Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sparklers and Moonshine

North Palm Beach Country Club (findthebest.com)

    I didn't want to write about the Fourth of July because I know lots of people will be writing about the holiday, but I just couldn't help it. The picture above is of the North Palm Beach Country Club where my family spent most Fourth of July holidays. We spread sheets out on the edges of the fairways as dusk approached and raided our coolers or raced back and forth to the clubhouse for drinks and munchees. The smell of mosquito repellent hung in the air as we sat waiting somewhat patiently, but prickly from sunburn from a day at the beach or pool, for the Village fireworks to begin. As the sun slowly set, sparklers were lit and kids carved patterns in the darkening sky. The moment the sun sunk below the horizon, the sky lit up. We leaned back onto the sheets and oohd and ah'd at the elaborate spiderwebs of light high above us.

Palm Beach Winter Golf Club Late 1920s
Photo from Lake Park Historical Society
"The Oakes Mansion" as it was known by the 1960s
was torn down in the mid-1980s.
     In the 1920s, decades before we gathered on the fairways to watch fireworks, the course was not only used  for golfing. Apparently, when the smugglers weren't slipping in cases of illegal hootch over the nearby waterway, they liked the clear open areas and would fly low over the golf course dropping little bits of illegal substances for their cohorts waiting in nearby woods to race out and collect. The area wasn't North Palm Beach then, but the far northern reaches of Kelsey City (now Lake Park) and lawmen were few and far between. It was rumored that some of those sworn to uphold the law were paid to look the other way. Times were hard in what was then a rough tropical paradise and it wasn't always easy to eke out a living.

     This year (2012), the Village of North Palm Beach is having a "July 4th Red, White and Boom!" celebration at the Country Club (901 US Highway One, North Palm Beach). Starting with a free swim in the huge Country Club pool at noon, festivities are scheduled to continue until 10:00 p.m. with fireworks at 9:00. Here's a link for more information: NPB Celebration.

    If you're lucky enough to live nearby and head over to watch the fireworks, bring your sheet, relax on the lawn, and enjoy! As you wave your sparklers waiting for the big show, take a look around and imagine how it all must have looked on a dark, dark night in the 1920s and 30s, no houses nearby and the uneven drone of a smuggler's plane swooping down to toss a package to the ground below.

Happy Fourth of July!

Copyright (c) 2012 Ruth Hartman Berge
Sparkler and firework photos from Microsoft Office


  1. Happy belated fourth! I always enjoy your tours of Palm Beach. I've never had moonshine, I'm sure it would kill me, but I've always been curious. Hope you had a fabulous fourth and saw some killer fireworks.

    1. And the same to you, Tameri! The closest I've come to moonshine was grain alcohol. The fraternity boys used to mix it in their punch back in the bad ol' good ol' days. A cup or two and no one wanted any more lol. Hope you had a wonderful fourth, too :)

  2. No fireworks around here! Any burning, fireworks, etc. are pretty much banned. My yard, normally lush and green this time of year, looks like a desert landscape.

    Regarding the moonshine, I have actually had the opportunity to be able to taste true moonshine from Kentucky through generous relatives. Talk about "on fire" - it was like drinking gasoline! Whew! But the strawberry one was nice.

    1. Hi Cindy! There were supposed to be no private fireworks around here, either. I hope you get rain soon.

      I think you're the first person I've "met" who actually was brave enough to give moonshine a try--or at least the frist one brave enough to admit it!