During World War II many members of the armed forces received their training at various locations throughout Florida. In Central Florida, you found such facilities as Bartow Air Base, Orlando Naval Training Center and MacDill Air Force Base. Tourism entrepreneurs such as Dick Pope at Cypress Gardens quickly learned that inviting the military as guests was good for business.

Following the conclusion of WWII, service personnel who had trained in Florida brought their families back for vacations in the "Sunshine State." And they came in droves.

As a result of this motoring public, motels both big and small sprang up everywhere and especially along major thoroughfares. Highways such as US 441, US 92, US 17, US 1 and US 41 were nicknamed Orange Blossom Trail, Tamiami Trail and Dixie Highway for advertising and promotional purposes. They all had one thing in common ... lots of motels and motor courts. They all had their neon and they weren't afraid to use it.

Winter Haven, serving as the home to Cypress Gardens, boasted its share of the roadside stops. Names like The Cypress Motel, The Rose, The Camellia, The Garden Court, and Lake Ida Resort still remain. Others such as the Kangaroo Court, The Shamrock, The Thunderbird, the Landmark Motor Lodge, 100 Lakes Motel and the Orange Acres are long gone ... replaced by larger facilities and the changing tastes of the traveling public.

Some would say it was a simpler time, before interstate highways, Disney World, Universal, and other such current household names. Today we welcome the LEGOLAND Hotel and their nearby Beach Resort as well as familiar names such s Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn and the soon-to-open Marriott Courtyard.

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 bobgernert@gmail.com

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