Selected content from Florida, part 1: Florida’s contemporary scene

A selection of highlights from the Work Project Administration’s 1940 (c1939) survey guidebook to Florida.

All content is quoted directly from the Florida guidebook. Comments in brackets are mine.

On Florida’s Contemporary Scene

Politically and socially, Florida has its own North and South, but its northern area is strictly southern and its southern area definitely northern (Florida, p. 3).

[I grew up in north-central Florida and I’ve always had to explain to non-Floridians who don’t think Florida is a “southern” state that the farther north you go in Florida, the more southern you get. It’s a Florida axiom that defies physics].

The first-time visitor is primarily a sightseer. […] If traveling southward by the Gulf coast route, he stops to partake of a Spanish dinner in the Latin quarter of Tampa, to sit on the green beaches of St. Petersburg, to view the Ringling Circus animals and art museums at Sarasota, to admire the royal palms at Fort Meyers. Thence he follows the Tamiami Trail through the ghostly scrub cypress and primitive silence of the Everglades, to encounter at last the theatrical sophistication of Miami. […] From Palm Beach, which has long been the earthly Valhalla of financial achievement, he may detour inland to discover the hidden winter-vegetable kingdom on the muck lands along the southern shore of Lake Okeechobee, where Negro workers harvest thousands of carloads of beans and other fresh food supplies; or farther north he may swing inland by way of Orlando, through the great citrus groves of the hilly lake region and the thriving strawberry country around Plant City; then up to Ocala, where he can look through the glass bottoms of boats at water life in the depths of crystal-clear springs. Returning to the east coast, he inspects the far-famed natural speedway at Daytona Beach and the old Spanish fort at St. Augustine before he reaches the northern terminal city of Jacksonville. Frequently at the end of the tour, the visitor announces that he is never coming back.

His second excursion into Florida is somewhat different. On his first trip, unconsciously or deliberately, he had selected a spot where he thought later on he might want to live and play, and when he comes again he usually returns to that chosen place for a season. Ultimately, in many cases, he buys or builds a home there and becomes by slow degrees a citizen and a critic (Florida, 6-7).

More to follow…


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