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Why do they call it that? The name of Frostproof, Florida and history of Rattlesnake, Florida

9:39 AM, Jul 28, 2010   |    comments
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  • The sign in front of the post office at Rattlesnake, Florida. From a postcard in the collection of the Tampa Bay History Center.
  • The Frostproof, Florida water tower.
  • A street in Frostproof, Florida.
  • Wide view of the post office at Rattlesnake, Florida. From a postcard in the collection of the Tampa Bay History Center.
  • Canned diamondback rattlesnake, the type sold at the store in Rattlesnake, Florida. Photo from Florida State Archives.

A Tampa Bay area city was named on the sly -- folks picked a name, but somebody snuck in a last-second change. Plus, the story behind a Hillsborough County spot with a slithery name.

Why do they call it Frostproof?

How does a town get a name like this? Well, somebody has to lie to his friends.

According to the Frostproof Chamber of Commerce, two decades after the Civil War, folks in this then-tiny town wanted to apply for their own post office.

William Overocker would be the postmaster and receive the mail at his house.

He and just about everyone agreed on the name. The town sits on a ridge between two lakes, so they loved "Lakemont".

But Joe Carson thought that name was lousy.

He offered to take the application for a post office to Fort Meade to file it.

On the way there, he scratched Lakemont off the application and wrote in the name he liked: Frostproof.

It was approved in Washington, and soon a surprised William Overocker learned he was the new postmaster not of Lakemont -- but of Frostproof, Florida.

Why pick a bold name like Frostproof?

Rodney Kite-Powell, curator of history at the Tampa Bay History Center, says it's all about marketing -- painting a picture that's good for business.

"At least the cattle ranchers at the time thought that this area was, indeed, frostproof -- it was free of frost. And so their cattle could graze there in the coldest of winters," Kite-Powell said.

Before you ask, the cows and crops in Frostproof do face freezes from time to time.

But the citrus business is still going here, and that's a sign Frostproof really is frost resistant.

Why do they call it Rattlesnake?

In the 1930's, in the middle of what's now a South Tampa neighborhood, was a store; a post office; and, of course, a snake pit -- all bearing the name Rattlesnake.

In that great Florida tradition, it was a roadside attraction.

Canned diamondback, anyone?

That's the kind stuff two snake catchers -- George End and Guy "Rattlesnake" Johnson -- sold from a stand near Gandy Boulevard.

It was plopped in that spot to make a buck from folks driving across the newly completed Gandy Bridge.

The entrepreneurs even convinced Washington to give them a post office at Rattlesnake, Florida.

There are no signs it ever existed near the intersection of Ballast Point Boulevard and S. Renellie Drive in the South Tampa today, but some maps and even GPS units will still steer you toward a spot called Rattlesnake.

Having a post office just for your attraction isn't unique to Rattlesnake. 

Weeki Wachee in Hernando County was set up with a whole city government just so it would show up on maps and road signs and steer people to the Weeki Wachee Springs attraction.

And Walt Disney World is located in two cities: Lake Buena Vista and Bay Lake. A total of around 65 people live in the two cities, and Disney controls the functions of the government there through the Reedy Creek Improvement District.

Why do they call it that? Now you know.

There are a lot more places out there with names that could use explaining. If you want to ask "Why do they call it that?" send an e-mail with a name that has you curious to Grayson Kamm using this link.

We'll be featuring new places and stories each Wednesday on 10 News. Watch them on The Morning Show from 5-7 a.m. and on 10 News at 5:30 p.m.

Check out previous editions of "Why do they call it that?" plus links to photos and maps from Tampa Bay's past at our "Why do they call it that?" website:

Connect with 10 News multi-media journalist Grayson Kamm
twitter @graysonkamm | e-mail at this link | or on Facebook

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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