George and Rita Deschambeau moved to our neighborhood back in 1973, back when 434 and 436 were lonesome 2-lane roads with very little traffic and few traffic lights. The area in general had served as a turpentine farm, and still retains many of the pines from that era.
Rita had previously lived for 7 years in Fern Park's English Estates. What drew them to our area was beautiful 285-acre Lake Brantley. Their neighbor in Fern Park had bought land here, and took them out on the lake. They loved it and decided to make the move. After expanding their original dwelling more to their liking (such as making the carport into a den and adding a 2-car garage), they were able to enjoy the good life, tucked away in a semi-rural wooded paradise, with very friendly neighbors.
Back in 1973, what would become Brantley Point was a froze-dead citrus grove. There was no Wekiva, no Sweetwater-- just thick woods. Jennifer Estates was previously also a citrus grove. The nearest grocery stores were Pantry Prides at 436 and 17-92 or one in Apopka, or the old Goodings in Maitland. By the 1980's a Winn-Dixie and K-Mart were built on 436 at 434. In fact, our area had a Maitland address back then, with box numbers for mail, rather than house numbers.
Where Wal-Mart and Sports Authority on 434 are now, there was a citrus processing plant. It was definitely a simpler, less-hurried, less crowded time.
Rita recalls that long ago a nearby neighbor used to discharge his laundry's gray water directly into the lake. Someone-- not Rita-- called the health department, which tested the water quality and announced that Lake Brantley "...is cleaner than what they're drinking in Orlando." Then as now, occasional droughts would drastically shift the lakeshore.
Before the county finally paved our streets in 2000, they'd send weekly grading trucks in to scrape the roads level. They got the bright idea to dump coastal sand & shell mix each week to build up the low spots, and these shells were murder on everybody's tires. Plus, this shell grit would stream directly into the canals and lake during heavy rains. This shell filler was elevating the road way too much and contributing to flooding out hers and adjacent properties. Rita got fed up complaining to the county and seeing no action, she decided to go sit atop the fresh load of shell grit they had hauled in, and thus she prevented the grader from operating.
Rita recalls hydrilla has for a long time been a problem in the lake, clogging boat propellers and becoming a major nuisance. By 1985, ours and surrounding communities introduced thousands of sterile grass carp, which ate not only the hydrilla, but beneficial aquatic plants as well. (And now South American snails are the newest problem, source unknown).
Rita recalls back in the 1970s CAWLB president Ray Lewis would send a monthly mimeographed newsletter to residents. To spiff up the newsletter, Rita and George eventually took over its printing for many years. She recalls each New Year's Day, Ray Lewis and the CAWLB Board would take a photo of themselves to document their ownership of the beach park and boat ramp. Rita devoted several years of active service on the CAWLB Board and has always promoted the welfare of her community, attending numerous county meetings that helped pave our roads. We commend her civic-minded dedication all these many years.
This writer knows firsthand what a wonderful neighbor and friend she has been.
HAROLD TORREY and his wife, Barbara, moved to Brantley Isles in 1961. Having two children Patricia and James, they chose this neighborhood of about 30 homes in a quiet and undeveloped area to raise their family. There were a total of three houses on Westwood Drive when they moved here. That same year Ellis & Purvis platted the 300 lots which now make up our community. Harold had a treasure chest of memories that he shared with me from his lifelong residency of our community.
The dirt roads and orange groves from Sand Lake Road to the Lake Brantley Nursery gradually became developed through the years. Harold recalls that the Boat Ramp was simply chained off and the Beach Park area was opened and finally a rope was put in place to quadrant off the association’s area. The annual association dues were $10.00. Harold says fishing was great from the pristine sand bottomed canal and lake which the levels of each were controlled by a “weir” where the culvert in the canal presently exists. There was little runoff from the dirt roads, no yard waste or fertilizer pollutants until there was more home development. This was nature at its best making the waters crystal clear. Unfortunately controlling the water levels presented many problems.
A developer, Everett Huskey, began developing the Sweetwater area during a drought and placed industrial pumps off Wekiva Springs Road near Lake Rena and began pumping the water out of Lake Brantley into ponds and retention areas in the Sweetwater development. Water levels in Lake Brantley dropped 6 inches per day from the pumps running 24 hours a day. Our association along with other communities fought the pumping to no avail. Commissioner, Al Davis, failed to take a stance to protect the lake and our communities. Finally, the sheriff was called into the picture when sugar was found to have clogged the pumps and the pumping never started up again.
Harold recalls the wildlife abounding in this rural area of woods and crystal clear water. One Saturday morning the milk man while making his deliveries got Harold to go over to Oak Drive where a pair of panthers rolled around on the dirt road. Black bears, deer and quail were hunted in our area because they flourished. Even today we experience bear and deer roaming into our neighborhoods. A piece of the past preserved.
Back in the early days of our neighborhood Harold remembers an opportunity to purchase a lakefront lot for $5,000.00 but opted to purchase a lot across the street from his home for $250.00. Harold served as a board member for our association from 1965 to 1972. Three of those years he was the secretary and for 2 more years he served as the president. A proud union electrician he worked for Johnson Electric until his retirement. Harold was involved with the Boy Scouts of America for 33 years as a leader and mentor for many boys in our area. To this day he still gets calls from former scouts thanking him for the values, education and life skills he taught them as young men. Their gratitude surprises him as some of these boys he thought never got anything out of it are the very ones he hears from today. He is pleased to know that he helped shaped the lives of many young men. It goes to show that when you take on a role of responsibility good things come out of it!
Harold and Barbara love to travel in their camper and take an extended trip at least once a year. They enjoy many short trips but Barbara, Harold says, always loves to come home. Harold speaks fondly of our neighborhood, “A wonderful place to bring up kids!! There has been much change since the days when you had to come through Forest City (on a county easement) before LBHS, Forest City Elementary and Teague were built during which time Sand Lake Road was impassable and only with 4 wheel drive vehicles!! After 43 years living here with road improvements and steady growth Harold still sees the positive in our tucked away neighborhood. We have wonderful neighbors and friends, lake access and community spirit. A great place to raise a family and retire.”
Harold and Barbara celebrated their 50 th wedding anniversary with a get together dinner with friends and family at their home in August, 2004. Harold puts up a beautiful display of Christmas lights each year, he can be seen regularly gardening and pruning in his yard, talking to neighbors, helping out at the beach park and cooking burgers for our annual association meeting.
A salute to you, Harold, for your fine example of community spirit and dedication!!!!