner for a dozen years.

Jenkins Dolive  Silent screen hero, WWI veteran, interior decorator.

The Duda FamilyMeet the Duda siblings who, with their parents created the central Florida agricultural corporation.

Donald S. Evans – Retired pharmacist and former chairman of the county board of commissioners.

Charlie FinleyKnown around town for the family’s paint and wallpaper business Mr. Finley was also a cattleman, avid hunter and state Game Warden.

Edward W. Fishback – Machine equipment salesman, citrus grower, champion trapshooter.

Mrs. Harlow G. Fredrick – Doris A. Fredrick reminisces about the 1920s in Orlando, especially from the standpoint of music.

Viola A. Fosgate – Charles Francis Fosgate and his new bride moved here in 1919 along with his brother, Chester C. Fosgate.

Lester W. Geisler – Mr. Geisler is best know as the architect of the Hialeah Park Race Track’s grandstand and clubhouse facilities.

Norma Gettier – Ms Gettier was one of the founding members of Orlando’s first Christian Science Church.

Willa Vick Griffin – At one time the Griffins owned all of Windermere.

Dorothy Slemons Houghton – First generation Orlandoan of the Slemons family.

Hatabel Hyer – Collector of stamps, old letters, war notes, and  –  memories.

P.W. “Bill” Kanecht – Potato farmer who later worked in overhead irrigation for Harry P. Leu.

Merle O. Kent – Longtime friend of Hatabel Hyer, local educator, and lover of gardening.

Annie Self Langford – Recipient of the Exchange Club’s Golden Deeds Award, mother of Orlando Mayor Carl Langford.

Henry W. Land – Successful businessman, County Commissioner, WWII veteran, Florida State Representative, President of the …

Harry P. Leu – Born and raised here, Mr. Leu became a successful business man and gave his lavish gardens to the city.

Bishop Henry Irving Louttit Bishop Louttit served south Florida for thirty years as a leading figure of the religious community.

Ann Lewis Lyon – Annie and Hatabel Hyer discuss the Swedish community in central Florida.

Dewey Vick Mathews – Former mayor, community nurse, pioneer family member recounts her memories of life in the once boom town of Oakland.

W.G. “Bill” McBride – Radio host “Bill” McBride from WDBO radio discusses early Orlando radio.

Dr. Duncan T. McEwan – Medical doctor for 43 years, discusses his career, including the murder of Dolores Myerly and the Coston Trial.

Margaret Normant Thornton – First generation Orlandoan speaks about her life.

Letha Kate Palmer Luff – Daughter of John Calvin “Cal” and Kate Palmer reminisces with Hatabel Hyer about the early days of Windermere.

Dixie Partin – One of the last Florida Crackers.

Agnes Person and Jean Person Floyd – The daughters of Dr. William C. Person these sisters represent the backbone of the early community.

J. (Jordon) Asher Peter – Local real estate businessman who, along with other civic leaders, founded Woodlawn Memorial Park.

Howard Phillips – First born son of Dr. Philip Phillips, Howard founded the Committee of 100.

Henry A. Porter – One of the six Porter brothers, Henry was born in Orlando in 1894 and discusses his life in the Conway neighborhood in Orlando.

John H. (Jack) Porter– Mr. Porter was born here in Orlando in 1899.

Jenny B. Reeder – Born in 1880, she discusses her life experiences, including the Great Freeze of 1894 – 1895, the Jonestown Flood and the Ocoee Massacre.

Edgar Richards – An undertaker and a photographer who shares his historical scrapbook relating to the Civil War and Orlando business advertisements from 1892 – 1893.

Carl Rodenbaugh – Former Orlando Police Department officer and driver for Dr. Duncan T. McEwan and Dr. Beardall.

Sheriff Records – Early Orlando Sheriff Records, including the Mizell Massacre.

Bessie Montague Warren and Bernie Montague Bogue were born and raised here in Orlando.

Joseph Wittenstein – Member of Orange County Historical Society; instrumental in detailing history of Jewish community in Orlando.

Tom Webb – Radio host of Yesterday’s News for WORL.

For additional interviews visit Oral Histories of Orlando and search Orlando Memory using the term “Oral History”.

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