August 5, 2007

The First Chapter: Munn Park

I've begun writing the first chapter, which will probably be entitled simply: "Munn Park." Walkin' Lawton Chiles was born in 1930 in Lakeland, Florida. In those days Munn Park was the commercial, social, political, and geographic center of town and of Polk County. Folks would go there to play baseball games; kids would play in the grass; and politicians would come to town by train and make long speeches peppered with cracker sayings and slogans like "Get Back on Track With Jack." Trips to Munn Park raised him on politics and introduced him to his idol--Polk County's own U.S. Senator Spessard Holland. To Chiles, Holland was the model of honesty, statesmanship, and Southern charm that all rising politicians should follow. The above picture is dated 1911. The park was named for the "Father of Lakeland" Abraham Godwin Munn in 1908. The Atlantic Coast Line Railroad station, then and now, forms its northern border. The tracks, then as now, separate North and South Lakeland and--roughly--rich from poor. In the early days, blacks mostly got work on the railroad, phosphate mines, and citrus fields. Now, Amtrak uses the line.

Munn Park (2007)

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