Friday, March 20, 2015

Food, music a winning combo

copy of vintage newspaper photo of St. Peter Church from 1906
This view of St. Peter Church in DeLand is from a 1906 issue
of the Florida Agriculturist newspaper. Credit: Chronicling America
Let me start by noting my delight at the discovery of the accompanying photo of St. Peter Catholic Church in DeLand in the Jan. 17, 1906 issue of the Florida Agriculturist newspaper. The newspaper was based in DeLand, and the photo was in an edition that included a feature on local churches.

My enthusiasm stems from the fact that I've had a tough time finding vintage photos of the original house of worship on the site, even in the church archives. A much larger Spanish-Mission-style structure now stands on the spot. So I am glad to show this image here, courtesy of the Library of Congress' wonderful website named Chronicling America.

I had been digging through early newspapers of DeLand to see how local Catholic news was covered by the media in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Not much turned up in  my admittedly small sampling. But I did find two gems, one of which even included a follow-up notice. Both items convey, across decades, a sense of the camaraderie and fellowship that must have existed among parishioners. And both illustrate how back in the day, as now, food and music proved a winning combination.

The first article was from the March 19, 1909 issue of the DeLand News. March is one of the most beautifull months in Central Florida, weatherwise, and the church choir took advantage by gathering for what was labeled "a most delightful outing." The report of the excursion merited Page 1 placement. Sixteen choir members chartered a Clarence Van Horne's boat named Duro, and went from Lake Beresford to Sanford and back again. "Brownies and kodaks were much in evidence." I wish some of those photos from the day still existed. The group stopped for a picnic lunch and, as might be expected, sang: "Being a choir picnic, it goes without saying there was music galore."

Several months later, the ladies of the church's Altar Society organized a supper and musical as a fundraiser The brief article in the Dec. 3, 1909 edition of the DeLand News was also featured on Page 1, and declared that the upcoming event was to be "high class in every respect." The night out was to take place in the new store building of G.A. Dreka, who was one of the parish's founding members and a leading businessman. The event was under the leadership of the Altar Society's "energetic president," Mrs. Will Allen. Would that we also knew her given and maiden names.

The supper and musical was a "decided success" that raised about $125. That's about $3,300 in today's dollars. Not bad at all for a small parish in a small town.

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