Rodger Smithson, Oral History

Mr. Rodger Smithson
Interviewed by Amy Marie Cantley

Amy Marie Cantley: The oral interview recording is being made as part of a collection for the Seminole County Public Library. These interviews capture the stories and experiences of Seminole County residents who have resided in the county since 1960 or before. Today is Monday, January 8, 2024. My name is Amy Marie Cantley. I am interviewing Mr. Rodger Smithson at his residence in Oviedo, FL. Mr. Smithson, do I have permission to record this interview and make it publicly accessible on the library website?
Mr. Rodger Smithson: Yes, you do.
Cantley: Do I have permission to share this interview and any supporting materials with the
Longwood Historical Society, for inclusion with their oral history collection?
Smithson: Yes, you do.

Cantley: Thank you. When and where were you born, Rodger?
Smithson: I was born in Orlando at Orlando Regional Medical Center,

[Editor’s note: it was Orange General Hospital back then] on July 14, 1945.

Cantley: When did your family move to the Central Florida area?
Smithson: They came to Central Florida about 1941 and they lived in Pine Castle. They moved to this area, the Oviedo area, just prior to my birth in 1945.
Cantley: And
Smithson: And they bought a piece of property that was the old Moore dairy farm. My dad redid the old dairy barn, for us to live in. That was our home [laughs].
Cantley: What was the purpose for them relocating to the area, to Seminole County?

Smithson: I couldnʼt tell you. That was before my time. I’m not sure why they moved here. They wanted land of their own and they didn’t own the land in Pine Castle, so they bought this property. They got far enough along that they could buy a piece of property of their own and they moved out here.
Cantley: And you mentioned that they moved into a dairy barn. What was that like?

Smithson: It was a barn where they milked the cows. There was a room that we determined was the feed room, where they stored the feed. There was another room that was insulated with cork board, where they stored milk until. The dairy was on a 40-acre parcel, and I think the folks that owned it just got old and retired so my dad bought the property from them.
Cantley: Thank you. So, youʼve been in Seminole County for a long time. What were some of
your earliest memories of the area?
Smithson: Alafaya Trail, it didnʼt have a name then. The best I can tell, I remember. It was Central Avenue in Oviedo. It was just a one lane dirt road from where it is right now is Mitchell Hammock Road, all the way to highway 50. It was just a one lane, dirt road and if anybody drove past our house, my dad would look up and see them and say theyʼd be back in a little while. Theyʼd get stuck. Theyʼd get down, theyʼd get stuck. Theyʼd get stuck in the sand down there and sure enough, theyʼd come walking back and heʼd go down and pull them out. Man, [laughs] theyʼd go back where they came from. So, they couldnʼt get through, they couldn’t hardly get through the sand was so bad. Thick.
Cantley: So, did you attend schools in the area as well?
Smithson: School?
Cantley: Uh huh.
Smithson: Yes, yes, I went to, then it was called Oviedo High School 1-12. I started school there and I went through the 10th grade. Thatʼs as far as I made it. They changed the rules in the school system that year and they put me back three years, all of a sudden. So, I didnʼt want to stay there that long, so I left. [laughter]
Cantley: What did you do after you left school?
Smithson: Ok, after I left school, I got a job at HLS Canning Plant in Sanford. They were building that plant over there where the Sadisco Auto Sales occupied years later. Thatʼs all gone now. But I worked there for, for a less than a year. Then I went to work for a Heating and Air Condition company in Orlando. Worked there for about a year and-a-half, about a year. And
then I went work for Clark Electric. Worked for them for about a year. Went to work for GP Electric out of Kissimmee. Then they moved me to a new company they started Metro Electric in Orlando and I worked there until 1971when I started my own business, Smithson Electric [emotional] and itʼs still going. We ran it for, I ran it for 53 years and Iʼve just recently sold it this past September. Itʼs still there in Oviedo on Eyrie Drive. Thatʼs what Iʼve done. [laughs]
Cantley: Your parents, what did they do for a living?
Smithson: Iʼm sorry.
Cantley: Your parents, what did they do for a living?

Smithson: My dad was a, he was well, when he was in Pine Castle, he, he raised chickens. Had a chicken farm down there for my uncle. Then he was a fireman at the Pine Castle Air Base after that. After that, before that, when he was in Vesper, Alabama he was a motorcycle cop. Iʼll back up a little bit. After the a, after working down there, he moved out here. He went to work for Duda and Sons as a mechanic there. Thatʼs when he wound up building the mule train and the celery harvester, corn harvester and all that. He and John L. Duda worked together on that and and designed and built the thing. It was quite a thing for the time. And he worked there for I donʼt know how many years, but later he left there and went to work for Clonts, CR Clonts, Mr. Roy Clonts in Oviedo. And he built three more of those mule trains. But Mr. Clonts had to pay Mr. Duda the franchise, or the rights on them [laughter]. But he built them all. And thatʼs, he did. He sold tires for a short time. I canʼt tell you when that was. It was in the middle of some this stuff. He was a tire salesman for a short time, and he ran a paper route for a while. I think he did all those things at the same time, to tell you the truth. He just, you know, people worked several jobs.
Cantley: Keeping things going.
Smithson: Kinda what he did, so. But he worked for Clonts up until the time he died. I donʼt think of the year. I was 17. Iʼm not sure what year it was. I was born in ʼ45, you do the math [laughter].
Cantley: 63 or so.
Smithson, Yeh, 63. I think thatʼs right. I believe thatʼs what it was. Yeh, it was three months before I turned 18. I know because my mom got three social security checks, $125 dollars each, for all the years my dad paid into social security, thatʼs all she got! [laughs]. Gotta love government. [laughs]
Cantley: So, your dad was involved with the agricultural community around here. Do you have any memories of that community?
Smithson: Memories of that period?
Cantley: Of the agricultural community when Oviedo was largely agriculture.
Smithson: Oh, yeh. Oviedo was a migrant farm town then and there was a celery pre-cooler in Oviedo. There was an orange packing plant there. There was a fertilizer manufacturer. All, you know, tied to the agriculture. And a lot of little truck farms around. Lot of little farmers. Clonts was one of the bigger farmers and George Wheeler was a bigger farmer. Then Duda was a huge farmer. And there was other farmers around. A. M. Jones was a farmer, the Moon brothers. Tommy and Reese Moon had Moon farms and I think Estes had Estes farms and then out Chuluota way there was ranches and things. The Fores and the Jacobs out there, had ranch land out there. They raised cattle and so on. Wheeler had a lot of orange groves and they owned a packing house and the celery pre-cooler. I think they probably… Well, Duda also had a celery pre-cooler. But I think that Wheeler actually did the pre cooler for Clontʼs celery. Clonts was a fairly good-sized farm. There werenʼt nearly as big as Wheeler was. But there was rows of a migrant homes, little shotgun shacks, basically, right alongside of whatʼs now Central Avenue in Oviedo. They were 15 feet off the road. Just little shacks, basically. They were, that was made
for the workers. The farmers owned those things and they provided houses for the migrant, for the workers, the ones that stayed. A lot of them migrated from New York to Florida with the crops. They raised celery in New York in the summer and they went back and forth there. Clonts raised celery in Oviedo, but they raised corn in Zellwood. So, when the celery season was over theyʼd take those mule trains, and a little bit of adapting, and they would drive them from Oviedo out 436, all the way to Zellwood. Three of those mule trains, and my dad was a mechanic, so he would run interference for them. Sometimes, I rode with him when he did that. Lotta fun. It was real interesting, He was all over the place. In the summer out of school, I would go over to Zellwood. Iʼd go early in the morning with him and work on the celery harvesters or corn harvesters, I mean. I was the only white boy on the thing. All the rest of the help was black, and it was, it was interesting. [laughs]
Cantley: So, I would imagine then that during harvest time, and the population around here ballooned.
Smithson: Oh, yeh. It really grew later after I was out of school and so on. It was still a small migrant farm town up through, through the late 60ʼs. It started really taking off in the 70ʼs. It was really going by then. Iʼm not sure what year they built the university and stuff. That made a lot of difference. A lot of housing there for the students, and so on and the whole area just grew from that. It hasnʼt stopped! Itʼs really going today! [laughs]
Smithson: I think I told you about the canning kitchen that they used to have there.

Cantley: You did, but I would love to get that story recorded.
Smithson: When I was a pretty small child, the farmers in Oviedo, when they finished with their money crop, they put a sign, a hand painted sign in the fields, saying “open fields”, and anybody was welcome to it,. Whatever was left and and there was a lot of…. I can remember going down. Mom would take us kids down and put us out, and we would pick up cucumbers. Itʼs a field of cucumbers and bring them back to the counties canning kitchen. You had to make an appointment and the kitchen could accept, could handle three families in there canning at the same time. And us kids would wash the produce outside and bring it to the door. They didnʼt let us in. Just the adults inside and they would make pickles and what have you out of the
cucumbers. And if the cabbage was in, they raised a lot of cabbage around here. Mom would make sauerkraut out of the cabbage. Same thing. Weʼd pick it, carry it up there and clean it. Corn, same thing. Celery, there was no way to can it, so it was nothing to do with it. Oranges were just everywhere here. Anybody picked whatever oranges they wanted to at the time. The
owners of the grove didnʼt mind us kids or whoever picking oranges. They didn’t like it when we had orange fights with them. They fussed at us about that. [laughter]. The canning kitchen I thought was a great idea. I wish I could think…. Tomatoes, they raised, my mom canned a lot of tomatoes. But thereʼd be three families in there, you know, and there might be a hundred or so
jars of whatever it was. Mom had a lot of those mason jars with the things that seal them. And the lady that ran the canning kitchen, she was a county employee. Miss Olive, a large woman, really nice lady. She was there to see to it the families did their canning proper, didnʼt poison their families. [laughter] Yeh, if the lid didnʼt pop, you didnʼt take them home. You know, some of them didnʼt and you could eat them then, but you couldnʼt take them home. It was really a nice commercial canning kitchen. It was really and nice set up. And it was a little bitty jail right down, not very far from it where they put the drunks in for night and let them out the next day. [laughter]. ʻCourse, that all went away when things got out of hand. Can I think of anything else? The railroad went by, right by the high school and us kids would put pennies on the track to get smashed. Iʼm not sure what year it was, but there was a plane from the Sanford Naval Air Station that crashed in Oviedo, Youʼve probably got records of that.

[Editor note: The jet crash happened on January 15, 1962]

And three, I think it was three guys on board and they all went down with the plane. It was assumed they all stayed with it to miss that school. The just barely got over the school and crashed in the little orange grove right across from the school. Those
fellas gave their lives saving us kids. Pretty touching.

I remember getting a doctor in Oviedo. We were a small town and never had a doctor. The town built a clinic, and they got a Doctor Edward Stoner. Boy, we were on the map! We had a doctor! [laughter]

There were three grocery stores in Oviedo. Alfordʼs Grocery, mom and pop kind of grocery places. They were Spencer’s Grocery, Faircloth Grocery and Buchanan’s Meat Market and they were pretty high priced. My mom did her shopping in Orlando cause we couldn’t afford the price of that place. I know Alfordʼs later became a Red and White store. It was a big deal, they had a big grand opening and it changed to a red and white store, like a franchise.

Smithson: Spencer’s was a grocery store and a dry goods store. They sold clothes and shoes, matter of fact I used to buy my Leviʼs from Spencers. [laughs]

I mowed lawns the year I turned 12. I mowed lawns all summer and when it come time to go to school the next year, my mom said you worked all summer you can buy your own school clothes. [laughs]. I thought wow, that’s really rough! It wasn’t too rough, it was pretty good. [laughs]

Cantley: Youʼve mentioned several family businesses. Youʼve mentioned several family businesses? Can you talk a little bit about your dadʼs filling station?

Smithson: Oh, yeah, when I was probably thirteen, my dad bought the Pure Oil station. Oviedo Service Station was the name of it, but it was a Pure Oil right across from the drug store in Oviedo. Actually, part of the building is still there. I think it’s Palm Computers or something. Iʼm not sure what it is now. My brother and I ran it. Dad was still working for Clonts. He bought it for
my brother to run and we ran the gas station for, I donʼt know how many years, several years. You didnʼt make any money on gas so we did mechanic work, washed cars, greased cars, and changed oil, all that kind of stuff. and it was still pretty rough to make a living.

I went to school out at Mid-Florida Tech under a government program for, I forget how many months, about 11 months I think, to learn to rebuild automatic transmissions in cars. Automatic transmissions were new on the scene, nobody knew how to work on them, so I wanted to get me a trade I can make money at. So, I went there, and I did that and put my little sign out in front of the gas station, Automatic Transmission Repair. Every other gas station up and down the highway everywhere had the same signs out ʻcause, you know, there was a need. The need is 200 guys to rebuild transmissions and the government trained 3,000 of us. I couldn’t make a living at it. [laughs] It was pretty rough. We built a lot of transmissions! [laughs]

Cantley: So, how do you think Oviedo has changed over the years?
Smithson: Drastically [laughter]. Yeh, itʼs changed a lot. There is city water now, everybody used to have wells. I guess there’s even some city sewer there. The older houses don’t have it, I don’t think, the ones that have been there a long time. But, itʼs changed a lot. There was one traffic light in Oviedo. I guess they didnʼt like being a one traffic light town, so they put another
one at Broadway and Lake Jessup and there was no traffic there, there was no point in it. They took it down and 2 years later they put it back up. Of course, thereʼs one there now. But things have changed. [laughter] Itʼs kinda funny. But it was different. There was a hardware store in Oviedo, Nelsons Hardware. It was pretty much a staple of the farm community because they
stocked everything! You could buy the parts to rebuild your pitcher pump there, most anything a farmer would need you could buy at that store. Its Ace Hardware up there now, but it’s totally different, it’s a part of a big franchise. They had everything. They sold guns and ammunition, a lot of hunting guns and everything a hardware store sells. They had a lot of stuff there, it was an interesting store. There was an old man that sat around talking on benches. At the hardware store, in front of the drug store and sometimes over at our gas station. The old guys would sit around and talk. I can remember flies, we were a farm community, so flies were bad. They had these fly traps that they set out, they made and set out on the sidewalk. Screen wire and a little funnel like thing, that had a screen wire going down into it. They’d hang them with a banana in the bottom of it, and there’d be 5 or 6 of them down the sidewalk. They would be full of flies, and they helped a lot! The stores had them ceiling fans over the doors to keep the flies out. Nobody had any air conditioning then, but they did have screened doors to keep them out, worked pretty good! There was always a bank in Oviedo. Matter of fact, your records probably show when it got blew up back in the rush.

[Editor’s note: The bank explosion happened on November 18, 1929]

That was before my time, but the hole was there when I was a kid from where they blew the bank up or the vault or whatever, the pieces of the vault were still there.

Cantley: Over by the landfill? Is that where youʼre talking about? Over in Geneva?
Smithson: No, it was kind of caddy-cornered across from where the Baptist Church was. It’s not the Baptist church anymore, it’s some other name, right there on the corner. There was just a hole in the ground and us kids would go around after we heard the story about it (?) When they had the run on the banks, back in the – -. I donʼt when that was, and they blew it up. I think Mr. Roy Clonts was a banker in Georgia and he came down here, he may have worked at that bank, Iʼm not sure. There was so much money being made raising celery, he went into farming. He was one of the principals in the Citizens Bank of Oviedo that got formed after that one got blew up. I donʼt know what the name of that one was.

[Editor’s note: The 1929 bank was named the Bank of Oviedo.]

But Roy Clonts and Frank Wheeler and Charlton Black. Charlton Black was another farmer in Oviedo, I forgot a while ago, and uh those guys, they owned the bank, I guess.

They started a bank, because the town needed a bank! Thatʼs the reason Frank Wheeler built a fertilizer plant, the farmers needed fertilizer! [laughter]. I know the fertilizer plant burned one time and Mr. Wheeler was doing everything he could to get it back working, you know, what are the farmers going to do for fertilizer, you know? They improvised somehow; they brought it in from elsewhere. He was good man, a very good man. [emotional] He was uh, I feel very fortunate to have known men like Frank Wheeler and Mr. Roy Clonts and Ford Eldridge. He owned the Eldridge dairy back there that was built when I was a kid. He built it up from a few cows to a 600 head herd. He had a large parcel of land back there and he employed quite a few people running the dairy and, in his hayfields, and his silos. It was all the stuff that it took to run, run a dairy and he was just a very good person, a very good man. I always said when the good Lord picked people to make wealthy, he made good choices. Guys like Mr. Eldridge and Frank Wheeler, the Dudas, Mr. Roy Clonts, he was just a fine gentleman, just good people.

Cantley: Thatʼs nice.
Smithson: And Mr. C.S. Lee, he traded with us at the gas station. He had been a Seminole County Commissioner at one time. He was past that then and kind of more or less retired. He always struck me as the epitome of a southern gentleman. He always wore one of those little bolo ties, a cowboy hat, long sleeve, button down, light-colored shirt and cowboy boots. He
looked like a cowboy. He was in and out of our gas station a lot. He seemed like a nice guy to me but I didnʼt know him that well, I didnʼt know much about him. I know his grandsons now.

Actually, his grandson was the president of Citizen’s bank until they sold to Fairwinds. Jim Wilson was another farmer in Oviedo. He had about quit farming, I believe, by time I was old enough to know. But I remember Jim used to tell us…. He always drove a new Cadillac, heʼd buy a new Cadillac every year and he used to tell us that he couldnʼt spend his dividends from
his General Motors investment each year. He got enough money that he couldnʼt spend it all. He was a- -. [laughs] He was quite a guy.

Of course, we had a volunteer fire department, and my dad was real active in that. He uh, he actually built a water wagon, a big ole- -. He took a military truck, that’s what he built those harvesters out of, military trucks. He got the city to buy an old military truck and he built a huge steel water tank on it that had foot pumps and stuff on it, so they could fight fires with it. The fire
siren was part of it, it belonged to the city, but it was there at the gas station, and it run off the power from our gas station, it had a little night switch. The service station number was listed as the fire department in Oviedo and if anybody had a fire they called, and we answered the phone. If they had a fire, we was to run out there and throw that switch up and blow that siren
and all the people, you know, the volunteers, would come and they’d get in the fire trucks and go put the fire out. [laughter]. I guess we got a couple of bogus calls and we run, you know, threw the switch and the guys went out there and there was no fire. So, course it was a couple of kids running the gas station, you know, so they came fussing us about it. “Don’t you blow that thing unless they tell you there’s” -[unintelligible]! So, one day I was there, and the phone rang, Ooo, ooo, fire, somebody said, excited. I asked them the questions Iʼm supposed to ask you know? Whatʼs your name, whatʼs your address, you know? And they hung up, they’re gone, you know? I didn’t want to blow it, I didnʼt want to get in trouble again. Iʼm looking and in a little bit, I can see the smoke coming up over there, so I run around there, and I blew the siren, and I went up and it was, the fire was in one of the little shanty places in Clonts quarters. It was a bunch of little houses, real close together and they come round there and got a bunch of fire trucks and went up there. The smoke was getting worse. I felt kind of bad about it, so I thought Iʼd go up and see if I can help. I was like 16-17 years old; I went up there and thereʼs four or five of those little shanties on fire and uh the guys were going in with axes and busting stuff up so they could put water on it. I said, “Give me an axe!” I went busting some cabinets down off the wall and they sprayed water on. It was a lot of fun! [laughs]. We didn’t save those houses, they were gone. [laughs] I always did feel bad about not blowing that siren, but they told me not too, so I didn’t do it. [laughs]

Oh, something else, that one traffic light that was in town, we changed the light bulbs when the light bulbs would burn out, that was something else that went with owning the gas station. We took an extension ladder and went out and leaned it up against the light in the middle of the intersection. We didn’t have any cones or barricades and hoped nobody knocked the ladder out from under us. Just one of us would go out there and open the thing up and screw a new light
bulb in it and come back down. [laughter].

Its…. it’s changed a lot. George Kelsey was a cop. He was a city police chief, and he was the constable for Seminole County for the Oviedo area. He was a little short fella, stocky little guy and a pretty foul-mouthed fella. A lot of times, heʼd wear six shooters on his side and stand on the corner with his thumbs in his pockets and rock back and forth on his heels. He wore a cowboy hat too. [laughs]. He was just a bad hombre, but he upheld the law, he did a good job. Iʼm sure he took some payoff from the moonshiners and that kind of stuff, I donʼt know what all he did like that, but I kinda think that’s just the way things worked back in those days, it seemed like. He maintained the law. He kept us kids in line and he kept a lot of other
people in line too. Overall, he was a good cop. He was foul mouthed and heʼd cuss you up one side and down the other when you did something wrong. But, overall, he did his job, I thought. Of course, politics took him out too. [laughs] I forget what they did. It was crazy.

Cantley: Do you have anything else youʼd like to share before we wrap up?
Smithson: Probably do, but I canʼt think of it! Itʼs there and itʼs in the memory, but the recall system doesnʼt work so well, you know. [laughs]
Cantley: I think you have shared quite a bit! This has been quite a wonderful snapshot.
Smithson: Oh, the lake here. Most of the people in Oviedo called it Smithsonʼs Lake, because we lived on the shore of the lake over there. Not really, we lived across the street from it, but it was our property there. It was our swimming hole, and all our friends came out and swam there. Well, somewhere in the ʼ50ʼs my dad went to Alabama and brought a slide from a lake he grew up on in Alabama, in Bessemer, Alabama, down here. He took one of Duda’s trucks and went up there and got it and brought it down here. He erected that slide on the east shore of Lake Hayes, out in the water. It was just a congregating place for our neighborhood, everybody in the area, in our little community here and a lot of Oviedo came out here and swam and played and went off that slide. It was on a vacant lot because we lived across the street from it. It wasn’t uncommon at midnight for there to be a bunch of kids out there going down that slide. [laughs] They had water run to it from my sister’s house that was right near there. You just turned the valve on, and the water would run down it. That slide is still over at my brothers across the lake. We moved it over there, probably 45 years ago or so, [laughs] a long time ago. But that slide, was kind of a landmark in this area, for a long time. I did think of something else! [laughter]

Cantley: Well, there is actually one more story that Iʼm curious about that you had mentioned. So, the property that youʼre on, youʼve had it for a very long time.

Smithson: Yes, where I live today is on a piece of property that I bought. Our family members all went and bought a 10-acre parcel together, I was 15 years old. My part of the payment was $25 a month and I mowed lawns to pay it. When I was 16 years old, I cut a road through the swamp with a machete. I had a little skeeter [old car from the 30’s] and I was gonna build me a house there someday, and I did! I wound up building house there in ʼ71. I built the house next door [to where I live today] over there and lived in it for about eight or nine years, I guess. I built this house [the one I live in today] in ʼ76 for my mother and she lived here for three years. She wanted to get closer to her church that was in Sanford. So, I helped her find a piece of property
over there, cleared it and got her set up there in a house, and I bought this one back from her. I’ve lived here ever since. [laughs]

Cantley: And what church did your mother attend?
Smithson: The Church of Christ. Originally, we all went to the Church of Christ in Geneva and somehow or another, she moved to the one in Sanford and I quit going. [laughs] That Church of Christ that she went to in Sanford is still there. Itʼs on Park Avenue, I think. She lived on South Sanford Avenue for many years. She lacked two months of making it to 94. We had her birthday party here on the lake when she turned 90. I sold the house that I built in ʼ71 to my son. He lived in it seven or eight years, and he sold it to the people who live there now. But I still have the rest of the property. The piece of the ten acres and part of the five acres that my
mom and dad had bought years before that. It was my dadʼs dream that all of us kids would live around this lake and [emotional] he gave each one of us that lake front lot to build a house on. He gave me one and I bought one, so I had two. My [cat meows] younger brother, he gave him one, he built a home on it. [cat meows] He gave my oldest sister one [cat meows] and she built a home on it, and he gave my oldest brother a lot. He built a house on it, and he still lives there. My sister sold and moved to Georgia and my one brother that had one, he sold it and moved to Georgia also. My other sister never built, she sold her lot and moved to Texas.

My dad’s dream was that we would all live around this lake, he loved it. It was always a nice lake, it’s spring fed. Aside from the state dumping all the dirty water off the highway in it, it’s always been a good lake. They have polluted it time and time again over the years. When the developer developed what is now Remington Park back here, there’s three commercial lots
there on the front. They gave one of them to the Seminole County for a fire station, but they changed their mind and don’t want it. They mandated that he [the developer] build a wall between those commercial properties and our residential property here and landscape and irrigate it and maintain it for life. That’s the brick wall that’s out there. When the developer sold those lots, the maintenance went with it. The first lot that he sold, DOT [Department of Transportation] bought it for a retention pond. They tore the wall down, ripped the well out, tore out all the irrigation and there was nothing anybody could to about it. I went to Seminole County and asked about it. I told them,” Yʼall mandated it to be done and the people who bought it come
in and tore the wall down, do yʼall got any kind commitment inspector?” They said, “Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I told them,” There’s one thing I didn’t tell you, and that’s who bought it.” They asked who and I told them “DOT.” They said, “Oh, no, we can’t do anything about that.” And that was the end of that.

I don’t have very a fond opinion of Floridaʼs DOT, period. I’ve traveled all over this country and can always tell if I’m asleep, in the back seat or whatever, when we get into Florida, cause the roads are bad. I mean, Iʼve been to Arkansas and Oklahoma, and they supposedly got the worst roads in the country. They got a lot of potholes ʻcause they canʼt afford to maintain the roads. But Florida DOT is just as antiquated as anyone I’ve ever been in.

When Disney came here, they had a meeting with DOT and had already done all their projections. They told them what they would do to I-4 and said we’re going turn it into a parking lot the day we open if you don’t do something with it. They spent quite a few hours in their meeting and DOT said OK, when the traffic is there, we’ll do something about it and thatʼs what they did. They wait till the roads are full and then they try to build roads. You go to Georgia, thereʼs six lane divided highways, been
there for 30 years. They’re full now, but they built them when it was cheap to build them and there was not traffic there. Florida wonʼt do that. And thereʼs not a bridge in this state, well, there might be two or three out of all of them, that you can drive on, and you donʼt have a hump going on and off of them. 417…how many times have they had to redo the approach on both sides of it ʻcause you couldnʼt keep your car under control, it sinks. The bridge itself, was built by people who know how to build bridges out of Louisiana, they been floating all their life. But the road and abutment coming up to it? Thereʼs some bad soil in Florida, a lot of muck, and it sinks. I donʼt know what they need to do, Iʼm not an engineer, [cat meows] but they need to do something a lot different, maybe drive pylons or something under the edge of the bridges, I don’t know, but you can always tell. If I go over another bridge in another state and itʼs like that I say, “Uh Oh, them Florida bridge builders have been up here”. [laughter]
Anyway, Iʼll quit complaining. [laughter]

Cantley: Last chance. Anything else you want to share.
Smithson: I canʼt think of it, no.
Cantley: Again.
Smithson: I donʼt remember anything. The families that lived around this lake, maybe. The Jacksons lived on the northeast shore of the lake when I was a kid. The elder Jacksonʼs and then Douglas Jackson and his wife, Lillian, built the home thatʼs over there now. She passed within the last two years, but the home is still over there though. And the Whitemanʼs lived, what would be on this road really. But they come in through the woods up there, another way up on the hill. Mr. Whiteman worked at the road camp out there in Jamestown, it was a prison back then. Every now and again a prisoner would escape and everybodyʼd be, scared till they caught em. It was a road camp where they did road repair and of course, back then the convicts worked on the road. Now, they let them play basketball or whatever they want to do. It’s inhumane to make them work, I guess. They had chain gangs out on the side of the road here with slings, cutting the grass and all that kind of stuff. And Mr. Whiteman was a guard on one of those chain gangs. He had two daughters. Cornelia and Charlene. I don’t know what age they were. Charlene would probably be in her 90ʼs by now, she was older than my sister, my sister is almost 90. When I was a little fella I’d always ask her if she would wait for me to marry her. I wanted to marry her when I got old enough [laughs]. She was a pretty woman. Yeah, Douglas and Lillian had two daughters, Pat and Melanie. Both of them married Duda boys, Andrew and Luther. They married well {laughs}.

Ok, Iʼll quit. [laughter]

Cantley: Thank you very much for this Rodger. So much great history here. Much appreciated. Thank you for your time.

Smithson: Yes, maʼam! I enjoyed it. Itʼs nice to reminisce about some of that stuff. Thereʼs probably a lot more. I just canʼt remember it.

Smithson: Horses were about our only means of transportation back then. I had a horse, but
I never liked horses [laughs]. You shut us off?