In the spring of 1976, Oscar and Jane Marable had just published the second issue of a small, tourism-focused magazine they named “Here Abouts.”
It compiled visitor information about current events throughout the county. Scanning its 22 pages presents a clear picture of just how much things have changed in the past 43 years.
The fact that 1976 was all things Bicentennial found The Museum Old Dolls and Toys (on U.S. 17, where Spring Lake Rehab is today) featuring a display of “Fifty years of First Lady Fashions” with dolls dressed in authentic inaugural gowns of America’s FLOTUS.
Half-price admission was $1 for adults and 50 cents for children. Other local businesses of the day included the Sundial Shop, Sara Buri Imports, Crazy Horse Gifts and Antiques, Shattuck’s Men’s Wear in Bell’s Alley, the Park Restaurant and Juhler’s Cottage Shop. One venerable survivor is The Little Studio.
If rock and roll was your passion, you could see the Doobie Brothers at the Lakeland Civic Center for $6 in advance and $6.50 at the door! Tickets to Holiday on Ice were $4-6 and you could see William F. Buckley for a mere $3.50.
The Winter Haven Community Theatre was in its sixth season under the direction of Norman Small. “The Glass Menagerie” was on tap for May “in the air conditioned Civic Center Auditorium on Lake Silver” (now the Senior Center). Tickets were $3 for adults and $2 for students.
Winter Haven’s population stood at 19,500 (it is now 40,000). The city hosted Boston Red Sox Spring Training at the Chain of Lakes Stadium.
Cypress Gardens was in full bloom, having recently opened Gardens of the World featuring themed areas including an All-American Rose Garden, an Italian Water Garden, Mediterranean Quarry Waterfall and a fifty foot Dutch Windmill. And yes, there were thrilling ski shows at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
And while the Gardens evolved into LEGOLAND Florida, the waterfall remains a popular photo spot creating new memories for new generations. Winter visitors had a number of Polk touring options including Bok Singing Tower, Circus World, Dolls of Dundee, Florida Citrus Showcase, Masterpiece Gardens, The Museum of Old Dolls and Toys, Slocum Water Gardens, Spook Hill, USA of Yesterday and the Black Hills Passion Play.
Of these only Bok Tower and Spook Hill remain today.
In some ways 1976 seems recent — but when was the last time you paid $6 for a rock concert!?
This column is based on information contained in the “Hear Abouts” magazine from the spring of 1976. And for you “wordsmiths,” auto-correct does not like the word “abouts.”
The Museum of Winter Haven History will be open Saturday from 9 a.m. to Noon. Group tours are available for four or more people by appointment. The museum, located at 660 Pope Avenue and Lake Howard Drive, is free and open to the public. Come explore. For further information contact Bob Gernert, 863-206-6855 or firstname.lastname@example.org.