Historical Society of Orange Park celebrates woman who gave back to gem of a city

How much do you know about Orange Park? Personally speaking, I learned a lot after Rebecca told me she will play a set for the Historical Society of Orange Park’s Carrie Clarke Day celebration on Saturday. We came close to settling in Orange Park after moving to Florida years ago, but I didn’t know much about the history. I still don’t know much, but what I did learn is very interesting.

The namesake for the special celebration, Mrs. Carrie Clarke, was active enough in her community for her life to be marked each year with a special day. An archived article from The Florida Times-Union by Mary Maraghy credited Mrs. Clarke with founding “a Sunday school for children, a Baptist church, a woman’s club and a garden club.” Apparently Clarke didn’t limit her endeavors to civic activities—she practiced what she preached. The article also disclosed, “She hosted most of the town’s wedding receptions and was known to give money to families in need or anyone who asked.”

Photo of Rebecca Day courtesy of Joel Molotzak Photography.
Photo of Rebecca Day courtesy of Joel Molotzak Photography.

Rebecca and I both love history—any history. When she told me she’d be doing the set on Saturday, I decided to bring my granddaughter along to enjoy the day. I wanted to know more about OP, as many of us call it, and I learned a chart-topping musician made his home in the area. Slim Whitman will be a familiar name to baby boomers because he frequently appeared on TV to promote his music. I remember my husband, when we were young, saying Whitman must be selling lots of music because we saw him on TV so much. Whitman had a beautiful voice and his range spanned three octaves.

There’s a credibly sourced article about Whitman at Wikipedia. Born in Tampa, Whitman spent most of his adult life living in Middleburg. I learned from the Historical Society’s March newsletter that Whitman’s family did something to help ensure his legacy will be remembered:

“The Clay County History Museum is happy to announce that it has received a generous donation from the Slim Whitman family. Items include photographs, music magazines, posters, letters, a Navy log and Slim Whitman’s very first guitar! The museum is open on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of every month, from 2pm until 5pm. Stop by and see this extraordinary exhibit featuring one of Clay County’s most iconic citizens!! There are no fees for admittance but donations are accepted and welcome!!”

Publicity photo of Slim Whitman, iconic performer with a wonderful voice who made his home in Middleburg, FL, near Orange Park.
Publicity photo of Slim Whitman, iconic performer with a wonderful voice who made his home in Middleburg, FL, near Orange Park.

Whitman has long fascinated me, and there’s another reason besides his music. The surname Whitman is ancestrally linked to my own heritage. We probably aren’t related, but I thought it was cool there were folks in my family with that surname.

Saturday’s weather looks to be nice for an outing. The society has lots of interesting activities in store, with exhibits by the Art Guild of Orange Park, a honey bee exhibit, a butter churn exhibit, and an antique tool display, among others. There will be live music from Marie’s Kids, Lonesome Ride, Rebecca Day, and the Hibernia Baptist Church Youth Group Band. At 3 p.m. there will be a Campfire Band Session where organizers say “all musicians are invited to bring their instruments and join the fun.” The Lions Club will be selling hot dogs, hamburgers, and sausage dogs.

The Carrie Clarke Day celebration on Saturday, March 9, begins at 11 a.m. and continues until 4 p.m. at Clarke Park [1039 Kingsley Avenue, Orange Park, Florida].

I plan to be there—come on out and join the fun.

(Kay B. Day/March 5, 2019)

 

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