Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Books, Books and Books!

I promised a winner in my contest for an autographed copy of Betty Tales: The True Story of a Brave Bobblehead Cat and we have one! Congrats to  Kelly Taylor! Please e-mail me as soon as possible so I can get your copy (along with a few extra goodies) in the mail to you right away :) Thanks to ALL of you who have signed the Guest Book at and ordered the book. Betty Tales is well on its way to making a difference! (By the way, I'd love to come speak to your group about Betty Tales. I can appear by Skype anywhere in the world.)

Now that we've talked about Betty Tales, on to something different.

I don't normally do book reviews on this site. Those of you who follow me know I'm apparently very happily stuck in the full glory of my history geekiness. But what you may not know is how much I love reading mysteries. Fortunately for me, I have friends who actually write these!

I'd love for you to take a peek at Check Out Time. Written by my friend, Rosa Sophia, who is also an editor as well as a published author of the Paranormal  Mystery Taking 1960, her new book Check Out Time sounds like something right  up my mystery-loving alley:

Naomi Vogler blames herself for her mother's tragic death, continually reliving the accident in her nightmares.  When she reconnects with her estranged father, he invites her to live with him in a little town called Witchfire. A simple  job stocking shelves overnight at a local grocery store seems a perfect distraction. But when the manager of the store is found dead in the boiler room, Naomi's perfect job becomes something much more complicated. No matter how she looks at it, one thing is certain: retail is murder.

Rosa would love to see you at her website,

Then there's author Prudy Taylor Board whose latest mystery, Devil Eyes (written as Prudence Foster), is set in an old hotel on a fictional island off the west coast of Florida. Prudy who is an award-winning author, has written a total of 25 books so far. A Florida native, she brings her love of the state and her attention to the smallest details to all of her books. Here's a short synopsis of Devil Eyes:

At a luxury resort on a remote key off Florida’s Gulf coast, guests, staff and townspeople people are threatened by the spirits of a deranged French au pair and her Seminole lover. . . a conflict brought into focus through the eyes of a child, an albino Indian and an antique toy — a stereopticon.

Head over to Prudy's new blog, The Imprudent Author, to see everything this wonderful writer has up her sleeves!

From time to time, I'll take a side step to tell you about some wonderful authors I've read or met and their latest work. In the meantime, next week we'll be back to the mysteries of Florida history!

Clipart from Microsoft Office.
Copyright (c) 2012 Ruth Hartman Berge

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Is There a Mini-Stonehenge in Lake Worth?

Driving east on Lake Avenue one day recently, I glanced to the south just before I got to the foot of the Lake Worth Bridge. I’ve passed Bryant Park more times than I could tell you, but this time I spotted something I’d never noticed. Tucked behind hibiscus bushes and underneath a large tree, were two large rough-hewn stones, one on top of the other.

          From the road, the stones looked like they could be a chimney from an old house, oddly preserved near the northern edge of the park.

           You know me by now. I turned the car around and stopped.

I walked through the park toward the stones. When I reached them, I was astounded to see they weren’t part of a chimney or just random stones, but a monument. A monument to Finnish War Veterans. Behind my right shoulder was yet another monument with sculpted flying geese soaring off of the top. That one recognized Finnish immigrants.

To the surprise of some, the Lake Worth/Lantana area is the world’s second-largest community of Finns outside of Finland. In an internet posting dated March 2004, June Pelo says, “Finnish is the fourth most widely-spoken minority language in the Lake Worth-Lantana area after Spanish, Creole and Russian” and that “it is possible to get just about any service one needs in Finnish. There are Finnish companies in virtually every sector, from hair salons to funeral homes.”

Harry Manner, Curator, points out one of the more
impressive medals at The Price of Freedom Museum
            I found the Finnish War Veterans in America and made arrangements to meet Harry Manner at the Finland House on Central Boulevard in Lantana to find out about this monument. We met on a Saturday in May at The Price of Freedom Museum located on the second floor. The little room was filled with Finnish and American military memorabilia. Manner is the curator.  He began collecting medals and uniforms, carved wooden knives, films, literature and documents decades ago. When he moved to Boynton Beach, Finns in the area helped pay to bring the collection south. According to Manner, the museum houses the largest collection of Finnish medals outside the country of Finland.

Harry Manner, Mirja Silvan and Hans Nyholm
            Also meeting with me were the Chairman of the group, Hans Nyholm, and the Secretary, Mirja Silvan.  All three are intensely proud of their countrymen who managed to hold off the Soviets in the Winter War in the 1940s. The Finns were severely outnumbered, but because of their skill at winter warfare, as well as excellent military leadership starting at the top with Field Marshal Baron C.G.E. Mannerheim and the determination, tenacity and bravery of the Finnish people, the Soviets did not succeed. The Finns simply refused to let the Soviets march in like they were attempting to do all over Europe.

            So, what does all of this have to do with two stones in Bryant Park? It seems in 1992, the Finns in this area decided it was time for a monument in the United States for their war veterans. You see, the Finns didn’t just stand up to the Soviets in their own country, but thousands of them emigrated and joined the armed services in other countries, including the United States and Canada. Their skills in winter warfare were unparalleled and Finnish training officers were highly sought to teach those skills to servicemen in other countries. Finns fought for the United States in Vietnam, too.

            By 1995, funds were finally raised to bring a stone over from Finland. The stone that now stands pointing up to the sky in Lake Worth was originally in a field outside of Salpa Linja. It was part of a defensive line of stones that ringed the town and kept Soviet tanks from wreaking havoc on Salpa Linja. Manning says most of the ring, and the tunnels that were part of the defensive system, are still there and they have become tourist destinations. 

            There are no tunnels near the stone in Bryant Park. But stop by sometime. Sit in the grass and think about what that stone represents–fierce pride, tremendous bravery in the face of incredible odds, and a generous, indomitable spirit that traveled across the sea to America with men who understood the price of freedom. Better yet, make a point of joining the Finns at their annual memorial service held on March 13 to mark the end of the Winter War in Finland and honor veterans.

As I was leaving the museum, I asked Manner what one thing he would like people to know about Finns. He said, “Finland is always willing to defend its freedom.”

            There’s more to this story than will fit in this column. The Finland House and the Price of Freedom Museum at 301 W. Central Boulevard in Lantana are open by appointment only during the summer, but have regular hours in the winter. Please feel free to contact me and I’ll put you in touch with Harry Manner. It’s a tour you’ll never forget.

Finland House
Copyright 2012 Ruth Hartman Berge
This article was first published by Seabreeze Publications, Inc. as the June, 2012 issue of The Florida You Don't Know.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

It's Here!

As my faithful blog followers already know, I’ve been working on a labor of love called Betty Tales, The True Story of a Brave Bobblehead Cat.  Its a touching, inspirational book for children about a disabled cat, Betty, and her successes in life.
Betty was adopted by my family as a stray kitten. I kept relating her trials, successes and funny ways of approaching her “cat-ness” to my best friend, Becky, a third-grade teacher. Becky suggested I put those stories into a book that could help teach children about how alike all of us – disabled and not – are inside as well as how much determination and persistence can matter in facing any challenge. Betty Tales is the result.

She was born with a condition called “cerebellar hypoplasia.”  That’s the five dollar word.   The twenty-five cent phrase is that Betty is a “bobblehead“ cat.  It’s a funny sounding name for something not quite so funny.

Betty doesn’t have the same control over her muscles as a “normal” cat. She can’t leap or jump and she wobbles when she walks. The part of her brain that controls her muscles didn’t develop well because her mom had a virus. Though disabled, Betty is fiercely (and funnily) independent and proud of doing things on her own. In a lot of ways, she’s not all that different from other cats. Perhaps just like disabled people?

Things that are easy for other cats are difficult for Betty. She has trouble climbing the stairs in my house, but not only can she do so, she insists on it. She is persistent and determined when she does so.  It takes her a while, but, she climbs those stairs!

You can go to my website,, to read more about Betty.  There are pictures of her and a video or two.  Then, order the book. Or you can head directly to my Createspace site HERE and order the book.

As an enticement to help launch the book, anyone who leaves a comment here AND signs the guest book at before midnight June 18, 2012 will be eligible to win a free autographed copy! If you refer a friend to and have them post on this blog post who sent them, you’ll get TWO entries! If you post a review on, you’ll get another TWO entries! If you’ve already ordered a book, thank you! And please go ahead and enter my launch contest anyway. You’ll receive your choice of an autographed book to give away OR a $10.00 Amazon gift card instead.

Do you know someone who has their own “stairs” to conquer?

This heartwarming story can be an inspiration to you, your child or grandchild.  Warm their day by getting them their very own copy of Betty Tales.

Now, go find your own stairs and climb them!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sand, Sun and a Lot of Skin

A nude beach? In Palm Beach County?

Well, yes, there was. It wasn’t a very big beach, but rumor has it that up to 3,000 sun worshipers sometimes bathed au natural on the sand there any given weekend.

Air Force Beach, as it was known then, was beloved by quite a few in northern Palm Beach County in those days and not all were sunbathers. Wikipedia says that “it was called Air Force Beach from the early 1940s to 1956 because it was used by Palm Beach Air Force personnel stationed at Morrison Air Field (where Palm Beach International is now located).

The nudity went on a bit longer, though, and I know we were calling the area Air Force Beach in the 1970s. Local historian Eliot Kleinberg posted on that the nude beach was active into the 1980s. I remember my dad coming home from a full day of fishing complaining that his fishing buddy, Cecil, insisted on sailing really, really, really slow past Air Force Beach, binoculars in hand. At ten years of age, I didn’t see why that was such a problem and no one would explain it.

Picture from Florida State Parks
 If you’d like to partake of the nude sunbathing, don’t bother running down to Air Force Beach these days. The land was bought by John D. MacArthur who donated it in the 1970s for the creation of “John D. MacArthur Beach State Park.”  Mr. MacArthur enjoyed communing with nature himself and once  invited Walt Disney to join him there in the 1960s. Holy Mickey Mouse!  I’ll never watch reruns of “The Wonderful World of Walt Disney” quite the same way again.

 The State Park opened to the public in 1989 about seven years after the State of Florida declined to continue protecting the nude beach. Guides there can take you on kayak tours of prehistoric Indian middens (a mound of shells and assorted other things that indicate humans were once living there) and point out the ruins of Dr. James Munyon’s epic Hygeia Hotel on Munyon Island. (The hotel burned to the ground in 1915. The tale of Dr. Munyon is too long to throw in here, but I’ll write something on him soon. Con man or genius? It’s still up for debate.) 

A wooden boardwalk over the Lake Worth Lagoon with a tree in the foreground.
Boardwalk to Beach from Florida State Parks
 John D. MacArthur Beach State Park is a beautiful and unusual park which provides nesting grounds for rare turtles, beautiful endangered birds, and a reef right off the shore accessible for snorkelers who don’t have boats.

 Visitors should be aware of the wild life, though. On a visit there in the late 1990s, I stood on the beach watching in awe as bull sharks and tarpon herded bait fish toward the shore for a meal. Of course, I didn’t have a camera. The tarpon were leaping in the air over the bait fish. It was incredible.

 I ended up arguing with a tourist who thought it was quite all right to stand in the middle of the swarming bait fish with her daughter next to her and baby granddaughter in her arms. Her quote? “Oh, they don’t want to eat ME. They want to eat the little fish!” It took me yelling at her that sharks aren’t known for their eyesight and one could easily take a bite out of her by mistake before she finally stepped out of the water onto the safety of the sand.

 Located at the northern tip of Singer Island, it’s worth the trip even if you have to wear a bathing suit. (561) 624-6950. 10900 Jack Nicklaus Drive, North Palm Beach, Florida 33408.

Copyright 2012 Ruth Hartman Berge
Flip flop picture from Microsoft. org.