Interviewee: Ms. Wimbrow
Interviewer: Unlisted [I]
Date: July 1986
I: ... Wimbrow, who is going to tell us about the old days when her father was
publisher of the Indian River News in Wabasso.
W: In Sebastian. We stayed on Sebastian.
I: Tell us about when you came here and what he did.
W: Okay. We came to Florida in the 1930s, and my father liked Florida so much that
he finally wanted to buy land for the first time in his life. He had been all over the
world. He was a WWI veteran, and he was also a nationally known radio artist.
He recorded for Columbia and Decka, and he wrote his own scripts and his own
I: Did he sing?
W: Yes. He was a famous singer. He was known as the Mississippi Minstrel, and we
went from coast to coast for Goodrich Rubber and Gypso Soap and different
sponsors. That is probably why he was able to turn his talents to newspaper
editorializing. He was gassed in the Drive in WWI and was not expected to
live, and when we were in Detroit and New York, he hemorrhaged from the vocal
chords, and he was told he would have to go to a mild climate and give up radio
if he expected to live. So, he came to Florida with six months to live, and he
actually lived the most productive years of his life after that. He went to Miami,
and he was on WIOD, and he hemorrhaged again. Well, they were building the
night fighter base in Vero Beach. It was one of the largest night fighter naval air
stations in WWlII. My father's hobby had always been photography, so they
engaged him to do construction photography at the base, and we moved to Vero
beach. We lived where the Spires is located now. We lived right on the ocean,
and that is where I went to school, from that home. My brother was just a little
boy then, and he started school. My mother was crippled when we came here,
and the beach cured her. Sciatic neuritis. They had told her she would limp the
rest of her life, and she was cured. She just sat and put the warm sand around
her leg and let the ocean waves water, and it cured her. And, of course, my
father was made healthy. I guess that is why I sell real estate. If I could not sell it,
I would have to be dead because I am so sold on this area. Then, my father
came to an oyster roast in Sebastian with Mary Lou Durance and Margaret and
Liz Futch next door. They were all friends. They were involved in the Red Cross
together because, see, this was during the war. My mother was home service
chairman for the American Red Cross. So, one thing led to another and they
bought this property which is right next door to the Futches'. In fact, the Futches
sold it to them. They bought sixteen acres on the Indian River for $3,000 in the
1940s. This was about 1941 or 1942. Then, the North Indian River County
people started coming to my father because my father was a great talker and
quite a philosopher. They said, Dale, if you would put what you talk about in a
newspaper, we will buy enough ads to keep the newspaper going because we
cannot ever get our name in the Press-Journal, and we want a newspaper up
here. So, he started the newspaper with a shoe box full of little envelopes with
the different advertisers names on it. He would pay a job printer to print it every
week, and then my mother and he would go out and collect the money for the
next week for the ads in this little shoe box. The first year they had the paper,
they won the first editorial Oscar ever presented by the Florida Press
Association. That was in competition with the dailies and the weeklies
everywhere. This was a weekly. It was a tabloid size, and it was really like an
editorial. It was not the prototype of a newspaper as you think of it today. For
instance, my father would not sell political ads. He said he felt the man should
not have to pay for the privilege to speak to the public that he was going to serve,
so he printed them free. They never made much money, but they won a lot of
awards. Of course, I spent a lot of time visiting relatives wherever I could find
them because I thought it was very lonesome here and very dark, no lights
anywhere, and a lot of mosquitos. We used to brush the mosquitos off with palm
fronds walking to the school bus. We called them swishers.
I: Was that in Vero?
W: That was right here, after we moved here. Well, Vero was bad, too, but see, the
Navy brought the DDT. We never had any control before that. So then, my father
did a little photography for awhile, and then he started the newspaper. They just
got so involved at the civic level in everything, in everything, politically and
civically. They just really were prime motivators of a lot of things that went on in
Indian River County. Some of things are in some of those things I gave you.
I: How long did you publish the newspaper?
W: I do not know. My mother ran it a long time after he died. Let's see. He won the
award in 1949, so he had to have started it in 1948, until 1966 probably.
W: Okay. They just did so much that it is hard for me to talk about it without getting
sidetracked. They had so many projects and, almost, crusades. My father, they
called him John Paul Jones Wimbrow because he was running back and forth to
Tallahassee trying to keep Route 1 along the river. He felt that the people who
came to Florida would enjoy the view, or else they should fly. Of course, they
were not successful in doing that, but in a lot of things they were successful. Both
my parents were in Who's Who, not the society one but the one of achievements.
I have some of those volumes here, and I think my brother took a couple with
him, but they both had a big space in Who's Who on all the different things that
they did. I cannot even remember most of them.
I: When you moved here, then, he kind of made his home base Sebastian?
W: Absolutely. He called it God's Footstool, and he wrote beautiful editorials about
this area, just beautiful. "Florida in the Morning" was one of the main ones. He
was printed in the Readers' Digest. We were in the Saturday Evening Post. The
poem that he wrote is a story in itself, "The Guy in the Glass." That is one of his
poems, and it was in the American Magazine in 1934, and it just happened to
catch the public fancy. Now, I have to put the copyright number on it because so
many other people claim to have written that. It got reprinted anonymously for a
long time. It was in the American Magazine in 1934. In fact, they copyrighted it. I
do not want to mention that he did not copyright most of his things
because there is so much of it in the libraries and whatnot. But that was
copyrighted by the American Magazine, or I would not even be able to prove he
wrote it today. But see, I have books up there of about when he was in show
business, but that is all in New York days. You know, I do not think that is what
you are after today.
I: No. I am after just local history. Can you think of any of the people he worked
W: Well, yes. Bill Wadkey's father and Alec McWilliam, Sr., who was a legislator in
those days, and Merrill Barber and Paul Goodrich. They were very active at the
hospital, working on the hospital.
I: Did your father have anything to do with the hospital?
W: Yes, and my mother was with the Pilot Club of Indian River County, and they
started the prayer room in the hospital.
I: What was your mother's first name?
I: What was her maiden name?
W: Livezey. She was from Philadelphia. My dad was from Whaleyville, Maryland, on
the eastern shore.
I: Did your father have any training in journalism?
W: He went to Western Maryland College, but I am not sure what he majored in. I do
not really think he did. I think he was just a natural. He was just a philosopher. I
know he loved to write. That is why he built that little log cabin, which is a
landmark now, because he liked to write in the middle of the night. This is the
house that they lived in. We were always going to build on the river but then, of
course, he died so we never did that. This was supposed to be a temporary
dwelling. It was not even supposed to be here. It was built during the war. You
had to be able to see daylight between buildings. They had an OPA ceiling, you
know, rules about adding onto the house. So, when we were first here, we had to
go outside to get to the bathroom. You had to go out of this building to get into
that building and that kind of thing. But, these stand better than anything else in a
hurricane now, in a storm.
I: You still do not have city water here, do you?
I: So, you had a septic tank and a well...
W: A septic and well, and we had a solar system. I could not wait until they tore it
down. I thought it was so old-fashioned. Oh, I hated it. Yes, it was out in the
backyard with all the pipes __ sun.
I: It was not on your roof?
W: Never, no. It just stood by itself with the glass windows over the pipes. Our water
was not filtered. We had regular sulfur water from the well next door. It smelled
terrible. My father thought if you took the bad smell out, it was not good for you
anymore. He thought it was good for you. It is, you know.
I: It is supposed to be, yes.
W: Yes. People spend millions of dollars to go to warm sulfur springs to sit in it.
I: But it is not so good to drink.
W: No, it is hard.
I: Did you drink it, though?
W: Oh sure.
I: What would he do then, go over to the little log cabin at night?
W: In the middle of the night, he would go over there and write, and then he would
come back at six or seven in the morning and wake us all up to read, read us
what he had written. Then, it would go in the newspaper, and we would start
getting letters. The newspapers went all over the country.
I: How did you get subscribers from all over the country?
W: It was paid circulation from the very beginning, and when it suspended
publication, my mother gave back every penny. It was the only nickel newspaper
toward the end that anybody could find anywhere. It was $0.05 a copy, $2.50 a
year. I guess people just wrote, just asked for subscriptions. It just grew like
topsy, as they say.
I: Do you remember how much your circulation was?
W: I bet it is in one of those articles. I do not really remember what it was, but it was
amazing. It was more than the town population, I know that.
I: It was, yes.
W: And then Mackel Company came here. I guess the next big change, well, my
dad died very suddenly with a heart attack, and so did my mother but that was
years later. Then, my mother, who did not drive a car, asked me if I wanted to
help her with it. She felt like she wanted to keep it going. I was in Cape
Canaveral; I worked at Patrick Air Force Base at that time and commuted.
I: I see, and FSU, did you go to Florida State?
I: But you did not major in journalism?
W: Well, I did, kind of, but I majored in psychology. I meant to major in journalism,
but I just drifted away. Of course, then, you know, I had so many elective
courses; I was a psych major and did not know it.
I: What were you doing in Cape Canaveral?
W: I was a historian for the 6540 First Missile Test Wing. We built the Matador
Missile. It is an antique now. I do not know how they ever got it off the ground,
but it was pretty famous in those days. That was in the 1950s right before my dad
died. So, when he died, I told my mother I would resign from my civil service
status. Everybody said I was crazy, but she did not drive a car so I became her
chauffeur and then I wrote her editorials, and then I won a couple of awards.
Then, Mackel Company came, and they opened up right across the street. They
needed a secretary so I started working part-time there and got involved in real
estate. It turned out I had a flair for that, so one thing just led to another right
I: And you have been in real estate ever since?
W: Since 1963, and my mother died in 1973. She finally had to suspend publication
because it was just too much. She just could not handle it anymore. She did not
want to sell it. She said nobody else would lose money trying to tell the truth, so
she did not want to sell it. She said she would just rather suspend it and let it live
on as it had been, kind of like the old-fashioned pamphleteers, I guess.
I: Right, but they did have news in the paper?
W: Oh sure, we had the best news. We had national news. When it was printed, it
started out, and I guess it had until the end, with what you call a boiler plate. I
have all the issues right there. Let me just get it. I am almost afraid to touch
them. They are started to crumble. Here is 1953, the second half. I do not know
what is in it, but it will give you an idea of what it looked like. See, he was still
alive. He draws on the Grand Old Flag, very political.
I: What is a boiler plate?
W: We had national columnists and things. Half of it is already printed.
I: Oh yes. You did have a lot of ads, didn't you?
W: Yes. He was very, very popular. Everybody wanted to support my father because
his editorials were just absolutely great.
I: Very interesting.
W: There was our masthead, the fish and the orange. From Stuart to Titusville.
Now, somewhere in here, it tells you how many paid subscribers. I think you are
supposed to have that somewhere.
I: Yes, you are.
W: Subscription rate, $2.50 a year, second-class mailing on that.
I: I do not think you have to have that on every issue, though. It is just a certain
number of times a year.
W: Is this giving you the idea a little better?
W: It was very...not so local, but it was these editorials that really attracted a lot of
attention. This is a lifetime right here. They did a lot of research. My mother was
a terrific research person. In fact, she did her family genealogy for
They came from England and, I think, some from Ireland, and they had family
reunions every year in Philadelphia. This is my brother. Nobody ever mentions
my brother, but he was a big help, too. That is my mother and my brother. He
helped for awhile, too, and then he went off in the service. He and his family live
in Bountiful, Utah.
I: What was his middle name?
W: Peter Dale Wimbrow, Jr.
I: Was he younger than you?
W: Nine years. He is in Bountiful, Utah, and he is in real estate. I am going to make
you a copy of __ This is a series that we did for the Mackel Company. See
this is We interviewed local people. This was Phil Bosworth that
developed Foragon Shores up here and did the canals. We are selling the lots
now for $60,000 and $70,000, when you can find one. I would say that my folks
had a real hand in creating this area. Then, I did all this freelance work. See
here? I wrote articles for all the Florida magazine supplements I did a lot
on the mosquitos. So, I still write but I like
I: Yes. I know what you mean.
W: Do you? I have done a lot on Pelican Island, and that was a project my mother
was involved with. You know it is a national historic landmark, and she was
involved in that.
I: In what way?
W: Through the DAR. She did so much, Marion. You know, most people do not talk
because they do not have anything to say, but my problem is, I have too much to
say and I do not where to start.
I: Yes. So, your mother was a DAR?
W: She was a DAR, a Colonial Dane, every association you can think of.
I: Are you a DAR?
W: Yes, I am a DAR, and I just joined the Sebastian Pilot Club, mostly in her honor,
not because I do not have enough to do. This is Who's Who of American
Women. Her page is longer. If you look at this book, most of the little caps or
biographies are about that long.
I: Your mother was also in radio?
W: Oh yes. She was one of the Mayfare Sisters, but she stopped singing in order to
rear me and often wondered if she did the right thing. My mother and father, you
should have heard them sing. She was like an angel. Her voice was like an angel
from heaven. They did beautiful harmony. I have a tape of them. Did you read
that article in the Press-Journal that Art Mayor did about me, "Tough Act to
Follow"? That is why I said that.
I: I guess it was.
W: Yes. My mother was in Foremost Women of Communications, too. I imagine
most of what is in there is probably in here. This comes up to Vero Beach. What
is the last thing in there, 1965? Does it mention Pilot Club and Business and
I: No. 1958 was the last thing in here.
W: Alright. Well, this comes up to 1965. That is probably as good as we are going to
get. I do not know where my dad is. Who's Who in the South and Southwest, I
bet he is in here. Yes. His is about twice as long. This comes up to 1953, and he
died in 1954. This tells about the wimbrowla. I am going to try to do that again.
He patented a wimbrowla, the instrument that he used on the radio. I have it right
in the other room. Do you remember the song, "Just Around the Corner"?
W: He introduced that. This is the collection of his editorials that they finally printed,
and I gave you the flyleaf out of it. That was printed all over the world. That was
one of the ones that won the editorial Oscar, "Our Bloody Highways." That was
printed in the Readers' Digest. Every one of those would just keep you going.
[Tape interrupted.] I am going to tell him again that I have a record with his dad's
voice on it. I told him before, but I do not think he heard me.
I: Oh, it is his father Bill Wadkey? Old Bill Wadkey?
W: Yes. He was a very good civic person. My dad was one of the charter members
of the Kiwanis. Jimmy Kresslan can tell you about my dad. Do you know
W: He is talking about the Kiwanis now. He wanted to get one of my dad's tapes of
him singing for it.
I: Do you have any of those?
W: Yes. Do you want to hear one?
I: Oh, I would love to.
W: [Music played.] Now, that is not my dad, but that is something he wrote. He wrote
that about my mother's sister who died. I do not know who all these men [were]. I
have a chart somewhere. This is like Columbia Records, Victor (I cannot think
who that man's name is); "Old Fashioned Locket and a Curl" was the name of
that. That was really wild in those days. This is what they mean when they say
people never die, you know?
W: I had that played at my mother's funeral, because he wrote that. It is called,
"Think of Me Thinking of You." [Music still playing.] This is when he was just
starting, like just in the 1920s, and he is playing this. I can hear the wimbrowla in
there. That is him. That is the wimbrowla. I think that is what I am looking for,
"Just Around the Corner." Doesn't that have a nice tone?
W: And that must be 100 years old. That is it. That is my dad singing. He was
gassed, can you imagine? That is husky from the gas in the Can you
understand the words?
I: That is very nice.
W: I am surprised that it is in the shape it is in. This is when old Pete Daley plays his
ukelele down in Whaleyville. I have to do something about preserving that.
W: So, he came to Sebastian and used all that talent, and I guess the newspaper is
the main thing. I was trying to find out what I have done. Alright, in 1954, I began
assisting my mother in the weekly newspaper, and then I wrote editorials. Then,
when it suspended publication in 1963 and my mother became ill, I joined
General Development and got into real estate. In 1972, I became involved in
General Real Estate Brokerage and joined Scattergood Realty. Then, in 1980, I
came here and opened an office for Chet Hogan. In 1983, I opened my own
company. I can give you a piece of paper that tells about my company. And my
brother, I guess he just helped my mother for awhile. I do not know how much he
really fits into the local picture. I am still cleaning out things, Marion. I do not think
I will ever get finished. I have given things away and given books to the library. I
have sent things to all my family members, and I am still buried. When you have
a family full of writers...
I: Oh yes.
W: You probably identify with that.
I: Oh yes, indeed. Well, I sure thank you for spending this time with me.
W: I hope it helped.
I: It did. It helped tremendously.
W: I do not know how much we really talked about Sebastian.
I: Not much.
W: Yes, and that is what you really wanted.
I: No. I wanted to know a lot about your family, too. Well, let's talk about Sebastian
for a minute. Really, Sebastian was not really developed when you came here,
was it? Although it was really older than Vero Beach.
W: Sebastian is from the 1800s. You probably know the history better than I do.
What went on, in my opinion, is, I think General Development as it is known
today, because [of] J. J. Finnigan, who will be up to in the morning, and he is the
man you really ought to talk to. Now, really, I do not know where we could reach
him in the morning, but he will be up here. He came in as the Mackel Company's
first manager. He built the Yacht Club and the dock. There was a joke about the
Mackel brothers flying over in their plane and they said, oh, he built the Yacht
Club, but we did not tell him to do that. And one of the brothers said, you are
lucky he did not build two of them. So, what he did was incorporate General
Development/Sebastian Highlands, which was then Mackel Company, within the
corporate city limits. There are 6,000 acres, 13,000 quarter-acre lots out there,
and I do not know how many miles of roads or miles of canals. So, the Sebastian
we know today started in 1959 with that venture. Now, it is twelve square miles.
We built 300 homes so far this year in Sebastian. 500 was predicted, and I think
it was over 300. I said it was at least a house a day. There are at least fifty
builders here. That is right. When you stop to count every building permit and the
different builders represented, you will find at least fifty, and people pouring in
here more from the south than the north. You have probably privied all those
figures from the Chamber of Commerce, I guess, on what the growth is doing,
but when I started in real estate with them, you could go a long distance without
seeing a house, and all the customers were scared. They did not want to be out
in the boonies. Now, it is a completely turnaround. They say, get me out further,
further; I want elbow room. A total difference in twenty years of the thinking that
I: Did they do a lot of selling by mail?
W: All of it. The streets were not there. In fact, most of the sales people that they had
in the bigger cities, they were familiar with Port Malabar, Port St. Lucie and Port
Charlotte. They would run into somebody who bought at Sebastian and they
would say, what the hell am I going to do with these people? And they were
calling down here, help, where is it? Is it true there is a monorail to Disney
World? And you are right on the river, right? Because the old maps look like the
cows went into the river. So, without me to help them back then, they would not
have known what to do with their Sebastian people because General
Development never publicized the small communities. They couldn't. They could
not gear them into these big fly down programs. They flew people, so they had
Port St. John. They had Vero Beach Highlands. They had Port La Belle. And
Sebastian Highlands that they did not even mention, you know, but they were
selling them from maps on the wall in Grand Central Station, at Times Square, in
Germany at the military air bases. Those people were paying $10 down, $10 a
month and did not know what they had. The company would say, you know, we
are getting these questions, so then they would call me. And I made friends. I
have a Christmas card list that goes back twenty years, with people that did not
know. Their names are not on the tax roll, because General Development sold
contract for deed, remember? $10 down, $10 a month, so the property was not
deeded to them so all the other Realtors cannot even get to them. I have all of
those addresses from people who I was just nice to over the years. I think that is
why I am doing so well. They do not know anybody else.
I: That is right. You are identified with Sebastian.
W: Yes, on a national level, and that is all because my mother said she felt sorry for
the people who used to come to the sales office, that is still over there, on
Sunday, and we would see them with their noses pressed up against the glass,
trying to see the big map on the wall. My mother said, you know, we are going to
work Sundays. I said, well, you know, it is fine. I said I did not want to leave her
alone. She said, I will go with you. So, we started keeping the office on Sundays,
and the people just poured in there, because nobody else wants to work
[End of Interview.]