Thursday, October 22, 2009

Daddy! Just a Blip...

A few months ago, my Daddy showed me an article in a local magazine written about him. I was almost afraid to read it!

You see, my Dad is an avid political activist in Levy County and has been written about in several of the local newspapers and it is not always kind --or truthful! I was pleasantly surprised to read Ms. Rarick's article about the simple pleasures of living in a rural area.

Bronson has become a "suburb" of Gainesville. Soooo many new folks! (Most of them Yankees. LOL!) Most of the residents who lived there while I was growing up have moved or passed away. I have no idea of the actual statistics, but I would venture to guess that a huge majority of Bronson folks work in Gainesville and come to Bronson to sleep.

So many things have changed...but a few things stay the my sweet Daddy.

I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Ms. Rarick a few weeks ago.  She has kindly given me permission to reprint her article for you here.  It will give you just a "blip" of a look into my dad's life.  Hope you enjoy it!

Out with the Cows
Talking with Charles W. Gilbert

By Elli Rarick

The rain held off just long enough for Charles W. Gilbert, known to many in Levy County simply as CW, to take me on a driving tour and picturesque journey of the area in and around Bronson where he has spent most of his 70 plus years.

Today, and since 1981, he and his wife Bobbie live on Oak Street. In the middle of the street just in front of the (new) house, built in 1993, is the stake that marks the center of the four-square-mile town of Bronson.

He still owns one 10 acre and one 30 acre parcel, part of the original farm, where he and his youngest son Beau run some cows and have hay to sell. Gilbert has one watermelon wagon left and uses it to take children on rides where they can throw pellets to the cows and travel into and through the "jungle" he has created on the 30 acre parcel off SR24.

Gilbert's paternal grandfather, Charles W. Gilbert, moved his family from Georgia to Newberry where his father was born in 1917. In 1924 the family moved to a house on Lake Street and south CR337 in Bronson.

His parents, Carroll W. and Mary Frances Gilbert, purchased 320 acres one mile out of town on CR337 off SR24. The original two-room house was located at what is now 9251 CR337. It was later replaced by a four room house in either 1944 or 1945 as the family grew from three to six children.

Gilbert said, "It was like a mansion to us! The boys had a bedroom and the girls had one too. It even had porches." In 1950 he recalls a storm taking the front porch off that house.

With an axe he helped to clear the land for planting that is now, in part, where the new Bronson High School sits. They planted watermelons mostly, and some corn. They had nine wagons to haul watermelons in and during the harvest would load as many as seven semi trailers a day.

Prior to 1947 there was a "no fence" law that allowed cows and hogs to run free. It was not an uncommon site to see cows and hogs wandering around town and even sleeping in parking lots. The Gilbert farm raised mostly hogs and some cows.

Gilbert remembered, "My job was to ride the horse out to wherever Daddy said. He would go to town and have coffee and find out what was going on and then come out to where I was to do the day's work."

During his later elementary school years, he told me, "My job on Thursday afternoon at 4 PM was to go and read the Bible to Mrs. Epperson."

He learned to drive in a 1939 Ford pick-up. His father served for 12 years as a county commissioner during the early 1950's and 1960's. Gilbert's mother was a school teacher in Bronson and later the principal at Otter Creek.

In 1955 Gilbert graduated from Bronson High School and in December of the same year traveled to Washington, D.C. to accept a training position in fingerprinting with the FBI. He remained there until 1958, teaching others the skill of the fingerprint identification process. It was there he met his first wife Betty. They had four children before she went home to be with the Lord, after they returned to Bronson.

Gilbert spent nearly 13 years in Tallahassee working for the FBI during which he earned a degree in Pre-Law in 1972. He worked over 3,000 cases and testified as an expert witness in fingerprint identification in over 100 cases.

When he returned to Bronson in 1972 he acquired his state general contractor's license to operate Aztec Industries in building houses. They also provided semi-loads of oak wood to barbeque restaurants in Florida and Georgia. The building (later Lee's Grocery on SR24) also housed a small engine repair shop.

He is employed by News America Marketing, a Rupert Murdock company, where he visits such area stores as CVS, Walgreen's, Dollar General, Hitchcock's and Winn Dixie monthly. He stated, "I do the stores because of the people I am apt to run into from the past."

On August 22nd Gilbert was among a group of past presidents (1969) of the Florida Division of the International Association for Identification being honored in Tampa for 50 years of service. He was part of the first organizational meeting in October 1959.

He and Bobbie, married 30 years, have a blended family made up of his three sons and one daughter; her daughter; their son and daughter and a total of 14 grandchildren.

In closing, Gilbert said, "I love being out with the cows."

Reprinted with permission from the author and 
In The Field, Marion's Agriculture Magazine
September Issue, Volume 2, Issue 9

Stay tuned!

14 Click here to Comment!:

Chel's Leaving a Legacy said...

Awww, what a neat heritage!

I love the fact that the author said, "...she went home to be with the Lord...." You don't see that in a newspaper much!

I also love that he had the exact job at 4 pm on Thursdays to read the Bible to an elderly lady. Awesome.

Great history. Great daddy.

Sandra said...

How sweet! You dad is truly a jack of all trades and a master of ALL. You have a rich heritage and you should be proud.

Anonymous said...

Oh what a neat thing Ms. Mary...I know you are sooooooooo proud of your sweet and very interesting Dad.


Laura said...


Kahlua Keeping Koala said...

I knew you came from good stock.

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