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The story of a dynamic industry that dominated Lake County for more than 125 years
Dr. John Gerber
Dr. John Gerber was my major professor at IFAS for my graduate work. I am sure each of you can remember times when someone entered your life at just the right time. Maybe you needed someone to steer you down the right path, or someone to discuss challenges you were facing or someone to be a cheerleader and provide encouragement. John Gerber was one of those folks in my life. He saw far more potential in me than I did!
Raised on a farm in Missouri, he loved to be in the field. I believe his degree was in Soil Physics. He loved all kind of equipment and was forever working on a project in the lab. He spent hours on a counting device for an anemometer (wind speed and direction device). Back in those days the data was recorded on graphs and then someone (as in grad students) would have to translate it to a spread sheet. The counter was going to eliminate the graphs. I wanted him to be successful! He loved the annual trip to Camp Blanding. That is where he could obtain military surplus items for almost nothing. We had leather flight jackets, binoculars, and other items to help us out on freeze nights! But he really loved all the electronic equipment. He found a machine that used a paper tape to record data. It punched holes in a tape that was about 1 inch wide. The tape could them be fed into another machine that gave the numbers (man graduate students would much rather operate a machine than read charts).
Dr. Gerber was there to counsel me, to guide me along, to expose me to the academic world and provide encouragement. Every Tuesday afternoon I would pack up a neutron probe (device that measured soil moisture) and head to Orange Lake. He had a cooperator that let us conduct research in the grove. Not only did we examine water use, we evaluated grove heaters. My job was to change the tape on the machine and then collect soil moisture levels. On cold nights we would gather at the grove and light the heater being tested (Tree Heat petroleum blocks, return stack heaters,a central distribution system put together by a gentlemen in Wiersdale). In the summer we worked on Dr. Gerber’s weather towers. I did not mind climbing a tower, but it was just a little scary when I was up 100 ft working and Dr. Gerber decided I needed help and up he would come! These were towers he purchased at Camp Blanding! Government surplus. I could go on with stories about this fantastic gentlemen that was there to help me through an important part of my life. He continued to encourage me during my Extension career. On several occasions he kept me out of hot water with the Dean. Thanks Dr. Gerber for all you did for me, other students and the citizens of Florida.
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