Florida Lore

not found in the history books!

by Vernon Lamme 1973

Prodded by his conscience, his wife and his friends, Vernon Lamme agreed to write this book. I am delighted. And, I think Floridians and those interested in Florida will also be delighted with the exposure to his warm wit. This is a compilation of columns and stories written over a period of half a century of reporting and editing on numerous Florida newspapers, commencing with his recollections of homesteading as a young man on Merritt Island around 1912.

Mr. Lamme and I newspapered together for 10 years on the Deerfield Beach Observer and the now defunct Boynton Beach Star, and this qualifies me to be one of the friends who urged him to put columns into book form. At age eighty, he continues to write a weekly column for the Deerfield Beach Observer.

If the combination of humor and offbeat Florida history turns you on, then, settle back and enjoy.
William P. Beck 1-23-73


There surely must be more to history than just the memorizing of dates and the recording of wars. It has been substantially proven that "history is written by the victorious". It must follow that the losers might have some interesting tales to tell.

It was back in 1912 President William Howard Taft, after listening to the wailing and pleading of many Florida politicians, decided to open up for settlement a very small portion of the forest land reserved by his predecessor, Teddy Roosevelt, for the public domain. On Washington's birthday 1912 most all of the land on Merrit Island, in the Indian River, was thrown open to homesteaders. Any adult, except a wife, was entitled to 160 acres of public land who would build a house upon it the first year and the second year "cultivate" five acres and complete the necessary three-year life on the land producing 10 acres of planting. Most all of the homesteads were composed of approximately 60 percent scrub palmetto and pine trees and 40 percent "savannah", or prairie land under about 3 inches of water.

My father and I, early on the morning of February 22, 1912, in a small launch with a guide named Jim, started from Cocoa for the village of Courtenay, on the island nine miles to the north. We selected what we thought to be "a good piece of land" and paid a man named Pierce $ 100.00 to survey it for us and place large pine "staubs" defining each corner. We then rushed to Gainesville, Florida, to "sign up" and file on my dad's claim. I recall we signed all papers before the Registrar of the U.S. Land Office, a jovial federal politician who insisted we all call him "Bob". He was "Our Bob" Davis whose son Bob Davis later became a good friend of mine while I was assistant sergeant-at-arms in the Florida Senate and he was Secretary of the Senate. Dad was third man to file when Merrit Island was opened.

About this time a small-town Baptist preacher came down from Alabama to Florida to "settle". He brought with him a friend whose job was to pass the hat and make collections while he, Sydney J. Catts, campaigned for governor. The man who is still well known in Florida politics and long time with the Utilities Commission was Jerry Carter and neither had been in the state of Florida the necessary year to claim citizenship.

While "stumping the state" the ex-Baptist parson would shout to his awe stricken backwoods audience "the poor man has only three friends, "Jesus Christ, Sears & Roebuck and Sydney J. Catts". He had but one good eye but it would bore a hole "clean through a person" it was claimed.

As there was no television those days and candidates for any office were forced to hire a horse and buggy to transport them from village to town. Often times two candidates, foes on the platform, would cut expenses by using the same "rig". After Governor Catts completed his term he decided he should be sent to Washington and challenged the incumbent, Duncan U. Fletcher, for his seat in the United States Senate.

One day the people of Cocoa were given "throw aways" handed to them by Jerry Carter telling them that the next day Governor Sydney J. Catts and Honorable Duncan U. Fletcher would speak to them at 10:00 a.m. at the Cocoa Baseball Park and then they could decide which statesman should be sent to Washington.

Nearly all in the town who could vote turned out -- I was representing "the press", the Cocoa Tribune, and soon the old war horses were at it hammer and tongs and Fletcher began to get the worst of it. He stood up and glared at Catts and roared "I'm not going to mention any names but if a certain no-good cattle thief and claim jumper don't quit telling lies about me, I'm going to knock out his other eye." That broke up the speaking. Jerry rushed through the laughing crowd to take up his collection. Both Catts and Fletcher seemed mighty friendly as they crawled into their rig which had been tied behind the bleachers at the ball field. I never did learn if Catts divided the day's "take" with Fletcher. This rather faltering foreword will give you some idea of some Florida lore not found in the state's school books.



Wish one could write of the wonder and beauty of Florida as I knew it 60 years ago. I have been able only to hack at it with a dull axe, chipping off crude pictures of a land completely beautiful. The mere thoughts fill one with compelling awe permeated with an indescribable reverence.

A picture of Florida in the early 1900's is almost unbelievable. Let us take the Indian River, unhindered by bridges from its source to the inlet near Fort Pierce. It was in reality a lagoon - in most places more than a mile wide (six miles across near Titusville) its water saltier than the seas, and teeming with fish. At Cocoa the mile and a half river was often covered from shore to shore with ducks. A speed boat splashed through the hordes of game on a trip to Courtenay and the ducks would not be disturbed by the wakes of the speedster on either shore the flock was so huge.

And when the tropic night had come the fiery fish streaked the river with flame. Of course the phosphorus was abundant in the water as there was no inlet between Mosquito Inlet south of New Smyrna and the mouth of the St. Lucie River. Schools of mullet over one mile long attacked by sharks would bring about a pyrotechnic display unequalled by any Fourth of July fire-works ever witnessed.

The speckled trout (weakfish) caught in the Indian River were so large and plentiful, many fish house managers would not buy them unless they had to be bent to go into a fish barrel.

I fished commercially for shrimp (prawn) off Fernandina, receiving one dollar for a bushel, and two of us averaged each day between 50 and 60 bushels. Have you priced prawn lately?

The Caribbean pine trees on Merrit Island stood so close to each other, a two-wheeled cart drawn by 4 yoke of oxen could make no road through them - many were five feet in diameter and it was almost impossible to drive a nail into the lumber until it was seasoned.

Magnificent flocks of pink curlews (Roseate Spoonbills) could be found in the lagoons. Nearly every homesteader boasted of a bald eagle's nest on his property. And a little farther south were the egrets, millions of them, although the hunters even then were thinning out the flocks to adorn the society ladies millinery with their plumes.

I recall when the State of Florida clamped down a law that no hunters should kill more than six deer in one season. One of the old timers on Merritt Island indignantly exclaimed, "Shucks, I can kill that many before noon on the first day."


When the homesteaders came to Merritt Island they built homes with an eye to the weather, location and their pocketbooks. A great majority of the residences were mere unpainted "shacks" with corregated iron roofs and if real fancy, here and there you could find a front porch. Those early builders who gave a thought to the housewife constructed a back porch for a "pitcher pump," a hand affair to draw water from a depth of about 20 feet. It did not occur to any of us that we were an underprivileged people. We didn't even ask the government to reduce the requirements of the homestead code and permit us to "cultivate" but five acres instead of 10. We bought grub hoes and yanked out acres of palmetto roots at the rate of one acre every 30 days per man -- and then we had to attempt to plow through the remaining rooty tendrils, harrow and then plow again before we could even plant an orange tree. I just happened to think that if we placed all those homesteaders' homes along one side of any city today -- boy, that would be a slum to shame all slums. However, we didn't realize it -- we were poverty stricken and didn't know it.


We surely missed a bet!

Just imagine -- nearly 200 adults from nearly every state in the nation gathered together in one community with no houses, no roads, no bridges, no plows, no axes, or other tools, no schools, no groceries, with the desire only to build a better country. What an opportunity for the do-gooders.

I don't see how we got along on the Island, no PTA, no social security (we had a number of homesteaders over 65 including one with a wooden leg and another but one arm with a large steel hook on the stub). There was no homestead exemption and paid taxes as soon as we "proved up" (3 years). We did have one Spanish American War "Vet" who received from the government eight dollars a month. When he received it we would have a party at his cabin to help him celebrate. He had to walk seven miles and back to collect his check in the mail.

Just think what we could have done with the surplus foods and other surplus products, we might have wrangled from a paternal congress. We might even have written CARE and received a free plow and axe. We might have wrestled mightily and come up with enough money for our roads and bridges (we built them ourselves, working every Monday -- every able-bodied settler).

There were no unemployment checks, no free nurses, no hospital and no undertaker -- we did not need one. The outdoor, rugged life seemed to agree with everyone. The only death I can remember was an old man who had not been seen about for a couple of days and the buzzards were seen flying their gruesome figure-eights over his shack. We who found his body agree it must have been his heart, but noticed there was no evidence of rigor mortis. We sent for a mortician from Cocoa. The homesteader's shack was nearly a quarter of a mile from the nearest road and surrounded by very healthy scrub palmetto, with their enormous overground roots. We had made a rough box for the body of our old friend.

Crossing the scrub (there was no road to the cabin) with the box and the undertaker, I mentioned the fact we had no difficulty in dressing the corpse - no sign of rigor mortis (no physician on the island to declare the man dead), and holding tightly to his springless seat as we bumped toward the woods road, the mortician answered, "Well, if he wasn't dead then, he is now after ridin' over these durn palmetto roots".

There was no county welfare so we dug a grave for him ourselves and one of his closest friends "said a few words".

You know it was real tough getting on without the government.

We occasionally see an empty freight car going north on the F.E.C. trains with the name on the side "Miller High Life Beer". Never any empties of other beers. Can it be the other brands of beer flow into Miami by pipeline?


I am reminded of the time when the only publicity the town of Cocoa received (and there wasn't any town of Cocoa Beach) was sent out by traveling salesmen (drummers) who told their fellow sufferers that the best place to eat on the territory was The Cocoa House at Cocoa where Ed Grimes, an old drummer himself, was host. This was in 1912 and the land was listed on what is now Cocoa Beach at $20 per acre -- and no sales . . . too many mosquitos.

Cocoa was a quiet, peaceful hamlet of about 650 persons -- fishermen, citrus growers, guides and homesteaders. There was no blacktop paving -- if any at all the holes in the streets were filled with oyster shell from Indian mounds in the area. There were no Federal highways and the Dixie highway passed through the center of town. This highway was also made by filling the car ruts with oyster shell. I recall one of the members of the "faster set" who made a wager of $50 he could drive from Cocoa to Jacksonville by car "all the same day -- 176 miles away." The gamblers argued a day meant from sun up to sundown -- and the poor fellow lost his money. "Gator" Travis ran the general store in Cocoa (his father Col. Travis was president of Brevard County State Bank -- it gave up during the great depression of the 30s) and the first real estate operator on Cocoa Beach was Gus Edwards, an attorney in Cocoa. The Cocoa Real Estate authority, back in those days was Roy Trafford. A man by the name of Canfield also sold some real estate on commission -- he claimed to be some kin to the nationally known gambler whose name is still known as a game of solitaire.

The summer days in early Cocoa were long but it was cool under the huge oak tree which shaded the bench outside the entrance to Johnny Weather's Pool Hall -- and most of the merchants in town stopped there sometime during those lazy, pleasant days. Even Homesteaders from Merritt Island stopped to rest after a brisk shopping tour of the Cocoa stores, to listen to the tales of the even earlier days along Indian River.

Dr. Noah Counts would stop occasionally to check on the health of some of his rare patients -- no one seemed to ail much in those days.

It was about this time that Marie Holderman brought her newspaper, "The Tribune", from Palmetto, across from Bradentown (yes, they didn't change the city's name until much later) and started the "Cocoa Tribune." I soon became a correspondent to the Tribune from Courtenay on Merritt Island and wrote of the goings and comings there for a few months when Marie asked if I would like to work on the paper in Cocoa -- I did. Her husband Chauncey (we called him "Chance") would sit in his wheelchair and give customers prices on job printing. I believe we got $35 for a full page of advertising in that 8-col. sheet.


Today the kitchen in most houses is still the center of the household especially when cocktails are served and the guests cluster around. Back on our Merritt Island homestead fifty years ago the kitchen was also the center of interest. It was here the great wood range was queen. No electric stoves then, in fact there was no electricity "on the Island" and of course there was no coal to be had. Many of the native oldtimers had never seen coal in their lives.

There was plenty of good wood on the Island. I chopped it up by the cords. The principal timber was of course Pine with a scattering of water oak and some hickory. Where it came from no one knew but there were some pretty good stands of cedar. Some even thought of starting a lead pencil factory. We saved the cedar wood for the fireplace as the perfume was delightful.

In the woods which surrounded the home place were Caribbean pines over five feet in diameter and in some places they grew so close together, one could not drive an ox team through them. Here we would always find, close to the house, what the natives called a "harricane". It was a fallen tree with its giant roots pointing to the heavens. The trees would become top heavy with growth and the land was so low, the roots would seldom grow far below the surface and they would topple over. Some of the monsters had fallen and become a part of the land; the outer wood would have rotted away leaving only the roots and the heart filled with turpentine. This was the famed "litered" or "lightwood" which one could light by merely applying a match, no matter the size. This lightwood was the thing to start the fires in the wood stove but to obtain the even heat necessary to bake the best bread and pies we had to keep a goodly pile of oak wood for use.

When we first took up our abode on the Island and mother would bake her luscious great loaves of bread as she did back in Kansas, the natives would drop in and marvel. There was no bread as we know it today in the stores and everyone baked cornbread. They sometimes fried a "pone" on a flat skillet but baked nothing but cornbread and "soda biscuits". We soon learned to bake biscuits, however, and with Florida corn syrup they were sure "fitten".

Another small bit of Florida history I never saw in the school books. When Fred Cone gave his first reception at the Governor's Mansion in Tallahassee, his sister said her ambition had always been to slide down the wide bannister from the second floor to the reception room. Fred told her to go ahead. She did -- and broke her leg.


You know, I believe folks are getting smarter. Once upon a time when I was affiliated with the Island citrus industry, old man Ned Whaley had just about the best orange grove on Merritt Island and I spread fertilizer and hoed trees for him.

Smart city salesmen from the fertilizer companies in Jacksonville would come down right after a grower had picked his grove clean and point out that the trees look bad - all yellow. They told the countrymen that this was caused by the fact the trees had just been separated from the fruit and the shock was detrimental and they had a special fertilizer mixed just to remedy this, what old man Whaley thought was a preposterous situation.

I noticed he did not purchase any of this special mixture and when asked he would say, "Humpf, does a woman feel better or worse after she gives birth to her baby? She feels better and so does an orange tree - the yellowish cast to the tree is caused by the showing of the under side of the leaf. As the heavily laden limbs give up their fruit they lift up and for several days the under side of their leaves show. It only takes a few days for the tops of the leaves to again adjust themselves to lick up the rays of the sun and it takes on that oily green color sought after by all good growers". Don't believe any growers today would fall for a "special mix".

The only thing that old man Whaley ever fell for was Napolean. He was a great admirer of Napolean and along in the heat of the afternoon when the weeds grew higher than usual I would call the old man and talk to him about Napolean. I read everything I could find about the Little Corporal and we would sit in the shade and swap stories to while away a weary afternoon.

Way back in 1912 when I first inhaled the heavenly aroma of orange blossoms on Merritt Island, folks, even those with "schoolin' " had few of the worries that attack us today. Not only did they never dream of a guided missile, carrying utter destruction, balanced on its speeding nose, but actually knew little of the Nation's economy -- and cared less. That was all left to Wall Street. Now we not only worry over our country's financial progress, but seem vitally concerned over the internal affairs of even the smallest of Africa's "Republics".

  • A little knowledge is still a dangerous thing.


    There was very little drinking on Merritt Island when we "homesteaded" there. Some of the new settlers made excellent wine from grapefruit juice. . . we would sit around a neighbors one-room shack wishin' we were back home and would be asked by our host to try some of the "last batch" he had just "aged" ... the conversations would dwell on "the war" (World War I, just starting) . . . the earthen jug would make the rounds. . . tin cups and glasses which once held "store bought" Jelly would be used. . . no kick to the stuff. . . until we started back to our own shacks. . . those who had cars were afraid to "go into high" and would creep through the massive Caribbean pines in low gear . . . potent . . . that grapefruit wine spoke softly but with authority . . . It might be of interest to describe in more detail the characters who "homesteaded" when the Government opened the Island to settlers in 1912. . .

    My Mother . . . when we were able to get her into a small boat to make the trip from Cocoa to the island, insisted she would not go to "that God-forsaken land", insisting it was not in the United States and she wanted no part of it. . . she soon learned to love it however. . . it was ten degrees cooler in the summer and the same number of degrees warmer in the winter, surrounded as it is by great stretches of warm tropical waters. . . one of the first men we met when we landed was Herr Doktor Peter von Braun, professor of Philosophy and Psychology at Heidelberg, Germany. . . he left Germany because he claimed the country was headed for oblivion (he didn't miss his prophecy very far). . . Prof. Braun, was a writer, musician, a biologist of note and soon to be a horticulturist... he was a small man and made but few friends... the homesteaders were afraid of him. . . he used so many large words and like many foreigners, when he learned our language he learned to speak and write it with great precision. . . and we were not accustomed to that... people are always most afraid of that which they cannot understand. . . and few of us understood Prof. Braun. . . most of us firmly believed he was run out of Germany. . . he mentioned once to me, he had been a priest and had left the Church. . . and being called a renegade had left Arkansas and hid himself in the wilds of Florida. . . and Florida was wild. . . bears, panthers ("painters"), wild cats, crocodiles and rattlesnakes made their home on the island ... Braun told me in 1913 that Germany would soon be at war in Europe ... we went into his well kept dwelling which he had built himself from native pine and among his files brought out a copy of a magazine printed in Germany in 1904... nearly ten years before. . . it was printed in German and being a student at a German Lutheran college (Midland College in Atchison, Kansas), I could pick out a word here and there and of course could read the printed dates. . . Braun told me he had been "half asleep and half awake" and had a vision and got up from his bed and jotted down what he had seen.. and then had published it. . . he wrote that he seemed to be in the air gazing down upon all of Europe and that he saw a strange black cloud coming from Germany and spreading across all of the nations of Europe... that this cloud was finally pierced by a strong light from "the new country" (United States) and when the cloud had dissipated itself the Kaiser was able to stand on his throne "and spit across his entire kingdom". . . Braun might have been run out of Germany at that . . remember this was written in 1904 and I read it in 1913... Braun's printed prophecy went further and he saw a great pestilence coming from Spain which covered the entire earth, killing hundreds of thousands of people in all countries. . . I thought little of this prediction and of course I could not visualize the deaths to come from Spanish Influenza which spread across the earth during the late years of the first world war. . . Many tales such as this one could be told of this strange man who we found on Merritt Island walking like a prophet of old, through the wilds of the new-old country.


    The first time I read Ted Pratt's "Barefoot Mailman" I had never even seen a Paper Nautilus. The story is about Hypoluxo Island during the time when Juno, in what is now Palm Beach County, was the county seat of Dade County and outvoted Miami.

    It is always difficult for me to read of mail delivery in Florida in the early days without harking back to about 1912 when the homesteaders on Merritt Island waited until 9:00 p.m. for the mail to come over the "star route" from Cocoa.

    Mail left Courtenay early in the morning and Deveaux Sams, one of the old families on the Island, drove his one-mule "team" south along the east bank of the Indian River. At the village of Merritt he moved his mail, freight and an occasional passenger to a small boat and would putt-putt across the river to Cocoa on the mainland where Flagler's train came down from Jacksonville every day with the mail.

    Deveaux was a devoted husband. Tall, thin and weather tanned, he wore a scrawny mustache, which he continuously sucked, stopping only to eat - he talked very little. On his "route" he would stop wherever there was a telephone and call his wife in Courtenay to tell her he was alright and inquire about her health.

    South of Courtenay about six miles was his first stop to pick up mail. The hamlet was Indianola with about 20 orange growers living there abouts. Here the inhabitants had built a large hall where they held dances every Saturday night. Here also was the winter home of an Ohio newspaper editor, Warren Harding, who later became President of the United States. Harding loved to dance, play poker and "shoot-craps" with the natives. Everyone seemed to like Harding except for the fact he was a Republican.

    I recall that when he ran for Chief Executive a story filled all the papers telling of Harding playing at dice while in Indianola, which was greatly distorted, stating he shot craps with negro boys. You can imagine how we "crackers" felt about the canard. Let's get back to Deveaux.

    After the mail man called his wife at Cocoa, we would help him load his mail, all except the locked first class bags, and small freight and made the mile and a quarter cruise back across the river. It was now past 3:00 o'clock but the mullet were still jumping in front of the boat.

    Do you get the picture of the scrawny mule standing in the scrub palmetto at Merritt awaiting the return of Deveaux late that afternoon, pestered by mosquitoes?

    Usually the passengers would have a new hair cut after visiting Cocoa and would also suffer from "the bugs". My father said Merritt Island mosquitoes "could stand flat footed and drink out of a pint cup."

    Deveaux would drive his "team" back north nine miles, through Indianola, where he always stopped to call his wife and tell her he was O.K. and on his way home, and reached Courtenay around 9:00 p.m., where natives and homesteaders from the "backwoods" would be waiting for their mail and news of the outside world. I remember that World War One was five days old before we first heard of the conflict.

    The Courtenay post office was in Dick LaRoche's store and Deveaux would always call home to announce his safe arrival.

    We in America should take heed of the accomplishment of Red China in the field of nuclear research. Too often the free people of the Earth belittle the ability of the Chinese scientists, forgetting the Chinese invented gun powder, glass - and a legend has it - roast pork.


    About 1912 those who spent their winters in Florida built homes along Indian River. . . at Rockledge, Daytona, Ormond . . . and of course Palm Beach. When I visited Miami that year there were but 6,000 mosquito-bitten residents living there. . . all travel was done by boat along the rivers and the East Coast Canal (now the Intracoastal Waterway) . . . excursion or rather sight-seeing boats left Jacksonville early each morning with about thirty passengers and their luggage. . . reservations were made for them to stop that night at St. Augustine. . . they left the next morning and sailed as far as Daytona Beach where they spent the next night going to Cocoa- Rockledge the next night... then to Palm Beach and the next day found them in Miami. . . the same route was traveled on the return trip. . . I recall the names of several of these sightseeing craft. . . there was "The Constitution" and "The United States" ... and a large Mississippi River steamboat named the "Swan" skippered by Capt. Frank Houston also plied these waters carrying both passengers and freight. . . and I understand the passengers many times included the old time "river boat gamblers" as well . . . the Clyde Line of steamships ran a large steamer up the St. John's river from Jacksonville as far south as Sanford, leaving about 4 p.m. serving supper aboard as the ship silently glided along. . . under the famous Florida full moon.. it was quite an experience for the traveler to watch the freight being unloaded by the singing darkies (hope the NAACP won't get mad at us) at the different boat stops. . . and about 1 o'clock at night each trip south the man at the wheel would show the waiting group of stayer-uppers a lone light ashore where there was no town and he would tell them the story of the demented old lady who waited each night with her lantern for a sweetheart that was supposed to come back to her on that very boat. . . 40 years and ... and she would drop the light as the boat went by saluting her with a low moaning whistle.. . it was quite romantic... in those days there were "tourist hotels" owned by the FEC railroad at St. Augustine, Ormond, Palm Beach, Miami, Nassau and Long Key which opened about Jan. 12 and closed when Washington's Birthday Ball was presented at the old Royal Poinciana Hotel at Palm Beach on February 22... the old families who spent the winters in Florida owned their own homes there and did little winter traveling except along the rivers. . . then came good roads... and the travel started... old winter homes were sold and turned into "rooms for rent" . . . instead of the same old faces each winter, now total strangers would drop into town enquiring where they could find a good place to eat ... more hotels soon sprung up . . . some almost overnight... with the good roads, Florida was growing up.


    The Bible tells us that we should crush a snake's head with our heel, but I never did use that method of destruction on the Diamondback Rattlesnakes we encountered while homesteading during the 'teen years of the 1900's.

    Accompanying me on most of my trips through the woods and savannahs to the store at Courtenay and into the unexplored back country was my old faithful .45 colt pistol, given to me by my father back in Kansas. When he handed me the hand gun he told me "Son, don't ever draw this weapon unless you expect to kill whoever or whatever you want to point it at" and then he continued, "this pistol is big enough so that if you hit a man on his front porch, his whole house falls down". About all I ever used it for was snakes.

    When I met my first rattlesnake, head-on, out in the open and not in a zoo or cage, I really believed it to be at least 14 feet long. I shot her through the head and she looked but 10 feet over all. When I measured the carcass before skinning she was only a bare 7 ft. 10 inches. We tacked the hide with the raw side to the sun to the side of the barn (after we buried the head with its deadly fangs). In a couple of days we could take it down, as stiff as a board and then rub oil into it sufficiently to soften it in order to roll it into a small parcel -- we sold them for 50 cents each. Any homesteader's shack would have from 3 to 5 hides drying on the south side, where there would be the most sun.

    One could easily tell the male from the female rattler by the more vivid coloring and the "diamonds" on the male were more perfectly formed. Rattlers like most venomous snakes are born and receive the venom from the mother just a short time before birth.

    Now let me tell you of a most unusual experience with a rattlesnake -- one which attempted to "charm" me, like a bird or rabbit. I was in my early 20's and should have known better.

    The reptile was coiled and rattling, hid in a clump of sawtooth palmetto. I had always wondered what a rattler's eyes looked like. I knew the snake could jump one-half its length forward, so I would be safe if I came no nearer to him than 5 feet, and besides he could not "strike" because of the palmetto fans above him.

    I was soon flat in the open, on the ground -- eye to eye-- neither of us moving a muscle. A friendly feeling toward the serpent came over me -- this I had not expected. The rattler's eye (I concentrated on but one) grew as large as a dime and seemed to open and shut like the shutter of a camera. It was fascinating. I lost all fear and it occurred to me that all the stories I had heard about snakes must have been wrong. Very soon I was aware the rattler, no longer rattling, was slowly moving and I snapped out of it and jumped up as the reptile slithered toward me. I no longer felt friendly and shot him through the eye.


    While I am a dog man myself, here's a cat story that must be told. In the early years of this century, when we filed a homestead claim on Merritt Island, it was a rough and rugged life and we had some rough and rugged pets -- a small black bear cub and a frowsy, huge tawny house cat answering the name of Tom. Tom grew up with young panthers and picked up many of their habits.

    We were awakened early one morning by the wails of a scrawny, half starved female kitty on our back porch and my mother immediately brought her a saucer of canned Pet milk. I could see old Tom watching from a clump of scrub palmetto and wondered if that old scoundrel had brought the abandoned kitten home with him. They got along fine together and in the due course of time five mysterious wee kittens appeared on our back porch, and mother fixed up a box with an old but clean gunny sack and placed the mother cat and her young'uns in it.

    When all was quiet on the back porch and Tom could not see us watching him, he delighted to play with his offspring - we could tell they were his by the tawny markings. If Tom saw one of us or heard a noise in the kitchen he would push the playful kittens aside and pretend he had nothing to do with them. I noticed he seemed to "talk" with them, making a crooning sound never heard at any other time. I am sure he talked with the mother cat.

    Tom spent little time on the porch but he could be seen throughout the day in his clump of palmetto. Occasionally we would find near the back door the carcass of a field rat or two. He wanted us to be sure he was earning his keep. He prowled the woods at night but I do not think he was ever was far from his home with us. He seemed to have no fear of the night-prowling panthers (the natives called 'em "painters") nor anything else.

    One morning I was watching the kittens at play when a calico cat of a neighbor jumped on the porch and grabbed the head of one of the youngters in his mouth as he leaped from the box I hurled an old boot I was cleaning and caught him on the side of his head. The intruder dropped his prey and scurried across our south forty heading for home.

    When our Tom showed up an hour or so later, after I had set the injured kitten's little broken jaw, one never heard such "talking" between two animals as when the mother cat reported the assault of the calico cat to old Tom. Tom was furious and with not a single word of reply leaped from the porch and followed the trail of his neighbor across the south forty.

    Several hours later our neighboring homesteader came to visit and wanted to know what was ailing our cat. He said, -Your Tom, without any excuse jumped on our cat and with but one bite of his jaws broke his neck"

    I told him what had occurred -- but he didn't believe it. But I do.


    In Florida before World War One there was little gambling except in Jacksonville, Tampa, Miami and Key West. In Cocoa, at that time if a homesteader was looking for action he would head for the pool hall. Beside the pool and billiard games one could nearly always find a poker game in progress. There were no professional gamblers of whom I ever heard but there was a man who hung around the pool hall who claimed his uncle was a big sporting man in the West who owned a saloon called "The Silver Dollar" -- and that the lobby of the place was paved with silver dollars. The Cocoa man's name was "Canfield" and he claimed the great solitaire card game "Canfield" was named for him.

    There were no barrooms in Cocoa in those early days but it seemed all the men folk congregated at Johnny Weathers' pool hall, sitting on the benches backed up against the front of the building under one of the largest live-oak trees I ever saw. Sitting with the town marshal, "Bubber" Hatter would be found probably a deputy sheriff from Titusville, the leading real estate and insurance man, clientless attorney, "Gator" Travis, a son of the president of the Brevard County State Bank (purchased later by the Barnett Bank Interests of Jacksonville) and "Doc" Counts would always stop for a time before opening his office in the Library building.

    Early one morning I left Merritt Island and as I tied up our launch at the dock in Cocoa I noticed a much larger crowd than usual at the pool hall and soon found the excitement was caused by a bet between the two most prominent business men in the community, C. Sweet Smith, Who owned the Ford Agency in Cocoa and "Pop" Bryan who owned the electric light plant and ice house.

    "Pop" had laughed at the younger Ford dealer because he would not acknowledge that if a common wash tub filled with water was placed on a platform scales and a live two pound or more mullet was placed in it, the scales would not register any gain in weight. This would indicate according to "Pop" that a live fish swimming in its nature habitat had no weight whatever.

    The argument pro and con became louder and louder.

    Sweet Smith, who later was appointed a member of the Florida State Racing Commission, proclaimed he would wager his Ford Agency against "Pop's" power plant that the fish would not lose weight -- " Pop " replied in a great display of rage " Put up or shut up" and a wash tub half filled with water was soon placed on a platform scales in "Gator" Travis' hardware store and all headed for the river (Indian) with a 6-ft. cast net to produce the live fish. An indignant mullet was soon splashing around in the tub -- and the scales revealed a 2-1b. increase. However, "Pop" and his followers contended the fish had touched the sides of the tub in its floundering and the gamblers agreed to get some minnows and weigh one of them in a small container at the drug store where the pharmacist would measure the weight in grams. An "old colored lady" soon netted some "shiners" and all again rushed to the drug store. This experiment also failed and because I worked on the Cocoa Tribune and I was supposed to know everything and everybody was asked to write the president of the University of Florida at Gainesville and both gamblers would abide by the reply of this popular educator.

    The answer soon came back, I cannot recall the reply verbatim but it went something like this: "Dear Sir: I did not believe anyone in Florida could be so dumb. Everyone knows matter cannot be destroyed and all matter has weight-- even gas and smoke. Of course the fish retains its weight in water and Mr. C. Sweet Smith wins".

    "Pop" paid up with $4,000 in cash and a note for $6,000. It was a pretty big bet for a little bitty town of about 800 inhabitants.


    Tales of unusually large fish being landed bring to mind many old fishing experiences in south Florida. Did you ever dive with a hook made from an old coat hanger to jerk stone crabs from their holes in rocks? Did you ever "firefish" for flounder with grains or a "gig"?

    In the "old days" on Indian River it would sometimes be quite late as we motored by small boat from Cocoa to Courtenay 9 miles north on Merritt Island and if it were after dark we would set up in the bow a pole which held a chicken wire "basket" and in this we would start a fire of "lightwood" (heart pine) which would burn quite merrily giving off a dense black smoke by the way. As we chugged northward mullet would be attracted by the light and there was seldom a trip we didn't "catch" from seven to a dozen fine fish weighing up to 4 pounds which leaped at the fire and dropped into our boats. Sport? No. Good eating? Yes.

    On Chases's dock on the Banana River side of Merrit Island many boxes of oranges from the island would be stacked waiting for a steamer to haul them to Jacksonville's Clyde Line ships which would sail for New York each day. The end of this dock boasted of but four feet of water. Banana River was literally filled with fish back about 1913. Three or four of us homesteaders would oftimes get clubs from limbs of fallen pine trees on shore and go out on the dock to about three feet of water and string out to the north (fish in flight seldom run under a pier in shallow water) and when we were about six feet apart in the water we would rush toward the shore driving the "red fish" (channel bass) ahead of us and when they reached the shallow waters near shore they would mill around and we were able to pound them over their heads with our clubs. We could have killed any number we chose but we would take a dozen or more ashore and cutting off about 8 inches of the tender parts of the tail, have a fish-fry that far surpassed any which delight Floridians today.


    For ten years I lived under the friendly glow of Canaveral light (light house) and that light still brings to mind the time I was sure I was seeing a real ghost.

    This "ha'nt" appeared on the Island, in 1914. A young lady school teacher from Miami had filed on a claim with her mother - and made a practice of going for her mail at Courtenay which was about 6 miles from her abode. One evening we saw her pass our house on the road to town (the mail came in from Cocoa about 9:00 p.m.) and she was seen leaving the general store about 9:30 p.m. We did not see her pass our place going back and some of us started worrying about her alone in those back woods. She seemed to know nothing about "roughing it", coming as she did from the big city. Several of the neighbors hustled out to her place only to learn from her mother that she had not returned, though long overdue.

    We went back over the road to pick up her tracks and followed into the woods the only female shoe prints in evidence. About midnight (the mosquitoes were attacking more furiously now) the tracks turned into the yard of one of the homesteaders who told us he had worn his wife's shoes when he went to the store that night as his boots were soaking wet. We made torches of dead palmetto fans, and he joined us as we spread out in our search, crying her name every few minutes. Once in awhile we could hear a panther scream in the distance We became worried.

    There was no moon but the light from Canaveral made its appearance once every few minutes. The beam in each lighthouse on the sea has a different sequence in order that mariners can always determine their Position, knowing which light they were watching.

    I decided finally to go back to my place and hitch a couple of mules to a wagon and get my shotgun, hoping to attract her attention if she had wandered off the road and was lost. Going back to my homestead by myself I heard a lot of water splashing and attracted by the sound, as there was now no moon at all, I observed coming toward me, gliding smoothly across the top of the switch-grass in the savannah, a huge, white, undefined object. The unknown always scares us. here was something I had never seen before on land or sea. I was petrified -- I couldn't move -- my legs refused to function on demand. Never before nor since have I been so scared. Never hesitating, the shapeless white object came even closer toward me. I wanted to run but couldn't.

    I said to myself: "If this is a ghost I will never have a better chance to get myself a "ha'nt". I slowly picked up an oid palmetto root from the roadway and literally forced my legs to move toward the approaching "spook". With all the strength left me I heaved the heavy root at the specter. It was a coal black cow with a huge white spot on her side which reached down to the grass tops as she splashed through the sloppy prairie. The relief was so great I had to sit for a few minutes before hurrying back for my shotgun and the mules.

    We found the girl nearly a half mile from the road, fighting the mosquitoes under a spreading live oak tree, listening to the panthers. When I told her to climb into the wagon seat, she drew herself erect and proudly exclaimed: "Why, of all the nerve -- we have never been introduced -- I do not know you!" I answered in no uncertain language: "this ain't no ballroom floor -- get in that wagon". And she got in. Just about daybreak we triumphantly escorted her home and found her mother sound asleep.

    The panthers stopped screaming, but I never was scared of them -- I knew what they were.


    Of all the vote collectors in Florida history, the least known was one of the greatest -- he never lost a race and he was elected, first as Mayor of Lakeland (when he was not quite 21 years old), State House of Representatives, (Polk County), Florida Attorney General, Governor and U.S. Senator -- Park Trammell.

    My Mother's brother, Harley "Pete" Bell, in the early 1920's, courted and married the daughter of one of the oldest families on Merritt Island - Fanny Sams. Her family had extensive holdings of citrus groves on the Island -- the largest was the famous Happy Alligator grove. I first met Park Trammell when he came to Merritt Island and purchased an orange grove from my uncle's wife, Fanny.

    Senator Trammell, while visiting in the Indian River area, stopped at the old Knox Hotel in Cocoa, owned by Uncle Pete - and there I first met the Florida Junior U.S. Senator. He was seated at a desk in his hotel room one day when I attempted an interview for the Cocoa Tribune, a weekly paper on which I labored. I asked Park to what did he contribute his success and he replied with this bit of political wisdom which I will never forget: "if you can manage to get elected one time you are all set for a long career if you just do nothing and you will be sure of re-election. Too many young politicians when first elected start rantin' and ravin' and try to put over some pet idea and immediately antagonize half their constituents and we never hear of them any more". The sage solon added: "don't ever do anything and you don't make anyone mad and all who voted for you the first time will vote for you again to back up their first time judgment." Of course that was not all there was to it. I believe Park Trammell was an honest man - I know he was a poor man. I recall that on one of his visits to Cocoa he asked me to introduce him to Colonel Travis, President of the Brevard County State Bank there. When they shook hands, Trammell asked the Colonel: "would your bank loan me $200 to get me on my way back to Washington?" This little matter was soon negotiated.

    Many years later he was again running for the U.S. Senate - this time against whom he called "a young upstart, Claude Pepper". It looked bad for the old war horse when Peter 0. Knight of Tampa called Park to his office to talk over the situation - Knight was a power throughout the state at the time. The Tampa hardware man told Park: "if you can't carry Hillsboro County (Tampa) by a whoppin" majority, you are going to lose. Do you think you can do it?" The Senator told him he was afraid not.

    Tell you what you must do, it is alleged Knight told him: "there is a gambler from Ybor City (in Tampa) now in the Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta on a narcotics rap of which he is innocent. He took the rap for a big politician in Ybor City. The gambler's name is Saturday and if you can get your friend, Franklin D. Roosevelt, to exercise executive clemency and have Saturday on the streets in Ybor City on Saturday, before election, you can win."

    Park, it is claimed, called the President at once and Saturday, who told me the story himself, was in Ybor City the next Saturday night.

    Wish you could check the Hillsboro vote by precincts: it ran something like this; Pepper 16 - Trammell 389,- Pepper 18 - Trammell 642; Pepper 7 - Trammell 401.

    Trammell died in office, having never been defeated for office in his lifetime. He was a fine man but I cannot recall anything he ever did.


    Religion and politics. while many philosophers claim they never mix, we all know this isn't true. In Warsaw the church, we hear, is being used by the politicians to keep the people from overthrowing the Communist Control -- and they have certainly been mixing it up in Belfast, North Ireland.

    We backwoods politicians on Merritt Island had sufficient votes to elect whomever we chose in the county as about from 4 to 6 new homesteaders were registering every week in the early 1920's. There were less than 1,000 electors in all of Brevard County those years. The settlers far out-numbered the natives, and two villages emerged from the piney-woods, Orsino in the north and another settlement near Banana River called Audubon.

    In Orsino we had what was known as the "town-hall" form of government, where all problems of the homesteaders (called in Cocoa and the county seat, Titusville, "the wild men of the woods") were solved in the town hall by the vote of those attending. Audubon was structly ruled by a dictator, one Mr. Fortenberry. Each community boasted of around 200 votes. If Orsino decided - and they did - to vote in a block, their votes could control the county -- the county judge, the sheriff, the county commission and the school board.

    However, Orsino must have included in its electorate a Benedict Arnold as every year we would vote solid against the incumbents and the dictator, Mr. Fortenberry, in Audubon would send the ballot boxes of his villages to the county seat with a solid 200 votes marked for those in power. Something must be done. Drastic steps must be taken. Three homesteaders, fresh from the Cocoa barber shop, called one early morning at the Baptist Parsonage and went into conference with the preacher. The dominie's wife listened cautiously to the mumbling words from her sitting room and heard "But Reverend, there isn't a church in town and those young 'uns are growing up to be regular heathens." It seems the Reverend agreed to look into the problems and in a few days a committee of deacons met and discussed the situation with "Brother Fortenberry" in Audubon.

    Soon there was indeed action all over Audubon - one homesteader donated an acre of his newly acquired land on which to erect the new church; one, who owned a small saw mill, offered to cut all the lumber if the "good brothers" would haul the logs from their claims to his mill; others agreed to give their labor -- all was sweetness and light in our rival community. The hammer and the saw were heard throughout the piney-woods.

    Soon the serpent we had released started to wriggle its nefarious journey through the Banana River settlement's Eden. When the family which had donated the land for the new edifice argued for a church to serve all religions, they were kicked out. Some held out for Lutherans, others were adamant in support of the Methodists while still others favored the Holy Rollers. All was soon pandemonium. Brother Fortenberry's little political machine was split wide open -- the church building never was finished - neighbors no longer spoke to neighbors, and in Orsino we voted in a solid block and defeated all incumbents of county offices, including the cattle owning Sheriff.

    The reverend brother in Coca seemed to suffer most from the defeat in the church versus state question on Merritt island but never did ask us if we needed a church in Orsino. He probably knew we had a circuit rider, Reverend King, who called on us every three or four months. He always brought a demi-john of shine with him and was very sociable and popular among both men and women.

    When you are up to your neck in trouble -- you have to use your head.


    Movie goers and television viewers know all about the "wild west. Wonder how many of them know about the wars with the cattlemen in the early years of the century, in the "wild south"?

    When the National Forest on Merritt Island was opened for settlement nearly 60 years ago, by President William Howard Taft, there were nearly 2,000 head of "range cattle" feeding on the luscious grasses on the island. None of these "cow critters" was owned locally. Every year strange 'outsiders' riding on small 'swamp ponies' came to the island for a round-up and calves were branded -- none of the brands were recognized.

    There were less than 1,000 voters in the county and it wasn't too difficult to pass a "no fence', law by the legislature. This law required the cattlemen to fence in their herds and no fencing was needed by the homesteaders.

    We soon discovered the new law was of no help to us, as we learned the identity of the cattle owners - the cows were owned by the sheriff and his deputies.

    The cattlemen refused to obey the no-fence law -- and there was no higher enforcement agency to which we could explain our trouble. Soon great fires swept through the forest areas on our homesteads, destroying many huge pine trees some five feet in diameter. The cow men admitted setting the conflagration, stating the fire burned all the brush, permitting the more tender grass to appear which was great for the cattle.

    They tried to scare us off the land with tales of storms which blew the waves from the Atlantic clear across the island. This we did not believe as there was no evidence.

    Finally, the fires came closer and closer to the homesteaders' houses and then -- three families were burned out. We fought one of the fires until the flames started to burn the shrubbery around my father's house. We almost gave up hope when a heavy rain came to our assistance. Something must be done -- a meeting was called at one of the settler's homes and settlers all attended.

    It was a sober, angry crowd and guards were placed where all attending could be screened to keep out any spies. We soon came to a decision. One of the men agreed to take a train at Cocoa and ride as far as Daytona (it wasn't Daytona Beach at that time) and bring back several hundred 22-caliber rifle cartridges. Several days later more than 100 steers were found by the cow men dead all bloated and with their four legs reaching to the Heavens.

    It seemed a mystery to the sheriff and his men as they could not discover the cause of death. The cattle had been shot in the belly and died of lead poisoning.

    The first bridge was just completed from Cocoa to the Island and the next day the drive to the bridge was underway. Twenty-five hundred or more beef steers soon crowded their frightened way across the wooden, narrow bridge into the streets and shops of Cocoa. The cattle fled unhalted by the attending cow boys, who cracked their whips harmlessly and with no success. Firing their pistols in the air only caused more fear. The herds were under control after fleeing from town -- but the town of Cocoa was a shambles, a messy, foul-smelling wreck as one can imagine.

    The sheriff could find no large purchases of rifle cartridges in any store in Brevard County.

    No more fires on Merritt Island -- and no more barbed wire fences to keep out the roving cattle. No more cattle.


    In the early 1920's, Florida highways were kept in continuous repair by "road gangs" of convicts, hauled to work in cages built on truck chassis. Each county had constructed its own "stockade" to house those convicted to "hard labor". Those once fearsome striped clothes were worn by all and many of the Justices of the Peace were accused of keeping a number of these suits on hand at all times for any unlucky boy or man caught "beating his way through the county" with no money and no visible means of support to be turned over immediately to the "Cap'n" of the gang as a vagrant, and some justices were often careless about limiting the length of their sentences.

    Florida's worst scandal was in 1920 when a young lad from Wisconsin, I believe, died after a whipping by a chain gang boss. Chain gangs are no more and the stripes are a thing of the past. The state immediately after the pitiful death of the young boy, abandoned the use of the whip (a three - inch wide strip of leather about four feet long) on members of the road gangs throughout the state. A "sweatbox" was built and used when prisoners failed to work -- claiming sickness.

    I was working on the Cocoa Tribune at the time about 1921, and the editor had received letters of complaint about the treatment of the prisoners working on roads in the Brevard County area. I visited one of these camps and the "captain" told me they seldom used the sweatboxes as when a prisoner said he was ill, he always stripped the "con" to the waist and handcuffed his wrists around a pine tree and because of the great number of mosquito bites, the prisoner would always go back to work. I had the opportunity to examine one of the official sweathoxes and it was in reality an instrument of torture. The box was but about three feet across, each way and less than six feet high and roofed with corrugated iron sheets. There was at the bottom an open slot where the food could be procured by the inmate by sliding his hand down his leg and bringing the plate near his mouth -- and then dropping the pan when finished. This contrivance really was a sweatbox as a tall prisoner would be compelled to stoop a little and his head would touch the oven-hot galvanized tin roof -- and no ventilation at all.

    I wrote the story and was offered $85 by a syndicate for the use of it. Big Deal! I believe every paper in the United States ran the story and as I recall very vividly the old "Grit" ran with it a full-page picture of a barebacked negro chained around a tree and blood streaming down his back from the bites from the gigantic mosquitoes which were swarming on him; rattlesnakes were coiled in the bushes beside the screaming "con" and leering guards seemed to be enjoying the spectacle.

    The poor boy who had lost his life from the lashes of the cruel 4-ft. "whip" was forgotten when the Chambers of Commerce and other civic organizations throughout the state picked me for their target and more than a million words were used by the newspapers and magazines demanding that I retract and admit an eight column headline which ran: "It's a Filthy Bird that will Foul its own Nest".

    The prisons were operated by the State Department of Agriculture and Commissioner McRae demanded I go with him back to the stockade in Brevard County and have dinner with him and the convicts there. I accepted the loaded invitation for the next week day.

    First we visited the road gang and I was not amazed to find several of the black members resting in the shade and there was the sweatbox constructed of all new lumber with walls four feet apart and eight feet tall, standing in the shadow cast by an enormous chinaberry tree (there were even mockingbirds trilling in the tree tops). I knew I was licked but I visited the dining room after the inmates had eaten. Many of them were lounging around smoking cigarettes and pipes and their half empty plates showed plainly they had enjoyed a feast. Left over pieces of apple pie and the bones of fried chicken were still on the table.

    I could not eat; I was sick, but glad the cons had enjoyed one good meal while serving their time. I told Commissioner McRae I would do what I could. I made no retraction.

    The next session of the Florida Legislature abolished the road gangs, the use of the whip and the sweathoxes. Some good came from the story -- and I received a nice letter from the unfortunate Wisconsin lad's parents.

    Wouldn't it be a remarkable "archaeological find" to unearth the marriage license of Adam and Eve?



    Father's parents resided in Santa Ana and Long Beach, California and he yearned to visit them. They were in Santa Ana at the time. He thought because of the beating I was taking in the Florida papers after the fatal whipping and sweat box story I would like to go with him I did and we Landed in Los Angeles in due time. In the Times classified ads under "Help Wanted" I found that a reporter and special writer on a small daily paper was desired in Culver City (the home of Sam Goldwyn. Harold Lloyd, Thomas H. Ince and others). The ad further stated to appear for questioning at 9:00 a.m. the next day. I arrived at the rather ornate office of the Culver City Star at the requested hour and soon was joined by 19 other aspirants. I felt I had but little chance as I knew no one in Culver City nor in the state. We were all told to go out onto the streets and return with a story.

    There was a small park near the Star Office and I found the benches under the Eucalyptus trees dotted with tourists from the East. Talking with them I learned their names and home state (none from Florida). They all wanted to tell me how much they just adored the California climate. I suggested Culver City and they liked that, too. Rushing back to the office I grabbed an ancient typewriter and headed my column "Half Minute Interviews" (giving myself a by-line of course) and having a few inches to spare created a couple of fake names and under "Miss Polly Ticks", made a smart crack about national politics and coined another "Short Hicks" because I was not short and I felt I had lost all my hickish habits for the short time I was in New York helping with the publicity of Ziegfield's new "Century Girl" show at the Century Theatre in 1916.

    I turned in my story and after reading my offering he excused the others, saying he would let them know the next day -- and told me My first assignment was to interview Elinor Glynn, author of the great best seller "Three Weeks" which she was supposed to be making into a motion picture at Sam Goldwyn's studio. (This was before the days of MGM) and in my ignorance after no difficulty at the gate because of my press card, I asked to see Mr. Goldwyn. The ` amiable Mr. Goldwyn led me to one of his studios' eight stages and there enthroned in the canvas chair with the word "director" painted on the back was the fabulous Madam Glynn.

    The interview was interesting of course (and brought me a raise at the Star office) but it was soon revealed the famous author was not the director of Three Weeks. Rather, it was Alan Crosland, the father of the present movie and T.V. director.

    I had friends among many of the stars of silent pictures and even had a "bit" part in a picture made at the Thomas H. Ince Studio shown as "Those Who Dance", with Adolph Menjou. I played the part of a cop and had one line "Stay where you are - it's the police". They didn't show the movie in Culver City and I wasn't interested sufficiently to make the trip to L.A.

    Hearing of the real estate "boom" in Florida I was anxious to return to my adopted state. The life in Hollywood and Culver City was really too much for the country boy and leaving my father in Santa Ana headed east and after a few stops arrived in Fort Myers in time for the 1926 hurricane - the same "blow" which had destroyed Miami the night before.


    When working with a wire service, like in many other jobs, it is more important who you know than what you know.

    While with INS in 1925, I was on vacation, fishing in and out of Boca Grande Pass, stopping on Gasparilla Island at a little hotel, Palmetto Lodge. I had just returned from California. The golf course at the big hotel was lorded over by an old friend of mine and we had many a gin fizz together that two weeks. Even if his name was Andy Campbell he didn't care for Scotch.

    Everyone at the big hotel was talking about the disappearance after the wedding the past week of Consuela Vanderbilt and her latest, "young Smith, the sugar baron from San Francisco."

    It was a regular game -- first newsmen thought they were "somewhere in the Bahamas" -- then on "the French Riviera". Even an AP (Associate Press) correspondent thought he saw the romantic couple in Sydney, Australia -- I was on vacation and just laughed and "jumped" another tarpon.

    One morning Andy, the golf pro, showed me a telegram making a reservation the next day for a "locker for Mr. & Mrs. Smith of San Francisco." Andy was sure it was the publicity dodging honeymooners.

    There were but two means of travel to Boca Grande on Gasparilla, Island - by boat or by the "Plug line" of the CH. and N (Charlotte Harbor and Northern R.R. - later sold to the Seaboard). The next day we met the one-coach train and a beautiful but scowling lady and her smiling Prince Charming stepped down and soon were surrounded by their 16 pieces of luggage -- they admitted they were "traveling light". I welcomed them to Boca Grande and turning to the lady I said "You are Consuela, aren't you?" She replied "yes, but I hope you won't tell anyone". Turning then to the grinning bridegroom, I asked "and you are the dashing young sugar baron from Frisco?" He admitted it and I dashed for the telegraph station at the depot -- and told the world of the joyful news -- through the wire of INS of course. This was one time I had beat the world. All because I had a friend named Andy Campbell -- and a little luck


    We often hear reference to "the Prohibition Era" -- it had little effect on the followers of John Barley Corn in Florida.

    In the little village of South Boca Grande on Gasparilla, Island, near Fort Myers the inhabitants were late sleepers, back about 1925. It was a friendly and hospitable group living there, busy as they were tending the transfer of phosphate rock from the freight cars filled with that principal ingredient of fertilizer coming in over the rails of the Charlotte Harbor and Northern Railway from Polk County mines, to lead the 30 or more huge ships flying the flags of nations all over the world, anchored in Charlotte Harbor Bay. There were neither a U.S. Customs nor Immigration office in South Boca Grande at that time.

    It was the nightly parties given the Captains and officers of these ships which caused the late sleeping of the landsmen. The social life of the little shipping village whirled around the homes of the pilots which brought in the ships through Boca Grande Pass.

    Liquors of all nations were plentiful. Seamen on all the ships were given a quota of the country's tipple to last them for the voyage but the great majority of the old tars would save the bottles until they reached America, then they would discover the competition from the other ships.

    A man could go out with the pilot who "brought in the ship". Say for instance the great 10,000 ton freighter was from Spain. As soon as one could climb aboard he would be approached by the crewman who would offer imperial quarts of Three Palm Brandy for $1.25 American money. The sailors would whine "for so little dollars you should buy at least three, adding "it's 15 years old." The entire supply of the crew would change hands before the ship reached the pier.

    The Dutch ships would have real Holland gin in pottery bottles; English ships brought in "3-star Hennesey" but the Germans had only Pilsener Beer -- and it all went. The Marus from Japan had mostly Sake (a rice wine). There was Canadian whiskey and Irish whiskey and even Vodka from Russia -- an inebriate's dream.

    I don't believe the natives of Key West ever heard of "prohibition". I visited there in 1930 and all the bars were going full blast, their brass rails well polished by the feet of satisfied tourists. I spoke to an old friend of mine, Federal District Judge, John Holland, who was holding court there and asked how he was doing. He answered "no one ever expects to get a conviction in Key West -- they are a clannish people and stick together.

    I published a small newspaper in Naples, on the West Coast in the early 1930's. "The Transcript" and included among my subscribers 26 millionaires and 22 rum runners. We could purchase a demijohn of Bacardi from Havana, four-fifths of a gallon for $7.50. By the time it arrived in Ft. Myers it was $10 and $15 when it got to Tampa, if you lived as far away as Jacksonville it would cost you $20.

    In Tallahassee during the sessions of the State Legislature, the law protected all legislators from search of their persons or their cars and the law makers would drag croker sacks filled with liquor bottles across the hotel lobbies as they headed for the elevators to their rooms. It was not an unusual sight to see some man place a glass gallon jug on the hotel desk while he registered. Other Tallahasseeans who had no such protection didn't suffer much as 6-year ole shine could be had for $2.00 a jug or for $3.00 if you wanted "the kind the Supreme Court Judges drank".


    There were three daily newspapers in Fort Myers when I finally arrived there before the 1926 "big blow": The Fort Myers Press, owned and edited by George Hosmer; The Tropical News, edited by Carl Hanton and the Palm Leaf, owned by Captain Jack DeLysle. Later the Press was brought by Barron Collier and then he purchased the Tropical News and combined them as the News-Press, as it is today.

    Those were hectic times in Fort Myers -- our paper the Palm Leaf issued both a morning and afternoon sheet, averaging about 12 - 8-col.pages.

    In the earlier part of that period the "Florida Boom" was in full cry, and the competition was furious, a dog-eat-dog affair. Page-ads of real estate operators were turned down because of deadlines -- editors became so personal in their comments against their competitors that the Fort Myers police on several occasions walked home from the editorial offices to protect the writers from assault. I worked from about 10 a.m. until press time on the afternoon Palm Leaf and continued until around 3 am. to get out the morning edition. About 2 one morning, a bullet, shot from a pistol fired through a window barely missed my head, evidenced by the location of the projectile when we dug it out of the far wall.

    I recall when the Palm Leaf in a series of articles attacked the operations of the Koreshan Unity at Estero (it is now a state park) and anxious people waited in large groups for the paper "to come out." I recall there was one of the officers of the Koreshans (named for their president Cyrus Teed of Chicago -- "Koresh" he claimed was Greek for Cyrus), a gentleman of Hebrew faith, named Silverfriend. It was too much of a temptation, and we always referred to him editorially as "Silverfiend." You can imagine!

    We came to work one morning and discovered that some miscreants had entered our press room, early that morning and had started up the big flat-bed press and when going at full speed, had thrown into it a page-size type-high "metal" casting which caused as much damage as would a bundle of dynamite. That day we drove a truck to LaBelle in Hendry County with all the pages in type, under guard of the sheriff and three of his deputies and under their protection used the Hendry County News Press --and didn't miss an edition. We blamed the Koreshans of course but whoever started up that old press and who knew what a casting of type-high metal would accomplish, must have been a trained newspaper pressman. And the editor of the Tropical News wore a smile on his face for a week.

    There were so many odd characters in Fort Myers -- we even had a Chinese laundryman and the official gravedigger was over 70 and rode a bicycle everywhere he went and always wanted people to feel his muscles -- and he had them. He was hard as an anvil and ate only, "fruit, nuts, and cereals."

    Everyone will surely remember the Sheriff during that time "Uncle Frank" Tippens. One night he asked me to go with him to bring in some moonshiners who were operating a near-by still. When we approached the clearing we saw a fire which lit up the entire area; we saw the rifles leaning against the trees and could watch the men attending the still. Still in the shadow, Tippens called to them, "Come on out boys, this is Uncle Frank and you all know I never carry a gun. Now what would the good people, your customers think if you shot poor, old Frank Tippens? Answer me that?" And with no attempt to even pick up their guns they marched out to where Frank and I were, in the shadows - no trouble whatever.

    Many years later when I was working with the U.S. Government on investigation, I ran across Tippens: -- he was a U.S. Marshal in Miami.

  • What the world needs now - is several million more honest, average citizens.


    On the 19th of September, 1926, at 9:00 a.m. the inhabitants of Fort Myers on the West Coast of Florida knew nothing of the ways and dangers of a hurricane than did the great City of Miami the previous night.

    I was publishing a little weekly booklet, "What's Doin' in Fort Myers", and was due to be on the street in a couple of hours when all electrical power in Fort Myers went off. Hurried calls to Florida Power & Light brought the answer: a great storm had devastated all of Miami it was feared hundreds of inhabitants of the lower east coast had lost their lives.

    We were warned that one of the largest and most vicious hurricanes with winds over 120 milesper hour was headed straight for Fort Myers -- the first winds would come from the northeast and as listening people licked their forefinger and thrust them toward the Heavens -- it was In those times there were no weather bureau radio warnings and hurricane center in Miami was not even an idea and would have been no help to us as Miami was in shambles with many recorded deaths.

    The winds in Fort Myers increased and the last issue of my little "What's Doin' " never reached the streets. The last recording on the wind instruments showed 120 m.p.h. at 7:00 P.m. as they were blown away. It was soon noticed the winds had changed after a brief calm (we later learned the eye of the tempest had just passed over Fort Myers) and seemed to blow with even greater fury from the southwest. I was still editor of a small daily newspaper, "The Palm Leaf" and news from our outlying correspondents were soon coming to the paper's office - brought in mostly on foot or horseback. Eight deaths were reported and one reporter told of nearly a dozen persons having been rescued from the tops of cabbage palmetto (Sabel Palm) and one man claimed he had seen "Several" houses floating in the Gulf of Mexico with "groups" of persons clinging to the roofs.

    We were determined to get out the paper and with no power we backed up a Fordson tractor and with leather belting we soon had an old flathed press in working order. Then we discovered our paper supply was water soaked and of no use.

    Outside the hurricane roared - it sounded like a mighty monster, determined to destroy you. I saw a large German Shepherd running on the leeside of a furniture store turn the corner into the brunt of the storm and watched him struggle as he was pinned to the front of the building about two feet from the sidewalk. I released him and he kiyied back again in the lee of the furniture store. I watched a church made of cement blocks collapse as the four walls bulged out and the roof dropped (we learned later all doors and windows had been closed and the air pressure inside was much greater than the air pressure outside).

    I wanted to see what was happening on the waterfront and with the waning winds at my back was actually blown to the city pier, reaching into the Caloosahatchee. It was becoming darker but I could see the long stretches of the bridge across the river was missing and was horrified to see the Collier Line steam freighter, S.S. City of Tampa, lying on her side bound to the dock with an eight inch hemp cable -- and not a spoon full of river water under her.

    The backlash of the mighty storm had actually blown the water of the wide Caloosahatchee into the pine woods which bordered its north shore. The winds were slacking as the rains increased and I knew I must leave the pier as soon all the waters of the great river would be driven back into its bed and would overflow into the Fort Myers streets. Facing the storm I had to crawl on all fours and with fingers between the cross planks I was soon able to haul myself ashore and rest behind a solid structure. I soon reached the newspaper office and one of the reporters was a "ham" radio operator and he heard from Jacksonville that the New York Daily News had a headline that morning, "Fort Myers washed from map." Not altogether true - but close.

    I went home to my room in a 3-story frame building to find my mattress watersoaked and the wall paper loosened from the walls and with bags of water which had been driven through the walls. Wall paper, that gave me the idea. I went back to the office with the ebbing winds now in gusts. It was lonely - no lights - ruptured water mains flowing life's necessity into the streets - telephone lines all down - not a soul on the street. I found a pressman at the plant cleaning up debris. There was little damage and I told him of my big idea.

    He agreed we could get out a hand set paper using wall paper. We soon had the paper, and the old Fordson with the belted back wheel blocked up off the floor was soon turning over the old flat-bed press. We had sent for the type setters and they set my story in 12 point type as fast as I could type it and we had our morning edition with 36 point wood type heads in the hands of the carrier boys.

    Many more stories must be left untold - such as a restaurant keeper known to us only as "the Greek" who had built a underground cistern now filled with rain-water and the cold, rainy first morning he had built a huge fire from debris and served everyone hot coffee free.

    Too many stories - for instance 48 hours after the "big blow" four old frame houses floated ashore on Captiva and Sanibel Islands and 14 persons on the roofs were reported "saved." It could have been Providence. Hurricanes are sneaky!

  • It is difficult to make anyone believe that a fat man can be overworked.


    Miracles Everyone sees them but few are recognized. Here's an example; there were the three daily newspapers in Fort Myers (Florida) during the "boom" (1925 - '29) and I edited the smallest as the "heavy weight battle of the century approached". The "Tropical News" had the AP Service tied up; George Hosmer's "Press" had United Press printers and these two larger papers bought the Western Union and Postal wire service as well. Our paper had ordered, and INS printers were promised us but on the day of the fight - no printers and we had chairs from the morticians next door all set up for the expected crowd of fans. We were stuck - we were disgraced -- then the mob began to form. Now, here is the miracle -- our spies told us that the sports editors in front of both offices were giving reports from Philadelphia and Dempsey and Tunney were expected in the ring at any moment.

    From the crowd milling in front of our plant came a rather elderly man, unkempt with a week's growth of beard. He asked how he could be of help and we told him of our predicament. He pointed to our old unused radio and asked if we had a head set to go with it. We found one and he told the make-up man to set two front pages (one if Dempsey won and one for Tunney) and clamping his head set over his ears, he turned on the radio and sat down to the Linotype machine and began setting two lines of type (one for each page).

    The fight was on and we fed the news by rounds to our now quiet audience. We checked with the other papers -- and we were three rounds ahead of their printers - We got the "long count" and soon after the referee raised the right hand of the victor. With our front page with the fight by rounds and all the background finished we soon rushed our news boys to the crowds in front of the News and Press offices and sold the "fight extras" at .10 each, giving the winner while they were listening to our rivals story now three rounds old.

    We sped back to our office with the sweet taste of a "beat" on our palate -- and discovered our benefactor had disappeared even as he had arrived. We never even learned his name or address -- it was a miracle even if we didn't recognize it at the time. We thought we did it all.

  • Gardening is the oldest vocation in the world -- and the most satisfying.


    Forty years ago patients complained of hospital costs. Forty years ago there were three daily newspapers in Fort Myers and I was editor of the smallest and fightin'est. It was a morning sheet and and we were accustomed to have breakfast each morning in a little restaurant near the hospital, after "putting the paper to bed", about 3:30 a.m.

    I was sitting with the paper's advertising manager listening to the gripe about the hospital not allowing his wife to go home with their new baby until she paid the $250.00 owed for services -- and he didn't have anywhere near that great sum of money -- no newspaper man did back in 1930.

    Little did we realize the hard-hearted hospital heads would soon be begging our ad man to take his wife home, all charges, compliments of the health institution. The early morning stillness was broken by the nostalgic notes of "Sweet Adeline" and a quick glance outside revealed six nurses, arm in arm marching up the center of the avenue leading to the hospital -- pie-eyed and soused to the gills, so to speak. It was during prohibition, too.

    We followed the revelers back to their job and watched the dancing through the window -- doctors, nurses, interns and orderlies -- all tight. We recalled our page one story that morning, telling of a raid by the sheriff which brought in nearly 30 cases of "good liquor". As was the custom, the congenial sheriff had turned over the contraband liquor to the hospital for "medicinal purposes".

    When the little mother was returned to her home and family she was asked if she had heard the loud music and the dancing of the night before at the hospital and she told her thankful husband, "no, the nurses gave all of us a hypodermic and we all had a good night's sleep."

  • Be careful of the words you say
    To keep them soft and sweet
    You never know from day to day
    Which ones you'll have to eat.


    If everyone could spend their winters in Florida they could all add ten years to their lives.

    This was among many sage pronouncements given me by Thomas Alva Edison during a part of his 40-year winter sojourn at Fort Myers, Florida.

    Edison brought his bride to Fort Myers and returned to his winter home and laboratory there year after year "because of the blooming of the Royal Poinciana and the regal Royal Palms" he told me.

    I was still editor of the small daily newspaper, the "Fort Myers Palm Leaf" in 1927 and when I called the electrical wizards' wife for an interview with the famous inventor, he told her (I could hear him because he spoke very loud, being a little hard of hearing), "if he really spells his name as he claims, he must be some kin to my old friend Ben Lamme. Tell him to come on up and see me."

    I did go immediately to his home on MacGregor Boulevard and he smiled as we shook hands, saying "Did you know Ben Lamme had more electrical patents than I have?" I told him as we were seated in his old lab, (afterwards given to his friend Henry Ford for his museum near Detroit) that Ben was my Father's first cousin, but that I did not know the difference between an ohm and a waft. This is not the story of Ben Lamme, General Superintendent of Westinghouse in Pittsburgh, but Edison told me that Ben invented and installed the dynamoes under Niagara Falls which give power and light to the city of Buffalo, N.Y. He said Ben invented the air brake used on trains but that the credit went to Westinghouse because Ben worked there.

    Edison once told me that during the time he and a select number of inventors worked "in secret" for the government during World War One that Ben Lamme invented the depth bomb to fight submarines. At that time he told of a gas they invented, word of it was sent to the German Kaiser, asking him to surrender, and Edison died with the belief that it brought about the armistice. He told me the gas would kill everything under the surface, including earth-worms", and "that nothing would grow for the next 50 years or more".

    The wizard told me so many things he asked me not to publish, and I did not although many a story would have swept the country by the AP and other wire services. However, I feel that it will not harm the memory of this great American to reveal a couple of them at this late date. It was during the campaign for the presidency between Herbert Hoover and Al Smith that with a sly smile he said, "you know I will have to vote for Hoover as he is a close, personal friend but I would like to see Al Smith win just to see how much hell the American people would raise because of Smith's religion."

    Edison was not as deaf as he pretended at times. I asked him one day what years were his happiest and he came up with this choice bit which I could have sold to the wire services with little trouble: "Since about my 84th birthday I have been ailing a little, so I guess I was happiest between my 80th and 84th year"; he added with a grin, "you see the women didn't bother me so much".


    Edison, the electrical wizard, spent forty winters at his MacGregor Boulevard home in Fort Myers. During several of these sojourns, I had many interviews with the famous inventor.

    He told me one day that after he made his first incandescent lamp he set one up on a pole in downtown Fort Myers and invited everyone to come and see it at night. They came from 100 miles around -- and were amazed and delighted. Edison said at that time there was a large pond in the center of town and at night range cattle would come to the pond to drink and rest on its banks, seeking the breeze off the Caloosahatchee River to drive away the mosquitoes.

    Edison was so pleased with the reception of his new invention that he told officials of the City of Fort Myers that he would furnish the city electricity for the remainder of his life if the city would furnish the poles and the wire to light the streets.

    According to the official minutes of the City Council, at City Hall, the City of Fort Myers turned thumbs down on the Edison offer, giving as the reason: "the bright lights would keep the cows awake at night."

    It was well known that Edison knew very little about the value of money. I recall one morning when the great inventor was going to have lunch at the swanky Naples Hotel ($12.00 per day with meals) and was having his shoes shined by a little black boy on the hotel porch. After the job was finished he asked the boy how much he owed him and Edison was told "five dollars". He paid without question. I remember Edison that day and about a week's growth of beard and wore neither a coat nor a tie. Not recognizing him the desk clerk of the hotel came out on the porch, just before lunch time and informed Edison that he could not enter the hotel dining room without coat and tie and suggested "you probably would be more comfortable at the little hotel down by the river (Gordon River)". Just then the hotel manager recognized his famous visitor and ran off his clerk, offered Edison his own tie and coat. Edison refused with this statement, "I am sure I would be more comfortable at the little hotel down by the river". He stalked out and returned to Fort Myers where he was better known.

    I don't believe many people knew that Henry Ford paid for Edison's experiments in the making of synthetic rubber. I was talking with Edison one morning in his Fort Myers laboratory as Ford was making preparation to return to Detroit. I overheard Ford talking to Mrs. Edison. The dialogue went something like the following:

    Mrs. Edison - "He has a crew of six men working in Sumatra $10,000, another $10,000 for his crew working in East Africa. He will need at least $25,000 this year for his work in Hendry County (LaBelle) and for our own household expenses, at least $5,000."

    Mr. Ford - "I'll send you a check for this amount and if you have forgotten anything, just wire me".

    In later years all of Edison's financial and business affairs, which had grown considerably, was turned over to his son who was a U.S. Senator. The Great Man never did learn the value of money.


    Hitch-hiking wasn't pleasant -- especially with a hole in the sole of one's shoe and hungry to boot.

    The "great depression" didn't hit Florida immediately after that Black Friday in October, 1929, when the Market crashed. However, it was now late in 1930 and the newspaper I edited in Fort Myers had folded (and newsmen had no union) and jobs were few and far between along the palm strewn shores of the Caloosahatchee.

    Many families were moving about in Fort Myers. Residents in the swankier homes sought smaller houses with lower rent and trunks had to be hauled to the depot for those less hardy souls who were giving up and "going back north" where there were soup kitchens and bread lines for the unemployed. Business was brisk for the one drayman and his three mule-drawn steel tired vehicles. No heavy trucks in Florida those days and a select few of us white collared laborers had jobs of sort helping to load and again unload the creaking drays. We all sat on a bench in front of the little office on Royal Palm Boulevard waiting for the telephone to ring and one of us (we took turns) jumped on a waiting wagon eager for the chance to earn our 25 cents a load. Some days we made 75 cents and on lucky days from one dollar to a buck and a half.

    As I sat hour after hour waiting, I thought of the 1-inch T-bone steaks awaiting my anytime I made the long trip to La Belle in nearby Hendry County. It was a long trek however. One day I could stand it no longer and early in the morning with nothing but a cup of coffee with no sugar or milk for breakfast I handed my father who was living with me (my mother was with Dad's folks in California) a half dollar and told him I was going to visit a friend of mine "up the river" and for him to buy himself a sandwich. It was the last cent I had but I could smell that steak. "How are you going to get there?" Dad asked, pocketing the 4-bit piece. "Hitch-hike", I answered, bravely optimistic.

    There were very few cars on the road to LaBelle but occasionally someone who knew me when I worked on the Hendry County News, when Mary Hayes Davis owned it would stop and I could ride for several miles in their Model T Fords.

    Along the Caloosahatchee there was occasionally seen from the highway entire families fishing. They wouldn't wave but would sit silently watching their corks. To them the catching of catfish was no longer a sport. It was a matter of eating or not eating.

    My friend in LaBelle was in the real estate business. Hendry County was still cattle country and even in hard times he would sell acreage to some enthusiastic yankee -- but he had plenty of time to play cribbage -- and he loved it. There weren't too many cribbage players in La Belle and he was always glad when I came visiting. He would head for his ice-box and break out a couple of 1-pound steaks as soon as I came up on the front porch of his office -- he had a couple of rooms and kitchen in the rear.

    When I left the next morning my host had located a friend who was driving to Fort Myers and I had been invited along. With me upon leaving, I was handed a clean burlap bag filled with baking yams, a glass of homemade guava Jelly, one steak, half dozen roasting ears of corn and a great loaf of home baked bread. I thanked my friend and all he said was:

    "That's for your dad."


    The Trail Blazers like the amateurs they were, floundered across the Everglades from near Naples to Miami in 1923. They started in Fort Myers April 4th.

    At that time I was still suffering in the California slump and it was another year before I arrived in the Fort Myers - Naples area. It was then I learned of the trip across the 'Glades of Russell Kay and Allen Andrews, a couple of newspapermen and their band of hardy "path finders" seeking a feasible track across the then thought to be impenetrable jungle.

    Their great desire was to show that a super-highway was possible to construct between Tampa and the East Coast's fast growing metropolis, Miami - even then known as "The Magic City". (When my father and I visited Miami in 1912, eleven years before, it boasted of 6,000 inhabitants).

    Allen Andrews was editor of the American Eagle, a weekly newspaper published by the Koreshan Unity at Estero, south and west of Fort Myers and Russell Kay was editor and feature writer of the Florida Grower, a leading state agriculture magazine. Russell was well liked and favorably known throughout the state. He still writes his syndicated column "Too Late to Classify", started in 1935.

    It must be remembered that while several early explorers, landing on Florida's gulf coast (they had sailed from Havana in Spanish Cuba) had trekked inland toward the east in full armor, it had not been very far into the Everglades and Kay's and Allen's Trail Blazers were the first white men to complete the crossing from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean.

    In discussing this feat recently with Russell Kay he said: "There was a need for a cross-state highway and at the time, 1923, canals had been dug and rough grades had been thrown up from Naples and from Miami. Construction however had been halted when the money ran out and public interest quickly began to lag. Other newspaper men with us were Frank Whitman, managing editor of The Florida Grower, also known at the time for his fishing prowess, and George Hosmer, editor and owner of the Fort Myers Press.

    "Stanley Hanson, the Indian Agent (called Stanee Hansee by the Seminoles) was also a member of our group and he selected our guides. One Indian, a tall raw boned fellow, about 30 years old, named Assumhachee, the other was a Miccousukee leader, short and stubby with the Indian name of Conopatchee and answering the whites to the name of Little Billie. Both came from a small Indian Village located on a pine knoll in the heart of the 'Glades about forty miles north of Everglades City".

    When I asked Russell if he had a list of the names of all the original Trail Blazers, he searched through his files and struck "pay dirt". Others than those which have been named were: Orea E. Chapin, of Fort Myers; E. P. Green, of Bradenton; L. A. Whitney, of St. Petersburg; John E. Morris, of the Lee County Commissioners; George W. Dunham, Fort Myers; Henry Colquit, F. C. Garmon, Fred B. Hough, Amos Bolich, L. J. Van Duyle, Joe W. Hill, Maurice Ayrer, Clark Taylor, C. Shawcross and Hilton D. Thompson.

    Russell assured me that very few of these men had much experience as woodsmen and almost none of them had ever been in the Florida Everglades and had joined the project more as a lark than for any other reason. Each man paid his own expenses and brought his own camping equipment, according to Kay.

    I first heard of the Trail Blazers when I worked for Barron Collier on the old Collier County News, about 1927, after completion of the Tamiami Trail across the 'Glades. Very little was mentioned about the suffering of the explorers; how many of their cars were mired down and had to be abandoned; how they were compelled to dismantle some of the cars to obtain vital parts to be used on more reliable automobiles; how they would have starved if it had not been for the Seminole guides; how they syphoned fuel from the abandoned cars to furnish the necessary gasoline to finish their jungle journey.

    Kay told me later they were never lost although the early stories in the newspapers had reported they had been captured by Indians and one reporter evidently looking for sex appeal reported that there were seven women in the lost group who had fled to an Indian camp.

    The Trail Blazers had expected to make the 'Glades crossing in three days - one week's time at the latest and it was closer to three weeks. When safely in Miami they reported there were no misquitoes nor other insects to plague them and that they had encountered no rattlesnakes and but one alligator -- and it a small one in a pond.

    Most of the people in Miami had given them up as lost in the Everglades, killed by wild animals or Indians.

    However, the Tamiami Trail was built five years later and all the original Trail Blazers attended the big celebration in Everglades City and occupied a prominent part of the gala parade.

  • People are like nations -- the happiest nations have no history.


    It was in 1929 I met "Pork Chop" Jones while I was editor of the Fort Myers Palm Leaf, a small daily, where we welcomed the general public at our ground floor desk. Billy Sunday the great professional baseball star had turned evangelist and word of his enormous nightly collections had attracted many imitators. On the far West Coast Aimee Temple McPherson was still "wowing" the faithful and traveling, so-called "evangelists" swarmed over the land.

    The first of the horde of tent operators I actually met called himself "Prophet Ezekial" and I had attended his opening night and witnessed the "town drunk" and 59 other "converts" hit the "saw dust trail" for salvation. In my review of the event in the next afternoon's papers I asked the innocent question: "I wonder how many pints of "shine" the Prophet had given the old, local inebriate to lead the flock to the podium."

    When I saw the unsmiling trouper come through the front door later, I felt a tremor of uneasiness -- but there was no need for worry.

    This man shook hands warmly and upon invitation seated himself comfortable, with only love in his heart. He was a real Old Pro. He told me that my review of his opening would be of great help to him; that he was his own press agent and wanted 200 extras copies to send ahead to six towns he had scheduled. He knew the best way to keep me quiet for the remainder of his stay in town. He was smart.

    I did not cover any more of the religious "first nights" and one day our man covering City Hall told of a story he picked up of screams heard by maids at the hotel where the Reverend Jonathan Jones and his wife were residing. The preacher who was conducting tent services in town told the hotel manager that his wife had slipped and fell while taking a bath. I suggested that an interview with the wife might hold something of interest.

    Our man met the wife seated in the hotel lobby. She had one tooth missing, a beautiful "shiner" and various bruises on her swollen face. She told our reporter that her husband had pinned her between the back of the opened door and the bathroom wall and "beat" her viciously. She said this "wasn't the first time."

    We printed the story quoting the wife and I accompanied it with an editorial, mentioning among other items: "A man has a right to preach anything he chooses as long as he has a city permit and license but he does not have the right to beat his wife.'

    In less than an hour after our paper hit the streets, I was typing my column with my back to the door when I sensed someone near and turning there was "Pork Chop" Jones with his right arm raised over his head. In his hand was a large knife. He spoke these words of doom: "If God wasn't holding my arm I would plunge this knife into your black heart."

    I realized I could show no fear or even move or he would carry out his threat - and I was a sitting duck. I must answer him quickly and it must throw his thinking off balance. I looked him in the eyes as mean as I could and squinting returned: " Tell Him to turn it loose." This did confuse him and he lowered the knife. And just in time one of the printers from the back room rushed up and grabbed him. When I was asked why didn't I call the police I breathlessly replied, "I don't want to get involved."

    That was the last I saw of "Pork Chop" -- during the night he folded his tent and silently stole away.


    There comes a time when illegal practices are protected by the law, as odd as it may seem.

    One such time occurred in Fort Myers in 1927 when the Volstead Act was being stringently enforced. A telephone call to the newspaper office where I labored from the sheriff (Lee County) suggested I send someone over to his office in the Court House. He promised a "great story." I had already heard of the "prohi" agents making a big haul of "red likker" during the night and thought I had better go over myself.

    When I arrived a reporter, Tom Smith of the Tropical News was already on hand as were two government agents whom I had met on former such occasions. The large floor of the sheriff's office was almost filled with bottles of many shapes of hard stuff. Tom selected an odd shaped bottle and took from his pocket a folded corkscrew, pulled the stopper and swallowing a great slug handed it to me. Tom set down the bottle and grabbed another with, "oh, look at this - isn't it a beauty?" I downed my shot and grabbed Tom's second bottle before the protests of the government men were heard.

    The sheriff grinned and told the agents to stop their yammering, turned again to us as we reached for the fourth and fifth container of the elixer, "go right ahead boys, their doesn't seem to be any law against it."

    The agents ranted and raved and the sheriff continued to smile. He admonished the "feds" with the words, "didn't you ever hear of the 'freedom of the press' - they are not even in possession of the liquor, it is still legally in your custody. These boys are not transporting it, neither are they selling it - just drinkin' it and you know there is no law against that". The agents walked out in disgust.

    The county lawman wrapped up a couple of the oddest shaped bottles, gave them to each of us and with the broadest of smiles said, "I told you it was a great story - give these to the boys in the back room of your shop."

    It is easy to understand how sheriff Frank Tippens held down his office for more than 30 years.


    When Arthur (Kitty) Gomez, State Senator representing Monroe (Key West), Collier (Naples), Lee (Ft Myers) and Hendry (LaBelle) counties, at Tallahassee, was 21 years old he could neither read nor write his name.

    The life story of this amazing young public servant could fill a huge book, but this glimpse of his thoughts and triumphs cover only that section pertaining to his campaign which finally found him sitting in his seat in the Florida State Senate.

    At 21 Gomez, an apprentice barber in his hometown in Key West, did not seem to have any desire to better his lot until he met "a lady from the mainland" who paid a high school principal to "teach him to read". Gomez told me later this lady told him he "could be a big man even outside of Key West" if he would study hard, and study hard he did. Before the year expended he passed the eighth grade exams. The then famous Judge Jefferson Browne, one of the foremost attorneys in south Florida, lived in Key West, took an interest in the striving young barber and permitted him the use of his law library - and within three more years Arthur Gomez passed the Florida Bar examination and was a fall fledged attorney.

    Judge Browne did not permit his young friend to rest but insisted Gomez run for the State Legislature. He won with little opposition.

    A few days after the United States entered World War One, Gomez arose from his seat in the State House of Representatives at Tallahassee and delivered a highly emotional speech asking all the House members who were unmarried to enlist in his country's armed forces. He then fell to the floor, a victim of a "stroke." He was partially paralyzed and he did not return to Tallahassee until he campaigned for the State Senate. The senatorial district was composed of Monroe, Collier, Lee and Hendry counties, in 1930.

    It was really necessary to paint some of Gomez' background to understand the plan of his campaign.

    I met Arthur Gomez at the very start of his campaign for the Senate seat held by a very strong man who had held it for 20 years or more and thought to be indestructible. He had the railroads, the power companies, the cattle men and lumber men on his side. At this time, I had a small weekly newspaper I founded in Naples, the Transcript, was also working on the Hendry County News as editorial writer and spot news, as well as a feature writer for the Fort Myers Press. Arthur introduced himself the first day he left Key West for the mainland, and I did what I could to help him.

    Arthur had planned to cover the entire 4-county district on foot. He did not have a car and neither did I (times were hard in 1930). He never seemed discouraged. He was firm in his belief that if he could talk personally to a voter he could make a friend and supporter. He often said "It doesn't do any good to talk to a crowd - no matter how large and if you stop and shake hands and ask for support you can get it." He walked and walked, and spent many a night with a friendly family who would call in their neighbors to meet him.

    In the cities he walked up one street and down another, meeting folks and leaving his card telling what he wanted to do in Tallahassee for them. He told the professional fishermen he would introduce and work for laws to better protect them (and he did). He spent all of his time in the three mainland counties as his friends told him they would look after him in his home county, Monroe.

    Arthur's opponent, the incumbent, followed him across the district, spending less than a week's time, handing out good Key West cigars to the political bosses, always ending his little talks with "I presume I can count on you election day, as usual." Upon his return to Key West, he made plans for a big champagne victory -- as usual. A party that never came off. Arthur beat him nearly 3 to 1.

    Arthur Gomez was Florida's first "walking senator". He was appointed a Circuit Judge in Dade County by Governor Fred Cone while in the Senate -- a position he held until his death.


    Barron Collier, multi-millionaire advertising man from Memphis and New York had recently purchased over one million acres of land in Lee and Hendry counties and had succeeded in shoving through the State Legislature a bill creating a new county with the seat of government in the small village of Everglades. The land was bought according to Collier at $1.25 per acre. On this land, it was reported grew several million board feet of fine cypress timber.

    The largest portion of the new county was land purchased from Lee County (Fort Myers) and was mostly swamp and included the Everglades on the south as far east as Dade (Miami) County. The balance taken from Hendry (La Belle) included the citrus groves around Deep Lake (many oil wells are near there today). Most of this land was also in the Everglades -- very low and swampy.

    The first county sheriff and other county officials were employees of Mr. Collier, several of them working in Collier's Manhattan Mercantile Company in the village of Everglades.

    Upon resolution by the newly formed county commission the infant county was bonded (Mr. Collier's banks bought the bonds) and roads and bridges were constructed. Mr. Collier's firm, Alexander, Ramsey and Kerr, won the bid for the building of the improvements. Work on the long discussed Tamiami Trail connecting the cities of Tampa and Miami had come to a halt -- no more money. Miami's portion of the highway which would slice through the heart of the Everglades had been completed to the western limits of Dade County. Expecting the sale of the vast swampy acreage in Lee County to Barron Collier, the county commissioners sitting in Fort Myers had shut down all work on the cross-state road. All of south Florida, if not the entire state, turned expectantly toward newly created Collier County and its political leaders.

    Mr. Collier was not long in moving. Dozens of "soundings" had been made of the under surface strata where the new road would cut through the Everglades and findings turned over to Collier showed only coal black muck. The State of Florida could not borrow money by bonding itself in those days because of provisions in the State Constitution. Collier, however, it was believed "loaned" the state, through the State Road Department, around $6 million provided his construction company - Alexander, Ramsey and Kerr - received the contract to complete the work started on the cross-state road. This may have been mere rumor but A.R. and K. did the excavating and soon were stopped when its engineers discovered that about six inches under the surface of 75 percent of the proposed highway across the Everglades was solid lime rock.

    Again all construction halted. Those who were supposed to know were commenting that the Tamiami Trail dream had burst -- that Collier would lose every cent he had put in it.

    But these people still didn't appreciate Mr. Collier. Appearing soon on the scene was a rather small, compact, taciturn, fighting man - a man entirely devoid of humor, some said, who was introduced as a professor at Annapolis -- D. Graham Copeland.

    While I worked closely with him later, I never learned his rating but as a disciplinarian he must have worn the four stars of an Admiral at the Naval Academy and his employees while he was with Collier were at best mere midshipmen.

    Copeland made one visit of inspection to the incompleted project and he seemed to understand immediately what had to be done and that same day he called the dredgers back to work and started installation of a row of eight compressed air drills on the prow of one of the large barges. To build a road across swamp land such as the Everglades it was necessary to dig a canal along both sides, not only for the road material but for proper drainage.

    The muck on the Trail right of way near Ochopee was cleared away and sufficient solid limestone blasted to give enough water for the barge rigged with drills and workmen at the drills soon had eight holes in the stone large enough for sticks of dynamite. The barge housed also a machine shop to keep the drills in repair. Soon there was a barge with eight air drills working on each side of the highway and the continuous blasting could be heard for miles. Progress was really on the move and in some places the water in the canals was 14 feet in depth. Large cranes or "draglines" were busy between the canals dragging the huge boulders of blasted rock to form the new roadway.

    As the Tamiami Trail neared its junction with the completed stretch at the Dade County west line Mr. Collier started planning for a "big celebration" at its official opening with Governor John Martin, the Chairman of the State Road Department, Fons Hathaway, and many other dignitaries at the ribbon cutting. And naturally there must be a special edition of the Collier County News, edited in Everglades City and printed at the plant of the Daily Press at Fort Myers.

    I entered the picture here as I was asked to help by writing special articles for the new weekly.

    The Tamiami Trail edition of the News broke all records for weekly newspapers in the state - not only the first to carry a rotogravure section but included the most pages, well over 300 I recall. As usual, I was too dumb to save even one copy for myself.

    The first year after the completion of the Tamiami trail 52 persons lost their lives in the deep canals along the new speedway. Many of them were Seminole Indians, who could not resist trying it out.


    The sun was going down and it would soon be dark on the lonely Tamiami Trail just north of the Village of Naples in Collier County, as I drove with a friend toward Fort Myers that day in 1928. We visioned coming toward us in the dusk -- a lone hitch-hiker.

    We sped up to meet the newcomer and soon learned she was a well dressed girl, very pretty, about 20 years of age -- and visibly pregnant. Naturally, we stopped and asked her where she was going. When she replied "Miami, to meet my husband" we were not only in sympathy but very much alarmed for her safety. We pointed out to her that Naples was 110 miles from Miami and "there was not a single house between the two municipalities" -- and it would soon be dark.

    After discussing the distressing situation with my friend, I wrote on one of my business cards (I was owner and editor of the Naples Transcript) addressing it to the manager of the "little" hotel in Naples to feed the girl and give her a room for the night and promised to pay him on my return from Fort Myers the next day. We told her to be sure and give the card to the hotel man and bid her "Godspeed" and "good luck", not expecting to see her ever again.

    But events seldom turn out as are expected.

    The next day all was excitement and hurley-burley around Naples "little" hotel -- the cute hitch-hiker on the second floor had given birth to a baby son with the efficient aid of a local black mid-wife. One of the rum runners had sent over a complete layette "for the little fella", collected by his wife and her friends. I am afraid I didn't mention that in addition to the 26 millionaires included in Naples' citizenry were 22 other staunch families of respected boat owners who made regular trips to Bimini for various brands of Scotch Whisky and Gordon Gin and to Havana for demijohns of Bacardi. Those of this crew who were "home" took up a collection and brought the young mother $842 in cash. Then it was learned the "little fella" could not live to see the sun go down and a blanket of sadness seemed to fall upon the Neapolitans -- all except one family. Naples had one preacher, paid by the wealthy northerners, and his wife was heard to exclaim with some disgust "she had no business out on the public highway in her condition" and then she had added, according to her cook, "I think it's a disgrace."

    There was no practicing physician, no mortician nor a cemetery in Collier County at that time. The baby was dead -- we were sure of that and a telephone call to nearby Bonita Springs in Lee County brought quick consent to bury the infant in their graveyard. The manager Of the "little" hostelry made a quick trip to Fort Myers and returned with a wee white satin coffin -- he insisted on paying for it himself. One of the rum runners was able to reach the husband by phone who promised to meet his wife in Miami "as soon as a train can get there." He was told there was a job waiting for him there and that the first month's rent had been paid on a nice house for his wife and him.

    The wives of the rum runners "layed out" the youngster in a lovely dress and at four o'clock in the afternoon with the little coffin across the hotel manager's knees and a small boy and a big shovel in the back seat, I stopped our battered Ford before the preacher's home. He came out and after being asked to say "a few words" over the youngster at the grave, he absolutely refused. Without even answering him I picked him up bodily and sat him down in the Ford's front seat amid cries of "I don't even know what church she belongs to" and "she should have stayed at home."

    Everything worked out at Bonita Springs. The preacher mumbled his few words and as we let him out of the car at his home his wife rushed out screaming, "Oh, what a terrible disgrace." She could have been describing her husband's actions, but she wasn't.

  • An article on "quackery" recently tells of the earliest known hair growth compound prescribed for one of the Queens of Egypt around 3400 B.C. It consisted of dog toes, date refuse and asses' hoofs. This concoction had the same effect as present day hair restorers -- none.


    It isn't often a person is given a history book and found his own name on its pages . . . a friend brought me recently Charlton W. Tebeau's "Florida's Last Frontier" published in 1957, printed by University of Miami Press . . . on page 179, relating the early growth of the Town of Naples in Collier County, we read: "The city (Naples) bonded itself and did its first street paving. It had a newspaper for a time when Vernon Lamme was publishing the "Naples Transcript".

    The hurricane of 1926 and the subsequent collapse of the Fiorida land boom slowed, where it did not stop, expansion in all parts of the State. In 1928 Naples also had its first try at a Chamber of Commerce with J. W. Chaterton as president, J. K. Hamill, Jr. as vice president and Lamme as secretary." . . . while secretary in Naples, we received a letter asking us to charter a yacht or houseboat large enough to accommodate a half dozen manufacturers of stoves. . . they wished to entertain the purchasing staff of Montgomery Ward on a tarpon fishing trip . . . and a post script, as I remember it, read, "and give the cost not a thought" . . . we chartered a large houseboat tied up in Miami for $2,000 a week and stocked it for a two week's cruise off Naples . . . it was during prohibition and good liquor could be obtained in Naples at that time, very easily . . . Naples boasted of a number of "rum runners" who lived there and brought in contraband from Bimini, Havana and Nassau . . . Baccardi could be bought at the boats for $7.50 a demijohn (nearly a gallon) and, it sold in Fort Myers at $12.50. Tampa for $20 . . . Jacksonville at $25. And at most any price by the time it arrived in Atlanta . . . at about the same rate we could obtain gin from Holland, Brandy from Spain, Pilsner beer from Germany and Champagne from France, . . all from ships anchored at Boca Grande in Lee County which were loading phosphate . . . and the seamen were issued a number of bottles each to be consumed on the voyage and they would all save this liquor and sell to the American natives for a price of approximately $1.50 a quart . . . and they would insist "at that price you should buy at least two quarts" . . . we loaded the chartered houseboat with our liquor and when the stove buyers from Chicago came aboard and sampled what was on board they one and all threw overboard all the "bathtub gin" they had brought with them . . .

  • These days one seldom sees a man and his wife walking together -- holding hands. The wife has a couple of bags of groceries under her arms while he has his hand in his pocket searching for his car keys.


    It was a hot day in Naples about 1927. I was publishing the first newspaper, The Transcript, in that small village of possibly 800 souls -- 22 of them rum runners, owning their own boats.

    On that particular afternoon I was walking down the dusty road between the Naples hotel and the small harbor and a young boy about eight years old was walking towards me, crying as if his heart was breaking. I stopped him and inquired of his trouble and choking, at tempting bravely to stop his tears, he said, "They are going to hang my Uncle Horace today over in Fort Lauderdale."

    Horace Alderman, a cousin of Frank Alderman, president of First National Bank of Fort Myers, was hanged that day for piracy on the high seas and for the murder of two coast guardsmen. Alderman and his rum running crew had captured a coast guard cutter and for several days ran amok on the waters between Fort Lauderdale and Bimini.

    When brought to trial the State of Florida refused jurisdiction and Federal Judge Ritter could not try Alderman in his Circuit Court and had him arraigned before him as head of a court under Federal Maritime Law. Alderman had been found guilty and sentenced to death. The State, without jurisdiction would not permit use of the State's electric chair at Raiford. Under Maritime Law the sentence of death was by hanging and on property under control of Maritime Law.

    There was an old Air Force hanger on the property of the U.S. Coast Guard at Fort Lauderdale and Judge Ritter had a scaffold built in the hangar - and Horace's life was ended there. Not many mourned his passing -- but there is one I know of -- his eight year old nephew in Naples.


    It is presumed that most everyone can look back and recall a time when the opportunity to "make a lot of money" was presented and often they missed cashing in by some incident which, if deferred but a day or even an hour, might have brought success.

    One such time happened to me in the early 1930's. I had been secretary to State Senator Arthur Gomez of Key West who was known to be interested in the unseating of the despot in Havana. The prohibition era had just closed in the United States and, living in Naples at the time, I was well acquainted with a number of alleged "rum runners" who resided there and because of the stopping of the flow of bootleg liquor from Bimini and Havana their boats were idle and the skippers seeking some "action."

    I was approached one morning by several Cuban patriots who desired transportation for a large group of men who had been recruited in Florida by the revolutionary junta whose headquarters was in New York City. My job was to recruit the assistance of boatmen and their craft to "land" these patriots on Cuban soil.

    While there was a federal law prohibiting the movement of weapons, ammunition and other articles of war or revolution there was no law against transporting men from the United States to Cuba.

    Finally I was able to line up eight sea going boats which would load the Cuba-bound "soldiers" somewhere near Tampa. My share of the venture would add to "around $60,000". I met the New York junta in a back room of the old daily Cuban language newspaper, "La Traducione" in Tampa and I recall sitting one evening about dusk on a bench outside the front of the newspaper office -- the linotype operator was the head of the junta -- and a rifle shot rang out, the bullet missed my head by a couple of inches as it ployed through the plate glass of the newspaper office. The shot came from an alley directly across the street from the office and we found the empty cartridge in the alley. It was identified as coming from the regular army rifle used by the Cuban Army, then in power. There is no doubt in my mind that the shot was fired merely to scare me as if the skulking spy had wanted to kill me he would have found little difficulty in doing so.

    Following the bullet by the line of fire we found it in the back wall of the building directly back of the linotype operator and if that senor had not ducked when he first heard the shot he would have died.

    They were recruiting men to fight in Cuba from the United States Post Office steps in Ybor City (in Tampa) and the boat men were to receive $600 per head for delivery of the man on Cuban soil. There were several hundred recruits to be delivered and the shipments were to start on the following Thursday. The payments were to be made in gold from a bank in Ybor City, at noon on that Thursday. I didn't sleep very well that Wednesday night, as I recall -- I must have been counting my money instead of sheep.

    Large crowds were gathered in Ybor City early that Thursday morning -- patriots were cheering and men were imitating the slashing of their throats with their thumbs crying madly, "La Revolucione" as they danced in the streets with the laughing senoritas -- a radio was blaring out native Cuban music and then the hilarity stopped. The radio was sending news from Havana and junta heard that on Wednesday night "22 guerilla generals have surrendered to Cuban Army Forces". That was the end and I had missed it by four hours.

  • They tell us that it is easier to get a man off the farm than to get the farm out of the man. A Kansas friend of mine was asked what was the opposite of misery and he said happiness. Then he was queried, "what is the opposite of "woe" and he said "giddap."



    As time for the opening of the state legislature in April approaches and I listen to and hear from friends who will attend this session, the urge to go to Tallahassee is difficult to combat.

    Tallahassee in the Spring is lovely, but always one cold spell can be expected before Easter and I recall that my first session during the Great Depression when times were really hard, I arrived in the Capitol City dressed only for tropical south Florida with newly whitened sneakers and white duck trousers -- and nearly froze to death.

    The magnolias on the capitol grounds were in bloom and on opening night both "houses" were veritable bowers of flowers; each Senator and House member had a huge bouquet on his (or her) desk donated by Woman's Club and many others from friendly lobbyists, and the president of the Senate could hardly see over the banks of blossoms on the rostrum.

    There are always a number of receptions throughout the city, given by the first families and an official reception in the governor's mansion is always looked forward to by the hundreds of attaches who gather to meet the Governor and the Cabinet and Supreme Court justices and their wives. It's a grand time and (I don't believe the governors know about it) liquor was to be had in one of the rooms furnished by "the liquor lobby". Yes, it isn't all work in Tallahassee.

    Another event always awaited was the wondrous "Rose Show" in Thomasville, Ga. (16 miles from Tallahassee) when nearly all of Tallahassee drove to the Georgia city to marvel at the display. The parking on both sides of nearly all the streets in town would be planted in blooming rose bushes and the hundreds of varieties in the show were gorgeous and the visitors would talk about it for weeks.

    A sergeant-at-arms during sessions of the legislature has an interesting time. Rounds are made of the eating and drinking places in the area every night to see if any members need assistance and once in a while one would be helped back to his hotel after collecting hat, and sometimes coat and briefcase and in some instances, paying the bill. One of the outstanding "incidents occurred when a Senator, still alive, so his name had better go unsung, threatened the life of another and the sergeants had to disarm him as he came onto the Senate floor.

    Another time an attache had stolen a typewriter (he said it belonged to the people and he was one of the people) and was traced to Jacksonville and the sergeants caught up with him in the George Washington Hotel there, and returned him to Tallahassee. The sergeants have police authority all over the state while legislature is in sessions.

    Hundreds of incidents could be recorded which never reached the alert newshawks in Tallahassee but they are best unpublished. This does not mean that all the lawmakers were on the "fast" side but the ratio was about the same as in private life. However, it was noticeable the hardest drinker was usually on the Prohibition Committee. Because he was more experienced, probably.


    It would be so much more interesting if one could keep politics out of politics . . . The Florida Legislature convenes the regular session in early April . . .

    Society in Tallahassee is all agog . . . visioning the receptions and parties . . . In March the florists will be working overtime preparing for the opening night . . . there will be three and four and in some instances more vases of cut flowers on the desks of the smiling solons . . . they aren't mad at anyone on the opening night . . . both chambers will be filled with attaches looking forward to the momentous work ahead for them . . . lobbyists will be handshaking and telling funny stories to the new Senators and House Members . . . when they can get them away from the new lawmakers' wives . . . old members have been in Tallahassee for many days . . . most of them arranged for places to stay during the session . . . rates in hotels and rooms in private homes are going at twice the regular rates . . . the sergeant-at-arms in both Houses must be working day and night to arrange desks and chairs for the newly created members . . . the floor-plan in both Houses has to be changed in order to crowd in the extra legislators . . . occasioned by the re-apportionment law passed during the recent special session . . . in the Capitol even before the opening day one can see little groups of awe-stricken young stenographers who have been promised jobs "in the legislature" by newly elected backwoods solons, peering into empty committee rooms . . . shivering as they contemplate what might happen to them if they don't mind what their parents told them about the wicked ways of Tallahassee . . . old attorneys will wander around the halls picking out the seats they once adorned . . . old codgers still wearing black the strong bowties of yesteryear . . . automatic printers will soon be set up in the rooms given the press of the state who send their papers hourly record of the action . . . most of the larger papers have one, two and sometimes three special Legislative writers at the Capitol at all times . . . . the telegraph company will have quite a large office force in the building to handle the press copy for the reporters on the smaller papers . . . and to receive the bushelbaskets full of wires sent to the legislators by lobbyists "back home" urging the killing or the passage of certain bills . . . janitors . . . they are appointees of the members . . . receive the same daily pay as do the secretaries . . . very democratic lists of important voters to receive the Journal and Calendar both the House and the Senate are being made by assistant sergeant-at-arms . . . and the postmasters in each house are probably in Tallahassee early . . . being instructed in their duties by the sergeants they also receive the same pay . . . Leon County is "wet" this year and the procession of solons bringing liquor to their hotel rooms will not be necessary ... a legislator cannot be arrested while attending legislature or going to or returning home from Tallahassee . . . so during the "dry" years the lawmakers would bring large quantities of whiskey from home, safe from the law . . . and boldly carry them to their rooms . . . with the aid of the grinning bell-boys, naturally . . . It has been a long time since I worked in the Capitol, but in those days we could purchase good, aged corn whiskey for, as I recall, $2 a gallon . . . $3 agallon if we desired "the kind the Supreme Court drinks" . . . little work will be done the first few days of the session as the bills when dropped "in the hopper" must then go to committee . . . and it will be several days before the Senate or the House will have before them bills to demand their attention . . . it is the time for play . . . but they soon get down to the people's work and we believe each year there is going to more and better work done.


    A humorous incident occurring behind locked doors of the Senate Chamber in 1937 may be apropos. Philip Beale of Pensacola, the first Roman Catholic ever to be elected to a seat in the Florida State Senate, had a great sense of humor and was liked by all who came in contact with him.

    It might be proper here to explain some of the behind the scenes workings of a regular session at Tallahassee. Each Senator and House Member is allowed the appointment of a certain number of "attaches" who do the work of the session -- clerks at the desk, sergeants-at-arms, stenographers, secretaries, chaplain, a post master, janitors, verifiers, etc.

    The names of the positions are placed on separate slips of paper and the legislators draw from a hat the number of jobs which they may fill, -- secretaries, sergeants, janitors, etc.

    Just about the most tense moment that I ever encountered as sergeant-at-arms in six sessions was when Senator Beale dipped his hand into the hat and drew out the slip of paper with the word "Chaplain" written upon it. An electric shock went across the entire body of law-makers when Beale without a crack of a smile on his face very solemnly announced with pursed lips, "I am sure I can get the Holy Father, the Pope, to name a Cardinal to serve." Now can you imagine the stir?

    Frantic Senators begged him to trade his selection for two, three or even four secretaries (and there were some very pretty ones up there too) but the straight-faced Senator from Pensacola was adamant: He would choose his own chaplain -- and did.

    He took a secret poll of the Churches attended by his compatriots and discovered there were more Baptists among them than any other. He then called his good friend, the pastor of the First Baptist Church at Pensacola, Beale's home city, and asked him to come to Tallahassee immediately as he had just been named "Chaplain" of the State Senate. I cannot tell you how the Senators select their Chaplain today but it is a safe bet that no slip of paper with "Chaplain" appearing on it is included among the "attaches' " jobs to be filled.


    An unsolved mystery is a nagging thing. Somewhere in the Capitol Building at Tallahassee, may be the answer to a 40 year old question. In 1931, I made my first trip to the "red clay hills of Leon County" when Senator Arthur Gomez of Key West promised to find me a job with the State Legislature which opened in April. Along with my duties as a verifier in the Enrolling Room "on the House side", I sent stories of the proceedings to the Key West Citizen, Fort Myers Tropical News and the Hendry County News at La Belle.

    In those days all attaches of the legislature received the same salaries as the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives -- $6.00 per day. And one might find county political leaders acting as assistant janitors or secretaries. Once such janitor knowing I was interested in stories of the Capitol, led me to the basement early one morning and in a back storeroom among old boxes, tied bundles of old newspapers and stacked brass cuspidors, leaning in a corner was a 6-foot cylinder of some sort of metal, 4-inches in diameter, completely sealed. With the same feeling one must experience in unearthing a buried treasure chest, we rushed to Bob Gray, the Secretary of State, who was the official custodian of the Capitol building and everything in it. Bob (his friends and kinfolk in Wakulla County still call him "Andrew") told us all about it that he knew -- which was very little. He said the metal cylinder was buried in an old boat which had "probably been washed ashore from the Gulf of Mexico, near St. Marks, south of Tallahassee", long ago by the winds of some ancient hurricane.

    Anxiously we watched as it was opened and from the metal container he carefully pulled a rolled oil painting, which there was no doubt was an almost life size portrait of a standing George Washington, beside his desk.

    From where has this treasure come? From what shore and who owned it? How old was it and who was the artist who had captured the "Father of his Country" in oil?? Could the Master have been the great Gilbert Stuart, Washington's favorite, who once declared that none but Stuart would ever paint his likeness?

    Soon this portrait of Washington was hanging in the House of Representatives behind the Speaker on his rostrum.

    My story in the newspapers caused considerable stir -- but practically no action. One so-called art expert did comment, "If that painting was done by Stuart, it is worth at least $500,000."

    I watched a newscast on television recently which viewed the new Speaker of the House on his rostrum. The old painting of the first President of the United States was not in its accustomed place. Now we not only do not know from whence the mysterious masterpiece came -- but where did it go?

    Is it again in some corner of the Capitol's basement or has some House member inadvertantly hung it in his den or study at home?

    The painter of the mystery canvas should be determined -- it might bring $2,000,000 in today's art market -- and the state needs the money.


    It was during the 1931 session of the Florida Legislature, where I was a humble worker in the Enrolling Room on the House side, that a "local bill" came to us to be enrolled from Lantana. After passage by both houses and signed by Speaker and Clerk of the House and President and Secretary of the Senate, it is a House Bill, it then goes to the Enrolling Room of the House where I was employed as a verifier. The bill is then typed on a specially prepared paper, then verified and sent to the Governor for his signature -- or veto.

    This particular local bill was an ordinary charter bill, which abolished the Town of Lantana in Palm Beach County and established a new Town of Lantana. At this time I had never heard of Lantana nor any of its officials. There was a slight difference in the wording of the Lantana Charter Bill. In establishing the new Town of Lantana the names of the old Mayor and five aldermen did not appear but a new Mayor and five aldermen were named. This worried me and I showed it to my supervisor (her name was Annie) and it took her about a minute to tell me that I was paid to verify and not to make a Supreme Court decision.

    This was in the early phase of the proceedings of the legislature and there were not many bills to be processed. I noticed that the head of the Engrossing Room of the House was standing idly by with nothing to do. He was supposed to re-write all the bills with all passed amendments in their proper places. He always seemed friendly. He was Richard Ervin, later Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court. I asked him what steps to take, as I knew something was wrong -- some group was attempting to "put something over" and had succeeded in getting the bill approved by both houses of the legislature. Dick Ervin said to do nothing as the Supreme Court would kill it because the State Constitution did not permit naming of public officials by the legislators. He added "that honor lies only with the people of the state".

    The Governor, Doyle Elam Carleton, vetoed the bill and the losers hoped that nothing would ever by written about it.


    Early one morning (around 3:00 o'clock) on one of the "talk shows" on radio, the question of the meaning of "round robin" arose and the host asked his listeners to call in by phone and tell of the origination of the term. He received nearly twenty answers and none of them right.

    While working in the 1937 session of the Florida Legislature, in the sergeant-at-arms office of the Senate, I was asked by the President of the Senate to take a petition from the Senators to the Governor, Fred Cone, asking the Chief Executive to name Senator Arthur Gomez of Key West to the Circuit Judgeship then open in the Miami circuit. I noticed that the Senators' names were written at the bottom of the plea in a circle and there were 37 of them. Gomez pointed out the Governor could not tell who was the first to sign - so there could be no reprisals. The term sprang from the original "round robin" of names.

    I recall that after I handed Govern Cone the petition, he told me, "I think Senator Gomez has a lot of nerve to ask me for a favor when I received only 16 votes in the entire county of Monroe." I repeated this comment to Gomez and he asked me to go back to the Governor's office and give the Senator's answer -- "Tell Mr. Cone," he said, "it is true there were but 16 voters in favor of Cone in the election for Governor, and I do not know who they are, but that I am still investigating. Tell Mr. Cone he was the only candidate (there were seven in the primary) who was not interested in the Monroe County vote and at no time did he show up in the county and shake hands with the voters." Gomez added, "Explain to the Governor that we in Key West are a friendly but clannish folk and we vote only for our friends."

    State history will record that Governor Fred Cone appointed Senator Arthur "Kitty" Gomez to the coveted post and Judge Gomez held it until his untimely death by cancer.

  • With all our advanced education can we honestly state that man is wiser today than one hundred years ago? Never before in our history has America found itself in such a mess.


    In the 1935 session of the Florida Legislature, Senator Arthur Gomez of Key West (I was his legislative secretary) after a lot of research and detail study dropped a bill in the Senate hopper, known thereafter as the "Homestead Exemption Bill". Politics began to boil.

    Senator Gomez had no money and no plans, at that time, to run for the governorship. Senator Hodges, of Leon County (Tallahassee) wanted to be governor and went to Gomez and asked if he could co-sponsor the Homestead Bill, and Arthur permitted it. At that time, "Homestead Bill Hodges" was born and his campaign for Chief Executive began.

    It seemed to most everyone that Bill Hodges and his $5,000 exemption on homes was bound to win the primary election -- he made more mistakes than any candidate I ever met. He made his wife his state campaign manager, and she had many political enemies. He rented an entire floor of a Dupont owned hotel in Miami for his headquarters, and when his opponent Fred Cone came to Miami he stopped at a home of a friend, driving a Model A Ford. Hodges antagonized his own secretary who had been with him for many years and talked against him with the girl secretaries and stenographers in the Capitol Building -- and many others throughout the state.

    Bill gave a party at his headquarters for his co-workers and well wishers with tables set for 200 plates. I was there and never saw such a dejected group of politicians and hangers-on -- about 40 of them, I recall. Hodges spent too much time in his beautiful Miami office and Fred Cone was shaking hands and telling funny stories with nearly every voter in the state.

    Hodges lost by about 700 votes -- and the next morning a newspaper bundle of more than 800 votes for Hodges was found floating down the St. Johns River with the outgoing tide near Jacksonville.

    Homestead Bill Hodges did not live very long after his defeat. Many believed it killed him.

    Senator -- later Circuit Judge -- Arthur Gomez, was the real father of the bill which exempts every home in the state $5,000 from taxation.

  • Have you in your car while driving home at a late hour run over and killed an armadillo? They are becoming quite plentiful in Florida. The state urges hunters who had killed them while seeking better known wild game, to bring them home for food, as this armor plated digger and insect killer has a flavor identical with pork when baked, fried or barbecued. The state now claims that many of the tales of the armadillo are untrue and say the little fellow should not be scorned by gardeners and other landowners. This friendly creature introduced to Florida 25 years ago has thrived in its balmy climate and is known to absolutely eradicate many harmful insect families.


    It has always been difficult for me to really hate anyone, but it took Senator Arthur Gomez from Key West, to compel me to realize the futility of hate and the happiness that sometimes accompanies the conquering of it.

    The 1933 session of the Florida Legislature opened in Tallahassee amidst the gloom of the great Depression. Senator Gomez had procured for me the position of postmaster of the Senate and like all who attended from president to assistant janitor it paid $6 per day for 60 days including Sundays. The senator received the same stipend with their transportation paid to Tallahassee and return.

    As I was acquainted with most of the politicians and other prominent people in his senatorial district I was delighted to help Gomez with the mail from his constituents. I had one political enemy who wrote letters to the editor when I was editing the Hendry County News at LaBelle, condemning me for all discord in the area: he was vituperous and persistent. We battled on the editorial pages of the News for months. One day the mail brought the Senator a pitiful plea from my scribbling foe who was the county judge, for the passage of a "local" bill setting a salary of $2400 per year for his office for at that time the judge was paid only for a percentage of the fees received and his records revealed his take home pay averaged but $87 per month and with a wife and six children, I had to admit that was quite a chore.

    Gomez called me to his desk on the Senate floor to inform me that the judge was coming to Tallahassee to see him and personally register his plea for the proposed local salary bill and I was to meet the judge with a warm hand shake and a smile and bring him to the Senate Chamber the next morning.

    I told Arthur I just could not do it - that we were bitter enemies and that he had voted for Gomez' opponent in the last elections, I even suggested if the judge could not make enough to keep his family on his present salary, he should resign and go back to farming.

    And then came the lecture.

    He pointed out that no one should hate anyone and if I would really analyze our difference I would find that my reasons for quarreling in the paper were "childish indeed" and urged me to take his word for it and be the first to "show friendship" and that I would be agreeably surprised at the outcome. I slept little that night while thinking of the meeting with my old foe on the morrow.

    The judge was expected about ten and at 9:45 a.m. I took my stand at the top of the great marble stairway leading from the first floor of the Capitol.

    I saw the judge first - a short, shabbily dressed scowling old man, climbing the steps as if to the scaffold. He looked up, recognized me, and there was a hint of actual terror in his eyes. One could see, he thought everything was lost.

    I stepped down a couple of marble steps to greet him with my right hand outstretched and on my face the warmest smile I could muster. The old judge stopped in his tracks, studied my face and almost fiercely grasped my hand -- and tears actually streamed down his care-worn face.

    Not a word was spoken as I put my right arm around his sparse shoulders and led him into the chamber to meet his Senator.

    Later Senator Gomez thanked me and said that he had already talked it over with my old friend Louis Gravely, the House member from Hendry County and they had agreed to pass the judge's salary bill, before he had spoken to me about it.

    When I returned to LaBelle after the legislative session, everything was peaceful between the county judge's office and the News -- not because of the passage of the salary bill but rather it was the friendship which had sprung up between us.


    He was the most understanding, the most helpful, the most courageous and the most gentle character I ever knew -- and I knew him well. He was a tall, thin, greying man with a beautiful smile when I first met him in 1931 in his 60th year in his office in the Capitol at Tallahassee -- he was Will Cash, the State Librarian.

    Senator Arthur Gomez, whom I had supported in my papers in Fort Myers and Naples, had found me a job on the House of the session of the legislature which had opened in April of that year. I was working as a verifier in the Enrolling Room and heard many stories of the help Will Cash had given freshmen legislators with their first speeches and in writing their first bills to be "tossed in the hopper." Cash would even call the Attorney General's office to learn if certain passages of their bills were constitutional. In those days there were more "hawg and peanuts" farmers in the House than attorneys. These young lawmakers trusted Will Cash because he was once a House member himself -- and later a State Senator from Taylor County's piney woods.

    My talks with Will Cash were always rewarding, especially when he spoke of his younger days in Taylor County. One day he mentioned that only sherry "relieved the misery" in his stomach. When questioned about his "misery", he answered "too much sow belly and soda biscuits when I was growing up." While Will Cash never graduated from grade school (neither did Thomas Alva Edison) he did read every book he could get his hands on and at an early age became County Superintendent of schools and from that office it was an easy jump to a seat in the House of Representatives.

    Will Cash wrote an excellent History of Florida in four huge volumes and his "History of the Democratic Party in Florida" is still a reference of much value to political writers today.

    In a reflective mood Will confided in me one day in his office, You know when I was growing up in Taylor County I had heard that there were some men who wore two shirts at the same time, but I couldn't believe it -- it seemed so unnecessary. I was 18 years old before I ever saw an undershirt." Cash thought I was a smart fellow because I could drive an automobile and he couldn't.

    When the young legislator went to Tallahassee after his election to the State Senate he felt the need of a good library and called upon Governor Cary Hardee and suggested a state library. Hardee approved the idea and Cash consulted some of his new colleagues in the Senate who helped him with a bill which was room passed and sent to the House. The bright young senator from Taylor County was well remembered on the House side and the state Library Bill had little difficulty there and it was on the Governor's desk where several days later Cary Hardee happily signed it into law.

    Governor Hardee's appointment of Will Cash as the first State Librarian was made the following summer. The new law called for a salary of $4,000 per year. When I asked him if he did not think the amount too meager for a man with a large family, Will Cash shook his head: "Why, the Governor only makes $7,200."

    When discussing religion one day, Will Cash smiled and said, "The only religion I have is I try not to let a day go by without helping someone. The rest of it is in my wife's name."

    Several years later the State Librarian helped me with my bill creating the Florida State Archeological Survey and I dropped into his old office in the Capitol Building and found the small waiting room filled as usual. Among those waiting to see Cash was United States Senator C.O. Andrews (who had recently won from Doyle E. Carlton) and when I suggest to him that I would go in and tell Will he was waiting, the Senator down from Washington exclaimed: "No, he's in there trying to get some friend a job -- everybody is his friend you know." Yes, I did know.

  • Friends are still taunting me because I sold our homestead land on Merritt Island for peanuts and point out it is of great value now with the government still working on the several moon projects there. I would have been hustled off to Chattahoochee, if at the time we sold the mosquito-infested property, I had mentioned making a trip to the moon. I would have been shipped out with such speed you would have felt sure the state was running out of straight jackets.


    Walter Dutch of Boynton Beach, who acted as a legislative aide to Rep. Joseph Humphrey during the late special "new constitution" session of the state legislature" said he "sure learned a lot while in Tallahassee."

    There is no doubt he did. He said he paid his own expenses while in the capitol city, and the knowledge of government he received made it very much worth his time away from his work in his own office.

    The idea of a legislative attache paying his own way is not only novel but unique. For instance in the 1933 session (in the very depth of the depression in Florida) each state senator was, under the law, entitled to two attaches -- one to attend the mail and run errands and the other for work in the committees.

    There were 38 senators that year and my work in the sergeant-at-arms office brought me in contact with the books of the attache committee and the committee on legislative expense. The session had been only a week old when it was discovered that 402 good Democrats were on the senate payroll as attaches.

    A squawk went up in the Senate (of course that news never got out, although the boys and girls of the press tried hard enough to count them all) and one senator spoke from the floor and said that all the boys and girls on the payroll were sons and daughters of families who, for several generations, had paid state taxes and had received nothing back, not even a hard road to their farms -- and now that they all needed money so badly he thought it only fair the state should help them.

    The pay in those days was but $6 per day (but that seemed like $20) and no action was taken except the sergeant-at-arms was directed to prepare a couple of the larger committee rooms so the extra attaches could stay out of the lobby where they could be counted and playing cards were always available and using gem clips (from the stenographic room) poker games were in full swing about 16 hours a day.

    Some of the girls were told to stay away from the capital and their pay would be brought to them at their hotels.

    Money was so hard to get in 1933 that attaches (and some senators) went to the special window at the State Treasurer's office and drew their $6 every day (including Sunday) and in cases where the senator could vouch for the need some of the attaches could draw a week's wages in advance. The same condition probably existed in the House of Representatives but I was not interested in the House and had no proof.

    At that time, no one could even imagine an attache working for nothing and paying his own expenses. Attaches today make nearly four times the amount paid in 1933.

  • Graciousness is a virtue -- don't mistake it for weakness.


    This has nothing to do with politics but when I read that Governor Kirk was to have his Thanksgiving dinner alone with his family at his home in Palm Beach, away from the Mansion at Tallahassee, the hospitality at the mansion brought back the invitation of Fred Cone, when he was inaugurated. He said as I can remember: "We want all our friends to come see us at the Mansion -- sit on our front porch, take off their shoes and park their feet on the railing -- and they can spit tobacco juice on the front lawn if they feel like it." When Fred was inaugurated he had his entire family with him and his sister said she had always wanted to slide down the bannisters on the grand staircase and the Governor replied, "Go ahead." She did -- and broke her leg.


    The public prints report that politicians are looking with favor upon proposals to "liberalize" the Hatch Act. That is the Federal law which frowns on the political activities of all persons on the government payroll and it's not a bad law as it now stands.

    It is necessary to mention the Hatch Act as it was the subject of one of the funniest stories told about Fred Cone, one-time Governor of Florida who, like most citizens residing in north and west Florida, learned his politics at his mother's knee. They believe in north Florida, children of seven should vote. Fred Cone while still Governor was campaigning for the U.S. Senate and called into his office all department heads under his political control. These included some, whose salary was paid half by the State of Florida and half by the Federal government. Fred asked all of them to "get out and work" for him in his Senate race. One of those employees who looked to Washington for a part of his wage, told the Governor, "I cannot get out and publicly aid you in your campaign -- you must know about the Hatch Act." Fred replied, "Yes, I know about the Hatch Act. But did you ever hear about the 'hatchet Act?' "

    Fred Cone, lawyer and banker from Lake City, was quite a character. I was State Archeologist when he was inaugurated and one day he called me to his office in the capital and in all sincerity told me, he wasn't sure the State needed a State Archeologist as they already had a State Geologist.

  • My deepest sympathy goes out to the man who marries for love and then discovers the first morning of his honeymoon that his bride didn't have a dime.


    During the five sessions I worked in the Florida legislature, I believe the hardest fought bill was the "three-cent gas tax." Both "houses" labored and actually fought over it and the usual 60-day term lasted 100 days under both Governor Doyle Elam Carlton and his successor, Governor Dave Sholtz.

    This bill provided that one cent of the tax was to go to the general fund of the state, one cent to the counties according to population, and one cent to the counties according to "area".

    This bill was passed while I worked with Senator Arthur Gomez of Key West and he tried unsuccessfully to include in the area of Monroe County (Key West) all the water included in a line from Key West to Dry Tortugas and thence NE to the point where Monroe meets the Gulf of Mexico on the NW . . . the senator then asked what county did it belong to and was told that it was not even included as part of the State of Florida . . . we knew it belonged in the U.S. but with this knowledge it was hard to believe that it was not a part of any state . . . we discovered after a lot of research that it was governed by The United States Navy. Later it was transferred by executive decree to the Department of Interior and Fort Jefferson is now a National Monument under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service . . . Monroe County would certainly have had plenty of gas tax returned to it if Sen. Gomez could have put it over . . . he tried.

    It was during this session that the power lobby was able to kill certain tax bills which were aimed at their corporations and the very next day a bill came up on the floor of the Senate which would place a tax on kerosene. Gomez had suffered a stroke shortly before this and half of his tongue was paralyzed and his oratory was impeded naturally but so powerful was the force of his conviction on the floor, before his speech condemning it was finished the author of the bill withdrew it . . . I can still picture Gomez telling what he thought of a body of men who voted down a tax on electric lights and then attempted to tax "that little mother in the backwoods whose tiny kerosene light shined dimly through the pine trees showing she was still awake, tending her sick baby".

  • A real friend is the one who is on your side when the majority is on the other.

    Too many people -- when they pick up a book which causes them to think -- just fall asleep.


    In my notes recording future "fillers" for these tales I find -- "Peter 0. Knight, Florida's political boss in 1931 -- kidnap of Governor Carlton -- beautiful new rug on floor of Florida House of Representatives with splotches of blood (1931) -- Great White Owl on Merritt Island".

    Paying no attention to the order in which these notes appear, permit me to relate one of the "incidents" of the 1931 State Legislature which endured for 100 days. Both houses were divided between the "big County" and the "little County" contingents. Dade, Duval and Hillsborough lead the "big counties" but the power between the leaders seems so equally divided that Governor Doyle Carlton found it necessary to call two extraordinary 20 day sessions. The question being debated so vehemently was whether the state should adopt a then unheard of "gasoline tax" of one cent per gallon. Sounds silly now, doesn't it?

    We must bear always in mind that this all occurred 40 years ago and legislators then were more primitive and less sophisticated than today's counterparts -- they would actually fight for anything in which they believed -- and did.

    The new rug on the floor of the Florida House was a beauty -- a light blue, as I recall, with a giant seal of the state woven into it in gold. It received its baptism of blood during the 1931 session when Dr. Coffee of DeSota (Arcadia) County and Lucas Black (late Senator) of Alachua County tangled. It was for real and their blood stained the new rug and before the near-riot was broken up by sergeant-at-arms (some borrowed from the Senate side), the rug had several more bloody pools absorbed by its fabric.

    In those earlier legislative days it was necessary to pass an Appropriation bill before the members would adjourned sine die and therefore that strategic bit of legislation was held up in order to force the Governor to keep the members in session until completion of their program.

    The Last of the real Florida "bosses" Peter 0. Knight, a Tampa hardwareman, was active in this (1931) session. He "held court" at the Cherokee Hotel and would be seen most any late evening talking over the situation at the Capitol.

    Peter 0. Knight had plenty of political power and had "assisted" many of the members in their campaigns to win their legislative seats. Talking with "the boss" one day at the Cherokee he said, "Park Trammell (then U.S. Senator) was the easiest man I ever helped to win! He never cost me over $4,000." Peter didn't like the gasoline tax so the session dragged on for 100 days. On the 100th day with all members awaiting a call from Governor Carlton for another 20-day session (the appropriation bill had not been approved) the sergeant-at-arms office of the senate received from the Postal messenger girl a package of 38 telegrams (one for each senator) reading "Pass gas tax bill and come on home - Peter 0. Knight."

    Four hours later (the House Sergeant had also received and delivered similar wires from Knight) the Appropriation bill, along with the new one-cent gas tax bill was on the Governor's desk awaiting his signature. Then the bloodiest session of the Florida Legislature adjourned sine die.

  • Thomas Alva Edison was a drop-out in his sixth year in grammar school. He told me (he wintered each year in Fort Myers while I worked there) that he wouldn't have a college graduate work for him if he could find some practical man to assist him. I remember one year -- it was when Herbert Hoover was president, Edison -- as was his custom -- invited to his birthday party (and they always appeared at his Fort Myers home) Hoover, Henry Ford and the great naturalist Burroughs. The president was cruising in a friend's palatial houseboat on the Caloosahatchee and it docked at a rickety little pier in back of the Edison home. Hoover took his time walking from the boat to shore stopping several times to watch schools of fish playing in the warm February waters of the river. On shore were probably a dozen newsmen (and women) and four or five newsreel cameramen. The newshawks began to fidget until one of the cameramen shouted, "Come on, Herb. Let's get out of here -- I got a deadline to meet, if you haven't." The genial president smiled and marched straight to the pier as the cameras ground out their film, showing the birthday embrace of two great men.



    Who is the most colorful of Florida's historical characters? Is it old Andy Jackson, Florida's first governor -- Henry Flager who built the great railroad down the East Coast -- DeSoto or Narvaez? My vote will have to go to that great Seminole warrior -- Osceola.

    The story goes that Osceola learned to hate the white man after listening to the tales of Chekika, his Creek mother, tell of her mistreatment by his father, a half-breed (half Scotch) called "Powell." Osceola was four years old when his father abandoned his family in Georgia. Chekika, bitter over this treatment, took her child and sought a new home with the Seminoles of Florida. Once settled, she busied herself training her son Osceola in the traditions of war. The young lad possessed great intelligence and courage and learned quickly. It did not take him long to attain high rank among the Seminoles. However, he did not become a chief but was the real leader among them. He learned the white man's language and represented the Indians in all conferences with the whites. Osceola in turn never forgot that the white man had captured his young wife, Che cho ter (Morning Dew) and that he, himself had been arrested and thrown in jail. It was in 1832 that Osceola ambushed the white man responsible for his grief over his young wife, near where the city of Ocala is now situated. The man killed was named Wiley Thompson, the government indian agent at Fort King, near Ocala.

    The famous Dade Massacre occurred on the same day as the murder of Thompson. This slaughter was also planned by Osceola and here began the second Seminole war. The great warrior is best known by his slashing of the Treaty of Payne's Landing (near Gainesville). The Seminoles had been about to sign this treaty when Osceola stopped them. He is reported to have told the Federal troop commanders: "Rather than act the coward by signing away the Seminole inheritance and taking my people into a strange land, I will fight until the last drop of blood moistens the dust of the Seminoles' hunting grounds. The land is ours and this is the way I will sign all such treaties." Glaring at his enemies, Osceola pierced the paper with his hunting knife and then stalked unopposed out of the room.

    Osceola was finally captured and jailed when he went under a flag of truce to meet with U.S. Army officers to discuss peace terms.

    To me Osceola best typifies the great state of Florida.

  • It's easy enough to tell the caliber of a man by listening to him shoot off his mouth.


    It can be presumed that most newspapermen have recorded many "firsts". I have related my witnessing the first birth of a bottlenose dolphin (porpoise) in captivity. Now let me tell you of the first Seminole Indian maiden who wanted to be married "in a white girl's wedding". The dusky, 'teenage bride to be' said she wanted it to be "just like the movies" -- and it was.

    This high point in the social life of the Seminoles occurred before the incorporation of the Seminoles as a tribe and the young couple of early Americans lived in their Mother's "chickees" on the then named Dania Reservation on State Road 7, west of that city.

    The event was celebrated many years ago -- while the tribe was still split between the followers of the Medicine Men and the younger "Church Indians". The bride was Laura Mae Jumper, daughter of Josie Jumper and his wife, Pocahontas. Josie had announced he would never step inside of a church. He told me that the church people had got hold of his brother Harley and took him to a large, deep pond to baptize him. "They pushed him down in the water," said Josie, "just like drowned." The story follows that the poor Indian was so scared that he exploded from the pond, and dripping wet had dashed off through the scrub palmetto -- and has never been seen since.

    My wife, Louise, ever a warm friend of the Indians, was anxious to see that Laura Mae really had a "white girl's wedding". She furnished the wedding gown and veil and several of Louise's friends furnished the rest of the ensemble, including the "something old and something blue". The bride's half-brother George Storm (grandson of old Sam Huff) was induced to sing "Oh Promise Me" and there was even a Seminole ring bearer. The bridegroom's name was Max Osceola, I remember.

    The wedding afternoon finally arrived and the first church ever built by the Seminoles filled early -- Josie, the bride's father, stood firmly alone outside the church, immune to all pleas of the Seminole ushers. His wife with the five smaller children was stationed even farther from the church entrance, showing no emotion whatever. The small organ wheezed "Here Comes The Bride" and about a half dozen young ushers erupted from the door and dragged Josie inside, fighting to the last. His wife showed no sign of a smile.

    Finally, after enthusiastic shouts and many giggles the big event was over -- the first Seminole Indian "white man's wedding" was ushered into history.

    I stopped Josie, an old friend, as he came from the church with the laughing Laura Mae and asked the happy Father, "How did you like the wedding?" He looked ahead where Pocahontas and their kids waiting for them, and very seriously replied, "Think so, mebbe will try it sometime."

    Laura Mae Osceola, the bride 20 years ago, is now employed at the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C.


    Many times I have written about my friend Josie Jumper's son Moses who joined the U.S. Navy right after Pearl Harbor, although classified at that time "an alien". In a letter from the U.S. Senator, the late Spessard Holland recently, the Senator wrote, "I enjoyed visiting in the office with Mrs. Betty Mae Jumper, chairman of the Seminole Tribal Council of Dania and her husband Moses Jumper, who were here to discuss various problems of the Seminoles. They were accompanied by Mrs. Laura Mae Osceola who is presently working in Washington for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Mrs. Osceola is the sister of Moses (Josie's daughter) and they are the grandchildren of the late Charley Jumper who lived in Buffalo Ford in Polk County. Back in the early 1880s he traded with my father who as a young man clerked in a store in Bartow. Later Charley was my friend and I remember being with him on many hunting trips in the Everglades."

    I remember back in 1953 when "The great white father" in Washington asked all the Seminoles to meet in Big Cypress and be informed on what all the Seminoles must do in order to make better contacts with the federal government. Along with more than 500 Indians, I attended the meeting which formulated the Seminole Tribal Council and for two solid hours the Indians stoicly listened with rain pouring in streams down their faces. They did not move, not a solitary one including the well trained children, even to wipe the rain from their faces for two hours as they listened to the government representative talk to two Seminole interpreters -- one for the Creeks or Cabbagehead Seminoles and the other the Miccosukees. They did incorporate after this discussion and Josie's family held several posts in the new organization -- even as they do to this day.

  • It must have been a great thrill when the painter-naturalist Audubon sighted the first Great White Heron in Florida back in 1832. Today every tourist to Florida can have that same thrill in a trip to Everglades National Park. These rare birds stand more than four feet tall and have a wingspread of more than six feet with pure white plumage. The 1935 hurricane almost wiped out all the Great White Herons but since that time great flocks have been seen in the park and it is estimated that nearly 2,000 of these shy waders now inhabit south Florida.


    So much has been lost of the culture of Florida's Seminole tribes. A senior at Florida Atlantic University called at the house one Sunday afternoon and among other questions discussed was the subject of a theme for a university degree. I asked him why he did not attempt a Seminole-English dictionary? There is not a Seminole grammar in existence. Several days later the student called and said "the professors" did not think he would be able to do it. Well, someone should before all the old timers die off - as few as the youngsters know much of the Seminole language.

    For the record books, here is a short list of some of the chiefs, sub-chiefs and medicinemen of the Seminoles who fought in the Second Seminole War of 1837-38 and later.

    All Indians have two names -- the Seminole name and the "white man's name".

    OSCEOLA - born of a full blood Creek mother and a half - breed (Scotch) father, named Powell - not a full blood Seminole.

    ALLIGATOR - Halpatter - Tustenuggee.

    WILD CAT - Coachoochee -- Echo Hadjo. (It might be well to mention here that the Seminole word "Tustenuggeell means "warrior first class" and the word hadjo means "mad" or "recklessly brave" - a highly honored name indeed.)

    JOHN JUMPER - Otee-Emathla (Ematbla means "leader"). He married a sister of Chief Micanope and represented Micanope in council sessions.

    KING PHILLIP - Emathala.

    UCHEE BILLY - Father of Wildcat and brother in law of Micanope.

    JOHN HICKS - Tokse-Amathla - Chief of Mikasuki.

    EMATHLA CHAMEY - Co-bi-lo-clu-harjo.

    DOCTOR - Hastanomicco (Micco means "chief"~

    CLOUD - Yaholochee.

    The Seminoles referred to the Everglades as PAY-HAI-O-KEE or in English "Great Grass Water." The City of Pahokee derives its name from the Seminole.

  • A little lad was asked if he believed in the Devil and he replied 'Naw, its like that Santa Claus bit -- it must just be Dad."

    Boys will be boys -- and so will some old men.


    It was in 1927 when visiting with Stanley Hanson, "the white medicineman" of the Seminoles, in his Fort Myers home, a young Indian appeared who stated he had come across the Everglades from the reservation at Dania on the East Coast to have "Stanee Hansee" pull a tooth.

    There was an Indian agent at Dania -- but the Seminoles did not like him and "couldn't trust him." Stanley told me how his father, a physician, had fed many of the Seminoles during "bad times" hauling sacks of grits and meal in his Model T (Ford) to the Indians' "Chickees" in the fastness of the swampy 'Glades. The Indians trusted Stanley and whenever a new baby was born a runner would appear at the Hanson home in Fort Myers to be named (white man's name -- as each mother gave her child an Indian name) and the name recorded with the date of the birth in Stanley's little black book. I have often wondered what became of that record. According to this record there were, in 1927, approximately 387 Seminoles.

    The Seminole is now a registered voter in all elections -- no longer considered "an alien" by the federal government as in World War Two. They are citizens of the nation, state, county and cities. Joe Dan Osceola, 30, was elected the first new 'president' of the Seminoles in Florida, He was president of the $13,000,000 Seminole Corp. of Florida and received a yearly salary of $8,000. A far cry from the days of Stanee Hansee, now deceased, Betty Mae Jumper, 44, was elected "chairman of the council" defeating Jack Micco (Seminole for 'chief') 170-116. Betty Mae is the wife of Moses Jumper who is the son of Josie Jumper, a long time friend of both my wife Louise and myself. Moses was named after the chief engineer of the FEC railroad group who built the "extension" of that railroad from Miami to Key West about finished in 1912. Many Seminoles worked for the engineer Moses and his name lives after him and does not signify as some believe that Indians are "the lost tribe of Israel" and try to prove it by Indian names.

    In these disgraceful days with American boys tearing and destroying their draft cards and burning and stamping upon the nation's flag, I wish to tell again the story of this same Moses Jumper -- and his father Josie.

    They are direct descendants of Jumper, the right hand man of Osceola during all of the Second Seminole War in Florida. This incident occurred on that "day of infamy", the Sunday when word was received that the Japs had almost destroyed the American fleet at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Both Josie Jumper and I were working in an aboriginal Indian mound across from the entrance of the Marine Studios at Marineland and I heard the story of the Jap attack from the blaring radios in parked cars of tourists, drawn to the Studios by the marine life, that day. Josie had been working back in "the dig" when he found me and asked why all the commotion and the excitement. I recall saying to him, "Josie you can be glad you are an Indian and the government will not require you or your children to fight. The Japs have attacked our fleet of battleships at Pearl Harbor and hundreds of American boys have been killed. Tonight white mothers all over the nation will be in tears as they know their sons will join the armed forces to protect the nation." Josie said not a word for probably a full minute and then straightening erect, his black eyes flashing said, "Seminole is ready."

    While considered an alien and thus exempt from the draft, Josie insisted that Moses his eldest son join the Navy -- which he did, and he was on one of the aircraft carriers (I believe it was the Lexington) when that great ship was struck by torpedoes from Jap flyers in the Pacific. Moses was a gunner and when he returned he told me: "It was rugged. We were knocking Japs out of the air like ducks -- and didn't see the ones flying low toward us until it was too late. I threw overboat one of those rafts which are self-inflating and with my entire gun crew we dove over and swam to the raft and were soon picked up."

    Yes, it was rugged for that real American -- Moses Jumper, who when he learned of his wife's election, said, "I feel just like Governor George Wallace of Alabama. She's my Lurleen."


    Billy Bowlegs is dead.

    Billy Bowlegs, grandson of the hero of the Second Seminole War, whose 103rd birthday would have been the next day, passed away at his camp in Big Cypress.

    While the Seminoles never recognized a "chief" since Osceola, Billy was of the royal blood of the tribe. He spoke little English but made many friends among the white man. I always felt I was one of these. The last time I talked with Billy Bowlegs was in 1953 when I went with Marian Cohen and Hank to get an Indian story at Brighton, about 12 miles southwest of the town of Okeechobee.

    All the Seminoles who could travel were thereto hear a messenger from the "great white father" in Washington and for inspection of the white-faced Hereford herds which the Indians had been building. It rained that day and I recall those stone-faced natives listened to their interpreters and did not even try to wipe the rain from their faces. The Indians had an enormous barbecue in honor of the Washington visitors with many steers "on the fire". Billy Bowlegs sat by himself under the live oak trees in the schoolhouse yard and members of both tribes would visit him and smoke.

    There was no evidence of "Wy o mee", even among the young braves as at that time it was illegal to give an Indian even one drink of whiskey. Billy Bowlegs always said he enjoyed a drink, but said it was difficult to get.

    Now Billy Bowlegs, with his neatly clipped moustache, is gone to the "happy hunting ground" and need no longer worry about being sent with his family to Oklahoma. That fear is always with the Seminoles even now. Many hesitate to negotiate with the U.S Government for money which they claimed was due them. Even when they won their case and the government agreed to pay each of them a sum equal to about $8,000 for lands taken from them, they were afraid that if they accepted the money and they had no land, they would be picked up bag and baggage and shipped to Oklahoma where many of their ancestors are buried.

    Billy Bowlegs will be missed at the Green Corn Dance -- during the "little moon in June."


    There has never been any connection made between the Seminoles in Florida and the San Blas Indians in Central America, although the designs on the fok-se-gees (blouses) of the Seminole is similar to the designs found on like garments of the San Blas.

    When the white man made first contact with his red brother in the Everglades, the Seminoles wore garments made from deer skin and later trading furs with the settlers used calico and gingham with the deerskin which was prepared by the squaws in the usual manner by chewing the leather until it was as soft and pliable as chamoise skin.

    It wasn't until after the Seminole wars and the Indian women had more time on their hands (and had traded for those little hand-turned sewing machines made by Singer) that they developed the art of designing.

    During the last Seminole war, the Indians agreed they would buy no more products of any kind from the white man and they wore their clothes until they were mere shreds of calico and gingham. The squaws would fold over the small bits of rags in different shapes -- triangles, squares, etc. -- and using their beloved sewing machines could whip up a new design in a matter of minutes. Gradually the figures found on their gaudy clothes today were evolved. Probably the same trend was followed by the San Blas.

  • The only business I know of that is not government regulated is the moonshine liquor industry.


    Had a surprise visit from a young Seminole friend of ours recently. He is George Storm, named for his maternal grandmother who belonged to the Choctaw branch of the Miccosukee tribe which centers around Turner River in the southern part of the Everglades. His ancestor was born in a Choctaw settlement in Louisiana during one of the greater hurricanes and took the "white man's name" -Storm -- Before George started to call himself "Storm" he was known as George Hough (A grandson of Old Sam Hough who died recently on the Dania reservation). George attended the Cherokee school in North Carolina during the second world war and was told Hough or Huff was of German extraction and George wanted no part of that. So now its George Storm and he has three young Storms of his own now. He said all the Seminoles were going to get "a lot of money" from the government but it was being held up until the Indians decide how they wanted it. Some wanted the money to be given to each individual but the old men and the old women of the tribe believed it would be better for all of them if the money (about $6,000 each, according to George) be given to the tribe and be administered by the local medicine men. The tribal council of the Seminoles now controls most of the cattle owned by the Indians. Cattle are white-faced Herefords worth around a million dollars.


    Josie Jumper says, "Seminole ladies all the same white ladies". My wife and I were driving near an Indian camp in the Glades and seeing an old friend, Josie Jumper, I jumped from our car and ran toward the encampment of several families in newly erected chickees. There were quite a number of naked youngsters playing their games, laughing and running about the cook-chickee where there mothers were squatting near the small fires. Seminoles eat whenever they are hungry. Always the cast iron kettle of Soffkee can be found in the cook-chickee. And naturally the coffee is always hot. These Indians were our friends and Louise knew most of them by name.

    It is really a privilege to have friends among Seminole families. One of the little Indian girls, about two years of age, rushed toward me with out-stretched arms expecting to be picked up. I held the little tot in my arms and the mother beamed and all was happiness and friendship in camp -- and then Louise was seen walking toward us. Such scrambling to round up the naked children you never did see and by the time Louise greeted her old friends all was smiles and the youngsters were all decked out in their best bibs and tucker (just what is a tucker?)

    Why would the Seminole women think nothing of their offspring appearing in the nude before a white man and then clothe the children when a white woman approached? Could it have some religious significance or tradition? I asked Josie about this and he laughed. "Seminole lady all the same l ike white lady. Seminole don't want Louise to think they so poor they don't have clothes for babies. Al the same, I think so, maybe."

    No Seminole ever makes a flat statement.

  • We are told to laugh at our troubles. I am certain we will never run out of joke materials.



    Looking back over 50 years of "pot hunting", as Florida's State Archaeologist, it is surprising the large number of rather important "finds" which have been unearthed in Florida.

    Two of the more important artifacts unearthed were discovered in mounds left by pre-historic peoples in what is now Palm Beach County. The first uncovered was while Karl Squires, a former Assistant State Archaeologist of Florida, and I were prodding in a kitchen midden on Lake Worth near the north city limits of West Palm Beach. Truck loads of oyster shells from which the mound was constructed, had been removed together with thousands of Indian artifacts, to build the first roads in the area - the first Dixie Highway. It was an interesting "dig", however, as one could, from the faces of the remaining shell heap, read the story of those who resided there centuries ago.

    The strata revealed occupancy by many different peoples as starting at the bottom of a face one could determine the culture - here was found the crudest of potsherds with no decoration whatsoever. Then a stratum of ashes and then the evidence of pottery of a more advanced civilization with crude incised design - then more ash and midden material and more intricate design on the potsherds. Then about six feet from the Surface Karl and I working together brought to light a complete bowl fashioned from the cranium of a human child. The edges were smoothed by some tool and on each side about one half inch from the rim was a neatly drilled hole in which a bail could be fastened (now rotted away, however). This was the first evidence known at that time (1932) of any part of the human skeleton being used for domestic purposes. Karl and I did unearth later a small pendant fashioned from a parietal bone of a child near Miami.

    The second bowl I found was in the now famous burial mound at Chosen, west of Belle Glade and this one is shown in Plate 8-M in "Yale University Publications in Anthropology" under "Excavations in Southeast Florida" which records in detail the excavations at Chosen in 1933 with Gene Stirling, professor of Anthropology at Radcliff, and also a brother of Dr. Matt Stirling, Chief of the Bureau of American Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution of Washington, D.C. This skull was larger than the first one found on Lake Worth and the Smithsonian refers to it as "A Trophy Gorget or Bowl of Human Skull". It is now in the U.S. Museum-Catalogue No. 383880.

    The two skull bones were uncovered more than 50 miles apart, as a crow flies, and the first one in the remains of Tequesta Indians and the other (Chosen) was evidently of the Caloosa Indian craftsmanship.

  • Walking is the art of going from your house to your garage and back.


    We often hear someone exclaim there are not sufficient hours in a day to reach some desired goal -- while others equally fortunate bemoan there are not enough years left to accomplish some self-designated effort. I find myself in that position now. For the past 40 years I have believed that some day it will be proven that the ancient Maya Indians of Yucatan, Guatemala and Mexico whose civilization seems to have sprung up in full bloom with no artifacts found there denoting a primitive existence, originated in the peninsula of Florida, many centuries before Ponce de Leon.

    As State Archaeologist of Florida, I had the opportunity to tramp over every deer trail and cowpath in every county of the state -- and the more Indian mounds I studied the more firm was my belief that the Mayas once roamed these trails.

    In Jefferson County, south of Monticello, on the Aucilla River, are a great number of mounds with the burials in a flexed position, placed on what seemed to be sassafras branches, and in one of these mounds we found while screening the sand a small stone idol, beautifully carved in a kneeling position (this was in 1935).

    This little figurine, about three inches in height, wore what appeared to be a helmet similar to the old style football head gear with ear pads. Years later Matt Stirling of the Smithsonian unearthed his now famous 8-ton stone heads in southern Mexico and like Stirling's "finds" with their football head gear, our tiny figurine revealed decided negroid features, especially the flat nose and thick heavy lips.

    I turned over this little idol to the State Museum at Gainesville, here I hope it may still be seen.

    Later we found plates of gold -- some 8 inches in diameter on the chest of several burials in Hendry County, and in Palm Beach County we uncovered several huge gold beads as large as the end of one's thumb. The metal was traced to the ancient gold field near Delanega, Georgia. This would indicate that the plates which appeared to be Mayan were not "traded" but originated in Florida.

    We found potsherds with the headdresses of the Maya incised on them. We unearthed near Naples crude Maya figures carved on the inside of old cohaugh clam shells. Near St. Augustine I found several dozen beads, Identical with those found in Guatemala (one of them was of red jade found in its original state only in Burma).

    At Chosen, near Belle Glade in Palm Beach County, we found much evidence of pre-Maya culture. The legends of the Maya proclaim their gods and ancestors came "from the East". That could be Florida. But I am afraid there are not sufficient years left in my life to prove it.

    Ever since the newspapers carried the photographs of the "Ruins" discovered "somewhere in the shallow waters of the Bahamas" of what Dr. Valentine and Dimitri Rebikoff, undersea explorer from Fort Lauderdale called a possible "Maya temple," the origin of the "find" has been suspect.

    Leading the group of professional "diggers" who belittle the find, is Prof. Alan Craig of Florida Atlantic University at Boca Raton. Craig claims the odd stone structure is a turtle coral. Rebikoff replies with equal vehemence that he has seen many turtle corrals in the Red Sea and is familiar with the work of the Bahamans he has examined in the Caribbean areas.

    "These are not turtle corrals," assures the Fort Lauderdale explorer, "but it is a style of architecture similar to Mayali masonry." He claims, "The stones are finely cut, as Maya masons built the walls in Honduras, Yucatan and Guatemala." The controversy still waxes fast and furious. I would not have entered the fray if Prof. Craig had not mentioned in one of the papers: " . . . the crude canoes of the pre-Columbian Mayan would not have permitted them to rove from their Central American shores." I wonder what proof Prof. Craig has that the Mayans were not in South Florida at the time and could easily have paddled their war-canoes into the shallow waters off the Bahamas with little difficulty? On one of the trips of the brother of Christopher Columbus, near the present island of Cuba, he reported seeing canoes with "30 or more" natives aboard approaching from the west. That could have been Honduras.

    During the period I was State Archaeologist in Florida -- 1936- 1942 -- I made quite a number of excavations in South Florida. A clipping from the Jacksonville Times-Union dated May 25, 1941, tells of the opinion of the greatest authority on Maya jade beads, figurines and other Mayan artifacts, Father Rossbach of Guatemala City when shown a large number of beads which I unearthed on a small island at the mouth of the San Sebastian River near St. Augustine in Florida.

    Here is what Father Rossbacb. told Mr. and Mrs. Alfred G. Kay of Palm Beach, according to this extract from a letter written to me by Mrs. Kay, received by me on April 2nd, 1941: "We are back from Guatemala and actually saw Father Rossbach this time and showed him your chacal necklace. Father Rossbach came down from Paaajachel and had dinner with us on March 16 at Casa Contenta. He was very excited about your beads and wanted to see them again by daylight. So the next morning he came back and had breakfast with us and brought with him his magnifying glass and went over the beads one by one and I took notes on what he said.

    "Father Rossbach said very definitely that the beads are absolutely Mayan Indian. He said he could duplicate all but two or three -- there were 32 beads in the necklace -- from his own collection . . . he promised that if I would bring the necklace back when I go this Summer he would make up another necklace from his own beads to send to you. He did not have time to go to his place in Chichicastenango at this time and get back before we would have to go.

    "After we left Father Rossbach," continued Mrs. Kay, "we sent word to an old Spaniard named Crespo who is known to have the largest collection of jade and Mayan antiquities in Guatemala. He is a curious old soul who owns a great deal of property up in the Maya Highlands where he has found many of the things himself. We went over to see him and to show him your necklace. He said he could duplicate all your beads and he proved it by bringing out baskets and baskets of jade beads and finding one after another that he matched with yours. The light colored stones which Father Rossback though might be shell, Crespo said definitely they were stone and he had some just like them. He said it was a type found only near the seashore. There were some he thought that were rarer than others in your necklace.

    "I am sure," wrote Mrs. Kay, "that you are interested to feel that this may be a rather positive proof of the commerce or other connection between the peninsula of Florida and that of Yucatan. Crespo said that your beads were Mayan. He showed us the way they were drilled which, he said, was typically Mayan.'

    On April 20th, Mrs. Kay brought the beads back to Florida and I met her at Marineland, near where the beads were unearthed and we went over her notes. Mrs. Kay quoted Father Rossbach as saying that all the beads came from Central America and were definitely Mayan. Mrs. Kay said, reading from her notes, that the Guatemalan scientist pointed out that no jade had ever been uncovered during the time of the early Maya in Central America and he also stated that some of the red jade in the Florida necklace could be found only in Burma.

    Professor Alan Craig of FAU might believe that no Maya canoe could reach the Bahama Islands . . . I believe however that they could and did. They either reached Florida or Florida Indians were the forefathers of the historic Mayans and canoed to Yucatan in the very early days. Bearing out this possibility is the fact the beads in the necklace were uncovered -- many of them by me -- more than two feet below the surface of the small island on which we discovered them. Large trees were growing on the island and it is definitely not an Indian mound. All were found along with some of the most beautiful spear heads ever found in Florida made of carnelian, jasper and other semi-precious stone in a stratum of yellow sand and with these finds were hundreds of chips of stone which might point to the possibility that this island was a workshop.


    As one shambles along life's sometimes thorny trail he is bound to find paths that at least once before crossed his and quite often this is proven by articles in today's magazines and newspapers.

    In a 1963 copy of All Florida Magazine there were two stories which caused me to hesitate and look back 40 and 30 years ago -- three paths had recrossed. One piece was titled "The Secret of Mound Key" which told of the possibility that a small island on Florida's West Coast had once felt the tread of the ancient Maya's of Yucatan; another told of the starting of a newspaper in Cocoa by Marie (Mrs. Chauncy) Holderman in 1913.

    In 1929 1 was owner and edited the first newspaper in Naples (Fla.), the Naples Transcript, and was an enthusiastic amateur archaeologist working at times with Henry B. Collins, Jr., of the National Museum and Dr. Matthew Stirling, both of the Smithsonian Institution of Washington, D.C.

    Collins and I had a small "dig" on the island of Captiva, near Fort Myers. I also had worked with Matt Stirling and his brother Gene, who was a lecturer on Anthropology at Harvard and Radcliff, on an excavation on Marco Island. Collins and the Stirlings talked of the probability of the Maya originating in Florida and their moving en masse to Guatemala and Yucatan. We had found carvings on the inside of fossilized cohaug clam shells of men with huge headdresses similar to those of the Maya but the designs were much cruder. Let's get to Mound Key.

    Today Mound Key is a part of the Estero State Park. I had heard that "Grandma" Johnson had found two gold cups on Mound Key, which at that time was owned by her family. I visited her on the huge, prehistoric kitchen midden and while I was permitted to examine the "find" I was not allowed to photograph them. Grandma wanted to sell them. Her price, I thought, was rather high but soon learned she had been successful. I kicked up numerous "pot sherds" on the mound, which strengthened our belief of the possibility of Mayan organization.

    Back to Mrs. Holderman's Cocoa Tribune. I was County Correspondent for the newspaper, the second year of its publication (1914).

    I covered the news of Merritt Island for the Cocoa paper. I was a $2.00 a column "stringer". I would use common string to measure the number of inches of news appearing in print at .10 per column inch. Truly a penny-a-liner.

    I later wrote editorials and a column called "Half-Minute Interviews". In 1922 (after a short time on Broadway and the Great White Way) I left the Tribune and tried my luck in California where I crossed many paths I had made in New York.


    Jim Warnke, a close friend, who agrees with me that the ancient Maya Indians lived in Florida before migrating to Yucatan and Guatemala showed me a letter, recently, from the department of vertebrate paleontology of the Smithsonian Institution of Washington, D.C. stating the shark's teeth which he had dug up in the central part of the state (Florida) were from the man-eater which inhabited the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico in the "Miocene period" and mentioned the possibility "fifty million years old." That's going back afar piece!

    I was digging in the early 1930s with a chap from the same department when a drought, as bad as the present one, had lowered the water in the Pease River near Arcadia to less than six inches, leaving a bank nearly 12 feet on the east shore. I had discovered the remains of a large Mammoth (the Smithsonian had none at that time) and it was down nearly nine feet from the earth's surface. A shout attracted me about 10 yards upstream where the man from Washington was dancing up and down in the shallow water -- he had pounced upon an old tooth which he claimed was that of a rhinocerus and he placed the age at "more than 200,000,000 years". Those guys throw years around like the Washington bureaucrats throw around our tax dollars.


    Jim Warnke, a working member of the Boynton Beach Historical Society and the Palm Beach County Archaeological Society, believes he is closer to success in his 5-year project to uncover a remnant of a tribe of Indians in the Glades "other than Seminoles."

    They might possibly be the last of the Caloosa tribe which inhabited Florida at the time of Ponce de Leon, De Soto, Narvaez and other intrepid explorers.

    More than 40 years ago, I first heard of a group of Indians in the Glades who were not Seminoles. Then about 30 years ago Josie Jumper, a Miccosuke from near Turner River who now lives with his family on the Dania Reservation, told me of an Indian, smaller than Seminoles, who had thrown a spear with a crude flint projectile point, striking his mother in the thigh. He says he still has the spearhead.


    At the time of the "find" I believed it to be one of the most important discoveries ever made in Florida. Gene M. Stirling, an anthropologist and a brother of Matt Stirling, chief of the Bureau of Ethnology of Smithsonian Institution and I were excavating in a burial mound near the shore on what is now the Town of Surfside (in 1933-34 there was but one dwelling on the site) when in penetrating the hard stratum of oolitic limestone, which was below sea level we found human bones, including a skull, in the solid rock.

    It was necessary for us to use a cold chisel and a small hammer to chip off the rock, baring the skeletal material. Here was a real "find". This is not the story of the tedious labor connected with an archaeological "dig" but rather it is written to clear up a mystery which has bothered me for the past 34 years.

    It was impossible to even make a guess at the age of bones while still in the field and we really put out that hot summer day on Miami Beach, with nothing but juice from young coconuts to quench our thirst. We first cleared most of the stone from a perfect male skull -- we ventured it was from a lad of about 21 to 25 years of age by the condition of his teeth. They were ground down much more than most teeth we had found inland and we decided the preponderance of fine beach sand blown into the food by the perpetual trade-winds might have caused this. I was anxious to clear a complete skeleton, if possible as we found there were several burials at that site, but Gene -- better recognizing the terrific amount of work connected with such a chore -- decided we would partially uncover one of the prehistoric aborigine and then cut out the entire block of stone surrounding the flexed remains and let the boys in the museum in Washington work with it. This was done, wrapping the entire block of rock in burlap after covering the bared bones with plaster of paris.

    Now here is the mystery:

    We both expected some excitement in the ancient halls of the Smithsonian and at least a congratulation. Nothing. No word at all. Finally Gene and I went to Belle Glade where we had been assigned an excavation in an old burial and kitchen midden site at Chosen. Still no word from Washington. Months went by and Gene wrote his brother Matt and we were told that the stone was probably "lost somewhere in the basement" and would be found some day.

    Now for the surprise:

    Lawrence E. Will, the "Cracker Historian of Okeechobee', recently loaned me a copy of one of the Yale University Publications in Anthropology, titled "Excavations in Southeast Florida", by Gordon R. Willey on the Smithsonian.

    In the preface, we read: "The archaeological excavations reported upon in the present paper were made in southeast Florida during the years 1933-1936. The investigations were sponsored jointly, by the Bureau of American Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution and by the State of Florida. Mr. M.W. Stirling, Chief of the Bureau of American Ethnology was overall director and Mr. Vernon Lamme, at that time State Archaeologist, represented the State of Florida. Immediate field supervisors were Mr. Gene M. Stirling, Mr. Lamme, Mr. Karl Squires and Mr. D. Lloyd Reichard. Dr. Julian H. Stewart of the Bureau was in charge of two of the sites for a brief period."

    The preface was of small interest but further along in the report I found: "Archaeological survey and excavations, on and near the Atlantic coast in Dade and Broward counties, were began during the winter of 1933-34, Mr. Gene M. Stirling, supervisor of the Belle Glade project was in general charge of these investigations, cut actual field operations at and near Miami Beach were under the control of Mr. Vernon Lamme assisted by Mr. Karl Squires.

    "Mr. Lamme continued surveys and limited excavations in this vicinity until the fall of 1934." Under the subhead "Surfside" the report goes into detail giving exact location of the site and description of the burial mound at Surfside (where we hacked the rock away from the burials). Again I read: "The excavations conducted by Mr. Lamme, from May to September, 1934 were in both the burial mound and the habitation mound. That investigator reports that a trench was made in the northerly portion of the burial mound, on the west side of Bay Drive. Remains of at least 50 individuals were discovered in these excavations. Burial types included secondary bundle, single skulls, primary flexed with secondary interment being the most common. A few of the bundle burials had been partially cremated as though first had been made beside the bones.

    "Near the center of the mound, 19 single skulls were found in a group."

    Now here is the portion of the report that interests me most: "The mound structure as revealed by these excavations is as follows. On the north edge of the mound, the primary level was composed of sand which apparently had been brought there for that purpose. This sand layer was followed by alternate strata of clay, sand, clay and a dark sand.

    Presumably all of this deposition was artifIcial and purposeful, none of it being occupational detritus. At one point in the notes, Mr. Lamme states that the lower zone of the mound was semi-solidified, or calcified sand . . . and that the upper zone was relatively loose sand. The burials are purported to have come from the lower, harder stratum."

    And that is where the burials in Surfside were found to be in the lower, hard (calcified) oolitic limestone. How old those bones are, is yet to be determined. They can be as old as the stone which has formed around them. They were found nearly three feet below the high tide on the beach. With the melting of the polar icecaps, the U.S. Coastal and Geodetic Survey claims the ocean is rising at the rate of one inch every hundred years (some scientists claim Florida is sinking at that rate) -- if true it was at least 3,600 years since their burials were at sea level. And it is possible the land in which the Surfside burials were discovered was another 30 or more Inches higher when the bodies were placed there.

    The next paragraph in the Yale publication on Surfside reads: "Unfortunately, the skeletal material recovered from the burial mound was stolen before shipment to the museum or laboratory was possible. None of the artifacts from either the burial mound or habitation site excavations made at this time is available for study and their present whereabouts is unknown."

    Maybe they are "lost" in the basement of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. An excavation in the basement might bring to light considerable knowledge of pre-historic man in Florida.

  • Here is some more of that good advice which is seldom recognized -- always drive so your license will expire before you do.



    It's an education to watch television and follow the exploits of the "federal agents" as they battle the hoods, shooting from behind cars, scrambling down fire escapes and swimming across pools with man eating fish. In the years I served as a special agent for the federal government, I saw none of this. All this just might happen to "private eyes" (investigators) but not "the feds". Our evidence was usually sufficient and all that was necessary was to notify the suspects' "mouth piece" and tell him to have his client before the United States Commissioner at nine o'clock the next morning and bring along a $5,000 bond -- yes, the special agents sometimes set the bond. And that would be all we saw of the hoods until the day the trial began.

    We would take our evidence before a federal grand jury and the U.S. Marshal would make the arrest -- however in one year (1943) I made or assisted in the arrests of 153 alleged lawbreakers.

    The prosecution reports we made to the Federal Attorneys were sufficiently complete that he would have little difficulty in acquiring a guilty verdict. The special agent assists in the selection of the jury and often sits at the table of the U.S. Attorneys as his investigations often times covered the activities of someone whom the defense attorneys desired to have seated on that jury. The agent's report included not only the names of the several witnesses but all information possible about them and an affidavit telling just what they each would testify to at the trial. I have seen some cases where the documentary "exhibits" were more than 500 and each one must be placed where the U.S. Attorney could lay his hand on them at any time.

    Now we come to the "girl friends" of the mobsters -- not many of them look anything like their counterparts on the silver screen -- those we met usually came to the office to "squeal" on their boy-friends, because they looked at some other frail. I recall one, however, who was above the average in appearance and I went to the house to pick up her husband -- I showed my identification and she said "Humph" and then after stating he wasn't home said "Whitey is a good man and has always treated me swell -- do you really have it on him? "My first husband was a no good bum - he was a federal man, you know." But she was about the only one that had "class" as recognized on T.V.

    Seldom does a "pro" make a threat to a federal officer -- it's the punks that claim they'll "get you" when they get out -- they seldom do. And some of my worst cases were against our own men and unfortunately we couldn't handle them like the mobs take care of their "rats."


    During the latter part of World War Two I was one of a small group of special agents of the federal government whose duty called them to investigate the "pranks" of other members of federal agencies. We operated in all 48 states and looked only to Washington, D.C. for orders.

    Our cases included suspects from all government agencies -- officers in U.S. Army, Navy and Air Corps as well as other special agents in federal service. Copper wire was difficult to obtain and although my home was in Miami (Fla.) it was nine miles from the center of the city and no phones were being installed in those days. However, I did get a direct wire to Washington, but naturally no number was listed. My wife, Louise told me of many attempts to procure that number.

    About this time I learned of the different methods used by the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy in handling personnel caught in their "pranks". While there was an official ration board set up at the Naval Air Base in Jacksonville to dole out gasoline ration stamps to those authorized to use them, counterfeit gas stamps representing thousands of gallons were found to be coming from the base.

    I was sent to assist the Naval Intelligence there. I accompanied an Intelligence Officer (Lieut. Commander) and soon we traced the bogus stamps to a certain chief petty officer.

    It was pleasant working with the Navy Intelligence, especially enjoying the luncheons at the officers club on the Base where we had filet mignon, mashed potatoes, gravy, salad, dessert apple pie and coffee for 65 cents -- and cigarettes at 11 cents a pack. No federal or state taxes at the Base -- and pretty Waves in uniform waited on the tables. The only drawback was the waiting for my partner to put on and take off his uniform so many times as we came in and left the Base.

    Finally we were called to the offices of the Commander in charge of the department supervising the official ration board who questioned the Intelligence officer whom he ranked: "How are you progressing, I hear you suspect a C.P.O. Any others?"

    "Yes," was the prompt reply, "yourself, sir." The Commander just smiled and in a lowered voice said. "I was afraid of that, you're excused."

    We hurried down to the United States Attorney in Jacksonville and turned over our case to him, requesting a federal warrant for the arrest of the Commander and the chief petty officer. We were told to come back to the D.A.'s office the next day at 9:00 a.m. as he had to get the papers signed by a federal judge. We picked up a U.S. Marshal with the warrant the next morning and rushed to the Commander's office (after my partner changed from his "Civies" back to his uniform) and were told "the Commander and Chief Petty Officer were ordered for sea duty and their ship went out with the tide at 5:12 am." That was definitely - that -

    About this time a similar case came up in Miami Beach where the training of Air Force personnel was in full swing. The Army officer did not call for any assistance in handling their case which involved an army captain. This officer was convicted by court martial and the next day was on his way to the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth where he started serving a 6-year sentence. There was a war on you know. But I cannot forget what the old Admiral told me in Jacksonville, "there is nothing in U.S. Navy rules and regulations that even mentions ration stamps."


    Did you ever wonder why cops and many others who use radio telephones in their cars always end their conversation with a mystic 104? I don't know either and I have had quite a little experience with codes -- seven years as Special Agent for the U.S. Government during and after World War Two.

    All who remember the war will recall the difficulty encountered when attempting to make a long distance telephone call. It sometimes took several hours and always a long wait. Federal Investigators however had no trouble. There was a code. It went something like this: "P-1" before the number indicated "invasion" or "attack in force". The Secret Service used "P-2" before their required numbers which was the priority of the President of the United States and was given also to the Secret Service because it was part of the duty of that agency to protect the life of the Chief Executive of the nation. All other Federal agencies used "P-3" code when making telephone calls. The investigative department heads however in many instances, I remember, used "P-2" as it made more rapid connections.

    Everyone who has ever read a mystery story of government agents know about "informants" - the word used instead of the more vulgar "stool-pigeon". I had several informants in many of the states in which I operated and I was seriously discussing a case with one of them when I was shocked to hear him say: "you know that P-2 sure works". Naturally I asked him immediately: "what do you know about P-2" and he replied with an impish smile: "I heard you use it and seemed to have wonderful results so I tried it and sure enough I got my phone calls through at once, just like you do." More startled than ever I demanded who he had called. He replied: "you know I run a horse book on the beach and when I call my man in New Orleans to learn who won in the 5th race, I get the answer back within a minute or two, hours before the news reaches the beach by wire -- plenty of time to place a little bet on the winner, it's a cinch". I soon stopped the little racket.

    It was just about the time the rumor was going around, during the war, that German submarines were landing soldiers in Florida on the west coast, near Naples, that a new agent was sent to Pensacola. He had received instructions relating to the use of code numbers and soon after setting up his new office had occasion to call headquarters in Jacksonville to reserve a hotel room for himself the following week, and before he completed his 'phone message he heard police sirens all round him and the entire heavens seemed to be filled with fighter planes and bombers from the Pensacola Naval Air Base. He soon learned, after his arrest, that he had used "P-1" instead of "P-2" with his Jacksonville call and the entire air force was out seeking the "invaders". The agent was soon back in Jacksonville and no longer with the agency.

    This shows you have to use horse sense with even the simplest code - 10-4.


    Startling news reached me in July, 1944. I was ordered to attend the school held each year for all special agents of the U.S. Treasury Department. This year it was to be conducted in Louisville, Kentucky -- and I must be there within two days - no time for cramming either.

    When I arrived in the city of bourbon whiskey, menthol cigarettes and the Kentucky Derby, I found four agents from each of the Treasury Divisions, including Secret Service, Narcotics, Alcohol Tax Unit, Internal Revenue and Customs. All of them worried as many had made the tests before and knew what to expect -- I did not. The course was to last a week with lectures from experts in law and investigation conducting morning classes - starting at 8:00 a.m. and ending at 4:00 p.m. Home work consisted of giving written answers to 20 problems covering investigation and 20 questions of law each night.

    Knowing this was my first school experience nearly everyone reminded me that I was the oldest agent at the school and pointed out that no one over forty could be expected to memorize anything after reaching that advanced age. And then they added "they always have you quote one of the 'Bill of Rights Amendments to the U.S. Constitution' and they never tell you which one until the morning of the examination. Horrible thought. They told me 'you don't have a chance'."

    We were compelled to stay in the one huge classroom the entire time each day, with 10 minutes of each hour off for "A smoke', (the government had not heard about lung cancer at that time).

    The T men were all registered in two down-town hotels in Louisville and there were always three or four of us finished with our homework before midnight and there were several quiet poker games going until the "wee sma' hours". Our hotel (Brown House) had enlarged photographs in each room of Derby winners. The natives pronounce the race as they do in England, "Darby". I recall the school was held in July and the thermometer topped 100 F. each day we were there -- and our school room was not air-conditioned.

    Finally after many sweaty hours the morning of the "big day" arrived and we were all given a list of 200 questions to answer (100 matters of law and 100 pertaining to investigation).

    We were warned by the instructors to watch carefully as some of the questions were "sneaky" - and one of these kept me from making a real high score. One of the questions had to do with the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony. I did all right with that but following these dissertations, a question was sneaked in, to wit: 'If a pettit jury tries a misdemeanor what sort of case does a grand jury try?" I promptly wrote "felonies". Everyone knows the grand jury doesn't try any case, but determines if the prosecution has sufficient evidence to bring an indictment.

    Because I had been told I would not be able to memorize anything because of my age, I hurried through the examination without checking my answers and while I was first to complete the 200 question test paper, I got only a 93 grade for my labor. Frank Simmons, an agent friend of mine from Georgia, racked up a 98. Frank now resides in Miami -- and did better than I did with the pistol tests too; he made a 97 out of a possible 100 shots with his .38 Police Positive.


    Looking back to my ten or more years in law enforcement, it is easy to recall the old poem which pleads, "There is so much good in the worst of us". Most criminal characters earn at sometime or other odd and weird monikers. He was known among his associates in crime as "Half Man Harris".

    He was a living torso with both legs severed at his hips. He was in the counterfeit racket and while arrested many times was never convicted. He would speed down Jacksonville's streets sitting on a piece of oak plank about 18 inches square with four large castors attached. When appearing in court he always appeared before the judge hoisted upon the shoulders of his attorney. You can understand how difficult it would be for a jury to convict such a flambuoyant a hood. Upon dismissal his "mouth piece" would whisk out his oaken steed and with a small block of wood in each hand "Half Man" would mount it and skim up the aisle toward freedom amid cheers from the court room hangers-on. There was nothing vicious about friendly "Half Man Harris".

    Quite often while working in the Indian Mound opposite the entrance to Marine Studios, near St. Augustine, (I was State Archeologist at the time), famous and some notorious characters would watch the diggers uncovering the skeletal remains of the ancient Timucuas. One day a middle-aged well dressed man with a much younger adult seemed anxious to talk and the man introduced me to his companion as Al Capone, Jr., and almost pleaded that their presence be kept secret as "he's a good kid and has a bad time with his father's reputation and all".

    Young Al told my wife Louise and me that he was attending University of Miami but had no friends there and could not stand it if his "Uncle Ralph" hadn't been so good to him. It was his Uncle Ralph with him that day at the Mounds. It was Al's brother "Bottles". Never learned how he earned the moniker. And like Bottles Capone said "Young Al is a good kid."

    I was working "under cover" when I met "The Preacher". He was a bank robber and he admitted "one of the best thieves in the business". I called him by his given name, Tom. I liked him from the first time I shook hands with him.

    He told me I would make a great "Con Man" pointing out I looked like a U.S. Senator. This isn't the time to tell how I took advantage of him in gathering the evidence against him before taking him into custody.

    With never the least idea that I was a Federal Agent, he told me the entire story I sought and told me of his home life with his wife "Lou" back in Chilicothe, Ohio. Lou must have been a great cook, noted for her fried chicken and other southern dinners.

    He made no disturbance when I told him I was a Federal Agent and he would have to go with me and meet the United States Commissioner, Roger Davis, in Miami. He merely said "Sure". I felt terrible about it but it had to be done. "Tom" I explained, "that was a dirty trick". No, he said "I win some of 'em and you win some of 'em". "There is one thing that makes me feel awful bad - I won't ever get to eat one of Lou's chicken dinners back in Chilicothe". Tom, in a veritable fury turned to me and I jumped back fearing an attack. If I ever hear, he said "That you are in Ohio and you don't come and have dinner with me and Lou, I'll be hurt - and mad as the devil".

    I'll betcha Lou will agree that "The Preacher" had a kind and gentle streak in him - somewhere.

  • Lord Chesterfield once said: "The young leading the young is like the blind leading the blind." I must agree because I don't believe I had a lick of sense until I was around 40 years old.


    Charley was a crook -- and he admitted it. I don't know if Charley is still alive but if he is the statute of limitation is still operative and he cannot be detained for wrong doing, 30 years ago, in Miami.

    Because federal laws did not cover many of his alleged illicit activities, he took particular delight in discussing his peccadillos with me, a federal special agent. He would never talk with me in my Miami office for fear of it being "bugged" but would insist on going out on an iron fire escape platform where he felt safer.

    "I accused my wife of stepping out on me" he confided one day. I told her "I know she had been untrue as the oldest boy certainly was not mine, you know" - he added, "that boy is studying to be a mouthpiece and he doesn't run around on the street like the other boys. Take that other punk of mine - you can pick him up any time and find marked cards and loaded dice on him -- but not ever on the oldest. It's mighty suspicious, ain't it?"

    Charley was the proprietor of a large cabinet manufacturing plant, making gambling equipment -- roulette wheels, chuck-a-luck cages, crap tables -- many of them included "Gimmicks" or controls, it was claimed. He hired the finest cabinet makers and his plant in Miami revealed the handiwork of those artists -- hidden bins, drawers with false bottoms, and even secret passages from one room to another. It was an ideal place to hide contraband of all sorts, such as marked decks of playing cards and loaded dice. He had equipment to "shave" dice as little as one ten-thousandths of an inch.

    Charley was proud of his work and seemed delighted to show examples of it to me as at that time there were no federal laws against the manufacturing of gambling equipment.

    Charley was an admirer of Federal District Judge Holland and was often seen in the audience in trials in his court, and one day when I wished to question Charley I went to his office and found him behind his huge desk (he made it himself) esconced in a duplicate of the great high-backed chair of Judge Holland -- just a-grinnin'; yes, his men had made it for him.

    The genial rascal told me one day that the most worried he ever had been was when -- let us let him tell it: "this officer from the Jacksonville Air Base came to me wanted a pair of crooked dice -- and I was fresh out; nothing but straight dice. He said he had lost $800.00 in Jacksonville and wanted to get it back. I didn't know what to do. Finally, I decided to sell him a pair of the square ones and I had to charge him $100 for them or he wouldn't think 'em crooked, would he? When he left I hoped I wouldn't see him again -- but I worried. Sure enough he showed up the next week with a big grin on his face. He told me he had won his $800 back -- and sold his dice to the loser for $150 and he wanted another pair. I had all that worryin' for nothin."


    Federal courts are very strict and special agents soon learned that in many cases it would be necessary to call for help from local municipal or state enforcement officers (cops) who could operate with far less restriction when it came to search of the premises or even of persons. The Federal officer has no right to stop a car in traffic for instance while the cops at that time (1942) did not give it a thought. They were a great help and we called on them quite often.

    I was once working on a case which covered five states and knew of course, most of the law enforcement officers in all of them. While operating in North Florida one federal judge handled most of the arrests I made. One noon hour after adjournment he asked me to meet him in chambers and smilingly he said, "It seems rather unusual to me that you have been investigating on these cases for almost three weeks and in that time, you have discovered nothing and the city police broke most of the cases -- how come?" I had to think pretty quick and told him, I had been working under cover, but kept in close contact with the local police -- he smiled again and said, "I realize well enough what you are up against but do believe you had better make the arrest yourself and don't work the cops so much."

    My investigation revealed that the head of the mob I was after made most of his deliveries in a car with a dealer's license tag. The state law doesn't permit the dealer to use the car except on business and is not for personal use. The head of the gang was an auto dealer and he would take his wife and children with him when he "contacted" any of his "customers". I was confident that he carried "the goods" with him on these family trips and the contraband would be found in the car. I contacted a constable (he is not considered a cop) and as a federal officer I had no jurisdiction when state laws were violated and the constable arrested the man while making a delivery -- and he called me (I was right across the street) and I assisted in the search "incident to arrest" and found the evidence I was after.

    When my man appeared before the judge, and the constable was examined by the United States Attorney on the witness stand, the judge turned to face me as I sat "within the rail" and almost laughed out loud.

    Now, however, all law enforcement officers must abide by federal dictates, dealing with any criminals.

  • Nothing makes a small boy so mad as to have his dog follow the boy he detests most.


    On several occasions I have been asked if while a government agent I had ever met any well known so-called "Gangsters". Well, here goes:

    First of all I was a member of a group of special agents -- only 15 in all -- who could call upon any of the U.S. Government's investigators for help when needed -- and we often did, Our authority covered the entire nation and we carried signed subpoenas duces tecum in our brief cases and when we demanded to search any books of a company, we could fill in the hour and with the authority already signed from Washington, the managers were required to open their books immediately. This was quite a weapon and few other agents had that authority.

    At that time of course the greatest number of criminal cases were made in New York, but second in the entire country was the Miami area.

    Leaders in the Purple Gang, the new Capone mob, the Jersey mob and then called the Mafia favored Miami Beach for winter residence and it is claimed agreed there would be no gang killings in Miami or Miami Beach if the "big shots" were permitted to sun themselves on the beach and attend the races and night clubs.

    At that time I had headquarters in Miami. I had orders to contact a gambler known as "Whitey Miller" and I met and talked with twenty-seven gamblers known as "Whitey" before I caught Miller (at that time, 1941, he was known as the man who had "fingered" Dutch Schultz). Whitey told me it cost him around $4,000 to pay off "on the beach" not counting the $100 the detectives "troubled" them for. If one looks back through the records he will find there has been no gangland type killing in the area for the past 30 years.

    In those early days only one federal agency believed in the existence of organized crime and that was the United States Secret Service. Other agencies scoffed at the idea of a super underworld government.

    This is a Florida story. It is true if it does read like a television serial. I was in Miami in 1942 with headquarters in Atlanta, very much interested in the Capone mob and its Florida operation. With two other agents we were investigating the mysterious Manhattan Company with offices and large warehouses in Miami.

    We watched beer trucks leaving one warehouse at night, always accompanied by long, sleek black limousines with at least three men in the rear seats. That these guards were armed with machine guns was not questioned. We soon learned the Manhattan organization was the old Capone gang with Frank Nitti, president and Al's brother Ralph better known as "Bottles" and the secretary of the company was Charley Frecetti, one of Al's in-laws. Our investigations revealed that train loads of beer were being shipped in from Capone's brewery in Chicago to Miami. The Manhattan group, it was discovered, were printing in Miami Budweiser, Miller High Life, Schlitz and other famous labels and these were being applied to the cheaper Capone brew and sold to Florida hotel bars at premium prices.

    We caught them and served subpoenas duces te cum on all the officers of the company and ordered them to appear before the Federal Court with all the company's books on a certain date. The night before they were to face the Federal Judge the offices of the Manhattan company were gutted by fire and records were all consumed in the flames. A quick trip to the warehouses found them empty and the printing presses had been moved out -- and not even one long, slick black limousine could be found.

    Frank Nitti said he felt badly about the loss of the books -- but he seemed to smile as he told his story. We can imagine a grin as well when Scar Face Al heard there was "no case because of lack of evidence."

    In my Investigations I obtained affidavits from Joe Adonis (Mr. A.) he lived and owned his home in Hollywood, Fla.

    This investigation led to Abe (Longie) Zwillman and Frankie Costello, head of the Mafia at that time and Murder Inc. Longie was a "big shot" of the Jersey mob. We had worked for nearly three months and were closing in on them when word came from the United States Attorney at Tampa to discontinue the investigation.

    There was a very mysterious member of the Jersey mob whose name never appeared in print. He seemed to have more power than Costello. He may still be a power - the mob called him "Jimmy Blue Eyes."

    We hope that "no killing on Miami Beach" agreement still holds.

  • The most frustrated group in the world are those clever girls who know all the answers -- and are never asked.



    More than 50 years ago, the southern East Coast of Florida was terrorized in much the same manner and by ruffians of the same ilk as the old Jesse James or Dalton brothers mobs of early Kansas days.

    The robbing of banks seemed also to be the specialty of the Ashley gang, which operated for a time from a "hideout" somewhere in the Everglades west of the Hobe Sound - Salerno area. Banks were looted in Polk, St. Lucie, Palm Beach and Okeechobee counties -- legend tells us that even in Boynton Beach, one of the early banks was a repeated victim.

    There is little doubt that respectable citizens of the area were living in dread of "the Ashleys". Sheriff George B. Baker of the newly formed Palm Beach County, when he learned of the discovery of the body of DeSoto Tiger, a Seminole Indian in a canal in Broward County, 55 years ago, sent out two of his deputies, S.A. Barfield of Pahokee and Robert Hannon of West Palm to track down the desperado, John Ashley. He was known to be a "sure shot" and many were the rumors of the number of "notches" in his .45.

    Ashley, with his brothers and several other members of his mob were reported to be in hiding somewhere "west of the town of Boynton." The investigation revealed that Ashley and DeSoto Tiger had been seen together in a dugout filled with otter skins (they were worth about $25 a pelt at that time). While many of John Ashley's friends still deny that John had killed the Indian, it was proven that he had sold the otter hides in Miami for "more than $1,200." I had been homesteading on Merritt Island and was living in Cocoa at that time and I recall how aroused the homesteaders were when the report of the killing for hides was first s was first heard. There were otter on Merritt Island at that time -- I had sold some for that same price, $25.

    The story goes -- with some variations -- that "Bob" Baker's two deputies, not too anxious to confront John Ashley, were walking along a highway near Port Salerno when both John and his brother Robert jumped them and took away their guns. One account gives it that John Ashley accused the lawmen of being "chicken" and laughingly told them to go back and tell their boss they had seen "those Ashleys."

    The Ashleys would ride into a small town like Fort Meade or Avon Park in Polk County and walk into the banks and ask for the money. That was all that was necessary (Jesse James did no better -- nor did John Dillinger).

    Probably a score of South Florida banks were robbed before the "gang" was massacred at the Sebastian bridge, north of the present day city of Vero Beach (I remember it was plain "Vero" in those days). Those were wild and wooly times in backwoods Florida and the Ashleys were even wilder according to the tales which spread across the country. Stories seeped out about a beautiful "girlfriend" of John Ashley, known as "The Queen of the Everglades" and her love for the "one-eyed bandit," John Ashley. While not verified, John was supposed to have had but one good eye -- and one manufactured of glass.

    For the record, the Ashley's father according to newspaper yarns, at that time, was Joe W. Ashley -- killed in a fight in the boy's camp near Hobe Sound in 1924. There was John's brother "Bob" who was killed when he attempted to help John "break jail" in Miami. Two other brothers, Frank and Ed were reported "drowned at sea" in 1927. A sister of the boys was named Daisy and later committed suicide. A brother-in-law, Frank Mario, was drowned in the St. Lucie canal which ran from Lake Okeechobee to the sea. Another Ashley, William, known in the gang as "Bill", was convicted in 1935 for "running a moonshine still," later was killed in an automobile accident.

    A story in the Jensen Beach Mirror tells of Haywood Register, "one of John Ashley's gang" who was slain in a fight with the law on the bank of Boynton Canal in 1935. Walter Tracey was reported killed in a ruckus in Alachua (Marion County) in 1931. It was an era of "killings" not only of the Ashley's but also lawmen. Deputy Sheriff Fred Baker, son of the Palm Beach Sheriff, was one who died at the hands of the gang. Tales are also heard of lawmen who joined the mobsters from the 'Glades; they tell of a Broward County deputy sheriff, a Palm Beach deputy and also a former police chief in Stuart who met their death after joining up with the backwoods bandits.

    During early prohibition days the Ashley gang was the scourge of rumrunners, highjacking both boats and cargoes of bootleggers who plied the waters of the Atlantic between the Bahamas and the South Florida coast. Rumors of poker games in Miami where the Ashley boys would take on the city gamblers, sweetening the pot with $1,000 bills, were often told. Piracy added to the murder of rumrunners made "heroes" of the members of the gang.

    The true and complete story of the Ashley gang will not be told until after the death of many prominent people alive today. Some of the stories are humorous, some terrifying, some congruous. Even the story heard most today, relating the "massacre" of the gang leaders at the Sebastian River bridge has many endings but the following one I believe makes the nearest approach to the truth.

    John Ashley with other leaders of his mob including Ray Lynn, HANFORD MOBLEY and John C. Middleton were slain in a gun fight by Sheriff Bob Baker with deputies Henry Stubbs, Elmer Padgett, O.B. Padgett and L.B. Thomas, St. Lucie County sheriff Merritt and his deputies Smith and Wiggins, as they approached the bridge from the south. The officers had been tipped off and knew the road which was to be traveled by the outlaws and a chain was placed across the entrance of the bridge which started across the Sebastian River from a causeway. The gang members were compelled to stop to release the chain and the sheriffs and their many deputies were hiding on both sides of the raised causeway. As the unsuspecting gunmen stopped their car and approached in single file toward the chain the shots of the lawmen rang out and all the leaders in the notorious gang fell across the highway leading to the bridge.

    An old friend of mine, now deceased, Jack Middleton, a brother of John C. Middleton one of the gang who saw his last sundown on the bridge across the Sebastian with John Ashley, told me many of the stories of the Ashley Gang. He had argued with his younger brother but said he could do nothing with him to mend his ways. Jack for a time owned and operated a night club on the highway between Jacksonville and Jacksonville Beach "in the old days". After word reached him of the Sebastian slaughter, Jack, wracked with grief obtained the body of his slain brother and took it to Jacksonville for burial.

    Where the Walter Dutch building stands today -- once stood the Boynton Bank, one of a large chain of banks, several of which operated in Georgia as well as Florida. Little can be learned regarding the robberies of this bank, but there are still living persons who it is thought could give some details if they would. It is admitted, however, that any time the Ashleys needed a little money and being watched too closely in other parts of the county, John and his brothers would "walk right into the bank and without a word the tellers would give him all the money in their cages." For this reason there is very little record of the "robberies".

    When Dutch purchased the old bank building he did considerable research into its history and came across many tales of the notorious family clan. Dutch told of one resident of Boynton who was quite a youngster about that time and he was sure that he was the one who would "tote groceries" to the Ashley boys back of Boynton in their "hideout there". He would bear the need of provisions and would periodically visit an old stone in the 'Glades and find money under it and would then go to town and make the purchases and deliver them back to the stone. It was said that one day, the lad wanted to ask some question about the purchases and went back towards the camp and found no one there. He started to prowl around and before long a rifle shot rang out and dust in front of the messenger indicated the nearness and direction of the bullet. "Their lookout was in the top of a pine tree" the lad admitted later and continued, "that's the last time I am ever going out there." And it is recorded that it was.

    One of the stories that stirs about in this area and as far as I know has never been published has to do with "the Queen of the Everglades" Laura Upthegrove, who walked into Sheriff Bob Baker's courthouse after the "Massacre", withdrew a .45 caliber pistol, and demanded the glass eye which the sheriff had allegedly boasted he would "Have made into a watch fob" and wear it always. The story has it that Laura was in a fury and grabbed her sweetheart's glass eye from the sheriff as he handed it over and with her gun still "covering" him made her exit shouting, "if you want this come out in the Glades and get it."

    There is no record he ever did.

    Note cwm:
    I have attempted to trace Hanford Mobley and only get back to his father, West Mobley, in the 1910 census of Palm Beach Co., FL:

    West W. 31 b. FL, Mary A. 25 FL, Laeta 7, Hanford 5, John NR


    Let's talk about money -- lots of money.

    I have never had a lot of it, but I have seen it actually thrown away and otherwise totally disregarded. For instance:

    One day on the fishing pier at Naples I watched a tourist living at "the big hotel" attempt to create some action among a group of pelicans perched on some old pilings near the dock. There was nothing to throw from where he stood -- no sticks, rocks or anything. He dipped into his pocket and then threw a handful of quarters and half dollars at the lazy fouls. He got action but not from the birds as several small boys dove into the clear water to retrieve the coins.

    It was while a Special Agent with the Federal Government that I arrested and brought before the U.S. Commissioner in Miami, a well known gambler, charged with possession of counterfeit currency. When he was asked to put up a $5,000 bond he reached in a shirt pocket where he kept his cigarettes and brought out some bills -- 16 thousand dollar bills. I impounded them immediately as it was against the law to have even a $500 bill in one's possession. One of my fellow agents admired the gambler's wrist watch of platinum and several diamonds -- he offered it to the agent stating that someone had given it to him and it was only worth $400 or $500. The agent smiled and returned the bauble. The Commissioner would not take the defendant's check and his big bills had been impounded and it looked like he would have to call a professional bondsman, when he suggested we call on his wife at his home on Star Island and get the money.

    We went to his palatial residence and met his wife at the front door. When she first saw us, even before we showed credentials, she broke out with: "What's the creep done now?" We told her and the reason for our call. She invited us into a larger parlor and throwing back a beautiful Persian rug revealed under it the entire floor was covered with $ 100 bills. We picked up 50 of them and took them to the Commissioner who released the suspected man. Afterwards his 16 "big ones" were returned when he stated he had "stolen them from his wife" and that "they were part of an inheritance from her father who had sold his wholesale grocery business in St. Louis. He knew his wife would bring no charges against him.

    I saw $1,000 bills thrown on the floor of the State Senate, and "stomped upon" during the 1931 session when the lobby for the race track came up from Miami to Tallahassee. Senator Arthur Gomez almost tore his patch pocket off his coat to clutch the offending bill to throw it on the carpet with the historic words: "I was going to vote for your stupid bill, but after this I won't". And he didn't. However, he did vote for it when the Legislature voted to pass it over Governor Doyle Carlton's veto. Gomez afterward became a Circuit Judge, appointed by Governor Fred Cone.

    To give another example of utter disregard of money we must go back to Naples in the early '30s. I was talking with the proprietor of the only grocery store in that little town of around 600 people when a winter visitor from the "big hotel" came in and asked if her maid had been in to change a $500 bill that morning. After hearing she had not, she replied with a great exhibition of nonchalance, "Well, maybe I only had three $ 500 bills on my dresser, but I thought there were four."


    On Boynton's friendly beach, with a sharp eye out for a passing ship, I was reminded of the tale once told me by Mrs. F.C. Voss, who always keeps me straightened out in my recollections of doings in this area in the earlier days.

    Mrs. Voss says that one day while enjoying breakfast at her father's and her home in Hypoluxo, they heard a terrifying noise, a hair-raising passage of some object over the house followed by another just like it -- and another.

    The entire family rushed outside and observed a large ship off-shore with a lot of smoke around it (they used only black powder in those early days -- 1898). It had evidently been firing shot ashore from a large cannon lashed to the fore deck. "It was about an 8-inch gun I would say,' reminisced Mrs. Voss, "and peering through a glass we determined it was 'The Three Friends', a seagoing tub." She never was sure why this famous gun-runner (probably running rifles to Cuba) was firing at the shore but presumed "it was merely target practice."

    Fifteen years later, I had an occasion to board "The Three Friends" as she lay anchored off Mayport in the St. John's River, East of Jacksonville. I was engineer on the "Mantanzas" and with the skipper Captain Tony Canova, we boarded the notorious "Runner" to visit with the captain. This tug which became famous during the Spanish-American War was owned by "Three Friends", one of whom was Napoleon Broward, later to become one of Florida's greatest governors. He was the first to recognize the need of Dikes around Lake Okeechobee.

    Mrs. Voss doesn't know whether Broward was aboard that exciting morning or not . . .


    Did you ever see anything prettier than a 2-year old filly all dolled up for a race?

    But one can also meet some odd and unusual characters around a race track. It was in 1931 when times were really tough when racing became legal in Florida. I was among the lucky few to be picked to enforce the new racing laws and I showed up in Miami at the opening of Tropical Park.

    Both Tropical and Hialeah had been running the ponies for several years with no curb on the bookmakers. "Scarface" Al Capone was one of the owners of Tropical Park and Little Augie owned the biggest string of horses racing there. The mobsters who owned many of the stables were not firm advocates of law and order and had little respect for rules and regulations - except their own.

    The new responsibility of the new State Agency, Florida State Racing Commission, was first to discourage and halt the custom of "drugging" the racers before each running. It was soon learned that all drugs used, to be effective, must be given at least an hour before the starting bell, and almost the first order given by the "Commish" was to seat an inspector on a stool in front of each entry for the next race, facing the stall, to be sure that no "dope" was given the thoroughbred during that hour. I was one of those inspectors, having earned the job by my assistance in passing "the racing bill" in the state legislature. Our first rule was to never, under any circumstance, leave the stall of our charge unguarded.

    The first few days saw a beautiful woman offer an apple to one of the entries. The inspector grabbed the shiny, red fruit before the colt's mouth could reach it.

    It was later found to be filled with a dope to tranquilize the racer who was known to be over-nervous "at the gate."

    Different "doped" objects, such as cubes of sugar and carrots were thrown into the stalls from the back, etc.

    The frustrated gamblers could stand it no longer and one bright, sunny afternoon, in amazement, I watched three men wearing overcoats actually grab the state inspector as he watched over one of the horses, in Little Augie's stable next to me, and with a huge automatic pistol in his side, the state man entered a black sedan, which soon disappeared. The inspector was reported missing as the Little Augie entry was being saddled. The inspector was picked up near Baker's Haulover, unhurt, walking back that, then, lonesome highway toward the track.

    The state veterinarian found traces of a drug and the horse was disqualified but I cannot recall of any official investigation made of the "incident". Oh yes, the poor scared inspector turned in his badge that same afternoon -- he was through with Florida racing.

    I could not assist the inspector in this incident as the plot may have been staged to draw me away from my horse.

    By the start of the "season" the third year it was found the evidence of doping the ponies was so meager, no more inspectors were needed at the stalls. However, even today, they are still busy helping the "State Vets" discourage the use of dope in the stables.


    Forty or more years ago there was no electronic equipment to aid the politicians in plying their nefarious trade during a political campaign -- no microphones, no "bugs", no hidden recorders. In those cruder days, cruder methods to conduct campaigns were found necessary. That they were used cannot be denied, although little has been written about them. These methods at the time, were considered routine and gained little space in the press.

    There was in incident in Hendry County, however, with an odd and unusual twist, which may be of some interest in these more modern days.

    In Hendry County, like most smaller counties, the juiciest political "plum" was the office of Tax Assessor -- and like most smaller political subdivisions there was a principal industry particularly interested in electing someone "friendly" to its interests. In this instance it was the sugar industry with its holdings of thousands of acres of fertile, taxable land.

    Back 40 years or more ago the incumbents in the assessor's office had little difficulty on election day as he was always able to assure himself of the required "drinkin" likker among the electorates. He did not worry about the women's vote because while the politicians all were in favor of them, they were not so particular in the counting of them. There were no voting machines then, you will remember. The workers on the newspaper's side of the political fence were getting "Just about enough" of the arrogance of the incumbent county tax assessor, that year, and aided by editorials determined to "cut him down to size." We on the News decided on an attempt to disarm him and slay him with his own weapon.

    About two weeks before the election, the janitor at the County Court House at LaBelle (who was anxious to keep his job as he had a wife and seven small children) told us of the six charred barrels of "moonshine" stored in the back room of the tax assessor's office, on the second floor.

    The next night was moonless and stormy and around 2:00 a.m. a flat bed Model T truck could have been seen (but wasn't) on the east side of the court house, with six newly charred empty barrels lined up on it. One of our men was ushered into the old yellow brick building by the watchful janitor. Our man had a long length of new garden hose coiled over his shoulder and the two party workers soon had the window open in the tax assessor's office on the side over the Model T truck. The hose was "paid out" hand under hand between the iron bars on the window and soon connected a lower barrel with one on the second floor. With a lot of mighty sucking on the lower end a syphon was established and the transfer of the barrel's contents was successfully completed -- just like clock work.

    No squawk was heard or expected from the furious county official. He did, however, ask the County Sheriff to have his deputies throughout the county learn what they could. The sheriff also was "running" that year -- and the sheriff was very friendly.

    Election day arrived and nothing unusual happened. The male electorate all seemed happy and contented and there were no more knife fights than in other years.

    Late that night after the vote was counted the new County Tax Assessor assured the janitor of the court house that he would see to it that his job was safe for four more years.


    Just to prove that no one every really knows what may be on his hook when he casts his bait in the Atlantic off the southeast coast of Florida the accompanying photo taken in 1912 is "untouched" and the picture of the marine monster has not been superimposed.

    It was back in 1913 when I saw the brute in Cocoa. I was introduced to the man who caught the whopper, Captain Charles Thompson by Captain Tony Canova, the skipper of the Matanzas, a freight boat on which I was proud to be referred to as "Chief" -- engineer, that is. No one could tell us at that time, and I do not know to this day, the species of titan. It took several days and many hundreds of high powered rifle bullets to subdue the beast, we were told.

    It was shown in Palm Beach on a large barge and people came from many miles around to view "one that didn't get away."

    Captain Thompson took his fish across the United States and stopped in even the smaller towns to permit school children to see what a real Florida fish looked like -- for a nominal price, of course.

    I have been told that finally the leviathan could no longer be preserved and after crossing the continent, souvenir hunters had quite a field day. Fred Benson of Boynton Beach found this photograph of the "big un" in San Francisco --so there is little doubt that the Atlantic "whale" may have been introduced to the Pacific. The weight on the photo, "30,000 lbs.", may be a slight exaggeration, as there were no scales large enough to weight it -- but I can testify that it measured 45 feet in length.

    Our son, Bob, the illustrator of this small volume, still tells of the time when he was "about three" his grandfather, Captain Canova, introduced him to Captain Thompson who picked him up and placed him in the "yawning mouth of the monster."


    According to many newspaper editorials in 1972, wonder was expressed that so few people were much perturbed over the charges by the "high ups" in the Democratic party that members of the Committee to Elect Nixon for "four more years" hired men to hide microphones in the office of the Democratic National Executive Committee in Washington, D.C. After all, what is so terrible about that? Breaking and entering? -- Possibly. No attempt was made to steal anything, but information. Would the Democratic "big wigs" have turned down any exclusive information handed them that had been received in the same manner?

    In my opinion, there never was a more moral, honorable and upright politician than Spessard L. Holland. When he was campaigning for Governor of Florida against Francis Whitehair of DeLand, I was working in an Indian mound across the highway from the entrance to the Marine Studios and was residing in St. John's County (St. Augustine). Marineland was in adjoining Flagler County and many of the workmen at Marine Studios lived and voted in that county, and most of them seemed to favor Whitehair for Governor and it was rumored that Whitehair was organizing quite a large following in Bunnell, the County seat, to help him "carry the county" which joined his own, Volusia.

    In those days, there was no organized Republican Party, therefore, none appeared on any ballot and the winners in the Democratic primary were officially elected. Very few residents would admit they were of the Republican persuasion and would register as "democrats".

    When enough settlers came in from the North to warrant a Republican primary, many of those G.O.P. members registered as "demos" did not change but would vote for the Democrat in the primary that they believed would be the easier candidate for the G.O.P. to defeat in the general election.

    Personally, I thought that was unfair and immoral.

    The Whitehair - Holland fracas however, was settled in the primary, but the "sides" were as belligerent as any of the later Party feuds. I had suggested to Spessard that an old friend of mine, Ray Tully, who held a good position in the Florida East Coast Railroad general offices in St. Augustine would make an excellent manager in the "Holland for Governor" campaign in St. John's County. That was decided and Flagler County was also added to Tully's responsibility -- and the fight was on. We had very little money to work with and Tully and I paid for many of the Holland newspaper ads in the papers of the two counties ourselves.

    Then came the "big break." We were told the newly formed Whitehair for Governor Club would elect officers at the Court House in Bunnell Monday night. Tully told one of his men who lived there to attend as -"a spy" and report back to him at Ray's home after it was over. I was waiting (and having a few drinks) at Ray's when the phone call from our "spy" came in about 11:00 o'clock.

    Ray appeared dazed as he listened. Hanging up the receiver of the phone, he turned and in tones of disbelief whispered, "They elected our man President of the Flagler County Whitehair for Governor Club. Whatta yuh know!" Then, "What shall we do?" I suggested, "nothin'." -- and that's what Ray and I did. There were some men in the Holland Club, however, who were mighty busy -- and our "spy" remained president.

    Members of the Whitehair group in Flagler wondered why they did not receive any political literature and Whitehair bumper stickers and their president told them "Someone musta stole 'em" - and he continued to do "nothin'."

    In the November election, Spessard L. Holland won the gubernatorials race and both St. Johns and Flagler Counties by a real "landslide."

    We never once thought our actions or non-actions were criminal nor immoral. We didn't because both sides believed, "everything is fair in Love, War -- and Politics."

    Neither Ray Tully nor I ever mentioned to Holland why Whitehair was whipped so badly in his neighboring county -- but then Whitehair didn't carry his own county either. We thought it a good joke, but Spessard wouldn't have liked it at all -- not at all. And it is difficult for me to get all excited and worked up now over the Watergate caper.


    Did you ever stop to realize why you seldom get a chance to bet on a filly in the "Running for the Roses" on Kentucky Derby Day, the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs?

    Long before Gulfstream Park was a part of the racing season in Florida, Hialeah's racing dates ran until late in April. My work as "Inspector" with the Florida State Racing Commission found me one bright warm, sunny April afternoon sitting on my folding chair in front of the stall of the "favorite", a beautiful little black filly, "that couldn't lose." We watched all the racers those days to see that no one would give them dope within the hour before post time.

    I noticed extraordinary interest in the filly - the owner and the trainer seemed unusually happy and the stable boys were selling anything they owned to bet on her in the coming race -- even the jockey had a huge grin sparkling his face. Surely the little sleek, black filly was expected to win.

    She was a lovely bit of horse flesh and it could be noticed the trainer himself had a handful of fresh clean hay and was rubbing the filly's coat backward and it was noticed the usual trim decorations on her magnificent tail were missing. Most all of the women bettors that day would have placed at least a $2.00 bet on her nose, and all the downgrading was to stop this for the sake of odds.

    A stable boy told me that the little filly at daybreak that morning had broken the track record at Hialeah and she had run it "in her training plates" and everyone knew these shoes were each four ounces heavier than the aluminum racing plates. She couldn't lose.

    A thoroughbred seems to always know when their race approaches and when a racer is "ready" the stable boy needs only to hold out the bridle in front of the stall and the keyed up animal actually, at such a time, will force his or her nose into the waiting gear.

    On this particular day the filly was ready. The roar of the crowd seemed a stimulant and she marched proudly to the paddock where she was saddled and mounted by her favorite jockey and was soon marching gaily around the paddock track. It wasn't necessary to give the rider any last advice -- it was Little Lie's race and she would run it -- she couldn't lose!

    Little Lie got off to a bad start, but no one worried. Before she reached the three-quarter pole she had passed all but the handsome colt in the lead and she was gaining on him. She ran alongside the haughty leader -- and stayed right there. It was spring and the warm breeze of the Blue Grass Country was in her nostrils and the most gorgeous bit of horse-flesh she had ever seen was running beside her -- she shouldn't be expected to run away from him -- and she didn't. It was against nature. Little Lie lost by a mere whisker in a photo finish.

    That's why you seldom see a filly in the Kentucky Derby. That race is always run in the spring.


    The day was little different from any other day. Some of the early risers paused in front of the Belle Glade Hotel and remarked that it seemed to be considerably cooler than during the past few months.

    Naturally there was some talk of radio reports that a hurricane had hit Puerto Rico, but that island was a long way from Lake Okeechobee and besides, radio reception was of such poor quality during the past 24 hours one could not be at all sure what the true reports were.

    The date was Sept. 16. The year 1928. The Sunday morning was as routine as hundreds of preceding Sunday mornings in this rural agricultural area, and there was absolutely no indication that before the next dawn many of those talking about the weather and some 2,400 of their friends and neighbors would be dead.

    By evening everyone was aware that the Lake was rising at an unprecedented rate, and a few more fearful residents started nailing a few pathetic pieces of scrap lumber over their windows.

    By the time scattered reports arrived by radio that the hurricane had crashed into the Palm Beaches with 160-mile winds, it was too late to do anything about it.

    There were only two escape routes. North to Sebring, and this would require skirting the shore of the much feared lake, or east to West Palm Beach, and this meant driving right into the eye of the approaching storm. By 9 a.m. water had reached the second story of some homes in low locations, and many had abandoned their homes to take shelter in one of the two Belle Glade hotels.

    When the hurricane hit it literally drove the water in Lake Okeechobee north, and the lake level in Belle Glade dropped one foot. But, when the eye of the hurricane passed, the wind came from the opposite direction and forced the water of the lake back into the south end.

    An idea of what happened can be imagined by thinking of a tilted pan of water. When the first half of the hurricane hit, the pan was tilted so the water ran to the north. But after the storm came from the opposite direction the pan tilted back and the water broke through the small retaining dikes at the south end of the lake drowning thousands.

    No one will ever know how many died that night. There have been various estimates, but no one will ever know for sure. For more than one week rescue workers were finding bodies and bringing them to temporary morgues established in every town around the lake. It soon became necessary to collect the bodies in piles, douse them with gasoline and cremate them. Still later the bodies were cremated where they were found.

    Because hundreds of migrant workers, in from the Bahamas, were among the casualties it was almost impossible to identify them. Many were known to their fellow workers only by their nicknames.

    When it was over the hurricane resulted in the third greatest disaster in the history of the United States. But this disaster, much in the same manner as it takes a pedestrian fatality before a warning light will be erected, resulted in focusing the nation's attention on the need for flood control in Florida. The 1928 hurricane disaster can't be repeated because the Herbert Hoover Dike, built since then on the shore of Lake Okeechobee, is designed to hold back hurricane tides.


    Boynton Beach, Boca Raton, Delray Beach and Deerfield Beach are sparkling names of proud cities on the Gold Coast of Florida.

    The Gold Coast -- enchanting, mysterious, exotic and appealing. The Gold Coast has attracted Man since prehistoric days -- as a haven from the wintry blasts which killed their children and cut down their supply of food.

    Primitive Man in Florida sought the ocean beaches for seasonal warmth and for food gleaned from the ocean. Picture these primal creatures with their hairy arms dangling at their sides and the tips ` of their horney fingers almost touching the shells on the beaches upon which they stalked, beetle-browed and scowling. Here was Man along the Gold Coast 20,000 years ago.

    The lips of these ancient people who once roamed the tropical fastness of the Florida jungle, are now dust. Their dreams are departed. Not a single word of their folklore is recorded -- but they were men and women and even their pygmy minds realized the necessity of spending at least a part of their lives -- near the sea -- where even in the worst of the Winter -- it is warm.

    The first recorded stories of White Man's experiences in North America -- the first histories -- those of Columbus in 1492 and later of that initial Florida tourist, Ponce de Leon in 1513 the climate of the area was praised. But these adventurers and many who followed sought only gold and soon the southeast segment of Florida became known as The Gold Coast.

    On Easter Sunday, March 27, 1513, Ponce sighted land after a voyage to Puerto Rico -- and named it Florida. Historians are still not decided just where he first touched land but there is no doubt he sailed south past the site of the present Boynton Beach some little time after the landfall. We can picture him sailing south with his three vessels, making a landing at Jupiter Inlet, then cruising along the Keys up the West Coast as far as Sanibel Island after which he sailed for Tortugas and Cuba. Again the historians seem to be in a quandary as we read from the Spanish "from Cuba to his (Ponce de Leon) anchorage in the Bahamas" he seems to have called enroute at Matacumbe on July 2nd, later at Chequescha (possibly Tequesta) arriving at his destination in the Bahamas July 18, 1513.

    The facts are so insufficient regarding the entire trip of Ponce, it would be difficult to prove that he did not tarry "along the Gold Coast" to better enjoy the delightful climate and further his search for that fountain whose waters "would restore youthfulness to age and immortality to life." Ponce probably read Prester John, the fabled Emperor of the East who spoke of a miraculous fountain where, "if any man drinks thrice of this spring, he will, as long as he lives, appear of the age of thirty." Ponce de Leon really did spend considerable time in Florida seeking these miraculous waters. It was his belief according to Spanish legend that "an angel came daily to drink of the waters of life, and the dew drops falling from his glittering wings gave to the spring its wonderful virtue, to restore or to beautify, as believed."

    Then the great "gold rush".

    Never before nor since has man made such a wild scramble for gold as was experienced after Cortez found so much, of the precious metal in Montazuma's kingdom in sacked Mexico. Convoys of galleons, guarded by men-of-war, made Havana in Cuba their rendezvous and laden with gold sailed for home along what became the Gold Coast of Florida.

    These great treasure fleets brought an average of $10,000,000 annually back from the "new country" to Spain and later this amount was raised to $20 million and when the wealth of the New World was finally exhausted - $30 million. Philip V was on the throne of Spain in 1517 and from the beginning of the 16th century well into the 19th, it has been estimated that billions of dollars worth of jewels and precious metal moved along Florida's Gold Coast enroute to Spain.

    How much of this treasure was hijacked by pirates and how much lost as the heavily laden treasure galleons were destroyed by hurricanes cannot be estimated but it has been claimed that today between 15,000 and 18,000 carcasses of ships can be found along the Florida coast. To protect themselves against these pirates the treasure ship's captains sailed in huge convoys of fifteen or more galleons protected by Spanish men-of-war. Spanish records show that there was a commanding officer of the entire Armada, a Spanish General over all the captains whose responsibility it was to assure the safe passage of the ships back to Spain. There was also a Spanish Admiral aboard who took charge once the ships were attacked. Records show the Spanish government received approximately 20 percent of the worth of all the gold and jewels.

    It was on July 24, 1715, when the Tierra Firme Armada commanded by De Echeverz, composed of 11 ships sailed from Havana. It must have been an awe-inspiring sight -- these 11 heavy, slow and unwieldy galleons seeking the northerly current of the Gulf Stream with an estimated 2,000 men and officers aboard.

    Translated Spanish records show that on Monday, July 29th, north of the Florida Keys the older sailors who had made other voyages along the Florida coast became worried by the falling barometers -the seas were smooth, yet there appeared long swells with "an ominous haze beginning to shade the still bright sunlight". By mid-afternoon, it was necessary to break out the large ships lanterns and put them in place.

    Tuesday broke murky and an "uneasy" feeling spread even among the youngest and inexperienced members of the crews -- there was danger in the air -- and the wind -- it was unusually sultry and oppressive and at times, it was reported from ships' logs, there was a dead calm. The winds had changed to the north-northeast and while it was early for hurricanes along the Florida coast, experienced captains agreed they were in for some "serious weather" and the fickle winds increased and by late Tuesday had blown the "seas to frightening heights."

    The ship's log on one that survived the wrecks showed they were still "south of Canaveral" when the fleet met the howling storm head-on. They knew of no shelter ashore.

    Winds at 100 miles an hour were recorded by 2:00 a.m. on Wednesday and masts crumbled and sails were torn to ribbons -- sailors were swept off the slippery decks into the tormented ocean -- man's science was no match for Nature's overpowering might and slowly the great galleons, heavy with gold and jewels slowly drifted on the shoals -- along Florida's Gold Coast.

    One ship of the Armada of 11, sailing directly into the teeth of the tempest, the Frenchman "El Grifon" with Captain Don Antonio Dare on the bridge, managed to escape the fangs of the reefs by disobeying orders of the Admiral and sailing more to the northeast. Ten ships with more than 1,000 officers and men were lost in this greatest of all sea disasters -- and $14,000,000 in gold coins and jewels went down with the ships.

    All along the Gold Coast today -- from Vero Beach, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Boca Raton, and Deerfield Beach skin divers often find gold doubloons in the white sands offshore. Among the several complete wrecks spotted off Boynton Inlet is one thought by James Warnke to have been one of "the lost Armada" swept ashore by the great killer hurricane of 1715.


    Better known to Yachtsmen than the Atlantic Ocean is the Intracoastal Waterway which -- starting in New Jersey -- follows the Seaboard south until it reaches Miami, Florida.

    Once I worked on a gasoline freighter, the Matanzas out of St. Augustine. At that time the channel was but three feet deep and at times because of slides from the banks, much shallower.

    We carried groceries, gasoline and fertilizer from Jacksonville to West Palm Beach. On the voyage back to Jacksonville we loaded with oranges, grapefruit and tangerines from the groves along the Fort Pierce area, then up through the Indian River where we took on all the King oranges we could load from Merritt Island. Some of these rare citrus were four inches across and brought one dollar apiece in the New York Market. Most of them went to high-toned hotels like the Knickerbocker and the Astor.

    The Captain and owner of the Matanzas was Antonio "Tony" Canova, who lived (when ashore) at Rockledge.

    Can you imagine a 75-ton craft drawing two and a half feet of water through a canal but three feet deep and the bottom foot -- pure mud? It wasn't so bad with the hundreds of yachts and luxurious houseboats as they drew but two feet of water. The canal was too narrow for a 75-footer like the Matanzas to turn around when a "slide" occurred almost filling the channel. We would then go astern until we found some small creek where we could turn. We would rush back until we reached the dam across the channel caused by the dirt from the bank. The Captain would order the crew (that was me) to put out an anchor with lines attached on each bank, bring them back and make them fast to the windlass. The boat, stern first, would be drawn up to the slide by the windlass and with the motors driving ahead, the propeller would be forced into the debris cutting it away. The churning "screw" would soon wash away the dirt as it was pulled backward by the windlass. We would then seek another creek or wide place and would soon be chugging toward Jacksonville or West Palm Beach.

    Hundreds of plush houseboats and magnificent yachts like Mr. Mellon's, "Vagabondia" and Mr. Harry Payne Whitney's "Ruff House" with Captain Cole in the wheel house made the annual trips south. Once when I boarded the Ruff House, I noticed the utensils in the galley were all made of sterling silver and I asked Captain Cole if he was just "putting on the dog" with his fancy skillets and saucepans. Seeming much perturbed he replied that silver makes the finest utensils; that hot cakes would not stick and food stayed hot so much longer. The skipper told me it cost "over $50 an hour to run the Ruff House." Most of this, of course, was for gasoline for fuel. With Mr. Whitney it was "taking from one pocket and putting it in another." Most of the Whitney fortune was in Standard Oil stock.

    In 1874, the State gave the Florida East Coast Canal Company more than a million acres of Florida land for digging a waterway 50 feet wide and five feet deep (it was seldom deeper than three feet) from Jacksonville to Miami. I first boated on the waterway in 1913. The entire Intracoastal Waterway (as it is called today) has a depth today of 12 feet in the shallowest places -- and the very wealthy still plow the waters to Miami with their yachts every "season."


    Some folks write because some editor wants to fill some space each week, others to satisfy some peculiar ego while some other have to have an outlet or go nuts. Some folks write because they need the money to buy booze, others because some of their friends have kidded them into believing they were great writers, while others just like to see their names in print. For the life of me, I do not know into which category I fall -- maybe a combination of all. I do not however, recall of any writing about the many good people in this hurly-burly world who have helped others, seeking no gain for themselves, but merely out of goodness of their hearts. There are lots of them but I would like to tell you of one in Winter Haven, Florida.

    In 1931, I worked as a green fruit (citrus) inspector for the State Commissioner of Agriculture, Nathan Mayo, at the Florence Villa packing house there. Each night most of the inspectors working in the Winter Haven area would get together and "talk shop" - each would tell (some of them bragging) of the number of boxes of "green fruit" they had destroyed that day in enforcing the State law.

    Weeks of arduous labor passed and more and more green fruit was burned by more and more green inspectors until there was but one poor young fellow who, to that date, had not found even one single box of fruit that did not meet the sugar content requirement of the citrus law. The owner of the packing plant to which the young inspector was assigned believed in shipping only sun ripened fruit and it could readily be seen why that inspector made such a poor showing when his reports showed up so poorly when compared with the other young chemists.

    We tried to console him with the thought he was doing a bang-up job and that his packing house had always been considered one of the "cleanest in the State", but the young man was conscientious and began to lose weight. He no longer "hung around" with the other inspectors at the bull sessions; he wouldn't even date any of the gals; he was fast becoming desperate -- and utterly miserable.

    The season was fast coming to a close -- at that time it only lasted until December 1, and the owner saw what was happening and he tried to get the sorrowful young fellow to snap out of it, and finally decided to give a great banquet for all the inspectors in Polk County at the end of the season, so there would be no talk of bribery. The owner thought this would please the young State inspector and offered to make him the guest of honor. The more the old plant owner talked, the worse the young man felt! He had lost 16 pounds and could not be consoled.

    After considerable thought, the owner talked to a friend of his who had some late fruit, that at that date was low in sugar, and with his own money purchased 18 boxes of this "green fruit" and in the dead of night, slipped the fruit into his own packing house. The next morning the young inspector, never giving up, made his test -- and discovered the 18 boxes. He went to the owner and whispered his discovery. The old man appeared shocked and asked if there was not some way this could be "hushed up", so the record of his house could be kept clean. The young fellow was adamant and with a trembling hand wrote out the order to destroy those offending 18 boxes of oranges.

    The day was saved -- the banquet and dance was to be held the next night. The young inspector beamed, the gals all smiled at him and he smiled right back (after all these weeks). Everyone was happy, but the happiest of all was the kind and thoughtful grower who had ruined a 25-year record to help a sorrowful youngster. That's what I call a MAN.

  • Give a beggar a dollar a week for five weeks -- and expect to be "cussed out" if you sldp him the sixth week.


    There are so many mysteries in Florida which have never been explained.

    On the Apalachicola River in the Florida panhandle can be seen today a rather large stand of cedar trees. Botanists and forest tree scientists agree they are of the same family and species as the famous "Cedars of Lebanon" of Biblical renown and they are found nowhere else on Earth - How did they become planted here or were the original cones from Florida to eventually furnish the woof for Solomon's Temple, known to all readers of the Old Testament?

    A "northeaster" had been blowing along the Atlantic shore for three days and a friend of mine called, begging me to meet him in Vero Beach; that he had found something he thought might be of some importance. We drove a short way north of that city. The stormy waters had washed away part of a sand dune back of the beach and three feet below the surface of the earth and we were soon examining a stratum of what appeared to be shreds of porcelain three inches deep and approximately 20 feet in length. And no other artifacts near them.

    I was State Archeologist at the time and I sent several of the potsherds to my friend Matt Stirling of the Smithsonian Institution at Washington for identification. The blue glaze on the bits of porcelain was without question the most beautiful I have ever seen - lovely.

    Stirling immediately wanted to know the exact location and then informed me the sherds were from porcelain vases made during one of the Ming Dynasties in China. He placed the date back to "probably around 1700 B.C."

    There must have been a boat load of them -- probably wrecked on our shores -- but when, who and how come?

    Now here is another teaser. A few miles south of Monticello, the county seat of Jefferson County, alongside of the Wacissa River, while excavating a burial mound of the Pre-Columbian Apalache Indians we unearthed a small stone figurine, altogether different from any found in the state. It was three inches in height and beautifully carved with decided negroid features. The little stone idol was in a kneeling posture and on his head wore what appeared to be a football headgear of about 1910 Vintage with pads covering both ears.

    Matt Stirling of the Smithsonian, then Chief of the Bureau of Ethnology, had his technicians make an identical copy for the U.S. Museum and I turned the original over to the State Museum at Gainesville, Florida.

    Several years later, Dr. Stirling was in Mexico leading an expedition for the Smithsonian, where he uncovered a huge stone head weighing an estimated eight tons (16,000 lbs.). This figure had the negroid features of my small stone idol. It also wore the old football headgear. Several more of the buried stone heads were unearthed in Mexico.

    Stirling averred they ante-dated the Maya Indians. Some of the relics of this tribe were found in the area.

    Our Apalache Indians must have found the little stone figurine, admired it and one of them (possibly the Chief or "Micco") had it buried with him. But how did it get from Mexico to Florida? Or did the men who carved the giant heads come from Florida after discovering the huge stones there? We may know the answers to all these mysteries some day when we dig a little deeper.


    Basking in the Florida sun each winter are the Basques, who form the real "international set" in the Dade - Broward - Palm Beach area. They are the Jai Alai players who perform each night, and some afternoons, from December until early May.

    At the Frontons in Dania, West Palm Beach and Miami are seen the great and romantic men who follow the fastest of all contests - Jai Alai all over the world. They come from Spain, Mexico, France and the Phillipines, Cuba, Brazil, China - great men in stature and in the annals of sport.

    What is this crazy game that seems to have taken such a hold on the fancy of so many Americans this past couple of decades? Jai Alai is the world's oldest ball game. Archeologists claim the game was enjoyed in ancient Egypt and old records trace its progress through early historic China. It was first played in America (before just a mere handful of followers) at the Worlds Fair in St. Louis in 1904. Today more than a million U.S. spectators watch breathlessly as the ball (pelota) dashes from granite walls to granite walls on the 176 ft. cancha (court).

    There is no game played today that equals Jai Alai in speed, skill or endurance.

    The court has three walls and the game has often been referred to as "handball with artillery." The hard goat skin ball thrown by a player's cesta sometimes reaches a speed of 150 miles per hour. Players have been killed when struck by the blinding, speeding pelota. There is always a physician in attendance in the players dressing room.

    A physician is also needed at times in the audience as well when some over-enthused spectator forgets his "heart condition" when the tension mounts.

    Playing an average of four games a night, a player's cesta (basket) will remain unsable for about three weeks. The players furnish their own cestas and they cost around $30 each. No two players wish the same model and therefore it is necessary for each fronton to hire its own cesta maker as there is no place in America where one of these throwing baskets can be purchased.


    In some circles tattooing is referred to as an art.

    Archeologists found that many of the Egyptian mummies had tattoo marks on the arms and chest and many tattoos are observed today. There are still tattoo parlors in most of the larger cities. Tattoos may be spotted in the chorus line of the cheapest nightclubs and on the beaches catering to the elite.

    Law enforcement agencies have long recognized the value of tattoo as an aid to personal identification of fugitives and criminals and many a time a conspicious marking has proved to be the initial break leading to the apprehension of a fleeing felon.

    Perhaps you will be interested in the part played by a tattoo in the eradication of the "Ma" Barker gang of hoodlums? I was on investigation for the State of Florida in the 1930s and was, at day break one morning, driving south of Ocala, headed for Lake Weir when traffic was detoured around several men wearing long overcoats. Recognizing immediately these men were strangers, I parked and approached them, showed them my badge and credentials and learned they were FBI agents and that they had the Barker gang holed up in a two-story frame house on Lake Weir. They said that Ma Barker and her son Fred and Paul Karpis were inside. The Barkers with Karpis on their latest caper had kidnapped a well known Minneapolis man and held him for a $200,000 ranson which had been paid, and the victim was released. The FBI wanted them.

    Another son of Ma Barker was known as "Doc" and the federal government was his host in the penitentiary in Atlanta and made a deal with him. He would be released if he would tell where the gang was hidin' out. Doc told agents they were all "somewhere in Marion County in Florida on a fishing trip." The FBI sent one of the smaller agents to Ocala. He was in his late 20s but appeared to be still of school age.

    This agent went into all the villages around the lakes where tourists were fishing and finally he came to the little town of Oklawaha on the Oklawaha River near where it empties into Lake Weir.

    A visit to the one barber shop revealed that a party of several fishermen had rented a large house on the lake and one of the barbers told of receiving a $50 bill for a tip.

    The agent felt he was nearing his journey's end. He pretended to be selling magazines "to pay through college" and he went house to house although he now knew where the gang was located. He did not report his "find" as he had not identified them. When he came to the house of the mob, he stepped inside and at once discovered high powered rifles behind nearly every door on the ground floor. He naturally paid no attention to the firearms but talked "fishin' " with them and told them he wanted to fish in Florida "more than anything in the world." He was invited to join them the next morning for an early try at the big -mouth bass.

    The little FBI man was up early as he wanted to see Fred Barker's arm when he washed in the tin pan on the back porch. Barker did and the agent spotted the tell-tale tattoo on Fred's left fore-arm. Then after the trip fishing (afterwards he told that he hooked and landed "three whoppers") he went to Ocala and wired in code to his headquarters. I believe he came from Cleveland and the next morning five FBI agents still dressed in their long overcoats started the siege of the house. They shot tear gas through the windows and when the inmates came to the window for air, they cut the windows from the house with machine-gun fire. Agents with high powered .45 Winchester rifles fired from the tops of surrounding pine trees.

    I was lying in the tall grass near enough to the front door to hear the voices. Fred Barker called out to the agents, "Can't we surrender?" The reply came right back, "You have seen your last sunrise, buddy-boy -- come on out." They did not come out.

    Many readers will recall that at this time young boys throughout the nation were making heroes of gangsters such as John Dillinger, Billy the Kid, Jesse James and Lucky Luciano. The government thought it best to stop this dangerous trend and adopted the policy, it was believed, of ending the lives violently of such law-breakers when possible. It must be remembered that the infamous "Bonnie and Clyde" could possibly have been captured at their "shoot out" -- but were not. After Oklawaha the kids hero worship of outlaws seemed to wane.

    After the firing from the house ceased one of the agents, feeling confident all were dead, cautiously entered the building and soon gave the word signifying the siege was over.

    When we went inside the upstairs rooms they were covered with blood -- even the ceilings -- and only the bodies of Ma and Fred were there. We later learned Karpis had gone to Miami the night before. When he was later captured he said, "I never did trust that Doc Barker."

  • Do you recall when you could buy a double ice cream cone for a nickel -- and didn't have the nickel with which to make the purchase?

    If you hold up your trip until everything is just right -- you'll never leave the house.


    Did you ever notice that there is usually in Florida at least one chilly spell just before Christmas?

    There is no record of a "White Christmas" in the Sunshine State but I do recall that about 1913 the Florida East Coast Railroad announced that there was a 4-inch snowfall in St. Augustine and offered a free train ride the next day for all school children from West Palm Beach and all train stops north to St. Augustine to "see the beautiful snow." There were so many who had never seen snow the trains were soon filled with a happy, merry crowd of eager youngsters. I had left Kansas three years before and was not interested.

    Early Spanish records reveal a "terrific" cold one winter in Florida when the "mercury registered four degrees below zero" but we all like to believe those Spaniards used Centigrade instead of Fahrenheit where "freezing" was zero, making our present day thermometer read 28 degrees. That sounds more like it and it is still too cold.

    With the thought always in mind that Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ in Bethlehem, I have wondered why palm trees were not used instead of snow laden cedars on the millions of cards. Of course, we realize now the entire pageantry of Yuletide was brought to American shores by Germans and Scandinavians including Santa Klaus or St. Nicholas who, of course, have no part in the birth of the Child. I wrote the late Harold Coles while he was executive secretary of the Florida State Chamber of Commerce to give me his views of attempting to change Florida's Christmas from snowy fir trees to our native palms "like in Bethlehem." His reply came back quickly enough, "That would be nice -- and profitable as well -- but it's too late. We can't be the ones to kill Santa Claus."

    During the average winter there are some cold "fronts" bringing ice to parts of North Florida while South Florida is basking in the high eighty sun.

    It was during the early winter of 1934 while with the State Department of Agriculture "Frozen fruit inspection", I endured the rigors of one of North Florida's coldest "cool spells". The department had built an inspection station near the bridge on the federal highway crossing the Suwannee River. I had drawn this post after a severe freeze which had affected the citrus crop as far south as Ocala and Leesburg. The inspectors were privileged to live with a farmer and his wife a short distance up the river. He slaughtered his own hogs, made his own sausage and smoked his own ham and bacon -he even ground his own meal and grits.

    I can even picture today his old mule going round and round grinding ribbon cane, making his famous "Florida syrup." This is unattainable now of course as the present generation has shown practically no interest in the making and is satisfied with the "sorry" substitute which can be obtained much easier at the supermarket.

    It was there I first slept between feather beds. You can have all the electric blankets you want but on a real cold winter night, no warmth can compare with feather beds (top and bottom). The farmer's wife told me she used only goose feathers in the "beds".

    It is agreed the living is more pleasant in the warmer south but I still dream of that home-smoked sausage, coarse, home-ground grits, hot biscuits and Florida syrup, and eggs fresh from the cackling Orpingtons.

  • People are like nations -- and a happy nation has no history.

    To learn, one must listen -- and that throws most of us.

    Those so-called "liberty seeking" women agree that men have a right to an opinion -- as long as they keep it to themselves.


    Pronounce that Lamb, he'll tell you, though he's certainly not meek in any way. In fact this Lamme is more like a lion when it comes to saying what he thinks, both in person and in print. A large part of Vernon's 80 years have been spent telling readers what he thinks and what he knows. He's proud to say that he's done just about everything in every line of work except work in a coal mine. Sailor, fisherman, archeologist, stage hand, farmer. . . space doesn't allow telling the long list of vocations. Vernon Lamme was associate editor of the Boynton Beach Star since its birth in 1961. Readers of his columns, "Purely Politics" and "Thinks and Things" probably know much of his colorful career. Taking the writing part in chronological order prior to his joining the Star, here is how it reads.

    In 1912 wrote series on "Homesteading De Luxe" for Atchison (Kans.) Daily Globe. In 1919 and for several years was Merritt Island Correspondent to Jacksonville Times - Union, Tampa Tribune and Miami Herald. In 1920 worked on old Cocoa Tribune and later started the Indian River Star. Owned for a time the old Eau Gallie Record (handset). Worked on Culver City (Calif.) Daily Star and started the Pacific Sportsman which folded when horse racing was banned in Los Angeles and Culver City. In 1929 started the Naples Transcript and in 1927 working for Barron G. Collier, on the Collier County News brought out the largest weekly paper in the nation at that time, celebrating the opening of the Tamiami Trail.

    In 1931 session of legislature had a legislative column in Fort Myers Tropical News and Key West Citizen. Was editor of Fort Myers Daily Palm Leaf. And later worked with George Burr on the Winter Haven Herald and was International News Service (INS) correspondent in the area.

    Wrote the law creating the Florida Archeological Survey and became the first Florida State Archeologist (1935-42) resigned to take up war work with the federal government.

    Vernon and his wife Louise reside in the southeast area of Boynton Beach. Their son, Bob, is an artist for the Miami Herald.

    -Bob Steinmetz, BOBservations Columnist

    Permission granted by State Senator Bill Posey

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