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Federal Point Families

"The Club House" from Memories of Florida by E. Stuart Hubbard

When I returned to Three Oaks, aged sixteen, after finishing

school the problem of recreation was acute.

 

      At Heartsease I was a member of the Junior Tennis Club and

had contracted for the club with George Burhans to construct a clay

court on a lot which the club purchased on the Whitehouse property.

Our members felt that the Poughkeepsie Tennis Club, of which the

youngsters were junior members, did not treat them fairly.  So we

formed our own club, built our own court and were beginning to

enjoy the court, the small club house and our freedom when I returned

to Florida.  I had taken part in dramatics, was a member of the Riverview

Glee Club and enjoyed neighborhood social and athletic activities.

   

      The only social events then at the Point were occasional dances

over Paines or in Folsom's packinghouses which had ceased to be used

after the '95 freeze killed the orange trees back to their trunks

There was a duplicate whist club  which met in the homes Thursday nights

and occasional readings of Dickens or other authors by George Wllkinson

with his English accent.  These did not satisfy the exuberance of youth

for the many young people of the Point nor the social urges of the

grown-ups.                                                  -

 

       I interested six or eight Tenney, Wilkinson and other boys and  

 in learning to march.  We used the book of military tactics which I studied,

as sergeant, at Riverview Military Academy. We marched by fours, single file,

executed, squad right, right oblique, to the rear and all the other manoeuvres. 

As the twilight faded on Tenney's  pasture the full moon gave light enough to

still read the very fine print of the manual.

 

         This was the period when physical exercise was the rage.   We

ordered wooden dumbells for the community, made racks for them on the

wall of Folsom's packing house and I drilled the assembled neighbors,

aged from ten to seventy, in dumbell exercises until excess energy

was exhausted.  We then played games **spin the platter, going to

Jerusalem_and others. One New Year's eve it was decided to see the

New Year in.  Meeting at eight, by eleven we were weary and had pretty

well run out of ideas.  There was no music-no radio, no phonograph,

no band or piano to dance to.  The freeze, two years before, had cut

off nearly all income   Only northern winter residents and boarders

had spare cash.  Finally midnight struck.  A wild burst of noise

greeted the New Year.  Then we soon went to rest our weary selves.

It became evident to all that a suitable building was needed---

a club to organize its financing and construction and the social

activities of the community. And so, the Federal Point Literary and

Social Club was formed.  Tenneys, Browns, Hubbards, Wheelers, Atkin-

sons and others were elected trustees.  I was its first president

 

      My father drew up plans and, with Frank Tenney, superintended

and helped with the construction.  The work was done by the men of

the community.  The lumber and fixtures were bought with money con-tributed,

largely, by our winter friends and from the proceeds of

entertainments, food sales and the usual money-raising schemes. The building

 was about 25 feet by 60 feet with a stage and dressing

rooms at one end.  The floor, on which my father spent many hours of

hard, meticulous work planing and sanding by hand, was glassy-smooth, a      

fine dance floor.  The dark blue stage curtain drew up at the sides into

draping folds.  The room was heated in winter by an air-tight, sheet iron stove.

When the drafts were opened it roared, glowed red and threw out great heat.

Its attendant adjusted the draft for  safety while heating the hall for the meeting.  It could be safely left if the draft was nearly closed.

 

       The need of culture, as well as fun, was planned for in organ-

izing the meetings.  Originally, the programs provided for readings,

recitations, music, drama, games and dancing.  This plan provided

interest for the adults, good literature and fun for the young folks;

an experience in planning and taking part in programs; an opportunity

to meet together.  Young folks were with their parents were properly

chaperoned.  Federal Point had the reputation of having the best times of any river town.

 

       It took ingenuity to plan and stage suitable programs. Squire

Tenney played violin or cello, his son, Frank, the violin, as well as

singing solos and bass in a chorus.  My mother sang and played the

organ and the piano that the club purchased.  My sister sang operatic

selections and ballads. I played banjo to accompany my songs and the choruses. 

We all took part in plays, charades and in group games.

 

        I used to sing a college song-Dunderbeck. It went something like this:

 

 "There was a fat old Dutchman and his name was Dunderbeck

 He sold the neighbors sausages, sauerkraut and speck,

He kept a great big butcher shop ,the finest ever seen,

            And he studied up and built -himself a sausage meat machine.

 

                                   Chorus

:

Oh, Dunderbeck, Oh, Dunderbeck, how could you be so mean,

 I'm sorry you e'er invented that wonderful machine

For pussy cats and longtailed rats shall never more be seen

For they'll all be ground to sausage meat in Dunderbeck's

                           machine.

One day a little boy came a'walking down the street,

Sent by his mother to the shop to buy a pie"e of meat.

And while he stood a'waiting, he whistled up a tune

            And the sausages began"to hop"and dance around the room.

                       

(Chorus, Oh, Dunderbeok)

 

But something got the matter, the machine it would not go,

So Dunderbeck he crawled inside, the matter for to know.

            His wife she got the nightmare and came walking in her sleep,

She gave the crank an awful yank; and Dunderbeck was meat.

 

(Chorus, Oh, Dunderbeck- ---------".

 

 

 

        

 

          One day it dawned on me, "what a theme this song is for dramatic

acting".  So I took a big dry goods box, bored holes in opposite sides, made

 a crank from a broom handle, made link sausages from brown dress lining

and sawdust,' chose a plump boy, a small boy and a tall girl to enact the

scene, while I sang the song with banjo.  The stage business of the shop,

assembling the machine; toy dogs, cats and rats tossed into the grinding

mill while links of sausages were pulled out the side;  sausages attached to

invisible thread leaving the counter to dance about quickly retrieved by an

irate butcher; a starry eyed, nightgowned  figure turning the crank, while the

plump butcher slowly slithered, kicking his legs, over the edge into the machine

 while sausages came out the side: all accompanied the progress of the song

in realistic action.  The act made a hit.

 

        

 

               My sister adapted Shakespeare's Pyramus and Thisbe to the boys

of the neighborhood.  Some of its passages, occasionally, come to me, still.

The stage business of wall, moon, lion and Roman costumes all called for

ingenuity, making and doing.

 

        

 

          Grandma Louisa found a cute dialogue  sketch in Harper's or a similar

 magazine.  My sister directed its staging.  It called for

Gertrude Wheeler, sixteen, to impersonate a ten year old miss who

dined, formally, in a hotel with me, a young bachelor.   Evening dress

with tails, corsage and flounces, dignified waiter, brown roasted

chicken (bouncing off the platter when I attempted to carve) and appropriate

efforts at correct social conversation and deportment, all held the attention

of the appreciative audience.

 

          The dancing was mainly square dance figures all in one big

set.  The dance floor was often filled, two or three couples at each

head, six or eight couples on each side.  Everyone danced, from gray bearded

Squire Tenney to ten year olds.  For music, the Tenneys and my mother, or a

ired colored pianist or a three piece colored band with harmonica, banjo

and guitar played lively tunes that made feet and skirts fly when twenty couples

swung partners.  There were occasional waltzes and two steps, a grand march,

the Virginia reel and a short Home Sweet Home waltz.

 

        Cotillions were popular at that time.  So we gave several

with the many ingenious figures which brought the diffident boys and

girls, bachelors and wallflowers, together regardless of age or pref-

erence.  One popular figure had the men kneeling before the stage.

The girls stood on the stage.  Each girl, with a fishpole, line and

marshmallow tied on for bait, angled for the man of her choice who

attempted to catch the bait in his mouth.  Powdered noses and cheeks

 resulted. One morning our young house girl, Matilda White,

enthusiastically told of a party the colored folks had the night before.

She said, "De gals had poles an' fished fo de mens wid dose

candy owls, yo' has in de sto', tied by dere necks to de lines.

It sho was fun to see dose big moufs tryin' to catch dose owls".

 

      Our cotillion musicians had, evidently, adapted the latest in

social style to their party, where only marching, no dancing, was

permitted by church discipline.

 

       Later on, an ample kitchen was added along the north side

 of the building.  The potato crop brought good times.  So many barrels

of potatoes, so many bags of fertilizer and boxes of oranges were

piled on the Federal Point dock that even with enlarged head, it

could not hold all the incoming or outgoing freight.    Agents of

Commission merchants, fertilizer salesmen, winter guests from the

North filled the hotel, run by the Tenneys.   Shad fishermen lived

at the Point.  The club house was the center of social activity and

interest for miles around.

 

         When the streets and roads were paved and autos replaced

 horses and mules, people from a distance could come, more easily  to the Point.

The people of the Point could, also, go elsewhere.  Then the highway bridge

was built across the St. John's at Palatka; the school at the Point was closed

-children drove to the Hastings central school.  The older generations passed

on; the younger generation grew up   Local leadership could not compete in

interest and amusements with the movies, the radio and the commercial

entertainments of the towns, and with the automobile.  The hotel was closed.

The dock was no longer needed **rail and trucks carrying freight and mail.

 

      The club ceased to hold meetings; society tended to stagnate.

The club house badly needed repairs.  So little interest in its use

was shown that it was sold and torn down.  The Point was without a

social center.

 

       Several years ago this  lack  of  a  place  where  the  people  of

the Point could meet became so critically evident, especially to the

women of St. Paul's Mission Church, that a strong campaign was organized

to raise $4000, for a parish house for the church. Equipped

with a history of generous support of the Church and the Women's

Auxiliary and with the heritage of cooperative accomplishment in the

Social Club, the families of the Point, in two years, raised the

money, built and equipped the parish house, even to a quick freezer

"When the last board was nailed on, it was paid for".  This was done

by the hands and through the spirits of the people of the Point.

 

         America is rich in the possession of communities like Federal

Point where the people crave the finer things of life for themselves

and their children; where they pull together and earn and build and

achieve for themselves.  The hope of our nation, in this era of

government giving, lies, largely, in the leadership of the youth from

such communities whose self reliance and pride in accomplishment act

like a leaven in the helpless, spiritless populations of so** many of

our towns and cities.                                                -                        

 

         To me,  the club provided invaluable training in social actvities

and leadership as it did to so many of the youth of Federal Point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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