Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Never Found Anywhere Better!

Carlin Park's Loggerhead Cafe 2012
     The Loggerhead Café is in a two story building in Carlin Park in Jupiter, Florida. Located at 400 South SR A1A, it’s nothing fancy. An open window in the front so that the bathing suit crowd can order a hot dog to go, a covered patio in the back for those who enjoy the sea air while they dine or have a wet backside from swimming in the nearby ocean, and a simple, but good menu is more than enough for any diner.
     The building has been on that spot as long as I can remember. It looks old to the casual observer, although I believe it was built in the 1960s. If there was any doubt that it actually was older than most, the cement bathrooms outside at either end of the building, floors often covered with sand carried in by bathers in the seat of their suits, would be confirmation. The restrooms have been updated, but they’re still on the rustic side.
     If we weren’t grilling lunch ourselves at one of the picnic pavilions which spread out to the south of the main building like ducks following mama, I’d beg to be allowed to buy a hotdog and a soda at the window.
Sign Posted by Seminole Chapter
of the D.A.R.
     The beach at Carlin Park was one of my family’s favorites because of the lifeguards and the handy potties. Somewhere in my box of pictures is one of me in a swimsuit, sunglasses covering blue eyes, posing knee deep in the moat around a sand castle at age two.

     If one got to the park early enough on a weekend, coolers, towels and beach chairs would pile up on the cement picnic tables to signal possession. In 1970, there were only 3,136 people in residence in Jupiter, but hundreds more came from inland or north from nearby towns North Palm Beach and Palm Beach Gardens to enjoy the beach. Those pavilions provided a nice bit of shade during breaks from running across the steaming sand hot enough to burn bare feet and swimming in the ice cold ocean.
     Loggerhead Café’s building sits on the spot Capt. Charles Carlin ran a lifesaving station from 1885 to 1889. The lifesaving building had to be demolished, but the park still bears his name.
     After a life of adventure in the Navy and around the United States during which he came home to Jupiter several times, Capt. Carlin’s grandson, Carlin White, a Jupiter native, returned to serve as mayor and then to retire here. When I first started writing my column for Seabreeze Publications, Inc., I had the pleasure of being included with other Jupiter authors at an event with Mr. White. I didn’t want to bother him with all of the questions swirling around my brain as it was late in the evening and I was tired by then. I reasoned that since he had recently celebrated his 104th birthday, he might be a little tired, too. I regretted that I had not fought my way through the crowd around him earlier.
     After all of the authors at the event posed for a picture, me standing behind Mr. White, I stood at my table behind his chair and watched as another Jupiter resident grilled him about life in Jupiter way back when. I don’t remember much of the conversation, but I distinctly remember Mr. Carlin’s response to the last question. Asked, "Why did you keep coming back to Jupiter?" He answered incredulously, "Why...because I never found anywhere better!"

     How about you? Was your hometown THE BEST place to live? Or have you moved and found a new favorite?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Of Birthdays

Remember that one special birthday? The one where you turned a certain age on the date that matched your age? I used to call it the "golden birthday" because it happens only once in a lifetime.

I remember turning eleven on the eleventh day of January. I also remember feeling sorry for those who would turn thirty on the thirtieth. I thought it was so much more fun having that one special birthday as a kid when every annual celebration was incredible. My grandfather and I shared the eleventh as a birthday which made it even more of an event than if the date had belonged to me alone. I was his first granddaughter (and only for another decade) and was delivered right on time with a bow on my head. (Okay. I'm joking about the bow.)

That year, as always, we had the party involving tons of kids, pizza, cake and ice cream. My favorite gift was a Camelot costume for my Barbie doll. (Does anyone even remember Camelot? Robert Goulet in a crown crooning "If Ever I Would Leave You"?) My friends and I, party hats askew, ran amok in the backyard (no snow on the ground here in Florida in January) as every single girl pretended to be the pretty blonde star of the Mod Squad. My cousin delighted in saying "The devil made me do it!" just like Flip Wilson. And that night when I went to bed, exhausted, full of cake with a well-dressed Barbie under my arm, I fell asleep smiling.

This year, I have to admit I'm way past eleven. No matter how much I offer to pay them, not even my dearest friends can swear I don't look a day over twenty-one. I have to tell you, though, I was wrong about the whole "special birthday being more fun when you're a kid" thing. It's different now, but still a celebration . This year, there'll be less cake, not as many guests at the birthday dinner and definitely no running amok in the back yard (the raccoons living back there scare my entire family), but I'll be celebrating a nice dinner with most of those I hold close in my heart. Not all can attend--Some are traveling for work, some live too far away, some have schedules crazier than mine and some have passed on.  I'm grateful for those still a phone call away and thankful that those who are gone that were once a part of this crazy, fabulous tapestry I call my life.

I'm curious, dear readers. What was your golden birthday? Or that one gift that just blew your socks off? I'm heading out for cake and ice cream (don't tell Eileen at Weight Watchers - she'll be dogging me next Saturday!) but I'll be checking in to see what you have to say. Happy birthday to all whenever your birthday may be and to all - celebrate each and every birthday to the fullest!