Who didn’t have a red plastic View-Master growing up? I’m a child of the 80s and can remember my mom handing me the View-Master along with several disks every time we took a road trip…just to keep me occupied. The down side for her was that she always had to purchase new disks with each new place we visited. I had quite a collection at one time. I have no idea whatever happened to the disks or the View-Master.
A couple of weeks ago, I spent a couple of days in the historic town of High Springs, Florida just off Interstate-75 north of Gainesville. This place is a mecca for antique hunters. One of my stops was a shop called The Antique Center. After 15 minutes browsing the aisles, I ran across this case of old cameras. And in the back corner of the case sat this impressive looking View-Master from the 1950s. Not only was it the real deal, but it was carefully resting on the original box! Needless to say, I had to have it. It’s now sitting on a display table in my living room. And for those of you wondering, it still works.
But people don’t just visit High Springs for the large number of antique shops, art galleries and consignment boutiques. It’s also a nature lover’s paradise. On the outskirts of town are several recreation areas where you can take advantage of the numerous springs this part of Florida is known for. The pristine waters are inviting for everyone from scuba divers and swimmers to fishermen and those who like to go canoeing or tubing. O’Leno State Park, about six miles north of High Springs, was built in the 1930s on the site of an old railroad town that went belly up and, for all practical purposes, disappeared. Some of the town’s rustic buildings remain as well as a large suspension bridge, which serves as the park’s icon.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head back into town for a quick bite to eat. The Great Outdoors Restaurant features classic American fare with a modern twist inside the historic opera house. The restaurant’s Springhouse Tavern is a favorite watering hole for locals and serves up several homemade brews from the full-bodied Tail-Gator Pilsner to the light-bodied, low-calorie Three Merry Widows. The large outdoor patio is the ideal place to be at night when live entertainment fills the courtyard.
This town of 5000 boasts a reputation for being the friendliest town in Florida. And I’d have to agree. Residents are quick to say hello when you pass them on the sidewalks and merchants are helpful with suggestions and directions. One tip I received from a downtown gallery owner was one I just couldn’t pass up before leaving High Springs. She pointed me in the direction of Bev’s Burger Cafe on Highway 441 with the promise that they had the best burgers in town. Housed in a converted convenience store, Bev’s keeps the decor simple and the food even simpler. If you’re looking for good diner food at affordable prices, no place in town can beat Bev’s. The menu features home-cooked meals from fried chicken and barbeque pork to hot dogs and country fried steak. I came for the burger and that’s what I got. Two thin steak burger patties served with mustard on a toasted bun. (I kept it simple so I could taste the flavor of the meat.) And after savoring every last morsel on my plate, I would say I whole-heartedly agree with the locals. I’d even take it a step further. Bev’s has one of the best tasting burgers in the whole state.
Now I’m back home looking at that antique View-Master I purchased in High Springs. I took plenty of photos during my trip to the idyllic old Florida town. Maybe I’ll find a way to create my own View-Master disks and put all those photos to good use. I’m sure it would make my mother proud!