The Way We Were: Dorothy Surrency Rosenbloom

The Way We Were: Dorothy Surrency Rosenbloom
On the “Blue Train” from Johannesburg to Capetown, South Africa

If you were limited to choosing just one word to describe Dorothy Ann “Dot” Surrency Rosenbloom, chances are “longevity” would be the word.

Dot Rosenbloom’s long life has been full of long-lived relationships, beginning with her grade school friendship with the boy who would become her husband of 67 years.

1955 Family portrait: Steven, 4, in Percy’s lap; Beverly, 3, in Dorothy’s lap, Percy III, 5, standing

1955 Family portrait: Steven, 4, in Percy’s lap; Beverly, 3, in Dorothy’s lap, Percy III, 5, standing

The 88-year-old Ortega resident was born at her maternal grandparents’ farm in Houston, Florida, but spent most of her early years in Murray Hill. Back in the 1930s and 1940s almost anything needed could be bought at the shops on Edgewood without leaving the neighborhood, she recalled.

The Daylight Grocery on the corner of Edgewood and Mayflower and the A&P grocery across the street were convenient to the Surrency home on Mayflower Street. Dot said she liked the bakery that was next door to the Daylight. Woods Pharmacy was the local drug store, and everyone went to Dreamette for ice cream. Where the former Edgewood Bakery was located was a restaurant that served delicious fried chicken. For many years the entire extended Rosenbloom family ate there frequently, hosted by Percy’s parents.

Dot’s parents, Clifton and Leona Surrency were good friends with Percy, Sr. and Ethel Rosenbloom, but their children first got to know each other as students at Ruth N. Upson Elementary. Two of Dot’s best friends at school were her next-door neighbor, Betty Jones, and Nancy Henderson. Albert Grant, now of Avondale, was another good friend who lived across the street.

Percy played on the Murray Hill School championship softball team in 1941-1942. They attended John Gorrie Junior High, and were 1946 Lee High School graduates. After their graduation, Dot went to Wesleyan College while Percy attended Jacksonville Junior College.

Upon her return from college, Dot said some of Murray Hill’s longtime businesses had changed. The bakery and A&P had closed, and the Daylight had become the Thomas & Padgett Grocery and Meats, but the Dreamette was still serving cones.

At age 20, the longtime friends and high school sweethearts finally tied the knot.

“One evening in January 1948, Percy and I went to St. Augustine with our friends Bill and Lindy O’Brien,” said Dot. “While we were in the restaurant, Percy suggested we go out and take a walk on the beach. He didn’t get down on one knee, but I was very surprised and happy when he pulled out a beautiful ring for me,” she said.

The couple was married on September 4, 1948 by Pastor James Stewart at Riverside Baptist Church. Dot’s white satin dress came from Riverside Gown Shop, which served most of the local brides of that era.

Percy’s best man was his Murray Hill neighbor, friend, and later business partner, John Lane Dyal. Percy’s groomsmen were Bill O’Brien and Richard Williamson, both of Murray Hill.

“It was a beautiful wedding. Our reception was held at my home on Mayflower Street,” Dot said. “We took a week-long honeymoon car trip to visit friends in Alabama and Georgia.”

They bought their first home at 834 James Street in Riverside for $3,500 in 1948 and lived there until 1958. With the addition of three young children, Percy III, Steven and Beverly, the Rosenblooms needed a larger home and found it in Venetia.

Wedding Day, Sept. 4, 1948

Wedding Day, Sept. 4, 1948

“We moved to 4334 Forest Park Road near Verona Avenue and had great neighbors,” she said. “Some of our closest friends were Sperry and Pat Lee, George and Georgia Herbertson and George and Pat Sanow,” said Dot. “Our children played with Bill and Sister Avent’s four sons: Billy, Kenny, Champ and Sandy of Ortega. Twin boys Sandy and Danny McArthur were also friends.”

In the late 1950s the couple joined nine other couples to found Morningside Interdenominational Church. The group bought a house across from Bourbon Alley on St. John’s Avenue. Worship services and Sunday school were held for four or five years until Morningside Church closed in Avondale and moved to Orange Park.

Later, the Rosenblooms moved to another home on Forest Park Road, where they lived until 1995 when they downsized to a Lakeside condominium.

“We often got together with four other couples for cookouts and to play badminton in the side yard at Margaret Ann and Bob Bazemore’s,” Dot said. “The group included George and Eleanor Carswell, Nadine and Bob Knight, Charlene and Bob Phillips.”

Percy grew up working in the downtown Bay Street office of his father’s business, Florida Window Cleaning Company, established in 1914. In 1948 Percy and his friend John Dyal opened Royal Services Janitorial Contractors. Royal was a combination of their last names: Ro (for Rosenbloom) and yal (for Dyal). Dot worked as bookkeeper for Royal for the first 25 years.

In 1950 Percy merged Florida Window Cleaning Company into Royal Services, Inc., creating what soon became one of the largest and most successful commercial janitorial contracting firms in Florida, with offices in Miami, Orlando and Tampa. As the firm branched out into multi-state satellite services and related businesses, Royal Services moved from Bay Street to Laura Street. It remained on Laura Street until 1967, when they moved into their new office on Park Street on Dot’s 39th birthday, on August 25.

With military contracts throughout the U.S., extensive travel was required. Percy and his friend, Hal Lynch, Jr. (owner of North Florida Lincoln Mercury dealerships), bought a Cessna 182 and later, a Cessna 210.

“We learned to fly at Craig Field, got our licenses on October 13, 1968 and everyone flew during the 10 years we owned a plane,” Dot said. “To me it was just like driving a car and saved so much time. I still have dinner on Friday nights with Hal, his wife Frances, and other friends at Timuquana.”

In 1962 Dot learned to play golf at Hyde Park Golf Club and has been a member of the Jacksonville Women’s Golf Association ever since.

“We joined Timuquana Golf & Country Club and met 11 or 12 couples we played with who became close friends,” she said. “Our group golfed together for 35 years…once a week at different courses from September to May. Every year we took a one-weekend golfing trip to St. Augustine, Stuart, Savannah or Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida. My claim to fame was in 1968 when I won the Deerwood Golf Club Championship – wish I had a picture of that!”

The Rosenblooms fished together before and throughout their long marriage, fishing with their children for bream and bass and always cooking their catch. The family cast their rods close to home during weekends and late afternoons, and often trailered their johnboat to creeks outside of Palatka or to Swimming Pen Creek at Doctors Lake.

Percy learned to play the harmonica in elementary school and enjoyed playing his harmonica by ear. He coached softball at Riverside Baptist Church and the couple sponsored high school youth groups for many years. They were active with their sons and daughter in the Scouts. Dot was Girl Scout Leader for Beverly’s troop, which met at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in the early 1960s. Percy became an Eagle Scout in 1942; his grandson Carter Rosenbloom is also an Eagle Scout.

Family vacations were car trips exploring out West or in the North Carolina mountains. More recently they went on a Disney cruise out of Cape Canaveral with their sons, daughters-in-law, six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

Percy and Dot loved to travel and enjoyed cruises and trips abroad, especially train trips. They toured Africa on a wildlife-viewing safari and took the famous Blue Train trip from Johannesburg to Cape Town. They rode bullet trains in Japan, crisscrossed the U.S. on trains, and rode the Rocky Mountain Express from Vancouver across the Rockies.

At age 88, Dot stays mentally and physically active and is following in her mother’s footsteps (97 at her death) to live a healthy, long life. She believes staying active in every way possible is key to maintaining a great quality of life for seniors.

Dot keeps a full weekly schedule. Her phone rings constantly with calls from family and friends. She is involved at her church, Riverside Presbyterian. She has lunch on Mondays with family and bridge most days with her friend Sally Simpson and other bridge buddies. She loves flowers and was a member and flower show judge for the Garden Club of Jacksonville for many years.

A supporter of her alma mater, Wesleyan College, and St. Vincent’s Medical Center, Dot was also a 10-year volunteer at the Downtown Ecumenical Services when her friend Mary Spuhler was the director.

The Rosenbloom family has long supported many charities, especially the American Cancer Society and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Cancer caused the death of their daughter Beverly Lynn (Rosenbloom) Thompson at age 29, and Percy died from leukemia at age 87. One Rosenbloom daughter-in-law is a leukemia survivor.

By Julie Kerns Garmendia
Resident Community News

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