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August 2023

Matchbooks from Central Florida's Past

Matchbooks were once a standard item at restaurants as, after all, you could smoke while you had a meal! While I never smoked, I did enjoy collecting matchbooks when I traveled. Only problem was that I didn't collect many when I was home in Orlando. Here are a few of the ones I did collect in Orlando, Kissimmee and Maitland, plus a few from the Walt Disney World Resort.

Central Florida Matchbooks. Personal Collection
Central Florida Matchbook Covers. Personal collection.

Looking at these, there are only three matchbooks from stand-alone restaurants; Pebbles, Lee's Lakeside and The Bubble Room. I enjoyed visiting those restaurants as often as I could, which wasn't nearly often enough. If I remember correctly, Lee's Lakeside had previously been a dinner theatre, and sometime when in elementary or middle school, our class went to a matinee performance there. I'm thinking it was 'Cabaret,' or some similar style musical, but I can't be certain some 50 years later.

Cherry Plaza Hotel on the shore of Orlando's Lake Eola. Florida Memory photo.
Cherry Plaza Hotel on the shore of Orlando's Lake Eola. The single story portion closest to Lake Eola is where Lee's Lakeside would be located in later years. Florida Memory photo dated 1958.

On a side note, the building that housed Lee's Lakeside was once the Cherry Plaza Hotel where, on November 16, 1965, Walt and Roy Disney, along with Governor Haydon Burns, officially announced their Florida project, Disney World, to the public. The name was later changed by Roy to Walt Disney World after Walt's death on December 15, 1966.

Central Florida Matchbooks. Personal collection.
Central Florida Matchbooks. Personal collection.

The remainder of the matchbooks were from hotels or Walt Disney World. Limey Jim's was at the Hyatt Orlando at US 192 and I-4 in Kissimmee. Church Street Station was a popular hangout in the 1980's and early 90's. They definitely 'Let the Good Times Roll!'

What I'll call the most unique of the bunch is from Disney's Lake Buena Vista Club. The purple matchbook cover would be custom embossed with the family name holding the reservation. This one is hard to read, but the reservation was made by my uncle, so Lupfer appears on the matchbook. I recall two or three different family matchbook covers over the years, but this is the only one that remains.

It's been some time since I picked up a matchbook at a restaurant, hotel - well anywhere really. While I don't miss the smoke that often filled the rooms, I do miss these unique and free pieces of advertising.


Kissimmee Postcards from the 1940s

The Kissimmee lakefront has provided a gathering place on the shore of Lake Tohopekaliga. I recall my grandfather telling me of days when Seminole Indians would canoe into town and sleep under the canopy of the large oak trees. That same shore saw the nearby South Florida railroad unload travelers on their journey to a resort, or perhaps a new life in Central Florida.

By the 1940's, the lakefront had seen development, including the addition of a seawall, a community house and what has been described as 'the world's most unique monument,' the Monument of States. Kissimmee also opened a zoo, which I remember visiting when I was quite young.

Here are a few linen postcards from my collection that showcase the Kissimmee lakefront.

Kissimmee Lakefront Linen Postcard c1946
Kissimmee Lakefront Linen Postcard, circa 1946. Reverse: Orange News Co., Orlando, FLA.
Kissimmee Municipal Zoo Linen Postcard, circa 1946. Reverse: Orange News Co., Orlando, FLA.
Kissimmee Municipal Zoo Linen Postcard, circa 1946. Reverse: Orange News Co., Orlando, FLA.
Kissimmee Monument of States
Kissimmee Monument of States, circa 1946. Reverse: WORLD'S MOST UNIQUE MONUMENT. Built of 1500 stones. Every State in the U.S.A., 41 governors and 21 foreign countries represented. Base 22 ft. square. Height 50 ft. Weight 600,000 lbs. 2 years to build. Sponsored and bult by the Kissimmee All-States Tourist Club, Inc.

Many postcards, including these provide idealized views of their subjects. The Monument of States, for example, is not as close to the waterfront as the image implies, nor is the view as clear (the Community Center was behind the monument from this view. The tropical feel of these cards would certainly please the recipients and, perhaps, entice them to make the trip to Florida to find paradise themselves.

Living just three blocks from the Monument of States, I visited - and climbed - it too many times to count. The lakefront and all of downtown Kissimmee was my playground in the 1970's. I enjoyed it and would gladly repeat those old days and appreciate the people and life in a small town much more than I did.

Did you grow up in 'old' Kissimmee or a small town? Have fond memories to share? Your comments and stories are welcomed.