Monday, April 23, 2018
News Roundup

Fred Snell: Former citrus grower saw West Pasco transformed

A rusted forklift sits idle next to a conveyor belt and baskets that once overflowed with juicy oranges and grapefruits. Weeds have claimed the yard.

Not long ago, Fred and Betty Snell held court in the small house off Ridge Road. They presided over a family business that shipped citrus fruit around the country. They taught newcomers from the North how to care for backyard trees. They shared local honey and orange marmalade.

As much as the Snells enjoyed their business, it seemed more of a symbol of the end of an era, a last stand for an industry that had dominated the landscape. Fred Snell once could look out his window and see nothing but orange trees. Then overnight, it seemed, the groves became Lowe's and Home Depot, Wendy's and Ruby Tuesday. Cattle trails became busy paved highways.

"My grandfather always said this place would soon be nothing but asphalt,'' recalled Amanda Davidson, 35, who worked at F.J. Snell Groves for 12 years until it closed in the summer of 2008.

Fred Snell died Friday (July 6, 2012) at age 92. He lived long enough to witness a total transformation of western Pasco County, a shift from an agriculture-based economy to one dependent upon building houses. He enjoyed the citrus boom and then endured terrible freezes in the early 1980s that killed trees and forced farmers to sell out. Citrus trees covered 35,000 acres in Pasco then. Today, state officials say that's down to about 8,500.

"Mother Nature always had a say in the business,'' said Davidson, who now works for the city of New Port Richey. "If it wasn't the freezing weather, it was too much rain or canker.''

Still, she said, her grandfather looked forward every day to working at his fruit packing business. "He kept that wonderful sense of humor,'' she said. "He loved to make us laugh.''

Mr. Snell grew up in Elloree, S.C., the son of a rural mail carrier and stay-at-home mother. He studied agriculture at Clemson University and met Betty when she visited his church as part of a Methodist youth group from Memphis. Their swift romance culminated in a wedding ceremony in Memphis on Oct. 18, 1944, just before he headed off to war as a second lieutenant. He fought with the 75th Infantry Division in Germany.

When the war ended, Mr. Snell remained overseas, stationed in France at a base the Army called Camp Philadelphia. "He was liquor allocations officer," his wife recalled with a chuckle. "He took $65,000 and a driver to Paris to pick up liquor for the camp. He asked me, 'What would happen if somebody knocked me out and stole the money?' Luckily they never did."

The family moved to Winter Haven in 1946 so Mr. Snell could begin a career with General Foods. He supervised a citrus processing plant and remained active in the Army Reserve. In short order, the couple had three sons: Fred Jr., Randall and Bryan.

Meanwhile, Mr. Snell kept his eye on Pasco County, where his brother Harvey managed the Elfers Citrus Growers Association, a cooperative owned by local growers — and where his uncle, O.J. Harvey, had amassed thousands of acres of agriculture land. Mr. Snell planted orange and grapefruit trees on 40 acres he bought in Hudson in 1953. He commuted from Winter Haven to work the land until he could finally move in 1966.

After the freezes, he sold the Hudson land but kept 17 acres in Spring Lake in Hernando County. The Snells maintained about 400 acres of groves for cooperative members, but that dwindled as they started selling off the land. Mr. Snell retreated to the fruit package store with his brother. The cooperative closed in 1990.

Mr. Snell retired from the Army Reserves as a lieutenant colonel and seldom missed his outfit's reunion. He joined the First United Methodist Church of New Port Richey in 1966 and served as an usher for 30 years. Mrs. Snell remains a member of the choir.

"That pretty well sums up my dad,'' said Bryan Snell, who started in the groves in the early 1970s while a student at Gulf High and continues to maintain the 17 acres in Hernando. "He loved his family, he loved his church, he loved being in the grove or the store. His hobby was working.''

Comments
Former Rays pitcher Danny Farquhar “progressing well’ after surgery

Former Rays pitcher Danny Farquhar “progressing well’ after surgery

As former teammates with the Rays and throughout baseball share thoughts and prayers, RHP Danny Farquhar is "progressing well" in a Chicago hospital after suffering a hemorrhage caused by a brain aneurysm on Friday.The White Sox on Monday released th...
Updated: 1 hour ago

High school scoreboard for April 23

Monday’s scoreboardBaseballCanterbury 10, Citrus Park Christian 0Northeast 12, Countryside 5
Updated: 1 hour ago
Man faces first-degree murder charge in 2017 death of woman

Man faces first-degree murder charge in 2017 death of woman

TAMPA — A 68-year-old man was arrested Monday on a first-degree murder charge, according to Tampa police.Officers took James Leon Jackson into custody at 2712 W Nassau St. in west Tampa at about 1 p.m. A warrant for his arrest had been issued Friday....
Updated: 1 hour ago
A new museum will honor America’s lynching victims, including those killed in Tampa Bay

A new museum will honor America’s lynching victims, including those killed in Tampa Bay

In May 1914, a Hernando County grand jury decided not to indict John Davis, a black man accused of attempting to assault a white woman in a hotel. But days after he was released from the Citrus County jail, Davis’s body was found beaten with a ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Alex Cobb and Logan Morrison have ex-Ray vision. Here’s what they see.

Alex Cobb and Logan Morrison have ex-Ray vision. Here’s what they see.

ST. PETERSBURG — Absolutely, Alex Cobb was saying over the phone, it's going to be weird pitching Tuesday against the Rays.The organization that he owes so much for rearing him since high school, standing by him through assorted injuries, enabl...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Mon., April 23, midday:40 874 5140e_SRit69262Mon., April 23, evening:76 974 2849e_SRit78236Fantasy 5Mon., April...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Waffle House slaying suspect arrested; veteran receives world’s most extensive penis transplant; more in U.S. news

Waffle House slaying suspect arrested; veteran receives world’s most extensive penis transplant; more in U.S. news

TennesseeWaffle House slaying suspect arrestedThe mentally unstable white gunman suspected of killing four people and wounding more at a diverse Nashville Waffle House was arrested near his apartment Monday, authorities said. Police and federal agent...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Armenia’s leader quits amid protests; van driver kills 10 in Toronto; more in world news

Armenia’s leader quits amid protests; van driver kills 10 in Toronto; more in world news

ArmeniaLeader quits: ‘I was wrong’Ten days of demonstrations forced the resignation Monday of the man who has led post-Soviet Armenia since 2008. The unexpected resignation prompted the jubilation of tens of thousands in capital Yerevan’s Republic Sq...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Deputies find parents who fled with newborn; 1-month-old is safe

Deputies find parents who fled with newborn; 1-month-old is safe

TAMPA — The 1-month-old infant reported missing Monday was found hours later about 300 miles north in Quincy, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.Sage Cooper was reported to be unharmed, officials said, and Gadsden County sheriff’s ...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Saudi-led airstrike at Yemen wedding killed at least 20

SANAA, Yemen — An airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition hit a wedding party in northern Yemen, killing at least 20 people including the bride, health officials said Monday, as harrowing images emerged on social media of the deadly bombing, the third t...
Updated: 3 hours ago