Feb 16, 1920
From: William A Gray
To: Ruth (Barrell) Gray
My dearest Ruthy:
My first full day in Ocala is over. It is 9:15 and I am ready to retire.
This was a cold day for Florida, temperature about 50 degrees. Got up about 8 A M
and around ten Mr Massey came around and we started out on our days adventures.
Nothing very exciting.
We first walked around the town calling on bankers and storekeepers that Mr M
knew. We killed time until lunch hour this way and after eating hired a Maxwell car and
drove to Silver Springs. This is one of the sights of Florida. There, you hire a guide who
takes you out in a glass bottomed boat, the water being so clear you can see the bottom at
all points you pass over. There are different holes in the springs, one being 80 to 85 feet
deep and you can see bottom just as clearly as the bottom of your own bath tub. These
holes have different names, such as “Drawing Room,” “Bridal Chamber,” Devil’s Kitchen,”
etc. The more shallow places have a carpet of reeds, or a delicate moss, but the deeper
places have a covering of flaked lime stone which glistens and shows every color of the
rainbow as it is affected by the sun overhead. You could see several varieties of fish
sporting about, one whose name the guide mentioned but which I’ve forgotten, was easily
3 feet long. At the bottom of some of the holes you could see great catfish 3 or 4 feet long,
and bass a plenty.
It was truly a wonderful sight and probably you or the children have read about the
springs in the “Book of Wonders,” or elsewhere.
The springs are about 5 miles from here and I started to drive the car back and had
proceeded about 1/8 of a mile, when Mr Maxwell sputtered and died. A hasty inspection
revealed a decided lack of gasoline. Mr Massey’s friend had given him a car with about 2
quarts of gas to start with.
Mr M started to walk back to the spring to see if he could get some of the stuff that
made John D famous(ly rich) and then I sat down to enjoy my pipe and the delightful crisp
air. Soon a Ford came into view and I gave the driver the grand hailing sign of distress. He
stopped and seeing Massey down the road said there was no gas at the springs, only
water a plenty; so I called Mr M back. Our good Samaritan then produced an old grease
can, crawled under his car and drained off about a gallon of gas. This fixed us up and we
drove back to town, in style.
It was about 4 o’clock P M and we were then taken into custody by Mr Munrow, a
local bank president who took us for a ride about the country, returning about 6 o’clock. Mr
Monroe had had quite a hand in farm development hereabouts, and in addition to banking,
is a cattle raiser and farmer. We saw a number of very fine farms, in many cases the
hands being busy with ploughing and planting.
We returned to the hotel rather cold and Mr Monroe remarked that he would like to
buy a drink which would go very good at that particular moment, as the coolness is quite
penetrating especially to a native who is not used to it, so I invited the banker to my room
where we partook of the forbidden beverage with great relish. This was the first treat out of
the flasks I brought with me and the occasion was most opportune. That banker will hang
around me now until he knows it is all gone, and I’m sure it I ever want a farm here or
anything else he has, it will be mine only for the asking. Mr Monroe and parents came here
from Syracuse, NY about 35 years ago to engage in orange raising. It now seems he owns
most of the county around here.
I didn’t tell you of the tragedy that occurred here last night. I didn’t see anything of it
because I went to church.
A traveling salesman named Evans stopping at this hotel with his wife, he went into
a Greek restaurant and ordered a cannibal (chopped raw meat) sandwich. He had some
words with the proprietor about the price whereupon the Greek proceeded to make
chopped meat of Evans face with a butcher knife. The victim came back to his hotel
bleeding like a stuck pig and the clerk gave first aid and called up a doctor. After binding
up his head with a towel, Evans excused himself for a few minutes, went back to his room,
procured a revolver, returned to the restaurant and put 5 bullets into the carcass of the
Greek, rendering him useless as a cook for the time being. Then Evans came back here
and the doctor took him to a hospital where they put in 155 stitches, so I heard. This
morning the Greek wasn’t dead, but 99 9/10 %.
My bed time has passed and I am also getting writing cramp and as you are not
here to play cribbage with, guess I’d better shut up shop for the evening. Don’t know yet
what tomorrow will bring forth but “more anon.”
Well, dearest, I think a great deal of you — your goodness — your devotion, and
self-sacrifice — and hoping I may some day do something in appreciation.
Keep well, keep up your courage, and we’ll get there yet.
Love and many kisses to all