In the mid 1930’s, Oscar Ray Whiddon (O.R. to family and friends) left his sawmilling business in Georgia and headed south to seek better opportunities to support his family. Dania Beach, Florida was then known as the ‘Tomato Capital of the World” and OR, an accomplished farmer as well as lumberman, leased some land and began a small growing business. In the off season, he would put his skills as a sawyer to use working at Gate City Lumber, a local lumber and window manufacturer.
In 1939, with $500 borrowed from his wife’s in-home laundry business, O.R. purchased a pick-up truck a leased a small piece of land on the corner of the 10th Street Causeway and Andrews Avenue. Today, 10th Street is referred to as ‘Sunrise Boulevard’.
Two years later, O.R. moved his operation to South Andrews Avenue to be closer to his largest client, the United States Naval Air Station. This base would later become known as the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport.
Following the end of WWII, Fort Lauderdale and Miami experienced a building boom as motels, hotels and housing was constructed to accommodate the demand of families seeking to make South Florida their home and vacation retreat.
In 1950, following service in the US Air Force, OR’s son Gene joined the firm in a full time capacity. Gene A. Whiddon had worked in the business after school and on weekends prior to this time and had a firm grasp of the business. Gene provided a vision and leadership that propelled the company forward and established it as a major supplier nationwide.
In 1957, O.R. received his commission as a full Kentucky Colonel and from that time forward he would be affectionately known by all as simply “The Colonel”. It was at this same time that Causeway began experiencing its most significant growth. Expansions in both physical locations and product lines were underway. By the close of the 1960’s, Causeway Lumber had become the region’s single largest complete building product supplier.
With OR’s passing in 1971, son Gene was named president. Under his direction, the company would grow to serve all of Florida south of Lake Okeechobee from 7 locations and a branch operating in Candler, North Carolina.
As active in civic affairs as he was in his business, Gene Whiddon left a positive impression on everyone he met- exemplifying his strong faith in God and his genuine love for people. His civic involvement included being named Chairman or President of the Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce, The Kiwanis Club, The Opera Society and the Broward Workshop. He was appointed by Governor Bob Graham to the Judicial Qualifications Commission, was a member of the Florida Council of 100, The 100 Club of Fort Lauderdale, the Tower Club and numerous other organizations.
In 1981, Scott Whiddon joined the firm in a full time capacity. Father and Son had the opportunity to work together for eight years until Gene’s death in 1989. Later that same year, third generation family member M. Scott Whiddon was appointed president.