The Depot Railroad Station was a landmark for Oak Hill and when it burned, we all felt a great loss. There used to be platforms on the south end and one on the north across Halifax Avenue. They were used to set freight on, such as boxes of fruit, iced down crabmeat and fish in barrels. In 1963, Mrs. Florence Settle took her 6th grade on a field trip at the end of the school year to the train depot.

Depot Railroad Station in 1963. Mrs. Florence Settle taking her 6th grade on their first train ride. It was their field trip at the end of the school year.

Depot Railroad Station in 1963.
Mrs. Florence Settle taking her 6th grade on their first train ride.
It was their field trip at the end of the school year.

Lilly (Kersey) Burns was born in Carrabelle, Florida. She received her education there. In those days, when you completed the 11th grade, you could take a test making you eligible to be a teacher. Lilly passed, so she received a “Florida Life Certificate” making her eligible to teach. Her first year (1922-23) she taught in a one-room school, teaching all grades. It was in country school in Sumatra, Florida about three miles from Carrabelle. That year she was 17 years old and had pupils older than she was.

The next two years, she taught elementary school in Lake City, Florida.

In 1926, she came to Oak Hill and taught while living in the boarding house of Mrs. Minnie McCullough, now the Treadwell home on E. Halifax Avenue. W.F. “Bill” Burns and she were married in 1927. In 1930, after his tour of duty with the Navy, thjey terturned back here for Billt o teach. His brother, D.F. Burns (Cisco) had already come here in 1924 as the first teaching principal of the school.

Lilly, a housewife with a small child, stopped teaching until h er children of three grew up a little. She returned to the school room in 1946 and continued as a primary teacher until her retirment in 1964, after 28 years of teaching.

Mrs. Lilly Burns, Wm.F.Burns Sr., Mrs Alma Cartier

Mrs. Lilly Burns, Wm.F.Burns Sr., Mrs Alma Cartier

Lilly and Bill’s children were: Mrs. (Jack) Betty Bellamy, also a school teacher; Anogther daugher was Barbara, the wife of a minister. They had four grandchildren.

At Lily’s retirement celebration were two of her students who taught here, Carolina (McDonald) Harris and Van Buren Baldwin.

William Francis Burns was born in Carrabelle, Florida. He has achieved many important and necessary things throughout his life.

In 1924, when the school was moved to its present site, the principal was D.F. Burns, brother of W.F. Burns.

William Burns came to Oak Hill to teach in 1930 and continued there until his retirement in 1957, with the exception of the four years that he served in the Navy during World War II. Bill began a sports program with boys and girls. In the 1930-31 season, the girls softball team was undefeated and the boys lost only one game. In the fall of 1938, T. DeWitt Taylor moved to Pierson as principal, so Burns became teaching principal until retirement in 1957, making it 28 years in all that he served.

William F. Burns

William F. Burns

He held many positions of his leadership in the community – at once he was president of the Village Improvement Association for several years and instrumental in the reactivation of the Oak Hill City Charter in 1962.

He was selected by the first City Council to serve as the City Clerk for the reactivated city. During this time, Mr. Burns – through research of county records – determined that state-owned land was available which the city could purchase for recreational purposes. A five-acre site was bought and became Oak Hill’s first city park, after five years of diligent work from Mary A. Dewees, to whom the park is named for. This became the first property owned by the municipality.

Burns later also served as chairman of the planning and zoning board. In this capacity, he negotiated with the Oak Hill Citrus Growers Exchange for a lease on property which was used for Oak Hill’s Little League field.

He has remained active in community affairs and served as a Deacon in the First Baptist Church of Oak Hill.

Considering his distinguished record of educational and community services, the Oak Hill Commission respectfully requested that the School Board honor this outstanding educator by changing the name of the local school to W. F. Burns Elementary School.

He and Lilly Kersey were married February 14, 1927 and have three children, Betty Bellamy, also a school teacher, Barbara and W.F. Burns Jr., Mrs. Alma (Kersey) Cartier, also a teacher, all members of the school faculty.

W.F. Burns was presented a painting of the “W.F. Burns Elementary School” in a dedication service at the school named in his honor. Mr. Burns shared his reactions to this honor with a large group of Oak Hill citizens who gathered to pay him tribute. He said, “This is an historical night, and it’s a staggering thought to know that this name will go on into perpetuity.” In sincere humility, he expressed his gratitude for the highest honor in the field of education that he had ever received. One of Mr. Burns favorite poems was:

The Winds of Fate

One ship drives east and another drives west
With the selfsame winds that blow
“Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales
Which tells us the way to go
Like the winds of the sea are the ways of fate;
As we voyage along through life’
“Tis the set of a soul
That decides it goal
And not the calm or the strife.


The commercial fishing became very hard to make a living from in 1950, because the market went so low. There were too many depending on it, so a lot of people here went to work at the Kennedy Space Center, known as “The Cape”. A real blessing to all here.

The Cape being only a 30-minute drive, and was on the south of the Oak Hill City limits. Many were employed then and still are at the Cape and many were already working at Patrick Air Force Base at the Banana River, only a short distance from the Cape.

Kennedy Space Center - Vehicle Assembly Building

Kennedy Space Center – Vehicle Assembly Building

Our original seven United States astronauts of the Mercury program were the first of our manned space shots. They blazed the trail for the Gemini and Apollo programs that were followed by the lunar landings which were to put twelve US astronauts on the Moon.

The Sky Lab program and Apollo, Soyuz (Russian), then the Shuttle followed.

The unmanned launches were launches from Cape Canaveral across the Banana River from the Kennedy Space Center where all of the US manned flights were launched from.

The original astronauts, seven of them, were launched by Mercury space capsules and the first project of the program. It as an open-ended program. In the next context of the lunar landing project, it became the first stage of a vehicle-development program designed to put men on the surface of the moon. The very first living thing to be sent up in space was a monkey named “Ham”. He came back all right except for being very excited. The next time they went near him, he wouldn’t let anyone touch him for fear of being sent up again. The ones next sent up were humans; they felt it safe because there had been many tests proving it to be safe for man. First starting it with satellites. They retired “Ham” to the Washington Zoo, where all could go visit him until his death in 1983.

The seven astronauts were: Alan B. Shepard, launched on May 5, 1961 in the Mercury (Redstone); John H. Glenn, launched February 20, 1962 in the Mercury-Atlas 6 (Friendship 7) – he flew three revolutions around the earth; M.Scott Carpenter, launched in Mercury-Atlas 7 (Aurora 7) on May 24, 1962; Walter M. Schirra in Mercury-Atlas 8 (Sigma 7) on October 3, 1962; Leroy Gordon Cooper in Mercury Atlas 9 (Faith 7) on May 15, 1963. All three phases of the space program are launched with Saturn 5 rockets. The rockets are only used once and they are the only parts not reusable. The last two astronauts in this phase were Virgil I. (Gus) Grissom and Donald K. Slayton.

The second phase of the space program was Gemini, (Gemini meaning turn) carrying two men. Mercury was a one-man capsule and Apollo means three men aboard capsules. The first Mercury capsules in the program were unmanned. The third was carrying Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom and John W. Young on March 23, 1965, Gemini 3. The two led this program by Young smuggling a corned beef sandwich aboard for Gus Grissom. It was much to the disapproval of NASA. The capsule was known as “Unsinkable Molly Brown”. On Gus Grissom’s flight, he nearly drowned – his Mercury capsule sank following the unscheduled blowout of the escape hatch. Next launch was with James A. McDivitt and Edward H. White on Gemini 4 June 3, 1965. White was the first to walk in space.

Leroy Gordon Cooper was the first American astronaut to make two space flights. He and Charles (Pete) Conrad were launched in Gemini 5 on August 21, 1965.

Frank Borman and James A. Lovell were launched in Gemini 7 on December 4, 1965.

Walter Schirra and Thomas P. Stafford in Gemini 6 on December 15, 1965.

Neil A. Armstrong and David R. Scott on Gemini 8 on March 16, 1966.

Thomas P. Stafford and Eugene A. Cernan in Gemini 9 on June 3, 1966.

John W. Young and Michael Collins in Gemini 10 on July 18, 1966.

Richard F. Gordon and “Pete” Conrad in Gemini 11 on September 11, 1966.

James Lovell and Edwin E. Aldrin launched on Gemini 12 on Nov. 11, 1966.

This program ended in a note of triumph …

The first two programs showed through these flights that a trained crew could endure zero gravity without ill effects long enough for a lunar trip. As an intermediate step from Mercury to Apollo, Gemini provided a training program for the maneuvers, which were to be performed in order to execute the lunar orbit rendezvous method of landing on the moon.

The first ten Gemini missions were flown between March 23. 1965 and November 11, 1966.

On January 27, 1967, a tragedy hit as the first Apollo mission started while astronauts Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom, Edward H. White and Roger B. Chaffe were sitting in their spacecraft. A fire broke out and within 15 seconds all three were dead. They were testing its system when it happened atop its Saturn 1B on launch complex 34. The cause of the fire was due to an electrical spark, caused by faulty wiring. The spark ignited plastics which had been assumed to be relatively fire-resistant. However, although they resisted fire in a normal atmosphere, the oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere that had been introduced into the cabin to simulate flight conditions caused it to become more flammable.

The program stopped for a while and the next missions were unmanned until Apollo 7.

The Apollo-Lunar programs from 1969 to 1972 sent nine expeditions to the Moon. Six succeeded in landing twelve astronauts on the Moon. Walter M. Schirra, Donn F. Eisele, and Walter Cunningham were launched in Apollo 7 on October 11, 1968.

James Lovell, William A. Anders, and Frank Borman were launched in Apollo 8 on December 21, 1968.

David R. Scott, Russell Schweickart and James A. McDivitt were launched in Apollo 9 on March 3, 1969.

Thomas P. Stafford, Eugene A. Cernan and John W. Young were launched in Apollo 11, on July 16, 1969 and landed on the surface of the Moon in what they call the “Sea of Tranquility” July 20, 1969. Armstrong was the first to step out and he said, “one step for man, but a giant step for mankind”, as he descended the ladder into the crumbly soil.

Then next came Aldren, they went many miles in the land rover they took to the Moon. They planted an American flag, they set up a special one on a wire so it would spread out because there is no breeze there to display it. They brought back many lunar rocks and soil for tests.

Charles Conrad and Alan L. Bean were launched in Apollo 12 on November 12, 1969.

James A. Lovell, Fred W. Haise and John L. Swigert in Apollo 13 on April 11, 1970. This 13th mission was a very near tragedy. One of the three fuel cells blew up and they then had to live off the LEM for their oxygen. LEM is the life support system that they were to use on a space walk outside the shuttle.

Alan B. Shepard, Edgar D. Mitchell and Stuart A. Roosa were launched in Apollo 14 on January 31, 1971.

David Scott, James B. Erwin and Alfred M. Worden were launched in Apollo 15 on August 26, 1971.

John Young, Charles M. Duke and Thomas K. Mattingly II were launched in Apollo 16 on April 16, 1972.

Eugene A. Cernan, Harrison A. Schmitt and Ronald E. Evans were launched in Apollo 17 on December 7, 1972, this being the last of the Apollo program.

Then the Skylab program begins. It started with America’s first manned space station, all the other three missions had cramped quarters, but Skylab had plenty of room and lots of food aboard. Skylab had troubles and didn’t go, so the first to go up was Skylab II on May 25, 1973 with Charles Conrad, Joseph Kerwin and Paul Weitz. Skylab III’s mission left July 28, 1973 with Alan Bean, Owen Garriott and Jack Lousma aboard. The last mission, Skylab IV, had Gerald Carr, Edward Gibson and William Pogue aboard on November 16, 1973. Enough was known in this program, so they started with the next phase of the program after they had the “handshake in orbit” with Russia.

The “handshake in orbit”, July 1975, was a great milestone in manned space flight. An event that evoked worldwide acclaim, it was welcomed throughout the world. It was a test project.

Those aboard were five men who flew in the joint US/USSR Apollo Soyuz: Thomas Stafford, Donald Slayton, Vance Brand, Alexie Leonov, Vaetery Kubasov.

It was a link up of an American and a Soviet spaceship in earth orbit.

Next is the great advancement of the space era.

Shuttle on pad waiting to be launched in 1979.

Shuttle on pad waiting to be launched in 1979.

The three-element shuttle consisting of the orbiter (the shuttle), 2 rocket boosters and a disposable solid propellant tank rocket motors that would be recovered at sea after being jettisoned at altitudes and reused.

The space shuttle arrives mounted vertically on the mobile launch platform on the back of the “giant crawler” which places the complete unit over the blast pit on a platform then returns to its building for a checkup. The shuttle is launched vertically – its own liquid fuel rocket engines firing in concert with the solid rocket boosters (SRB). The boosters are dropped off at a certain altitude and recovered at sea for reuse. The tank is not recovered, it is the only unit of the system that isn’t used again.

The first shuttle (STS-1) had aboard John Young and Robert (Bob) Crippen in the “Columbia” when launched from 39A launch pad on April 12, 1981. They landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California on April 14, 1981.

The shuttles are designed to carry up to seven men in orbit and all will be launched from pad 39A (later 39B as well).

The shuttles are always hooked to the top of especially prepared 747 plane to transport them back to Kennedy Space Center to repair all damages done preparing for the next launch.

Second mission was (STS-2) flight carrying aboard Joe Engle and Richard Truly on September 30, 1981.

Third mission was (STS-3) flight, carrying aboard Jack Lousma and Fullerton on the Columbia spaceship.

Fourth mission was Columbia (STS-4) flight, carrying Thomas K. Mattingly II and Hartfield.

Flight five (STS-5) Columbia was carrying Joe Allen, Vance Grand, Robert (Bob) Overmeyer and William Lenoir.

On flight six (STS-6) Challenger had on board Paul Weitz, Bobka, Musgrave and Peterson.

The flight (STS-7) Challenger had on board Robert “Bob” Crippen, Fabian, Hauck, Sally Ride and Thaagard. Ride was the first woman astronaut to go in space.

Flight eight (STS-8) had aboard the Challenger Richard H. Truly, Brandenstein, Gardner, Bluford and Thorton., Bluford was the first black man to go in space.

Flight nine (STS-9) Columbia had on board Merbold, Parker, John W. Young, Shaw, Owen Garriott, Lichtenberg.

There was not an STS-10 and there isn’t going to be a 13 either.

The Challenger flight STS-12 (was flight 11), had on board Commander Robert “Cripp” Crippen, the pilot and he is the only one that has flown the shuttle on three flights (more than anyone else); Terry Hart; James Van Hafton, a doctor; George “Pinky” Nelson, also a doctor; Dick Scobee, mission specialist. “Ox” and “Pinky” got out and tried to retrieve the satellite that has been just floating in space for about 4 years. The first try failed with the jet back with “Pinky” in it. The next day, April 11, it was retrieved with the long arm from the bay area, they came within 200 feet of it, and Hart slowly retrieved it and brought into the bay area, they repaired it and shot it back in space again.

The satellite they retrieved from space, repaired and put back in space, cost $77 million, it was called “solar max”.

This shuttle went higher than anyone before. It went 290 miles high and it had on board 3300 bees to see if they could produce honey combs and see if zero gravity harmed them in any way.

The astronauts had on board also 13 million tomato seeds and 56 other science experiments. They will retrieve the tomato seeds after being in the earth’s atmosphere 10 months to see what, if anything ,different happens to them after planting them. The seeds will be with the other 57 science experiments in a special rack built for them in the prolonged atmosphere.

The shuttle was unable to land back at Kennedy Space Center as planned due to the weather. It landed back at Edwards Air Force Base at California. It landed very smoothly on the morning of April 13, 1984, with “Cripp” Crippens being the pilot, on the very long runway they have out there.

The shuttles all were named after seafaring ships built between 1872-1876. They are Columbia, Challenger, Discovery and last the Atlantis, still being built.

The Crawler with the Shuttle on it goes one mile per hour. It takes 6 hours to go the three and one half miles to launch pad 39A from the VAB Building. (It means Vehicular Assembly Building). They had to take the last shuttle back to the VAB building for repairs. Troubles kept arising.

The last flight 12 (STS-14) had aboard this mission on Discovery shuttle Henry Hartsfield, Charles Walker, Michael Coast, Steven Hawley, Richard Mullane and Judy Resnick, the second woman to go in space. Steven Hawley was the husband of Sally Ride, the first woman in the United States go to in the space program.

This flight was cancelled twice due to problems that arose on June 25, then again on June 26, the next day. It finally had to be returned to the VAB Building for repairs. On August 29, 1984, at 8:39 a.m. it was finally launched.

There are to be more and more regularly in the future and we all here hope so, for our livelihood.

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