News-Sun photo by CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY Be sure not to the miss ÒJourney StoriesÓ which will be at the Highlands Museum of the Arts until Jan. 19. MOTA is behind the Sebring Public Library, where Center Avenue intersects Lakeview Drive.
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published: Sunday, December 09, 2012
Arriving from everywhere else
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
SEBRING -- "It's been a journey," Susan James said smiling, half relieved, half exhausted, as she strolled toward the Thakker Pavilion at Highlands Little Theatre Friday night. At the end of the guest line, James was the most relaxed she'd been since the Florida Humanities Council first contacted her about bringing the Smithsonian Institute's "Journey Stories" traveling exhibit to Highlands County.
For the next six weeks, she said, it is the community's turn to become enthralled with the unique opportunity to learn American history.
Everyone is welcome on the self-guided tour, with no charge for the pleasure. It isn't an opportunity to be missed.
Everybody in Highlands County came from somewhere else.
Several local leaders shared their journey stories at the exhibit reception.
There are relatively modern arrivals, like Sebring Mayor George Hensley who followed a beautiful girl here, Sebring City Councilor John Griffin who followed a dream, and Claude Howerton who arrived just out of the Navy after World War II looking for temporary work, fell in love with the work, the area and a prosperous rancher owner's daughter, so he stayed the rest (so far) of his life.
Many speakers, however, explained that it was their forefathers and mothers who had the adventure.
For example, John Skipper, a sixth generation Floridian, told how the first Skipper arrived in Florida from South Carolina in 1802. How Skipper men fought in the Indian Wars, winning land in the process and steadily moving south. How Skippers survived the destruction of Fort Meade when Yankee soldiers burned it to the ground during the Civil War, and ended up where Highlands Hammock State Park is now.
Denise Grimsley said on her mother's side she too comes from a five generations deep Floridian family that originally moved from South Carolina to become farmers in Hamilton County. The weather was too cold, however, so the family moved into Hardee County where Grimsley grew up.
"We used to come to Sebring for dates," she said. "I remember when 27 was a two-lane road and there was a movie house in the Southgate Plaza, where the private nursing school is now. It was called the Rocking Chair Theater. Then the first McDonalds opened up and we could have a date of a movie and dinner."
Some Highlands County people have more exotic backgrounds than most.
Marvin Kahn described how his father escaped Lithuania on the eve of World War I. The virulent anti-Semitism meant Jewish families were not allowed to work or own property. Leaving for the new world was the only option.
Kahn explained how his father arrived in Highlands County in 1923, where he had the good fortunes of bumping into George Sebring and being welcomed to the community. The family settled in as dry grocers and grove owners.
Kahn, speaking in a soft Central Florida accent, so unlike the European accent his father had used, told the audience, "We lived free here. The people were friendly, there was no anti-Semitism. We had a good life."
Arriving (by: LHunt - 12/10/2012)
And of course the The Grants store where Bealls Outlet is now, bought my first Christmas decorations there. Gilberts was on Ridgewood and had a soda fountain that made the best milk shakes EVER. We also had an Eagle Army and Navy (very much like a dollar store now). And the dress shop I belive it was named the The Colony Shop (on the corner beside Gilberts)? You were something if you could buy a dress from there or your formal for a school event. What about the A and W root beer where you could still have your food delivered to your car (car hops)? Out on 27 there was a sandwhich/burger place called Big Top. Oh and lets never forgot Alex's! Yummy pizza and salads.
Excuse me. (by: Blindman - 12/10/2012)
Excuse me but, someone left out the Burger Queen right across from the Rocking Chair Theater in the aforementioned plaza, Sebring's teen hang out on Friday & Saturday night.
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