Annie Carlton Fernandez remembers when the marching band at the old Lutz Schoolhouse used to practice on U.S. 41.
“You would be taking your life in your hands now,” said Fernandez, who was born in 1942, “but there were no cars back then.”
To say that life in Lutz was different in Fernandez’s day is an understatement. To celebrate those bygone eras, Fernandez and other Lutz Pioneers — the founding fathers and mothers of this community — are gathering for their 26th reunion Saturday, Oct. 13, at the Old Lutz Schoolhouse. The public is invited to find out what life used to be like in Lutz.
Fernandez’s family came from Odessa in 1921. Grandparents William and Mary Dozier used to have a house on U.S. 41 that Fernandez was also born in.
“The first time they widened the road, they took 200 feet off my grandparents’ property, and the next time, they took the porch,” Fernandez said. “They raised six kids in that house. It was only a two-bedroom home so you figure that one out.”
Fernandez got married in Forest Hills and lived there for 39 years until divorce brought her back to Lutz, where she remains today.
“Lutz is my roots, and that’s where I want to be,” she said.
Fernandez’s family are relative newcomers compared to Cliff Denison's. The Denisons (and Dennisons, too — more on that later) are descended from James Madison Cooper, who settled here in 1826. That’s 19 years before the Sunshine State even entered the Union.
“He was the first white man to move into the Lutz, Land O’ Lakes area,” Denison said of his ancestor.
Denison, 69, said his father, Allen Denison, was part of “a dying breed.”
“He was a bona fide Florida cracker,” he said.
The younger Denison went to the old Lutz Schoolhouse, where a teacher decided the proper way to spell Denison was with two ‘n’s. Some of the family complied, some didn’t. Doesn’t matter, though, really.
“We’re all cousins,” Denison said.
Growing up in Lutz was a pleasant experience.
“It was all good as I recall,” Denison said. “It was beautiful country with orange groves and swamps and gators and deer.
“There was never any Hatfield and McCoy-type situations,” he added. “We all got along.”
The Lutz Pioneers Reunion will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13, at the Old Lutz Schoolhouse, 18819 N. U.S. Highway 41. This is a covered dish event. Attendees must bring two meat and vegetable selections or two vegetable and dessert selections. For more information, call 813-784-4471.