Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Orlando Characters

Stories About Some of Orlando's Colorful Citizens

related by Dale Barnett to Steve Barnett
to the left, Dale Barnett in the 1940s.

Every person in the area had an individual trade or job. And they all had their idiosyncrasies.

Burt and John Blake
Burt and John were bachelor brothers who shared a house. John ran the gristmill in Orlando. He also repaired watches and clocks. Burt did all the cooking for the brothers. His occupation was making baskets and bottoming chairs out of oak splits.

He would go into the woods and cut down a sapling oak tree and split it out into strips. He would then roll them up into a coil and take home. Dad said you could often see him walking down the road carrying them on his shoulder. When it was time to use the splits he would soak them in water until them became pliable enough to use. I have one of his baskets and dad has one with the original price still on it in pencil. Amazingly neither brother could read or write.

Clockworks are generic, from the internet. Basket was made by Burt Blake, sold by Charlie Knight and now owned by Helen Jeffries.

See the Jan '07 entry Burt Blake – The Basket Man

Comment from David Parmer: Although a lot of people assumed they were brothers, they were in fact cousins, according to my sources.

Rosie Blake
Rosie lived up Clover Fork in one of the hollows that went back into the hills. She could not read or write. Her cash crop was a flock of turkeys. She would usually have over one hundred turkeys to sell each fall that she had raised. Each morning, she would take the turkeys out into the woods to feed. Her hens had been trained so that they would mind her when she told them to do something. Rosie would turn over rocks, split open rotten logs etc. to help her birds find bugs and worms to eat.

She had a granddaughter who lived with her, who Rosie refused to send her to school. Her quote was “I got along without learnin. My daughter got along without learnin. She don’t need no learnin either”. She finally relented when they threatened to take her away from Rosie for not going to school. Her teacher at school was Virginia Skinner, who dad knew. She told dad she was the smartest girl in the school. Turkey photo is generic but the birds are the breed Rosie most likely raised, American Bronze. See the March '07 entry Fowl Business in Orlando

Eli Riffle & Charlie Blake
Eli was the town blacksmith. [Eli b. 1875 s/o Jacob Isaac and Matilda Riffle] Charlie was the wheelwright. [Charlie b. 1850, s/o William L. & Rebecca Jane Blake] Eli & Charley were brothers-in-law, Eli married to Esta Blake, Charlie’s sister. Everyone brought their wagons to Charlie to repair. He would either make or repair wooden wagon wheels. He also made chairs.

They went into business together and set up a small gristmill. They bought a set of used burrs and baby Overland auto to use for power. I assume they use the rear axle for the power to turn the wheel. Eli told Charlie “We are rich!” Charlie said, “No we are just well to do” They could not read or write. Chair was made by Charlie Blake. See the Jan '07 Charlie Blake, Master Woodworker. A used grindstone, generic, from the internet.

WG Blake and Joe Blake
They were brothers whose elevator did not go all the way to the top, in fact it probably did not get far out of the basement. They were always being conned into doing something that would get them in to trouble.

Comment from David Parmer: W. G. Blake helped out some on the Lee Blake's saw mill operation, although W. G. was not that much help because of his mental limitations. W. G. Blake also helped Bee Heater at times in his well drilling business. W. G. ended his days at Weston State Hospital where reportedly he proudly served as “Captain of Dishwashing.”

Bud Blake
He would go to all of the local wakes to eat. (See wakes under local history). At one wake some of the women fixed him a sandwich of bologna rinds. In those days bologna came in a large tube like a pepperoni stick. You would slice off the meat and peal off the rind before eating. Bud chewed the sandwich forever. When he was done someone asked him how he like the sandwich. He said “it was the toughest he ever ate”.

To the right, a slice of raisin pie, also know as "funeral pie" Bud Blake would have been served a lot of these at Orlando funerals. See the Sept '06 entry Funeral Pie

Clarence Scarf
He was injured working for the railroad and received a cash injury settlement. Dad said he thought it was around $10,000 which would be a large amount of money at the time. He then had every tooth in his mouth capped in gold. He occasionally substituted at the post office and did some carpentry work. He used the settlement money to build a garage along banks of Oil Creek just west of the bridge. The garage had 4 stalls and was used to repair Model T’s. I remember the building as a kid before it was torn down sometime in the 60’s. He soon ran out of money and lost the business.

To the right is a generic photo of a Model T from the internet.

Comment from David Parmer: According to Uncle Zeke the settlement received by Mr. Scarff was $13,100. The settlement was taken in 1926. That same year Scarff built his garage, bought a new Dodge, built a new addition on to his house, and bought a new radio.

Bill Conrad
He built store that was later owned by Deck Brown and then his son Ford. He lived there with his sister Hallie who was never married. Bought any thing he could in bulk such as one hundred pound sacks of flower, beans and salt. He would then pre way into one or five pound bags. The bags were alleged to always be lighter than they were supposed to be. He had a radio he listened to. During WWII, he heard the pope had died on a news broadcast. He heard this and said “there will be hell to pay now. They done bumbed the poke” (bombed the pope).

Vintage Ramone's Pink Pills thermometer. It's the image that speaks most graphicaly to me of the store, but I only remember the store from W.D. Brown's day. Anyone have a better image for Bill Conrad's store? See the March '07 entry J. W. “Bill” Conrad

Lee Blake
He hand cut railroad ties in the days when the railroad would still buy them. Today, they require crossties to be machine cut before they will buy them. He would go into the woods and cut down a tree. He would then shape the trunk into the dimensions of a railroad tie and haul them out of the woods to sell. Dad said it was the only thing he did for a living that he knew of.

To the right, a stack of railroad ties, generic, from the internet.

For more on Lee Blake, see the Mar '07 entry, Lee Blake – Orlando Lumberman & Genealogist

Claude Mick, Alva Barnett, Press Brag
Claude Mick was the Postmaster. Alva Barnett (my great uncle) and Press Bragg delivered the mail on the 2 rural routes. They used a car in the summer when the roads were passable and horses the rest of the time. My grandfather Bill Barnett also delivered the mail at one time. Generic RFD mailbox. . . . . For a great photo & more, see the Feb '07 entry Orlando Mail Delivery In The Early 1900s

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