Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Chilly reminder of 1894-1895 freeze

Four photos of Florida citrus groves after the 1894-1895 freeze
This montage of scenes from the 1894-1895 freeze is from a
NOAA-Preserve America Initiative fact sheet. Cold
temperatures and ice, not snow, caused the damage.

The same weekend Jonas blew through the Northeast, we dropped below freezing for the first time this winter. My weather app reported 30 degrees at about 8 a.m. Jan. 24, 2016. No snow, but for Floridians, a crisis of cold. We never got out of the 40s that day.

The cold snap was too short to do damage. But when I ventured outdoors - briefly - into a frosty 32 degrees the weather app said felt like 26,  I was reminded of the catastrophic and legendary 1894-1895 freeze. 

I scurried back into the warmth of central heating. There was no such thing back in the day. Cold outdoors equalled cold indoors, offset by inefficient fireplaces or wood-burning stoves whose warmth rarely reached bedrooms. 

The Big Freeze was what a Florida Citrus Mutual timeline calls an "impact freeze" because its severity caused serious economic damage and also rearranged the state's citrus industry. A Dec. 29-30, 1894 freeze was followed by unusual warmth, and then another hard freeze Feb. 7-9, 1895. 

1895 photo of people standing in frozen orange grove with fruit on the ground
Rollins College photo of 1894-1895 freeze damage. 
Vintage photos of the aftermath are in the archives of cities and organizations scattered across Florida. The Rollins College Archives includes this photo in a blog post titled, "Rollins Reminiscences." All the oranges littering the ground represented lost income. In just one example of what happened statewide, the blog post relates how the freeze wiped out the college's endowment. The post also includes a British tourist's recollections of the orange trees turning black and the fruits turning into "lumps of yellow ice."

In both December and February, temperatures in Jacksonville dropped to 14 and winds blew at up to 35 mph. In Orlando, near where the Rollins photo was taken, temperatures dipped to 18 and 19. Those stats are from an interesting, online U.S. Department of Agriculture 1896 report written soon after the back-to-back disasters. 

The report also states that 3 million boxes of oranges and lemons were destroyed in the 1894 freeze, and the trees themselves were lost a few months later. The paper goes into great horticultural and meteorological detail, and is definitely worth a look if you're interested in that type of historical information. (2021 update: Unfortunately, the report no longer seems to be available online.)

Me, I'll be reading it in the warmth of indoors.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Keeping a Catholic home

Prayer spaces and private devotional areas have long
been common in Catholic homes. (Photo credit: Gerri Bauer) 
What did it mean to keep a Catholic home in the Florida of a century ago? 

A clue is found in a 1921 edition of The Bulletin of the Catholic Laymen's Association of Georgia. Florida didn't have a comparable publication at the time, and the Georgia organization's literature reached readers across the state line.

Then, as now, prayer corners and private devotional areas were often a part of home decor. The brief article titled "Your Home" in The Bulletin's January 1921 issue recommends setting aside at least a corner, if not an entire room "for God."

The instructional piece is worth quoting in its entirety. Recommendations are fitting, if occasionally quaint in their optimism. The idea of being able to "rigorously exclude" everything that runs counter to the faith's precepts and teachings is near impossible in the 21st century. The world intrudes. 

The 1921 authors didn't mention radio. Television didn't yet exist, much less the Internet, computers, smart phones, apps, live streaming, and social media. Despite that, much in "Your Home" is relevant. For that, I say, Amen. Here's the full article:

The article 'Your Home' appeared in a
 1921 issue of The Bulletin,
a Georgia-based publication.
Your Home
"Make your home a Sanctuary. In it let no harsh word, no angry, indelicate or profane word, be uttered.

"If not always feasible in the morning, at least every evening, at a fixed hour, let the entire family be assembled for night prayers.

"Let the adornments of your home be chaste and holy pictures, sound and profitable books. No indelicate representation should ever be permitted in a Christian home. No child ought to be subjected to temptation by its own parents and in its own home.

"Let the walls of your home be beautified with suggestions of Our Divine Lord, of His Blessed Mother, and the Saints; with such pictures of the great and good as will be incentives to civic and religious virtue.

"The immoral, vulgar, sensational novel, the indecently illustrated newspaper, and publications tending to weaken faith in religion and Jesus Christ should be rigorously excluded from every home.

"Have in your home, your sitting room, your bedroom, no matter how small or how cheap, a blessed Crucifix.

"Have at the head of your bed, a small vessel containing Holy Water. If you can not set apart a room 'for God,' a least have some corner of a room for him. Let it be your oratory."