Walt Disney began to develop his “Florida Project” and for a long time tried to keep what he was doing under “wraps.”
The reasons were obvious. Walt had gotten landlocked when he built Disneyland in California and he didn’t want that to happen again. So veiled in mystery and intrigue, land companies purchased property, men from California would come to visit and scout out locations, and for a time… there was a great push to solve the mystery of just who was doing the purchasing and what was coming to Central Florida.
Often lost in the journals of Walt Disney history is a little place called Jock’s Corner.
Floridians Jock and Fern Lowery owned and operated Jock’s Corner , a small country store near what is now Lake Buena Vista, Downtown Disney and Disney Springs. Men associated with the mystery project often stop at Jock’s Corner for a cold beverage. According to Imagineering Disney -Jock was reported to say, “They would tell me they were from California, but that’s all they would say, and you couldn’t pick up a thing listening to the conversations they made among themselves. I know, because I tried to overhear some of them.”
You have to remember that it was Disney that created the expansion of this sleepy isolated area of Central Florida. At the time Jock’s Corner was a place that if a traveler would happen through in the middle of the night, with a knock on the door, Jock and Fern would open up to help them out and send them on their way.
Although, the men from Disney often would visit this little landmark. You might be wondering did Walt Disney himself ever drop by to say hello?
In an April 23, 2010 Orlando Sentinel article commemorating Fern Lowery (who lived to be 96 years of age), her daughter, Audrey Arnold remembers: “Our house was built onto the back of the store, so if people needed gas or something at any hour of the night, Momma or Daddy would wake up to help them.”
Jock and Fern had big hearts, making them an anchor point in the community. For nearly two decades, the family store barely broke even, but Lowery would extend credit to families struggling to make ends meet, daughter Susan Wagner of Orlando said. “Momma kept a little notebook and just marked it down if someone needed eggs, butter or milk. And they could pay what they could later.”
But what about Walt?
“I came home from school one day, and Momma said, ‘You’ll never guess who we waited on today — Walt Disney,’” Wagner said. “We couldn’t believe it. We’d see him on TV every week, and Momma was starstruck.”
So, on one of his trips to check out the Florida Project, Walt did drop by to say “hi.” Jock’s property was never intended to be part of Disney’s Florida Project. The Lowerys did sell their place in 1967 and treated themselves to an early retirement. The value of property exploded with the arrival of Walt Disney World but the store remained under another name in the years that followed.
So, although you may have never heard of it before – the store, the Disney staff that often dropped by, the reporters that were snooping around trying to figure out what was going on in the massive land grab, all made the little place owned by Jack and Fern an important and forgotten part of Disney History.
The richness and the way that so many stories get lost in the dust of days gone by are why I have woven so much fact inside the fictional series that I have had the chance to write. Although the books are mystery thrillers that are designed to take readers on adventures of the imagination, they are often built upon fact – real places, real people, and real events that most don’t know and many have forgotten. I suppose the description of “faction” is appropriate as I have tried to blend fact and fiction together into an exciting story for each reader to enjoy.
Be careful as you move through the story of your life not to miss the places, the people, and the memories that add a depth and richness to your journey. Your life will be better for it and history of the past will forever impact your future.
Author Jeff Dixon has written a series of mystery thrillers set in and around Central Florida and the Walt Disney World Resort. The latest installment “Storming the Kingdom” is available and takes the mystery to another level as you adventure through the worlds that Walt created and the history of his life that many have missed. http://www.amazon.com/Storming-Kingdom-Dixon-Disney-Jeff/dp/1940269296