Last month, one of Orlando’s oldest traditions, the Central Florida Fair, arrived in town. An annual rite of spring, the fair has taught, educated, and entertained us for more than 100 years. Nowadays, the fair raises its tents on Colonial Drive, but for many years it was just downtown within walking distance of College Park. […]
“Keep thy shop, and thy shop will keep thee” — George Chapman, 1605
One of the most oft heard favorite things about life in College Park is “walkability,” especially along Edgewater Drive. Walking to Starbucks or a fine restaurant or “running up” to the grocery or drug store adds value to everyday life. College Park is living into the design our first developers dreamed: a way of life that mimics a small town where everyone knows your name. And, who your parents are.
The bungalows and homes built before the post–World War II baby boom mostly had detached, single car garages. (Double garages used to be quite the rarity in College Park.) My parents started married life with one car when they moved to Princeton Court in 1949. Everything we needed was in walking distance.
When we moved to Ardsley Drive, Mother said the best part was we could walk to every school, and we did! We knew shortcuts through neighbors’ backyards, and when a neighborhood dog followed us to school, we walked him home. (Sort of like Mary had a little lamb, only Janie had a little dog.)
Neighborly before hurriedly.
To those of us who grew up in the ’50s through the ’70s, the stores along once bricked Edgewater Drive were as familiar as our own backyards. Beyond the grocers, the pharmacies, the filling station (as mother referred to Bert Vorhees’ Gulf) and the old post office, one of my favorite spots was our own College Park (Orange County) Library branch.
Summer weeks began with the adventure of walking to the corner of Bryn Mawr and Edgewater to check out as many books as possible to compete in the summer reading contest. (Donna Drucker won most summers.) I still recall the musky smell of the library and the excitement of picking out books to take home. Our librarian knew every one of us and recommended stories to spark lifelong love of reading in even reluctant readers.
Beyond the library, familiar faces worked inside practically every storefront, from the ladies who kept College Park wearing “the latest” at Adrienne’s and Geri’s dress shops and Evelyn’s Fabric Store (when mothers sewed clothes) to the Stewarts who still are our jewelers. Pickerall Sports outfitted Little League and school teams alike, and McCall’s Studio took our formal family photos.
At the original, un-air-conditioned Gabriel’s Sub Shop, old-fashioned screened doors squeaked and slammed, and at Daniel’s Fairway Market the butcher cut, seasoned and wrapped our selections. Boys rode bikes to Hall’s Barber Shop, and folks took TVs to Fenton’s Radio and Appliance store when the tubes blew.
They were shopkeeping, but they were, before and above all, our friends.
Doing business was a neighborly thing.
So many rites of passage happened along Edgewater Drive, from opening my first savings account at First National Bank (now SunTrust) with my father to shopping for summer camp and then finding all I needed for my dorm room at University of Florida in John’s Hardware.
We rode our bikes to lessons —at Royal School of Dance and at Mr. and Mrs. Lewis’ home, where most of College Park learned how to play piano. In Mr. Tom Pressley’s Men’s Shop, we learned the proper way to knot a tie.
Wilson’s Shoes measured us for a new pair to begin every school year; we sadly “graduated” from the merry-go-round when we grew too big or went too fast.
A free cherry Coke at the Albert Drug Store fountain always made me feel better while having a prescription filled, but I got in trouble when it was so easy to say, “Charge it, please!” most anyplace in College Park.
Best of all, I loved making a Christmas list for Santa at Toy Parade.
Years later, when my oldest son turned five, all he wanted was a two-wheel bicycle. I returned to Toy Parade for this rite of passage on my son’s behalf. But the owner, Mrs. Betty Bruner, offered me sage advice. “Becky, once they have wheels, they have freedom.”
I waited another year.