HISTORY OF THE PENSACOLA CAMELLIA CLUB
On the evening of November 23, 1937, a group of men interested in camellias, met at the home of John Sherrill in Pensacola, Florida. The result of that meeting was the organization of an all male camellia Club, The Pensacola Men’s Camellia Club. Robert E. Lee was elected President; C. H. Turner, Vice President; and F. W. Sherrill, Secretary-Treasurer. Membership dues were set at $3.00 per year. (This membership fee was eliminated in 1956.) “The objects of the Club were to encourage growing of camellias and to spread information regarding their culture.” We are, as far as we know, the oldest such club in America.
The first show staged by the newly formed club was held in January 1938.
The American Camellia Society was organized in 1945.
The first camellia, originated by a Pensacola Men’s Camellia Club member ,
G. H. Wilkinson, Sr., to be registered with the American Camellia Society was ‘Elizabeth Le Bey’ in 1949. In February 1949, G. H. Wilkinson, Sr. received the first American Camellia Society Illges Seedling Japonica Award and the Award of Merit for his seedling ‘Beau Harp”.
The Pensacola Men’s Camellia Club was incorporated as a Florida not-for-profit organization in July 1950 by the circuit Court of Escambia County, Florida.
For the very first time a Person-of-the-Year was recognized at the 1964 Camellia Show.
In May 1966, William F. Bray, Club member, won the National Sewell Mutant Award, given by the American Camellia Society for his camellia ‘Elegans Supreme’.
Calluset, a product to start and aid growth of the callus on exposed cambium in grafting was developed in January 1972 by Club member Dr. Reid Leonard.
In January 1975, the Club hosted an International Convocation in conjunction with the National American Camellia Society (ACS) Convention. George Anderson served as Chairman. A. C. Thomas was the local show chairman
and Jesse Barfield was President of the local Club. This International meeting and show attracted participants from coast to coast. Forty-four attendees came from Australia and New Zealand. The official show report showed that a total of 250 growers exhibited 4,000 blooms with 10,000 visitors viewing the exhibits.
Membership dues were established again in 1982 as $7.00 per year.
A Trust Fund and Auditing Committee were established in November 1986 with George Anderson as Chairman. John Edwards and Gordon Wesley were named as members of this committee.
Articles of Re-incorporation of the local Club were signed on January 4, 1989 by Robert Bothfeld, president and John H. O’Donnell, Secretary. The name of the Club was officially changed to Pensacola Camellia Club at this time. The
Articles of Re-incorporation were filed in the Florida Department of State on January 9, 1989. With re-corporation, women were admitted into the membership and dues were lowered to $5.00 per year. New By-laws were adopted by the Club at the January membership meeting. These were signed by Dr. Don Applegate, President, John H. O’Donnell, Treasurer, and Sheffield Woods, Secretary.
At the December 1989 Show floral designs showcased camellia and bonsai exhibits for the first time.
In 1992, Member W. M. Harrison’s ‘Little Babe’ and ‘Little Babe Variegated’ received the ACS National Kathryn and Les Marbury Award.
In 1993, Club members were again national award recipients. Dr. T. E. Lundy was the winner of the ACS Illges Seedling Japonica Award for ‘Lady Laura’. He became Pensacola’s second Illges award winner. Mrs. A. E. Wilson also received the ACS Sewell Mutant Award for the ‘C. M. Wilson’ flower. Skip Vogelsang was appointed ACS Area Director for two years. Skip has also served as President of the Pensacola Camellia Club twice, in 2007 and again in 2010.
In December 1993, the Club gave a Special Recognition Award to Jean Comber for her many contributions to the camellia world. She had served as Secretary for the American Camellia Society for many years, and had served as Secretary and Publications chair for the Gulf Coast Camellia Society. She had also served as editor of the International Camellia Journal. Mrs. Comber as well as her husband John Comber, now deceased, worked for many years to foster contacts with camellia lovers in China, thereby enhancing the exchanges of information between growers in China and the United States.
Daniel Lee Gordon joined the Pensacola Club in January 1994 as the youngest member. He was 10 years old. At the Club’s Show in December of that year Daniel entered and ‘went to the head table’ with ‘Man Size’, the bloom of a plant given to him at the March 1994 membership meeting.
In 1996, Dr. T. E. Lundy received the ACS Margerete Hertrich Award by the California Camellia Society for his ‘Lady Laura’ bloom.
1998 brought an increase in the Club dues to $10.00 per year. Also special honor came to Dr. Don and Peggy Applegate in receiving the ACS National Frances Shannon Racoff Memorial Award for ‘Peggy’s Blush’ as Best Formal Double at the ACS Annual Spring Show and Convention.
In April 1999 the UWF College of Professional Studies received 21 camellia plants, all of which had produced blooms receiving ribbons at various Gulf coast Camellia Shows. The plants were a gift from Ed and Babs Alsip, Pensacola residents for 20 years, who moved to Palm City, FL. Since that date additional plants have been added to that collection through the generosity of Dr. Wes Little, Dean of the College of Professional Studies and Club members Dr. and Mrs. Don Applegate, and Gabriel Olsen.
The Pensacola Camellia Foundation, Inc. was formed and the Articles of Incorporation were filed with the Florida Secretary of the State on January 17, 2002. Gordon E. Eade, Club President, signed as incorporator and Club members Roger Vinson, Robert Bothfeld, and Martin Harwood signed as Trustees. The purposes of the Foundation are to support the Pensacola Camellia Club’s scientific, educational and charitable efforts, and to support the Club’s annual Camellia Show.
Jack and Fonda Wetherell, Club members, founded the Panhandle (FL) Butterfly House in Navarre, FL. in 2000. They operated this establishment until they moved to Bellevue, NE in 2007.
The American Camellia Society’s first General Membership Meeting was held at the Holiday Inn on Pensacola Beach in April 2001. The Pensacola Club hosted this meeting.
John K. Edwards, a founding member of the Pensacola Club, who was featured in the March-May 2003 edition of the American Camellia Society Journal, passed away in February 2007. Other long-time members William C. Stout, Emma Glass Covington and Dr. T. E. Lundy passed away in 2007 also.
In 2003, the Club joined the Pensacola Federation of Garden Clubs, Inc as an Associate Member. Club member Jean Comber was honored by the American Camellia Society with the ACS Bronze Plaque that is awarded to individuals who have furthered the aims of the ACS. This special award may be given only twice during any 5 year period.
On September 16, 2004 Hurricane Ivan blew ashore in Pensacola. Whereas many camellia plants were damaged by falling trees and invading salt water, growers learned that most plants survived, even though recovery took several years.
On November 10, 2005 Gordon Eade, membership Chairman, participated in the Pensacola Cordova Park Elementary School’s “Art in the Park” day by introducing the students to a ‘Create Your Own Camellia” activity envisioned as a way to interest children in the growing of camellias. This activity was again conducted in 2006 after which the ‘best’ of the children’s creativity were selected to receive blue ribbons and have their work displayed at the 2006 Annual Camellia Show. At this time Savannah Caton, young daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Steve Caton, won a beautiful sasanqua plant for having the most successful hunt in the children’s “Camellia Hunt”. Miss Lily Casson won a camellia plant in a drawing at the 2007 Show as a participant in another children’s “Camellia Hunt”. Richard Garrett also won a camellia plant in a drawing of adults who participated in “My Favorite Camellia” activity for adults. At the 2008 Show John Adler won the children’s “Camellia Hunt’ drawing and received a camellia plant for his participation.
November 15, 2005 was the beginning date of a membership contest. The person who sponsored the most new members from then until the April 2006 membership meeting would be awarded a camellia plant. This contest resulted in almost doubling the membership. Dr. Norm Vickers, Club Secretary, won the contest and was awarded the ‘Phyllis Hunt’ plant.
January 2006 marked the beginning of work by Ashley Maacks in establishing a Pensacola Camellia Club web site identified as pensacolacamelliaclub.com. In March 2007 an Internet Technology Committee, consisting of Carl Brady, Richard Hooton and Dr. Norm Vickers, were appointed to assist Ms. Maacks. In October 2010 the Club accepted a bid from Aeiko Mitchell to update and manage the Club’s site.
Cinny O’Donnell was elected President of the Pensacola Camellia Club on January 17,2006, the first woman to hold that position.
As a special ‘reach-out’ activity a van-load of PCC members visited in Monroeville, AL on February 18, 2006 at the request of Jean Booker on Monroeville. PCC members and the local garden club ladies examined the many camellias growing around the old courthouse attempting to identify their unknown varieties. The visitors were even treated with lunch at the Court House Café.
On June 20, 2006 Carl Brady coordinated a field trip for PCC members to take camellia ‘cuttings’ to John Davy’s Panhandle Growers, Inc., Milton, FL. John and his partner have over 200 acres of field production focusing on producing quality landscaping trees. This particular field trip transported cuttings from twenty selected plants which produced 550+ rooted liners of which 10% were returned to the Camellia Club. This meant that, for the 2007 Camellia Show plant sale, they would receive 55 one-gallon plants; or for the 2008 Show sale, the Club would receive 55 three-gallon plants, with a wholesale value of $500.00, all at no cost to the Club. John also provides three-gallon potted camellias that are given away one each with new memberships in the Pensacola Camellia Club and/or the American Camellia Society.
At the request of the Pensacola Camellia Club (PCC), the first monthly master calendar of Plant and Flower activities compiled by Tina Tuttle of the Pensacola Federation of Garden Clubs, appeared in The Pensacola Camellia Newsletter. This calendar of events has been published and made available to the Pensacola community continuously since October 2006.
Judge Roger Vision was elected Secretary of the American Camellia Society Board of Directors for a two-year term, 2007-2009. Roger had previously served as President (2005) of the Pensacola Club, and is currently Chairman of the Pensacola Camellia Club foundation. Other Trustees of the Foundation reelected in 2007 were Bob Bothfeld, Gordon Eade and Jack O’Donnell.
In February 2007 Pensacola Camellia Newsletter announced that President Skip Vogelsang and club members Michael Dupuis, Roger Vinson, and Ben Williamson were working on a site selection for a Pensacola Camellia Garden that is envisioned to be the location of as many of the Pensacola varieties as can be found, and other national and international award winning camellias. The idea of such a garden has been a dream of the club members for a number of years, and the fulfillment of this dream was one of President Vogelsang’s key initiatives.
The first Annual Pensacola Camellia Club banquet was held on February 20, 2007 at the Pensacola Yacht Club. There were approximately 60 members and guests present. Music for the social hour was performed by jazz and classical guitarist Arturo, Woody Edwards of Dallas, TX (nephew of the late John Edwards), and Dr. Norm Vickers (Club Secretary and Publicity Chairman) on piano and chromatic harmonica.
At the April 2007 membership meeting President Vogelsang reported having received a letter from Tina Tuttle, Chair of Friends of the Gardens of Northwest Florida, inviting the Camellia Club to participate in a project of developing an instructional camellia garden on the PJC Milton campus. Such a garden would be available for horticulture students to be involved with the care and culture of camellias under the direction of Dr. Mack Thetford, University of Florida Horticulture Professor. (Twenty-five plants were presented to PJC campus for planting in December 2007 or early January 2008.) President Vogelsang also reported that a search for the ‘Lost’ Pensacola Camellia cultivars/varieties was underway with Dr. Ben Williamson and Dr. Gordon Eade identified as the Club’s ‘Camellia Detectives’ in a “Great Camellia Hunt”.
At the April 3, 2007 meeting of the PCC Executive Board Gabriel “Ole” Olsen proposed a gift of a 1995 Chevrolet pick-up truck to the Foundation. He offered to provide maintenance on the truck for a year. Expense to the Foundation would be for gasoline and insurance in the amount of $1,285.00 for $300,000.00 liability. After much discussion Olsen indicated that if this proved unsatisfactory after a year, then disposition could be made of the truck in any acceptable manner. At the April meeting the membership approved the recommendation.
During the Spring of 2007 the University of West Florida was planning for the 40th anniversary of the University as the Executive board of the UWF/REA was discussing the idea of presenting something to the University on this occasion, so Dr. Linda Dye, UWF/REA President, suggested that she discuss with Dr. Dean Van Galen, a UWF Vice President, as to what might be appropriate. It so happened that the University had already formulated a suggested gift list and ‘A Garden’ was on that list. When reporting to the Executive Committee in May, members Williamson and Eade indicated that the Pensacola Camellia Club was searching for a location in which Pensacola varieties of camellias could be planted for preservation. And so, the UWF Camellia Garden came into being.
On Thursday, September 27, 2007 the University of West Florida Retired Employees Association (UWF/REA) and the Pensacola Camellia Club (PCC) presented a camellia garden to the university in honor of the University’s 40th anniversary. The presentation was made to UWF President John Cavanaugh by UWF/REA President Tom Henderson and the PCC President Skip Vogelsang. The first planting in this garden took place on February 7, 2008 when a group of enthusiastic volunteers gathered at the garden site on the University’s campus to plant 28 camellia plants. The garden is to “spotlight” the Pensacola originated varieties that can be located, and showcase some of the other nationally and internationally known varieties.
At the May 2008 meeting of the Executive Board of the Camellia Club, Shade House Committee consisting of Ole Olsen, Richard Hooton, Skip Vogelsang and Roger Vinson recommended the purchase, and placement, of a Shade House to be financed through the Pensacola Camellia Club Foundation. The Shade House was approved by the membership, and was delivered in August 2008.
On June 5, 2008 Jean Comber, a long-time member of the Club and a leader of the American Camellia Society, passed away. Carol Comber, her daughter and a member of the Club, survives. Jean and Carol hosted the May picnics at their home for many years. Other members of the Club to pass away this year were Allen Robert Thomas (1935-2008) on February 24; Gennell Carter (1920-2008) of Nicholsville, VA on April 7; John Covington (1916-2008) on April 24; Dr. Charles B. Williamson, one of the ‘Camellia Detectives’ in the “Camellia Hunt”, on June 24; and Dr. Frank Lamar Crell (1924-2008) on October 25.
In January 2009, Judge Roger Vinson became President of the American Camellia Society for a two-year term, and Bill Lyford became President of the Pensacola Camellia Club for a one-year term.
During the morning of January 21, 2009, approximately 70 club members and individuals from the Pensacola community came together at two camellia gardens to see and hear about the plants in the gardens of Carl Brady and Dr. Reed Leonard. In the afternoon, approximately 300 individuals gathered on the extensively wooded campus of the University of West Florida for the dedication of the newly established camellia garden that came about through the efforts of the UWF administration, the UWF Retired Employees Association and the Pensacola Camellia Club on the occasion of UWF’s 40th Anniversary. Dr. Dean Van Galen, UWF Vice President for University Advancement; Tom Henderson, past president of thee REA; and Skip Vogelsang, past president of the Pensacola Camellia Club, welcomed the visitors who were gathered. And, whereas Dr. Ben Williamson one of the ‘Camellia Detectives’ had succumbed to a sudden heart attack a few months earlier, Dr. Gordon Eade, the other of the ‘detectives’ detailed their efforts in the “Great Camellia Hunt”, and thanked all those present who in any way assisted in locating many of the ‘lost’ camellias. A 18”x 24” bronze plaque mounted on a large boulder, commemorating the efforts in making the garden a reality, was unveiled by Dr. Van Galen; Ms. Betsy Oram, REA President; and Dr. Tom Birdwell, immediate past president of the Pensacola Camellia Club.
During the detailing of the “Great Camellia Hunt” Eade reported and displayed the documents of the awarding of recognition received in 1949 for ‘Beau Harp’, a camellia originated and registered by G. H. Wilkinson, Sr., of Pensacola. Those documents, consisting of certificates, ribbons and the ACS Illges medal, were given to the Club by Mr. Wilkinson’s sons G. H. Wilkinson, Jr. and Northup Wilkinson. The Club later elected to give those documents to the Pensacola Historical Society/West Florida Historic Preservation and the American Camellia Society with the blessings of the Wilkinson sons. Since this Illges award was the first such award given by the American Camellia society, the medallion was returned to the American Camellia Society and the other documents were given to the PHS/WFHP. Those presentations were made on January 11, 2010 to Lynne Robertson, Pensacola Historical Society Curator, and Judge Roger Vinson, American Camellia Society President by Dr. Norm Vickers, Club Secretary & Publicity Committee Chairman, and Dr. Gordon Eade, Club 3rd Vice President & Membership Committee Chairman.
It was announced at the November 2009 meeting of the membership that the Gulf Coast Camellia Society would hold its October 1 & 2, 2010 meeting in Pensacola. Carol Comber volunteered to coordinate that event.
The December 2009 Newsletter announced the formation of the Neighborhood Camellia Information Squad (NCIS). This group was organized by Skip Vogelsang consisting of volunteer club members for the purposes of 1) identifying camellias, and 2) consulting, advising and assisting on maters relative to caring for camellias, i.e. selecting, planting, pruning, fertilizing, and treating plant pests and diseases within the community and areas surrounding Pensacola. The first of the ‘long distance’ opportunities for NCIS involvement came with a visit to a garden of Ms. Felicia Barnes in Wewahitchka, FL. Those club members participating in this adventure on January 9, 2010 were Bill Bennett, Gordon Eade, Richard Hooton and Norm Vickers.
Three of the Pensacola Camellia Club family passed away this year: Mary B. Sanford (1929-2009) January 20, Frederick Milner Jennings (1939-2009) April 21, and Virginia Chandler Bothfeld (1920-2009) September 21.
If you are looking for something to do, join the Pensacola Camellia Club or visit the club’s web site www.pensacolacamelliaclub.com and/or the Special Collections Department of the University of West Florida Library were the contents of the Club’s yearbooks, beginning with the very first one in 1937 can be found. Here you will find copies of the Newsletters, meeting minutes, selected pictures, club activities, and selected published articles.
Submitted by Gordon E. Eade, PCC Historian