This page is dedicated to stories of "Old Pompano" and South Florida as told by Mr. Bud Garner and others.
There is quite a rich history in Pompano Beach, Florida that would have been all but lost if not for the efforts of Mr. Garner and others like him.
If you would like to share stories about the Pompano you remember, you can send me an e-mail with your story
file attached or simply type your story in the body of an e-mail.
Please include your name and any other information about yourself that you wish to have included with your story when I publish it on the web site.
Do you remember the first time you held the hand of that person that was so special to you? Do you remember that first stolen kiss?
I have always had an interest in the airplane and when we were youngsters growing up in Pompano there were occasions when the so called "Barnstormers" would descend upon Pompano and give the Townspeople a chance to get a close look at and a ride in an airplane.
Upon arriving in the skies over Pompano, the pilot of the plane that would give rides would circle over the Town a dozen times or more,
maybe do a loop or two, a couple of barrel rolls and then land in the field of red-tops, sandspurs, and rabbit tobacco that lay between what is now
N.E. 8th St. on the South. N.E. 5th ave, where Blounts Quarters was located on the East. N.E.3rd Ave on the West. And North of where N.E. 10th St.
Where the city plant nursery and city garage is now located.
By the time the plane landed, there was usually a large number of people at the "Airport" and the pilot would put up a small sign giving the price of a ride in his plane and he would stay around for several days until interest waned and then he would fly on to other pastures.
My first airplane ride did not take place at this time and place in my life but at a later date and from another "Airport", which was a rock road that
went West from Old Dixie Highway at what is now the entrance to John Knox Village off Old Dixie Highway and went all the way to the Seaboard Railroad
tracks and was known as "Airport Road" or to some "the dusting field".
Robert Mitchell and myself walked down there one day and we asked a pilot if he gave rides and if he did, how much? He told us he would give us a ride for two dollars, so we told him we would be back. We hunted up milk bottles sold them and several days later we were back at the "Airport" and told the pilot we were ready for a ride in his airplane. First off we hit a snag, the pilot wanted the money in advance and when we produced the two dollars he said he needed two dollars from each of us. We had apparently misunderstood him and thought the two dollars was for a ride for both of us. The pilot thought for a minute and then said that he would take both of us at one time for the two dollars but the plane was a two seater and one of us would have to sit in the other one's lap, which was agreeable to us.
The pilot picked-up a five gallon can, put it in his car and said he would be back. He returned and then proceeded to climb-up on the wing and poured gas from the can into the plane. He then produced a tire pump and it was then we noticed both tires on the plane which had weeds growing around them, were flat. We helped pump-up the tires and the next step was to start the plane. The pilot put me in the rear seat showed me the brakes and told me to stand down hard on them, pull the control stick into my stomach and not to move or do anything when the plane started. The pilot set the mixture, set the throttle, and told me that this plane was 'hot' all the time and when he got hold of the propeller to spin it then he would yell 'contact' and for me to answer with the same word. The plane eventually started and the pilot gave us one set of helmets and goggles. As this was an open cock-pit plane he said someone would have to do without them. I opted to do without as Robert was sitting in my lap and I could not see a whole lot anyway. We pulled out of the grass and onto the rock road and began our take-off run to the West and after what seemed an eternity we lifted off the ground began a climbing turn to the North and East, and here we were, Robert and me free of the earth for the first time ever. We slowly climbed until the few cars we could see were like toys, we angled across Pompano and headed East towards the Lighthouse and it seemed as if everything was moving under us in slow-motion.
After passing over the lighthouse we turned South over the Ocean and flew down the beach to the Casino, turned West and headed back to Airport Road. We flew over the Seaboard tracks made a banking turn and landed headed East on the rock road. Pilots always landed and took-off on this strip in any direction to save as much time on the ground as possible. When we parked the plane on the grass and got out we noticed that one of the tires we had pumped up was nearly flat. Also the pilot told us the reason he brought us back so quick was we were just about out of gas. Didn't matter to Me and Robert, the trip was worth everything it had cost us. This was just the beginning of my flying as I later made a deal with the owner of the Crop Dusters and for every five airplanes I washed, I would get an airplane ride. This arrangement worked out fine, until the owner (J.L.Schroder) moved his operation up to Delray and they left owing me a ride, which I never collected.
The days of the open-cockpit, fabric covered bi-plane with the "Barnstorming Pilots" has all but vanished and if you were one of the lucky ones that received your first plane ride in one of these planes during this period of time, then you have something that other people can never have and you can be proud of.Back to Top
Flying in the dark sky over Lake Okeechobee on the night of July 7, 1964. The single engine Cessna 182 with three men aboard. The pilot, Stanley Parrish, a produce broker and farmer, his brother Warren Parrish Postmaster of the Pompano Beach Post Office and their uncle T.J., Nobles retired Postmaster Pompano Beach. had departed a small town in the panhandle of North Florida about 2 hours earlier headed for their home in Pompano Beach, after attending the funeral of one of their relatives. The weather was partially over cast with intermittent rain showers and thunder storms as they crossed the city of Okeechobee and pointed the nose of their craft on a SE course for the last leg of their journey home across Lake Okeechobee that had originated in Pompano on Friday July 5th.
I was the manager of the farm operations in Broward and Palm Beach county Florida for the Two brothers and my Father-in Law, J.H. Brown who were joint owners of the enterprise. On Monday morning July 8th I was standing beside my pick-up truck on Highway 441 after having checked one of the irrigation pumps that was being used to flood the fields we would be planting in the up-coming farming season when Dave Ballou, the owner of The Broward and Palm Beach John Deere Tractor co stopped and asked had I heard that the Parrish Brothers and Mr, Nobles plane was overdue and there was a search being organized by the CAP and he was going to be on one of the search planes. Dave belonged to the same flying club that owned the Cessna 182 that Stanley was a member of and it was one of their planes that was missing.
The first two days of the search turned-up no sign of the missing plane. Seachers had made a preliminary sweep of Lake Okeechobee with no results, then moved the search to the surrounding ground areas bordering the Lake and in any direction they might have been passing over. Their last radio check having been made to Orlando made no mention of any problems from Stanley, a seasoned pilot.
On Tues night, Hayden Hale, also a pilot and member of the same Flying club, and a friend of mine, called and asked would I go on a search mission Wednesday morning with himself, Landrum Blount, a local retired Farmer and businessman who would be piloting his own plane and they needed three observers. The other one would be Walter Schull, who was a business partner of Stanleys in a tomato farming enterprise in Boynton Beach, Fl. I agreed and we were to meet at the Pompano Beach Airport at 6 AM On Wednesday morning. One of the planes that joined us at Pompano airport and would start their search 10 miles South of where our assigned area would end was owned and piloted by Local pioneer, cattleman and farmer Henry Perry. Perry airport was on property he gave for a training field for the Navy and is now being used as a civilian airport.
Our instructions from the CAP was as follows: we would fly a search pattern beginning at the Northern tip of Lake Okeechobee, Fly East to West at an altitude of 600 ft, and make a pass one mile apart in a line from the East to West or vice-versa down to 10 miles If we spotted any thing that might be aircraft wreckage , debris or remains, we were to note the location and radio the CAP in Miami with the information and for instructions. The search was being concentrated on Lake Okeechobee on the 3rd day after the disappearance of the plane because the temp of the water and all other factors involved pointed to any bodies not entangled in wreckage would probable surface after this time period.
Arriving at our search area we began our search pattern. After making about 8 or 9 runs across the Lake and not having seen anything but flocks of birds, floating weeds and an occasional fishing boat we were just about ready to make our last pass and then ask the CAP to assign us another search area.we suddenly spotted something in the water and as we flew almost over it, it looked like a mattress, or something big spread out covering an area of about 6 feet square. Landrum circled back, dropped down lower and as we passed over the object, we thought it looked like a weed patch, but not being sure we dropped even lower, slowing the plane as much as possible, and even using binoculars, we could not make out the object.
Meanwhile, a small fishing boat that had been moving towards Okeechobee about a mile away had turned after seeing us flying around and was approaching the object in the water. We tried to communicate with the lone fisherman in the boat but we couldn’t hear him Someone suggested maybe we could drop him a note and ask him about the object, A notepad was located in the glove compartment and the note written on the cardboard back, we asked him if that was a body or part of an airplane to take off his cap and wave it around. I opened the side window and as Landrum circled back, wiggled the wings, I stuck the note out the window but not before threading the pencil through the cardboard to make it “glide” a little better. The note fluttered down and the fisherman motored over, retrieved and read it, pulled off his hat( he was totally bald )and as his head was reflecting in the sun he waved his arm around and around over that shining head and we knew we had made the sighting we had been dreading and searching for.
Now that we knew we had located wreckage, not knowing if it were persons or plane we had to gain altitude to call the CAP in Miami. When we made radio contact, they instructed us to fly into Clewiston and call them on a land line as they didn’t know who was monitoring the frequency. We did that and the landing on the grass strip between huge power lines and trees bordering the Clewiston strip was the most harrowing part of the flight, considering the full load we were carrying. We were instructed to go back to the sighting and if the fisherman was still there try to get him to remain and then fly into the Okeechobee airport, There we would be met by a Deputy Sheriff and he would drive us to the Joe and Wanda fish camp (I had fished out of this camp many times in the past) and there would be a boat waiting and to go with the Deputy to the sighting (It was about 10 miles South of the fish camp). Hayden, myself and the Deputy tied an empty boat with a tarp on board to our boat and set out into the Lake. Landrum and Walter went back to the airport , they flew out to guide us to the object.
Arriving at the site quite a bit later, the fisherman was still there and informed us it was a body in the water that we had spotted, gave us the note we had dropped, said he had to get his fish to the coolers waved goodby and was gone. We didn’t even have a chance to get his name. The Deputy called the boatramp on his radio and informed them we had a “signal 7" which was a body. Then as we were getting the boats in close to the body, the Deputy got violently sick and began hanging over the side of the boat. This left just Hayden and myself to figure out how would be the best way to retrieve the body that was in a high state of decomposition and it was this odor making the Deputy sick. By now, he was very sick and lying in the bottom of the boat. I transferred to the empty boat, paddled it next to the body and I could see the grey hairs on the back of the neck of the victim and I knew it was an older person and Mr, Nobles would be that person. I ran the oar down and under the legs that were hanging almost straight down in the water and when I lifted one of them up, I could see there was just skin holding the feet on and on the skin I noticed a stocking garter on it and it was then I knew it was Mr. Nobles because he always wore garters to hold up his knee-high socks. I knew this because he worked on the same farm that I did as time keeper and I was with him every day. I also saw what appeared to be metal springs embedded in his back and this would probably be from the backrest of the plane.
Hayden and I took the tarp we had brought and after much trouble, we worked it under neath the body and holding the four corners slowly pulled him into the boat. The Deputy was still very sick and the odors and sight we were exposed to was extremely unpleasant and after we secured the tarp with the body inside it and started moving, the odor became less noxious, We made a couple of circles around to see if there was anything else to pick-up and seeing none, we started back to the fish camp. Approaching the camp the Deputy was feeling well enough now that we let him bring us to the dock where there was a large crowd of people waiting. After we docked and had talked to the officers and the coroner we asked to be taken back to the Okeechobee airport. Arriving there, Landrum had the plane ready to go and after we quickly told him what happened we climbed aboard and as we were pulling out a man came running out to us waving his arms and shouting. Landrum stopped the plane and shut down the engine to find out what he wanted, It was a channel 4 television news reporter from Miami, he asked did we just come from the boat landing and if so, what was going on there. We quickly told him what part we played in this operation and now were going back to Pompano, he had his camera man filming all the time. We showed him the note from the fisherman and how it all came together which he also filmed. When he finished, Landrum said it was getting late (its now 4pm in the afternoon) and we were tired and hungry and had to leave. The reporter asked if we would do him a favor and fly the film on down to the Miami airport so they could get it on the 6 o’clock news, Landrum declined and told him that would put us home too late, the reporter asked if we would fly it to the Ft. Lauderdale airport and someone would meet us there, we agreed and he unloaded the film from his camera and put it aboard. As we flew South over the lake on our way home, there were numerous boats in the area where we picked up Mr. Nobles and we were informed by radio that another body had surfaced (it was Warren Parrish). The body of Stanley Parrish was sighted and picked up the next morning, thus bringing to a close the search. There were many people involved in this search including those from the flying club including Dave Ballou, Dr, Jim Foslum and Dan Hall (Who added comments to this story). When we approached the Ft Lauderdale airport, we received a radio call telling us where to stop the plane after landing, that there was a man waiting for us.
Arriving back in Pompano, I got into my car and I was only a short distance from the airport, I was there in minutes, I told my wife to turn on the TV to channel 4 as it was a few minutes until the news came on at 6 pm. Ralph Rennick, the channel 4 newscaster narrated the story and apologized for the quality of the film as it was still wet from the developing, but they had their story. When I left home that morning I had no idea I would be involved in a situation such as this, especially going out and retrieving the body of my friend and neighbor Mr. Nobles from Lake Okeechobee. There was a concentrated effort made by the flying club to locate the plane in the lake but there was never any part of it that ever surfaced or found or any cause for the crash.
Stanley Parrish (Beanpicker ‘37) and Warren Parrish (Beanpicker ‘35) and their uncle T.J. Nobles are buried in the Pompano Beach Cemetery.Back to Top
I sat on the front porch of former St. Lucie County Sheriff J.R. Merritt, who was a close friend of my Dad, in the small community of White City, Fl, located six miles South of Ft. Pierce, Fl. On more than one occasion, I listened to the big broad-shouldered man with the wide-brimmed hat tell me the story of how he and five other law-men captured and killed the last remaining members of the notorious "Ashley Gang" at the Sebastian Inlet Bridge in November 1924. They had robbed, plundered, and killed for years in Southern and Central Florida. At the intersection of U.S. Highway 1, and White City road, the Merritt home still stands. It's the two story frame house on the north side of White City road. The family business, Merritt Monument Co., fronts on U.S.1, in White City.
John Ashley was known as the "Swamp Bandit." His father, the only good one of the Ashley clan, lived in Pompano, and was a Deputy Sheriff in Palm Beach County when Pompano was a part of Palm Beach County. The Ashley gang began their reign of lawlessness sometime around 1911, when the work on the building of the Florida East Coast Railroad ended. John Ashley killed a Seminole Indian name of De Soto Tiger, stole his furs and sold them in Miami. This was the beginning of the Ashley Legacy which was to end at the Sebastian inlet bridge in 1924.
John Ashley and his gang in the thirteen or so years they operated robbed many banks and businesses, including trains and post offices. Nothing was below their stealing, with one exception: they would not rob women. They robbed the bank of Stuart, Fl. twice. I suppose it was because it was close to their family home in Gomez, Fl., a whistle stop alongside the railroad north of Jupiter, Florida.
The Bank of Pompano, located at the corner of N.E. 1st Street and N.E.1st Ave opened for business as usual on a blustery September day in 1924. Cashier C.H.Cates and teller T.H. Myers had an uneventful day as usual until just before closing time. They had no way of knowing that earlier in West Palm Beach, John Ashley and his gang had engaged a taxicab. When they got to Deerfield they tied the cab driver, Wesley Powell, to a tree, took his cab, and told him they were on their way to Pompano to rob the bank. They said for him to take a good look at them so he could tell the West Palm Beach County Sheriff, Bob Baker who they were and dare him to come after them.
No other customers were in the bank when Cates and Myers looked up into the muzzles of pistols held by gang members Shorty Lynn and Clearance Middleton. In the doorway stood John Ashley holding a rifle and telling the two men to turn around, face the wall and to raise their hands as they would not be long. The Gang scooped up $5000.00 in cash and $18.000 in securities, dumped it in a bedsheet, tied it up and went out the door. They got into their hi-jacked taxi, but not before handing Cates a rifle bullet and told him to tell Sheriff Baker he had one just like it waiting for him if he came after them. John Ashley leaned out of the cab as it crossed the railroad tracks at Flagler and 1st Street onto Dixie Highway. He held up the bedsheet with the money in it, waved it at E.E. "Gene" Hardy who owned the garage on that corner and who knew the Ashleys, and yelled "We got it all Gene". A car load of Pompano residents names unknown gave chase, but there is no record of them catching up to the gang. From the record the Ashleys had, it probably was fortunate they didn't.
The Ashleys went into the swamps at Clewiston where they had a shoot-out with Deputies and severel people were killed. The robbing of the Bank of Pompano was the beginning of the end for the Ashley Gang, as the people of Florida had just about had enough of them. One of the gang members girl friends turned against them and informed the Sheriff that the gang would be heading north on a certain day, She said they were planning on leaving the state and that they were in Ft. Pierce. Sheriff Merritt was notified. The gang would have to leave by way of the Sebastian Inlet bridge, so Sheriff Merritt and five deputies headed up and set up a road block at the Inlet. After dark they put a chain across and used a red lantern to stop all traffic. They had to fight off the mosquitos and wait. Finally around 11 p.m. a big black touring car approached the roadblock. When the car stopped no one emerged, so Merritt shouted out "All right, Ashley, don't move, don't, reach for your gun and don't say a word. Get out with your hands up." These orders were followed, and while the deputies held the gang at gunpoint, Sheriff Merritt returned to his car for handcuffs. When he had them in hand, he closed the door to his car. Just then shooting broke out on the bridge, and when the shooting was over, John Ashley, his cousin Handford Mobley, Shorty Lynn, and Clearance Middleton lay dead on the bridge. The Deputies said at the inquest that was held that John Ashley pulled a pistol out of his coat and that started the shooting. This was the end of the Ashley Gang as all the Ashleys except one had been killed over the years. This was basically the same story I remember Sheriff Merritt telling me many years ago on his front porch.Back to Top
O.T. Banks was a close neighbor of mine when I was growing up. We lived about half a block apart. He was the railroad section foreman who was replaced by my
Dad some time in 1926.
O.T. Banks had a nick name. He was called, but not to his face "Booger Man". When he came by this name I don't know. How he came to be called "Booger Man" I can only guess. First, he was a gifted ventriloquist and on more than one occasion he scared the living daylights out of me. I heard from others, even as recent as a month ago of him scaring other kids in town. Secondly, you would have to have seen him to understand how he might have come by this nick name. Think of how it would make you feel if you grew-up living only half a block from "THE BOOGERMAN". Kids of today would probably have to have counselling to help them cope with a situation such as this.
Me and "Booger Man" entered into a business agreement. He hired me to clear a lot behind his house. If memory serves me correct it was a lot twenty five by fifty feet. This lot was overgrown with palmettos, scrub oaks and pine trees. "Booger Man" offered me two dollars to clear it and seeing as how huckleberries only brought ten cents a quart and it was really slow going picking them, I jumped at the chance to make some "big money". I guess I worked all summer clearing that lot, in fact it nearly needed clearing again by the time I finished. So "Booger man" got his lot cleared and I got my two dollars and I learned a lesson. Me and "Booger Man" kind of had a luke warm relationship after that, especially after I realized that I, at the age of eleven had kind of been taken advantage of.
Three things happened in Pompano during the month of October that we looked forward to: The opening day of Dove season, the first Northeaster that brought the first Bluefish run and Halloween and not necessarily in that order. We didn't trick or treat on Halloween, that came years later with the influx of outsiders into Pompano. Our Halloween fun was that after the Halloween carnival on the bean shed down town, we'd head for the school house and squirt the soda-acid fire extinguishers and run several of them along with various other objects up the flag-pole.
And then, the really BIG EVENT: THE BAGGAGE FLOAT. The baggage float was the big heavy wooden wagon with a head board and no sides that was used at the train station to load and unload freight and baggage on and off the trains. These were the same floats that were used to give the newly elected mayor a ride from city hall, up N.E. 1 AV. to the drugstore to treat everyone to ice cream and sodas on election night. On Halloween it seems that some way or the other one of these floats always wound-up on the second floor of the school building fronting on N.E. 6TH St. Sometimes they had to be partially dismantled to get them up the stairs and around the corners and they always had to be dismantled to be brought down. Eventually the School Board members thought it time to stop this activity, especially since it disrupted classes the next day while the maintenance crew took the float apart and got it down, back together again and back to where it belonged.
That brings us back to "BOOGER MAN BANKS", He, being a former Policeman, the School Board hired him to patrol the school on Halloween to put a stop to this practice. "BOOGER MAN" always wore a soft felt hat pushed back on his head, bib overalls with a gold watch chain that streched all the way across the top front of his overalls and black high top shoes. On this Halloween night he also wore a big 38 Special pistol with a six inch barrel in a plain black holster on a plain, wide black belt and carried a ten cell eveready flash light that doubled as a billy club. "BOOGER MAN" started his patrolling on foot around the school house. Imagine the people that were surprised when getting to the school house they found an armed guard there. The "BOOGER MAN" no less. This called for a "Pow-Wow" and it was quickly decided that if the old tradition, (really just fun) was to be carried out, then the "BOOGER MAN" had to be diverted, or just plain put out of commission, as he just might use that gun he was packing.
A plan was quickly devised whereby he would be lured to the building that fronted on N.E.4TH ST into the circle drive bordered by the Australian pine tree hedge. Then he could be dealt with safely. Four of them headed out to find him while four others hid in the hedge. Sure enough, after a couple of shouts, the flash light beam cut through the night and the chase was on. The decoys spread out just enough to confuse the "BOOGER MAN" and they did. They ran down the driveway and shortly here comes "BOOGER MAN" huffing and puffing following along as if he knew the plan. When he was in the center of the four man team hiding in the drive way, they pulled bandannas up over their faces, jumped out, and grabbed "BOOGER MAN". They pinned his arms and then very quickly removed the gun from his holster. It was up to the four men to keep the "BOOGER MAN " detained until the baggage float was safely "upstairs", which they did.
The furious "BOOGER MAN" got his gun back the following day, delivered to his house by a policeman, who said he "found it" on the desk at the police station. "BOOGER MAN" never hired out again to the School Board to patrol the school. But the prank of the baggage float in the school house just died out eventually, as it was getting to be a real effort to make it work, not like the "OUT HOUSE GANG" in Hallandale that have carried out their prank all these years.
"BOOGER MAN BANKS" believed that I was one of the ones that "took his gun" at the school house on that Halloween night long, long ago and he never forgave me for it, or any of the others he suspected of being involved. And that is how the "BOOGER MAN lost his gun.Back to Top
The running of the bulls...Pamplona Spain is a yearly event that involves bulls, and people. In Pamplona the bulls run down narrow city streets
behind men and boys who try to keep out of their way to keep from being gored, or trampled and they do this for fun.
At the corner of N.E. 6th St. and Flagler Ave, the Florida East Coast Railroad had a "Mule Lot". It was built many years ago to handle the rather large business of livestock being shipped into this area, mainly for the farming industry. "Mule Daniels" was the primary shipper of mules to this area. They were shipped mostly from Tennessee and arrived in Pompano in groups of three or four "Cattle Cars" or livestock cars. Each car carried about twenty or so mules depending on their size.
I had an advantage others didn't have. My Dad worked for the railroad and he knew exactly when the mules would be arriving. I got the job of pumping water for them after they were unloaded. They usually arrived on a Saturday so they could be fed and watered and calmed down and then led through town on Sunday when the traffic would be lightest to the lot located on S. Dixie Highway where the east and west Dixie Highway meet.
Back then the east road was just a rock road. The mules were penned there, sold and then carried to various places. All my friends wanted to pump water for the Mules. They could drink more water than a thirsty elephant. It was an "Achy Breaky Arm" job, but being the "Head Pumper" I quickly discovered that my friends were willing to pay for the privilege of pumping water for the mules. I allowed them to pump to their hearts content for a mere ten cents. This not only gave me movie money, but gave me a break from a very tiring job. My friend "Stumpy" Maddox even paid for his turn with two five cent deposit milk bottles, which were as good as cash in the local stores.
"Mule Daniels" brought several men along with a couple of horses to move the mules. Mules, being a cross between a Jack Ass and a horse were a hy-bred that could not reproduce. They were very docile, and it was said that every mule thought every horse was his or her mother and would follow them. Each mule was fitted with a woven hemp bridle or halter, but did not have a bit for the mouth. These halters had a five foot lead and as each mule was caught-up, four of them were tied together. One man would lead two groups of four mules. When all the mules were haltered and tied together, which was almost as good as a rodeo, for some of these mules had never been fully broken, the horses were moved out and were standing by waiting for the gates to be opened. The procession of mules and men could then begin. They would cross the tracks at 6th St. and proceed south along the tracks to the lot on S. Dixie. The trickiest part was the bridge across the Pompano Canal. This was where the horses would be most valuable, as the mules should just follow them across.
When all was ready and the gates were opened, I was just leaving the pump . Suddenly "DO-DO" Smith let out a whoop and hollered loud as he could "HOT DOG! THE MULES ARE LOOSE!" Sure enough when the mules were led out of the pen there were a couple of unbroken mules that spooked, jerked their heads up and got away from their handler and headed south on Flagler towards town. The rest of the mules followed suit and they began running. The handlers were shouting and this added to the confusion. We boys began to run after the mules. Some of them ran across the tracks, some down the tracks and some just finally stopped running and began to graze.
"Stumpy" Maddox lived just south of 6TH St. on Dixie highway. Two of the groups of mules were running down the sidewalk, and they turned into his yard. There they proceeded to trample down his mother's flower garden. But the worst thing was that one of the group of mules, still being tied together, ran through his side yard and straddled a young Mango tree growing there. Their halters caught in the branches of the tree and pulled it up by the roots. Then they really went wild with those branches in their faces and the trunk and roots flailing away. If those halters had not broken and let those mules free there is no telling what they would have done.
When Mrs. Maddox got home from church, she just could not figure out what had wrecked her yard. "Stumpy" said later he wasn't sure she
really believed what happened, even after he showed her the mule tracks up and down the street.
There were mules being chased by the handlers and by us boys, and we weren't helping the situation. The mules eventually began to tire and to
slow down. The horse riders then could approach them and get them tied back together and hold them until a handler could get to them. They
didn't trust us boys to hold them, and I suppose they were justified in not doing so. It had taken a couple or three hours to get the mules all back
together and started on their way to the lot. The last brace of mules was found eating grass on the banks of the Pompano canal over by THE
MEN AND BOYS ARE BEHIND THE MULES.
When was the last time you had a haircut? I mean a REAL haircut, where you sat in a KOKEN BARBER CHAIR, one that swiveled, one that laid you back, one that you could prop your feet on the platform or the stand, one that had arm rests and a head rest, one that could be raised and lowered. One that had a padded seat that could be inserted for the little tykes?
When was the last time you had your hair cut and the Barber used scissors, comb, clippers, and shaved your neck around your ears, and squared your sideburns?
When was the last time you had a haircut and when the Barber finished with the cutting and trimming you had your neck and ears dusted with the best smelling powder you could imagine? When was the last time you saw a Barber open up a straight razor, catch the end of that "leather strop" and whip that razor back and forth until it was (you guessed it) sharp as a razor?
When was the last time you poked your head in a barber shop, looked at the group of men sitting around reading, talking, or just listening and said I'll come back later, only to have one of the barbers say "Come on in, you're next"? You find out that the other men are there to do just what they are doing, nothing.
When was the last time you could go into a place, be welcomed, have a seat, hear all the latest national news, all the regional news, all the local news, all the latest gossip, and sometimes hear the local news that had not yet happened, and even give your input? If you ever lived in OLD POMPANO and visited the local barber shops then you probably have.
When was the last time you went into a place and services other than hair cuts such as shaves, shampoos, shoeshines, and in some shops, showers were available?
When was the last time you knew of a barber going to hospitals, nursing homes, to bed-ridden home-bound shut-ins on their days-off giving haircuts and shaves? You probably knew a host of barbers, good barbers that worked in OLD POMPANO that did this on a regular basis. Arnold Beadles was one of those barbers.
There were two barber shops on Flagler in downtown OLD POMPANO. One was located next to the Pompano Mercantile and the Pool Room, one was located next to the Western Union and right across the street from Hartlines Restaurant. There was one located on N.E.1st ST next to Hirshmans Drugstore. At one time there was one located on the south side of N.E. 1st St.in the old Ogden Building. You probably had occasion to use one or more of these shops and there were times when barbers shifted from shop to shop. Mr. Pittman and O.D. Brantly owned the shop next to Pompano Mercantile.
Some of the barbers that at one time or another barbered there were Brantley, Pittman, Val Swafford, Dutch Hayes, Chip Price, Charlie Bell, Jack Bell, and Arnold Beadles. Barbers that worked in the shop across from Hartlines Restaurant included Mr. Pittman, O.D. Brantley, Whitey, and his brother David. There were others that I can't remember.
The Barber shop on N.E. 1st St. was owned by Mr. Forester. Mr. Morrison worked with him and later Alex bought this shop and it was
changed to Alexs'. Val Swafford opened a shop across the street from Foresters in the Ogden Building.
Arnold Beadles arrived in Pompano in 1958, already a veteran barber. Arnold went to work in the shop next to Pompano Mercantile with O.D. Brantly and Val Swafford. Over the years as barbers came and went, Arnold bought out Brantly and Dutch Hayes bought out Swafford. Chip Price bought out Dutch Hayes. With the advent of long hair Chip quit barbering and left Arnold in the shop alone where he remained until 1981 when he closed the downtown shop and opened a one chair shop in his home on N.E.1st St. across from Barnett Bank.
On February 4, 1993 the announcement on his answering machine went like this. "THIS IS ARNOLD. ON FEB 4, I FULLY RETIRED. I APPRECIATE YOUR PATRONAGE ALL THESE YEARS. WE WILL MISS YOU AND WISH YOU GOOD DAYS AHEAD. GOD BLESS YOU. ARNOLD."
With this simple message OLD POMPANO lost its one remaining link with the past and the good times and the stories, which were many. Arnold and the other barbers that gave us these pleasantries and fond memories will never be forgotten. Arnold and Norma Beadles have sold their house and have moved up to the Stuart area. The sign over his shop that said simply, "ARNOLDS" is gone.
Wherever they go I just want to wish them the VERY BEST RETIREMENT EVER. After looking at the back of so many heads I know Arnold was glad when he spun that chair around to the mirror for the last time, looked up and said "How does that look?"
You may someday get a "real" haircut again in a "real" barber shop but you will never get what I got : "THE LAST HAIRCUT"Back to Top
The tracks of the Florida East Coast Railway cross-over many rivers and canals in the 350 miles or so of its North-South span.
The track crosses over Cypress Creek and the Pompano Canal in the section designated mile post and section 333 in a 5 mile
stretch from Sample road to the North and South of Cypress Creek in the Pompano area.
My Dad, J.E. Garner Sr. was the track Forman for this section designated “333” in the year 1937 when this story occurred. The area under the bridge at Dixie highway and where Atlantic Blvd. now meet was a wide, but low span with heavy 12 x 12 “ pilings driven into the canal bed and on top sat the heavy timbers that the dual tracks were bolted to. The area at normal water levels on both sides and under the bridge had a gravel/sand slope from the waters edge about eight or ten feet to the top and kept clean and clear of weeds and trash. The area under the bridge was also used as a temporary “Hobo” hangout while waiting for or just resting from a freight train ride.
Hobo’s had told my dad of seeing a large gator lying on the bank in the sun or swimming in the canal and some of them were concerned for this was an extremely large gator and being in such close proximity to it was unnerving to say the least. One day a Hobo told him that he suspected the gator had attacked and made off with one of the Bos’after dark, having heard a large splash and then noticing one of the men that had been camping under the bridge was missing and no one had seen or heard of him after that.
My Dad started watching for the gator and one warm afternoon he saw him sunning on the bank. Dad went back to the house where he got out his old Smith/Wesson .38 cal pistol with the long barrel, put six rounds in it and set off for the canal. The gator was still lying on the bank and dad eased down under the bridge on the opposite side from the gator and very carefully got as close to the gator as he could without spooking him. He was shocked at the size of the gator, having seen many gators but never having seen one this big or this close or ever killed one, he said he didn’t know just where to shoot him. After thinking it over, he decided to try and shoot it in the eye as that was the only place he figured it might be effective. When the gun fired, the gator went almost straight up spun around and into the water, and was gone. After waiting around for some time, Dad figured he must have missed or had only wounded him.(later examination of the gator showed that indeed he had been hit but the bullet had only broken his thick hide and not penetrated his skull.)
After several days of not seeing the gator, he passed by one day on his motor car and there was the gator, again on the bank in almost the same place. This time he had the pistol with him and after stopping the motor car, got off and again made his way to almost the same place he shot from before only this time getting several feet closer to the huge gator. He had already decided to aim where he thought its heart would be, right behind the left foreleg where the skin was much thinner and softer than on the topside of the gator.
Cocking his pistol, he took careful aim at a spot he thought would be the heart area and prepared himself to try and get off several shots if possible.The first shot made the gator jump and in quick succession dad got off three more shots as the gator was then into the water and making a big commotion. The gator submerged and after waiting around for some time, and upon seeing fine bubbles coming to the surface he knew the gator was still there and might not come up for quite a while and he left with his men and went home.
Going back to the bridge early the next afternoon to see if the gator was there, he climbed under the bridge and there half in and half out of the water lay the gator and by the flies buzzing around its head, knew it was dead. Dad was elated, he had thought about the skin of the gator, he wanted it and now it was dead, he had killed it and it was his. Little did he know of the effort it would be to get this gator to a place to skin him which would be at the Railroad section house where we lived, located on No. Flagler, between 6th and 8th St. He would hang him from the large mango tree behind the house and skin him out.
He got his men together along with ropes, shovels, hoes rakes and pitch forks and they went to work trying to get the gator out of the canal and upon the bank. Little did they know that this gator weighed close to four hundred pounds and almost impossible to be dragged once out of the water. Nothing they could do would get the gator from under the bridge and up the bank. Dad went to Powell Ford which was about two blocks away and a salesman for Powell, Gene Spear, had their wrecker go over and backed it as close as they could to the edge, put a chain around the gator, put the hook on the end of the cable in the chain and winched the gator out.
Taking the gator through the middle of town hanging on the back of the wrecker created quite a stir and several people followed to the place they would hang him. This to proved to be a chore, finally with the aid of all the extra help and the winch of the wrecker, the gator was hung in the tree by his tail. The gator measured fourteen feet long, many of the people there said it was the largest gator ever seen in these parts. Also, of the five shots Dad fired from the old S&W all of them hit the gator, out of the last four, three of them went into the area dad thought his vital organs were and they must have been to kill a gator of that size with a pistol
Once again, my dad was faced with a dilemma, how would he ever get this thing skinned, and the carcass disposed of. The gator hanging in the tree was too high and too long to be reached and further more, the hide was as tough as “whet leather.” What to do? What had seemed a good idea had now become a monumental problem.
The solution appeared in the form of a Seminole Indian driving an old model A ford truck with a flat bed . He had heard of the huge gator and was coming to see my dad about making a deal. His proposition, he would take the gator to his place in the glades, skin him, keep the meat for himself and return the skin to Dad, as simple as that. This was just too good an offer to refuse, the gator would be gone, Dad would get the skin and with no more effort on his part. Dad quickly agreed to this, he called out his men (they lived alongside the tracks adjacent to the forman's house.) The Indian backed his truck under the gator, cut him down, positioning him on the truck.
The Indian left,driving South on Flagler, crossed the tracks at NE 6th St. turning South on Dixie highway. “That was the last time the Indian or the gator was ever seen.” This didn’t rid the Pompano canal of gators, far from it, but I believe this gator is the biggest one ever seen there and one that size could easily kill and eat anything that ventured too close to the waters edge.
Like the Troll that lived under the bridge in the story “Three Billy Goats Gruff”, this huge gator staked out his territory under the Pompano bridge and had to be delt with for the safety of others.Back to Top
The year, 1950, Sample road west of Old Dixie highway was largely undeveloped. There were about six homes on the North side of Sample from Dixie highway to NE 3rd Ave and about six on the the South side. Most of these homes were less than a year old having been built after the land was platted and sold at auction in late 1948 and 1949. Sample road at this time was paved from Dixie to NE 3rd Ave. From there to powerline it was a one lane rock road that was bordered on either side by a drainage ditch and the land adjacent to the road stayed under water much of the time. It contained scrub oak, palmetto and pinetrees to the SCL railroad tracks and from there to powerline it was much the same with several acres of wildcat farming operations bordering the road. To the East, Sample road stopped at Old Dixie highway and at this time there was no crossing at the tracks. Sample road did not exist to the East. We had mail delivery by rural carrier to a bank of mail boxes facing Dixie at Sample road. There was no telephone service to this area and would be several years before this happened.
It was new years day, Sunday, January 1. 1950. the time, just after noon, when my neighbor, Lloyd Hutchinson, stopped in front of my house in the 500 block of Sample Rd., blew his car horn and when I went to the door yelled for me to get my shovel and come down to Dixie highway, which was about 3 blocks from my house. He didn’t wait for me to inquire as to the reason, but drove off in a hurry. I rushed out back, got my shovel and told my wife that something must have happened and I would go see what it was. I got in my truck and when I reached Dixie, I could see several cars parked alongside the road and railroad about two blocks North of Sample and I could see people on the East side of the tracks about 200 feet or so in an open field and were standing in a group.
I parked, crossed the tracks and when I approached the group, I was told to walk softly and don’t make any loud noises, that there was a man in a deep hole and it had caved in on him and his head had been uncovered before he could suffocate. He was trapped and had to be gotten out in some way. I crawled to the lip of the hole, looked in and there, about 25 or 30 feet down was a black dot, which I soon realized was a mans head, not moving and thats all there was to be seen down in a very narrow hole dug in the white and brown sugar sand.
At one time in years past, this field had been a pineapple farm, the old packing shed sat on the far side of the field and at this time most of the pineapples had been removed and the property now belonged to a man of Italian descent, he had planted cactus on a good part of the 10 or so acres and was in the process of driving a well for a source of water. The method for doing this in sandy soils such as this was to connect a piece of pipe to a sandpoint, which was a 5 ft section of 1 1/4 or 1 1/2 inch galvanized pipe that had a cast point on the end ,had copper screen in ports along the entire length of the pipe and driving it into the sand and into moisture deeper and deeper adding another section of pipe as it went down and on until it struck rock. Then connect a suction pump to the top end, the screen would keep the sand out and allow water to be pumped out of the ground. This was the reason the man was trapped in the hole. The pipe the owner and his helper (the man trapped in the cave-in,) were driving was down about 30 feet when the sand point broke off at the first 5 ft. joint. The logical thing to do would be to get another sandpoint (about $5.00), pull the rest of the pipe up and drive down another one.
The owner decided to try to salvage the sand point by digging down to it, removing it and use it again. This was a very bad decision on his part, possibly he did not realize how far down it was, the looseness of the sand and how easily it could cave in. He and his helper, (a man of Spanish descent that spoke very little English) dug a hole and it remains a mystery to this day, how they ever reached this depth before the first cave-in occurred and this was the one that covered the helper and some way or another, the owner was able to dig down to him in the soft sand a distance of several feet ,uncover his head allowing him to breathe, then getting out of the hole and going for help. The tripod that had been erected over the hole with a block and tackle and a rope that allowed them to drive the pipe down was used to get into and out of the hole.
This was the scene that greeted us when we responded to the call for help by the owner. He was distraught, suffering from shock and was no help in the task we faced in getting his man freed before another cave-in covered him. A call went out for more help and there was a response from the Sheriffs department and from volunteer firemen from Deerfield and Pompano. Among those responding was the Sheriff of Broward County, Walter Clark. He arrived and immediately picked-up a shovel and began helping to move sand back away from the edge of the hole to lessen the chance of another cave-in. It was quickly decided the only way to get the man out of the hole alive was to start digging a slanting hole about 30 or 40 ft. back and about 8 ft. wide all the way down to the man and we had to be very careful that we did not cause any cave-ins in the soft dry sand.
Another problem arose that had to be addressed and quickly, the cave-in was close to the railroad tracks and the numerous trains that passed caused sand to filter down. The call went out by sheriff Clark to the rail road section foreman (my dad, J.E. Garner.) He arrived and placed two men, one a mile North of the site and one a mile to the South. Each man was given a supply of “torpedoes” (these were 2”x 2” squares of fulminite of mercury with two strips of lead that fastened them to the tracks) when a train wheel ran over them they produced a loud “bang” that could be heard above the sound of the train by the train crew. One torpedo meant for the train to slow down, two meant for the train to stop. By placing one on the tracks the trains slowed down which decreased vibrations that might cause further cave-ins. To further reduce the possibility of a cave-in suffocating the man in the hole, a large bucket, a garden hose and a tank of oxygen procured by one of the fireman was rigged with one end of the hose being placed in a hole that was knocked in the bottom of the bucket, tied in a knot inside the bucket and lowered down into the hole and over the head of the trapped man who at this time was apparently in shock. The other end of the hose connected to the oxygen tank, opened just enough to allow a supply of oxygen so he would not be suffocated by the bucket. This gave us a sense of security that at least if it caved in now, we could possible keep him alive until he could dig him out.
Night was approaching and this posed another problem. Lights, we had been digging all afternoon and were not even close to having the ramp wide or deep enough. Once again, Sheriff Clark sent his men for lights, they returned with a small generator and a battery powered light that produced enough light for us to continue with our digging. Some of the ladies that lived in the area brought coffee and sandwiches to the rescuers, it was greatly appreciated. The amount of sand we dug and moved had to be by hand because there were no draglines or backhoes available to do it. The sand had to be handled several times to get it out of the trench, back up to the top and moved back far enough to be able to continue. Not only was the trapped man in peril, the rescue workers that were deep in the trench shoveling sand were also in a position that a cave-in could possible cover them.
It was after midnight when we finally reached the trapped man, He had to be lifted out of the hole by several men, he had been trapped in a squatting position with nothing but his head showing for close to 14 hours in the moist cold sand and was unable to straighten up or utter any sounds at all, but he was alive. A great relief was felt by all. The owner that stayed while this was going on was too overcome to say anything. Sheriff Clark had an ambulance standing by and a stretcher awaiting to transport him to the closest hospital, which was Broward General in Ft. Lauderdale where he recovered quickly from the ordeal.
Among the many assisting in this rescue was several of the men that lived in this neighborhood, among them were, Lloyd Hutchinson, Pat and Floyd McCartha, Monk Smith, Jim Shivel,and the assistant Pompano post master, Emmett Newman.
It was a long first day of the year in 1950. and one I will always remember. The next day, after an investigation was made of the accident. Sheriff Clark sent a detachment of County prisoners to the site. The hole and runway was filled in and it no longer constituted a threat to anyone. Today, 48 years after this happened, part of the site of this near disaster is still undeveloped and remains a field over grown with Florida holly, palmetto, scrub oaks, love vines and pine trees.
I think about this incident and that sandpoint, still buried some 30 feet down every time I pass along there.
Back when there was no television, when there was no play-by-play descriptions on the radio, when there were town teams playing semi-professional baseball in organized leagues with permanent rosters, quality players and managers were dedicated to the game of baseball in towns and to the sponsors and fans that came out on Sunday afternoons to support them.
Edgar Shiver was one of them, born in Hamilton county, near Jasper in North Florida. He moved to Pompano when he was eight years
old and began playing baseball in high school. Edger played ball on the town's young players team. His playing days ended when
Edgar graduated from Pompano High School with the first graduating class in the year 1928. He enrolled in the University of Florida, Gainesville, when that school was an all-male school with the exception of three girls whose parents were staff-members. Women had to attend the all girls' school at Tallahassee, Florida State School for Women. Edgar said that there were about five thousand men at Gainesville going to school and there are still ruts beside the roads leading to Tallahassee worn there by boys going back and forth.
Leaving the university after two years, Edgar returned to Pompano and was approached by a group of boys from town that were playing with a team in Lake Worth. They wanted him to organize and manage team in Pompano in the Coast league with teams from Jupiter to Miami, which he did. After a year in this league, Pompano applied for and was accepted in the Coast-Glades league with teams in Canal Point, Okeechobee, Pahokee, Clewiston, Lake Worth, Palm Beach, Delray, Jupiter and Stuart. This was a Semi-Pro league that played class "C" ball and in those days was instrumental in sending many players on to higher class leagues and eventually to the Major Leagues. Edgar was the manager of this team except for four years during the war when Clem Hall managed.
Edgar recalls that the first year in this league, Pompano finished last, and this was the only time this happened. After that first year and for the next twenty five or so years we finished in second place every year. Lake Worth usually finished first, they had some retired Major League players on their team. Pompano finished first only once, and that was the last year we had a team. Some of the first players on this first town team were: "Tiger " Richardson, Russell Courson, Bill Charlton, Pelham Collier, Montgomery, Jake Raines, Bob Hudnell, (later shot and killed when caught stealing hub caps from a car.) Some more, but not all that played in later years were, Jim Bob Walton, Bill Sanders, Cliff Dew, Bud Garner, Clay Parkinson, El Hogan, Verle Hutchinson, Sandy Lake, B. Sam Walton, Freddy Robinson, Jake Keene, Revis Mickler, Ed Richardson, Libby? and Carl Douglas. There were several dozen men that played for Edgar over the course of the years and many of them not listed here were not left-out purposely, they could not be remembered.
For the first few years until Kester park was developed, the games were played in an open field at the corner of N.E. 4th St and N.E. 1st Ave behind the old Ice Plant, close to where the old Dairy Queen building is now standing. These were tough conditions for baseball but it had to be played on fields such as this in the beginning. There were no seats, people sat in their cars or on the ground. The games were played on Sunday afternoons and it was the players' responsibility to get to the town and to get there on time to play. This made it tough on everyone especially on a road trip over to the Lake. Roads were not in the best of condition and if everyone got there in one piece, all was well. One of the best parts was going over a day early and going fishing in Lake Okeechobee. Edgar says the toughest games from a standpoint of spectators was in the town of Clewiston. The people there were not the friendliest you could find, and on more that one occasion the town's peace officers had to be called in to maintain order so the game could be played and so we could get to the locker rooms to dress after the game.
The Pompano town team was supported by large numbers of people and the only monies collected were donations given when the "hat" was passed. Uniforms were bought by different clubs and organizations in town, and merchants donated balls and bats. The front of our uniforms had Pompano across the front. The back of the uniform usually carried the name of the organization(s). We bought our own gloves, shoes, and other necessities, and provided our own transportation to games.
Edgar says that he recommended several players over the years to Major League teams, and some of them did play in higher professional leagues. There were several retired major league players in the Fla Coast Glades league, and the teams they played with were almost impossible to beat. The quality of play by almost every team was on a very high plane, and the players, even with all the obstacles and drawbacks encountered, played a good solid game. That assured that there would be a good following and attendance at the home games where the "locals were vocal," and it made for a better town and feeling of pride in the Town Team.
Edgar doesn't remember the year the last game was played, sometime in the early fifties when we won the champiopnship. The town of Pompano, now Pompano Beach, started to grow and people had television and better cars and roads, so the town was scattered out and this ended one of the best of times in Pompano where people knew people, and everyone pulled for the TOWN TEAM.
Edgar Shiver still remembers having to level the playing field, to water it, to drag it before every game or practice...he still remembers the times, good and bad. Most of all he knows for those twenty-five or so years he did something he loved to do and the people of OLD POMPANO that remember owe him and his players a huge THANKS.Back to Top
Hurricane David skirted the South Florida coast on Labor Day in 1979 doing little or no damage other than some erosion on the
beaches. That brings to mind the incident that happened to me and my wife the day after this storm passed. We are both "Treasure
hunters," meaning we travel to the Beaches, Battlefields, Goldfields and other interesting areas of the State and Country,
including foreign countries using metal detectors. We uncover various articles that may or may not be valuable but it is a
rewarding and fun hobby.
Hurricane David came ashore just North of Ft. Pierce, and although not a very large Hurricane we knew it had to churn up the beaches, so we loaded up our "Open Road" camper and hit the road. Checking in at one of the campgrounds right on the ocean we decided to wait until the next morning and get on the beach at the crack of dawn. Just a few hundred feet North of where we parked on the beach to begin our searching was a large stand of pine trees and it was here that we had, on occasions camped and spent the night. We had debated the night before as to whether or not we would stay there or in the campground. As it turned out it was very fortunate we decided not to stay in the trees on the beach.
The Ocean was very rough and there was enough wind from the East to blow a very fine mist of spray and it was like a thin fog making it hard to see for any great distance, but on the beach to the North, where the stand of pines were we could see the figures of several people moving up and down the beach and I could make-out the shape of a red Zodiac-type boat lying on the beach. I looked out into the ocean and anchored about two hundred yards or so almost directly East of where I was standing was a small boat and in that rough ocean. I wondered what he was doing because the ocean was too stirred-up and much too rough to fish. By now it was good daylight and I had gone on ahead of my wife and I heard the sound of an airplane and it sounded very low. Sure enough coming in from the South and flying about fifty fight high and following the coastline was a twin-engine "T-Tail" airplane without a side door, or at least it was open and a man standing in it holding something in his hand and looking right at me.
The plane zoomed on past and after going about a half mile or so past the pine trees it banked to the right over the ocean and flew back South. It was then I noticed the frenzied activity from the group of men around the Zodiac. They pushed it out into the rough surf and tried to scramble aboard, but the waves turned it over and it washed upon the beach. Mean while the small boat that had been anchored off-shore started up and turned into the waves. I heard the airplane again and here it came back, but this time about a hundred yards off the beach. The man standing in the door either kicked or threw a large black object out of the plane and it hit the water and immediately a yellow-stain began spreading from the black object and I knew from past experiences that this was a dye-marker.
The Zodiac had been righted and the men had it in the water and I could see they had an out-board motor on the stern and were trying to get it started. The small boat meanwhile had circled back and someone on it had a boat-hook and was trying to get the object into the boat. By this time the plane had made another round and again it zoomed by and another black object came hurtling out and into the water. The people in the Zodiac must have given-up on trying to start the motor and now they were paddling furiously in the direction of the dye-marker.
While all this was taking place the activity had drifted very close to where I was standing on the beach. I was close enough to them to hear their shouted remarks I don't believe they had ever noticed I was there. By this time the dye was already being washed upon the beach, the boat was very close to the beach and the airplane made another run and another drop.
All this had transpired in a very short period of time maybe twenty minutes or so and it finally dawned on me that we were in the middle of some type of illegal activity, no doubt a drug-drop and this could very well prove life-threatening so I headed back down the beach to where I could see my wife and again the plane made another run and the zodiac and the other boat were still intent on picking up the black objects.
The fifth and final drop didn't go as smooth for the crew of the plane as the first four did because as the fifth and last object came out the door it broke apart and what looked like hundreds of white envelopes fluttered down and into the ocean and there was another mad scramble by the boat and Zodiak crew to salvage them.
By this time I had nearly reached my wife who was way-high upon the beach and again I heard the plane coming back. Sure enough it was and about ten feet off the ground coming straight at me. I waited until it was almost upon me and I ran up the beach as I knew the pilot was too low to bank the plane and when the plane roared by the man that had been throwing the objects out of the plane was standing in the door and shouted something at me that I failed to understand. I, along with my wife hurried to where I had parked my camper and once inside I had the means to protect us and I felt a little safer. We looked back to where the men in the boats were and the Zodiac crew was on the beach then picking-up the "envelopes" and the small boat was still moving around and the plane was nowhere in sight.
Just as we started to pull-out onto the road my wife saw a Deputy Sheriffs car going South on the Beach road and she said "wave him down and tell him what's going on." I thought it might not be wise to stop him because the beach was unobstructed along here and he being a trained observer should have seen unusual activity going on. Right behind the Deputy Sheriff came a Marine Patrol car going in the same direction. I could not begin to guess what kind of "mess" I almost got myself into, and might not be out of it yet. If we had decided to spend the night in that stand of pine trees we could have very well been camped in the middle of a dangerous environment.
We thought it best to cut-short our stay in this area. We broke-camp and headed home trying to decide what to do. I had gotten the
numbers off the fuselage of the plane and now I must report it, but to whom. Arriving back home, I called a Detective friend of
mine on the Police-Force , told him the story, gave him the number and description of the plane and said I would leave it up to him
to do whatever needed to be done. I suppose he did, I never heard from him about it and I am just thankful that it ended for me the
way it did. Now, I never treasure hunt, on the beach, or anyplace unless I have the means very close at hand to protect myself.
"Bo" Giddens moved to Ft. Lauderdale from South Georgia in 1924 and shortly thereafter moved to Pompano. In the year 1925, just seven months after leaving Ft. Lauderdale he entered politics and was elected a commissioner in the town of Pompano. In the year 1927, he resigned from the commission and made plans to leave Pompano, but in 1928 he was hired as Fire Chief with the additional jobs as water superintent, building and electrical inspector. In 1928, he married Mattie Ogden (Sister of Jessie I and Marvin I. Ogden.) He and Mattie moved into the fire station at NE 4th Av.and NE 2nd St. and lived there until 1934. Leaving the fire station they moved to Monticello Park, living in two different locations the addresses not known.
The year 1934 saw "Bo" and Mattie opening and operating their first restaurant, in the Beville building, on Flagler Avenue downtown Pompano. "Bo" again entered politics in 1935 and was elected mayor and served in that capacity for three years. The year 1939 saw the Farmers market moving from the downtown location on Flagler Avenue to a new, larger facility West of Pompano on Hammondville road. "Bo" closed his restaurant and went to work for the State of Florida Hotel Commission. "Bo" and Mattie built a house at 305 NE 3rd St. and NE 3rd Avenue. This house is still standing and is thought to be the first house built in Pompano with an FHA loan.
When world war II broke-out, "Bo" went to Cleveland Ohio and worked in a defense plant making airplane parts. Mattie remained in Pompano and managed the Bailey Hotel located on NE 1st st. downtown Pompano. "Bo" returned to Pompano about a year later and he and Mattie opened a restaurant, "Bo's lunch" on Hammondville road just West of Dixie Highway on the North side. "Bo" again ran for public office and was elected to the city council in the early 1940's. (There is a photo of "Bo" in a Police car in front of the city hall made in this time frame.) "Bo" began farming as a side line during the late 40's and about 1950 he closed the restaurant and farmed fulltime. He farmed until the early 60's when he quit farming and was employed at Pompano Mercantile, working there until his death in 1968.
"Bo" Giddens had a long-standing "love affair" with the town of Pompano, the city of Pompano and the city of Pompano Beach. He had a burning desire to see it grow and prosper. He spent many years of his life working to make this happen when times were hard and things were slow to happen. "Bo" helped with the decisions to erect the first water tank, hiring a caretaker for the cemetery, working to get the 1,200 acre Navy airfield plot from the U.S Government after world war II. Working in getting the people of the beach area East of US 1 and the people in the old section of Pompano to come together to form a larger incorporation to be known as Pompano Beach. He helped to establish the first city manager type of government and was very proud to be a part of these proceedings.
"Bo" and Mattie Giddens had three children; Doris Marie, Marian Oneal and John Robert (a.k.a. Bob or "Bo".) "Bo" had one brother and two sisters that lived in Pompano, They were a. Buford Giddens (married to Idell Richardson.) Buford owned and operated a gas station on Hammondville, Rd. b. Mrs. D.B. Gleaton: Clara c. Mrs. B.T. Giddens: Lemmie ( She married a distant cousin, hence the name, Giddens) "Bo" Giddens was an early member of the Pompano Masonic Lodge. “Bo & Mattie Giddens House”305 NE 3rd Street Pompano Beach, Florida Fifteen years after moving to Florida from Georgia and eleven years after marrying Mattie Ogden, Bo Giddens built the home that has come to known asthe “Giddens’ House” on 3rd Street and 3rd Avenue. The house has the distinction of being the first house built in Pompano with an FHA loan. Even members of his own family thought it was strange to build a house using borrowed money. Bo and Mattie purchased the house for $3050.00: $3000 for the house and another $50.00 for the two lots that it was to be built on. The house was recently appraised at approximately$100,000.00.
The original structure was a two bedroom, one bath home with an attached carport on the west side. This was adequate to meet their needs until Bo bought a car that was too big for the carport and the addition of two daughters, Doris and Marian, made it necessary to convert the carport into at third bedroom for their oldest son, Bobby. Bo knocked out a window on the west side of the house and made a doorway, closed in the carport, added two large closets, and the house became a 3/1. This arrangement worked well for the family until Bobby moved away and the farming industry hit upon hard times. It was at this time that Bo converted Bobby’s bedroom into an efficiency apartment by adding a full kitchen and a three quarter bath. To earn a little extra money during the season, Bo and Mattie lived in the apartment and rented out their home to “snow birds”. At some point, a two car garage was added to the north side of the apartment. In time, the two car garage was converted to a one car garage/workshop and the remaining space added to create additional living space in the efficiency apartment. Currently that apartment is used as rental income for the current owner, carrying on the historical tradition set by Bo and Mattie only in reverse.
The house was built with Dade County Pine and was covered with vinyl siding in 1983. All the woodwork, bath fixtures, kitchen sink, floors, doors, hardware, and ceilings in the house are original. The original windows were wooden double hung and were replaced with aluminum double hung in 1985. The skylights in the living room were added in 1983 to brighten a room darkened by the closing off of the east window in the living room to add an air conditioner. The living room in the main house contains a working fireplace and the ceiling in the efficiency apartment is designed with tongue and groove planks and is a rounded cathedral style reaching a height of 13’ at its peak giving the appearance of a living space much larger than its 15’ X 15’ dimensions.
The house was sold a short while after Bo’s death in 1968 and fell into a state of disrepair. It was purchased in 1979 by its current owner and has been a “work in progress” with special care being used to preserve its original ambiance ever since. Mattie Giddens continued to live in the neighborhood until her death in 19__ and the current owner would like to feel that she was pleased as she witnessed her once beloved home restored to reflect the many cherished memories of her younger days.Back to Top
R.A. Pool, Jeweler, Watch Maker and Photographer, known to the people of Pompano as "Bob", was along with a twin sister born in Salem, Iowa on May 31, 1906. Bob came to Pompano from Lake Worth, in October 1934. He and his father were both in the jewelry business and opened shops in Pompano. Bob remained in Pompano until World War II broke out. When the Defense Dept. first evaluated Florida's vulnerability to enemy invasion possibilities, they decided that the state had too much coastline to defend and would not put forth much of an effort in that direction. It seemed that all able-bodied men were gone and Bob moved over to Ft. Myers and then Cocoa for a year or so. When the military was moving into the state in a big way, Bob moved back to Pompano in November 1944 and has been here since.
Bob recalls the hurricane that struck South Florida on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24, 1944 just before he returned to Pompano. He remembers the hurricane had a S.W. wind and the river had thousands of miniature "twisters" dancing around. Bob says this was a phenomenon seen only this once.
Bob was a member of the AIRCRAFT WARNING SERVICE (AWS), the beachwatch program for reporting aircraft and other happenings along
the beaches of Florida. The service was under the direction of the Army Air Corp and was a major civil defense effort.
In 1947, Bob was approached by school board member E.E. "Gene" Hardy to run for school trustee. Bob ran and received all twenty-five votes that were cast. The reason, he had no opposition. Bob said neither he nor his wife voted in the election. Trustees differed from board members in that school board members served in an office created by the legislature, trustees served in an office created by a constitutional ammendment. Trustees could only say "yes" or "no" to money issues and hire teachers. The board members attended to the every day business of the schools.
There has been much said in the past few years about the "Colored" schools in Pompano being recessed for six weeks during the farming season beginning after Christmas so they could work in the fields. Bob says that the average wage for all workers during the years before and during the war was $1.25 per day. This was hardly "big" money in anyone's book and farm work was the only way to survive. Day labor on the farms was the only work available anywhere. If a family had four or five children and they could go to the bean field and pick ten hampers of beans at $.25 per hamper then each family member could bring home $2.50 per day. The children would be kept out of school to go pick beans anyway. It was a matter of economics. The closing of the schools during this harvest period benefitted everyone, farmers and families. There was opposition to these arrangements, some from whites, some from blacks. Finally this situation ended when the economy picked up after the war, more and better paying jobs were available. A new school was built on the Westside, and all students attended school at the same time. Year round schools (The Fox plan) was discussed and rejected even back then as unfeasible. It is being revived today as a means of overcoming problems that have plagued school boards since day one. Bob says that teachers were paid a minimum salary of $1750 per year and a maximum salary of $2000. This was for a ten-month period beginning in August and culminating in June. Only one year contracts were given.
Bob Pool has served the people of Pompano and Broward County for just about more years than he cares to remember. You can find him
everyday at his "place" in downtown Pompano doing what he does best, fixing watches, jewelry and serving the public.
When the name "Cap" Campbell is mentioned, it brings something different to mind for the ones hearing it. "Cap" Campbell was something different to everyone. First, he was a successful business man, a farmer, a politician, land owner, faithful husband and loving father to daughter Rosetta, the only child to this family.
"Cap" had a booming real estate business. His office was located on the South side of NE 1st between Flagler and 1st Ave. His house was also located there and moved to its present site in later years on NE 3rd St and 4th Ave. "Cap" conducted his business from this downtown location until the bust of 1929 when he, like a lot of other people in real estate fell on hard times.
"Cap" Campbell never lost his sense of humor nor the ability to forgo the pleasures he gained from his likeability. "Cap" furnished entertainment and individuality to almost everything he did. Cap would drive his team of mules through town wearing ladies hats and coloroful scarfs. On one occasion he dressed his mules in oversize ladies "step-ins" (underwear) and paraded them through town. Cap would drive through town in his truck (cut-down from a car) blowing his horn in a steady staccato. He would approach a railroad crossing, stop his truck, get out, walk up to the track look both ways to see if there was any trains coming and if not, he would get back into his truck and continue on his way.
There is a story told about Cap that describes him perfectly. It goes like this, he always dressed in his bib-overalls, brogan shoes,
straw hat and long sleeve shirts and always needed a shave. "Cap" entered a Cadilliac dealership, was looking at a new car and asking
questions about the one he was interested in. It is said the salesman was quietly trying to cut short his encounter with the "bum"
that was taking up his time, until "Cap" pulled a roll of bills out of his pocket and paid cash for the car he wanted.
"Cap" Campbell and his wife are buried in the Pompano Beach Cemetery. Rosetta, their daughter is buried in Ft. Pierce, Fla.
The year was 1871, The place, Cape Canaveral, Fl. When Eugene Theodore "Cap" Knight first saw the light of day. "Cap" came from a seafaring family. His Grandfather, Capt. Mills Olcott Burnham came to Florida and in 1853 became the lighthouse keeper at Canaveral Fl. "Caps" father Capt. J.A. Knight also served as the light keeper at Canaveral until his death in 1892.
Cap Knight ran away from home at the age of 13 and went to sea, worked up to become eventually a ships master with Morgan Lines, retiring after three decades of seafaring. Cap Knight married Bertha Armour, daughter of the lighthouse keeper in Jupiter, Fl. After their marriage failed Cap Knight married Lola Saunders from Cross Creek, Fl. The hometown of Marjorie Kinning Rawlings who wrote "the Yearling". She became one of the teachers hired to teach children of lighthouse keepers and other children in the Hillsborough inlet area.
Billy Knights father (Billy added his recollections to this story) Burnham Knight,was a commercial fisherman, his father and Billy's Grandfather, Tom Knight, brother of "Cap" was the Hillsboro lighthouse keeper and Billy says "Cap" (who was his great uncle) whom he called "Uncle Theade" was always called "Theade" by his family, was his own man. The Knight family followed the sea from generation to generation. (Billy Knight is retired as a boat Captain.)
After purchasing a barge, "Cap" opened his first bar on the barge in the Miami area (it was rumored to have been used in the building of the Florida East Coast Railway to Key West). Later he moved the barge to the South side of the Hillsboro Inlet on a small peninsula on Wahoo Bay. This spot proved to be a bad location from the standpoint of hurricanes and he then moved it across the East coast canal on a small piece of land on the West side of the canal. This spot came to be and is still called "Caps Island". The barge being an intregal part of "Caps Place" today.
With the coming of prohibition, Cap Knight found himself in the right place and time to get into the rum running business from the
Bahamian Islands, the closest one, Bimini, just 50 or so miles off the coast of Florida and the Hillsboro Inlet. With his sailing
background, crossing that short span of water with a load of illegal whiskey and having the Hillsboro Light to help get back, Cap
did a brisk, profitable business supplying the local demand and all of his business dealings was conducted in cash.
The year was 1929 when Cap opened his restaurant and bar that he called "Club Unique". His club was an instant success made more appealing by his method of getting customers there. Cap had a row boat with an attendant who would row across the East coast canal whenever a customer flashed his lights and ferry them over to "the Island". This really made his restaurant "Unique". Billy, Allred Sistrunk, Fred Stone and Dwight Miller were some of the local boys that rowed customers across. "Cap’s Place" soon became synonymous with good food, good booze, gambling and atmosphere, proving that slot machines, blackjack tables, roulette wheels and dice games were available even though illegal. Rumor had it that "the mob" had a hand in the gambling aspect of the club and this made it even more "Unique".
Notables were attracted to Cap’s place, probably the most famous and at the time most secret was in January, 1942 during World War II when the President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt along with Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Secretary of State, Edward J. Stettinius, who had a home on Hillsboro beach, had breakfast in the "yellow room" at "Caps Place" (Caps club never served breakfast to the public, this was a special occasion) and were waited on and served "turtle egg pancakes" by none other than "Cap" in his bib overalls and denim shirt that he wore on all occasions. It is said the biggest worry was how to get the president, in his wheelchair safely across the canal in a small rowboat. Obviously, this was handled successfully by an Army officer assigned to that task. Billy says that "Cap", knowing of the drinking habits of Churchill, brought him a glass of a "special blend" of whiskey and told Churchill it wasn’t for drinking, just for sipping, whereby Churchill turned the glass up and downed the entire contents in one gulp--so much for the sipping.
Over the years, the celebrity guest list includes the names of many famous people that has dined at "Cap’s Place" eating "turtle
egg pancakes" that had become one of the many specialties of Cap’s also the "heart of Palm salad" taken from the heart of the
Cabbage or Sabal palm tree that is abundant in the lake Okeechobee area.
Cap Knight not only had a successful restaurant and bar business, he also had a wholesale fish market in Pompano, run by Mrs. Rethea Mitchell, fleet of commercial fishing boats and operated a fish camp at snake bight on Snake Creek in Florida bay. Billy says he fished there three summers and one winter. (I spent a week fishing there for Cap Knight in 1946, just a short time before it was made a part of Everglades National Park and all commercial fish camps banned. BG)
During the 1950’s there was senate investigations into gambling in Florida and it is rumored that the "mob" figures that had been seen frequently at Caps ceased to visit there and when sheriff Walter Clark died in 1951 Cap quit the gambling business entirely. The era of open illegal gambling in South Florida came to a halt. Caps place was raided by conservation officers in 1962 and a large "clutch" of illegal turtle eggs were found. Cap said he had been buying turtle eggs for many years for his "pancakes" he was fined and made them a promise not use any more turtle eggs. (Billy says he is not at liberty to say where or by whom Cap Knight got his turtle eggs.)
Cap Knight and his wife Lola were the early pioneers from hearty stock that came to South Florida and became a legend and at the same time remained a personable, likable, business man and ran a business that has withstood many obstacles and has become nationally known and acclaimed. Caps Place is still open and is owned and operated by Tom Hasis oldest son of Albert Hasis who Cap Knight met in the early 20’s and remained good friends throughout their lives. The quality of service and food at "Cap’s place" is the same now as it was when it first opened. Billy said Cap Knight told him at one time that "I was born the boss and I will die the boss". "Cap" Knight died in 1964 at the age of 94. His wife Lola died in 1989. "Cap" Knight is buried in the Pompano Beach Cemetery. (Billy Knight added his recollections to this story. Billy was born and raised in Pompano, living on the beach close to the Hillsboro Inlet. Billy graduated from Pompano High School in 1947. He is married to Peggy Carter Knight also a Pompano native.)Back to Top
It was about six P.M. on Friday, March 29th 1946, when I stepped down off that train in Pompano for the first time in two years. I had just seven hours earlier received my discharge at Jacksonville NAS separation center after having served three years of wartime service in the U.S.Navy. I made my way across the tracks and across Flagler Avenue to the poolroom fronting on Flagler to see if there were any of my friends around that I had not seen in some time. Sure enough I found several of my buddies that had been away in the service and had just recently returned home. After a period of back slapping and loud talk and so forth, we settled down to talk of other friends since returned, or some that had not returned and of those that would never return.
Robert Mitchell was one of the ones there that day. We had been neighbors and close friends since early childhood. Robert had just returned from nearly three years of overseas duty in the Pacific with the FIRST CAVALRY DIVISION. After visiting for a while Robert asked if I had anything planned for the following week. I had not even had time to think about it, I had not even been home yet, so my folks didn't even know I was home.
Robert had an Uncle by marriage, Morgan Ritter, that had recently returned home from the Army after serving four years in NORTH AFRICA AND FRANCE and was at Cap Knights fish camp down at SNAKEBIGHT located on Florida Bay on SNAKE CREEK and Robert was going down the next day for a week to fish and I could go down also, as the fishermen were paid by the amount of fish they caught and it would be a good way to earn some money and do some fishing at the same time. I agreed to go and Robert and his Aunt, Myrtle Ritter, Morgans wife, picked me up about three o'clock Saturday morning and we were on our way. We went South to Miami, cut across the Glades over to Snake Creek, went South again to Florida Bay and on to Cap Knights fish camp. We arrived just in time to catch Morgan as he was leaving the dock. We all three piled in his air boat. Morgan threw in some more poles and we were on our way to the fish-grounds.
The water in and around Snakebight was very shallow in places and that is why most of the men fishing there used air-boats. These were work boats, not like the small air boats seen today. They were made of wood and powered by water cooled automobile engines. Air plane engines on airboats came later. We skimmed across the flats, sometimes at low tide there were mud flats and some so large we had to skirt around them. Our destination on this trip was some eight or so miles South of the camp to a small Key sitting all alone out of sight of anything name of Cluet Key. Morgan explained his reason for not fishing some of the closer Keys or flats was that Cluet Key sat in a area where a deep channel ran just outside of it and there was a deep, twelve or so feet channel running completely around it and it was usually full of fish. Snapper, Grouper, Grunts, Mackerel, Trout and Snook were some of the more common varieties along with the usual scavengers and predators. Pulling the airboat up a sandy spit, we were given a quick run-down on the procedures for fishing here. Not a whole lot different than we were used to. We would be using short, stiff bamboo rods, (no fiberglass in those days) with a medium size reel, flat cotton line, large hooks and mullet heads for bait. Morgan warned us to stay out of the water reason being, there was some quicksand in some of the holes and there was some pretty sticky mud in places and it might be hard, if not impossible to get out of it.
We spread out, Morgan and Myrtle cutting across, Robert going one direction, me the other. I walked around until I found a likely looking spot, baited my hook, flipped it out into the channel and almost before I had time to take-up the slack in the line something nearly jerked the rod out of my hand. Out of instinct, I reared-back on the rod and the line snapped, sounding like a gunshot and scaring me half to death. I looked around to see if anyone had seen this mishap, which they hadn't and I felt a little better. I vowed not to be taken by surprise like this again and I could hardly wait to repair my rig and get that bait into the water again.
The second cast was almost a carbon copy of the first try, only this time I was expecting it. The bait hit the water, sank maybe a
foot deep and, "wham" I was into something really BIG. That fish dove for the bottom and I knew by now that there were rocks and
old mangrove limbs strewn along the bottom so I thumbed down on that spool holding the line and "pow" the line snapped again, taking
me by about as much surprise as the time before. Now I am really feeling foolish. Twice in a matter of a very few minutes I have let
two fish get away and breaking my line like I am some first time fisherman. Rigging up again, I stopped to run over these events in
my head and determine if I was getting "buck fever" or what. I realized it had been quite some time since I had caught any fish, the
last time being up in Alaska at an Army Outpost fishing in a frozen lake while in the Navy.
I gathered-up my gear and decided to move a little further down the Island and maybe take a quick glance down below before dropping in my bait. I found a nice looking spot that had an ages old mangrove hanging out over the channel with a natural saddle in the trunk that would make a great seat. I made-up another rig, looked down into the water and finding it clear of cudas, I flipped the fish-head out and sat down to wait for the action. I didn't have long to wait, suddenly that line just tightened up and the next thing I knew, I had me a fish-on and he didn't break the line, and I never thumbed-down on that spool, but just let him go on his merry way. I decided that maybe I should try to turn him before he tangled me up in some roots or rocks. I slowly raised the rod-tip, put some pressure on the spool (there were no drags on these reels) and began to slow him down. Ever so slowly I began turning the crank and he began to come around. After what seemed an eternity, but was just a few minutes, I had this fish up to the edge and reaching down and catching him in the gills I lifted up a red snapper that would easily go six pounds.
I wasn't about to put this fish on a stringer, place him in the water for some hungry barracuda, or shark to get. I would just run him back to the boat, show him to Robert and do a little bragging. Getting back to the boat I found Robert sitting there drinking a soda and I showed him the snapper I had and he reached down in the boat and picked-up his stringer and guess what? he had four snapper ever bit as big as the one I had on his stringer. His story was almost the same as mine, except he didn't lose his first two baits to the cudas. He had caught snapper everytime he watered a bait. Morgan had half a wooden barrel with ice in it he had brought, so we iced-down our fish and started out again. We decided to go in the same direction because Robert said he had found a very deep hole and it looked very promising. We picked a spot at the edge of the hole, baited up, and cast the fish-heads in. Almost immediately we both had a fish on, mine was a small snapper and Robert had a yellowtail. This fantastic fishing went on until mid-morning when it began to slow-down, the bites were not coming nearly as fast, so we picked-up our fish stringers which were heavy with fish and headed back to the boat.
Getting to the boat, we found Morgan and Myrtle there and they had more fish than we had. Morgan said the tide would have to come-back around before the fishing picked back up. We never brought any lunch with us. We didn't have time to get anything and didn't know if Morgan had any or not. No, Morgan had not brought anything but some corn meal, salt and pepper. This didn't sound too inviting, fishing is hard work you know. Anyhow, Morgan built a fire out of driftwood and went off into the underbrush, returning shortly with some large broad leaves. He cleaned some of the snapper, sprinkled them generously with the corn meal, salted and peppered them and rolled them in the leaves he had, along with a mush he made out of the cornbread. When the fire had nearly burned itself out, Morgan opened a trench in the coals and ashes of the fire and deposited the leaves containing the fish and "hushpuppies" therein and covered them up. Some time later, Morgan dug them up and when those leaves were opened and those fish and hushpuppies appeared it was like manna from Heaven. We sat down and had a meal that just cannot be described and even after nearly fifty years, I can still remember how good it was.
We just lay around for a while after eating and set out again for more fishing before it reached going-home time. Robert and I both went in the same direction to fish a hole he had found and it was a deep spot in the channel with steep sides and the water was now moving at a fast pace as the tide was coming in. We rigged-up and it was just a few minutes before we were pulling in the fish. I drifted away and soon we were out of sight of each other. Suddenly, I heard Robert yelling, and I hurried over to see why all the commotion. I found Robert chest-deep in the water holding on to a large mangrove limb with one hand and holding the fishing rod in the other hand. The line led from the rod underneath the limb and off into the deep part of the hole. Robert had hooked a large fish and it ran underneath the mangrove limb and he had stepped-off into the water to feed the rod under so he wouldn't lose his fish. It was then he discovered that the sides and bottom was indeed like quicksand. It was holding him and the fish on the other end had him a going that way and he needed help. I managed to slide out far enough on the mangrove to get the rod and that left him with two-hands and he was able to climb-out of the water. The next step was in trying to get that fish out of the water. This we finally managed to do. On the other end of the line was a Grouper that would easily weigh forty pounds. It had gotten into a hole on the bottom and it took some doing to get him out without breaking the line.
This fantastic fishing continued on until finally Morgan whistled us in to get ready for the trip back to the camp. There were some rather large thunderheads making-up to the West and Morgan said we had best head back. Back at the fish camp we pulled the airboat under a long tin shed that extended out into the water. There were two airboats pulled up on the grass and they were directing their blast of air directly on the cleaning tables and we soon found why. "MOSQUITOS, THAT'S WHY." The later it got the more mosquitos there were. You can't imagine how thick they were, it was as if there was a black fog and the buzzing they made would keep you awake at night. If it were not for the airboats that kept blowing a blast of air across the tables there could be no cleaning of fish around here.
Most of the fish we caught were just gutted and after removing any roe they might have, were placed in the wooden barrels and packed with ice. These barrels were brought down every other day filled with ice and the barrels with the fish were trucked back. Cap Knight would come down with the truck, having a man with him and he would help unload the barrels of ice and roll them into the "ice-house" which was a wooden building with a tin roof. When the unloading was finished, the full barrels of fish were rolled up to the truck and loaded on. This was made easier by the trench that had been dug and the truck would back-down into it bringing the truck-bed closer to the ground.
After the fish cleaning was over with every day, we would wash-up in the prop-wash of the airboats and then a mad dash to our "cabins", which were just one room shacks on stilts about five feet off the ground. Going up the steps we entered a screened room. In this room we eliminated as many mosquitos as we could and then we would enter the second screened room where the remaining mosquitos were totally eleminated, because the next room we entered was living quarters and if the mosquitos got into this room sleeping was just a thing of the past.
Robert and I only spent a week at Cap Knights Snake Bight fish camp. We made enough money to make our stay worth while. Looking back on it now, I can say that I am glad I did spend that time there. The men that fished there were real men and they did it for a living. It was tough, but it was fun.
Cap Knight, in addition to his restaurant and bar, "CAPS PLACE", was a fisherman. He not only had his own fish markets, he had the fish camp and he also had a wholesale fish business. He was not so busy that he couldn't take time to make the rough, day-long trips to Snake-Bight several times a week.
Robert's mother Rethea Mitchell ran CAPS fish market in Pompano, located on the Pompano Canal at about S.E. 3RD Ave. Morgan Ritter
worked with Cap Knight until he joined the POMPANO POLICE DEPT where he worked until he retired. Robert Mitchell also joined the
POMPANO POLICE DEPT and worked there many years before joining the BROWARD SHERIFFS DEPT until he retired. Cap Knight, Morgan Ritter
and Robert Mitchell have all passed on now and I often wonder how many men that fished at "SNAKE BIGHT" for CAP KNIGHT are still
I have been Coon-Hunting several times in my life. The places were in Old Pompano, North Central Florida and in North Georgia.
The hunt I will relate contains some, but not all of the above and begins with a Saturday spent with the late Bill Cheshire and Joe Boris on the Cheshire farm many years ago in Pompano. Bill Cheshire owned a cut-down model "A" truck with "balloon tires" that doubled as a beach and hunting buggy. Bill picked me up about 6am on a cold Saturday morning for a day of dove hunting and just roaming around on the farm having a good time. Joe Boris was along and we were all looking forward to a good time.
Arriving at the farm a few miles west of town we set about doing some of the things we had been looking forward to, driving across the plowed and unplowed fields, shooting our shotguns, and just having a merry old time. Lunch time arrived only too quickly and we went to the "barn" to eat the lunch we had packed. After finishing we were getting ready to go to the dove fields when Joe Boris put in to drive the Buggy, Bill asked if he knew how to drive and he replied that he did, it had just been a while since he had driven. Bill said OK, pulled the truck out into the open yard and told Joe to get in the drivers seat and take us for a spin, (literally, that is just what he did.)
Before we had arrived at the barn for lunch, one of the farm workers had driven-up in his car, one not quite as old as Bills "A" model and parked it off to the side and had gone into one of the buildings. Joe got into the drivers seat and Bill told him to make a circle and head out of the barn-yard and down the sand road leading to the fields. Joe depressed the clutch and put the truck in 1st gear. He stepped on the gas pedal let out the clutch and away we went, that buggy jumped like a scared rabbit, Joe turned the steering wheel and we started a wide sweeping turn throwing up dirt and dust as those big wheels were spinning and it was quickly obvious that Joe Boris DID NOT KNOW the first thing about driving and with us hanging on for dear life he had made a part circle and smashed into the fender of the parked car of the farm worker, bang, short ride. We jumped out and pushed the buggy away from the car and were standing there looking at the damage when out of the building came the owner of the car and he was mad. Bill explained to him what had happened and he kind of settled down and we noted the damage to the fender was not as bad as it seemed. Bill looked it over and very confidently explained to him that by getting a "rubber hammer" he could very easily beat-out the dent and it would hardly be noticeable and look almost as good as before.
This satisfied him somewhat and our conversation turned to other things, mainly that we were there to do some hunting and have fun. Talk turned to hunting in general and the Farm hand whose name was, as I recall Sam ,said he was a coon-hunter and had some fine coon-dogs. This led us to asking him questions about hunting coons and he said he would take us with him some night if we wanted to go, if we wanted to go! That was the understatement of the year, you bet we wanted to go. Bill told him it would have to be on a Friday night because of school. Sam was quick to say that Friday night coon-hunting was out, that on Friday nights the "haints" (ghosts) came out and walked about and there was no way he would go into the swamps cause his dogs would just chase them around all night and the coons would be spookie and besides, he was afraid of them.
After Sam told us this we agreed with him that Friday nights would be the wrong time to go but we could go on Saturday nights if that night was ok. Sam agreed to take us the following Saturday night, he would meet us at Bills house about 9pm and we could follow him in Bills' truck. We thought Saturday night would never get here but it did and sure enough, at the time agreed upon. Sam arrived in his car (the dent still in the fender) with his dogs barking and told us to get in the truck and follow him, but we had to leave the shotguns behind that we were carrying. Sam made it clear that only he would be carrying a gun and if there was any shooting to be done, he would do it. This didn't set to well with we three but we put our guns in the garage and climbed in the truck, and away we went, on our first coon-hunt and going hunting without a gun was also a first with us.
Sam had told us we would be hunting at Cypress creek and we followed him down what is now Cypress road, back then it was just a narrow single lane road that ended at a wooden bridge at the Cypress creek canal. We went past Waterman Allens house, past the Driggers house and where the road made a left turn at Leonard Banks' farm to the bridge, we took a right down a white sugar-sand road past Gordon Greens farm and mule lot and keep going until the road just ended. We were nearly all the way to the Railroad tracks.
Sam gathered us around and said he would turn the dogs loose and they would enter the swampy area among the cypress trees that made up a good portion of Cypress creek and we would wait and listen for the dogs to strike a coon-track then we would enter the swamp and join the chase. We could hear the dogs as they splashed through the water and mud, occasionally letting out a yelp or short bark, Sam said this was just their way of keeping in touch with each other.
Finally after what seemed an eternity, one of the dogs let out a long bark like howl and in just a minute or two, all the dogs had joined in and Sam let out a whoop and said "they got one, lets go". As we started towards the swamp, Sam said, "anybody got a flashlight?" I didn't have one, I didn't even own a flashlight. Neither did Bill or Joe. Didn't matter, said Sam, "I have one". We would just have to keep close behind him and watch the best we could for fallen trees, snakes and gator holes. Wait a minute, this could be dangerous, well no going back now, couldn't see to get back to the truck anyway it was so dark. We weren't making very good time through the mud and water and thick plants that surrounded us, not even a trail to walk, we wondered how the dogs with their short legs could travel through this. Sam kept moving steadily along, stopping ever so often and getting us quiet so he could get a track on the dogs and see in which direction the coon was taking them. I could have told him, the coon was taking us into the deepest part of Cypress creek and the stumps and roots were getting thicker and the water was getting deeper. Bill stumbled on a cypress knee and as he fell he grabbed me and we both went down into the mud and water, now we were really in a mess, it was already cold and now we were wet all over and cold. This was just the first of many falls we would take this night and it was all of us doing the falling, even Sam slipped and fell several times during the night and he didn't seem to mind in the least.
After what seemed like hours that the dogs were on the trail of the coon, Sam suddenly stopped us and as he listened to the dogs he told us they had the coon treed and we had to hurry to them before he came down and ran some more. After finally getting to the dogs,Sam shined his light up into the tall cypress tree and sure enough, there sat a big old coon staring down at us, looking like a bandit, his eyes shining like red hot pokers. We were so tired from the sloshing through the swamp we just wanted Sam to shoot the coon and lets get back to the truck. "Not so", said Sam, he untied the bag he had strapped to his back, unrolled a "croaker sack" handed it to Bill and told him to be ready to open it and close it up when he gave the word. Sam then raised the .22 rifle to his shoulder, holding the flashlight up against the barrel of the gun, he shot the trunk of the tree next to where the coon was sitting and I suppose it startled the coon and he either fell or jumped from the tree to the ground and was immediately set-upon by the dogs. Before they had a chance to injure the coon or vice-versa, Sam handed me the gun and jumped into the middle of the dogs, the coon, the mud and water. Grabbing the snarling coon by the tail, swung him up and away from the dogs and yelled for Bill to open the sack, dropped the coon in, closed the top, tied it, and there, he had "sacked the coon." All in one continuous motion. This came as a big surprise to me, Bill and Joe, we thought Sam would shoot the coon. Sam said this was the better way to handle them if you were hunting with others, the coon could be penned up and used whenever you wanted him. Sam sold most of the coons he caught or killed and some folks wanted theirs alive so they could feed-out any strong, wild taste that the coon might have.
This one coon did not end our hunt on this Saturday night, we caught three more before the night was over and we called it quits.
It was near daylight when we staggered out of the Cypress creek swamp and were we glad to see that truck in the beam of the
Sam never did get the dent "hammered out" of the fender of his car, wasn't a very big dent anyway.Back to Top
The Pompano canal and the Cypress Creek canal meet just west of US 1 before flowing into Lake Santa Barbara and on into the East Coast Canal, (Inter coastal waterway). It was at or close to this junction that much of this story occurred. Swimming, and playing in the Pompano canal was a favorite pastime while growing-up in Pompano. Swinging out and dropping into the large patches of water hyacinths that were continually drifting past, and just having a good time, we were ever mindful of the raw sewage line that flowed into the canal and we always swam up-stream of that.
Me and the Howell Boys, (Lowell, Duane, and Gene), "borrowed" a small, (about twelve feet or so) wooden boat that the Howells dad used in his pump business, and we dragged it down to the canal along with a three horse outboard motor. We were planning on taking us a boat ride to places we had never seen. So we launched the boat down by Ed Smiths House, started up the motor and off we went east toward Federal Highway. There was nothing on either side of the canal but sand banks on the southside and marshy banks on the northside, and as we putted along just having a great time, we suddenly spotted some movement on the northside in a mucky like clearing. On getting in closer we saw a sight that just made our day, for there on the bank must have been a zillion (or it seemed like it to us) baby alligators about six inches long. They were squirming and wiggling and just asking to be caught, and that is just what we did. We ran the boat up alongside the bank and began catching and putting these baby gators in the boat.
They were making a strange grunting noise and we were just besides ourselves with joy at having been so lucky when suddenly the boat nearly jumped out of the water. Before we could determine what happened, the boat leaped into the air again and nearly turned over. It was then we saw the huge alligator churning up the mud and coming under the boat and hitting it again. We knew we were in trouble and we knew the small gators we had in our boat were the cause of her anger. We had the presence of mind to begin heaving them over the side and up on the bank, and they exited the boat much faster than they came into the boat. We managed to get the boat away from the bank and out into the canal and got it started. Looking back we saw the big alligator following after us. But we finally we got away, or she turned back. Now we were covered with mud, and wet all over, plus we had numerous bites from the baby gators, but we realized how lucky we were that the boat didn't turn over. It was probably because the water was so shallow that it didn't. That ended our gatornapping and we continued on down the canal until we reached the junction where the Pompano canal joined the Cypress canal.
We anchored in the flats where the water was scarcely deep enough to run the small "kicker" on our boat. There was a man we had known for years fishing with a cane pole in muddy water scarcely three feet deep. I will have to call him "Mr. X" because his children, plus his grandchildren still live here and are well known. Mr X knew each of us and spoke to us as we stopped our boat. We told him of our encounter with the gators and he remarked about how lucky we were to get out of it with a whole skin. Then he asked us where we were going, and we told him of our plans to try and get to the railroad bridge up Cypress creek, or at least to the wooden bridge. Mr X told us the water was too shallow and there was too much growth in the canal to make it, and we should maybe just go on east into the Inter-Coastal. We told him we would try to get on to the bridge, and started our motor and left Mr. X to his fishing. We were wondering why he would be fishing there when if he went a little further to the east, he would have much better fishing conditions.
We chugged along up Cypress creek and about a half a mile or so after leaving Mr. X we spotted a well-used trail from the canal bank through the weeds that led into the heavy woods about fifty feet from the waters edge on the east side. We decided to investigate, so we turned the boat around and pulled up to the trail. We got out of the boat and went loping up the trail and on into the woods. About fifty or so feet into the woods we suddenly entered a large clearing. In the middle of this clearing sat a huge tank, with pipes and other things coming out of it. A LIQUOR STILL, A ROARING FIRE UNDERNEATH, COOKING FULL BLAST, and no one there but us boys plus bags and boxes and tin cans everywhere.
Leading away from the clearing on into the woods to the east towards Federal Highway, which wasn't but a short distance from the clearing, were several trails. When it dawned on us we were standing in the middle of a Moonshine Still, and a big one at that, we knew we had best get to our boat and leave. Someone probably had been working this still when we happened upon it and they were probably not too far away up one of those trails. It would not do for them to catch us because they wouldn't turn us loose as we had the baby gators.
High tailing it back to the boat, we forgot about our plans to get to the bridge. Instead we headed back towards the Pompano canal. We decided we must tell Mr. X what we had found. Imagine our surprise when we arrived there and Mr. X was nowhere to be seen, although the entire time after we left him there "fishing" was not more than twenty minutes. This now posed a problem. We quickly deduced that Mr.X must have been the Moonshiners "Lookout" and had gotten word to them that we could drop in on them.
Arriving home without further mishap we decided that we had to report this "Still" to the Police. But if Mr. X was part of the operation, then he would know who reported it and we could be in big trouble. We finally decided that we would write a note to Constable, Virgil Wright, who was acting Police Chief in Pompano at the time. We would tell him what we saw and about Mr. X who might be with the bootleggers, not sign it and take our chances. We did this and we spent many days and nights worring about what might happen to us at anytime. Everytime we would see Mr. X, we would go around him. There was never anything that we heard of that happened to the "Still" or Mr. X or to anything ever being said about the note we left in Virgil Wright's car.
Months later we took another trip up Cypress creek, and with much apprehension we docked the boat, and went up the trail back into the clearing. We found the "Still" gone and just a lot of junk and garbage left. I often wondered if the "Still" was destroyed by the Law or moved by the "Moonshiners" to another location. I have often wondered who was involved in this "Still" so close to Federal Highway and Pompano. I have often wondered if Mr. X was really involved. I just wonder if anyone reading this story may have been a part of it.
And that is the story of the Alligators and the Moonshine Still. And this is the first time it has ever been told except in a note to Virgil Wright.Back to Top
Hal M.Caudle hitch hiked to South Florida from North Carolina in the year 1926 when he was 16 years old and joined the US Coast Guard at Fort Lauderdale, Fl. He did not know that in less than a year he would be involved in a hi-jacking, piracy, and murder between the Florida coast and Bimini in the Bahamas. After his enlistment in the Coast Guard Hal Caudle lived in Pompano, raised a family, and was in the plumbing business with Sam Aldrich for many years. He lived a quiet unobtrusive life in Pompano as was the case rather than the exception until his death. The years that Hal served in the Coast Guard were during the years of prohibition when moon-shiners, rum runners, and illegal alien smugglers plied their trade between the Bahamas, Cuba, and the lower east coast of Florida. It was the Coast Guard that patrolled these waters off-shore and intercepted and arrested those persons engaged in these illegal activities.
On Sunday, August 7, 1927, CG 249 left Fort Lauderdale with seven crew members and a Secret Service Agent bound for the Island of Bimini. Hal Caudle was a crew member on this boat. Before the day was over Hal and the other members of the crew, and the Secret Service Agent would be involved in a tragic, fatal history making encounter with rum-runners. James Horace Alderman nick-named "Pirate of the Gulfstream" on this Sunday morning left the Island of Bimini with one crew member on his boat and a load of illegal whiskey stored on the rum-boat in burlap bags. This boat crossed paths with CG 249 in the gulfstream about 1 PM and CG 249 fired a tracer bullet across the bow of the Rum Boat as this was accepted procedure for stopping a boat at sea. The skipper of CG 249 pulled alongside of the stopped boat. He had some conversation with Alderman, who in earlier encounters with the Coast Guard had developed an attitude towards the Coast Guard. He had made the statement that he would never give up his boat to them even if it meant killing them.
The skipper of CG 249, after strapping on a side-arm boarded the boat, and discovered the whiskey. He placed Alderman and his partner under arrest. Hal Caudle, who had also strapped on a side-arm was commanded to help off-load the whiskey to the CG 249 so the rum-boat could head back to Ft. Lauderdale with the prisoners. He removed his side-arm and stacked it with the other pistols in the wheel-house of the cutter. Hal had just gone aboard the rum-boat and was alongside the Secret Service Agent when behind him a shot rang out. He turned just in time to see Alderman, the rum-runner, holding a smoking pistol in his left hand that was pointed towards him. He dove head first into the engine compartment of the rum-boat along with the Federal agent and another crew member. They tried to determine what had happened. The worst of all things had happened: Alderman, the rum-runner had gotten hold of a pistol, shot and killed the skipper of 249, and wounded another member of the crew, who would die later from his wounds. He was now in control of the Coast Guard boat and the rest of its crew. He was threatening to kill all of them, set their boat afire, and dump them overboard. In his anger and state of mind, this was a possibility.
Hal and the rest of the crew members were gathered on the deck of the 249 in a group and held there at gunpoint while the rum-runner attempted to set fire to their boat. After failing to do this, just for a moment, he turned his eyes away from the men he was holding. They, including Hal, made a dive for him, and Hal grabbed the arm that was holding the gun. It fired three times and quit, but one of the bullets struck and killed the Secret Service Agent. Hal wrested the gun away from Alderman and hit him across the face with it. That was the beginning of the end of the take-over of CG 249.
While trying to start the rum-boat it caught fire and burned, along with the illegal whiskey that Alderman had reloaded on to his boat while he held the 249 hostage. The 249 returned to the base at Ft.Lauderdale with the captured boot leggers, and the bodies of their slain skipper and the Federal agent and the wounded sailor. Hal Caudle testified at the trial of James Horace Alderman at the Federal courthouse in Miami. The pirate was sentenced to hang and on August 17, 1929, just a little over two years after this tragedy he was hung in the seaplane hanger at the coast Guard base, Bahia-Mar, in Fort Lauderdale Fla.
Hal M. Caudle was just 17 years old when he engaged in the life or death struggle with James Horace Alderman, named "Pirate of the
Gulfstream" by the newspapers of that day. I am proud to have known Hal Caudle, and to consider he and his family as friends. I know
lots of you feel the same way. It is the unsung heroes such as Hal Caudle that makes Pompano and this country as great as it is today.
You must read the whole story.
The dictionary describes a Gypsy as a person belonging to a wandering group of people having dark skin and black hair of Hindu origin. This aptly describes the band of Gypsies that descended upon the little farming community of the Town Of Pompano some time in the early summer of the year either 1937 or 1938. My memory of the exact year is vague, although I know it was before we were engaged in World War II.
The "Gypsies" as they were and still are called, made their camp on the north side of Pompano in an open field where the Pompano Air Park is now located. Before we go any further describing the Gypsies of those days, I don't want you to confuse them with the scam artists we call Gypsies today. There was and is a world of difference in their looks, dress, methods, and lifestyles. The Gypsies of today are not tall, dark, and swarthy and do not dress in faded, patched pants and shirts with a red bandanna or scarf around their necks and do not wear big felt or straw hats and sport handlebar mustaches as I remember those of the early years wearing.
Getting back to the band of Gypsies we had on the outskirts of Pompano. They probably numbered a hundred or so people counting the women and children. We children were terrified of these people. Our parents would not let us venture out of their close proximity as it was a well known fact that everyone knew: THE GYPSIES STOLE CHILDREN!. Now if that didn't make us kids sit up, pay attention and stay close to home then nothing in the whole wide world would.
Residents of Pompano back then had a menagarie of animals and fowls they kept, either for food, or for pets. Chickens, pigs, goats, turkeys, ducks, horses, cows, and mules. These were custom made pick-up items the Gypsies could not keep their hands off of. And that gets us to the "meat" of this story, (no pun intended). Having hardly any paved driveways in Pompano the Gypsies had to resort to other means of providing sustinance for their band. After dark the men and older boys descended upon the sleeping, or just resting, (no television or pizza deliveries, just a scratchy radio) Pompano and commenced their ant-like procession from back yards to the camp and back to someone else's back yard, and back again, and each trip the town of Pompano was short another domisticated animal, or fowl.
I am not sure if any of the "Kids" in town were stolen or not, as best as I can remember none of my friends were missing when it was all over, although one of them Will,(DO-DO) Smith who had several weeks earlier, run away from home to join the French Foreign Legion and upon getting to the Hillsboro canal in Deerfield and not being able to find France, returned home and vowed to try again as soon as he could locate France. Well, he turned up missing several days after the 'Gypsy' incident was over. We figured he had located to France and was now in the French Foreign Legion.
The Gypsies continued their stealing of the animals and fowls and they were very busy practically all night. As I recall they were not discovered while doing this as they had a great love for dogs and I suppose that was the first thing they took. One, so they would not be barking and two, so they would not get dog-bit. Using todays logic, the operation was a complete success. Not until daylight came did the people of Pompano realize that all of their valuables, (guess they counted the kids first) were missing and it wasn't just a coincidence that the disappearance happened the day after the "Gypsies" set-up camp. I remember the great silence that descended upon the town as the people realized what had happened and I remember seeing people walking around with shot-guns and rifles on their shoulders and pistols in their belts. Something had to be done and I had the feeling something was getting ready to happen. Police Chief Tom Smith knew he had a big problem on his hands. It looked as if the townspeople, or at least some of them, were getting ready to take a ride out to the Gypsy camp to get back whatever was left of their belongings.
There were only sand roads leading back into the woods where the Gypsies were camped, and a couple of cars from town were already stuck. The Gypsies knew people were coming their way, and not to pay a social call either. So Chief Smith (no relation to DO-DO mentioned earlier) called out the entire Police Force and the both of them decided the best route to take would be up Dixie Highway to where it narrowed to two lanes, cross the railroad tracks by the Blount Quarters, and come out into the Gypsy camp from the back side, which was the same way the Gypsies came in. When Chief Smith and his patrolman got close enough to the camp to see what they would be up against, they decided that it would be a good idea to get the Sheriff's Department in on this, they just might be camped outside the town limits and it would be a county problem.
It was getting close to dark when the Sheriff's Deputies arrived, and they drove up to the camp from two different directions. The Gypsies were waiting for them. They were just sitting by their campfires and the women were busy cooking whatever it was that Gypsies eat. As the Deputies ran into the camp with their guns drawn, the Gypsies just stood and looked at them. A search of the camp turned up various articles and animals, but without any brands or marks, the ownership was in doubt. The Sheriff decided the best thing to do would be to arrest all the men and boys of age and take them to the county jail, the Pompano jail only had a couple of cells and would not hold all of them. After much yelling and pushing, they were all loaded into cars and transported to the jail in Ft. Lauderdale.
After the men had been removed, mostly for their own protection, night came. Then it started. Even until this day I can still hear the sounds those Gypsy women and children made. It started as a kind of moan and chant, and as the night wore on the chanting turned into a wail. It was the most pitiful sound I have ever heard in my life. It continued on into the night, and the sound was not unlike an animal pack howling. All night long the wailing continued. I lay in my bed and heard this strange sound coming from human beings, and I was terrified. I know any other kids who heard it were also scared. We had always been told that GYPSIES STOLE CHILDREN and I felt that they would be dragging me away any time now. Daylight finally came and the wailing, although it didn't completely stop, began to slow and tone down.
Looking back today I can almost understand the frustration these women and children must have felt, with their men folk all taken away. They didn't know where or for how long or anything, even though they brought this calamity upon themselves. The Gypsies probably thought they had reached their promised land of milk and honey, or in their minds, the land of pigs and chickens, when they first descended on the town of Pompano, and now it had turned into a disaster. The Sheriff decided to "plea bargain" with the Gypsies. He pleaded with them to pack up their trucks and hit the road, leave the county and never come back. If they would do that he would turn them loose and not press any charges. I suppose this was okay with the Gypsy men, because they got the Sheriff to take them back to their camp. Just about dark, they began pulling out of the woods onto Dixie Highway. They turned south and went on their way.
No one that I know of recovered any of the animals that were stolen, but some chickens and a pig were seen in the woods on several
occasions. This could have turned into a nasty situation, had it not been for the Sheriff taking the men to jail. One more night of
stealing might have just been too much for the townspeople to take.
After World War II, several of us were sitting in the recreation hall (Pool hall ) when in walked DO-DO Smith. We were speechless!
Here he was after all those years. DO-DO said he had just gotten out of the Marine Corps. We asked him about the French Foreign Legion,
and he told us he had hopped a freight train going north and was caught in Delray. Someone got hold of his dad, who picked him up and
drove him to Adel, Georgia to stay with his mom, his dad said he had had enough of him. He went to school in the winter and picked
watermelons in the summer, and when he got old enough he joined the Marines.
The years I spent living alongside the railroad tracks were legion it seemed. From the day I was born in a railroad house alongside the single track of the Southern Railway in Edwardsville Alabama, moving to Pompano in 1927 at the age of nine months and living alongside the dual tracks of the Florida East Coast Railway until I married and moved about four blocks from the tracks. Hearing a train whistle and the roar of passing cars put me to sleep at night and woke me in the mornings.
The roadbed of the FEC was heavily ballasted with two inch granite rock, the tracks were the heaviest available at that time, 90 # rail spiked to the best cypress ties. These items were necessary to handle the steady traffic of the big, heavy Baldwin 4-6-4 steam engines that ran North and South an average of one every 30 minutes during the hey-day of the railroads, before car and plane travel evolved. There was a section crew about every three miles from Miami to Jacksonville. This was necessary to maintain the tracks due to the amount of traffic that never ceased, day and night. Listening to the clickity-clack of the train wheels as they passed over the joints during the night and on occasion hearing the metallic flap,flap,flap that meant a flat spot on a wheel. Sometimes at night seeing the dull red glow of the bearing box on the axle that meant a "hot-box" and if not stopped along the way and set aside could cause a fire or a wheel running off and cause a wreck. This was the part of living by the tracks I enjoyed, something to watch and hear all the time. That big engine roaring by and the engineers tooting their whistle at me or letting out a blast of live steam and making a big noise.
My dad had an annual pass and we could ride a train at anytime and go anywhere on the FEC. We could order passes and ride over any line in the country for free, and we rode several times to other states and I loved every minute of the time I was riding a train. I departed the railroad in 1943 when I joined the Navy and when I returned in 1946 changes were alreadyú taking place with the railroad. Soon after I returned, the railroad sent a train down the line that stopped at every town. This was a STREAMLIINE TRAIN, a diesel electric engine, it was something I had only read about briefly.
It stopped in Pompano one Saturday about 4 oclock. It was even allowed to block the railroad crossing at the corner of NE 1ST and Flagler AVE for an hour and a half while the townspeople toured the entire train from the engine to the club car. What a train this was, being used to the black. dirty, noisy trains of the past, there sat these bright shiny stainless steel cars and the purple engine that belonged to the ATLANTIC COAST LINE railroad that shared the FEC tracks. It sat there with just a soft humming noise, no steam popping off and groaning as steam engines did. Going aboard, one was immediately greeted by uniformed porters that handed you a glass of grape juice. The juice was taken from a huge fountain in the middle of the car that cascaded grape juice that was the same color as the decorations on the train. After the train departed, several days later, a notice was sent to the local papers that the FEC would be purchasing a number of these 'STREAMLINERS' (diesel electrics) and retiring the steam engines.
Sometime before the steam engines were replaced, the railroad become concerned about the train whistles of the diesels and they sent a "STREAMLINER" down the line and at every town along the entire line it stopped. This train was equipped with five different whistles and it would blow each one and the townspeople could write down their preference of whistles and the whistle getting the most votes over the line was to be used on the new engines. Now comes the saddest part all, after the FEC had acquired the diesel engines it needed the steam engines were going to be towed to Jacksonville for disposal and on a certain day all the steam engines would be coupled together in Miami and two steam engines would pull them to their final destination. On the day of the event, I loaded my "brownie" box camera, and at the time the train of steam engines were supposed to be arriving in Pompano I was camped alongside the track and not feeling any to good about the passing of the steam engines.
The time arrived for the trains to appear and the tracks were empty, there was nothing in sight. Some two hours later I had about given up on the trains and gone back to the house when I heard a train whistle. It wasn't a steam whistle but I grabbed my camera an ran back out of the house to the tracks. Imagine the surprise and shock I received, for coming up the tracks and making a terrific hissing noise from the plugs removed from the cylinders of the steam engines (to reduce the drag for towing) were about 30 of these huge beautiful black steam engines and to add insult to injury, they were being pulled by, not steam engines as we were told they would be, but by TWO DIESEL ENGINES. I was so shocked I nearly forgot about my camera and the pictures. The reason was forthcoming next day to all the people like myself that looked forward to this event. The reason was, the two steam engines were coupled up to the engines and to everyone's horror, they didn't have the POWER to Pull that much weight and two diesel engines were rounded-up to take their place. This was an embarrassment suffered in silence by many people.
This was the end of the steam engine as I knew them, I have never ridden a scheduled train pulled by "STREAMLINER" other than one
excursion train to this day. When you hear a train whistle today in Pompano Beach you are listening to the sound picked for you many,
many years ago by OLD TIMERS of Pompano and Broward county, some still living here today.
Reams of copy have been written about the Hillsboro Lighthouse. There have been books, films, movies ,articles, paintings and just about any kind of story told about the lighthouse you might want to hear. Some of them are true and some of them are, well, just what they are called, stories.
The lighthouse was erected in the year 1906 making her a grand old lady of 93 years and carrying her age extremely well. The site for the lighthouse was chosen at the Hillsboro Inlet for several reasons, including the distance from the lighthouse at Jupiter Inlet to the north and the lighthouse at Cape Coral to the south. Ships coming from the Bahamas and missing the Jupiter light could find their direction from the Hillsboro light. There are dangerous reefs in this area and ships needed light to help them safely by. The Gulfstream is very close to the beach and south bound ships had to come close ashore at the inlet.
The first Hillsboro lighthouse keeper appointed in the year 1907 was Alfred A. Berghill. He was replaced in 1911 by Thomas Knight who was a third generation lighthouse keeper. There were three lighthouse keepers and three houses on the grounds plus an oil shed. It required three keepers to maintain the light, which had to be kept burning and revolving from one hour before dusk to one hour after sunrise. Two men worked two shifts so one man could get a full night's rest.
The kerosene lamp that powered the light in the early days had to burn clean, and the huge lens had to be rotated uniformly. This was accomplished by a weight hanging in the tube that went through the watch room and connected to a steel drum and gears to the lens housing that floated on mercury. It would take approximately 30 minutes for the weight to reach the bottom of the tube at which time the keeper would insert a crank and wind it up again.
The Hillsboro light is situated on one of the most scenic spots imaginable. Not only does it border on the inlet, which has a history that will never be completely and accurately told, but it sits on the Atlantic Ocean and stands tall and majestic, looking out upon land and sea and being seen as a silent sentinel defying time and tide.
It is here in the year 1920, Zora Isler, later Zora Isler Saxon, arrived at the tender age of four with her family and spent 15 years of her life living at the lighthouse until she married Ovid Saxon in 1935. Zora remembers how it looked when she first arrived at the isolated lighthouse with thick vegetation around the site. Her mother and father, J.B. Isler and Mary Louise, lived at and operated the lighthouse for nearly twenty years until the US Coast Guard took over the operation in 1939 before the country entered W.W.II. The lighthouse operated under the jurisdiction of the Dept. of Commerce until that time. Zora lived there with sister Irene and brother Beck and later sister Ruth and brother George were born at the lighthouse.
Life at the lighthouse was an adventure in itself, Zora says. For many of the years, there was no bridge across the inlet and they had to travel to Deerfield by boat up the East Coast Canal to Sweats grocery store once a week for personal supplies. Supplies for the lighthouse were delivered by ship once or twice a year from Charleston S.C. and occasionally supplies would be delivered by boats traveling the East Coast Canal. They raised many of their vegetables and some meat was provided by hunting deer in the woods around the inlet. Occasionally Indians would come by boat and trade with them.
The government would furnish a place for school and a teacher if there were at least nine children living in any isolated place. Since there was no bridge across the inlet, one of the buildings was set aside for a school and Lola, the wife of Capt. Knight was one of the teachers. Zora also had an aunt who came down from Vero to live with them and teach until the bridge across the inlet was built. After that they caught the school bus at the bridge and attended school in Pompano which gave them access to more activities.
Zora says they were never bored. They fished in the inlet, swam, dug clams, hunted turtles, shelled, sunbathed and at times just lay around on the beach watching the birds and the fish. More exciting, when water hyacinths were flushed out of the glades by high water, they would count the rattlesnakes floating on them. An occasional gator would be spotted swimming in the inlet. Their days were anything but dull! One of the highlights occurred whenever a ship passed offshore. A mad dash was made for the flagpole, and when the ship would sound its whistle they would "dip" the flag in salute.
Conditions at the lighthouse were just about par with most of Pompano during this time. There was no electricity or running water. Rain water was caught and stored in cisterns. A pitcher pump was used to bring the water to the kitchen sink, and naturally there were no indoor toilets. Zora says "our baths, other than swimming in the ocean or inlet, were taken in the house in front of the stove in a wash tub." These facilities, or lack of them, were a part of life and not too much thought was given to the inconvenience. The first several years Zora lived at the lighthouse, Cap Knight had a barge pulled up on the spit of land on the South side of the inlet between the ocean and Wahoo Bay and he operated his bar there, finally moving it to the location on "Cap's Island" in the Intracoastal Waterway. It is said the foundation for "Cap's Place" still rests on this barge. There were people who camped on this finger of land year 'round and some of their children attended the government school at the light station. In those days people from Pompano would often come to this spot to picnic, swim, fish and dig clams.
The nearby Hillsboro Club was built around 1925 when Herbert Malcolm bought the land for the club for seventy five cents an acre. His brother, Dan, cleared and made a sand road from the club property to Deerfield. This made travel a little easier, and I suppose made the club more accessible to visitors. The club was originally a boys school. Burnham Knight, son of one of the lighthouse keepers ran a fishing boat out of the Hillsboro inlet and Herbert Malcolm would charter his boat for fishing trips for his students.
Zora remembers one of the light keepers was a Mr. Swain and one of them was Mr. Stone who was one of the last civilian keepers along with her father in the year 1939. After the light was converted from kerosene to electric it then required only two keepers to operate the station and some of the physical effort was eliminated. There were still 132 spiral steps to climb to get to the light deck of the 140-ft. high lighthouse. After the 1926 hurricane had washed away the boat dock and removed much sand from the base of the lighthouse, the government sent large granite boulders to Pompano by ship. They were transported from offshore on barges that Zora and her brothers and sisters called "The Toonerville Trolley." These boulders are still in place on the ocean side of the lighthouse today, having weathered many hurricanes including the hurricane of Sept. 21, 1947. This storm blew the anemometer off the top of the lighthouse after it registered winds of 155 miles per hour.
From 1885 to 1892 post office agents carried the mail on foot along the shore to the sparsley populated South Florida coast. In 1887, Ed Hamilton, best known as "The Barefoot Mailman," perished at Hillsboro Inlet while attempting to swim across after someone had removed the boat he relied on to cross the inlet. There is a plaque at the lighthouse commemorating this tragic happening. Several years ago another plaque was erected there with the names of all the former light keepers.
Zora Isler Saxon is a pioneer in the truest sense of the word. She once lived in a time and place that many people today cannot comprehend and those who do can only envy. It seems incredible that during her lifetime Pompano and the Hillsboro Lighthouse could have changed so much from the setting she so ably describes. Thank you Zora.
Zora Islers brother, Beck Isler, also lived at the lighthouse when his dad was lighthouse keeper. After graduating from
Pompano High School in 1938, Beck went to work at the Hillsboro Club as a maintenance man and remained in that position until he died.
Being revealed publicly now for the first time is the fact that Beck Islers ashes are buried on the grounds of the Hillsboro Lighthouse
per his wishes.
The dictionary describes a hobo as a vagrant. Some people described them as "bums," "tramps" or just plain "drifters." Whatever they were called, they were a world apart from the so called "homeless" people of today. Hoboes traveled from place to place by "hopping" a train, generally a freight train. You could see them standing in the open doors of box cars, between the cars on the small platforms, looking out of the short sided cars, or out of the gondolas as the trains rumbled past day or night. Hoboes sometimes got themselves locked inside of cars, and there were many Hoboes that died either by suffocation, starvation or being frozen inside reefers (similar to refrigerated cars of today.
I lived alongside the railroad track in Pompano, and we were not unaccustomed to seeing Hoboes daily with many of them coming to our door and offering to do chores for a food hand-out. My mother never refused a Hobo a meal and never had them do any chores to "earn" food. Years ago rail cars that were used to ship produce from the Farmers Market were parked on the side tracks bordering North Flagler Ave, which was a rock road, and terminated at a sand road that is now N.E. 10th Street.
One day I walked alongside the row of cars that were waiting to be iced. These cars had bunkers at each end. The ice company would use a truck with an elevated conveyor to lift the hundred-pound blocks of ice up onto the top of the car and into the bunkers. This kept cool the produce that was being shipped. As I walked. I heard a very faint sound. Finally I realized it was coming from one of the refrigerated cars. I opened it up and there lying inside the door, which was six inches thick with insulation, lay a man, more dead than alive. He told me later he had been locked up in this cold car for about a week. He had nothing to eat but bell peppers that had spilled out of the crates when they were being unloaded up north. He had just about given up any hope of getting out alive when he heard the noise I made letting the compressed air out of the car. He yelled and pounded on the door. I got him out and took him to our house. We fed him and he went on his way, weak and grateful.
There were several "Hobo Jungles" around Pompano. The biggest and most active one was roughly some ten or more acres of pine, palmetto and scrub oak land. It was located just west of the Seaboard Railroad tracks and north of the Pompano Canal. It could only be reached by driving a car alongside the canal from Old Dixie Highway to the railroad tracks, parking and walking into the jungle. This was home to dozens of hoboes.
Robert Mitchell, a patrolman on the Pompano police force, always worked the midnight to 8 a.m. shift on the west side of town. On many nights, he would swing by my house and pick me up to ride with him and keep him company. Sometime during his shift, especially in the winter time when it was cold, we would head out to the Hobo Jungle. We would park the car at the tracks and walk into the camp of hoboes. Robert was known to them and he was welcome in their camp. They would bring a cup and bowl and pour us coffee and dip us a bowl of "soup," or whatever it was, out of the pot that never seemed to empty. Someone was continually adding to it, and most times Robert would bring his contribution to add to it.
Some of the hoboes stayed around for weeks or months, depending on the time of the year and the weather. Some only came in for a night or two. There was a never-ending procession of men, and stories were always being told. That was one of the reasons we visited their camp. Some of them were a little leery of having a policeman sitting around their campfire. This fire never burned out. It was maintained day and night, as were individual fires scattered throughout the camp. A piece of tin, folded in the middle served as a cover over the pot during rainy weather. Stories were told over and over. Some of the stories were hard to believe, but then again, you could listen, you didn't have to believe. The hoboes could tell you the names, and sometimes the names of the families of certain railroad or police officers in cities all over the country. They had a network that was continually updated with reports of the good guys and the bad guys. Wherever a hobo might go, someone knew of these people and their treatment of the hoboes.
Hoboes had a language of symbols that only they could understand. Whenever a 'bo' entered a new town or city, the first thing he would do was 'read-up' on the place: where to go, where not to go, where to get a good meal, where to stay away from, how he might be treated, and what to expect. One of their "customs", if it could be called that, was very strange. I really didn't believe it when I first heard about it, but it was confirmed by a distant relative of ours. He had been a hobo, and stayed with us in the later years of his life. He told me many things about hoboes, this included: After being in a "good" town for a few days, they would be sitting around their fire talking about food. It seems this was always one of their main concerns. One would speak up and say, "I think I will have fried chicken with rice tonight for supper." Another would say, "I had chicken last night, think I'll have pork chops tonight." Another might say, "I think I will have meat loaf," and on down the line.
Now, one might wonder how these men could get a handout meal at someone's back door and "order" their choice of food as if they were handed a menu. Not so! The Bo that was looking for chicken would accept whatever was handed him, give his thanks and depart. When he was away from that house, he would peek under the napkin. If it was chicken he would find a place, sit down and eat. If it wasn't chicken he would pitch it into the weeds and go to the next house. On and on he would go until he got the chicken he wanted. The same with the rest of the group who had decided on their evening meal. Sometimes it might take a couple of hours to get what they wanted. Later there would be much conversation, about how they had accomplished their desires. Most of the night would be spent going over their successes. This wasn't something they did every night, just whenever they were complacent.
Hoboes were not thieves or violent men. Quite the contrary. They would help their fellow man in any way they could. I was never afraid of them, and I guess I saw as many or more of them than most people ever did. They bothered no one and kept pretty much to themselves. I have never seen a hobo in the Old Pompano jail or even being "transported" by the police. Some towns would not allow them. They would pick them up and dump them at the city or county line and be told not to return. That is why most hoboes would jump off trains as they slowed down in some towns and would walk around town and catch another on the way out. Some of the railroad detectives were really hard on them, but once they were in a "jungle" they were safe.
Robert and I spent many hours in the Hobo Jungles of Pompano many years ago-- listening to their stories, drinking their coffee, eating their stew. Civilization finally destroyed the "jungle" we knew. Times changed, they moved on, we moved on. I suppose there are still true hoboes around. Occasionally as a freight train goes by I get a glimpse of someone standing straddle-legged between those swaying box cars and I get a feeling that's hard to describe. The life they led could turn tragic. One night at a late hour, we were awakened by someone screaming. We went outside, and there alongside the tracks lay a Hobo that had missed his hand-hold trying to hop a train. He fell on the tracks and the train ran over him and cut off both of his legs. There were no telephones near. There was no 911 number to get help. The nearest hospital was in Ft. Lauderdale, nine miles away. There were no ambulances. There was no trained help available. The hobo died.Back to Top
The late summer afternoon sun has a dull reddish-orange glow with a stillness in the air that is erie, almost spooky. This causes old-timers in South Florida to take notice and they often remark, "looks like a hurricane out there somewhere." This was usually the prediction of an approaching hurricane before the advent of radar, satellites and hurricane-hunting airplanes. Turtles laying their eggs high upon the beach, saw grass blooming early in the everglades, and Gram-pa's stiff leg acting up was also sure fire predictions of impending hurricanes.
1900-1915. There were four hurricanes plotted by the weather bureau, none of which struck South Florida. One of these storms killed
6000 people in Texas.
The hurricane I shall relate is one of the 1947 hurricanes that absolutely flooded S. Florida and was the direct cause of a large portion of S. Florida to have the flood-control dikes and pumps west of here. This storm caused massive flooding and loss of property and put most of Broward county under water for the better part of two months. Even Old Dixie Highway was impassable between Pompano and Deerfield.
The Sept 1947 hurricane could be called a "dandy". My family as always when we had a hurricane went to the Pompano High School auditorium to ride out the storm. We carried blankets, water, pillows, canned goods, flashlights and anything else we might need. The shelters provided nothing other than refuge from the storm. This hurricane roared on all through the early morning hours and we watched as the palm trees and the rubber trees on the school grounds bent almost to the ground from the force of the wind and rain. One by one the rubber trees would be up-rooted and blow down while the palm trees just bent with the wind and with the shape of their fronds and slender trunks they hardly ever toppled.
Sometime at the height of the storm, police officer Morgan Ritter pulled-up on the lee side of the building and told several of us about a family stranded in an apartment on the beach and there was to much water and debris and downed electric wires for anyone to reach them One of the boys, name slips my mind had an old Willis four door sedan parked beside the building and we quickly decided we would go to the beach and get these people out. Me, Robert Mitchell, Do-Do Smith and the car owner piled in and away we went. It was a whole lot different being in a car out in this wind and rain than being in the school house. We decided it might be best to take N.E. 1st Street to N.E. 13th Avenue where it ended, because there were less wires to contend with, then take Ocean Drive (Now Atlantic Blvd) on out to the beach.
Things went fairly smooth along the road, we dodged down poles, wires and other objects in the road and made good progress until we reached Federal Highway. There was a gradual decline in the two-lane road about where N.E. 22nd Ave is now close to where the McIntosh house bordered the road.
The wind and rain was something fierce, with visibility almost zero and as we carefully went on to the East, we were suddenly in water that came up into the car and quickly covered the seats we were sitting in. This immediately drowned out the car and we came to a quick stop hardly knowing what had happened.
Getting out of the car we were standing in the road in about four feet of water and we were a good half mile from the bridge and further than that to the beach. Shouting to be heard over the wind we decided to try and walk the rest of the way to the beach. We knew if we could cross the bridge at the East-Coast canal it was up-hill on to the beach and we could get to the stranded people.
We began our walk and it was a real job making any progress in the wind, rain and water. The waves just sloshed right over us. The farther we went the deeper the water and with the wind blowing in excess of a hundred miles an hour it was all we could do to keep our footing and heads above the water. We decided at just about the same time there was no way we could get to the beach. The inter-coastal canal was out of its banks and almost all the way to federal highway.
We made our way back to the Willis, pushed it back out of the water, got it turned around and could see there was no way we could dry out that ignition and get it started. We did the next best thing, we opened up all four doors, gave it a little push and away we went, back the way we came, using wind power to move us along. There were times we reached thirty-five miles per hour and most of the time with the car in gear trying to get it started.
We traveled towards town with the wind at our backs blowing us down Ocean Drive, dodging trees, poles, wires and not daring to stop and hoping there was not any real large objects in our way. We continued on and decided it might be best if we just keep going straight until we reached N.E. 1st Ave turn and go West on N.E. 1st Street until we reached the recreation hall (poolroom) on Flagler in Old Pompano. We pulled-up in front of the hall and were just glad to get back to safety. The family that was stranded rode out the storm although their apartment was nearly washed away. The ocean had washed over the beach road and carried sand almost to the intercoastal bridge. This was the only time I have ever seen the water that far to the west of the bridge and never that close to Federal Highway. It could happen again.
This was only one of the hurricanes I was involved with. I never looked upon a hurricane as anything but that, something to be respected. You cannot imagine what its like until you experience one, then I'll bet you won't look forward to another one. If and when we get another hurricane alert, pay attention, do as you are instructed. That's the safest way to ride-out a storm. Double headers are a real possibility, maybe even more in a year. Its happened before, it could happen again. They are no fun.Back to Top
There is an Indian mound in the city limits of Pompano. It's located South and one block West of A1A at Hibiscus and SE 13th Street and fronting on the eastern shore of Lake Santa Barbara and Hardy's lake. The Smithsonian institute and the American Indian Museum claim it dates back to the days of Christ.
The top layers of the 16 foot high mound contain Seminole burials. Another layer indicates burial during the fifteenth century, supported by the implements and heads found in the mound. The bottom layers were buried in the fashion of the period of Christ's day, which lead to the mound being referred to as the "pre-historic Indian Mound". The area around the mound had thought to be the mecca of the Tequesta Indians who were here as early as 1300 A.D. A large number of bones and relics along with large timbers that supported the roof of the tunnel that led to the burial chamber were uncovered. Traces of a great circle 2000 feet in diameter were also found. The area around the Mound was where the original settlers in Pompano lived and the beginning of Pompano as we know it today.
There has been only three known excavations or "digs" at the mound. The first in 1938 by Dr. John N. Goggin associate professor of anthropology at the University of Florida. And this is the "dig" I was involved with and is the basis of this story. The second was in 1948 when W.C. Orchard, curator of the American Indian Heye foundation of New York made some limited excavations at the mound and at a later date Bryan De Prorok, representing the American Indians made some excavations.
The "dig" of 1938 found the mound was "guarded" by a wooden image called "the keeper of the Mound". Dr. Goggin and others declared this dated back 2000 years. This mound consists of a "greenish like clay" that is foreign to this state, but similar to that found to be used by the Inca tribes in making pottery. They lived in the Andes mountains of South America. Great piles of shells mark the campsites.
When Dr. Goggin came to Pompano, he "procured" the services of several people in Pompano to "assist" him in the excavations at the Mound. I don't remember exactly how this came about but it was probably through the school in Pompano and several boys of my age either "volunteered" or were "drafted" to help in his work.
I remember we did our work "gratis" and we were just as happy, as the old saying goes "as a dead pig in the sunshine." This was the opportunity of a lifetime, we had played on the mound before but didn't have an inkling of what it was and we were going to get to "dig it up." We showed up at the mound and were given, if memory serves me right, a short discourse on what was thought to be in the mound and how we were to handle anything we found, and how we were to use the "tools" (looked like wooden spoons to me). Under no circumstance would we pick-up or move any object that looked like human or bones of any nature. The restrictions that had been placed on our "digging" didn't set to well with us. We thought we would be given a shovel and could dig into this mound and uncover skeletons and bones and arrowheads and pottery, spears and all kinds of neat things that interests boys. Instead, along with the "wooden spoon", we were given a small wooden box that had wire mesh for a bottom and we had to dig "dirt" out of the mound and screen it through this sieve and whatever we found. We had to call the Professor and he would collect it.
We never found any "good stuff" like arrowheads or skeletons or even any spears like we had expected. What we did find were of no interest to us, seems as if it consisted of lumps and sticks and rocks and shells and beads and other things we were not excited about. Some of these "objects" excited the Professor. We never shared his enthusiasm over these "finds."
Dr. Goggins was finally stopped at some point of his work by some of the local people from his project because of the belief this was a ceremonial burial ground and should not be disturbed. How long we worked with him before this happened I don't remember. I just know the experience remains fresh in my mind. The mound was never completely unearthed and very little was ever reported to the public.
It was declared a bird sanctuary, and the Florida Historical Society recognized it as of historical interest and this stopped any future excavations. It is now known as "INDIAN MOUND PARK".
This brought to an end my "archaeological" experience, and as I look back on this occasion I can now appreciate the fact that I along with my friends were permitted to be a part of this very first historical event.
Dr. Goggin was a cigar smoker and at one time when we were just beginning our digging, I smelled this very strong, sweet smell. I remember asking
him what it was and he replied "what you smell is a dead Indian". Then he laughed and said it was the cigar he was smoking.
If you stand on the FEC railroad tracks at Atlantic Blvd, and look South, you will see the tracks have a gradual downhill decline and it goes South almost to the Cypress Creek bridge. Not steep by any means, but enough to be noticeable, and to cause this story to be told.
It was about midnight on a Halloween sometime in the year of 1939 or 1940. I lived in the railroad section house on 8th Steet and Flagler Avenue
with my family. My Dad was the section forman on the railroad at that time. We were awakened by a knock and at the door stood the Chief of Police
and a Train Conductor. The Conductor told my Dad that there was a problem with a North-Bound freight train that was stopped North of the Cypress
Creek bridge and it couldn't move.
This was a period of time before there were Diesel Locomotives. These were steam engines. They were big heavy engines and their driving wheels were very large (five feet high) and there were six of them linked together and not having any differential action they would slip and spin at the least provocation. Each engine had a "sand box" that channeled a small stream of sand in front of the "Drivers" whenever the need arose for additional traction and it had already been used-up.
There sat this huge engine, steam spewing out of the safety "pop-off valves" clanking and hissing and looking like something out of "Dantes Inferno", and to me, an 11 year old kid, it seemed to be saying, "hurry up you guys, lets get going". The engineer climbed down out of the cab and after a short conversation with Dad and the Conductor (Who is the boss of the train) got back aboard, gave a short blast on the whistle, opened the throttle and thats when those huge wheels began to spin, screech and howl. With the steam adding to the noise. The train never moved. The engineer closed his throttle and he had to apply the brakes to the engine to stop those wheels fiom turning.
The Brakeman had his lantern and they walked back down the track looking under the train and finally they found the cause of this mystery. There on the tracks were large amounts of axle grease spread on both tracks and when that heavy engine with those large wheels went through the grease it coated them and they lost traction and finally came to a stop. Further examination of the tracks ahead of the engine showed that there was grease periodically on the track all the way to where Atlantic Blvd is today. There was just no way any train could have made it up that grade with all that grease.
Dad called the dispatcher in St.Augustine FL and told him of the problem. It was a good thing he did as there was a train already leaving Miami heading North. If there had not been a warning this could have become a real tragedy.
The fact that the FEC had dual tracks back then it was no great problem routing trains around. My dad called out his crew and they spent the rest of the night cleaning the axle-grease off the tracks. One of the biggest problems was finding enough rags to do the job. The railroad detectives descended upon Pompano the next day, they never did catch whoever it was that was responsible for this prank, and to this day, only they know who they are. What could have been the reasoning behind this prank? What would it prove other than a train cannot run on a greased track. Whatever the reason, it did stop the train.
There you have it. This story has lain quietly for all these many years and now it has been told. I recall some of the older boys in town who
would sing the song "OH YOU NASTYMAN" as they rode up and down OLD DIXIE HIGHWAY in the "rumble seat" of their sporty roadsters.
Lloyd Wesley Harper Jr. known as "Junior" came to Pompano about 1939. His Mother and Father were divorced and he lived with his Mother, "Lib" Collier. Junior was quickly accepted locally because of his friendly and outgoing personality and just as quickly introduced to "snipe hunting".
For anyone not familiar with "snipe hunting", let me tell you about it. First, the "potential hunter",(newcomer) was led to believe that snipe hunting was a popular and regular pastime in Pompano. (The "snipe" we hunted existed only in our imagination.) Next he was led to believe that he had to "catch" a snipe to be really looked up to and accepted in Pompano. He was also led to believe they were hard to catch and only the best "hunters" were able to catch them.
The "hunter", in this case, Jr., was taken at first dark on a moonless night to one of the many bean fields in the Pompano area not too far out of the downtown area. This "hunt" with Jr. was South on Cypress Creek road where it reached a dead end, today it intersects with McNab road. To the right, or West down a sand road that led to the farm of Gordon Green, Junior was given a "toe sack" or called by some a "croaker sack" nothing more than a burlap bag that many farm supplies were shipped in. Led down one of the bean rows to the back side of the field and instructed to sit and wait in the alley of the bed and we would run up and down the field and any snipe in the field would run away from us. He could hear the snipe coming and to hold the bag open in the alley in the direction of the sounds. The snipe would run into the open sack and all he had to do was close it and the catch was made.
Junior was all excited about the "hunt" and after we got him settled, we hotfooted it back to the truck, leaving him there all by himself to "catch a snipe", climbed aboard and went back to town and the ping-pong game going on in Dr.Mc Clellans garage to wait for the "hunter" to come walking up after he realized that he had been "had".
After a reasonable length of time, about two or three hours, we decided to go and check on him. We started out and got to the Pompano canal where
we met him walking up the road. He was really mad, but when he realized we had all been "snipe" hunting in the past and he would have his fun with
others that come after him, made him feel lots better. Junior was lucky, sometimes we would just go home and leave the "hunter" out there to fend
Junior Harper enjoyed life, he was always smiling, never causing any problems. He quickly proved to be a very good ping-pong player and few people could beat him. The daily and nightly games held in the McClellan garage was usually dominated by Junior with his unorthodox grip and paddle work. He also excelled on the tennis courts at the "Blounts house". Junior joined the Howell boys and myself on camping trips, usually on the beach by the Hillsboro Inlet.
On one occasion we camped on the West side of the East coast canal across from the inlet bridge which is now Lighthouse Point, but then was known as Scouts Island because the scouts used it for camping on occasion. On this camping trip, we swam our tents and supplies across and this made us dependent on what little food we had and what fish and clams we could catch plus there were several wildcat farm sites inland that would furnish tomatoes, peppers and best of all, watermelons. After several days at this spot, we were lying around and the subject came up about eating. We were always hungry it seemed. We decided to make a run on one of the melon patches. Junior said he thought he would just remain at camp and take a nap. We got back to camp with several melons, busted them open and began eating, Junior said he wasn’t hungry and just watched us eat. When it came time to eat our supper, we generally had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or something similar. Imagine our surprise when we discovered the bread was missing along with most of the makings. It was then we knew why Jr. stayed in camp and wasn’t hungry when we returned. He had eaten all the bread and peanut butter plus the cans of pork and beans. After Junior had climbed out of the canal we had thrown him in we had a good laugh and went about our camping minus bread and beans.
When World War II broke out, me, the Howell boys and Junior went into the service. Me in the Navy, Lowell, Duane and Junior in the Marines. Junior served in the fleet marines on board a Merchant ship in the gun crew in the Pacific theater, returning to Pompano sometime in 1946. Juniors last day on this earth was Saturday, October,5 1946 just 12 days before his 20th birthday. On that fateful day, Jr., B. Sam Walton, Charles (Poss) Sands and Robert Mitchell went bluefishing at Pompano Beach on B. Sam’s model "A" cut down truck. The fishing was slow and they loaded up and returned to town. Someone suggested that dove season was open and why not go hunting. Junior didn’t have a shotgun and B.Sam said he would borrow his brothers gun for him. As they started to leave Junior spotted the truck owned by his step-father, Glenny Collier at Pompano Mercantile, went inside and borrowed his shotgun which he carried in his truck.
They decided to hunt at the racetrack which was close to town and was a good place for birds. Arriving there, Junior and "Poss" went to one end of
the outer wall and Robert and B. Sam went to the other end. Before any shots were fired a young person approached Junior and apparently an argument
began and an older man approached (it was later determined he was raising hogs inside the wall of the racetrack, they were outside of the compound
where the stabbing occurred) and moved in close to Junior and Junior started running away and yelling that he had been stabbed.
As B. Sams truck crossed the railroad tracks at 1st Street and Flagler he passed the poolroom where several of us were standing in front and we could see someone lying on the truck bed and appeared to be hurt. We hurried around the corner on 2nd Street to the Dr’s office and Junior had already been taken inside and Dr. McClellan was attending to him.
Junior was rushed to Broward Hospital which was the closest and only one in the county. Junior died just moments before reaching that facility. The Dr. at the hospital said that even had he made it to the hospital he would have died from internal bleeding. The man that stabbed Junior claimed he cut him in self defense. Junior Harper was probably the least likely person in Pompano that would fight with or threaten anyone. Outrage was running strong in Pompano about this senseless killing. An out of county judge was brought in to try the case against the "hog farmer" accused of the stabbing. (It was reported he had killed another man previous to the killing of Junior with a knife and had also been acquitted claiming self-defense.) The killer was acquitted of killing Junior and not having any witnesses other than his son who was the youth Junior was seen talking to previous to being stabbed.
Junior Harper's death had a deep and lasting impression on the people of Pompano. He was the all-American boy, he was the last person in the world
one would think would come to the tragic end of his young life at just 19 years old when his life was really just beginning.
Born in West Virginia on Nov 1, 1873, William Livingston Kester became a man of vision, a man of means, a man with a mission. After a flood wiped out the family business they moved to Pittsburgh where he grew up. After High school Kester went to work for the Westinghouse Electric Co., even without any higher education he rose thru the ranks at Westinghouse to fill key positions in San Francisco and in Mexico, Next stop, France, to be manager of Westinghouse Cooper-Hewett Lamp Co. which produced the mercury vapor lamp.
While there he became acquainted with Georges Claude who invented the neon light. It was Kester who was instrumental in bringing it to this country but realized little money from it. After 20 years in France he returned to the United States as WW1 brokeout. He became a stockbroker in NY and for health reasons retired in 1919. Moving to Miami then on to Ft. Lauderdale and then to Pompano because he loved to fish and the waters off Pompano were abundant with game fish.
He became acquanted with M.A. Hortt, a real estate broker of Pompano and it was he that influenced his entry into land during the land boom rush of the 20s. Kester built a home in Pompano in 1925 and began buying choice pieces of land, the 1926 and 1928 hurricanes destroyed much of his building investments and he lost a large sum of money in the failure of the Pompano race track, which he and other investers had financed. Even after all this he was able to donate monies, and tracks of land for indivuduals and organizations. It was also said he never conducted any business before noon.
Among his more well known donations was land for a park on NE 6th Street in Pompano, now known as "Kester Park". Land for the present site of the Pompano Beach (now Broward County) library on Atlantic Blvd and NE 13th Ave. The land for the Garden Club, and an Episcopal Church. Land for the Pompano Beach Cemetery and the athletic field. Land in other areas for city use, also land for the Baptist church in Deerfield Beach. The most important donation of land to Pompano Beach was the beach front property running from Atlantic Blvd. (where the "Casino" was located) to north of where the Pompano Beach pier is located. The one binding stipulation to this land gift was the sea grape trees, they could never be removed. That is probably the only reason they remain today. Thanks to his far sightedness, these actions among others gave him a reputation for generosity in the community.
Kester was elected to the town commission in 1927 and served for 2 years pushing for tourism and growth. After he left city politics, he continued to be influential in the decisions governing Pompano. He owned productive land, raised cattle, vegetables and citrus groves. In 1929 the land bust closed the local bank leaving the community without banking facilities. Kester purchased property from the citizens that were going to lose their land and he was instrumental in reorganizing and opening the bank again with the name of Farmers bank of Pompano in 1934.
Kester was not without his humorous side and if the right opportunity presents itself, I will someday relate the story thats told concerning the 9 black cats that adorned the precipices of his Spanish style house on North Ocean drive.
In 1937 Kester began building "cottages" on the land he owned in Pompano and Deerfield. He built about 150 of them mostly on the beach on property he owned and they were called "Kesters Ocean Colony" and were meant to be rented to tourists. It was said Kester was the largest holder of property East of the intercoastal waterway in North Broward County. This construction gave much needed work to the residents of Pompano and the surrounding areas. It also provided much needed housing to an area that had very few rental units in the past. They were a huge success, especially the ones built along "Ocean Blvd" (Atlantic Blvd) and along NE 1st Street in Pompano, giving the local people an opportunity to live in nice affordable housing.
There are at least 6 of these "cottages" left and still occupied in Pompano Beach, not counting the 2 that are maintained as Museums by the Pompano Beach Historical Society in Founders park at 217 NE 4th Ave.
Kester built a bar that stood where the Howard Johnsons is now located at the intersection of Atlantic Blvd and Ocean drive. He also leased the casino, that was owned by Pompano, for a restaurant on the beach for dining, parties and social events.
The name, "Kester" today is synonomous with what is good about Pompano Beach. His influence is seen in every part of Pompano, Deerfield and parts of Delray Beach. Without his vision and unselfishness, Pompano and other areas would probably not have arrived in this point of time with the same outlook to the future that Kester had.
W.L. Kester died in 1954 at the age of 81 and is buried in the Pompano Beach Cemetery on land he donated many years earlier. He was truly "A man of vision".Back to Top
Sixteen years old and going off to war. The year, 1943. Joining the U.S. NAVY and leaving home for the first time ever to the greatest adventure of my life with the exception of my marriage and my family. The path I followed led me to many places, some good, some not so good, culminating in an experience in the jungles of Mindineoa in the Philippine Islands just at the end of World War II in September 1945 that left a lasting impression on me.
The ship I sailed on, a Destroyer, The USS NIBLACK, in company with the Destroyer, USS EDISON, having finished an escort duty of the Fifth Marine division to Sasebo Japan for occupation, was ordered to the Philippine Islands for further escort duty. We anchored in a quiet Lagoon in one hundred twenty feet of water, so clear the bottom seemed close enough to touch, and our Captain allowed us a "swim" call twice a day off the ship.
Liberty was an impossibility, the next best thing was to allow groups of men to go ashore and "stretch" our legs on the sandy beaches. The Jungles in that area still contained small groups of Japanese Soldiers and we were cautioned not to venture inland. My friend, Hamilton and myself went ashore on one of the first boatloads of men and contrary to what we had been told not to do we found and followed a trail leading into the jungle and we set-out to see where it would lead us.
After walking for quite a distance we were suddenly confronted by a dozen or so men in tattered, torn clothes, each of them carried a wicked looking machete in his hand. One of the men in the group could speak a little English and he made it clear they meant us no harm and wanted us to follow them, which we did. Following the group and not knowing what to expect we arrived on the edge of a small bay and along the edges were thatched huts built on stilts and farther up the trail stood a small group of people and they were standing beside an open grave and on the edge of the grave there rested a crude wooden coffin with a tattered American Flag lying on top of it.
The man that had led us here stepped up with another person that could speak much better English and then were we made aware of the reason of our being brought here. The body in the coffin was that of one of their villagers, a man thirty years of age. A Philippine soldier that had served as a scout in the US ARMY. He had recently returned to his village and his wife after being away for several years living in the jungle and fighting the Japanese. He returned home sick with malaria , the mosquitos did to him what the Japanese couldn't do and before he died he made it known that he had served with the Americans and he would like to have Americans to be a part of his burial. When the two American Ships anchored in the lagoon the village men set-out to find an American to be in attendance at his funeral and Hamilton and myself happened along and would we be a part? What could we say, we were here and there was no doubt in anyone's mind that we would refuse. We told the man we would be happy to take part.
Here we were, Hamilton and myself, I an eighteen year-old and Hamilton only a year older and never having taken an active part in anything like this. The men gathered around and four of them jumped into the open grave while several others handed the coffin down to them and they gently set it in place and leveled it up, climbed out and stood silently by. Several people said words and threw handfuls of sand onto the coffin. The spokesman then asked me if I would say something and I had to accept even if it meant no one would understand my words. I removed my hat and commenced talking, I said things like him being a patriot, a hero, a brave man and after I finished I put my hat back on and looking-up and at the people standing around the grave, tears were pouring down their cheeks and they had smiles on their faces and I looked at Hamilton and there were tears in his eyes and it was then I realized there were tears in my eyes.
These simple people who had suffered so much at the hands of the Japanese for so many years were shedding tears of joy because one of their own had his dying wish fulfilled, he had been recognized and remembered and that was all that mattered.
We left that gravesite, headed to the lagoon to catch the whale boat back to the ship and the next day we upped-anchor and left, never to return.
That incident has stayed with me all these years and I often reflect on that time in my life and I am glad it was me on the jungle trail that day many years ago and they chose me, "LONG AGO AND FAR AWAY".Back to Top
Florida faced the early years of its history being governed or ruled under the flags of five countries, one of those countries, England, awarded land grants to various noblemen. One of them, the Earl of Hillsborough was given ownership of a large parcel of land in South Florida along the East Coast which included an inlet from the interior and is now known by the shortened name of Hillsboro and Hillsboro Inlet. This grant was inhabited by Indians, panthers, bears, alligators, snakes, pirates, bootleggers and smugglers. It wasn't much that the Earl could use to any great advantage other than to be know as a large land holder. The land was unsuitable for agriculture, ranches or for trading purposes which for what it would be expected.
It was at the site of the Hillsboro Inlet located on a small peninsula that is adjacent to the Hillsboro Lighthouse that was erected in the year 1907 in the land boom of the early 1920s' that a young school master, Herbert Lawrence Malcolm, a 1907 graduate of Yale University, a man with vision purchased 16 acres of this land on the North side of the Inlet from the estate of the Earl of Hillsborough for a reported price of seventy five cents an acre, built a rambling frame building of Dade County pine and opened it as a boys school. Malcolm realized early off this type of facility was not going to be profitable and he decided to turn it into a vacation spot for winter visitors. It was this decision that enabled him to create one of the most elite and fabulous spots for privacy and elegancy in the country. The facility was offered to guests for $35.00 per week and he made it a club hotel with memberships, which is next to impossible to obtain today as they are handed down from generation to generation. To become a member you had to be recommended in writing by four members of the club, reviewed by the clubs membership committee whose suggestion went to the board of directors for approval. Memberships were limited.
The rambling white buildings, some built just at the high tide mark on the ocean was so completely secluded that any traffic in later years traversing the beach road was unseen and unheard, Malcolm stated that "money is secondary to social importance and background" and the club remained unchanged in its exclusive membership and building make-up since 1925.
Herbert realized the importance of experienced employees. He was instrumental in putting together and training a staff that for the most part remained at the club for many years. Some, like Zora Isler Saxon who was raised at the Hillsboro lighthouse worked as a waitress from 1946 until she retired in 1971 as head waitress. Her Mother Louise, sister Irene and her brother "Beck" Isler also worked there, "Beck" was the Supt. of Maintenance and called the club, "home". Their Father and Louise's husband, J.B. Isler was the keeper of the lighthouse from 1920 until 1939. The Hillsboro club provided employment to a large number of people during a period of time jobs were almost non existent. There were approximately 155 employees of the club that attended to the comfort, wants and needs of the members and guests. Activities at the club included tennis, shuffle board, swimming, sunbathing or just lounging. A Lanai lounge was added later amid much protest but was gradually accepted. Previous to this, drinks were only served in the privacy of members rooms. Dinner required coat and tie for men, sandals and bathrobe covering bathing suits were allowed in the dining area at lunchtime.
Herbert Malcolm was a man of many interests, he was an adventurer and mountain climber scaling the Matterhorn at the age of 69. Malcolm loved to run and at the age of 73, ran the 220 yard dash in 29 seconds. His wife died in 1940 and Malcolm remarried in 1941. This marriage produced two children, Herbert L. Jr. (Sandy) and Mary. Sandy followed in his fathers footsteps in the Hotel business. His nephew, James Allen Malcolm, married a local woman, Remelle Wilson. Allen was the Scout Master and leader at First Methodist Church Pompano for many years. I was one of the many boys in Pompano that had him as scoutmaster and remember the good times we had under his leadership.
Allen Malcolm is now retired and lives in the Bahama Islands with a vacation home in the Mountains of North Georgia. Herbert Malcolm was civic minded, serving as Mayor, Vice Mayor and Commissioner of the town of Hillsboro Beach, a community 3.7 miles long and 900 feet wide. He gave of his time unselfishly, allowing the local people access through club property to the beach for surf fishing during the times the club was closed to guests. Most of the Pompano High school proms were held at the Hillsboro club and also some of the banquets of high school reunions.
Malcolm bought the Waumbek resort in New Hampshire and the Pink Sands in the Bahamas. In 1959 he gave a developer an option on the club to erect a high-rise apartment after failing to get the members to purchase the property, this was protested by the members so in 1962. The members formed the Hillsboro Association and bought the club.
To say whether the lifestyle at the club has changed, you would probable get a different answer from as many as you asked. One thing certain,
The Hillsboro Club is as exclusive, intriguing and desirable as it has always been. The Hillsboro Club, it stands on some of the most expensive,
picturesque real estate in the state of Florida.
Herbert Malcolm died in 1959 and is buried in the Pompano Beach Cemetery.Back to Top
Marvin Griffin, born in 1914 in Live Oak Florida. Moved to Monticello Fla. travelling in a covered wagon around 1918 and then moving to Pompano about 1922. Marvin met Kathleen Alexander and married her in 1940. Her father was the first bridgetender at the Hillsboro Inlet bridge that was built in 1924. The Alexanders lived "on the point", that is where Lighthouse shores is now located in a frame building that originally was a fish camp. Mr. Alexander rowed a boat over to the bridge at dusk each day to light the kerosene lamps that marked the bridge and back again after daylight to extinguish them. This was the method that was in use until the road was built in 1927 and at that time a house for the bridgetender and his family was erected on the southwest side of the bridge on pilings over the water.
Kathleen's father, Mr. Alexander along with Dan Smith, Mr. Walton and another man on their yearly "fishing" trip to the keys were involved in an accident and all four were drowned when their "coupe" overturned in a waterfilled ditch. Marvin started fishing and dating Kathleen Alexander after her father was killed about 1937.
His fishing career began as a mate on Mrs. Alexanders boat the thirty foot" KATHLEEN". Jake Stone was the Captain on this boat. Marvin fished on the "KATHLEEN" in the winter season, from December until May and after that time he began taking people out fishing in an outboard boat, charging five dollars for half a day or ten dollars all day for two people. Using small boats was a necessity because the inlet usually closed-up with sand in the winter and the big boat could not get out and the small boats could. Marvin usually went out in the company of Johnny Whitmer on these fishing trips. There were times when Marvin and Johnny used rollers they made to "roll" their boats across the sand into the ocean so they could fish. This was the hardest of times "says Marvin." If you wanted to go fishing then it was up to you to get out there any way you could. Wonder how many boats would use the Hillsboro inlet today if it had to be dug-out by hand or your boat transported across on a conveyor before you got "outside"?
When the inlet "sanded-up" the opening up was the responsibility of those wanting to use it. "Marvin says", the only way to open it was with shovels and sometimes Louis Smoak and other farmers would bring mules and mule drawn 'scoops' and move as much sand as possible this way, then the rest was with shovels and muscles. Convict labor was ocassionally used in the opening of the inlet. A temporary mule lot would be erected close by so the mules would be available on a timely schedule. The sand would be cut through from one channel to another sometimes as much as a hundred feet or more and about eight feet wide. This was usually done on a full moon and when rain was expected. The water run-off from the glades would help in the moving of sand to clear a passageway. Sometimes, especially later, as Marvin moved up to larger boats, if the inlet became clogged with too much sand, he and Johnny Whitmer would go out the Boca Raton inlet that did not have the sanding problem the Hillsboro Inlet had.
Fishing in the early days was first and formost, for livelihood. People were taken along that wanted to pay for their fishing. Marvin says there was plenty of fishing close in and only occasionally would they have to venture out more that two or so miles to catch Kingfish, Dolphin, Sailfish and other species of fish. Their outboards, small as they were usually got them out and back again, with needed repairs usually sufficient to get a "balky" motor running again. If one was out fishing without another boat along and you broke down, then you had the oars to depend on.
Marvin had several row boats he rented to people that wanted to fish around the bridge or in the bays and waterway, but not for ocean fishing, The rental of these boats filled in the slack when the offshore or "outside" fishing was called in those days was slow. When World War II broke out all of Marvins boats had to be registered with the Coast Guard and there were rules and regulations concerning boats going into the ocean and they were strictly enforced.
The Coast Guard had a contingent of men stationed at the Hillsboro Lighthouse. Some of them up until around 1942 were beach patrollers. They walked the beach from Hillsboro Inlet to the Boca Raton Inlet until the horse patrol out of the Silver Thatch Inn was inaugurated in 1942. There was a life boat detachment stationed at the Lighthouse during the war.
With the ending of the war Marvin and Johnny Whitmer were about the only commercial/charter fishermen at the Hillsboro Inlet. The winter season from December until May were the best times for fishing. The period of time from May until December Marvin did carpentry work, the summertime was when most of the construction took place so the dual season was tailor made for someone getting started in the fishing business.
The year, 1950 saw Marvin going into the fishing business full time and up until he retired in 1984, he owned four fishing boats, the JOYCE 1, JOYCE 11, JOYCE 111, and the JOYCE IV. The length of these boats progressed from sixteen feet up to the thirty foot long, JOYCE IV. These boats carried the name of his daughter.
The fishing business, commercial and charter was varied. It carried Marvin on fishing trips to the Florida keys, to Bakers Haulover in Miami to the ports of Palm Beach, Fort Pierce, Stuart, Sabastian and the Bahamas. Some of these trips were overnight, some of them for several days or a week. The runs of fish in different places dictated the time and length of the fishing trip.
Marvin had a bait business in conjunction with his row boats at the bridge at Hillsboro Inlet. He says that one night he and Kathleen were fixing to retire for the night when they heard a sound like falling rain. Knowing it wasn't raining, they went outside and the water to the East of the bridge was working alive with shrimp. The water was shallow at that time so he and his wife got a castnet and into a rowboat and began catching shrimp. Marvin says he filled the bait wells up and another rowboat with shrimp. Mrs. Alexander allowed him to use her bath tub to put the shrimp in and he "headed" all the shrimp they caught. The next morning he sold them to Cap Knights fish market for fourteen cents a pound. He believes he probably holds the record for the most shrimp caught in one outing in these parts, two hundred and two pounds of "headed" shrimp.
Marvins first outboard motor was a two and a half horse power motor. He used this to go into the ocean fishing. This size motor would hardly be use as a "trolling" motor in this day and time. It carried him and sometimes two passengers out and back after fishing all day. This is the drive and determination, the love of the business that paved the way for the charter/commercial fishing that came on after the "pioneers" such as Marvin Griffin paved that way, set the standards, that have been adopted and incorporated in todays huge fishing industry in Pompano Beach and other places.
He caught fish regularly without the electronics boats today use. No depth or fish finders, no radar, sonar or satellite positioning devices. He depended on his knowledge of the winds, seas, wave action, sky and time of year. These were acquired by years of observing and remembering the little things that produced fish. Without the catching of fish, there was no business. Failure would not pay the bills.
Marvin and Johnny ran their boats and tended the lines, Marvin says it cost five dollars a half day and ten dollars for a full day to hire a mate and he got half of any tips, or fish that was caught if the charter was paying forty five dollars a half day that left very little for overhead and expenses and profits. Marvin would be on his boat at 7 AM each and every morning at the inlet ready to go fishing, "come rain or shine" that meant getting up at 4 AM in the morning to have the boat, the bait, the tackle, the ice and all provisions stowed aboard. Hardly the life of ease this fishing for a living.
Capt. Marvin Griffin, Husband, Father, family provider, fisherman and friend to many. Much more could be said about this remarkable man, the dedication, determination and the pleasure he gave so many of his customers in the days when a mans word was his bond, his handshake his contract, his dependability a virtue and hard work expected. That is rarely seen today. Thank you Marvin for sharing this with us.Back to Top
Sometime in late summer in the year 1925, 14 year old Jimmie McNab, his brother Robert, age 12 and their friend Everette Green having been born and raised in Pompano and having just returned from a vacation in Colorado were on their way to the beach in Pompano to go swimming. Jimmy had been cautioned by his mother not to swim in the East Coast canal (Intracoastal Waterway) as he and others had done in the past. It was a dangerous place to swim with the thick mangroves and shrubs bordering the canal and the water being murkey most of the time.
The bridgetender had seen and shot at a large gator on several occasions at the bridge on the "beach road" (now Atlantic Boulevard). It would come in to eat the chicken and other scraps the tender threw into the water. This was not known to Jimmy and Robert because they had been out of the state for some time. Arriving at the bridge they went to their favorite "swimming hole" and donned their swim trunks. All three were good swimmers and had been practicing underwater swimming.
They agreed to dive off the pilings together and swim underwater to the other side, about 30 feet away. The water was about 7 feet deep where they entered. They all dove together and started across. Jimmy had just opened his eyes under water and spotted many bubbles in front of him. Before he could react a large alligator was coming towards him and closed its massive jaws over his head and tried to swallow him, at the same time rising to the surface of the water and making a tremendous splashing with his tail.
Jimmy, being of slight build, weighing only about 75 pounds was desperately fighting with his hands, trying to free his head from the jaws of the gator. For some unknown reason, possible from Jimmy getting his finger in the eye of the gator he released his hold on him and Jimmy made it to the surface and yelled to his brother and friend he was being attacked by an alligator.
At that moment the gator's tremendous jaws again grabbed Jimmy by the head and pulled him to the bottom of the canal and "rolled" him several times churning and splashing the water with his tail. Jimmy was fighting the gator with his hands and again the gator opened his jaws and he was able to get away, taking a few strokes toward the bank of the canal and trying to get out of the water. At the waters edge the gator came after him again, arched his back, slashing his huge tail, striking Jimmy on his left shoulder, turned and snapped its huge jaws biting him on his left shoulder.
By this time his brother Robert and Everette were out of the water and at the edge of the bank scared, but trying to help him. Everette hit the gator with a board he had found and this distracted the gator long enough for Jimmy to get out of the water. The gator continued to swim around in the water at the banks edge, which was red with Jimmy's blood.
Jimmy's hands and fingers were lacerated and torn from the teeth and jaws of the gator where he had tried to pry the massive jaws from his head, and he was bleeding heavily. There were teeth wounds, lacerations and bruises on his neck and head. His left shoulder was torn open and bleeding, much of this damage caused by the gators'tail.
Jimmy's Mother had told the boys not to go swimming in the canal. They had slipped out of the house planning on going to the beach and stopped at the canal deciding to swim there anyway. She missed the boys and had a premonition they would be swimming in the canal. She got into her car and drove to the East Coast Canal just in time to see Jimmy being helped up the bank and onto the bridge. She helped get Jimmy, who she said later "was bleeding like a stuck hog", into the back seat of the car, found an old robe in the car and covered him up. Jimmy's father and uncle, Harry McNab were working on the Pompano Hotel just West of the canal and Mrs. McNab stopped and called for them to get in the car and get Jimmy to the hospital. Jimmy was taken to a small hospital in Ft Lauderdale where he was admitted and after a considerable time, he recuperated and returned home. Some of the effects suffered by Jimmy from this attack by the ten-foot alligator happened about a year after the attack when the wound on his left shoulder swelled-up and had to be lanced and drained every three or four months.
The same afternoon after Jimmy's desperate and heroic battle for his life, the bridgetender shot and killed the 10 foot long gator. The gator was draped on the fender of a car and he streched from the front fender to the back fender. Jimmy carried a picture of this gator in his wallet for many years after this experience until his wallet, with the picture in it was stolen from his home during a break-in.
Jimmy McNab carried the scars on his left shoulder, head and hands, including a large depression across his shoulders until his death in December, 1993 proving he, at the age of 14 years old met and defeated a savage alligator in deadly combat in the gators home territory. Jimmy McNab had some understandable side effects from this encounter. His wife, Mildred said he wouldn't go near the East Coast Canal for some time and his dad sent him to school at the "Citadel", a military school in South Carolina for a year or so to help him get over it. Very few people of any age ever escape from a full grown alligator when caught in the water. Jimmy McNab, fourteen years old, 75 pounds met one, fought him off barehanded and lived to tell about it. Jimmy McNab was a real hero.Back to Top
GEORGE STERLING MC CLELLAN JR.
Sterling McClellan came to Pompano at a very young age with his parents. Dr. and Mrs. George (Dr. George) McClellan. Sterling was a special person, always mindful of the underdog, always ready to take up the cause of any wrongdoing, always ready to go the second mile. Sterling acquired these traits at an early age. He prepared himself mentally and physically. He started on a course of body-building and exercise and eventually worked himself into a position where Willie Baker and Witt Webb began working with him in the boxing arena when he was about sixteen years old. Sterling began to box as an amateur sometime in 1937 or 1938. He was a Golden Glove boxer and the physical condition he worked so hard to obtain paid-off in the boxing ring.
After graduating from Pompano High School, Sterling enrolled in the Pre-Med program at the University of Florida. He continued with his boxing in college but kept this from his family. Sometime in late 1940, he dropped out of school and with the war rapidly approaching, he applied for and was accepted in the Air Force cadet program. Sterling completed all of the requirements, which was a very vigorous, strenuous program, and he was awarded the silver wings of a pilot. Sterling trained in several states after winning his wings on the way to becoming a B-17 heavy bomber pilot. He led the first group of planes down to Sebring Florida when that field was built, arriving while there was heavy equipment on the runways and his flight of trainers landed on the road alongside the airfield. Sterling was allowed to fly home on weekends in a training plane. This was allowed during the war to give pilots more flying time. There were times when he would take the home folks for a ride.
After more training in various parts of the country, he was sent overseas and his bomb group "Hells Angels" was based in England near the town of Molesworth about 70 miles North of London in the mid-lands of East Anglia. The bombing of Germany began in earnest in 1943-44. A pilot or air crewman completing 25 combat missions could be returned home, having beaten the odds of survival (four missions were the average). Surviving six times the normal safe returns was something to rejoice about if and when it did happen. Sterling returned from a bombing raid to Breman, Germany on Dec. 20, 1943. His and one other plane were the only planes from the 427th squadron that returned from this raid attesting to the intense fighter and anti-aircraft fire on these deep penetrations into Germany.
Oschersleben, Germany, January 11, 1944. A total of 502 aircraft were dispatched on this raid deep into Germany. Sterling's group, the 303rd dispatched 36 planes on this raid. Sterling was the pilot on the plane named "Bad Check," a B-17F. He was on his 17th or 18th mission, the actual count was never determined. Aggressive enemy fighters were encountered before arriving at the target and after dropping their bombs. Sterling was in the low rear part of the formation which was considered the most vulnerable position. "Bad Check", the plane flown by Sterling, was seen spiraling down, and it was said by other crews "There goes McClellan going down to give protection to a damaged bomber." Such was the concern that Sterling had for people, he was always ready to help out when he could. But that was not the case this time. Sterling's plane crashed and he was killed on the return run.
A short time later, Sterling's brother Bill, a waist gunner on a B-24 Heavy Bomber, was shot down, wounded and parachuted into occupied territory in France. He was picked up and after being treated was sent to a POW camp, the infamous Stalag 17B in Germany. Upon arriving there he was approached by a prisoner that called him by his last name. This prisoner recognized Bill as Sterling's brother by their resemblance. He was a member of Sterling's crew named Duggan, one of the two that survived from "Bad Check" and then captured by the Germans.
The story he told Bill was all too familiar. They were attacked head on by a Me 109 German fighter. The enemy plane fired a long burst of 20 MM shells of which many found their mark. The bombardier was killed, and the co-pilot W.A. Fisher, also the son of a Dr. from Chicago, a B-26 medium bomber pilot on his first mission in a B-17 was killed. The top turret gunner, a close friend of Sterling's was killed, also the navigator. Sterling was the only man left unhurt in the cockpit area.
According to the surviving airman's story, Duggan made his way to the front of the plane and told Sterling it was time to bail out. Sterling put the plane on auto-pilot and reached for his chute. Then he asked how many men were still aboard in the rear of the plane since the radios were out and there was no communication. Duggan told him he didn't know. Sterling climbed back into the pilot's seat, disconnected the auto-pilot and said he couldn't leave not knowing if there were men alive still aboard. Duggan bailed out and told Bill that the last time he saw his brother was just before he jumped. Sterling was at the controls and desperately trying to fly the damaged plane.
Bill was told later that "Bad Check" which was on its 45th trip crashed in Germany or Holland. The bodies of the crew members were recovered and buried in a cemetery with full military honors. Sterling McClellan's concern for his fellow man was genuine. If he had bailed-out he probably would have survived. Instead he died at the age of 26. He did not hesitate in making the decision to stay with the plane. His concern for the members of his crew was first and foremost to him. He was "One of a kind". We see very few STERLING McCLELLANS in our lifetime.
The 303rd bomb group "Hells Angels," Sterling's group, flew 364 missions and 10,721 sorties the highest total of any bombardment group in the
8th Air Force in WWII and they had 165 MIA's. The American Legion Post in Pompano Beach carries the name STERLING McCLELLAN POST #142 in his
James Hardin, (nickname, SOCKS) was born and raised in Pompano, attended school here and in December, 1940 enlisted in the Marine Corps. After his recruit training he was sent to and fought on the islands of Guadalcanal and Bouganville. He was wounded in his first overseas assignment and returned to the United States where he was stationed for a while in Vero Beach, FL. After recovering from his wounds he volunteered again for duty overseas and was shipped back to the South Pacific. On May 23, 1945, he was wounded again while fighting on the Island of Okinawa. He was returned to the Naval Hospital in Oakland, California for treatment of multiple wounds.
James died of his wounds on July 9, 1945 just a scant month before the end of the war. James gave-up his life at a young age so Americans
and people of other countries might have and enjoy the many freedoms he was denied. JAMES GORDON HARDIN, (Socks.) His name, his deeds, his
sacrifice and his memory lives on.
JAMES M. MULKEY
James Mulkey, born and raised in Pompano and attended schools there. James joined the Army Air Force applying for cadet training, he was
accepted and after completing his basic training was sent to fighter training. After completing fighter training he was commissioned a second
lieutenant and became a P-38 fighter pilot. James was completing his last training flight prior to his unit being sent overseas for the invasion
of Italy. On October 16, 1944 at an airfield in Coffeyville Kansas while coming in for a landing his plane went into a spin, crashed and James
was killed. He died at the age of 21 years. He gave his life for his country just two months before his brother Harvin died in a plane crash.
HARVIN D. MULKEY
Harvin Mulkey, brother of James Mulkey was born and raised in Pompano. He also attended schools there. Harvin joined the U.S. ARMY AIR FORCE, applied for and was accepted for flight training. After completing his training, he was commissioned a second lieutenant and after training in transports he was shipped to the Far East to the CHINA-BURMA-INDIA theatre of operations.
Harvin was returning home to Pompano after completing 25 missions for a well deserved rest when his plane suddenly exploded in mid-air killing
Harvin and others aboard. Harvin had been awarded many decorations. The Oak Leaf Cluster, Presidential Unit Citation and many others.
Harvin died at the young age of 27 years, just two months after his brother James, was killed.
These three men, along with other millions, who received the call to defend their country, accepted that call and made the
supreme sacrifice many years ago, will have their names and their deeds forever etched in the granite of gratitude upholding their fellow man.
ROBERT DEVAN KNIGHT
Devan knight, born in Florida in May 1925, attended school in Pompano and enlisted in the U.S. Army along with his brother Alvin on November
10th, 1943. After completing 17 weeks of training at camp Wheeler, Macon, Georgia where his father, now dead, trained for the first world war,
Devan an infantry soldier in the 101St division was sent overseas and landed on Normandie in France on D-Day, June 6th, 1944.
Devan was wounded and died on August 2, 1944 just two months after his initial landing. Devan was 19 years old when he died, giving up his
young life so we, today may have and enjoy the things he was denied. May we be forever grateful for his sacrifice and make this country a place
he and thousands of others would be proud of.
MARION L. FUGATE
Marion Fugat raised in Pompano, attended school there and joined the US Navy as a flight cadet. Marion received his Gold Wings as a Navy flyer
and was assigned to the NAS Melbourne, Florida where he was training as a fighter pilot flying the Grumman F6F "Hellcat." Nearing the end of his
training before going on to the Great Lakes to qualify for carrier landings and take-offs, Marion was on a night flying mission, always a very
dangerous operation even with highly trained pilots, although a very necessary part of their training. Marion was involved in a mid-air
collision with another "Hellcat" and both planes crashed in the Banana River. The pilot of the other plane managed to bail-out of his plane and
was picked out of the water alive. Marion was not as lucky and he went in with his plane and was killed. Marion Fugate was just 19 years old
when he died serving his country 51 years ago. The people of Pompano Beach will never forget Marion and the sacrifice he made for this country.
As of this writing, no new information has surfaced concerning the death of Stanley Rowlett during WW II.Back to Top
After school was out each summer I was put aboard a train and sent up to Alabama to spend the summer with my Grandparents and their youngest son, my uncle, that was a year older than me, together we had great times. There were many things we did over the course of the summer. There were the "Picture Shows" in town every Saturday morning. Who could miss the Cowboy movies, but best of all the weekly "Serials" notable Dick Tracy, Buck Rogers, Tarzan, Perils of Pauline, Flash Gordon and many others that managed to wind-up in a terrible situation just at the end of the show, which assured the theater that we kids would return the following Saturday to see how in the world the Hero could possible get out of this mess. They always did with the greatest of ease. Some days we played baseball at the "Cotton Mill" field. It was the only recreational facility around and everyone showed up to play.
"Hunting Squirrels" was a favorite sport. We made a gun powered with a piece of truck innertube, using a piece of bent wire stuck in the "barrel" of the gun on top and the rubberband was stretched from the end of the gun over a hump on the back and when a squirrel was sighted and lined up with the "gun" and the rubber band pushed up and over the breach of the gun. The band would catch the bent piece of wire and hopefully would hurl it towards the game. Sometimes it would just catch in the rubber and be trapped there. Sometimes it would be hurled backwards into the face of the shooter. Luckily, we never had an eye put-out although we were hit in the face and head many times. I can only remember one time that we actually brought down a squirrel and he wasn't dead, but recovered from his fall out of the tree and scampered off.
Another game we played was with matches, the large wooden kitchen type, most of the people living around there cooked on wood-stoves and matches were very plentiful. We kind of "gambled" with them. We played a game called "match" any number of people could play and by covering up the match, coming up with a heads or tails, whoever had the odd match i.e. the head or the end of the match won all the matches. What would we do with the matches we won or had? They were used in the place of money, of which no one had. You could say for a certain number of matches get a ride on someone's bicycle that had one. You could swap it for a piece of candy that someone had "borrowed" from Old Man Snyders candy truck. Any number of things were available if you had enough "matches."
Another game we played was called "Peg." This was played using a piece of round stick, like a broom or mop handle about eight inches long and sharpened on one end, making it look like a miniature rocket. The other piece of equipment was the rest of the broomstick, about three or four feet long. A groove was made in the hard clay ground on an angle and when the short piece of sharpened wood was placed in it. The sharp end stuck out of the groove about four inches and on about a forty-five degree angle. The batter would then tap the pointed end of the stick sharply and it would flip-up into the air and the batter would swing at it. And if it was hit just right it would travel quite a distance. The winner was always the best two out of three on distance. A double-tap meaning after the short stick was in the air and the batter hit it on the up swing and then made a regular hit was an instant winner.
We experimented in other types of "vices," smoking corn silk, grapevines, (It really tore -up your tongue. It had a hole through the center and after lighting and "drawing" smoke through, it was just like a blowtorch working on your tongue). Another was "rabbit tobacco" a weed that grew wild, not to bad either. We smoked coffee and tea, pine straw and just about anything else that would burn.
We had a job of "chinking up" the holes with cement under a house in the neighborhood. That meant going under the house and putting cement in the holes in the rock foundations. We discovered a pack of chewing tobacco under the house and we made the mistake of opening it up and taking a "chew". I believe that was the sickest I have ever been in my life and I haven't had a "chew" since.
The homes in certain areas were built on and around hills. Yards were sometimes quite hilly and uneven. There was one such yard that had a stone-wall about four feet high from the side walk to the grass and it went up a moderately steep slope and peaked out about the middle of the yard and went down on the opposite side of the yard. Sight was limited to the top of the yard. This was OLD MAN BURTS yard. Now Old Man Burt was an old fogie that no one liked and especially us kids. The reason being Old Man Burt had a pet MONKEY. He kept this MONKEY chained to a stake driven in the ground just at the top of his yard and just because kids were always teasing his MONKEY he wasn't easy to get along with.
One of the tests of courage and speed was that one had to "catch" the MONKEY when he was on the far side of the yard down the hill and out of sight, sneak up the hill to where you could get hold of his chain, give it a yank start running and make it back down the hill with the MONKEY in hot pursuit until the MONKEY reached the end of his chain or you were caught. The MONKEY seemed to enjoy this game and although he had never caught anyone, he would always wait on top of the hill until he saw boys coming his way and would scamper down the backside of the hill and wait for the yank on his chain. The first time I was with the group, they decided that me being from Florida, should have a chance to pull the MONKEYS chain. I watched carefully as the first boy dashed up the slope yanked the chain and outran the speeding MONKEY. Now came my turn, I waited until the MONKEY was out of sight over the hill and I slowly made my way up the hill keeping a close watch on the chain. I reached down, gave the MONKEYS chain a quick pull, dropped the chain and started down the hill at full speed. I could hear the MONKEYS chain rattling and I knew he was on his way. The boys were yelling for me to hurry-up I was almost to the bottom of the hill and home free when the impossible happened, THE MONKEY CAUGHT ME.
He wrapped both his hairy little arms around my leg, knocked me down and sank his teeth into the calf of my leg. I let out a yell that
scattered the boys and brought Old Man Burt out of the house on the run. Old Man Burt got to me, grabbed the MONKEY who was still holding on to
my leg, pulled him off, threw him to the ground and he (the monkey) immediately scampered over the hil,l possibly to wait for his next victim.
Old Man Burt was more friendly than I had been led to believe, he went into the house, got some alcohol and bathed my leg, lectured me about
Monkeying with MONKEYS and sent me on my way. Other than having a sore leg for a week or two, I was no worse off other than the humiliation of being
caught by the MONKEY. That stayed with me for many years.
"RL" Landers (RL, initials only) was born on a farm in Bedias Texas in 1922. After graduating from high school in 1942 World War II had been under way for some six months and "RL" knew he would be getting drafted and before that happened he decided to enlist. The recruiter for the Air Force had his quota of enlistments, so "RL" went to the Navy, same thing, They also were not accepting enlistments at that time. The Navy recruiter told him to try the Coast Guard. "RL" had to ask what the Coast Guard was not having ever heard of them. The Navy recruiter told him it was just like the Navy, even operated under Navy orders and the only way to tell them apart was the white shield the coast guardsmen wore on his "blues" and a blue shield worn on the right sleeve on their "whites."
"RL" was accepted into the Coast Guard, they were sent to an Army camp in New Orleans where they marched and drilled for several weeks, not even having any clothes except the civilian clothes they were wearing. "RL" said they would wear their clothes during the day and wash them at night. They were eventually placed on a troop train and spent three or four days traveling to an unknown destination.
They finally arrived at St. Augustine and "RL" said that was the "prettiest place" he had ever seen. The huge trees, the flowers and stone buildings. They were billeted in the "Ponce De Leon" hotel and there were still maids, butlers and a complete staff there at the time. "RL" said most of the guys slept on the carpet, because it was thicker than the cot pads they had.
After finishing their "boot training" volunteers were asked for. No one in his right mind would volunteer for anything so several of them were told to step out and on the basis of past experiences, they would be placed in the "mounted patrol" being formed. Being from Texas and a farm boy he was a natural for this job, although not to enthusiastic about it. "RL" was shipped to Ft. Lauderdale and their barracks were located on south beach East of A1A right on the beach, across from where the Bahia Mar Hotel is now. After being moved around to several other locations he was assigned to the Silver Thatch in Pompano and then his training, at least what he got, began.
The Silver Thatch was then a small two story inn located on the beach North of Pompano. The accommodations were changed drastically once the Government acquired it. Each of the rooms now housed eight men sleeping on bunk beds. Meals were prepared and served by Coast Guardsmen and eaten in the dining room. Recreation consisted of a softball diamond and very little else. But it didn't matter because there wasn't much time left for pleasure after the daily chores and dutiess were finished. Shortly after they arrived and their training had ended, a large group of men arrived that were from New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and other northern states. "RL" said some of them had never seen a real horse and it fell upon them to train them from scratch.
The barns for the horses were completed by the tennis courts and the horses arrived. They were Army cavalry horses from Ft. Sill Oklahoma. Every man was assigned a horse and took full responsibility for it as long as he was on mounted duty. "Pluto" was the name of the horse assigned to "RL". They came with saddles, blankets, bridles and all necessary equipment to maintain them. The men were shown how to wash, rub-down, dry off and often they were taken into the ocean to swim.
They arrived by rail, were unloaded at the "mule lot" located at the corner of Flagler ave and NE 6th St in Pompano and walked to the Silver Thatch Inn on the beach. The saddles were the army issue "McClellan" saddle that had the opening down the middle. "RL" said they were the most uncomfortable, hardest saddle ever made and some of the men wanted to buy a western type saddle but were not allowed.
The mounted patrolmen from Pompano went North to the Boca Raton Inlet and back. South it went to about Las Olas blvd Ft. Lauderdale and back. The patrols left out around 4PM each day, seven days a week. One rider going North, one going South and another pair leaving at 30 minute intervals with the riders making one trip per night. The patrols were timed so when the first rider reached the Ft. Lauderdale turn around spot, the last rider was leaving Pompano and on the return trip and the rest of the night there was a mounted patrol passing any given place every 15 minutes and this beach coverage extended from Miami to Daytona Beach in Florida through-out the war.
Riding the beaches was a hard, tough job, "RL" says the saddles were so hard and tiring that the men walked the beach leading their horses about as much as they rode. Sometimes a horse would show-up riderless at the Silver Thatch and later on a rider would come walking up, having been thrown from his horse. There were a few injuries on these nightly patrols but the look-out towers on the beaches that were manned by civilian volunteers had a telephone and the Coast Guard ran a jeep on the road for emergencies.
The patrollers were armed, they carried a .45 cal side-arm plus in a saddle scabbard they had a sub-machine gun so they were not defenseless. Occasionally they would be surprised by some planned" landing operation" to see how they would react and if they could apprehend any "invaders." "RL" says the sound of engines off-shore in the dark of the night was commonplace, so were lights and the glow of burning ships. The beach was littered with the debris of sunken ships, one night their may be bananas, the next night pineapples, oranges, etc, etc, depending on the type of ships being torpedoed off shore by German submarines.
The life of the "mounted patrol" was not glamorous, or even fun, it was a tough with little or no chance of advancement within the group. After riding all night, tending to the horses and their gear, the stables had to be cleaned and fresh hay spread every day, so the days were not spent sleeping or loafing. The only break came every eighth day when they were given eight hours of leave time. So went this very unique part of the war that had to incorporate units such as the mounted patrol to bring it to its conclusion.
We cannot begin to imagine what we would have had to contend with, here on our South Florida beaches had it not been for the men that "got into that hard saddle every night and set-out not knowing what or who the night might bring."
The small town of Pompano and the beach area (they were separate then) became an essential part of these activities and are afforded a place in the history books because of young men such as "RL"landers and his fellow patrollers. Even with the constant patrols, rumors were rampart about German submarines landing men and English speaking spies on our beaches at night. Local residents tell these stories to this day, but because of wartime censorship many of the incidents have never been confirmed.
Shortly after he arrived in Ft. Lauderdale, "RL" Landers met a girl at the servicemen's center in the Blount building. She was Helen Herriott, a student at Florida State College for Women in Tallahassee whose mother was the founder of Fern Hall, a private school in Fort Lauderdale. Just before he was discharged from the Coast Guard in 1946, "RL" and Helen were married. They went to Texas where "RL" enrolled in Baylor University and Helen got a teaching job. After graduating from Baylor they returned to Ft. Lauderdale in 1954. Dr. "RL" Landers taught at Broward Community College for 27 years before retiring. Helen Landers is the Broward County Historian.Back to Top
We moved to Ritta Island
My father's family lived on a farm seven miles northwest of Madison in Madison County Florida. The farm lay close to Hickstown Swamp which was named after a renegade Indian who was killed nearby. My mother, whose maiden name was Susan Indiana Loper was born in the same community on March 20, 1894. My father, Charles Edward Thomas, was born in the old farmhouse which my grandfather had built on February 18, 1892. I was born April 27, 1915, a brother and two sisters were also born in North Florida and another sister was born after we came to South Florida.
My grandfather had nine children, two died young six boys and one girl grew up. When my grandfather was older, he was struck by lightning while and my uncle were working out in the fields when a sudden storm came up and they took shelter in an abandoned house on the place. They were standing near a window and my Grandfather was struck. He seemed to recover but died soon after. Grandmother had to sell a lot of the land. My aunt, Edna Thomas Drawdy moved in to Madison after she married and still lives there.
My father was farming land that belonged to my mother's people. He was farming cotton and peanuts and raising cattle and has up until we left there in the fall of 1921 to come to Ritta Island. This was after the first World's War and times were hard as farmers in north Florida were not making anything on their cotton.
My Uncle, Richard Mays Thomas, had gone to Fort Lauderdale long before the war and had worked for a wealthy man, Hugh Taylor Birch as caretaker and manager of his estate off the mainland at Fort Lauderdale. Mr Birch thought highly of Uncle Mays and kept him on as long as uncle Mays would stay. Uncle Mays had a chance, however, to earn $3.00 a day working on a dredge on the North New River Canal. This project, taken over by by the Clark-Furst Construction Co. In 1910 it picked up Steam after a dredge moved to the site of South Bay to start the Okeechobee Lake end of the canal. It was finished in 1912.
Mr. Lawrence Will, Glades historian, reported meeting Uncle Mays at Ritta Shore during the winter of 1914-15. Ritta Shore, on the main-land, got its name from Ritta Island. The Bolles Hotel had been built at Ritta shore in 1911 to house prospective customers for Glades land. Ritta Shore was later known as Miami Locks. It wasn't until July 16, 1931 with the coming of the post office that it became known as Lake Harbor.
Ritta Island is located a mile off shore from the Miami Canal, it had its first settlers about 1909 and others came. The U. S. Government surveyed all the Okeechobee islands in 1917 and soon after, largely through the work of Braddock and Winne on Torry Island, declared that they were open for homesteading. Johnny Windham had 55 acres on the east side and he got Uncle Mays interested. They went in together, built adjoining houses, started clearing the land and began farming. Uncle Mays got my Daddy interested and when Johnny traded his rights to Uncle Mays and moved away, Uncle Mays persuaded us to come join him. My dad had came down and visited with Uncle Mays in 1920 before he brought us down in 1921.
My father borrowed $100.00 to make the move to Ritta Island. We made the trip from North Florida on the train. We changed trains in Jacksonville and went to Haines City, a spur of the Atlantic Coast Line which had started operation in 1917 or 1918 took us from Haines City to Moore Haven. We brought with us our furniture and other posessions as well as five barrels of smoked meat. Someone stole a barrel in Moore Haven, or at least it never got on the boat. We left the next day to go to Ritta Island on Captain Ed Forbes' mail boat, "The Fox".
This cabin boat left from Everglades Locks near the big cypress tree at Moore Haven. Captain "Little" Ed Forbes, the skipper lived on Ritta Ialand near the hotel that Captain Felix Forbes, his father, had built and the boat lay up overnight there before continuing on to Loxahatchee the next day. Mail from the Lake communities was picked up on the way and incoming mail from West Palm Beach was picked up in Loxahatchee and brought back. Passengers and merchandise were carried on the boat for additional profit.
The Post Office on Ritta Island was built on the Northwest corner and was called "Mabry". We moved into the house that Johnny Windham had left vacant on the southeast corner of the Island. The house was made of Florida pine consisting of a large living room, bedroom, small kitchen, back and front porch. The windows were screened with shutters and the porches were open. Most of the houses built then were unfinished inside with the ceiling rafters bare.
Uncle Mays and Daddy started farming together. They cleared land by hand, planted it and farmed with hand tools mostly. Captain Felix Forbes had the only mule on the Island. It was necessary for all who could do so to work on the land. The children worked as soon as they were big enough and when they were not in school. In those days the family with the most kids had the best farm. My mother worked beside my father as she had done in North Florida.
The land was originally covered by custard apple trees which were easy to clear. You cleared the land by hand and the more land you cleared the bigger your farm. The more help a family had the more you could grow. Green beans and onions were the crops we grew that first season. They were shipped to Fort Lauderdale on Captain Shakleford's freight boat and sold there.
We move to Fort Lauderdale 1922
In the late summer of 1922 the rains came and by September 30 the rainfall was 10 inches in excess of the annual average for the year. The level of Lake Okeechobee rose five feet. Travel from the Lake to Kissimmee could be made on a solid sheet of water. The lake level was 22 feet, or better, later flooded.Ritta Island which had an elevation of 21 feet as it had just been cleared and had not yet packed down. Bare Beach, Clewiston, Okeelanta as well as the islands were under water. Some land on Ritta Island is now 17.5 feet.
The chickens hadn't been off the roost in thirty days. Captain Forbes' old mule would come up at night and pull them off by their tail feathers. They would squawk and Daddy would go out and put then back on the roost. He finally put up some wire and tin to keep the mule out. Chicken snakes fell on the mosquito nets that hung from the rafters and covered our beds at night. My dad would get up and throw the snakes outside. Water moccasions were everywhere, even before the heavy rains came they were plentiful. I have seen my nother go out with a rifle when she heard one of her hens squawk in a certain way. She would find a dead hen and nearby a moccasion. She would shoot and kill the snake every time.
The field corn had to be gathered in by boat and we shelled it in Gus McGehee's barn on the west side of the Island. The only part of the island out of water was the ridge on his farm. My Uncle Mays and his wife moved to Ralph Bishop's farm at Ritta where she kept house and cooked for Mr. Bishop. Uncle Mays worked for himself. The outlook was not good with water covering the island. Uncle Mays persuaded my dad to move to Fort Lauderdale.
We went to Fort Lauderdale on Shakleford's freight barge. We loaded on it our furniture, the shelled corn and all the chickens. We left at dark and entered the North New River canal. The first stop was at the old everglades locks in South Bay. Mr. Willits had a store on the canal bank North of the old locks Daddy called to Mr.Willits to bring him a nickel's worth of candy as the barge cruised slowly by the store, that took care of all the money we had when we left Ritta Island.
It was early the next morning after daylight that we arrived at the Sewell Locks on the North New River Canal opposite Davie. There we sold to the lock-tender the chickens and the corn that we had placed on top of the barge. That gave us money to rent a house when we got to Fort Lauderdale.
We went five miles further on, passed under the Henry Flagler railroad bridge and tied up at the dock. "The captain told us where we could rent a house". My dad got off the barge, walked East three blocks across to the Andrews Avenue bridge and rented a house. It was on 13th Street one half mile on the South side of the river. Daddy was able to get a truck to move the furniture to the house. It was then or soon after that we had electric lights for the first time ever. We moved in and set up housekeeping that day and the next day my dad went out looking for a job.
He Got a job working for a Mr. Gibbs who was in the cement block business two blocks away near the railroad tracks. He pushed a wheel-barrow for $1.00 a day pouring concrete for hand molded blocks. He worked at this for a week and a half then the big colored man running the mixer didn't show up. Daddy cranked it up and ran it for two days. Mr. Gibbs paid him $2.00 a day. The Negro showed up but now he rolled the wheelbarrow and Daddy ran the mixer. My dad wound up as a form setter and a plasterer at $2.50 an hour.
Times began to get better. Mr. Gibbs got a good contract and my Dad's job was that of setting forms for side walks at the sub-division of Crossland Park. Pay went up as the boom started. In 1923 he bought a model T-Ford. In 1924 the job pouring side walks ended. He got another job mixing mortar at $20.00 a day or better.
In 1923 the road to Belle Glade was rock surfaced and one way steel bridges were installed at Twenty mile Bend, Six Mile Bend and at Belle Glade. In 1925 my dad bought a truck and started hauling produce from the Glades. In the meantime he had been sending money to Uncle Mays. Later it turned out, they had overslept their homestead and after the 1928 hurricane it reverted to the state. My dad bought it back from the state after that. Water had remained on the land after the rains of 1922 until February of 1923. 1923 was a dry year but the water rose again. In October of 1924 nineteen inches of rain fell and the lake rose seven and one-half feet in five days.
My Uncle Rufus, R. E Thomas, joined my dad in 1925 and they went in together hauling produce from the Lake as farming operations had resumed by then. Our family stayed in Fort Lauderdale and my dad traveled back and forth. I attended the South Side School. We went through the hurricane of 1926 in Fort Lauderdale. This hurricane wrecked Miami and went on to do much damage to Moore Haven and the west side of Lake Okeechobee. Before it struck, we left our house and went to the home of neighbors, the Smileys. They had a player piano and during the storm they played it even though the house began to shake.
There was a bakery near by and bread was in the oven and jelly rolls had been put in a big desk. A milk truck stalled nearby. During the eye of the hurricane, we got milk out of the truck and then we went to the bakery and had milk, bread and jelly rolls to eat. In the second part of the hurricane the roof started to blow off the bakery and we tied it down. The windows were blown out. We went a block and a half to our house figuring it would be blown away. It was still standing with only a few shingles blown off, but everything still got Wet.
We return to the Glades
The hurricane of 1926 killed the boom and a month or so later we returned to the Glades. Daddy moved us back in the Model T and the truck. We went down U. S. 1 to Lake Worth then west to Military Trail. We went north on Military trail and crossed the West Palm Beach Canal and took the road down the canal to twenty mile Bend, as we do today. We crossed and followed the rock road to Belle Glade and on to South Bay. The road to Lake Harbor was a muck road. From there we then took the muck road on to Sebring Farm. The move took all day.
We rented a house from a Mr. James. Vernie Boots' family lived nearby. Mr. Boots was farming too. He and his boys had a contract to keep the muck road from South Bay to Clewiston leveled off. Mr. H. 0. Sebring, son of the founder of Sebring, Florida, bought the land and started Sebring Farms in 1918. He planned to have the biggest avocado farm of all. He cleared 200 acres of custard apple land and planted the trees but the floods in 1922, 1924 and 1926 killed the trees. The hurricane coming up in 1928 was destined to put a final end to this enterprise.
On the farm there were several houses for white people and quarters for the colored. We called the house we rented in 1927 the "wrong side out house" because it had never been finished outside. Now my father was again farming on Ritta Island with Uncle Mays. They went back and forth on a 16 foot boat to work the land.
Mr. Sebring had a canal dug from the Miami Canal out in the Lake to the land at Sebring Farms so he could bring his own supplies in by boat. He had a pump run by a steam boiler to pump the water off the land. He had to bring in pine wood to fire the boiler. The canal gave us a swimming pool at our back door, we even had a diving board. All of us could swim.
My brother and sisters and I helped Daddy and Uncle Mays with the farm when we were not in school. All of us would go over to Ritta Island on the boat in the mornings. Daddy set out so much work for us to do, we usually finished up by four o'clock and we would wade back most of the way home because the lake was low. We swam the canal then we were home. This was a distance of about a mile and a half. Daddy would usually work until almost dark, he would pole the boat, unless there were a lot of people in it then he would row.
He and Uncle Mays brought out their produce on the boat. They hauled a lot of beans from the island to the mainland. We had started to school when we came back near the end of 1926 and finished the term in the spring of '27. We went the school year of 1927-'28. The school was right out here in what is now my front yard. The school teacher, Mrs. Hughes, lived with her husband and little boy on a house boat on the Bolles Canal, three miles away. Every morning, she rowed herself and her boy in a little boat the three miles, tied it to the bridge and walked to the school. In the afternoon after school they walked back to the boat and rowed home. She and her husband, Mr. Hughes had just moved the houseboat south of the bridge here a week before the new term of school was due-to start for the 1928-'29 school year.
The lake was down to 3 feet in the summer but it rained and raised the lake to 13.87 feet between the 6th and 13th of August and in September it had rained almost every day so the lake was over 16 feet elevation. My folks went to West Pain Beach on Saturday, September 15, 1928 to buy our school clothes. The new term of school was due to start on the following Monday. Thats when we found out there was a hurricane heading our way but were told it posed no threat to the Glades area.
Hurricane Strikes 1928
The Huffman Construction Company, under contract to the state, was finally building a highway from South Bay to Clewiston. A big dipper dredge was working a half mile west of the Mami Locks. On this Saturday, because it was something new, almost all the boys were there watching the operation of the dragline that was driving piling across the South Florida Conservation drainage canal. It began to drizzle in the afternoon and the men knocked off and went to their house boat. We went home and found that our folks had returned from West Palm Beach. They had been told that an oncoming hurricane was in no danger of turning toward the Glades.
Clarence Lee and his wife lived in a house about 200 feet North-East of our house. They talked about going to South Bay which they did the next day, which was Sunday. Nobody really expected the hurricane to hit. Next day, we harvested a bunch of raw peanuts, came back and boiled them about the middle of the afternoon. Everbody came over to eat them. The wind was really beginning to blow and you could see the wave action over the little old mud dike which protected the mainland at that time. Everybody had enjoyed the peanuts and just before dark they picked a house for everybody to go and take refuge in.
They picked V. B. Thirsk's, the caretaker's house. Everybody except Uncle Minor went there. He stayed in our house to look after things. By the time we got to Mr. Thirsk's house, water was already knee deep and rising, apparently the old mud dike, five to eight feet high and about forty feet thick at the base, had been breached by the lake and was washed away. The house was a good four feet off the ground. By the time all the families had got in, the water was high enough that it was coming into the house. They put all the small kids on the table in the kitchen. As we went in the back door the water continued to rise until it was halfway up the windows and rising more. In the Thirsk house, which was large, there was in addition to Mr. and Mrs. Thrisk, our family, the Boots family, a Swede, Karl Karanch and several other people. The rest were colored. I don't know how many there were. Mr. Will reports that there were 21 whites and 42 blacks. The colored people were in the front part of the house and they went through a hole in the ceiling and some of the whites went through the same hole. My family all went through a hole in the kitchen.
By the time all of us got up in the ceiling the water was up over the windows. The wind was deafening and when there was a lull you could hear the black people singing praying and crying. The weather picked up and the house was moving. Of course, I didn't know what was happening as I was only 13 years old but I was told later that the house floated off the piling and water came up in the attic.
Mr. Thirsk and Daddy had knocked some of the metal roofing loose, making a hole through the roof. Daddy got out and was pulling a piece of tin off the roof and the wind blew him off the roof. That was the last he saw of the house. He came up swimming on top of the water and he came in contact with a telephone pole. He hung on to the braces holding the first cross-arm until the water started down. The water was holding him up there. That's how high it was. As the wind slackened and the water receded, he slid down the pole and huddled there all night.
Mr. Thirsk got out after Daddy and took his wife out. He reached back into the house and grabbed someone else to pull out and it happened to be me. He and his wife straddled the top of the house and he pushed me up there. He was trying to get other people out of the house when the house disappeared altogether. It was pitch dark and you couldn't see anybody or anything. I started swimming toward the other houses which would have been East of this house that we were in. I don't know how long I had been trying to swim until I bumped into some floating timber. I decided to hang on, which I did for the wind and the water carried me South of the old Sebring Farm. Eventually, the timbers I was holding on to and trying to ride stopped moving. The water got shallow, I tried to push them and couldn't so I crawled up on them and pulled a little old sweater that I had on up over my head as the wind and the rain were driving so hard against me. I sat there until daylight, then I attempted to swim back North. The water here was about knee deep and as I walked the water got deeper. After some hard wading I saw there were people off to my right. I started hollering and walking toward them. They finally heard me and it turned out to be Roy, Vernie and Willie Boots. They waited on me and thought until I got up there that I was their fourth brother. It turned out that he was lost.
We waded together and we finally saw the telephone pole that towered over the Miami Canal and then the regal palms at the Bolles Hotel. We kept going toward the hotel because we figured it might be standing which it was. We came out on the old highway about a half mile from the Miami Canal. We came out near where Mrs. Larrick lives today.
There were no houses there at that time but we came to a house South of the road here which I believed was Dr. Tatum's, which the hurricane waters had floated south, back about a fourth of a mile from the old highway. In this house, Mrs. Marlin Lee and their family and old Mr. Burt Little and his son survived the storm. The house had floated off its blocks on Sebring Farm, floated a quarter of a mile and it had weathered the storm with the people in it. We walked up to the house and met up with these people and they were chewing sugar cane that Mr. Tatum was trying to grow for old Southern sugar which is U. S. Sugar today. We chewed some cane with then.
The men folks had waded out and gone to the old Bolles hotel in Lalke Harbor to see if they could find a boat fine. Mr. Lee brought one back to pick up his wife and small children. I waded up the ditch from that house to Road 27 which was right where Mrs. Larricks house is today which would be half way of tile middle of section one. We were watching while the men were trying get the boat tied up so everybody could get in it. I heard someone call my name, I looked up and saw my Daddy across the canal. I jumped in and swam across to him I was glad to see him and he was glad to see me. He had been looking for menbers of our family. He thought that we were all lost until he saw me.
The Boots boys went to the Bolles Hotel. Daddy and I went back to the old Sebring Farm. We met Uncle Minor Thomas who had been searching for members of the family and haden't found anybody. He had Gone up in the attic of the "wrong side out" house as the water rose. It was big enough for me, my brother and him to sleep up there as we always did. The attic had broken loose from the house. He got out on top of it and it floated across the road and stopped. We sat straddle of it that night We then met up with Mr. Thirsk and the four of us searched around and didn't find anybody.
We went back to the old Bolles Hotel to spend the night. It was open to everybody who could squeeze in. We went to sleep on the floor. Some of the women had beds, only a few beds were available, the men slept on the floor. We made do with what little we had to eat. Most of the crew that were on the construction job had survived and they had gone down and salvaged the canned goods that was on their cook boat, brought it back to the hotel and set up a kitchen. They fed people with what little they could find.
The caretaker of the hotel, which was being remodeled, had at first refused to let people come in. Someone had persuaded him to change his mind and when we arrived I did not see him around. I think he had been sent away. In the meantime some of the commercial fishermen got some of their boats running so they could go to Clewiston.
On Monday, after the hurricane, some of the men in Clewiston put boats together there. Jim Beardsley and Dean Duff were among those who came out to check on everybody at Lake Harbor. They took some people back to Clewiston and brought back food. Mrs. Hamilton, who was the lock tender, took over the kitchen and tried to head things up at the old Bolles Hotel.
That morning after the storm, as people were grimly searching for the lost in the waters, old Mr. Callahan came out of his two-story house where he lived alone down below Lake Harbor. The old house was about to fall down but it had somehow withstood the storm. The old man got out on the roadway and was walking along. He was so deaf he could hardly hear. He saw everybody searching in the water but when someone said something to him he would cup his hand to his ear and say, "Eh"? Not being able to understand them. Finally, looking around he asked, "What in the hell is going on?" They shouted, "We had a hurricane, Where are you going?" He replied, "I'm going down to the post office to see if I got some mail". They told him, "There ain't no post office, it's gone". Miss Maude Wingfield's store and post office built out in the lake at Ritta had been blown away. Even in face of such great tragedy there was the momentary relief of the comic.
Mrs. Hughes, the school teacher, and her little boy were among those who were lost. Mr. Hughes held on to his wife and little boy in one of the cypress trees out here along the old river bed. They drowned in his arms. The wind and the water was just too rough. He hung on to them and knew exactly where they wrere when it was over and got them out first. They were the first bodies to be taken to the boat house. We found all of our family on Tuesday. Uncle Mays and Aunt Berta were found up at Mr. Bishop's farm but even though we looked, we never did find their son and daughter. All the bodies were taken to the boat house of the Bolles Hotel. On Wednesday they were wrapped in sheets and put in pine coffins that the people from Clewiston and that area had sent in by boats. All the dead were postively identified and their names put on the pine boxes.
All of our family and everybody they had identified were taken to Clewiston on a large seine boat. On Wednesday night, the seine boat broke loose from the tug that was pulling it. It drifted into rocky reef which is just out of Clewiston. The boat was loaded with people and had to go on. We got to Clewiston and my daddy found a fisherman there who had his moter boat running and they went out and got the seine boat with the bodies on it and towed it in. The pine coffins were then taken from Clewiston by trucks to Ortona Locks under the supervision of Ed Frierson and Glenn Williams who lived at Liberty Point.
The cemetery was on the other side of Moore Haven. We buried the dead that night at 12:00 o'clock. Later on my daddy went back and had cypress wood crosses erected. The names of each person was painted on with white paint. Daddy always kept the place clean and the markers kept up. In 1943 I put permanent markers there. We came back to Clewiston that night and my dad left me to spend the night with Dean Duff at his house on the ridge. My daddy came back to Lake Harbor and searched some more for my uncle's little boy and girl but he couldn't find them. He tried to salvage and save anything of ours that he could find. He came back the next day.
The day after that my mother's brother (Joseph Loper) came in from Davie, Florida and my dad's brother from Belle Glade and we went with them to Hollywood. We met my aunt Edna Drawdy, my father's sister, from Madison, who had come down before the hurricane to visit Rufus Thomas in Hollywood. They made a decision to send me back to Madison with Aunt Edna to go to school. My daddy returned to Sebring farm and Ritta Island to salvage what he could and start farming again. I stayed in Madison and went to school until about a month before school was out. My daddy wrote and said he needed me to help him on Ritta to finish up a tomato crop he had to harvest.
My Aunt bought me a ticket and put me on the train to West Palm Beach. My daddy picked me up there and I came back to Lake Harbor and helped him finish up what little farming he had to do and I went back to Madison the following years and came home every summer. I graduated from Madison High School in 1935. I went to the University of Florida for three years. I had to drop out to help my Daddy on the farm and never did return to the University.
(Mutt) Thomas married Virginia in 1941 in Allapatta, Fla and they went to Lake Harbor where she taught school.
Permanent headstones erected by C.A. "Mutt" Thomas in 1947 in memory of members of his family and others that lost their lives in the 1928 Hurricane.
"Mutt" Thomas, is the nephew of Melvin Johnson, husband of Ovieda Hardin Johnson of Pompano Beach. Oviedas' Family. The Hardins, were pioneers of Pompano, being among the first settlers in this area. Their permission given for the printing of this story. (bg)
We were called into the auditorium at Pompano High School on a Monday following the attack and we listened on a radio connected to a loud speaker as President Roosevelt made his famous speech and called upon the Congress of the United States to declare war on Japan, which they did. Little did we realize what a great impact this action would have on us as individuals and upon the country, and the world for generations to come.
Of the students sitting there in the auditorium listening to the declaration of war, James Mulkey and his brother, Harvin would be killed in flying accidents, Marion Fugate would be killed in a flying accident, James Hardin would be killed in action, Stanley Rowlett would be killed in action, Billy McClellan, student council president who called the meeting to order in the auditorium would be shot down, wounded and made a prisoner of war in Germany for two years. His brother, Sterling Mc Clellan would be killed in action. Devan Knight would be killed in action, Do-Do Ne Smith would be killed in action. Oscar Johnson a classmate of mine would be shot down over Germany and spend two years as a Prisoner of war. The tragedies and tribulations of this action would eventually affect each and every one of us.
I am attempting to set down all I can remember about this time beginning with this segment with the time I spent in the U.S. NAVY.
More examinations, tests and those shots, especially the one with the square needle, some guys just keeled over when their turn came. Me, I guess I had had so many cuts and bruises while growing up it just didn't bother me. Boot camp went by so fast it was just a blur, I do remember one night we had a fire drill and my station was in the administration building about two hundred yards from our barracks, and I was running flat out to get to my post and I cut through the back of some barracks and did not see a drainage ditch about two feet deep and when I hit that ditch I thought the world had come to an end. Luckily I was not seriously hurt but I was late to my first and last fire drill while in boot camp.
Boot camp was two hours of physical exercise in the morning and two hours in the afternoon, and there was not a sprig of grass on that field and the sand would blister our stomachs and backs. We had a neat obstacle course and only one recruit that never made it around. He was something like thirty years old and weighed about two hundred fifty pounds. When he shaved off his mustache that he had worn nearly all his adult life, his upper lip swelled up and he was in some pain for several days. Needless to say they sent him to cooks and bakers school as he was just too big and out of shape for anything else.
After finishing bootcamp,(I nearly had to repeat it as I got sick, cat fever) and spent a week in sick bay. Actually what I had, I found out many years later, was an allergic reaction to the tetanus shot. Our platoon was divided up and the division came at the letter G. So I went to Cecil Field which was an auxiliary air station about twenty miles West of Jacksonville for the training of Dive Bomber pilots and crewmen. My Friend, Cecil Miller with whom I had palled around with and joined up with was sent to the Banana River Naval Air Station in Cocoa Beach.
In boot camp we were not allowed any liberty and we had to wash our clothes by hand. We hung them up to dry using "clothes stops" to tie them to the clothes line. They were short cords about fourteen inches long and about the size of a shoe string. When they were dry we had to fold and roll them up as they had been doing in the NAVY for hundreds of years, then we tied them with the stops. Now that we were out of boot camp we could wash and dry our clothes in machines and iron or press them however we wanted.
All recruits arriving at Cecil Field had to spend two months Compartment cleaning and two months mess cooking, and not in that order, I picked compartment cleaning first as there would be no personnel inspections, just a weekly barracks inspection. These two months passed very quickly and uneventfully. I opted to do my mess cooking immediately after the compartment cleaning so I could get on with other things. I guess I kind of overdid it while working around the mess hall just to much to eat and I wound up weighing close to one hundred eighty five pounds which was a far cry from my enlistment weight of one hundred forty pounds. Luckily, as soon as my mess detail was over and I got back to regular eating I lost back down to my normal weight.
I was eventually assigned to a Group on the flight line. I was assigned an airplane, A Douglas Dauntless SBD-4 (Scout Bomber Douglas) dive bomber, it was my plane to take care of, to keep it clean, see it was gassed up, had oil, hydraulic fluid and that everything on it worked. When it returned from a flight the pilot would give me a thumbs up if everything was ok and a thumbs down if there was something wrong with it. Then if there was a thumbs down I would climb upon the wing and it would be my job to determine if this were a minor or major problem and then I would act accordingly, either park it back on line or run it over to the hanger for further help.
After breakfast, we would go to the flight board in one of the hangers and check to see what kind of and how many flights our planes would make that day. We would pick-up the "Yellow Sheet" which was a check off list that had to be filled out on every airplane on the line every day. There must have been at least three hundred checks to be made before that plane could be signed up as ready to fly. We only had about thirty minutes to check our plane out, pull the propeller through at least ten times (to lubricate the cylinders and to make sure that there was no oil pooled in the lower cylinders as they could burst if this happened).
If the weather was cold which it generally was there was a big race to see if we could get our planes' engine running before the fellow in front of you did because then the wind chill factor, which we never heard of in those days would just paralyze you with cold.
My plane was an old SBD 4 that had been returned from the fleet as had most of our planes and they had been shot up and down and wrecked and some of them were in bad shape. My group was the only group of the old fours, the newer ones the SBD 5 were a cleaner newer plane. There were twelve planes in a group and we were lucky if we had six flying at any one time.
These planes were started with an inertia starter, that is a crank much like a old automobile crank, was inserted on the right side to the rear and at the bottom of the engine and with much effort and weight on this crank it slowly began to turn and it got faster and faster until you could barely hang onto the crank and if you were starting the plane by yourself then it was a mad scramble to remove the crank run around behind the wing, scramble upon the wing climb into the cockpit turn on the ignition switch, set the throttle one fourth open, set the carb mixture on rich, put your feet on the brakes, unlock the control stick, pull it back, grab the fuel pump, pump it four times and pull the starter toggle lever and hope you still had enough inertia to turn that 1200 HP engine over fast enough to start it and not catch it on fire.
If it failed to start and the outside temp was in the thirties or forties and the plane in front started up, Man you were in trouble. Just a word about the inertia starters, they were on the same order as the toy cars we have now days that you push along the floor several times, put them down and they run until the inertia runs out. Now that we have the engine running, we check the oil pressure, the gas gages, run up the RPMs and check both magnetos to see if they both work, open the landing flaps, open the dive flaps, but you never pull the landing gear lever while on the ground or you would really be on the ground. Now we have checked the vital functions of the plane, we mark the "YELLOW SHEET" in its entirety with an OK and hope that it is as there is not time to check everything, the pilots are already on their way out to the line.
Every pilot, actually he is a student pilot although he already has his wings, is training to be a Dive Bomber pilot and he has a radioman gunner assigned to him and they will be a team even after they complete their training and go on to the fleet. With every flight of students there is a flight leader and he is their teacher, generally he is an experienced combat pilot and has been brought back from the fleet as an instructor. This leader does not have a radioman gunner assigned and we on the flight line are paid flight pay (commonly known as “flight skins”) which amounts to fifty dollars a month extra so when a flight instructor is assigned to a plane he will have the plane captain, which is what we are called to go get flight gear,sign the flight plan and hop aboard, we have no choice in this matter, if we get “flight skins” we have to fly.
One of my more nerve wracking flights occurred while with an instructor. The students had already taken off and we were the last to go and the engine quit on us just as we left the ground and we wound up on the grass at the end of the runway, the students who were on a familiarization flight which meant this was their first time up in a SBD had already gone, so the pilot radioed the tower to send out someone to tow us back onto the runway and we would try it again as the students were all alone. They did and we tried again only this time the plane began to backfire and miss but kept running, and the pilot being an old hand at this finally got it smoothed out and we caught up with our students and we headed North over the Okeefanokee swamps of South Georgia. We were not in the clear yet, soon our plane began to backfire and miss and we lost some altitude before the pilot got it running smooth again. Instead of returning to the field as we should have he told the tower he would try to complete the flight. It wasn't very long before the engine once again began acting up and we lost quite a bit of altitude and the pilot called me on the intercom and asked if I had ever bailed out of an airplane before, well, that got my attention, so I very forcefully told him I had not and that I didn't want to make a parachute jump now either. He informed me that if this engine did not begin running better very soon we had no choice but to jump, and for me to tighten the parachute straps between my legs and around my chest and shoulders as tight as I could and when I went over the side of the ship to be very careful not to snag the ripcord on anything and that I was to dive head first just behind the wing.
By this time I am really scared and looking over the side of the plane I could see right away that we were already too low to make a parachute jump and I told him this and he said not to worry as he could get us down among those cypress trees and the water didn't look to be very deep. Luckily, as ws skimmed along just above the treetops he got the engine running smoothly again and he radioed the students to return to the field. We made it back although we could not gain much altitude, we sputtered and bucked along got emergency landing clearance and just as we touched down the engine quit dead and we had to be towed to the hanger.
One of my most memorial ocassions was getting to fly rear seat with Lt. Commander Max Leslie, and Lt. Commander Wade McClusky. Heroes and veterans of the Coral Sea and Midway battles. They had returned from the fleet and were instructing at Cecil. Cecil Field, during the war years, was an auxiliary air station and only had about fifteen hundred men and women total. Today it is a Naval Air Station and I imagine it has several times that many. CHIEF SMITH was the LEADING CHIEF at Cecil Field during this time. Chief CAMPBELL and CHIEF MC INTIRE were the line Chiefs. They were the best. Chief Campbell was a "slick arm chief" (no four year hash marks) that had been with the famous "BLACK CAT SQUARDON" in the Pacific and was now attached to Cecil. Even with this few people we had a really high mortality rate.
One morning we had nine crashes with six men killed. Most of them on and around the field, this rash of crashes on this day was caused by a heavy fog that moved in on the field at mid-morning. One of the crashes occurred off the end of one of the runways and I caught one of the fire trucks as it left the field going to the crash site. We were allowed to do this as all personnel was fire and rescue trained. When we arrived at the crash, the plane had gone down in the pine trees off the end of the runway, the rear seat man was dead, the pilot was still alive, his shoulder harness had broken and he smashed his face into the gun sight that was mounted on the dash in front of the windscreen. His face and head was not a pretty sight, he died later that day in the base hospital.
We had a rash of dive bombing accidents where the planes never even attempted to pull out of their dives, and after plowing into the ground or the ocean from an altitude of ten-thousand feet there was no one to make a report on what was happening. At one time a student pilot pulled out of one of these near crashes and finally the mystery, or should I say the reason for these crashes was pinpointed. Some of the older dive bombers had the aiming type bombsights that looked like a telescope and extended through the windshield of the plane. When the pilot peeled off for his dive, he placed his eye against the rubber eye piece of the sight, lined it up on his target and guided the plane towards the target and in some instances it was found the pilot was memorized by this procedure, and not being able to view his instruments and not getting a true picture of his whereabouts he was just too close to the ground to pull the plane out of the dive and therefore he went in. Needless to say, all of the planes that had this type sight had them removed and the glass prism combination gun and bomb sight installed. It was a real pity that so many men died because of something as simple as this, this sight had been standard in the Navy for many years.
Dive bombing was practiced from an altitude of ten-thousand feet. We carried five practice bombs and only one bomb was dropped at a time, therefore we made five dives for each practice mission. Upon reaching the proper height the instructor usually made the first dive, and the last dive so he could watch the students, If we were diving over a land target, we aimed at a huge bulls-eye, if diving over the ocean we either dive bombed a towed target or bombed a special small boat the Navy had that would withstand the effects of the practice bomb, and they would try to evade the bombs which they most always did, and I can't say I blamed them.
This brings me to another experience I had that at the time seemed life-threatening like the engine that kept quitting over the Okeefanokee swamp, but as it turned out it only scared me. We had a group of English Royal Navy fliers that were being sent to different bases and squadrons for experience, they had just left the fighter base at Banana river and came to us for a stay. The first day they were going dive-bombing guess what? They were assigned to my group of SBD 4s and not having an assigned radioman-gunner, I along with the rest of the plane captains in our group were sent over to pick-up flight gear.
We had a short briefing with the British pilots, some of them were combat veterans, and some were just students. The man I was assigned to fly with was a student, and had never flown a dive bomber before as he was a fighter pilot. His name, as if I could ever forget it was Pierson, and he, like most fighter pilots of that era was quite short in stature, so short in fact that I had to find a cushion for him to lean against for sitting on his parachute he could not reach the rudder pedals or brakes.
Pierson told me that he wanted me to watch the dive-flaps, those are the perforated flaps that are fitted to the trailing edge of the wings to keep the speed of the plane at a safe level and if they failed to open our speed would be so great that in a dive almost straight down from ten-thousand feet we would be unable to pull-out. He told me to keep an eye on the flaps and anything else that might not look right and call him on the intercom immediately if anything did not look right. I told him not to worry about that as I would sure be watching. We arrived at the dive altitude, we were diving over the ocean this particular day, and I am a little bit jittery as were the rest of the guys in our group. Here we were forty miles out over the ocean and ten-thousand feet up in the air, just about ready to go hurtling downward toward that target boat at three hundred knots with a pilot that could not touch the rudder pedals and could hardly speak understandable English. What!, me worry? You bet your "flight skins" I was worried.
We pushed over into our first dive and well horror of horrors the dive flaps were just as snug and tight against the wings as if we were sitting on the ground. I grabbed that microphone from its hook, thumbed the button and screamed at the top of my lungs, "Pierson"! I remember saying. "OPEN THE DIVE FLAPS!" and much to my relief those beautiful flaps opened up wide and I breathed a great sigh of relief. We completed this dive picture perfect, even if Pierson couldn't reach the rudder pedals.
We climbed back up to our dive altitude, and this time I was ready, I had the microphone in my hand and my thumb on the button, just in case, Now guess what happened on the second dive, the very same thing all over again, deju-vu, we pushed over and there were the flaps just as snug as they could be, same as the first dive, this time I already had my thumb on the button and I gave Pierson my best yell yet and there again, open come the flaps. This fiasco happened each and every dive and by now I am a nervous wreck, I can't understand what Pierson is saying on the radio so I am resigned to the fact that he is so preoccupied that it is going to be up to me whether we live or die, as I have already said, there would be no pulling out of a dive without those flaps open.
Our fifth and final dive is coming up and I can hardly wait to get it over with, this has been the longest forty-five minutes of my young life. On the preceding four dives I have had to remind Pierson to open the flaps, so I am prepared to do it again. Well, I had hung the Mike back on is hook as we climbed back up to our dive altitude,and just as we leveled off and just before We pushed over for our fifth and final dive, THE FLAPS WERE TIGHT AGAINST THE WING AS WITH THE OTHER DIVES, I reached for the mike, and as I brought it off its hook, the cord hung on something and PULLED THE WIRE COMPLETLY OUT OF THE MIKE. What had I done to deserve a fate such as this? Pierson was depending on me to tell him to open his flaps, and here I am with a cordless mike in my hand and no way to talk with him, And just at this instant, we pushed over into our fifth and final dive, and I thought this was probable OUR FINAL DIVE EVER. I pounded on the side of the plane hoping that Pierson would hear me and realize something was wrong. I was screaming at the top of my lungs,"PIERSON YOU IDIOT, OPEN THOSE FLAPS", and would you believe, those flaps opened and with the drag they created it felt as if someone applied the brakes, and I was so relieved, because I had made up my mind that if those flaps did not open real soon, then I was going to depart that airplane and leave Pierson with it.
That fifth and final dive came off as nice as could be expected. We formed up, headed back to the field. And after we landed and got out of the plane I showed Pierson the broken microphone cord and told him what happened, and told him that was why I didn't call him on that fifth dive. Pierson said he wondered why I never called him, then said he knew all along the flaps were not open and that he was deliberately leaving them closed until we had dropped several hundred feet to, as he put it, "stabilize the dive". I guess it was a good thing he was a guest in our country and on our base for the way I felt then I could have done him in and felt good about it.
A sad commentary regarding the English Fliers, their squadron leader, a pilot that had over a hundred missions against the Germans crashed during one of the training dives and was killed and with that I guess their nomad training came to an end. It was rumored later that he was a victim of the telescopic sight. I had seen the last of Flying officer Pierson, but I have never forgotten him.
On another occasion the Brits were taking off and as we watched, one of them had the plane up on both wheels with the tail extra high and we could see he was running out of run-way and sure enough he did and went onto the grass and hit the barrier ditch full tilt, only then did he become airborne, but unfortunately he was upside down when he did. He was lucky that he wasn't hurt, he had forgotten to unlock his controls before he began his take-off.
Riding an airplane straight down for nine-thousand feet was something that has not been duplicated from a standpoint of excitement and thrills as far as I know. When the plane pulled out of the dive if you watched the reflection of your face in the radar screen mounted in front of you on the dash, then you would see the effects of the four to six G's on your face as it would sag down to your chest and before you blacked out, which you always did for a few seconds when the blood drained from your head you looked like something out of a horror magazine.
Not all fatal accidents happened in the air or while flying, one morning as the planes in the group ahead of me were warming up, directly in front of me a chute billowed out and up and I was immediately showered with blood and bits of flesh. lying on the ground in front of me was a severed hand and all sorts of human body parts. The planes in the group where the accident occurred immediately shut down and we all ran to see what had happened and if there was anything we could do. The sad part was a radioman gunner while climbing into the rear seat somehow snagged the ripcord of his chute and with all the planes turning up his chute opened and pulled him off his plane and into the prop of the plane immediately behind him and this was just one of the fatals we had. Another time the planes after landing were taxiing onto the apron and one pilot ran his plane upon the fuselage of the plane ahead of him and the wing killed the radioman gunner in the rear seat.
Security for the base was basically up to the Marine detachment stationed there. This is not to say that there were not any Marine flyers, because there were Marine pilots and radioman gunners training alongside the Navy flyers. The Marines kept the gate and the perimeter outside the fence and the personnel on base did guard duty in the hangers and on the line at night.
At one time a detail of U.S.Coast Guardsmen and their guard dogs were brought on base and they along with the Navy Seamen Guard stood guard duty. It didn't take but a couple of nights standing line-guard duty with a Coast Guard and his dog to realize that the dog would do the watching, and we could snooze to our hearts content because if anyone or anything came anywhere near the dog would growl or bark. Life on the line at night became almost a pleasure after this.
There was the lighter times at Cecil, just catch a hop with the LSO (Landing Signal Officer) to the outlaying strips in either a stearman or piper cub and away we would go chasing cows and horses all over North Florida hedge hopping around scaring everything in sight. On one occasion while off in a Piper cub, we received a recall due to approaching bad weather and by the time we reached Cecil the winds were near hurricane force and the pilot had to "fly us in", and we were about six or eight feet off the ground when the wind caught us and slammed us down to the deck with such force that the bungee cord shocks broke, the wheels spraddled out, I bottomed out and bent the control rod running under the seat and nearly went through the plane to the ground.
One of the more enjoyable flights were the flying runs we made at the Yellow Water Gunnery School letting the student gunners take target practice at us (simulated) we flew by just off the ground and at high speed while they tracked us. One of the better times were the dances that were held in one of the hangers on different occasions. We could invite our "civilian friends",(girlfriends and wives) and that is the only time we could have beer other than at the PX or at one of the frequent beer parties we held in a wooded area on base.
I will set down some of the happenings without going into much detail for lack of time and space. Night flying was scheduled almost every night of the week, and the duty section bore the brunt of it. The most detested duty was the Smudge Pot Detail. The runways were not lighted and these smudge pots or "flambeaus" which were round metal cannisters with a wick and were filled with kerosene were lined along both sides of the runway about fifty feet apart and after the flights left the field, they were lighted. The nasty part came after night flying was secured and they had to be gathered-up, cleaned-up and refueled. You just can't imagine how dirty and greasy that soot, or as the good ole boys called it "smut". By the time this detail was taken care of, and you cleaned yourself up, it was almost daylight.
Another newsy happening, one of the Wave plane Captains (She had a piper cub and her pet name was "littlebit). Hdad her name posted on the medical restricted list (Gonorrhea) boy did she have trouble living that down. We were continually "Buzzed" by Army and Navy fighter planes, (P-47s, P-51s, P-38s, F4Fs, F6Fs and F4Us.) they would suddenly appear and go skimming along just off the ground make a lot of noise, and be gone while the tower would get on the loudspeaker and yell for someone to get his number, but nobody ever did. We kind of looked forward to these happenings.
A three plane group of old vindicator dive bombers flew-in stayed a couple of hours and when they left they took-off abreast, and just to show off a little, they got up to flying speed and immediately raised their landing gear. All of them except one that is, he must have been just a little heavier that the other two because when his gear came-up the plane came down, and that was probable the end of his flying career.
A five plane group of "Avengers" in transit arrived from Naval air station, Ft. Lauderdale and fueled up, all the enlisted crew members had an eagle and a snake tattoed on their left arms and hand. The snake was on the hand and the eagle had its claws extended as if it were about to pick-up the snake. The wings of the eagle extended up their arm all the way to their elbows. I never heard them say what the significance of their "art work" was all about.
A similar thing happened one day while we were at one of the field carrier landing sites. We were eating lunch and around the field came an F4F and he got into the landing pattern downwind, then his cross-wind leg and lined up with the "sweetspot" on the strip, cut his engine and dropped right in, on his belly no less, he had forgotten to lower his landing gear. Boy was that one sick pilot. I must mention the "whistlers". That refers to the planes that returned from fixed gunnery practice over the ocean and they had shot a fifty cal. hole through their prop. The timing mech would go haywire, or there would be a "lazy" primer cap in one of the rounds and it would just punch a neat round hole in the prop. You could hear the whistling a long ways off.
I completed my required assignments for AMM3/c, passed the finals and had my name posted for the rate but before it became effective, for some reason or the other all rates were frozen and all of us were left out in the cold (No pun intended). It was then that I decided I would seek a transfer out of the VSB program and transfer to Fleet duty. This wasn't easy to do but I had become friendly with and was dating a Wave that worked in personnel. She kept me posted when calls would come in for ship assignments, and when there were two Destroyers that were asking for replacements I applied and my friend just filled out the proper papers, asked me which of the two I preferred, (I picked the even numbered one. USS NIBLACK DD 424). The other one was the USS LUDLOW DD 438. This action was not to say I didn't enjoy my stay at Cecil Field, quite the contrary I would not trade the experiences I had there for anything under the sun, So after my friend cut my orders I said farewell to Cecil Field and the friendly people of Jacksonville and went on to the Fleet and Sea Duty and that is the beginning of the second phase of my Navy life.
(THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN PLACED IN THE HISTORICAL ARCHIVES AT THE US NAVAL AIR STATION, JACKSONVILLE, FL. OCTOBER IST, 1993 BY CAPT. CRAMER BASE COMMANDER.)Back to Top
The telephone call to Oscar Johnson in August 1998 by a person with a non understandable accent was the beginning of a bizarre set of circumstances that had lain idle and out of his mind since he was shot down,wounded ,parachuted down from 32.000 feet and captured by German soldiers just outside of Hamberg, Germany on a bombing run to Hamberg on December 31, 1944.
Oscar.K. Johnson was born and raised in Pompano, the son of a pioneer family that were among the original settlers in Pompano near the turn of the century. Oscar was attending Pompano high school when WW II erupted in 1941. Upon reaching the age of 17 years, Oscar did as many of the young men in Pompano and this country did, he joined the Army Air Corp with hopes of becoming a pilot. This hope did not materialize because the quota for cadet training was filled and Oscar trained as an air crewman, attended gunnery school in Arizona and became a ball-turret gunner on a B-17 four engine bomber. After training, he was stationed in England.
Oscar says,"on our 24th mission, when returning from a raid on Hamberg, we were attacked by German F/W 190 fighters". After an initial flurry of fighter runs and after Oscar believed he had destroyed two of them from the ball turret, he saw a fire had started in the wheel-well of the #2 engine which was visible only to him at this time. His report on the intercom of the fire resulted in the order by the pilot to bail-out. He depressed his twin 50 cal. guns which allowed him to climb out of the turret back into the plane, snapped on his chute and jumped out of the rear exit door into that -20 degree air. All the crew made it safely out, except the pilot and co-pilot. They were still in the plane when it exploded. "I thought they were dead, Oscar recalled", but later on they showed up in a POW camp alive and well. Having both been blown out of and clear of the plane. Floating to the ground, Oscar was concerned with the German fighters that circled he and other crew members. They left only after their escort of P-47s arrived and drove them off. Reaching the ground, they were quickly rounded-up by German soldiers and trucked off to a stockade.
After spending the remainder of the war in a POW camp, Stalag 15, Oscar was liberated by the American Army at the end of hostilities. He along with some of his crew members were moved around, flown to camp Lucky-Strike in La-Harve France, and there by chance met up with a Pompano native and good friend, Bill McClellan. Also an aircrewman on a bomber who was returning home after being been shot down, wounded and held as a POW. Oscar said he was the first person he had met that he knew since going overseas. They returned to the States and on to the separation center and returned to Pompano together.
Oscar returned to school and continued on with his life. It was after receiving this phone call more than 50 years later did these strange things began to unfold. The call was from a Belgian citizen and in his broken English inquired if this was the Oscar Johnson that had been shot down and made a POW in Belgium in 1944. He informed Oscar that he was Jean BLUM and he had in his possession some personal articles that belonged to him from WW II and he would like to return them to him. Oscar says that regulations prohibited flyers to carry anything on missions but their dog-tags and this was mandatory. Also, if a man failed to return from a mission, his personal belongings were gathered, inventoried and sent to his next of kin.
Following is an exact reproduction of the correspondence of these bizarre happenings.
The letter that Jean BLUM sent to Oscar through the City of Pompano.is as follows:
Oscar said "this following letter was received by me from a friend of Mr. BLUMS."
Oscar is not sure of the exact order in which these letters were dispatched, Apparently, Jean BLUM wrote the Army information office in Brussels
after he had sent the wallet (portfolio) and other articles to them. (telling of the "portfolio") and they supplied him with the information that
he included in the letter he wrote to the "City of Pompana" that was relayed to Oscar. After not hearing from him, Jean BLUM and the Army HQ
information officer wrote Oscar asking for more information on this happening and posing 20 questions regarding the series of events surrounding
the "portfolio" and of his POW treatment and other personel observations relating to this incident for an article of historic significance of same.
Where Jean BLUM got the information contained in the letter to Oscar, telling about his Army awards and other information of serial # and school
had to come from the Army, just adds to the mystery of this incident. The events leading up to and finally resulting in the return of the Wallet
and papers to Oscar after all these years leaves many unanswered questions and naturally concerns Oscar and he seeks a plausible explanation as to
how, where and when his possessions left his barracks, where he left them on December 31, 1944 before embarking on the mission that resulted in his
being shot down and taken prisoner by the Germans and held until the end of the war and never again returning to his base in England.
Stranger things have happened to other ex-members of the military after their return from foreign duty but this incident leaves about as many unanswered questions as there are answered ones. To Oscar Johnson, these are things that he will wonder about and maybe someday the "rest of the story" will be revealed to him.
(Thanks to Oscar Johnson for allowing this very interesting, intriguing ,true story to be written and published for all to see and read. Happenings such as this come along very few times and are revealed in such detail even less.) BGBack to Top
September, a month that reflects a change in the seasons in South Florida and not always for the best.The month of September has shown South Florida, and yes, Pompano, what can happen during this month that has made such a pronounced change and effect on our way of life. I am talking about the Hurricanes that have descended upon us during this month and more specifically, labor day.
The year 1926, the month, Sept. The day, 17th th., spawned a Hurricane that came ashore, unannounced in Miami It traveled on up the coast into Ft. Lauderdale and Pompano killing numerous people and destroying a great many homes and businesses all up and down the Florida coast from South of Miami to North of Pompano. This hurricane crossed the glades and descended on parts of Lake Okeechobee inflecting further damage and deaths.
The Month of September, day, 16th, the year, 1928. Again heralded the vicious onslaught of that terrible killer Hurricane that ripped through Ft. Lauderdale and Pompano, wrecking many homes and businesses, crossing the glades and venting its fury on the Southern part of Lake Okeechobee, dropping huge amounts of rain and with high winds destroyed over 20 miles of earthen dikes that kept the waters of Lake Okeechobee pretty much contained, that was already at a very high level as a result of a rainy Sept, but could not withstand the imbalance of power that nature subjected it to and when the mud dams gave way the water from the swollen lake rushed out, washing away homes, businesses, and also multitudes of people that were in harms way and some 2000 people were reportedly killed and or missing and thousands upon thousands were forced from their homes.
Another Labor day Hurricane, in 1935 came out of the Atlantic Ocean and went howling across the Florida Keys with winds estimated at 200 mph. The Overseas Railroad was almost completely demolished by the wind and wave actions of the tidal wave that swept across the road and railroad bed and the low lying keys. It was estimated some 577 people were killed or missing some were members of the CCC (Civilian Conversation Corp) a Government funded agency of those times who were doing construction work in the Florida Keys.
Hurricane David 1979 (now they were given names) skirted just off shore of Pompano Beach coming ashore at Fort pierce, Human life was spared in this Hurricane, but never the less, it was a Labor Day Hurricane.
I joined the US Navy and after I returned to Pompano at the end of that war I was taking stock of the direction I might take for my life. Bill stopped by my house one day and asked if I were working and if not would I help him in the plumbing business that his dad had turned over to him. He needed a plumbers helper and he thought of me. I agreed to work for him as he was plumbing in the summertime and was actively engaged in winter vegetable farming also with his dad. It so happened I was in the same situation so we agreed to plumb in the summertime and farm in the winter. This arrangement worked out fine. He was the plumber and I was his helper. We became fast friends and our work was rewarding. Bill finally quit farming and went into the plumbing, septic tank and LP gas business full time, I helped him for many years in all of these endeavors.
Bill had always kept an outboard fishing boat and fished whenever he could. This brings me to the true story I have decided to call: "Lost Props and Lobster pots."
One afternoon Bill came to me and proposed going outside(That was the term Pompano fishermen and boaters used for going into the ocean through the Hillsboro Inlet) to see if we could spear some lobsters on the first or second reef. The water was shallow enough in places that the special two piece gig Bill had made would enable us, after looking down through a glass bottom bucket to maybe get a mess of the spiney backs.
The boat had been partially submerged for some time so we decided to just go on out and let the boat absorb enough water to stop the leaks. This was a bad decision as it required continually bailing to keep a half way dry boat. Going out Hillsboro Inlet, we went South and could see many lobster floats marking traps that the lobster fishermen put out along the reefs. Some of these floats were "short sheeted" that is, a rope was secured on one end of the lobster trap and the other end was tied to a cork float, and this float could not rise above the surface of the water but would be suspended a couple of feet below the surface. This was great for keeping a traps location hid from poachers but bad for anyone in that area with an outboard motor that stuck down about three feet in the water. If and when the prop met one of these ropes, it would immediately wrap around the prop, usually shear the propeller pin and there you were, tied up to a lobster trap and not being able to move.
This was precisely what happened to Bill and I as we threaded our way through the floats. We had already been stopping and peering through the glass bottom bucket, although there were lobster on the bottom in the rocks, the water was a little to deep for the gig and we weren’t prepared to dive for them, although in the past we had. It was getting late in the afternoon and while moving along slowly we suddenly had the motor shut down and we came to a quick stop. Now, we had a problem, we had tangled with one of the "shorts" that was moored just below the surface. After a few choice words, Bill raised the motor up, locked it in place and began getting the rope from around the motor and propeller. It became necessary to pull-up the trap we were wrapped up to. It was only about 15 feet down. Bill finished untangling the trap and noted there were no lobster in the trap, so he dropped it overboard where it immediately sank. Bill pulled the cotterpin holding the propeller on the shaft that now spun freely because the pin had been sheared. Bill removed the nut from the shaft and in the process of removing the propeller from the shaft, a sudden wave hit the side of the boat and "horror of all horrors", Bill lost his grip on the propeller and it quickly sank to the bottom of the Atlantic into much deeper water now that we had drifted off the reef.
Unbeknown to us, our troubles were just beginning, for looking to the South, I spotted the bow waves of a boat traveling at high speed and it was heading straight for us. I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, there we were in the middle of someone’s lobster pots, couldn’t move and we had reason to believe the owners would very shortly be here checking if we were robbing his traps.
This is a very precarious situation we found ourselves in, Bill showed him the pile of rope we had unwound from the motor and told him to come aboard and see for himself that we had no lobsters, that we had been ensnared by the under water float and had to pull up the trap to get the rope free and there were no lobster in the trap and we had returned it to the water.
Now, its almost dark and we are still several hundered yards out in the ocean but the wind is slowly pushing towards land. When we finally beached the boat, we were a couple miles South of the Inlet, Bill left me with the boat and went up to find a phone, which at this time they were few and far between. Bill finally returned with a spare propeller that his wife, Irene, had brought out to him after he called her. Motor repaired, we launched it into the surf, starting North, and now it was pitch black. Little did we know that our ordeal wasn’t over yet.
As we approached the inlet, we were coming in on low tide, it was dark and at that time there were no channel markers. We had to guess at the channel, but we guessed wrong and just getting even with the exposed rock on the North side of the inlet, the worst of all things that could happen to a "lapestrake" boat, we ran aground on the rocks. Without a light, other than what the lighthouse provided as it rotated, we jumped out of the boat and began pushing and pulling and shaking and, "gently" talking to it, we finally got into deeper water, climbed aboard into about 10 inches of water in the leaking boat. Continuing into the inlet and under the Hillsboro bridge, we were now home free, we thought.
Suddenly, we were blinded by a bright spotlight and a blinking red light. We were being stopped by a Marine Patrol officer. He immediately berated us for traveling without running lights. His investigation found no life preservers, no paddle, no fire extinguisher and no anchor (no lobster either). This was the first time I had ever seen a Marine patrol officer, I didn’t know we had them. After we explained the things we had experienced for the last 7 hours beginning that afternoon, he decided we were not out at night joy riding and said he would not give us any citations but not to "leave home without the essentials in the future" which we readily agreed to. He further escorted us to Bills waterfront home.
That was the last time Bill and I ever ventured outside looking for Lobster, opting to get ours in a restaurant or supermarket. I think we both felt we were very lucky in getting back in one piece.
Mrs. S.R. Cone 532 Pleasant Av.
Harrie Cone grew up in Florida and was active in various organizations, especially the boy scouts. Harry was a tall, and according to one of his favorite aunts was "very good looking" was an above average tennis player and excelled at various sports while attending the University of Florida.
Harrie belonged to the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. This fraternity had quite a contingent of boys from Plant City where he grew-up. Harrie, it seemed, was popular with the "Ladies" and it was said he had lots of "girl friends."
At the time of his death, he was engaged to be married to a young lady from Atlanta, Ga. Harrie Cone was in the last stage of his Navy service, having attended flight training and received his Gold wings.
Harrie served in Panama on his first overseas assignment. Later, he was sent to the Pacific remaining there until his stint at Banana River air Station in Cocoa Beach, Fl. Harrie G, Cone was a PBM pilot with all of his service time devoted to this huge twin engine patrol bomber.
The PBM carried 13 crew members sometimes less and sometimes more, depending on the type mission they were on.
Lt. Cone volunteered to fly this rescue mission, he wasn’t scheduled to fly but for some reason, he was the pilot of this plane on its fateful flight.
Earlier in the day on Dec 5th, 1945, five TBM "Avengers" (torpedo bombers) left the Ft. Lauderdale Naval Air Station on a routine training flight that would take them East towards Bimini, then Northeast to Great Abaco, Make another left turn and a straight run back to Ft. Lauderdale. This route had been used many times in the training of torpedo bombers in the past and it was considered a "cakewalk" as flyers put it.
Flight 19, five aircraft and with 14 men aboard, set out on the flight and unbeknown to them, their last flight, ever. Normally, there would have been 15 men on this flight, three per plane, but one of the crew members was apprehensive and asked to be relieved from the flight, there wasn’t enough time to find a replacement for him, This action saved his life and therefore the flight was one man short, 14 instead of 15.
Flight 19 had some serious navagation difficulties as most of us are now aware of. They disappeared in the "devils triangle" as it has come to be called and to this day nothing has ever been heard of or from them.
This brings us to the unsung heroes of this perplexing mystery and has just added to the legend of "the devils triangle" and has spawned many,many stories, some really way out as to what has been happening in this area off the Southern coast of Florida over the years.
The PBM "Mariner" gassed up at Banana river air station and now, comes the beginning of the "arm chair" quarter backs and so called "experts" in telling how and what probably happened to this huge flying boat.
Rumors abounded that the Mariner was a "flying coffin" because there was a constant odor of gasoline that seemed to always be present when airborne. Other "guesstamations" were that the flight was swallowed up by extra-terrestials, appearing out of tornado like funnel clouds that would interfere with the proper functions of the aircraft, mysterious magnetic fluctuations coming up from the ocean floor and causing the flight leader to lose his directions but for whatever reasons, "they were lost."
My friend and former school mate in Pompano, Bill Law, was an assistant crew leader on PBM’s during WW II at Banana River, and Bill flew many times in this "Coffin". Bill says these planes had a long range and could be airborne for up to 8 hours. Crew members were allowed to smoke while in flight but only on the flight deck. On extra long flights, they were allowed to smoke in the galley which was directly under the flight deck.
There was always the lingering odor of gasoline fumes and this was enough to deter the crew from breaking the no smoking rule except in the galley and flight deck. (Bill says that in later thinking about the odor he has come to the conclusion thay maybe the fumes were only present immediately after and while the plane was being vented.)
After taking off from Banana river, the flying boat headed East over the Atlantic Ocean to the area they had been assigned to look for any sign of the Avengers that were now several hours overdue and the Navy was mounting a massive air-sea search to see if they could locate any survivors, they already knew the planes were out of gas and would now be in the ocean, but where?
Lt. (JG) Cone at the controls of the PBM made a routine call to his base reporting his position and other pertinent information. This was the last time they would ever hear from Lt. Cone his PBM or any of his crew. They just completely vanished, and just a few miles off the Coast.
A North bound freighter radioed that he saw a huge fireball in the sky about the time it was estimated the PBM vanished. Several miles from where he was and he was going to head in that direction to check on it. Meanwhile, another tanker in the vicinity also reported seeing the same fireball and he to was going to that site. The first tanker called later and reported finding a large oil slick on the water but no debris or anything to denote what it was that blew-up.
Twenty seven men, 14 on the torpedo bombers, 13 on the PBM Mariner, vanished without a trace, never again to be heard from nothing to give a clue from either incident. And the war had already ended and these were training exercises.
Lt. (JG) Cone didn’t have to go on that fatal flight, he could have remained on the base and gone on living. It wasn’t his nature to remove himself from harms way. The war was over and there were men out in the ocean and they had to be found. That is what people that knew him said about him.
The president of the University of Florida sent Gertrude Cone a letter of condolence and said the University and his Fraternity were having a memorial service for him and a plaque would be mounted in his fraternity honoring him for his unselfishness and devotion to duty and his fellow man.
My thanks to Barbara Cone Corbett (My sister-in-law) for her help in procuring these documents and adding some of the particulars in this story. Barbara was related to Harrie Cone although she hardly remembers him when growing up.
Also, my thanks to Bill Law for his comments and particulars concerning the PBM. Maybe someday someone will discover some wreckage. There was a huge search conducted by one of the television documentary makers looking for the crash site and any remains of the PBM. Their search was fruitless, but I think they will keep at it until something is found or something to shed some light in these and other "happenings" in the "Devils Triangle."
This tragedy happened sixty years ago on December 5th, 1945 and that would have made Lt. Harrie Cone eighty three years old today. Let us always remember these young men whose young lives came to such a tragic end at such an early age and all the others that made the supreme sacrifice so we can continue living the "Good Life."Back to Top