The City of Winter Haven is 100 years old.  While I am no where near 100 years old, I have spent my entire life in Winter Haven.  Even though my ‘entire life’ encompasses less than 30 years, I have still seen lots of change come to Winter Haven.  Let me share with you some of the things I remember about Winter Haven.  Perhaps you’ll remember them too.

When I think about Winter Haven, I remember…

  • Watching the Boston Red Sox play baseball
  • Walking around the old Winter Haven mall and eating at Morrison’s cafeteria.
  • When there wasn’t a Publix at Spirit Lake Road and Hwy 540.  For years it was just an empty patch of land with a big sign that said something like “Coming Soon:  Publix.” 
  • Mr. Ott.  He was a short man who always wore a bow tie and ran Ott-Laughlin funeral home.  He was friends with my grandfather.
  • My pediatrician – Dr. Larue.  He has since passed away, but his son, also a pediatrician, continues to practice on Avenue K.
  • My dentist – Dr. Carroll.  Dr. Carroll cleaned my teeth for probably close to 20 years.  It was a sad day when he retired a few years ago.  He is greatly missed. 
  • Cypress Gardens
    • The ‘sinkhole’ parking lot and the other parking areas under all of the trees
    • Attending Easter sunrise services at Cypress Gardens and listening to the Day of Discovery Singers
  • Watching Michael Jordan play baseball for the Chicago White Sox at Chain of Lakes Stadium against the Indians.
  • Banks named Barnett Bank and First Union.  There were others, but I don’t remember them as clearly – Meritor?  Haven Federal?
  • When the McDonalds on Cypress Gardens Blvd had a playground.  As the road widened, it got closer and closer to the playground until it eventually had to be removed.  Then, they completely rebuilt the entire restaurant.
  • Eating at the old Red Lobster on 3rd street.  Now it has become the Knights of Columbus building.  I have a clear childhood memory of going into the restroom at this restaurant, finding a gospel tract, and knowing that my grandfather had been in there.  Sure enough, I came out and found him and my grandmother.
  • J Burns’ Pizza & Pipes – A restaurant with Pizza and a Pipe Organ.  
  • When Hwy 540 (in front of our church) was only two lanes and ran straight into Sertoma Park.  From there you had to turn onto Wrecker Hwy to get to Hwy 17 so that you could go on into town.
  • The old Citrus & Chemical bank building on 1st Street.  It had a giant orange hanging in it.  It was torn down to make way for CenterState Bank.
  • When there was no Lowes or Home Depot.  All we had was Scotty’s.
1st Presbyterian Church of Winter Haven

Over the past 100 years, Winter Haven has changed.  Restaurants have come and gone.  Streets have been added, widened, re-routed, and even removed.  Cypress Gardens and come and gone and we are all looking forward to it’s reincarnation as LEGOLAND Florida.  One thing has remained constant.  There have always been churches in Winter Haven.  In fact, some have even been around even longer than the 100 years that the City of Winter Haven has ‘officially’ existed (see First Baptist and First Presbyterian).  Consider this thought – Christ has been preached in Winter Haven for well over 100 years.  

Since the 1970’s, our church, Faith Baptist Church has been faithfully ministering to the Winter Haven community.  We minister to the ‘snowbirds’ who flock south each winter.  We minister to the children through ministries like Upward, Awana, VBS, and the Fine Arts Academy.  We minister to the ‘at-risk’ through our FX ministry.  We minister to the hungry and discouraged through our annual Thanksgiving meal in Inwood and our Free Shopping Day at Christmastime.  We count it both a privilege and a duty to minister to the community of Winter Haven.
So, Faith Baptist Church congratulates the City of Winter Haven on 100 years.  Further, we pledge to continue faithfully preaching Jesus Christ to this community.  By God’s grace, this church will continue to faithfully minister to this great city all throughout the next 100 years of its existence.

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