Editor’s note: Bill Mancinik’s “Native Reflections” column has once again inspired a member of the community to contribute memories of West Volusia’s past. If you would like to share yours, we’d love to have them. Email your contribution to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I first came to DeLand in the summer of 1957 as a student at Stetson University. I lived on the third floor of Chaudoin Hall and had classes on the third floor of Elizabeth Hall.
In those days, there was no air conditioning anywhere on campus, and the heat was almost insufferable.
There was a little extra heat that summer when a fire broke out in the Carlton Union Building, but the DeLand Fire Department promptly took care of it.
By the spring of 1961, I was doing my teaching internship at DeLand High School under English teacher John Smith. At that time, Channel 9 in Orlando televised a one-hour class each day in American history and, every day, all the 11th-graders at DHS filed into the auditorium, where four televisions were set up so they could view the lesson.
Those TVs were useful when, in May of that year, the U.S. launched its first astronaut into space. The entire school body was taken into the auditorium to watch it.
That same year, a new high-school building was being constructed on North Hill Avenue to replace the one on the corner of North Clara and West Rich avenues.
High school in those days was only for grades 10-12, and junior high school was for grades seven-nine. Before that time, there had been no separate school for the junior high, so when the new high school was finished, the junior high was to occupy the old high-school building.
The new building was supposed to have been finished by the time school opened in the fall, but the contractor missed the deadline.
I had been hired by Ed Talton to begin teaching seventh-grade language arts that fall, but since the new high school wasn’t finished, both schools had to go on double session.
High-school students went to school from 7:30 a.m. to noon, and junior- high students went from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. The high school was finally finished by Christmas, and attendance there began in the new year.
Just like the Stetson campus, neither of those buildings had air conditioning. Back then, there was no such thing as Spring Break, a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, or teacher workdays.
That meant that it was a long time before students got a break from school after Christmas, especially when Easter came near the end of April. By that time, with outdoor temperatures rising, it was not unusual for students to become lethargic.
Back then, Downtown DeLand was the place to do all your shopping. Mary Dykes carried children’s clothing, Fountain’s had menswear, and Betty Dreka’s and Gibbs had women’s clothes.
Reeve and Howard’s gift shop was where all the brides went to register their choice for fine china, and DeHuy’s took their registration for sterling silver.
Curry the Florist and Stetson Flower Shop furnished flower arrangements, and Clark’s Furniture was the place to go to buy furnishings for your house.
Winn-Dixie had its store downtown on East Rich Avenue, and J.C. Penney was on the southeast corner of New York and the Boulevard.
Goff Hardware, Mel Ott Insurance and Danny Gainin’s Shoe Repair, among others, were all located on the Boulevard.
Businesses were not air-conditioned in those days either, and in the summer they all closed at noon on Wednesdays. No businesses were open on Sundays and, since there weren’t many restaurants in town, people went to the Stetson cafeteria, operated by Morrison’s, for Sunday dinner after church.
Back then, many roads were not paved. East Beresford was not paved past Boston Avenue. Hill Avenue south of Beresford was a two-rutted dirt road. South Blue Lake Avenue and North Kepler Road were not paved, either, and after several rains, they became as rough as a washboard.
Most homes in the city were on septic tanks then, and it wasn’t until Wayne Sanborn was hired as city manager that a sewage system was installed.
DeLand at that time was truly a small town, but one with a strong sense of community. I have always been glad I made it my home.