Title: Interview with Walter Heilier
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00006736/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with Walter Heilier
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Spatial Coverage: 12111
St. Lucie County (Fla.) -- History.
Funding: This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00006736
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location: This interview is part of the 'St. Lucie County' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: SL 14

Table of Contents
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Full Text

This Oral History is copyrighted by the Interviewee
and Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of

Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
All rights, reserved.

This oral history may be used for research,
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Walter e1ier #la#4
Page 1

S historic facts. was born in Salamus, a

small town in northern Spain which is still there. His father had twenty

one legitimate sons and twenty three illegitimate ones, was

one of the legitimate ones. The great day in the history of Ponce

De Leon is mixed up and nonconclusive. It is known that he did not

land at St. Sugustine but somewhere between Cape Canaveral and the mouth

of St. John. It cannot be proven whether he land in 1512 or 1515. He

was not looking for a fountain of youth, He had no job. He was not

commissioned by Spain to make the journey. According to all the world

records he was thirty nine years of age at the time of his exploration

of the Florida coast, but he did come from a very distinguished family.

He did come over to the Bahamas with Columbus in 1492 and came back

to become governor of one of the islands in 1493. He remained in charge

until the king played him off and put a favorite in the crown to replace

him. The second fable was read by Dan C. Cook. This is an interesting

story too. He's from the Florida Atlantic University. His topic

was Charles Pierce on Oral History of the Southeast Coast. This rose

so much interestto those lieutenents from the Florida east coast since

the original Charles Pierce was one of the early barefoot mailmen.

That is of particular interest to us, that is my wife and I, since his

son, Charles Pierce, Jr. has twice visited and addressed our St. Lucie

Historical Society here. The son was a banker in West Palm Beach and

was preparing a book on the history of his father. Both he and his father

lived in Boynton, Florida, the son moving afterwards to West Palm Beach.

I knew older Charles Pierce, who was postmaster at Boynton in his

declining years. In fact, the 1928 hurricane ___ his garage

there and I came up from Miami to repair it for him. He had a valuable

St. Lucie Tape #14a

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cello which I tried to talk him out of without success. In betraying the

book about his father Charles Pierce, Jr. enlisted the services- of

Dr. Crawl who made this talk and turned over his papers and records to

the doctor so that now that the son has recently passed on, Dr. Cruel is

planning to go ahead with the publication of the Pierce book. It certainly

will be an interesting book to read when it does come out. The next talk

was by Junior C. Doval. Heread-a paper on John Newhouse, upper

pioneer. Frankly I did not get too much out of it. Now we have to try

to make room for all these aspiring college professors when we get some of

those compositions before the public. The next and last part of the

afternoon session was William Harness world

pioneer and in Frejnont, Ohio.

He did the talk, To those in the audience who like myself have read the

stories about the activities of Harness during the Seminole Indian

wars it was indeed refreshing to have his experience again reviewed.

At the close of this session reception at the

Old Island Patio where the good ladies of the reception committee serve

cake and punch. The director had the had a closed meeting at

eight o'clock but the honorable Charles Saunders, mayor of Monroe County

invited us all to a reception and refreshments at the public library

The Saturday;. May 6 morning service

session was held in the Key West Community Center on the old

Square, running from ten until noon with Joe Finder of the Old Island

Restoration Foundation as chairman. During this session four papers were

read and curtailed as follows. I won't go into entire details as to

what they were, I'll just say who they were. The Medical History of Early

Key West by S.B. Hammond, of the University of Florida, Key West and the

New Deal by Edward Brown, University of Georgia; Seminole Migration into

St. Lucie Tape #14a

Page 3

Florida by James Evans Covington at the University of Tampa, and

and the Florida Problem of Agriculture written

by Martin La Conda, University of Florida. We then adjourned to the

Key West Community Center for a twelve thirty luncheon priced at two

dollars and a half, incidently, presided over by Mr. Bozer, President

of the Historical Society of Florida. At this meeting Blair Reeves, professor

of architecture at the University of Florida spoke on the Preservation

of Florida's Architecture after which we we nt right into an annual business

meeting. At the close of this session that afternoon were

invited to take advantage of free admission at any of the following:

The Tour Train,, City and the Naval base__

courtesy of the owner operator Mr. William Crow, admission to the

aquarium in __, the art galleries, Artists Unlimited, Key

West Art Gallery, and the Audobon House. From six until

seven we attended another reception at the museum and enjoyed

refreshments and wonderful collection in marine and other artifacts.

All of Fort ___ should emphasis the fact that members and guests

were definitely made welcome at the gathering at Key West this year.

There was a full schedule of social gatherings, sessions for scholarly

papers, sight-seeing trips, business meetings equal important friendly

and informal conversation. The point was made by the Historical

Association of South Florida that they and planned to dedicate.- two.

historical mark ers in the past year. In November Mr.

president of the association presented a marker commerating the history

of the Lemon City Library. It was organized in April 1894 for the

city of Miami. That same month, Mrs. Leonard Miller. granddaughter of

Alexander Graham Bell, was the keynote speaker at the dedication of a

St. Lucie Tape #lta

Page 4

marker commemorating the first telephone exchange in Miami which began

operation in 1899. Members of the Palm Beach County Historical Society

are celebrating this year their thirtieth anniversary. Amqopg the

charter members. the Judge, C.E. Chinworth., ___ J.L. Busbee.

Dr. F.K. Cripple, Jr., Jerome B. Ditney, Mr. A.S.

Bussee, Roscoe T. Anthony, and H. Irwin .' ,is, has, is

and has been for some time the bishop of the Southern of the

Episcopal Church in Florida. Amo ng the many interesting events open

without charge to the members and guestswas a leisurely. tour of the

home and gardens of the the late nobel prize winner Earnest Hemingway.

The home was built in SpanishColumbia style with native rock_ from

the grounds, with furnighings,,robes, tiles, and chandeliers bought by

Hemingway from Spain, Africa, and Cuba.Voluptuous plants, trees from

all over the world. It was here that Mr. Hemingway wrote, For Whom the

Bell Tolls,,Green Hills of Africa,The Farewell to Arms The Fifth

Column.Snows of

Mr. Hemingway was the first important writer to discover and make Key

West his home. He owned the home from 1931 to 1961. So often in Key

West you would hear the expression Regardless of whether

the and beautiful shells, seafood, are made by a Key Wester.

We speak of houses, food, talk and so

forth,. Just plain are the people who are born on the Keys

or the Islands of the Bahamas. Everyone else is either a stranger or

a Key Wester. There was a that in 1646 a group who called

themselves the Awakening Adventurers petitioned English King for a

charter to establish a colony in the Bahamas. It was their purpose to

found a colony in which every man might enjoy his own opinion or religion

St. Lucie TApe #14a

Page 5

without control or question. Sometime later when the Crown attempted

to levy a tax on them the islanders replied that they would eat

concks rather than pay tax. it is estimated that out of

the Key West population of twenty five thousand people, eight thousand were

S to explain why conck was so much a part of the islands

heritage. Another interesting exhibit for our members was the

Towers. This fortress building in 1861 is one of the four authorized

by the United States Congress in the year 1844 to be constructed in the

Key West Area to combat enemy landing forces. The two towers are

identical in plan. Neither was completed as this type of fortification

became obsolete during the war between the states wlen rifle cannon with

exploding shell came into general use. Key West has never been subject

to naval attack. Within the walls of may be seen surrounding

jewelry, oil paintings, water colors, painting.

sculptures, ship models on driftwood and many Ponce De Leon exhibits.

The first lighthouse in Key West was built in 1825. The structure was

totally destroyed when the violent hurricane of 1846, killing all seven

members of the family. The present tower vuilt in 1846 has

been repaired numerous times and in 1894 it was built twenty feet

higher. So this light stands a hundred and ten feet, has fifty thousand

candle power on the white sector and eleven thousand on the red sector,

visible fifteen miles at sea. The light house is now operated-as a

component of the Key West Art and Historical Society. The 1967

session wound up with a customary annual banquet which was held in

the large dining room of the La Sancha Motor Inn. I think it's four

dollars and seventy five cents. Naturally our president, Mr. William

.Bozer of Clear Water Beach presided and the invocation was by the

St. Lucie Tape #1ZA

Page 6

Reverend Bruce T. Pile, rector of St. John's Episcopal Church in

Key West. The very large-diiing room was properly filled with over

two hundred guests. The service was excellent and the food delightful.

arrangements had been fortunate in being able to secure

an acceptance to make the principle addressfrom the honorable LeRoy

Collins, former governor of Florida. Also, although Mr. Collins is just

getting over a bad cold he was able to make his talk and since the room

was equipped with a very good public address system we could all hear

wi-th-the4ne- his remarks. As usual with ian accomplished speaker

he told a few jokes to get the attention of the audience. I can't

remember them now but one did register with me. It seems that Mr. Collins

married Mary Call, who was a granddaughter of one of the early governors.

So she became Mary Call Collins. Now they had a friend who was having a shrimp

boat built down in the west coast. And the friend asked the governor

if he would be willing to allow his wife's name to be used for the boat .

Naturally the governor agreed and at the proper time Mr. and Mrs. Collins

went to Pensacola where the ceremony of naming and launching took place.

following the usual custom of the champagne bottle being broken over

the bow as the ship drives down the waves, christen

Mary Call Collins. And after the passage of a few months, a friend

from Pensacola sent Mr. Collins a clipping from-the news of the Pensacola

paper. It read, "Mary Collins in distress. She was beached on the west

shore but has been brought into court where after a little attention she

will have her bottom scraped and soon be ready for further activity."

Of course the main burden to the talk was serious. Strongly allowing

the efforts of the counsel in securing an annual visitto the Florida

Historical Society and reminding us of our duty under the CivilRights

Law. he stated that it was not of the law of the land but should be,

we should obey whether we like it or not. Mr. Collins further alluded to

St. Lucie Tape #14a

Page 7

the fact that he expects to run for United States senator from Florida

against Senator Smathers whether Smathers runs or not. But there are

many who feel that although Mr. Collins made us a good governor and made

many friends as chairman of the last democratic convention he has sold

Florida down the river by letting President Johnson put him in charge of

and enforcing the civil rights law here.

Thank you thank you, thank you. Now if there's anyone who wants to ask

any questions, just go ahead and ask them and we'll try to answer

tell these people what this is.

Well. Walter we thank you for your very interesting report and I feel

that outside of being here you did just about as good a job as I could've.

I hopeeverybody appreciated it and I want to give you one promise. We're not

going to split level anymore on programs if I'm in my right mind. That

other slipped up on me and I goofed. I'm sorry. And I hope the next

time we will have a program that will be as good as Mr. Hellier gave

tonight. Thank you.

Tell them about

You tell them.


This is the Florida Historical Quarterly which is put out every

three months by, from, where is it printed? Up in Gainesville Florida

at the University of Florida. It's a very interesting magazine and

while I'm not making any sales pitch here, I think it's well worth anybody' s

time to put in five bucks and become a member of the Florida Historical

Society and get to read these things. I think

about fourteen years I've been a member of it, and four times fourteen

is how many of those things I've got. And they're all catalogued. All

these famous books that you read. Most of them started right here in

St. Lucie Tape #W4-a

Page 8

Florida and had a write up in the Florida Historical Quarterly in the

beginning. It's a very interesting organization to belong to and

people who are interested in the history of Florida can certainly find

out a great deal by getting the quarterly_

They're till available. I thank you.

Asked if they'd "like to say anything about

this trip down. Do you have anything Mrs. Peterson?

P: I think Mr. Hellier real loud. One of the most

interesting things we did and I think the Helliers knew of this

particular thing. We met a Mrs. Newton who wanted to take us through

her old home. And we were not able to see the old private home any

other way. This was the only one. This is the only one we saw. She was

very disappointed, as they didn't give us a tour of the old

home. Hers was built in 1528 and she was a very fascinating person. I

enjoyed every word she said and we went at ten o'clock after the banquet.

And at twelve o'clock Dr. said, we leave." And I

was furious with him-for because we were all having such a

good time. But really he was just looking out for Mrs. Newton. He thought

she was tired. As we went out the gate, she had an old civil war cannon

ball hanging on her gate as a weight at the end of a chain. Just inside

was an old-------- used by the pirates and it has been preserved. Her

whole house is filled with beautiful antiques salvaged from the

ship and she had a little box 4n-reed with shells that was made by

Dr. he has an old that belonged to

one of the famous, most famous and she said that

Robert Frost lived in her backyard during the wintertime and for several

years she knew $ri u .J ineia real well. Everything she said was

St. Lucie Tape #14a


interesting. We really enjoyed that and I would like to say that

Key West really went all out in entertainment. Most of the cities do

entertainment real well, but I think this was probably the best. I

think I was__ in the category of St. Augustine a little

more than St. Augustine, don't you think?

That was very good

P: We enjoyed it.

H: Thank you very much Mrs. Peterson. I'm sure I left out some things

and she brings them right in in fine shape. She should've been making

this talk instead of me. There is one incident, though, that I would

like to mention. That this banquet to wind up the affair there was

over two hundred people, that sat at the table and they did a bang up

job of taking care of everybody, to see that they were seated, see if

they got their service and that the food was properly prepared. I sat

at a long table and I didn't know the guy on this side and I didn't know

the lady on that side but I did know the fellow across from me and

my wife was down there, too. So I said to this lady, "My name's Walter

Hellier and I'm from Fort Pierce"and she said, "I'm Mrs. Raymond."

And I said "What a minute, wait a minute. Haven't I seen your name in

the Miami Herald ." She said, "Yes.. I write that weekly column

personally speaking for the Miami Herald." So there I was sitting along

side of the girl who writes, and she said, "You look next Monday in the

Herald comes out in the women's section because I will write up all

about the historical thing." So a week later when it comes out. this

was a Saturday night when we had our luncheon, and it didn't come that

Monday but it did come this past Monday and she had several columns all

about the historical convention down there. So it was very interesting

St. Lucie Tape #l'a

Page fc

Those ladies who were the reception committee were about eight or ten

of them) they all wore the same kind of clothes and they all had little

red shawls. My wife can tell you all about it. They carried those

shawls around so you couldn't mistake them for the rest of the crowd.

Like MRs. Peterson said, Key West really went all out. All that

newspaper down there was filled with pictures, photographs everywhere,

they gave as all kinds of write ups, and wherever we were they had

little tags that had on there that said you were a delegate of the

convention. That was your ticket. They wanted you to come and

see everything you could have. They really went all out to show us

a good time.

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