Dutch-American Edward Bok Brought Beauty to Florida

I can’t say enough good things about Bok Tower in Lake Wales, which is one of the prettiest places in Florida.

And I've just learned that Edward Bok, the man who created Bok Tower to make the world a little more beautiful, has received a most special tribute.

To mark ‘Dutch-American Heritage Day,’ he was recognized with the “First Salute” award by Patrick Willemsen, Honorary Consul of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It’s an honor recognizing a Dutch-American individual or family who has made a positive difference in the Central Florida community.

Bok  (1863-1930) certainly did his part by creating such lasting beauty here.

Bok wanted to create a place where Americans could go to forget about their crazy lives and relax with the natural beauty of Florida," said Bok Tower Gardens president David Price, as he accepted the honor on behalf of the Bok famiy. "This award is a huge honor, and I think he’d be proud to see how his contribution of a public garden has affected the lives of the people who visit here.”

America as a melting pot has made the nation what it is, and naturalized Americans like Edward Bok made the nation inarguably better.

(See an earlier blog by clicking HERE).

 

If You Go
Bok Tower Gardens
1151 Tower Boulevard
Lake Wales
(863) 676-1408
www.boktowergardens.org

Continue reading Dutch-American Edward Bok Brought Beauty to Florida »

Dutch-American Edward Bok (1863-1930) Brought Beauty to America

I can’t say enough good things about Bok Tower in Lake Wales, which is one of the prettiest places in Florida (see an earlier blog by clicking HERE).

Anyway, I just learned that Edward Bok, the man who created Bok Tower to make the world a little more beautiful, just received a most special tribute.

To mark ‘Dutch-American Heritage Day’, he was recognized with the “First Salute” award by Patrick Willemsen, Honorary Consul of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It’s an honor recognizing a Dutch-American individual or family who has made a positive difference in the Central Florida community.

And Bok did his part by creating an object of lasting beauty.

When David Price, president of Bok Tower Gardens, accepted the honor on behalf of the Bok family he said “Bok wanted to create a place where Americans could go to forget about their crazy lives and relax with the natural beauty of Florida. This award is a huge honor, and I think he’d be proud to see how his contribution of a public garden has affected the lives of the people who visit here.”

America as a melting pot has made the nation what it is, and naturalized Americans like Edward Bok made the nation inarguably better.

If You Go

Bok Tower Gardens
1151 Tower Boulevard
Lake Wales
(863) 676-1408

www.boktowergardens.org

Continue reading Dutch-American Edward Bok (1863-1930) Brought Beauty to America »

Photo: Oak Ridge Cemetery, Arcadia

Twenty-three Royal Air Force cadets are buried at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Arcadia. They died during their training at Clewiston’s British Flying Training School during World War II.

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Photo: Clewiston Museum

Among the RAF artifacts at the Clewiston Museum is a 1942 letter mailed from England from pilot Jack Taffs to a family in Moore Haven.

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Photo: Clewiston Museum

The Clewiston Museum contains artifacts, photos, correspondence and publications from the British Flying Training School at Riddle Field.

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During World War II, British Pilots Earned Their Wings at Clewiston Airfield

Clewiston – During World War II, in an unlikely clearing between the Everglades and fields of sugar cane, two allies came together in a mutual struggle to defend the free world.  

It was 1941. Winston Churchill appealed to the United States to provide war materials and pilot training for defense against a superior German air power which was pummeling England. Cadets were unable to train there because of horrible weather conditions and "the Nazis had a nasty habit of shooting down anything that flew."

President Roosevelt executed the Lend Lease Act and six British Flying Training Schools – in California, Arizona, Oklahoma, Texas and the #5 BFTS, at Riddle Field near Clewiston.

Near the southwestern shore of Lake Okeechobee, basic training began with British cadets receiving extensive training in formation flying, acrobatic maneuvers, armaments and instrument navigation.

The British cadets were warmly received by the locals and, as flight instructor Reed Clary recalls, "They were royally treated and, to the cadets, this was heaven in itself." Between September 1941 and September 1945, 2,000 Royal Air Force and more than 100 American cadets were trained and graduated as pilots.  

Some British fliers never returned to Europe to fight the war: 23 cadets killed during training lie in the British plot in Arcadia's Oak Ridge Cemetery. They are remembered each year by the people of that city. After the war, present-day Airglades Airport was built over the runways of Riddle Field.

Little remains of the old hangars that housed the World War II planes, but a small museum contains artifacts, photos, correspondence and publications regarding those desperate days. Learn more at clewistonmuseum.org.

Beyond the museum, Clewiston has much to feed your sense of adventure.

At Billie Swamp Safari on the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation, the airboat and swamp buggy tours expose visitors to wild Florida and alligator, bison and ostrich.

Billie's Swamp Water Cafe serves alligator tail nuggets and frog legs or, for the faint of heart, more traditional fare.

Continue reading During World War II, British Pilots Earned Their Wings at Clewiston Airfield »

Shark Valley Tram Tour: Into the Heart of the Everglades, With a Breeze

Hop aboard the Shark Valley Tram, and you get a two-hour tour along a 15-mile loop, led by an informative naturalist. You'll feel you're deep in the wilds of the Everglades, but riding in comfort with the breeze in your face.

The open-air vehicles offer great wildlife photography opportunities, pausing and even backing up to make sure you get up-close views of basking alligators from the safety of the tram.

It's amazing to see how quickly, despite its log-like appearance (an Everglades speed bump, our guide joked) a wild gator can transform into an eight-foot leaping lizard, powerfully launching itself (thankfully, away from our tram) in the blink of an eye.
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Our naturalist offered insightful knowledge about early settlers and human interaction with the land while pointing out birds and other wildlife. He even entertained with Everglades love stories, playing the roles of gossiping gator gals and big-hearted anhinga hubbies to explain mating and relationship rituals taking place like a sawgrass soap opera.

At the midway point, exit the tram and meander up the massive spiral walkway of the Shark Valley tower for a bird's-eye view 45 feet above the wild expanse of the sawgrass prairie.

The naturalist identified wild edibles such as cocoa plum, as well as hazards like the Manchinel tree, whose rain-soaked leaves can actually burn your skin with dripping toxin.

After descending from the high altitude (by Florida standards), walk the canopy-covered trail near the tower, and peer through shady trees for the resident gator. With no tram at the moment to whisk you away, you'll need to use your feet and common sense to maintain a safe distance.

Jump back on the tram and enjoy more miles of scenery before returning to your starting point.

For the more adventurous, bring your bike or rent one upon arrival and explore at your own pace.

Either way, keep your eyes open for surprises; one of our fellow tour participants spotted a python (an invasive species becoming a major problem in South Florida), which sent our guides springing from the vehicle in pursuit. The snake slipped away.

If You Go

What: Shark Valley Tram Tour
Where: Everglades National Park
Cost: Entrance to the national park is $10 per private vehicle. Tour rates are $20 for adults, $19 for seniors, $12.75 for children 3 to 12.
Hours: Departure times May through late December are 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. From Dec. 16 through April 2013, departures are at 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 12 p.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. Visitation is highest from Dec. 26 through April 30, and reservations are recommended during this time period.
Call: Shark Valley Visitor Center at 305-221-8776; tram ticket reservations, 305-221-8455
Web: Visit Shark Valley Tram Tours at sharkvalleytramtours.com. The Visitors Center website is nps.gov/ever/planyourvisit/svdirections.htm.

Continue reading Shark Valley Tram Tour: Into the Heart of the Everglades, With a Breeze »

Photo: Shark Valley Tram Tour, Everglades National Park

The Shark Valley Tram takes you on a breezy, two-hour tour through Everglades National Park, narrated by a knowledgeable naturalist.

Continue reading Photo: Shark Valley Tram Tour, Everglades National Park »

Photo: RAF cadets training in Clewiston, World War II

RAF cadets with Mrs. Ira Nesmith, of Palm Beach, who used to entertain the troops and trainees from Clewiston’s British Flying Training School on the weekends.

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Photo: Former site of Riddle Field near Clewiston

The Union Jack flies between the U.S. and Florida state flags at the site of Riddle Field near Clewiston where Royal Air Force cadets trained in World War II.

Continue reading Photo: Former site of Riddle Field near Clewiston »