More than 200 people gathered Saturday at the Bartow Civic Center recalling their time in Brewster, enjoying each other and munching out at the 44th Annual Brewster Reunion.
Populated by about 1,200-1,500 people, the town was made up of employees of American Cynamid and broke up in 1960. Most people moved to areas like Fort Meade, Lakeland, Mulberry and Bartow. Started by Amalgamated Phosphate in 1911, American Cynamid bought the company in 1916. Both owned the land until American Cynamid bought it out in 1938.
The company provided housing for employees, rent being between $10-$20, and they were not charged for electricity. There were phones at a low rate.
A post office was established in 1913 and there was a drug store with a pharmacist. The town also had a night watchman on duty.
There was a commissary which most people remember well. It included live chickens, gardening tools and was used for civic activities including movies and high school graduation.
The town had a high school until the 1940s when students started to attend Mulberry High.
To the residents it was more than a community as the people that lived there were like family.
The town was broke up when American Cynamid decided it was time to mine the area for phosphate, it bought the houses the people lived in. The prices the company paid for the houses depended on the size of the house and the land.
Patricia Peters Prine said it was usually the higher-paid employees that had larger houses, though that wasn’t always the case. One example was her family which moved to Mulberry.
“My dad had a bigger house, but he was not a big shot (with the company) … maybe he played poker with some of them,” she guessed.
Peters Prine grew up with her family in Brewster, which was between Bartow and Mulberry, and she recalls the families being upset when people had to move out, but she said a lot of people got over the hurt feelings when the company said it would buy their houses.
By the time her family moved out she was married and didn’t move to Mulberry. She and her husband moved to Fort Meade and have lived there for 47 years, she said.
One of the things she recalls clearest was in 1939 when Brewster played Fort Meade in a high school football game.
J.C. Boutwell tackled a Fort Meade player and Boutwell lost two front teeth.
“They stopped the game to look for his teeth,” she recalled. “But nobody seems to remember who won the game.”
Cecil Layton remembers his time working and living in Brewster as “a lot of hard work.”
When he moved out, he moved to Plant City where he lived before he moved to Brewster. He remembers it was a good time living there and his wife, Thelma, recalls when it was time to move out, “It was sad … really sad … it really was. We were all family.”
Linda Layton Lariscy said the younger people “broke off from each other,” and that was a shame because living there was “really good.”
And as small a town as it was, it was memorable, too.
Donald Miles remembers in about 1938 The King and His Court four-man softball team came to town for a game against the Brewster softball team. Eddie Feigner would put on a show wherever the team went, pitching behind his back, playing blindfolded at second base and more. In a three- inning game, Brewster won 1-0.
“It was a miracle,” Miles wrote in a paper on the memory table. “It was like the Washington Generals beating the Harlem Globetrotters.”
Some 50 years later when the team was in North Carolina, Miles ran into Feigner and asked if he remembered playing in Brewster.
“Was that the little town that had the train tracks and you could hear the train whistle blowing during the game?” Feigner asked. Miles said yes and Feigner replied, “Yeah, I remember.”
Gordon Canning, in writing down his memory of Brewster, said there were just too many to pick just one.
He remembers the cakewalks and climbing the greased flagpoles. He remembers the swimming pool being the best ever with its white sandy bottom and fresh water being pumped in constantly. He recalls the barbecues as a pleasant memory and the great fun he had as a boy scout.
“But mostly I remember the wonderful people and sense of community that made us one big family,” he wrote.