On Wednesday, August 15, 2018, Orlando Remembered,Inc.,met at the Orange County Regional History Center, 65 E. Central Blvd., Orlando FL. Meeting was called to order at 9:00 a.m., followed by the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America. Attending were:Claude Wolfe, President; Vic Ratliff, Vice President, Shirley Cannon, Acting Secretary; Joe Baker; Don Batchelor; Heather Bonds; Austin Caruso, Jr.; Ron Jaffe; Charlie Gray; Leon Handley; Jim Hardman; Rodney Kincaid; Bill Leach; Mark Line; Gail Padgett
- GUEST SPEAKER: Austin Caruso, Jr., Grandson of Phillip Caruso and son of Austin A. Caruso, provided a very interesting history about Southern Fruit and his illustrious family. Austin Caruso came to Florida in 1926/27. The family hails from Sicily, where they had a long involvement with fruits and vegetables. They started in Schenectady, NY, and he showed a photograph of a business they had there named Caruso/Battaglia. He also showed photos of a grove and one of the first packing houses and canning plants in Winter Garden. Austin was one of 17 cousins and they all attended St. James School. The students walked to church for Friday mass and on the way home the 17 Carusos stopped at Grandmother’s house who was a lovely lady who raised a fine garden and had chickens. His father, Austin Caruso Sr., served in WWII, but like so many other veterans of that war, he rarely talked about his experiences overseas. When he returned he took over Southern Fruit and built the Bluebird label. This label was printed in different languages for their orange crates which were shipped all over the world. Today the family is primarily in the real estate business and manages over vast acreage of property. Austin and Phillip Caruso both had lots of energy and always strove to expand their business. Austin Sr. bought 2,000 Acres south of town so they could raise their own cattle – and that is today Lake Nona. The Austin brothers did every kind of work associate with the citrus business. His first “real” job was supervising 150 women who cut up grapefruit for canning. Like his father and grandfather, as he advanced in the business he believed in visiting the plant every day to talk with the workers to understand how the business was doing. Phillip Caruso did not believe in doing anything small – and wanted to keep his employees working year round so he bought acreage north of Griffin GA and started the town of Caruso where he raised peachers. He also raised potatoes in Maine. The Carusos partnered with Charles Jenkins to build a Publix on Michigan and it was first known as “Marie’s Publix.” Unlike many other family businesses, theirs has always been handled in a professional and congenial way and they are presently taking a new generation into the business. Several of the men in the audience, Jim Hardman, Bill Leach, Charlie Gray, and Claude Wolfe, were Austin’s neighbors growing up and they enjoyed exchanging stories about the old days.
- MINUTES: The July 18th minutes were approved as written.
- TREASURER’S REPORT: Claude reported$28,724.37 as of 7/31/18.
- NEW BUSINESS: Mark Line, Exhibits Coordinator, said there will be a report at the next meeting.
- ON GOING ACTIVITIES: Shirley Cannon announced that the Pine Castle Historical Society is collecting Boy Scout and Cub Scout memorabilia for an exhibit they will mount at the Pine Castle Woman’s Club. Several members said they had things to share.
- ANNOUNCEMENTS/GOOD OF THE ORDER: It was announced that we need to keep Gracie Chewning, Texann Ivy Buck and Claude Wolfe in our prayers.
- ADJOURNMENT: There being no further business, meeting was adjourned at 10:00 am. Next regular meeting is Wednesday, September 19, 9:00 a.m., at the Orange County Regional History Center.
Shirley Cannon, Acting Secretary
Orlando Remembered, Inc., Loves “The City Beautiful!”