Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Heading Through the Kelsey City Gates

The Collie Family Poses in Front of the Kelsey City Gates
(Picture from the Historical Society of Palm Beach County)
         From Northlake Boulevard,Old Dixie Highway ran south along the railroad tracks.  When I was little, the road was two-lane and still had the feel of a country road. About a half block or so south of Northlake Boulevard, we’d pass two columns, one on either side of the road. These were the remnants of the Kelsey City Gates, or the Kelsey City Arch as it was also known.
       The story of Kelsey City started out the story of Harry Kelsey. A visionary from Boston, he visited the area in 1919 as he recovered from pneumonia, and saw tremendous potential to plan and build a city like no other. He enlisted the assistance of the Olmstead Brothers, land planners whose biggest claim to fame was arguably the design of Central Park in New York City, and Dr. John Nolan and they designed what was the first zoned community south of Washington, DC. A large part of their planning is still in place today although the name of the town was changed to Lake Park in 1939.
       The little two lane road the remnants of the gate were on was the original U.S. Highway One and the gates marked the entry to the city.  Built in 1923, the gates were twenty feet high and thirty feet wide.  Constructed of mortar, coquina (limestone made of broken shells), stucco and tile wrapped around metal bars, the arch displayed a metal banner that read, “Welcome to the World’s Winter Playground.” Unfortunately, the sign disappeared in the 1928 hurricane, along with a lot of the hopes and dreams of Kelsey as well as those of many of the Kelsey City residents. That hurricane helped changed the course of the city’s development when Kelsey was forced to sell his holdings in Florida and retreated north in 1931.
        When U.S. Highway One was re-routed to the eastern location where it sits today, the two lane road next to the railroad tracks became known as Old Dixie Highway. In 1981, that portion of Old Dixie Highway was scheduled to be enlarged to a four lane road. The plan was to gently take the remnants of the gates down and re-assemble them at another location. It didn’t work out that way.  When the crane touched what was left of the gates, they crumbled.  Only two pieces were salvaged and they both sit forlornly in front of the Lake Park Fire/Rescue Station on Park Avenue in Lake Park next to the Town Hall. In recent years, the bronze plaques that identified what the two pieces of rock are and why they were important have been removed or perhaps stolen.  Those rocks are, however, what’s left of the beautiful Kelsey City Gates.
        Luckily, the Town Hall, built in 1927 and one of sixty-three buildings that still stand from the initial settling of the town, remains in one piece as no one has apparently figured out how to hook it up to a trailer and cart it away, too. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places and is definitely worth a look. I’ve attended a musical in the beautiful second floor ballroom and even though the show was great, I spent more time eyeing the woodwork and floors than watching the performance. With a history geeks's imagination, I could just see what it must have been like when it was new.

        If you're in the area, keep an eye out for events scheduled at the Town Hall for your chance to enjoy a glimpse into life in the 1930s at the Town Hall at 535 Park Avenue, Lake Park, Florida.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Birth of an Imago

         Once again, it's Campaign Challenge Time!  The second challenge is a doozy. "Write a blog post in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, whether flash fiction, non-fiction, humorous blog musings, poem, etc. The blog post should include the following: 
               - The word "imago" in the title.
               - Include the following four random words:
                 "miasma," "lacuna," "oscitate," and synchronicity. (I had to look them up, too!)
          The last optional challenge was to include a reference to a mirror in the post. I elected not to do this one.
          My Palm Beach County history buffs will recognize the murder of Judge Curtis Chillingworth and his wife in June, 1955. For the rest of you, I don't want to give too much front story, but check back on this post in a couple of weeks and I'll answer any questions and give more detail if you'd like.
         I'm number 44 in the challenge. If you like this, please go vote for it HERE. So, without further delay, here's my 200 words....

Picture by Kelly Craig. Added to website.

         She closed her eyes and breathed in deeply. The warm Florida wind was blowing as the little boat rocked on the ocean. She could feel the dampness of the sea spray on her face. Opening her eyes, she saw the fading lights of her home in Manalapan as the boat pulled further away from shore.  Marjorie looked at the men in the boat with her and her husband, Curtis. The miasma of failure and desperation clung to them along with evil. She prayed for a lacuna in this nightmare—a chance to change what was happening.
            She looked at Curtis who said sadly, “Remember, I love you.”
            From behind her came the sound of a man stifling the urge to oscitate. Hands bound, she turned awkwardly toward him, then looked at the sky and wondered what awful sychronicity led to this time, this place, these men.  Were her children safe? Would her grandchildren remember her?
            One of the men politely said, “Ladies first,” and shoved her into the dark ocean. As she slowly sunk beneath the waves, she saw Curtis jump in after her.  He faded from view in the murky water as she gasped for breath and found none.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Joy of Terrazzo

Home, Clean Home blog

                My parents purchased our house in North Palm Beach when I was just shy of seven. Like most of the houses built by that particular builder in North Palm, we had beautiful terrazzo floors. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, terrazzo is a smooth, polished surface made with a lot of cement and sometimes bits and pieces of marble, quartz, granite or glass for little flecks of color all through it.  Terrazzo was originally a way to recycle bits and pieces of leftovers from other projects. Just picture a birthday cake someone went postal on and deluged with candy sprinkles in every color they could get. There was no cooler surface in the hot, humid days of Florida before air conditioning was everywhere. My pregnant mother, who was from California where there is nothing to compare to Florida humidity, often would just lie down on the terrazzo to try to cool off.
Google Maps
            Marge Hartman, my fun-loving mom, was one of those moms that kids just enjoyed being around because she has never forgotten the value of acting silly. A boon for a shy, tends-to-be-too-serious child like me. I've told her more than once that she could strike up a conversation with a rock and get it to answer her.  I actually brought friends home to play with her a lot. She had, and still has, quite the sense of humor. We went together to see “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” and almost died spitting Diet Coke out of our noses when “Large Marge” hit the screen. She even let me run around barefoot and get dirty. Glorious!  As I had three older male cousins and was definitely the tomboy when I wasn’t sneaking a read under the covers with a flashlight after bedtime, the ability to get dirty was highly prized.
             My cousin Jack was around nine and his brother, Tom, a little bit older when we moved into the house and they were often over playing for an entire afternoon.  For a tomboy, they were the best of playmates. One of our favorite games involved the terrazzo, an old blanket, and my mother.
              She’d load the three of us onto the blanket and drag us all over that house. The slick, smooth surface of the terrazzo just begged for it. If it had a voice, it would have been whispering, "Pssst. You know you wanna. C'mon. Get the blanket." Our favorite ride of all was when she’d go to the end of the long hall and race down to the center of the house, spinning us in a wide, crazy circle in the near-empty living room. Needless to say, we clung to that blanket with white-knuckles. If we relaxed even a little bit, children’s bodies would go flying off and roll into drywall in every direction. No one ever got hurt and no dry wall was ever injured in the process, but I can remember laughing maniacally until I could hardly breathe. Now, that’s a fun day! We’d try to talk her into it every chance we got until the floor was finally carpeted. I’m sure my parents thought it was an improvement, but my cousins and I would have been happy if it had stayed naked terrazzo forever.
               I looked into getting terrazzo installed on the first floor of the little house I now live in because I had such wonderful memories of it. I also figured out I was pretty safe as my kids are grown and wouldn’t be begging for the blanket game. I was astounded at the cost. I really don’t think it could have possibly cost twenty to fifty dollars a square foot back in the early 1960s or it would never be lying underneath the carpets of thousands of homes throughout South Florida.  So, alas and alack, I didn’t do it and am living on plain white tile. Something worth saving up for though. Sigh.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Harry & The Natives

Harry & The Natives Way Back When
(Photo used courtesy of Paula MacArthur Cooper.
All rights reserved.)
            Although it wasn't the best day to open for business, nonetheless on December 7, 1941, a little cafe' with a few travel cabins in the back opened for the first time on the southwest corner of U.S . Highway One and Bridge Road in Hobe Sound, Florida. Called The Cypress Cabins and Restaurant, it was built out of pecky cypress harvested from nearby Kitching Creek and was intended to cater to tourists, the few residents in the area and the winter residents on nearby exclusive Jupiter Island. When Camp Murphy opened during World War II nearby in what's now Jonathan Dickenson State Park, servicemen found a home away from home at Cypress Cabins as it was one of the few places in the northern Palm Beach County area to go for nightlife.
            After chewing up and spitting out seven owners, The Farm, as Cypress Cabins became known, finally passed into the hands of Jack and Pauline MacAthur and their three daughters. The MacArthur family grew to include two sons named John and Harry.  When the Turnpike opened for business in January of 1957, traffic slowed to a crawl on U.S. One, but The Farm held on with all of the children pitching in to help.
            Son Harry MacArthur grew up and went into the Navy and came home in 1989 a chef.  The kitchen was remodeled and the new and improved Harry & the Natives took flight.
            This little slice of Floridiana is well-known to locals and I’m probably going to have to go incognito if the crowds get any larger and locals have to start waiting even longer to get in. (It's ok. I've got a set of those Groucho Marx glasses in my dresser drawer. They'll never recognize me.) Three of the four motel cabins are still there, although none are rented out these days. When the fourth had to be pulled down, the rare wood was used to build an extension on the restaurant and relocate the restrooms inside of the restaurant instead of the debatable charm of outside and around the corner. There's a great mural on the wall in the ladies room, complete with the faces of Harry's three children. I can't tell you what's in the men's room. No one thought it was a really great idea for me to wander in there with my camera, but I'd bet it's something entertaining. If anyone really wants to know, drop me a line and I'll bribe my son to drive up for a look.
            The wait staff is top-notch and Sandra, our waitress, to whom we are indebted for suggesting the yummy coconut pancakes (yes, I took a picture but I thought it was probably not a good idea to entice my readers to drool on their keyboards), knew some of the history of the place. She also let us know that the woman at the cash register this particular day was actually Paula MacArthur Cooper, one of the three MacArthur daughters. Paula has a great little book out called “Choose Your Sign at Harry & The Natives” and is working on a history of Hobe Sound. It should be a fascinating book as Hobe Sound’s been around in one form or another since 1629. For a little town it has quite a history.
            If there are any fans of Tim Dorsey reading this, they can tell you that even Tim’s wonderfully odd and sociopathic character, Serge Storm, loves the ambiance of the restaurant. One of Serge's inherent charms is his love of the kind of Florida trivia not found in tour books.  In Nuclear Jellyfish. Serge informs his cohort in crime, Coleman, “…It’s Harry and the Natives! A half century of Florida I-don’t-give-a-shit and ticky-tack covering the walls. ‘Waterfront dining when it rains.’ Everyone comes to Harry and the Natives!”
            If you ever find yourself driving down U.S. Highway One through the hills (okay, it's Florida. You'd call them ridges, we call them hills) of Hobe Sound you should stop by, too. Not only will you have a great meal at a real good price, but you can get a feel for what Florida used to be like before the the Mouse moved into Orlando.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Sunday Surprise!


       Imagine my surprise when I opened the blog this morning to check on any comments awaiting moderation and found that Ms Saba on the wonderful blog, Of Thoughts and Words which can (and should!) be found at  has passed The Versatile Blogger Award on to me!  Ms. Saba's blog is about her works in progress and is very fun to read and I encourage you to stop by for a visit. Thank you very much for the award!!

     Exactly what is The Versatile Blogger Award? Well, when tapped, the recipient has to follow some rules (of course).  Anyone who accepts the award is asked by the person selecting them to do three things:

     1.     Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them in your post.
     2.    Share 7 things about yourself.
     3.    Pass this Award on to 15 recently discovered blogs and let them know about it!

    So without further ado, here are seven things about myself:

     1.     Have traveled in Norway, England, Sweden, The Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Canada and Northern Ireland and loved them all.

     2.     Although my writing is based on my memories of growing up in South Florida, I actually did live in Tallahassee, Florida (go 'Noles - FSU) for four years and St. Louis, Missouri for four.

     3.     The very first time I saw snow was my senior year of high school when there were light flurries in Palm Beach County (1977). Yep, snow in Florida. First actual snow that stayed on the ground that you could play in was on my honeymoon in Quebec when I was twenty-eight. My wonderful ex-husband chose three locations that should be snowy and away we went!

    4.    I'm NOT a fan of vegetables.

     5.   I've always been drawn to the ocean and have never been totally happy living away from it. I live about four miles from it now and it's worth the occasional hurricane.

    6.    My very first story ever written was when I was six (I think). My mom still has it. It says, "I am writing to tell you you are going to have a baby." As my mom was nine months pregnant at the time, I think she already had a pretty good clue.

   7.    I'm a volunteer literacy tutor with the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County. I decided that there was no better gift I could contribute to my community than to pass on the joy of reading and writing to someone who didn't have a chance the first time around.

    Ok, now that you know more than you ever cared to know about me... here's fifteen blogs that I follow and adore. I hope you enjoy them, too!
    1.   Pamela Carey
    2.   Wendy Blake Pottinger
    4.  MorningAJ
    5.  Niiganab
    6.  The Voice of Stobby
    7.  One Cool Soul
    8.  Amloki
    9.  Andrea S. Michaels
   10. Bridget Straub
   12. Alana Saltz
   13. Kinetic Writing
   14. Holly Lisle

    So there you go. Fifteen blogs that I'm really enjoying. Hope you pop in to each and read a posting or two.

    Regular column will appear on Thursday. I'm thinking Harry and The Natives would be a good topic!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

And the Winner Is......

First, I'd like to give a huge thank you to the people who took the time and effort to post a comment and make a stab at exactly who "Jones" is in the post, "Just Who Is This Jones Guy?" August 31. The little stories you came up with were excellent - one had me laughing.

Now as to who, exactly, Jones Creek was named after....

My Jupiter native friend, Brad Mayo, went chasing after several life-long natives he knew and actually found someone who knew Jones. He was Preacher Jones and was a preacher at Southern Methodist Church on Park Place. Brad is going to find out (as Paul Harvey says) the rest of the story, but there you go.... Preacher Jones.

And now, I guess you're anxious to find out who won the grand prize... I put all the names in a box and had the lovely Katherine draw the winner.  Congratulations are in order to (drumroll.....)


Fred, thank you so much for being a follower and participant in this contest. I know you'll love the book! Please e-mail me and let me know where you'd like me to ship your prize.

To all, this was a lot of fun and I'll do something along the same lines again as soon as I can find another mysterious factoid about Palm Beach County.

EDIT:  The mystery continues... I had the pleasure of speaking with Richard Procyk, a local Jupiter historian and author of  a book about the Battle of the Loxahatchee. I asked him if he thought "Jones" might be Preacher Jones. His opinion was that Jones Creek got the name way before Preacher Jones showed up. He thought that since a Fort Jupiter was located there, it may have been named after a soldier. Or a squatter. He suggested a couple of leads I could follow, so the quest is continuing to see if I can find definitive information on it. I'll be sure to pass whatever I find on to you.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

War Off the Beach

Historic Hartman House circa 1930s
Posing on the front stoop is my father, Norman Hartman,
and his big sister, Marjorie Ann
             When my father, Norman Hartman was ten, the world was at war. In Europe, World War II raged and Germans were the enemy.  There was more going on during that time in South Florida than I realized.
               In the summer months when it was hottest in Delray Beach, Norman and his siblings would sleep on the second floor front porch of the house they grew up in to catch whatever sea breeze might still be moving. More than once, they heard a boom and, turning east toward the sound over the ocean, would see the sky lighting up in bright yellows and oranges.  It wasn’t fireworks.  The flaming sky was a sign that a German U-boat had torpedoed another ship trying to make its way up or down the coast. The neighbor a couple of doors down, Sam Ogren, Jr., and others would run for their boats and race out into the ocean to pick up survivors. Sam actually received a commendation for his rescue work during the war.  My Uncle Allen remembers survivors huddled in my Great-Uncle Lloyd Benson’s kitchen at his dairy farm near where Briny Breezes is now located. The day after an explosion, my father and his brother Warren would hike over to the beach to pour through the debris that came ashore—mattresses, wood, odd bits of belongings and once, even the wing of a plane.
               Germans actually controlled the Atlantic Ocean for the first years of the war and caused quite an interruption to shipping along the entire east coast of the United States. The big ships that couldn’t make it down the Intracoastal Waterway had no choice but to take their chances on the open sea.  Airplanes flew numerous missions up and down the coast trying to spot German submarines. There’s a great book by Michael Gannon named “Operation Drumbeat” which details the German military action of the same name. Operation Drumbeat was meant to cause major trouble and it was highly successful for a while.
             Because my great-grandfather, Fred Hartman, was a German immigrant, the FBI came calling. My dad remembers the children being shooed out of the house by his mother while the interview with “Grosspapa” was conducted.  The FBI wanted to make sure that even though he had relatives and family in Germany, Grosspapa would contact the FBI if he were ever contacted by a saboteur, even if it were a family member.
               There was a huge military base in Boca Raton, part of which is now the campus of Florida Atlantic University. Instructors at the base were teaching the brand new field of radar.  My grandparents rented rooms to several officers and their wives, some of whom came back year after year after the war to rent a room, vacation in Delray Beach and visit with the family. My dad’s favorite was named Gordon “Gordy” Apple. Although it’s claimed that Norman and Warren tormented Gordy and teased him unmercifully, it was Gordy who took the two young boys to the garage at the back of the house and worked with them to build a working radio.

The Historic Hartman House 2011

               The house my father grew up in is still in its original location at 321 N.E 7th Avenue in Delray Beach and has just recently been reopened as The Historic Hartman House Bed & Breakfast. Benita and Jordon Goldstein, the owners, have lovingly restored and renovated the 1926 house and it is truly a trip into the past, albeit quite a bit more luxurious than the original version. If you stay in the Highlands Park Suite, you can stand in what was the second floor front porch and look east. If you use your imagination, you can imagine being ten years old and realizing the battle was not an ocean away in Europe, but mere miles away, right off of your beach.
(This column appears in Southern Exposure, September issue published by Seabreeze Publications, Inc. at

Monday, September 5, 2011

And The Door Swung Open

This is an added bonus this week! As my regular followers know, I've joined Rachael Harrie's Network Platform Building Campaign. There are a few challenges posted over the next several weeks. This is the first. We were to write a flash fiction story in exactly 200 words that began with "The door swung open" and closes with "the door swung shut".) So, being true to my love of the history of the Palm Beach County area, I've pulled in Sir Harry Oakes and the Winter Golf Club (also known as the "Oakes Mansion" to scads of North Palm Beach natives) for my story. Hope you enjoy it!
                               THE DOOR SWUNG OPEN
The door swung open and as the lightning exploded behind us, we gasped. I had never believed that Harry Oakes actually haunted the Winter Golf Club. After all, he was murdered in The Bahamas, not North Palm Beach. But there he was in front of us, looking just like my cousin Tom swore he did when Tom saw him on the staircase.  I turned to run and tripped over a loose floorboard. My friend fell on top of me and we scrambled to untangle ourselves in terror. Sir Harry calmly turned from the window he’d been looking out of and gazed directly at us. We froze.  Harry moved toward us, he said, “I know who murdered me. The world needs to know so that I can leave this place.”
From the floor, we nodded slowly and clutched each other even tighter. We had heard the story. Who hadn’t? Harry’s son-in-law had been tried for his murder and acquitted. It was rumored the detectives had botched the investigation. The murderer could have been Meyer Lansky or any one of a half dozen other suspects. Harry sighed and started to talk. The wind screamed through the broken windows….and the door swung shut.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Addendum to Jones Post

To my wonderful followers:

If you posted a comment and it hasn't shown up, I apologize profusely and ask that you re-post it. Unfortunately, it appears I had something wrong in the blog settings. I can only plead the "New Blogger Disease." It's been fixed and I'm looking forward to reading your theories - serious or otherwise.

With great appreciation for each and every one of you,