“It seems hard to believe now, but much of Central Florida, until the 1970s, was covered by orange groves. Lacking the sophisticated nightlife that a heavily urbanized Orlando has today, generations of Rollins students gathered for social outings in various groves. Alumni at Reunion Homecoming ’95 remembered how on Friday afternoons and weekends, the students met at groves near what is now Red Bug Road and St. Rd. 436, in Maitland, Goldenrod, and other places. They were fun gatherings “usually done in moderation,” that enabled students to tell jokes, get to know each other, and commune with nature. Lorrie Kyle Ramey ’70 recalled the poison ivy hazard. Insect repellent was strongly advised, remembered Barth Engert ’60.
“The word would go out about a week ahead of time,” Engert said. About 50 to 75 people typically attended, and there was always a campfire. Students would collect a dollar from everyone who wanted to go and a keg would be bought. There weren’t any ‘munchies,’ really, unless you brought something yourself. Usually a couple of fraternities, or a fraternity and a sorority, would sponsor the parties. The groves were really in the wilderness then, and far from campus, so there was always a spirit of adventure involved.”
The first annual Reunion Grove Party, although held behind the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, recaptured the mood of the old grove parties beautifully. “Bill Bieberbach [’70], who organized the whole thing, got the Rollins groundskeepers to get us about a dozen orange trees and scatter them across the lawn down there. It was terrific. I saw a lot of people who had not come back for a reunion before, and there were a few locals who attended only that event,” Engert said.
For future reference, Bieberbach volunteered, in writing, himself and Thomas duPont ’70 “to host the Grove Party until we die.””
I have noted that people who maybe you didn’t like or had misperceptions about, when they come to Reunion, you find they’re really nice people. That’s all that really matters.”– Tony Babb ’70