Sunday, December 23, 2012

Florida II

I love Florida!  In fact, it’s the first state I’ve devoted two posts to.  This week, we’re covering Native American monsters and mouthfuls.  Last week, we covered everything else.

10. Opa-Locka

There are funnier names, but this one is pretty well known, plus I really like the original
Indian name, Opa-tisha-wocka-locka.  That’s Seminole for “a wooded hummock in a swamp.”  Damn, why couldn’t they have just kept that one?

Opa-Locka is pretty big time.  It’s got 15,000 residents, its own airport, and the highest rate of violent crime of any city in the U.S.!

The town was founded by aviation pioneer Glenn Wright, who – for some reason – gave it a Moorish theme (think Aladdin, Arabian Nights, etc.).  A number of the original buildings are gathered together in the “Opa-Locka Thematic Resource Center.”

No, it’s not Disney World
It’s the Opa-Locka City Hall!

9. Apopka

You don’t see a “p” next to a “k” every day.  I like it.

“Apopka” means “potato-eating place” in some unknown Indian language.  I have it from credible sources, though, that the actual, direct translation is, “You want fries with that?”

Apopka’s big time too.  It’s got over 40,000 people and is known as the “indoor foliage capital of the world.”  Famous native sons include Zach Greinke, Warren Sapp, and Fireball Roberts.  That’s baseball, football, and NASCAR for you less enlightened folks out there.  Apopka’s also home to the Museum of the Apopkans.

Some of that indoor foliage

8. Okahumpka *

Well, heck, let’s add an “m” in there too while we’re at it.

Okahumpka means “deep spring.”  It’s actually one of those bottomless-pit-type places.  The Navy once trained drivers here.

Okahumpka’s in the middle of the state, just south of Leesburg.  Its main claim to fame these days is its eponymous rest stop along the Florida Freeway.  

(I kid you not)

7. Steinhatchee

Just to prove that the Indians were indeed the lost tribe of Israel ...  Unfortunately, though, “stein” is pronounced “steen.”  And as for “hatchee” ...  Oh well, there goes that theory.

Turns out Steinhatchee is Muskogee for “dead man’s creek.”  Further, the river the town is on empties out into Deadman’s Bay.  I know there’s a good story behind all this, but I just don’t seem to be able to find it anywhere.  

Steinhatchee is in Florida’s armpit (where the panhandle bends south), miles away from anything, and is best known for fishing.  

Oh, and a Fiddler Crab Festival too

6. Hypoluxo

Using my knowledge of Greek roots, I’m guessing this means something like “insufficiently luxurious.”  Maybe it’s a trailer park.  I dunno.

Actually, it means “water all around.”  In other words, Hypoluxo is an island.  Internet scholars usually can’t help adding “no get out” to the definition, but that seems a bit too cute for me. 

For some reason, they’re very excited about their “barefoot mailmen.”

The city seal
(there’s also a statue of one of
these dudes in front of city hall)

5. Chassahowitzka

I’m not so sure about this one.  Sounds kinda Polish to me.

It actually means “land of hanging pumpkins.”  Awesome!  That alone is enough to make it onto this list.  

So, what’s there, you ask (other than hanging pumpkins, of course)?  The town of Chassahowitzka pretty much centers around the Chassahowitzka River and the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge (thank God for cut and paste).  There’s a lodge, a campground, a fire station, a little sprawl from Homosassa Springs (see below), and not much more.

4. Kissimmee

Isn’t this an old Beatles’ song?  “Kiss-a-me, kiss-a-me mucho …”

That’s “Besame mucho,” I’m afraid.  “Besame” does mean “kiss me” though.  Also, the actual pronunciation of “Kissimmee” has the emphasis on the second syllable.  Oh well.  It’s still pretty funny.

Kissimmee’s no mere Chassahowitzka.  It’s the county seat of Osceola County, has over 60,000 people, and is the spring training site of the Houston Astros.  Wikipedia lists 20 “notable residents” (none of whom I’ve ever heard of).  It’s about ten miles away from Disney World.

Almost forgot …  Kissimmee means “long water” in Calusa.

3. Sopchoppy

“Where ya from?”  “Sopchoppy, Florida.”  “Did you say Slaphappy?”  “No, Sopchoppy.”  “Slapchoppy?”  “Sopchoppy!”  “Slopchoppy?”  “The Panhandle.  I’m from the Panhandle.”

Sopchoppy comes from the Muskogee lokchopi, which means “acorn stem.”  So, here’s my question …  Why isn’t it called “Lockchoppy”?  Or maybe “Acorn Stem”?

It’s on the Ochlockonee River.  Population: 426.  Obligatory outrageous festival: Sopchoppy Worm Gruntin' Festival.

Go Sopchoppy Alternative School Yellow Jackets!

2. Weeki Wachee

Yup, this is the mermaid place.  It’s up there with all those other tacky Florida treasures –Jungle Gardens, Gatorland, Flamingo World, Gatorama, Spongeorama, The Holy Land Experience, Big Daddy Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing, Skunk Ape Research Headquarters, Forrester's Secret Garden of Art and Parrots … (all for real – and many more right here

What’s unusual about Weeki Wachee, though, is it’s a real place.  The name comes from the Seminole for “little water.”  There’s a spring, a river, a high school, and a very small town, all of the same name – and all in addition to those mermaids.

Larry the Cable Guy,
among the mermaids

1. Yeehaw Junction

This was my Dad’s favorite TV program in the early ‘70s.  Wait a minute ...  Was that Hee Haw Junction?  Um, Hootenanny Hollow?  Yahoo Acres?  

Turns out this was not named after a TV show!  If you can believe the Internet, “yeehaw” means “wolf” in Seminole. 

Well, I guess that’s an improvement over the former name, “Jackass Junction.”  Seems the Dept. of Transportation felt they had to clean things up a little for “the tourists” when the Florida Turnpike came through here in the ‘50s.  (BTW, a competing explanation is that “yeehaw” is simply the sound a jackass makes.)

Today, Yeehaw Junction is “a major stopping point for tourists on the Florida Turnpike who want to purchase conditional discount tickets for various tourist attractions in the Orlando area” (Wikipedia).  Yee ha!

The Desert Inn, 
a local landmark 
(and former brothel)

* - author has visited

Honorable Mention:
  • Tallahassee – “old town,” Muskogee
  • Yalaha – “yellow orange”?
  • Osowaw Junction – “bird,” Seminole
  • Bithlo – “canoe,” Muskogee
  • Hilolo – ???
  • Micanopy – head chief of the Seminoles during the Seminole War
  • Narcoosee – “bear,” Creek
  • Micosukke – “chiefs of the hog clan,” Hitchiti
  • Palatka – “crossing,” Muskogee
  • Homosassa – “where the wild pepper grows,” Muskogee
  • Thonotosassa – “place to get flint,” Seminole-Creek
  • Okechobee –“big water,” Hitchiti
  • Fort Chokonikla – “burnt house”
  • Chokoloskee – “old house,” Seminole
  • Lacoochee – “little river,” Creek
  • Lochloosa –“black turle,” Choctaw
  • Loxahatchee – “turtle river”
  • Chattahoochee – “marked by rocks,” Muskogee
  • Estiffanulga – ???
  • Apalachicola – “people on the other side,” Hitchiti
  • Ocheesee – ???
  • Ocklawaha – “muddy”
  • Wacahoota – “cow barn,” from the Spanish vaca and the Creek word for “home”
  • Wewahitchka – “water eyes,” from two round lakes that look like eyes
  • Loxawatchahatcheessassacola – “the round island in the dark river where the hogs eat the sacred pumpkins and get gas” (alright, I made that one up)

BTW, a lot of the meanings come from this great site.

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