I’m not a Native Floridian, but my newborn son Micah is. More surprisingly he is a third-generation Orlandinian. Ask any three people around town where they are from originally and chances are they are not from Florida, let alone Orlando. It’s a sign of the times for just about every city or town: Fewer people stay put for a lifetime. That’s why it was so interesting to read about people, like Bob Hattaway (page 30), that have been in the area for long enough to remember when there were orange trees, open pastures and swamp land rather than houses, gas stations and stoplights here.
If you’re one of the lucky few who have been in Central Florida long enough to remember a time before Mickey came to town, you’ll want to reminisce. If you’re like me, a newbie from a field a far, then hearing about the way it was is a real treat. Orlando was once a cattle ranching town, a military outpost and a citrus mecca. While no one alive today remembers the Seminole Wars or when the town was named Jernigan after cattle baron Aaron Jernigan, there are plenty that remember Orlando’s citrus heyday. Micah’s grandpa Mike, who lived in the area for more than 50 years, says Pine Hills, Dr. Phillips and most of Southwest Orange County was orange groves.
Even just 30 years ago, Micah’s dad Sean remembers when there were small groves near downtown in the Conway area. Today there is a citrus store in Conway, but no more groves. Actually finding orange groves in Orange County isn’t so easy. Out past Winter Garden on the way to Disney you will see some lonely little groves. This is where Micah got his introduction to the trees that bear the tangy fruit for which his family’s hometown was so well known. He’s too young to recognize how important these trees once were. More than likely by the time he’s old enough to welcome his own little one these trees will be replaced by a shopping mall, houses or maybe even another theme park. Whatever the case at least for the time being some orange trees still call Orange County home, likewise so does at least one longtime Orlando family.