PIECES OF THE PAST: A Granddaughter’s Recollections

Josh McGillPieces of the Past

By Brenda Eubanks Burnette

Editor’s note: Last month’s Pieces of the Past featured Edward Postell Porcher, one of the original Florida Citrus Hall of Fame inductees. This month, his granddaughter shares more memories about him and the citrus industry.


Edward Postell Porcher’s granddaughter, Norris Porcher Andrews, was interviewed by Nancy Yasecko at the Porcher House in 1994 for the Brevard County Historical Commission’s Oral History Video Project. Andrews had some interesting memories to share about her family and the citrus industry:

“My grandfather Porcher was the first man in the citrus business to wash and polish the citrus fruit. Everybody else didn’t even bother to wash it. They just brought it from the groves, and I imagine just wiped it off and packed it in barrels in Spanish moss. But my grandfather Porcher packed it in regular Bruce boxes, which are that thin wood box and … he would wrap each piece of fruit in paper. It was like a tissue paper with his citrus label on it. Then of course it was shipped by steamboat.

“They would load the citrus aboard these boats, and they’d go back to Jacksonville and offload them there for a railhead that went on to New York to the fresh fruit market that was there … You see a lot of pilings as you go south on the river road. A lot of those were packinghouses that went out into the river so that the steamboat could stop and pick up whatever they had to ship at that time.”

I’ve heard a number of stories about old-time citrus growers who ran their Cadillacs through their groves, but what Andrews describes next is something I hadn’t heard before:

“My grandfather, one time when he went quail hunting, he came in and we all gathered around. He used to hunt in his old Cadillac. He traded cars about every two years, and he would drive to Detroit and get the car. He would watch them put it together on the assembly line, and then he would drive it back to Florida. He would ride the train to Detroit and drive this Cadillac back. Then, he would convert his old Cadillac into his hunting car, and that meant that he put dog cages all around his car because in those days of course they had a running board on the car.

“This one day he came back in, and he had shot a snake. It was a rattlesnake … The neck of it was tied to the headlight of the Cadillac and the tail with rattles, about that long, was tied to the taillight of this Cadillac. I have never ever seen such a big rattlesnake.”

Andrews also recalled catching toadfish on the river: “They blow up with air when they get frightened, and they do that so that the bigger fish can’t swallow them. That’s the reason they get all fat, and they have these little spines that come out on their tummies when they blow up like that. We used to catch them and tickle their stomachs and make them blow all up and do all kinds of dastardly things with them, like use them for footballs. Very bad, not nice to do. I’m ashamed I was mean like that, but I was. We used to dropkick them off the docks to see how far they’d go when they were all blown up.”

Terrible me, but I laughed so hard just picturing that scene!

The Porcher family went through the Great Depression, and she remembered this advice: “My father and grandfather used to say the way to get through a depression is either work for a newspaper because people always buy newspapers to look for a job, or work for the tobacco industry because people are getting nervous and smoke more. That’s not true now, of course. Work for the liquor industry because they definitely drink more, or be a farmer because then you could always eat.”

As a farmer, I’m sure you agree!

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.

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