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La Floridiana by Will Moriaty
   Now in our seventh calendar year
    PCR #352  (Vol. 7, No. 51)  This edition is for the week of December 18--24, 2006.

Harry and the Haunted Packing Plant....Merry Christmas and Happy New Year From PCR and La Floridiana  by Will Moriaty
"Rocky Balboa"  by Mike Smith
Give the Gift of Cult Films this Year....Publix - Where Shopping Costs a Treasure....Christmas Greeetings  by Andy Lalino
A Prophetic Rocky Balboa Article  by Mark Terry
Oscar News....Quite An Honor....Was "Phantom Menace" Taken?...Passing On This Week....Passing On This Year....My Favorite Films, Part 51: "A Christmas Story"  by Mike Smith
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Harry and the Haunted Packing Plant

Saturday November 18, 2006, a Bright Blue Cool Day
For me, this day started in the early morning darkness as I drove a rental car loaded with two Purple Leaf Plum trees bound for the Orlando area.

Leu Botanical Gardens, Just Me and Nobody Else
Several minutes before 8:00 A.M. I pulled up to the main building of the Harry P. Leu Botanical Gardens and unloaded the first plum tree.

Following the instructions of the Gardens horticulturist, I went to the main desk that would not have an inhabitant for the next half hour. Thanks to some caterers, I entered into the main building where I left a note about the plum tree with the ticket attendant.

As I roamed the empty building, it dawned on me that with the exception of the caterers I was the only living soul on the Gardens premise! Needless to say I was sore tempted to traipse the Gardens grounds alone, but honesty and respect for the institution would not allow it.

Sanford Summit V - - a.k.a. H and M Cafeteria Here I Come!
I hopped back into the rental car and headed up US 17/92 to Sanford, where dear friend and magician extraordinaire, Harry Wise would be waiting for me at the H and M Cafeteria for a bite of breakfast. We enjoyed a few laughs, a lot of jack pottin’, some solemn reminiscing and some good ol’ fashion home cooked grub.

After leaving the H and M we conducted a memorial tree planting at George Touhy Park across the street from Harry’s “Sanford Sacrosanct”. The remaining Purple Plum tree was planted by Harry and Me in memory of one of Harry’s neighbors.

A Farewell Moment for Tom Begley
After finishing our planting, Harry and I walked to the other end of Touhy Park where just a year earlier I planted a tree in honor of Tom Begley ( see La Floridiana, PCR #275) This day’s visit would be a much different event from last year’s as Tom passed away several weeks earlier. Harry and I spent a moment of silence followed by spoken well wishes for Tom, regardless of wherever his spirit may now roam.

Harry Wise, a.k.a. “Florida’s Mister Magic”, “Dr. Jekyl” et al, is shown on his 72nd birthday posing in front of the abandoned Strawn Citrus Packinghouse north of DeLeon Springs.
The only sound that remains at this once bustling operation is that of the breeze blowing through the Cabbage Palms and Longleaf Pine trees.
Nature continues to reclaim the land that was once the Strawn Citrus Packinghouse as demonstrated by vines that appear to be pulling the former packinghouse's water tower down into a green abyss.
Once our final farewell to Tom was over, it was time to let our child roam free and visit the enchanted swamps, woods and backwaters that fringe our beloved St. Johns River. We stopped at several incredibly gorgeous locations that Harry has fished since childhood. Locations that never fail to enchant, inspire and soothe me.

Pierson - - Land of Ferns
After enjoying the St. Johns experience, we then proceeded northward to the town of Pierson where we surveyed mile after mile after mile of ferneries. In addition to the magical sylvan rambles of the St. Johns where gators bask in the sun and unicorns camouflage themselves in the trees, Pierson, with its thousands of acres of ferns, moss-draped Live Oaks and miniature fire hydrants was also a magical and enchanted area. Before leaving Pierson we grabbed a bite to eat at the Leather Leaf restaurant. Although I am not much of a hamburger fan, I will tell y’all right now that the burgers at the Leather Leaf were absolutely delicious!

Harry and the Haunted Packing Plant
We next visited what we call the “Haunted Packing Plant”.

Located just north of DeLeon Springs on U.S. 17, the Haunted Packing Plant was formerly the home of the Strawn Citrus Packinghouse. I believe that the operation shut down about four decades ago. Harry, who turned 72 on this day, remembers as a child and young adult riding and driving by the packing house when it was active, full of life and humming with the sounds of machinery . Now, here on this cold and shockingly blue fall day in the year 2006, the wind rustling through the leaves of the Cabbage Palms and Longleaf Pines is the only sound to be heard at the packinghouse that once sold the “Bob White” Orange as its staple commodity.

But Harry and I could easily picture ghostly images of people working the machines and unloading and loading countless volumes of fruit from the Florida Sunshine Tree. We could also picture ghostly trucks of the past pulling into now weed choked driveways to place the bountiful harvests onto rail cars headed north to sustain the lives of many people, most of whom are now former entities like the packinghouse itself.

If there ever was a place in Florida that gives me the chill bumps, even if it’s 92 degrees in the shade, it’s the old Strawn Citrus Packinghouse north of DeLeon Springs.

The Sun Sets on November 18th
We headed back to Sanford and decided to watch the sun set over Lake Jesup. An absolutely gorgeous natural wonder that is part of the St. Johns River watershed, we saw the sun melt into an orange glow over the lake’s black water while the sky became a brilliant cobalt blue followed by the first pinpricks of light in the heavens signaling night fall. As the sky darkened, the already cool temperatures notably dropped even lower.

Undoubtedly it was a perfect end to a truly magical day with Florida’s Mister Magic.

An illuminated row of Candy Canes flank 15th Street in Sanford, Florida on Saturday December 16, 2006.A three block area of Oak Avenue in Sanford, Florida has Live Oak canopies decked out in their Christmas best on Saturday December 16, 2006

"La Floridiana" is ©2006 by William Moriaty.  Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2006 by Nolan B. Canova.