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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
Walter e1ier #la#4
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.