Show cover of Celery City Stories

Celery City Stories

Outlandish Florida Man stories get all the attention, but the Sunshine State’s history is just as entertaining. Celery City Stories explores the incredible history of one of Florida’s oldest cities - Sanford, located in Central Florida. Long before Disney World was created, Sanford’s history goes back almost 200 years and is filled with amazing people who went on to change the world. Whether it’s sports, business, military, civil rights, entertainment, you name it, the city of Sanford’s influence has been felt far and wide. Plus, Seminole County is located in the heart of the Sunshine State, so there are plenty of “it-can-only-happen-in-Florida” type of stories. Dan Ping, host/creator of Celery City Stories, is a journalist who’s been writing about Sanford and Seminole County for more than 20 years.


Did Sanford saloon owners burn down the town?
If you like Celery City Stories, and want me to keep telling them, you can buy me a coffee.  Go to (Buy Me a Coffee). ------- In 1887, the city of Sanford was a bustling hub of commerce. Founded just 10 years prior, Sanford had become the gateway for goods and materials coming into Central Florida and Tampa. The city was also the main distribution point that allowed nearly all of Central Florida’s citrus and produce to reach Northern markets. But on the morning of Sept. 22, the city’s saloon owners, most likely drunk from an all-night binge  of whiskey and rum, burned the town to the ground. It became known as the Great Fire of 1887. —----- If you’re a sports fan, You probably no that Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees broke Roger Maris‘s home run milestone by hitting 62 home runs in a season.  I like to brag that just about anything that happens in the world has some sort of connection to Sanford.  In the case of Aaron Judge it really does. Roger Maris set the Record for home runs in a season on Oct. 1, 1961. And it was Sanford‘s very own Red Barber who made the historic call as the Yankees play by play announcer.   Here’s a link t (o a YouTube video of Red Barber calling Maris’s 61st home run). And if you want to know more about Red Barber here’s a link to ( episode 8 of Celery City Stories titled “A good wife and a strong martini helped change history.”)
14:51 10/06/2022
Sanford man breaks the color barrier at the University of Florida
The Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Florida Moving Image Archives has a brief 38-second clip of George Starke Jr.'s first day at the University of Florida law school. There is NO sound, but it gives a glimpse of his first day. (You can find it here.) Sept. 15, 1958 is significant for the state of Florida, the University of Florida, AND for the city of Sanford. It was on that date that George Starke Jr. became the first Black student admitted to the University of Florida. George Starke Jr. is the son of Dr. George Starke, the first Black doctor in the city of Sanford.  Interestingly enough, Sept. 15th is an important date for both father and son. On Sept. 15, 1927, Dr.Starke opened his first office in Sanford. 31 years later, his son integrated the UF on Sept. 15. The University of Florida was the first university in the deep South to admit black students. It would another 3 to 6 years before the state universities in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana would integrate. George Jr. had earned his undergraduate degree at Morehouse University in Atlanta, and he served 4 years in the Air Force before he was admitted to the University of Florida law school. in previous Celery City Stories, it’s just been me telling the stories. For today’s episode, I was honored to interview Mr. Starke, so I’m going to let the man himself do most of the talking. ------ At the end of this episode I mention that I'll include an interview with Katie Whelchel Stewart in an upcoming show. If you missed the episode about her grandfather, Hugh Whelchel, you can check it out here: ( "Sanford man is hero in classic 1920 Alabama-Georgia game")
23:20 09/24/2022
Was Lynyrd Skynyrd influenced by a Sanford piano teacher?
If you like Celery City Stories and want to continue to hear them, (Buy Me a Coffee). Your support ensures I can continue to produce these shows. Lynyrd Skynyrd got its start in Jacksonville, but did you know the band has a connection to the city of Sanford? And a pretty significant one at that. I mentioned a previous Celery City Stories I published recently. Follow the link to hear “ (A good wife and a stron martini helped change history)”. It’s about a small event that happened as Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. I first learned that Bill Powell lived in Sanford after coming across the website (Lynyrd Skynyrd History) created by Judy Van Zant, widow of Ronnie Van Zant, founder of the band. If you want to contact me, send an email to
09:45 09/09/2022
Sanford man is hero in classic 1920 Alabama-Georgia game
If you like these Celery City Stories and you want me to keep telling them every week then please buy a cup of coffee (by following this link.) It was the game football fans had anticipated for weeks. Two powerhouses were set to meet in Atlanta. The crown for Southern football supremacy awaited the winner. (Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association) The University of Alabama Crimson Tide was undefeated, led by a salty defense that had allowed only 7 points through the first 8 games of the year. Their opponent: The University of Georgia Bulldogs. Georgia, too, was undefeated, and had crushed the Florida Gators the week before by a score of 56-0. Hugh Whelchel was the hero of the game, and that’s the Sanford connection. Whechel’s 2 blocked kicks in the Alabama game were crucial to the Bulldogs winning the game. The second one that resulted in the winning touchdown is ranked 4th in (Patrick Garbin’s book “The 50 Greatest Plays In Georgia Bulldogs Football History.)” Garbin also notes that Whelchel would ultimately block 19 kicks during his career at Georgia. Whelchel was born Lumpkin County in Northeast Georgia. After graduating from the Univerity of Georgia, he moved to Sanford in 1925. According to his obituary in the April 25, 1968 issue of the Sanford Herald, Whelchel coached the Seminole High School football team in 1926 and 27. (Red Barber, the subject of last week’s Celery City Story), was one of the better players on Whelchel’s 1926 team. The quarterback of those teams was Jim Spencer. Long-time Sanford residents will remember Jim Spencer’s, which was a very popular restaurant here in town during the 150s, 60s an 70s. I guarantee there will be 2 or 3 Celery City Stories that feature Jim Spencer and his family. For all of his accomplishments on the gridiron, Hugh Whelchel spent most of his time as a successful farmer here in Sanford. When the State Farmer’s Market opened in 1930 at French Avenue and Historic Goldsboro Avenue, Mr. Whechel was the second person to set up a stall in the facility. Harold Kastner, who’s family has deep farming roots in Sanford, was the first. I don’t think many people today what a big economic engine the State Farmer’s Market was in Sanford for a long time. I probably need t o do a story on the market at some point. Hugh would never really stop farming, but from 1950 to 1954 he operated the Mayfair Country Club. He worked for Chase & Co. for a few years, and Hugh was also the fertilizer inspector for the state of Florida Department of Agriculture.
09:27 09/02/2022
A good wife and a strong martini help change history
If you like the show, (Buy me a Coffee) and become a sponsor. Welcome, I’m glad you joined me. This Celery City Story is the first one I wrote when I thought I might want to start a podcast. Whenever significant changes in history take place,  there are a series of events - both big and small - that have to occur before the transformation can happen.  This is a story about a small event that was part of a monumental change An editor’s note: In the story you just heard, I’ve added some brief dialogue. Those quotes were created for dramatic purposes. I have no way of knowing EXACTLY what was said.  However, the story is factual and it did happen. I used a number of resources, most notably, (Jimmy Breslin’s biography of Branch Rickey), who was Red Barber’s boss, and the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers. I also used a (new biography on Red Barber by Judith R. Hiltner and James R. Walker.) Also, there’s a good documentary about legendary radio broadcasters that Larry King did in 1989 called, (“Ball Talk: Baseball’s Voices of Summer.”) In that documentary, there is a clip of Red Barber talking about the day his boss, Branch Rickey, told him he planned to integrate baseball. Red shares his reaction to the news, and tells a brief story about his conversation with his wife Lylah.
14:17 08/25/2022
Sanford women take drastic action to appease the Presbyterians
Sometimes it’s the smallest things that lead to the biggest battles. In this case, 6 inches is all it took.  Thanks to Sanford City Commissioner Patty Mahany and Lisa Finnerty of Porzig Realty for sharing that story with me. They are both active members in the Sanford Woman's Club. Don't forget, if you have a Celery City Story, I'd love to hear it. You can reach me at The Sanford Museum has a special exhibit going on through November that I encourage you to go see. Willie "Pocket" Brown was a professional photographer who recorded the families, businesses and events in the Georgetown, one of Sanford's historic black neighborhoods. The Brown family has generously loaned the museum many of Mr. Brown's photos, as well as his camera, for this limited-time exhibit. The runs through November, but will not be on display during September to allow the museum to display items relating to the Museum's 65th anniversary during that month. The Willie Brown exhibit will return for October and November. The Museum is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Listener shoutouts to: Janice Springfield, Dave Towns, Reg Garner Lynette Woodward and Shelton Fulsang They all left 5-star reviews for Celery City Stories. A Super-Duper stoutout to Shelton Fulsang. In addition to leaving a 5-star review, Shelton bought me 5 Cups of Coffee! (Buy Me a Coffee )is an online service that allows listeners like you to make a small donations to their favorite podcasters. It's totally voluntary, but if you choose to (Buy Me a Coffee), I would greatly appreciate it. Click ( Buy Me a Coffee), if you would like to donate to Celery City Stories.
08:55 08/19/2022
BONUS: Woman nearly faints when Sid goes for a walk NY Times reports
In 1946, Sanford narrowly avoided a cat-astrophe when Sid decided to go for a stroll in downtown Sanford. Thanks to Christine Kinlaw-Best who uncovered this gem of a story from the New York Times. In case you missed it, check out episode 5 - (Monkey business at the Sanford fire station creates a zoo) -that tells the story about how the Sanford Zoo started.
07:12 08/15/2022
Monkey business at the Sanford fire station creates a zoo
Cities the size of Sanford (pop. 61,051) don't normally have their own zoo. It was monkey business at the Sanford Fire Station on Palmetto Avenue that led city leaders to create a zoo in 1925. I wrote about this a few years ago for my blog, (The Bokey). The fire station where it all began still exists at 109 S Palmetto Ave. Today it's a sports bar called (The Station Bar & Grub) with an AirBnB upstairs where the firemen used to live.
10:17 08/11/2022
The Mayor Who Bankrupted the City of Sanford
Forrest Lake was the most powerful man in Seminole County for the first 3 decades of the 1900s.  In fact, he was the man who created Seminole County.  How powerful was Forrest Lake? He was Sanford’s mayor, a state representative and he was the banker that funded much of the development in downtown Sanford that still exists today. But 95 years ago this week, Forrest Lake’s empire  came crashing down and the city of Sanford was left to clean up his mess.
15:05 08/04/2022
Buddy Lake never needed a relief pitcher
In the 1930s and 40s, Bernard David Lake - better known as Buddy - was the most talked about ballplayer in Sanford. Buddy never made it to the Major League, but he was no minor talent. Click the button to hear how Buddy almost single-handedly won a baseball game against the Deland Redcaps 75 years ago. Sanford residents have at least a small connection to Buddy Lake, even if they don't realize it. After his baseball career, he owned a gas station on the corner of northeast corner of 2nd Street and Palmetto Avenue. Most recently that building was the home of Inner Compass Brewing Co.
09:19 07/28/2022
Chinese food and pizza rolls helped Jeno Paulucci build the Heathrow community
Jeno Paulucci was the king of the packaged food business. He made hundreds of millions of dollars selling canned Chinese food, then frozen pizza rolls. He sold those companies in the 1980s and jumped into the Florida real estate business. This is the story of how he convinced a major company to build its national headquarters in an untested Seminole County office park named for a London airport. It changed the economic climate in Seminole County.
12:38 07/21/2022
Jack's one-man war against the Japanese Navy
Disobeying orders should never be done on a whim. Sometimes those, you just need to go with your gut. Many of the details for this story were taken from the following source: "Twenty-Five Yards of War: The Extraordinary Courage of Ordinary Men in World War II" by Ronald J. Drez
17:24 07/11/2022
Trailer - Celery City Stories
Join host Dan Ping as he explores the incredible history of Sanford and Seminole County FL they didn’t teach in school.
01:58 06/29/2022