Charlie Stuart speaking at College Park Oral History Night
Growing Up in College Park Right Before Disney: Stuart Family Recollections with Robert Stuart, George Stuart, and Charlie Stuart
Robert Stuart – Part I LISTEN (13:07)
(text excerpts from recording)
…I graduated from high school four months before Disney opened. George graduated from high school many years before me. But we were in the era of a lot of growth happening in Central Florida, but we were also in an era of seeing what was getting ready to happen….
…I want to share just a little bit about Orlando because it relates back to College Park and I know it by firsthand…
Little League Baseball in Orlando Makes History
August 9, 1955 there was a very important baseball game played here in Orlando. It was played between Orlando Kiwanis Little League and a Little League out of Pensacola, FL. Reason why it was important, it was the first time in the history of Little League Baseball as best we can tell that a black team played a white team and it happened here in Orlando, FL….
I got a phone call about two months ago from a lady who is doing a documentary about Little League Baseball in this particular episode because she met an African American doctor in Pensacola who told her all about it. They had come down to play baseball in Orlando, FL and here he was… he was 70 years old, almost George’s age, and he was enamored by the fact that nobody knew much about it. So it got her beginning to do some research. She went to Little League, found out the game occurred, it occurred in Orlando, FL…
Orlando Kiwanis Little League was founded about 1951 and later on became College Park Little League. On that team were a couple of people you may know. One by the name of Stuart Hall, Gary Fleming, Dan Rivenbark and a bunch of others that were on that team. Guys that I grew up umpiring their kids at College Park Little League.
So the story is that all the teams in the northern section, which is kind of Gainesville north, refused to play this African American team and they forfeited all the games and they came to Little League and said, “We want to play,” and they said, “You had the chance to play, you forfeited, we’re sending this team to Orlando, FL to the next level….
…these guys get declared the winner on August 6 and come to Orlando, FL to play a baseball game. There was a large number of people who went to the mayor and said, “You can’t let this happen. This has got to stop.” And he decided he would go to his city attorney, a guy by the name of Don Senterfitt, many of you guys may know him, and say, “Give me a legal opinion.”
And so he gave a legal opinion and the morning of the game they met on August 9 and had this discussion about this game and Don Senterfitt read the legal opinion, “It is no business of the City whether you play or not. It’s not the City’s issue. It’s a Little League issue. If Little League doesn’t want to play it’s their problem. But it’s not your problem. They rented the field from you and let them play.”
And so we did. College Park won 5-0, a thousand people showed up, 250 African Americans, 750 whites showed up and had a great time at the game and won 5-0… But what’s great about the story is that it is part of our College Park heritage that I bet you there’s not many people that know….
In a moment in time when all the things are going on, Orlando did the right thing, which is to play a game. And so, baseball held over on race relations. So I just share that with you as kind of part of our heritage in College Park and all the other guys who grew up in College Park.
Edgewater High School Graduation – By Bike
When I was a senior in high school the resurgence of the ten speed bicycle had occurred… I was so into being so wonderfully liberal that I decided that I was not going to drive a car anymore to Edgewater High School, and my entire senior year I would ride a bicycle… We had a class, graduating class of 548 and I convinced 5 people to ride bikes with me. But we did something kind of crazy. We decided that we were all going to ride our bikes to graduation…
George Stuart, Jr. – Part II LISTEN (8:45)
Memories of Gerda Terrace
We moved to College Park in the early 1950’s on Gerda Terrace before Charlie was born. And it was Jacob and I in a little house on Gerda Terrace, 1826 I think, or something like that. When Charlie was born mother and dad moved to the bigger house… And the reason I remember that as one of my earliest memories was taking little Charlie down from 1826 to 1814 in our arms, maybe in my arms, or mother’s arms, somebody’s down to 1814 Gerda Terrace….
Summer Fun at Princeton Playground
Anyway, we moved to 1814. We all went to Princeton School. Bob Gould was the Phys Ed instructor for the elementary school. He was also the playground director. This is really before Robert and Georgia Lee. We used to spend every summer at Princeton playground in the play program. You know playing that checkers pool on that little table on that public lot, ping pong, ring toss, hopscotch games. Bob Gould, of course, later became Director of Recreation for the City. Leo Miller was head with the same job as Bob Gould and Leo Miller came when I was in the sixth grade and Leo stayed there I guess until he retired….
Mom’s Many Years of Service as PTA President
We were at Princeton, and later Robert E. Lee and then Edgewater, mother must have been president of the PTA I don’t know how many times, 15, 20 years something like that. You know multiple years at Edgewater, multiple terms at Lee, multiple terms at Princeton. And so, we still hear stories of people coming up and telling about mother doing this, doing that….
My Campaign Speech
I’ll tell you a story that happened to my daughter Catherine and I this week…We were at Stein Mart and the lady, assistant manager says, “Oh, are you George Stuart?” I said, “Yes.” And she said, “Well, I went to school with Jacob.” And she says, “I was at Robert E. Lee when you made your campaign speech for Student Council at Robert E. Lee. You told this joke that I still remember to this day.” Apparently I said, “Good morning A Students, B Students, C Students, and my friends….”
Changes in Orlando
When I got elected to the City Council a mere 41 years ago, I didn’t represent College Park specifically. At that time we had – everybody was elected at large, you know, city wide. I lived on, Betty and I lived over by Orwin Manor area and so I represented the district, that quarter, but the voters were all over and we campaigned all over. But we had a few issues back then. If you remember that period, the expressway opened in that period, 1973. Biggest project that ever happened here. You know way even bigger than I-4. Had gone right through town. It had taken 1200 homes, 29 churches, and 6 schools, something like that. That happened in 1973. It impacted, like I-4 did in the sixties, all of our neighborhood in a dramatic way. It probably didn’t have as much impact on College Park as I-4 did. But that was a very big deal…
Charlie Stuart – Part III LISTEN (16:27)
I’m Charlie Stuart, I’m the third born of six. I have the privilege to be here with you tonight. The stories about College Park, we grew up here, so there’s too many to annunciate all of them. The ones the stick in my mind are a couple…
Edgewater High School 1967-68
I played football at Edgewater High School in junior year 1968. ’67 was the season Edgewater High School had for the first time that year African American players on our team. It was right after the current definition of integration. Back then it was zoned Edgewater and Jones in overlapping zones so parents could pick Jones or Edgewater to go to school. That was just the way they did it… So we had very young athletes that came to play with us. That year also, the State of Florida in its effort to try to bring integration throughout all the areas mandated at the legislative level that black schools, predominately black schools would play predominately white schools as quickly as they could schedule that.
The folks here decided we would have an extra game where Edgewater would play Jones. They put it at the front of the season and played Thursday night. It was the first football game that season in the state of Florida. When we got to the Tangerine Bowl … drove up on the bus early on the place was packed two hours before the game… I had the privilege of being the offensive center, a junior at Edgewater, which was a big deal back then, someone screwed up and let me start. So I snapped the first football in the first game in the State of Florida between a predominately black team and a predominately white team, just cause I was there….
Mr. George Stuart, Chairman of the Urban Renewal Committee
Daddy was the first what was called Chairman of the Urban Renewal Committee in Central Florida back in ’62 and ’63. The Kennedy Administration wanted to have housing for the low income, that in the South became known as housing for African Americans because that was where the low income really was in the urban setting. We know this because in ’63 was when our phone number changed at home. Because they had to change it because of the death threats mommy and daddy got for daddy being chairman of the committee trying to bring low income housing to people here in Central Florida.
Sheriff Dave Starr
We know this because there was a guy who was sheriff then named Dave Starr. The perfect name for the sheriff of all time was Dave Starr. Drove a Ford Fairlane, one of those old ones and the star detail painted on the side door was as big as the door. He had a 10 gallon white hat and he carried an unloaded 45 chrome plated pistol. He was all sheriff. Now Dave was probably not setting the standard for liberal outlook in race relations. That’s okay. This was the era. But for the week after we had our phone number changed Dave figured out a way to get to 1814 Gerda Terrace, park his Fairlane out front, hop out, walk in at dusk and have a cigarette and a pie with mom. Making sure that anybody that had any other thoughts knew, do what you want, but the sheriff has pie here….
Race Relations in Central Florida
So one of the reasons Central Florida has enjoyed through the sixties and the seventies as little disruption in relationships over race was folks like you all and Father Nelson Pinder and Reverend W. E. Judge and daddy and mommy and many others who all just decided talking was better than fighting. And let’s figure out a way we all can agree on what we agree on and move forward. That’s one of the biggest lessons we got from mommy and daddy….
A Journey Home
Now what’s amazing and the blessing was when mama got sick and she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure… the six of us got in a room at the hospital the day we heard mama’s diagnosis and decided she wouldn’t need full time care and she would not live anywhere but her house. And since there’s 24 hours in a day we could figure out a way to get someone there during the day, Monday through Friday, and we would pick a day and show up at 5:00 in the afternoon, 5 pm – 8 am. And we had some rules. Only blood. You really couldn’t farm this out to your wives. And we showed up. Now never did we think, oh darn, we had to do that. It’s a gift beyond compare to have spent that time with mama and get to know her… Out of that came an opportunity for us to gather together, we got a memoir of mama. We hired a College Park resident, Rebecca Laurie Harrison, she came down and years later we’re able to publish a book called A Journey Home ….
Robert Stuart – Part IV LISTEN (6:57)
I can remember one time mom saying, “I want you to preach my funeral”. I said, “Are you nuts?” And she said, “Why?” I said, “Did you want to preach your mother’s funeral?” She said, “Well, no.” I said, “Well, why in the world did you think I’d want to preach yours?” She said, “Well, I’ll get so and so to do it.” I said, “If so and so does it we’re not coming.” I said, “Look we got plenty of people that know you, we’ll be fine”… But a gift we were given,and I tell this often if you can give this to your children, I’m telling you they will never forget it. Each of us were given 3 1/2 months with our mother just by ourselves. And so we were given that one day a week for 22 months and it was a gift that I promise you is something that we’ve never forgotten….
College Park Oral History Night with The Stuart Family - Roy Brand
College Park Oral History Night with the Stuart Family, Part II
College Park Oral History Night with The Stuart Family, Part III