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The story of a dynamic industry that dominated Lake County for more than 125 years
RO-E-Gaines Fruit Company, Clermont, Florida
Sign sponsored by Clermont citrus growers (Rex McPherson, Fred Saunders, Benny McLean, Buddy Oswalt, Charlie Russ and Sean Parks)
In appreciation for all those involved in the citrus industry
The Ro-E-Gaines Fruit Company was formed by Frank Roper of Winter Garden, G. J. (Jerry) Egan and Dwight Gaines in 1936. They leased the A.C.L. Packing House in Clermont. Nine of the largest growers in the area were added to their board of directors and stockholders in 1938, and in 1943 they purchased the Clermont Citrus Growers Packing House and equipment which had been in receivership and began operating both packing houses. Jerry Egan was then president, Dwight and Clyde Gaines had charge of buying fruit and Albert Johnson was manager of both packing houses.
The 1938-1939 fresh fruit shipments show a total of 31,457,082 boxes shipped from Florida. Lake County had 4,140,749 of them for 12% of the state’s total. The largest shipper in Lake County was Vaughn-Griffin in Howey with 506,438 boxes or 12% of Lake County’s total. Ro-E-Gaines has two facilities in Clermont and the total boxes they shipped was 382,913 which was 9% of Lake County. In fact the Ro-E-Gaines houses were the second largest shipper of fresh citrus in 1938-1939. They were the largest shipper of tangerines in Lake County.
In July 1945 a group of Postal Colony grove owners organized the Clermont Citrus Corporation and purchased the old Exchange Packing House (Ro-E-Gaines Plant No.2). The organizers and members of the board of directors were H. W. Blumenberg, O. H. Keene, Harry Hilton, Sam T. Phillips, C. H. Tegg, Clermont, and George Dickson of Waddington, N.Y.
In 1947 the American Fruit Growers, widely known as the Blue Goose Grove Operators, acquired the Ro-E-Gaines equipment and the A.C.L. Packing House lease. Orrin R. Ward was transferred from their Winter Park office as general field supervisor. In May 1961 they became known as Blue Goose Growers, Inc.
The Lake Minnehaha label is one they acquired from Clermont Citrus Grower Association. The original Lake Minnehaha with a more mature native American gazing into a moon lite lake with citrus groves on the shore. This young lady has no citrus in her view, but she is far younger and is the focal point of the label!
Other Ro-E-Gaines Labels
View the Jim Ellis collection
View the Jerry Chicone collection
Most packers had several labels they could use. The primary color of the label indicated the grade of the citrus in the box. Blue was US #1, the best quality from the packer. Red was US #2, a step down and occasionally another color was used for fruit not making US#1 or US #2. It should be noted that almost all the Florida fruit that did not meet US#1 standard was due to external appearance. The internal quality was the same! Florida conditions, namely a hot wet summer, produced a large number of pests that would damage the surface of the fruit. The primary one is very small mite, specifically the rust mite. This pest can produce a dark brown or russet blemish on the surface of the fruit. Several fungal organisms also can cause damage to the peal. Melanose produces small raised spots producing a fine “sand paper’ feel. When heavy these lesions can cover a large portion of the fruit surface as well. Windy conditions during spring when the fruit are small cause surface damage as well (this is known as wind scar – the small fruit would rub against leaves producing a superficial blemish to the peel).
Florida growers have to deal with these superficial blemishes because the consumer is looking for a perfect looking piece of fruit. Sugar content can not be determined by looking the fruit, so don’t be quick to decide that if an orange is not perfect on the outside that does not mean it will not taste good. Florida citrus might not be the prettiest in the bin, but they can not be beat for taste.
The Packing House
Ro-E-Gaines bought the Clermont Citrus Growers house in 1943.
To learn more about Lake County citrus click here
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