FISH ANYONE? — In this photo from Sally Bohon’s father’s album, her grandmother, Margaret Landis, and her father, Erskine Landis, the young boy at left, show off a fish just recently caught.

Editor’s note: As part of our West Volusia Memories series, Sally Bohon contributed this piece to share a story from her past. If you have memories from West Volusia’s past, we’d love to share them with the community. Send us your West Volusia memories via email to

In a few weeks, I’ll be heading back to the beach. In another life, I suspect I could be a ridley turtle, for I cannot think of a year in the past 90 that I have not spent some time on a beach somewhere. Maybe it’s in the DNA of the Florida-born to return to the sea and the sand.

My particular path was sown by Little Grandma Landis, a tiny but tough farm-bred lady of only 4’10”. Around 1903, when just a trail through the swamps led to the coast, she would hitch up the horse and wagon and take Dad to New Smyrna, where she fished in the surf with a cane pole, once pulling in a redfish as tall as her boy.

Twenty years later, it was that beach where Mom and Dad cavorted with friends in their stylish pointy caps and swimsuits to the knees. It was also a popular place to both spin the newly minted cars that were just beginning to come off assembly lines, and to view the stunt pilots who landed their planes on the sands.

By the time I came along in the early 1930s, summer at the beach was always in a rented cottage. All of them seemed to have names: the Hart cottage, the Tatum cottage, the Purdy cottage, and in later years, the Sanders cottage. Ormond Beach, in particular, was thick with seashells, and we could scoop up coquinas by the bucket — those precious little pink and purple bivalves that would wiggle up through the sand when the tide rolled in and then quickly burrow back down as it rolled out. (Leave them alone — they are beach cleaners!) Mother would make a soup of them with cream that was delicious. But, alas, we must have eaten too many, for they are scarcely found now.

It was the summer at the Purdy cottage when a hurricane chased us back to DeLand. When we returned the following week, it was evident that someone had lived in the cottage in our absence. Cigarettes with lipstick traces, things out of place. According to Mother, the sheriff said it was the gangster Dillinger and his mob, escaping with the posse in hot pursuit. Mother just loved telling that tale!

The Great Depression offered other opportunities. But for the lack of vision, we never actually owned beach property. When Dad came home one day and told Mother he had been offered ocean frontage for $2 a front foot, Mother replied, “Why would we want all that sand?” Ach!

FAST CARS — Not much info was available about this photo from Sally Bohon’s collection, other than its name, “The Four Speed Merchants.” “That was Grandma’s Cadillac, I believe,” Bohon said, “and the pictures were taken at Daytona Beach.” At far left is Bohon’s dad.

The ’30s passed and then came Pearl Harbor and World War II, and it all changed. The military came to Florida, and the beaches were blacked out. The cottages went dark. No light could show lest it define the coast, for not that far out were German submarines.

The shipping lane from Miami to New York was under constant German surveillance, and occasionally you would see a brief flare light up the horizon — an attack! Dreadful stuff washed up on the beaches, and one poor lad from DeLand was severely injured when he picked up a glass bottle only to have it explode in hand — a booby trap that had washed up.

When the war ended, it was my generation’s time to take its turn, and the Boardwalk at Daytona Beach came alive with teenagers eager to cast off the constraints of wartime and just have fun! The drinking age was still 21, so nightclubs were off limits to us, but the beach itself was open ground for those summer romances. Bronzed god from Georgia Tech meets Orange Blossom Queen glistening with baby oil. Movies were made of this stuff.

It didn’t last too long before the country was back at war and those bronzed gods were off to Korea. Then Vietnam. The torch passed again, and that generation grew up and turned into families, and occasionally built cottages of their own — on the beach.

Entertainment started moving inland to bring dog racing and jai alai to attract an older, betting crowd. The changes became not so dramatic as just steadily more and more! The very size of Mainland High School now takes my breath away. Did I mention Daytona International Speedway?

I cannot recall the exact year that — while standing on his cottage deck — Ed Sanders said to me, “Sally, we just heard that someone is going to build four condos on New Smyrna Beach.” “No!” “Yes!” And thus it was, that everything changed once again. The developers that had opened the floodgates for the populations now swamping the South Florida beaches had turned their eye to Central Florida.

My childhood reference book was the 1937 Book of Knowledge. On the subject of “The Moon,” it was pretty specific that anything we thought we knew about the moon’s surface was purely speculative because mankind would never be able to actually explore it and come back.

You see, in 1937 there was no known substance to build a spaceship that could withstand the heat of re-entry. Today, when I stand on the shore of New Smyrna Beach with a great-grandchild or two — amid thousands of visitors on their condo balconies — and watch the rockets take off from Cape Canaveral, I think of Little Grandma. It’s a lot to take in.

— Bohon’s grandfather Cary D. Landis, who came from Indiana to DeLand to start a law school for Stetson University, was among the founders of the Landis Graham French law firm that still serves Volusia County today. Her father, Erskine Landis, also was a lawyer with the firm.


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