Ben's Tribute To
The Kapok Tree Restaurant
The Kapok Tree And Me
When I was 13 years old, my grandparents moved from Ohio to Florida. I didn't know much
about Florida back then: palm trees, orange juice, Cape Kennedy. And suddenly, that's where Grandma
and Grandpa lived. They were pioneers; the first in the family to move to The Sunshine State.
In September of 1973 I visited my grandparents for a week. They were big Florida boosters, so they drove me around to see the sights. Many of the things they took me to see are still there - Busch Gardens, Lowry Park Zoo. But one place I remember fondly from that trip is now closed - my Grandmother's favorite restaurant, the Kapok Tree Inn.
At that time the restaurant was in its heyday. I was amazed by its size and "fanciness". The food was pretty good, but not as memorable as the sculptures and fountains, the vines and huge plants. My grandmother loved the Florida Room best back then, though she later preferred the Grand Ballroom. This was the place to bring out-of-towners if you really wanted to impress them.
On a return visit to Florida in June 1988, I had the pleasure of dining at the Kapok Tree with my grandmother, my parents, my brother, my wife, and my children - four generations at one table. Only a special restaurant, and the magnificent "Grand Ballroom", would suit such a special occasion.
Enjoying dinner in the Grand Ballroom, June 1988
Years passed, and the rest of the family eventually moved to Florida. I heard in conversation one year that the restaurant had closed. Like everyone else, I could not understand why. As my grandmother used to say with a sigh, "Those days are gone, but not forgotten."
Visiting my parents in 2004, I resolved to check out the former Kapok Tree. It was a joy to see the place again, even though it's no longer a restaurant. I went back again in 2005 and 2007. I felt like an urban archaeologist exploring the ruins of my own past.
Do I recommend going back? Yes, without reservation (pardon the pun).
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