Monday, May 25, 2009

Celebrity Visits to the Space Coast.

Barbara Eden's Visits

Numerous celebrity visits to the Space Coast of Florida are reported in the national and local press. Popular entertainer visits include singers; Frank Sinatra and Tammy Wynette, funny men; Jack Benny and Don Knotts, movie stars; Gregory Peck and Eva Gabor. and TV icon, Barbara Eden. This first of a series on VIP and celebrity visits begins with Cocoa Beach’s most beloved actress, Barbara Eden. A preview of the local press reveals the Space Coast's love affair with this blond Jeannie from Hollywood.

“Your Wish is Your Command, Master” those words and many similar dialogues were first heard across the nation in the early nineteen sixty’s on prime time TV. This popular sitcom about an astronaut finding a Jeannie Bottle on a deserted island made Cocoa Beach a household name. Due to the show’s success Barbara Eden and the cast paid a few visits to the local area.

Ms Eden's made her first visit in 1969 making it 40 years ago on June 2009 will. The local papers reported, “The Festivities started with Miss Eden arriving at Merritt Island Airport in county commissioner Lee Wenner's plane. The activities of the day dubbed "Jeannie Day" started early."

Opening the day the blond actress was given a tour of Kennedy Space Center and the US Air Force Museum. The newspapers reported a number of highlights of her visit including when she pressed a button to launch a rocket carrying a weather satellite at Complex 43. Accompanying Barbara was her husband Micheal Ansara.

Later in the day a Chamber of Commerce luncheon was held at the Sheraton, followed by a motorcade parade to downtown Cocoa Beach and a key-to-the-city ceremony at city hall. This opportunity gave Miss Eden a chance to greet her many fans and sign autographs. Dressed in a blue mini-dress she wowed them all reported the press. It was a typical hot day here in Central Florida and Mayor Robert Murkshe wiped the sweat off his face and stated it was hot and everything seemed to be wet. He jokingly said to the blonde star, "I wish you would snap your fingers or something Barbara and make it snow out here.”

Next it was dinner at Bernard’s Surf in Cocoa Beach. Local restaurateur, Rusty Fischer, recalls the occasion with the cast at his popular eatery. He tells to this day how he received a call from Sidney Sheldon the creator of the show to get an agreement in letting the name Bernard’s Surf be used. "They did and every now and then you would hear, "Well let's make a reservation at the Surf." Said Fischer.

Rusty recalls even in recent times that patrons would come into the restaurant and ask to sit where Barbara Eden sat. Lee Caron was Miss Eden's official host during her 1969 visit and concluded with an awards presentation at his Carnival Club. It was reported that here she received the Commodore's award.(1) The newspaper snapped a memorable picture of her kissing astronaut Buzz Aldrin on the cheek in this Cocoa Beach lounge. The caption read, Aldrin performs successful docking maneuver.

Barbara Eden and some cast members returned 27 years later for the Space Day at Kennedy Space Center. Cocoa Beach city officials created a special Jeannie Day which included renaming Primrose Ave to “I Dream Of Jeannie Lane.“ An official document indicates it was officially dedicated on July 12, 1996 by the City of Cocoa Beach, to commemorate the role of the “I Dream of Jeannie" show on Cocoa Beach. Although she could not make it to the actual ceremony of the new street name, a road sign bearing the name “I Dream of Jeannie Lane” was carried and presented to her at the Kennedy Space Center by Cocoa Beach Mayor Joe Morgan .

The final report of this event was published by Florida Today reporter Milt Salamon, along with a humorous story including his interview with Barbara Eden. Milt wrote, "Barbra's reaction to the million faces we saw yelling her name is typical of show biz fortitude.

Salamon: "How about being inextricably tied to a character named Jeannie
for 31 years? Would you just soon lose her for a while?"

Eden: " I like Jeannie, I guess," she smiled. "I don't feel that she's gotten in my way, because I've done so much other work, so many different things. It's fine with me and it's never been off the air, so.."

Salamon: We asked about her memorable costume, following an interviewing tradition begun more that three decades ago. Did she like it? Did she have a hand in it?

Eden: "I love my costume, I really did," she told us. "The only influence
I had was the color. I chose the color. I'm trying to remember the woman's name who designed it, because she did win an award for it."

Milt closed his interview asking her if she remember her two visits in 1969, whereupon she said, "Oh yes!" she said. "Oh my, it was amazing to all of us, just mind-boggling, and it still is to me. The Space program is very exciting.
The people? Oh, yes I do remember them. And it's good to be here, good to see you all again."

Jeannie Day was born-again in September of 2005 with a “Jeannie Look A-Like contest marking the 40th anniversary of “I Dream Of Jeannie” TV show. Winners were 12 year old Jessica Stavrakas and 24 year old Crystal Louthan, both of Merritt Island, who won the Teenie Jeannie and Jeannie categories.

The legend continues, Visit Ray Osborne' weekly History on Wednesdays from 5 pm to 6 pm at the Resort of Cocoa Beach where this and other local tales are told.

Look> Enter drawing and get a chance to win a custom designed “Jeannie Bottle by Mario" by sending email with your address to with the word
'Jeannie Bottle' in Topic Heading of email message.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Presidential Visits: Franklin D. Roosevelt

President at Rollins College
Thousands of Central Florida residents came to see President Franklin
Roosevelt in March of 1936. President Roosevelt had traveled to Winter Park, Florida where he was conferred the honorary degree of Doctorate of Literature at Rollins College. The First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, had previously been honored by the presentation of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan medallion. As the President read his speech from a manuscript he remarked with a smile that this service gave
him the first opportunity of seeing his "better half "in cap and gown.

"At last I have attained a lifelong ambition," he said with a laugh. "At last my literary qualifications have been recognized and I am sure this is not because of the speeches I have written or the books of which I have been the author, but because at one time I was editor of my college paper."

After the chapel services at Rollins College, the President,the First Lady and their party rode with a motorcade of 15 vehicles through Winter Park and then on into Orlando. The parade through Orlando streets resulted in a crowd of close to 100,000 people, all waving enthusiastically. At the end of the parade the President and the First Lady bid each other goodbye. She had to go to Jacksonville for a speaking engagement, and the President continued on his journey to the East Coast
to catch a train.

Accompanying the President was Florida's Governor Dave Sholtz. Sheriff Roy F. Roberts, and Sheriff Hand of Orange County, escorted the President via Cheney Avenue for the trip to Titusville. A security force of federal, state and local police were mobilized to protect the President.

The streets of the county were patriotically decorated for the occasion; roads were lined by school children and citizens from every section of Brevard County. Newspaper estimates reported there were some eight or ten thousand people who gave all gave lusty cheers for the President as he passed.

Local school children from the fifth grade up through the twelfth were transported to Titusville in school buses to see their Executive Chief. Reports that national guardsman in uniforms armed with rifles with bayonets were stationed in the streets of North Brevard. A Cocoa student reported well this event through the eyes of a young person and had his letter to the editor published in the Cocoa Tribune, “Flags flew from the houses in the breeze, streets were gaily decorated, and a continuous stream of cars hummed up the highway. Soldiers and policemen were everywhere on motorcycle and on foot. It was whispered that plain clothes men were all about us."

The President chuckled as he entered Titusville, at a special presentation of the Mighty Haag Circus Management, which presented a parade bearing humorous political significance. Leading the parade was a mule was a rider, labeled F.D.R, followed by two elephants on which sat men placarded as “Hoover, Landon, Knox, and Borah.” A
donkey carried an individual who bore another placard naming him, “Al Smith, Liberty Leaguer,” while yet another walked with a placard on his back which read, “Eugene Talmadge, please let me ride something.”

Finally,The President boarded his special train, and a couple of boxes of Indian River oranges were loaded for his enjoyment. The crowd cheered as the train left Titusville and headed to Port Everglades in South Florida that would take him to a ship where he would begin his fishing trip.

Ray Osborne

Sources: Orlando Sentinel, The New York Times, Cocoa Tribune, Rollins College.

President Harding visit marked by Historical-Geocache

Throughout the century, Brevard County, Fla. has seen a number of U.S. president and first lady visits to the area. Many came for the same reasons other visitors come: hunting, sports, business matters, vacationing, health and other pleasures.

Warren Harding was a frequent visit to Merritt Island and Daytona prior to his presidency. His In-Laws had property in Merritt Island which gave Warren the opportunity to befriend many locals. He was an avid golfer and sports fisherman, and often sailed aboard a luxurious vessel during his Presidency into the area. The Indian River Advocate reported on February 11, 1921, that he arrived aboard a boat called the Victoria. However it got stuck in Mosquito Inlet and wallowed in the mud the better part of two days. At one point, President Harding got out and stretched his legs in Titusville at the recently built gulf refining company wharf, where he shook hands with a hundred or more of his Titusville constituents. He also rode in a for-hire Ford with its driver and bought some mullet from a local fisherman.

The President and first lady returned to Florida for a short vacation in March 1923. President Harding played a few rounds of golf in Rockledge and some other choice golf courses in Florida. Both the President and the first lady were in a weakened physical condition and needed a much need break from the affairs of state. Mrs. Harding had narrowly escaped death from nephritis in October, 1922, and the president’s health was causing concern to his doctors. Breathing difficulties made it impossible for him to lie flat in bed at night; he complained of chest pains and shortness of breath. Playing golf with his aide, Colonel Edmund Starling, President Harding complained, “Why, after playing 11 or 12 holes, do I drag my feet and feel so tired?” To Starling’s suggestion that he should play fewer holes in the future, Harding retorted, “Hell, if I can’t play eighteen holes, I won’t play at all.”

The Cocoa Tribune reported President Harding’s arrival on a beautiful houseboat called “Pioneer” on March 8, 1923. At a gathering of locals, Cocoa Beach real estate developer Gus Edwards presented the President and Mrs. Harding with a deed for an ocean-front lot in Cocoa Beach, inviting them to make it their home when President Harding retired. President Harding was never able to take him up on this offer as he died during his administration just after a Florida visit.

To visit the location of the Oceanfront Lot visit this
Wanted: Tourist geocacher to pick up a TB at this cache and deliver it to
another history themed geocache.

Cocoa Tribune
Indian River Advocate
The Twenties in America By Niall A. Palmer

Historically Yours,


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