Life along the shore of Okeechobee

The Big O

The Big O

My relationship with the Big "O" began in the summer of 1975 as a recently married young educator with long hair wearing wire-rimmed glasses and “Earth Shoes.” With the promise of employment, I was leaving urban north central Florida to begin a life and career on the northern edges of the Everglades.  As I drove my 1972 Beetle south on Highway 441 through the flat landscape of south Florida, the large ranches and dairy barns gave me a hint of the type of life that would exist at the end of this southbound journey. Driving through the old Florida crossroads of Holopaw and Yee Haw Junction, coupled with anticipation of living in this Seminole area gave me a sense of the adventure.  South of Yee Haw Junction, I enter the county of Okeechobee knowing that I am now only 30 miles from my future home.  The old Okeechobee downtown area lies between the intersections of highways 441 & 70 and 441 & 98. Within this city block Okeechobee’s central businesses were established the Bank of Okeechobee, Piggly Wiggly Grocery, Okeechobee Hardware and Dry Goods, Okeechobee Hospital, Okeechobee Furniture Store, several pop & mom restaurants, two cowboy bars and two gas stations. Fast food came from The Burger Queen.  In 1975 the town of Okeechobee was still “Old Cowboy Florida.” A south Florida town made up of cowboys, ranchmen, dairymen and commercial “cat” fishermen. Lake Okeechobee dominating the area with flat mucky rangelands and a large fresh water lake supporting commercial and sport fishing. The majority of the area surrounding the lake is prime cattle ranch and dairy lands. The fishing industry exists along shores of the lake. In early days, the town’s existence was serving the basic life of those that live off the land and water. Adapting to the rural life of Okeechobee was quite an adjustment, moving from Connecticut to Daytona Beach and Tampa at University of South Florida, it was an eye-opening 3 years of living life on the shores of this magnificent lake filled with unbelievable career experiences, the making of life-long friends and memories.

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