The publishing of a new book on Frostproof’s history is also marking a change at the Frostproof Historical Museum.
The only director the museum has ever known, June Felt, has stepped down from that post, which is now being filled by the book’s author, and close friend, Bea Reifeis.
Felt held the position for 35 years, and helped make the museum one of the best in the area.
“Frostproof’s history has been so much a part of me since I was a small child and I’m so proud of what we have all achieved for further generations,” she said with her usual smile and enthusiasm last week. “We didn’t miss out on the early history. Some cities waited until they lost their pioneers.”
Felt’s love of all things Frostproof came in large part because of her parents who helped originally settle and grow the city.
“My mother and daddy, Nora June and Bill Truitt, were pioneers in what is now Frostproof and their friends were the other pioneer families,” she recalled. “I was an only child and always went with them to visit these friends. When I was there, instead of playing, I sat and listened to them talk. I was fascinated by the things they would talk about and even as a child, I was impressed with these wonderful people who settled our town.”
She said her parents always had the same message for her.
“Every day, they would tell me how lucky I was to live in Frostproof,” she recalled.
Although the historical museum didn’t actually have a home until 1978, when it moved into the old library building once the Latt Maxcy Memorial Library was built, Felt recalled that many people hoped for such a facility.
“Through the years, some of us, the children of these pioneer families, would talk about the need to preserve our special history so that in later years the future generations would be proud of all they did for us.”
Felt said some of those who got together and decided to start interviewing some of the older pioneers included Betty Reeves Donaghy (granddaughter of W.H. Overocker), Victor Sullivan (Matthew Sullivan),and Tom and Bill Jaques (Arthur, Frank and Earnest Jaques).
“And, we also decided we needed to organize a Frostproof Historical Society and establish a museum to house the early history we could gather before we lost it,” Felt added. “I would call some of these ‘old timers’ and Victor and I would interview them and then I would ask them to go through and choose what they would put in our museum. They would ask me to come and go through things with them and help them chose. I enjoyed this very much.”
Felt often gives tours of the museum for school children, from elementary age right up through high school to help instill pride in their hometown.
When the museum opened in 1978, it spurred a real rebirth in interest in Frostproof’s past.
“So many historical things came in so quickly that the Historical Society raised money and built the large room at the back of the original room,” she recalled. “Later, we realized we had no parking area, so we raised money and purchased the lot on the south side of the museum.”
She also noted that the success of the museum has happened because of the work of many.
“None of what we have accomplished since 1978 would have been possible without all of our wonderful volunteers throughout the years,” she said. “We are also very grateful for the City of Frostproof for our museum building with it’s background and history. The city employees help us when we need help and we appreciate that so much.”
The original library, where the museum is now housed, opened in 1922, a few years before Felt was born. Her family at various times lived on B, C and D streets before eventually needing a bigger place and settling in Babson Park.
Although it’s a few miles away, the distance never dimmed her love of the city. “These years with the museum have been so special for me,” she said.
And, she’s thrilled that Bea Reifeis, who this month is releasing a book on Frostproof history that Felt helped inspire, will be filling her post.
“I kept hoping to find someone with a passion about our history, like mine. We now have that person in Bea,” she said. “And I will continue to help when I’m needed.”