Gram worked with Dr. David Fairburn (the man in charge at the time). She worked in the Orchid House. She helped with all aspects of the orchids....planting and transplanting, pruning, making cuttings, and making orchid corsages that were sold in the Gift Shop and other places.
Gramps was sort of a general-all-around-something. I'm not sure I ever knew what his title really was. He made rounds through the Garden at closing time and then again during the night. He was a greeter, and ticket seller sometimes, he took care of the parrots, and he occasionally gave tours. He was a little bit of everything.
There was a small house on the grounds, in the non-public areas, that went with the job and that's where they lived. It was the perfect arrangement for an older couple. I remember spending many Saturdays and Sunday visiting Gram and Gramps, often overnights.
The Gardens closed at 5:00 p.m. It wasn't set up for nighttime activity. But at 5:00 p.m. there is still lots of light left in the summer....and that is when I took over!!
The Gardens became my own "estate". I pretty much had free rein, the only places I could not go were the alligators' enclosure and the undeveloped areas of the property. I could be Guinivere and the Gardens were Camelot! I could be Juliet and know that Romeo was fighting through the jungle to get to me....nevermind that I was pretty sketchy on the rest of the story, I made up my own. Tarzan and Jane....Admiral Byrd discovering whichever pole he found....my imagination was up to the challenge. I went all over the world in my Garden!!
I was never bored! I could pound away on the huge drums Sexton brought back from Africa. I could pretend to cook in the outdoor Spanish Kitchen. I must have gotten "married" in the Royal Palm Grove a gazillion times. I explored the Gardens from up and down and backward and forward and I ended up knowing it like the back of my hand.
During the hours that the park was open, I still spent a lot of time playing there, but I was a whole lot less visible! Looking back on those days, I'm pretty sure that Dr. Fairburn and the rest of the staff knew I had made myself at home. Evidently, however, I was so well behaved that they just accepted that I was there a lot!
I would walk with Gramps on his walkthrough at closing time. We had some great conversations. Other times I would sit with Gram in the Orchid House while she worked with the plants. I'm sure I pretty much talked her ear off, but when I was getting too restless she would send me out to play in this wonderful fantasy land!
I suppose I didn't really go out to the Gardens as often and I think I did, but it doesn't matter. My memories of that time and place live in a special place in my heart and always will.