THE FLORIDA INTERLUDE 1956-57
Jane Ann was about 10 months old when North American transferred Claude to Cape Canavaral to run tests on theX-10 prototype—the for-runner to the space vehicles. We bought a little house in Melbourne, Florida and once again found ourselves in a new and exciting time. We were only minutes from the Indian River, and the Atlantic Ocean. We bought a little boat and spent our weekends and holidays on the river or on the beach. Johnny was in 7th heaven with bugs, frogs and baby alligators in abundance, and both he and little baby Jane found the beaches a perfect playground. Unlike the cold rough Pacific, the waters around Melbourne were bath-tub warm, and the flat sandy beaches free from riptides and ankle deep for a long way out.
Claude was sent to the islands off Florida to conduct the tests and was in his prime. He loved his job!!
Other than a scary few weeks when I had elective surgery and had a transfusion reaction that nearly finished me off, we had a lovely experience in Florida. We were in the middle of the action and watched the launchings at the Cape from our own front yard. We cruised the Indian River Waterway in our little boat, with JaneAnn cozy in a little nest in the bow. Some of our excursions reflected our ignorance or stupidity—one day we became lost in the swamps of the St. John’s River, and our boat got stuck in the mud.
All around us we heard what sounded like cows moo-ing, while Claude waded around in the water trying to get our outboard motor going. We were to learn later that what we were hearing were BULL ALLIGATORS! We didn’t know there were snakes that climbed trees, and could drop down into the boat, and one time we encountered a Manatee-huge as an elephant-- beneath our boat.
One night our son Mike awakened us to come look out his bedroom window at a big black panther prowling our yard! We learned that a circus long ago had released its animals into the wilds and they seemed to have thrived.
We had second thoughts about our evening walks after that.
Betty L. Owen, journals