Visit any town and more than likely you’ll come across a street, building or park with an unusual name. For instance, if you’re driving along the east side of Lake Elbert you might notice “Funnyting Road” and wonder, what?! The late Sarah Hays shared that when her son John was a toddler and they lived adjacent to a grove service road, John inquired, “What’s that “funny ting” pointing to a large piece of agricultural equipment. Yes, that’s how “Funny ting Road” was named. Angling into downtown you’ll find “Pope Avenue.” It has nothing to do with the Catholic leader, it was originally “Grand” avenue but renamed for Cypress Garden’s found Dick Pope in a 1950s tribute.
The Ritz Theatre was originally the Williamson. New owners in 1932 had both started their careers in a theatre named “Ritz.” So they changed the name. (Many theaters of that era had short names like “Ritz” or “Roxy” or “Polk” because it required less neon.) An earlier theatre on Fourth Street NW was called the “Grand.” It sat at the terminus of “Grand Avenue= at Central Park.
Where did George Jenkins get the name “Publix.” He took it from a chain of movie theatres, in fact, the Polk Theatre in Lakeland was a part of the “Publix Theatre” chain.
If you happen to be driving in the City Hall parking lot approaching Third Street, NW, you may have noticed a little drive named “Dan’s Alley”lets you navigate into the City Hall Annex lot without pulling out onto Third Street. The idea for that little cut through came from then City Commissioner Dan Abernathy.
And what about Nora Mayo Hall. The large auditorium inside the Florida Citrus Building (soon to be City Hall) was named for the wife of long-time Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, Nathan Mayo. Mayo was instrumental in getting state funding for the building.
Garner Elementary School was named for the late Fred Garner, a prominent dentist of his day. The “Jewett” schools in Florence Villa honor Mary B. Jewett, M.D. who championed educational facilities for the children of that community. Denison Middle School was named for the family that donated the land where Denison Field exists today. The Denison site was once Winter Haven High School. When WHHS moved to its current location the decision was made to rename the school.
Florence Villa was named by Frederick Inman for his wife. Winter Haven, named by P. D. and Anna Eycleshimer was named, somewhat obviously, for its pleasant winter climate.
Now you know a bit more about “what’s in a name."
The Museum of Winter Haven History is now open Saturdays 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