Okeechobee County, 


A Pictorial History--Page 9

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Gilbert with First Car.JPG (89782 bytes)In 1924 Hugh Gilbert Culbreth, Sr. arrived at Okeechobee from his home in Madrid, Alabama, and took his first job hauling rock for the construction of Conner's Highway with the Model "T" Ford Truck which he and his parents had used in the move.   After the highway was completed he entered into partnership with Walter Watford in July of 1925.  They opened a service station, which was located on East Park Street near Taylor Creek.  

All_Night_Ser._Sta.JPG (57859 bytes)About a year later Gilbert's father built the All Night Service Station just west of the FEC Railroad tracks on West North Park Street.  When I was a young boy in the early 1940’s my father and I would stop at the “All Night Service Station” for a cold drink after a days fishing on the Kissimmee River.  Gilbert lived in an apartment over the “All Night Service Station”, until it was destroyed by fire on December 9, 1944.  

Park Theatre.JPG (51232 bytes)In 1931, Gilbert bought the old Park Theater, located in the Old Park Drug building.  In 1934 he built the Gilbert Theater across the park and next door to the car dealership he had purchased in 1933. 

Bowden Ford.jpg (62552 bytes)Gilbert's new car  dealership was located at West North Park Street and Northwest Fourth Avenue, where Willard Mays Auto Sales is today. This building had been the location of Bowden Ford Dealership which had gone out of business just a few years before.  Gilbert became a Chevrolet Car Dealer in August 1933  at this location, which continues at a new location on U S 441 South today through his son Gil Culbreth, Jr.  The building that housed the theater for those many years was torn down in 1970. 

Gilbert & New Car.JPG (94451 bytes)In 1932 Gilbert purchased the Watford Service Station, which would become his Parrot Tire and Appliance and Fina Station, located on South Parrott Avenue.   

Gilbert Theatre.JPG (79280 bytes)Of all that Gilbert Culbreth is remembered for, the theater and his relationship with the children of Okeechobee for more than thirty years is what people remember most.  There was an annual Christmas party that as children we all looked forward to.  Each year between 1934 and when the theater closed in 1968 the attendance to this party grew from 500 to over 2000.  Each child who attended would receive a package of toys; to some this was the only Christmas they would get; saw free movies and had a visit from Santa Claus.  I remember the Christmas that Santa came to the Giblet’s Christmas Party in a Piper Cub Airplane, and landed on  Park Street in front of the theater.   Gilbert was always running some kind of special event at the theater.  He was either giving away a free car, or having a special night.    I was there the night that if you showed up barefoot you got into the movie free, which resulted in a very large crowd of youngsters running up and down Park Street and not a shoe in sight.  

Leona__Gilbert.JPG (33882 bytes)Gilbert Culbreth, Sr. married Leona Walker, the daughter of Hardy Walker Sr. one of the Early Pioneers of Okeechobee County. He and Leona had two children, a son Hugh Gilbert "Gil" Culbreth, Jr.;  and  a  daughter  Ms. Susan Culbreth.     

So Gilbert Culbreth, Sr. who had been such a beacon of help in this community and one of my Families best friends, died August 24, 1977.  Okeechobee truly lost one of it's most beloved citizens, at the passing of this man.

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