Historical Series, No.68

Posted on 17 March 2011 by LeslieM

Since our family, the Eller family, has lived in Deerfield Beach since 1923, I’ve often been asked to put in writing some of the history of the area, that I either experienced personally or that I heard from my parents or grandparents. For some of you old timers who might be worried about certain old “scandals,” don’t worry, I won’t be writing about those (smile).

— David Eller, Publisher

From Pompano High— to Stetson University in 1959

In September of 1959, I packed up my belongings in my green 1949 Ford and headed north to DeLand, Florida to attend Stetson University on scholarship. About a one-hour drive west of Daytona Beach, Florida’s first private university was established in 1883 by Henry DeLand, in cooperation with the Baptist Church organization. Later endowed by the famous hat maker, John B. Stetson, it was best known for having Florida’s first College of Law, as well as its first School of Business Administration, School of Elementary and Secondary Education, Pre-Ministry and Florida’s first intercollegiate basketball, baseball and football teams. I was enrolled in its well-respected pre-engineering program, which was co-operating with Georgia Tech and the University of Florida to educate mechanical and civil engineers.

Having been pre-assigned a dormitory room, I drove my green ‘49 Ford up to DeLand – 40 miles west of Daytona Beach – found a parking spot in front of the dorm and got out to go find my room. Not wanting to leave my solid body Melody Maker Gibson guitar in the car, I strapped it over my back and started in. Suddenly, I heard a strong male voice say, “Hey, can you play that thing?” I looked up from under the baseball cap I was wearing to see a tall fellow with wavy black hair and a big grin on his face. I thought for a moment that he looked like a poor man’s version of Elvis Presley. I smiled back and said, “I wouldn’t be carrying it if I couldn’t play it!” He laughed and said, “My name is Bob Bidwell and I’m the sophomore in charge of this freshman dorm. After you get your stuff inside, bring your guitar down to the dorm lounge and show me what you can do. I’m looking for a rhythm player for the band I’m forming to play at fraternity parties.”  “That sounds great!” I replied. (Thus began a friendship that continues unto this day).

When we got together later that evening to play for the first time, I quickly realized that, although I knew most all the chords and had played a lot of country music and church hymns, I knew nothing about playing rock and roll. My new friend Bob started off by calling out different chords for me to play. When he was satisfied that I knew the chords, he started asking me to play them using several different types of beats or rhythms. I confessed that I only knew the standard rhythms used in country and church music. He laughed and said, “That’s alright.” He then picked up his guitar and said, “But now I’m going to teach you some rock and roll, which begins with learning how to play the “blues.”

I was excited and immediately agreed. He continued, “Watch the fingers on my left hand press the strings down at the right places right behind the frets, and do the same thing I do. Now, with the pick in your right hand stroke only the top two strings at the top, eight times on rhythm, then drop down a string and do it again but only four times, then back up for eight, etc, etc….” I caught on quickly, and was soon able to follow his lead on several blues songs. We played for over two hours without stopping. Suddenly, I realized the tips of the fingers on my left hand had started to bleed from the continual pressure on the strings making the chords. I’d never played continually that much time before, thus hadn’t developed the calluses needed on those fingers.

So I bid Bob goodbye and drove to a nearby convenience store to get some snacks to keep in the room. I picked out a few items when I noticed a bottle of pimento-stuffed green olives. My mind flashed back home, where my mother would only let us have two or three olives at a serving with a meal. I was never satisfied and always wanted more. Suddenly, I realized that in my new freedom away from home, I could have all the green olives I wanted. So I started eating them and I didn’t stop with two or three. I ate the whole big jar of olives. Then when they were all gone, I drank all the brine juice. Shortly afterward, my stomach started to hurt. And my sore fingers hurt. Thus, my first day at college taught me two important lessons: Don’t overindulge in anything. All things should be done in moderation.

David Eller, Publisher

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