The Way We Were: Dr. G. Dekle Taylor

The Way We Were: Dr. G. Dekle Taylor

By Victoria Register Freeman

Wisdom figures from many traditions tell their followers that chasms can’t be crossed in small steps, but can only be crossed in one big leap. Dr. G. Dekle Taylor took such a leap and crossed the chasm from practicing medicine to creating and operating a native plant nursery.
Born in 1918 at 3008 Riverside Avenue to parents Dr. H. Marshall Taylor and Pallie Dekle Taylor, Dr. G.Dekle Taylor was educated at West Riverside Elementary, John Gorrie, Bolles and the Hill School in Pennsylvania. He received both his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Michigan.

He remembers his local schooling vividly, “West Riverside was run by Mrs. Hughes and no one ever questioned her authority. She could create order with a single stare. I had lots of good teachers at that school and I remember all of them. In sixth grade, I was on a baseball team with the unlikely name of “Little Potatoes but Hard to Peel.” Sixth grade was also time for the Schoolboy Patrol which was serious duty. There was lots of coming and going. Students went home for lunch.”

After completing his medical training in the North, Dr. Taylor returned to the Historic District with wife Midge. He went into practice with his father. Reflecting on his boyhood days, Dr. Taylor often comments on the fact that his childhood was full of chores, friends and free ranging fun.

“It was a time before A.C. or T.V. and six of us — my parents, my siblings and I — lived in a house with one bathroom. My friends and I swam and sailed on the St. Johns, biked to elementary school over the Oak Street culvert, grabbed ice off the ice man’s wagon, listened to ‘Amos and Andy’ on the crystal set radio, washed our hair with water from the rain barrel and yanked the trolley off its line when it made the Aberdeen curve. When I was around ten, I would climb up on the roof of the Riverside house and play Christmas records on Christmas Eve. People would flock by and listen to the music.

My childhood was a time when children were expected to help out at home. We did chores. The one I liked least was cleaning my father’s fish ponds. We had several ponds on the property along with chickens and some geese. A number of the ponds were homes for goldfish and tropicals. I remember once removing the fish from a pond and putting them in a tub while I cleaned. Then I went off to the movies and forgot the movement of the sun. In the afternoon, the tub got too hot the fish died. My father was not pleased.

Roosevelt Boulevard was not paved yet, so I would was go out there and collect pine straw for the alley behind our house. I was also in charge of sweeping the sidewalks which seemed to go on forever on both Riverside Avenue and St. Johns. For all that sweeping I made a dime. Luckily, a dime went further then. The Saturday matinee was a dime and that usually included a newsreel. A hospital room was fifteen dollars a day. A nurse anesthetist and the operating room were fifteen dollars apiece.

An interesting note is that in August 2010, some plumbers uncovered a huge bell beneath the site of one of my father’s ponds. Some folks think it was a church bell. I wonder if it was a bell that rang to gather the workers when the area was a major plantation. That is an intriguing idea.

When I turned 65, I decided I had been on call long enough. My children, Judy and Jonathan, were adults. I was ready for a life change. I went to Tallahassee and studied with Chuck Salter who taught me how to grow native plants from seeds. I started growing a few plants and the next thing I knew I had a native plant nursery in Mandarin. That went on for about twenty years until I retired again.”

Dr. Taylor and his wife Jeanne reside at Cypress Village not too far from his boyhood haunts in the Historic District or from the site of his Native Nursery on the river in Mandarin.

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