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C. V. Griffin is another one of those individuals that built a dominate citrus business and financial empire from the ground up. His story can be found in Peggy Beucher Clark’s book Images of America – Howey -in – Hills. The material below is from this marvelous history of the town of Howey in the Hills, Florida.
“Clarence Vaughn Griffin, Sr. was born in Canton, IL in 1903, his family moved to Kansas while he was still a toddler. An entrepreneur from the very beginning, he obtained a franchise to sell ice cream from the president of the local railroad at the tender age of 15.
In 1924, Griffin accepted an offer from his uncle to finance his education at the University of Florida. After one year of studying diligently, Griffin’s entrepreneurial spirit lure him away to pursue quick profits in the Florida land boom. Not all was lost with his brief college career, as classmate Fuller Warren played an important role later in Griffin’s life.
Like any sizzling real estate market, the explosion extinguished as fast as it started. Griffin soon began a citrus shipping business. W.J. Howey offered the 25 year old a lucrative citrus packing contract if Griffin built a plant in town. Within five years, he was Florida’s second largest fresh fruit shipper!
In 1936, Howey approached Griffin with his crumbling dream. Howey’s citrus empire was mired $450,000 in debt. After Howey’s death in 1938, Griffin assumed the debt and inherited the 1,500 acres that made up the fledging town in 1940. With real estate experience and the recently completed Memorial Bridge, Griffin held four auctions, selling off a total of 70 homes to jump start the growth of Howey in the Hills.”
Griffin sold several thousand acres of his groves to Libby McNeil and Libby. He still retained citrus and continued to be a grower. He established Howey Academy, a prep school and enjoyed raising cattle as well. He was active in the political arena, his office had pictures of him with several presidents – Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, Kennedy, Johnson, Regan and Ford.
Dodge Taylor was the Sales Manager for the Howey Company and became Griffin’s partner for many years.
Other Griffin Labels
View the Jerry Chicone collection
View the Jim Ellis 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
To learn more about Lake County citrus click here
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