Rebecca West: Words & Music

The Sons of the Palmettos

by Bob West

During our 1957 vacation trip to Florida, I found a job as advertising art director for American Fire & Casualty Company in Orlando. Suzanne stayed with Sylvia's parents in West Palm Beach and David stayed with mine in Tampa while Sylvia and I returned to Massachusetts. I let Raytheon know that I would be quitting my job in two weeks. Then Sylvia and I got busy preparing for our move to a rented house in Casselberry, just north of Orlando.

While we were in Casselberry, we attended the Jefferson Street Church of Christ in downtown Orlando. The windows were open and the smell of food cooking at the restaurant next door on Sunday mornings made it difficult to pay attention to Paul Breakfield's sermons.

During that time all of the Churches of Christ in Orlando were in fellowship with each other. I remember attending a "dinner on the grounds" and afternoon singing one Sunday at the Par Street Church of Christ where brethren from all of the Orlando congregations participated.

In 1958 Robynne was born. Sylvia called me from the doctor's office and said she was going across the street to the hospital and check in. I asked her if she wanted me to come too.

She said, "No, you don't need to."

I took what she said at face value and kept working. I remember being very nervous. I couldn't get my mind off what Sylvia was going through. After a while my department manager encouraged me to go to the hospital to be with her. I did, but by that time she was already in the delivery room. That was back before husbands were allowed there.

In the waiting room I was closer than I had been the other two times, but Sylvia wouldn't have been aware of that.

When we received the cash settlement from the auto and truck accident, we were able to use the money for a down payment on a house in Robinswood on the west side of Orlando. We had already paid my medical bills.

The Pine Hills Church of Christ had just completed their new building a few blocks away. A school teacher named Jerry Belchick did the preaching. We became members there and worked with that church for over 20 years.

In the beginning my involvement consisted of attending, warming a pew, and waiting in our car after services were over while Sylvia and other adults stood and visited outside the building and the children ran and played.

When Connie W. Adams became our preacher, he encouraged me to take a more active part in the teaching program. He also got me involved with our church paper, The Pine Hills Exhorter, which he edited. That's when I began writing articles.

Our music in church services was a cappella (singing only, no instruments), but Connie (on the mandolin and lead guitar), and some other musicians, such as Lynn Robinson (rhythm guitar), Bernard DeNoe (steel guitar), and Frank Belue (ukulele and mandolin) would get together to "pick and sing." They let me play bass. We called ourselves "The Sons of the Palmettos" and played country, bluegrass, and Hawaiian music at the homes of shut-ins and at covered-dish suppers, parties, etc. Below is a photo of us at a rodeo.

Sons of the Palmetto perform at rodeo

Sons of the Palmettos perform at rodeo
Left to right: Bernard DeNoe, Connie W. Adams, Bob West (singing),
Lynn Robinson, and Gene Byram (Central Florida, circa 1963)

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