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.


  1. I love their sign,that's funny. And thanks for understanding about the awards thing. I really, really do appreciate it.

  2. Never been to Florida before but maybe one of these days. Lovely post.

  3. Really enjoyed your post. If I had to ask myself's not just the story it's the way you tell it. You focus on details and not adjectives and it makes the story that much more engrossing.


  4. I personally can attest to everything Ruth wrote about Harry & the Natives, because it's just a few miles down the road from me! It's amazing who you run into on She Writes :) Loved your post, Ruth, and I shall enjoy reading the rest of your most-interesting blog! By the way, have you considered writing about the Ashley Gang ? Their family burial plot is located within Mariner Sands Country Club, not too far from Harry's!


  5. Coconut pancakes - oh my!

    Fellow campaigner waving.


  6. Stop by for a visit when you have a chance!

  7. Ruth, I will have to look up this place. I live in North Florida, but DS2 goes to school in Boca, so I have good reason to be in South Florida.

    I am so glad I found your blog. I'm on SheWrites and am a fellow historical fiction campaigner. Have a lovely week.