Monday, March 27, 2017

Bill Arp Writes About Their Trip to Florida, 1900

March 30, 1900, in The Roanoke Beacon, Plymouth, N.C.
Mrs. Arp In Florida By Bill Arp
Going, going, gone! For two weeks it has been the family talk—will the maternal ancestor go to Florida or not? Her posterity down there had been calling her long and frequently and finally sent her a liberal check wherewith to provide suitable paraphernalia and pay her way to Jacksonville. It was an awful struggle. The girls hinted that if she was not going, she ought to send the check back, and when at last she bought the beautiful silk mohair, Henrietta Maria Vendetta, or words to that effect, and turned it over to the dressmaker, it looked like she was certainly going, but I had my doubts.
She wanted me to decide the momentous question, but I looked solemn and maintained a dignified neutrality. “If you are going,” said I, “of course I will go with you, for where thou goest I will go, but you must start next Tuesday eve and stay a week only, for I have got to go to Carolina again the last of next week.” She still hesitated and gave no sign. There were posterity at home that she feared would fall into a well or get bitten by a mad dog, or get run over on the street, or catch the measles, or something else, and every time they came to greet her, her eyes would get watery at the thought of leaving them. Neighbors and kindred urged her to go for she had not been as far as Atlanta in five years, and needed a change of air and water and scenery. And so we escorted her to the depot and there were so many to kiss and so many parting injunctions about the children that she had liked to have been left after all. For 10 miles she never said a word, but looked out the window and ruminated.
An acquaintance on the car came forward and relieved the monotony and we got to Atlanta in due time, and after a short stay left for Florida.
Now we are both glad that we came, for we made our kindred happy and will make some more happy when we get back. This evening we visited the ostrich farm, the Florida zoo, which of itself is worth a trip to Jacksonville.
I wish that all the children could visit it for it is a bigger thing that a circus or menagerie; it is much larger than it was two years ago, for now, besides the over a hundred ostriches the proprietors have many varieties of the most beautiful birds in the world. They are of exquisite plumage—pheasants, ducks, parrots, pelicans, cranes—and there are deer, monkeys, crocodiles, otters and many other creatures that are never seen traveling around and are things of beauty that would delight the little folks. My wife says that it is the best show for a quarter that she ever witnessed. It is worth that to see the otters playing in the water. This zoo is an established success and a specialty for Jacksonville. Crowds visit it every day and the tourists buy feathers and eggs most liberally.
The street car takes you there for a nickel and they are always full. We are going to Pablo Beach tomorrow and to St. Augustine next day, and keep on the go all the time as long as the letters from home tell us that all are well.
What a wonderful change has come over the city since I first knew it, when there were about 10,000 people and it was under the ban—a suspect—a home for pestilence, and the tourists hurried through it to safe havens. Now there are 35,000 people, and during the winter half as many more. The city has been thoroughly sewered and drained and is supplied with the purest water and the streets and walk ways are all paved and everything looks clean as a parlor.
The pestilence that walketh at noonday will not walk here any more. And then what a change in diet has come over us. Early vegetables, early oysters and shad and pompano, and strawberries for dessert every day. I sent some orange blossoms home yesterday but requested the girls not to get married until we return. My wife and I are being rejuvenated. Fine clothes, fine diet, and nothing to do but receive attention, will regenerate maternal ancestors.
And it helps the veterans, too. I this morning can jump over a two-rail fence and cut the pigeon wing—a small pigeon.
But I never said anything about our brief stay in Savannah, that grand old city that Georgia is proud of, and it is still the most beautiful and interesting city in the South. Its parks alone are a monument to Ogelthorpe. Its broad streets and shade trees and flowers are things of beauty. Its churches and public buildings are time-honored and impressive.
Now just ponder it for a moment when I say that I saw Savannah for the first time 67 years ago, and I do not suppose that there are a hundred people living who saw it before then. My parents and brother and myself sailed from there to Boston in 1833. We returned to Georgia by land in a carriage. It took us two months to make the long journey, and we never crossed a railroad for there were none to cross. (Bottom of the column was torn away so words are missing here.)
But I verily believe I can chop more wood in a day than Marks can and I could outrun him but for my corporosity.
                --Bill Arp

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