By Brenda Eubanks Burnette
I recently went to the funeral of Pate Snively, who was a longtime Winter Haven resident and citrus grower. I attended school with several of his nephews but got to know Snively when I was ending my reign as the Florida Citrus Queen in 1982.
I was offered the opportunity to sell ads in our program book for the upcoming pageant and retain 50 percent of whatever I sold, which I needed for tuition, so I jumped at the chance. My Aunt Gaddy had a sandwich shop on Central Avenue in Winter Haven at the time, and Snively would meet his buddies there regularly for sandwiches and “to gab,” as my aunt would say.
“Come on down and hit them up. They’ll buy an ad from you,” she said.
So, I did. Snively was the first one to commit to an ad and made all the other guys there do the same, unless they wanted to be forever known as “a cheap so-and-so!” It definitely was not a crowd you’d want to live through that memory with, as it would be hard to live down regardless of how many years went by! Sure enough, every guy in there bought an ad from me because of him.
He was a generous guy and “lived life large” or, as another friend put it, “Pate cut a wide swath!”
I remember one story when he wanted to clear a piece of property, but the city wouldn’t let him because of various zoning issues. The next thing I knew there were goats all over that piece of property and they cleared it quicker than anything else probably could have!
His celebration of life filled Nora Mayo Hall with standing room only. There were numerous mementos, photographs and citrus memorabilia there in homage of the Snively family citrus heritage.
I was astounded to see that they even had the plates for their letterhead and citrus can labels on display, along with some of the Cypress Gardens brand citrus juice cans and the Snively Groves picking boxes. It was wonderful to see the longtime citrus family’s memorabilia treated with the respect and honor it deserves, treasuring the many memories attached to each piece and sharing the stories of relatives’ lives “lived large” in an era that it took tough men and women to do so — through both good times and bad.
Rest in peace, Pate, and thanks for the memories…
Brenda Eubanks Burnette is executive director of the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame. Pieces of the Past is presented in partnership with Florida Southern College’s McKay Archives Center in Lakeland.