Interview with Phillip Platts and Helen Platts Waldren, December 19, 1967

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Interview with Phillip Platts and Helen Platts Waldren, December 19, 1967
Platts, Phillip ( Interviewee )
Waldren, Helen Platts ( Interviewee )
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St. Lucie County Oral History Collection ( local )

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St. Lucie Tape #0f/?
Phillio Platts and Mrs. Helen Platts Waldren
December 19 1967
Page 1

I'm quite sure that many of you remember a few years ago when Eddie

Coats Williams wrote the story about the long days waters- which was put

on the form of the old theatrical first in the old farmers market and

then on the present city park in the ampitheatre. It ran for five

or six years and one of the characters that he wrote about and portrayed

along these waters presentation was our first physician in Fort Pierce.

His name was Dr. Clark. We're going to have the honor of having

Dr. Clarks son talk to us this evening. Sometimes he's asked how

he came to Fort Pierce and sometimes he scratches his leg and don't give

you a direct answer but I think we're going to ask him tonight how

why did he come to Fort Pierce because he surely ought to be able to

answer the question by n6w and it gives me great pleasure to introduce

one of our old timers Mr. Phillip Platt,

Mr. Platt: Mr. Chairman. ladies and gentlemen: I'm not used to one of

'hese things. Can the people way in back hear me? Okay, Ah- the reason

I came to Fort pierce is for my health, I'm. I was I could only

take liquid diets and I was bed ridden. Mrs. Cox asked me that question

at one of these meetings a long long time ago and I knew that answer

but all I could think of what I was born here. I'm going to tell

you first about some thinking that was I came to think because Fred

Allisbog made a remark. And then I'm going to have my sister tell about

the court and some other items and then I'm going to use my outlined

mao here it's an outline of my talk on the other faces I remember in

Fort Pierce. The account. Mr. Card was one of the nineaoole

growers here the large pineapple grower, He has a daughter named Zola,

St. Lucie Tane IihA-/4

Page 2

She became a famous lion tamer and she married Fred Allisbog a

famous elephant tamer. And I knew him. He wasa very fine fellow,

And he one time remarked tht the reason that Fort Pierce was olaced

here is because between Stewart and way up the line this is the lace where

you can get in from the dark country. You see the St. Lucie River is

uninviting as far as uo as far as White City. LaCrosse: and uo

as far as Vero and back this way through the St. John's flats. So

here was a lace where the fort and INTerior could get to the coast. That

. might gxolain why the shell mound is tile old fort. The Indians

hundreds of years ago would come over here in season and get fish and get their

oysters. And that's what created those shell mounds, up at Ormond and

up that way, Rockledge you have much greater deposit of oyster shells

made the same way. Well the reason the

a local naturaltwon or location or trading post or a fort to be in this

-rea.a The reason the fort was built where it was in the exact place there

was a nice spring down there at the edge of the river in front of the

old by the old fort was placed. And the soldiers had a fort

there and there was water available so that's why the fort was there.

That interested me. Now I'm going to ask my sister to tell about things

we have planned for her. Mrs. Waldren.

MRs. Waldren: This is, my talk is a letter. It's a copy of a letter

my father wrote. He was the first school superintendent of St. Lucie

County and this is a report that he sent to the state school superintendent

after the first year of school in St. Lucie County and when we consider

about one of our schools toady I think it;s very interesting to hear what

conditions were at that time. White City, Florida. November 12, 1906.


St. Lucie Tape #i /~f

Page 3

Honorable W. M. Holloway, State Superintendent Instruction,

T llahassee, Flordia. Dear Sir: In accordance with your request, I

to submit the following report of school conditions in St.

Luoie County for the one and one third years of its existence. July 1, 1905

to November 1, 1906. St. Lucie County wascreated by the last legislature

in 1905 and comprises that part of the lying south of the

Sebastian River to the St. Lucie River from the Atlantic ocean on

the east to the borders of the old county on the west. We started

empty handed and an indebtedness of one thousand two hundred dollars

was the extent of our resources on the wrong side of the ledger. The

territory had finally all been included in a special tax districts.

Our new board of county commissioners persuaded us that the regualr

tax increased to seven miles by the constitutional amendment would be

sufficient claiming that they must have special road taxes and feeling

that the people would not stand for both. At the end of the year we

find here some one thousand four hundred dollars in debt and the roads

are not appreciably any better. So this year we should ask to have

the whole county created into a special tax district and finally get

out of debt. Buildings: During the year we have built a number of

small buildings that were greatly needed in Vero, Bethel Creek House'

of Refuge and Fort Pierce, colored all furnished with simple

desks besides practically rebuilding School and considerable

repairs to the School. The balance of the buildings we have

kept in repair. High schools and rural graded. We have one junior

high school at Fort Pierce and rural graded at Jensen. It is the ambitiOn

of the present board to see one good high school established in the

county teaching a full senior high school course. We are making every

St. Lucie Tape #I1-rf /

Page 4

sacrifice and straining at every point to bring this about. Without

a system of compulsory education, however it is going to be difficult

for us to develop this school. The school at Sebastian and 7ero, white,

Gifford and Fort Pierce, colored extended under Chapter 5381, 80%.

At the last session of the grand jury we got a very strong resentment

in favor of compulsory education with the instructions to the local

member of the latest legislature to do all in his power to favor such

a law. We have practically no families in the county who are so poor

as to make it impossible for the children of school age to attend school

during a reasonable term each year. If such cases should develop, then

let the county --make up to the family what they lose by abscense of

children at school. We had better spend a little money for now then

spend a great deal later in court fees trying these brothers who have

grown up in ignorance. And in many cases we shall find that it is not

a necessity to keep these children at home but rather the natural desire

children to escape the strain, to play hookey and utter carelessness

and ignorance on the part of the parent. Unless some such law is passed

we see no reason why we will not have in some district for long an

illiterate white and fairly common school, educated population.

As the negroes are sending to school better than the whites in many

places. The concentration of schools and transporting the pupils has

not always as we can wish. But one of the schools

where this has been adopted, it has caused friction practically from

the start. The patrons of the schools are not denied the increased

efficiency of the school but the lose of the individual school in a

small community whereby building up a school in a neighboring community

St. Lucie Taoe #4 (ff

Page 5

is rather more than some of the patrons can stand. Jealousy, quarrels,

complaints to the superintendent of the board and many petitions to the

governor, have resulted. The plan is also much more expensive than the

old style, although this is more than an offset by increased deficiency.

Our school term is for whites from eighty to two hundred days. Two

months extra, eighty per cent average. Colored from eighty to one

hundred and twenty days. Our teachers are high grade for the most part

and the wages from thirty five to one hundred dollars per month are

paid promptly by once which are cashed for full face value anywhere in

the county. Our county is so young that most of us have hardly the necessary

means for carrying on our business. Our population is not very homogenous .

The town's new, the people strangers to each other all together it's rather

a difficult problem to face just at present. However we have eleven of

most excellent people, and it's a question of deeping every lastingly

at it and St. Lucie County shall have schools as good as the pineapple

oranges and cattle. Yours truly,

?: How about having to tell about Mr. Cobb.

W: I imagine a great many people my age perhaps could relay

have the same story. We thought so much of Peter Cobb who had the

general store everything to wear, use, wear, eat, and use. So everytime

we had a nickel for candy why, we'd go into his big store, it looked

big to us and I remember going in there and a clerk came over and asked

me what he could do for me and I said, "I'd like to see Mr. Cobb."

And Mr. Cobb was in his little office, you know, and he called him out

and came over and he said, "What can I do for you?" And I said, "I want

a nickel's worth of candy." And he told me, he siad, "Well, what kind

would you like?" So I picked out this and that and this and that, you

St. Lucie Tape # &i /9

Page 6

know. I gave him my nickel and when I got home the nickel was in the bag

with all my candy.

?: This, you can't, I don't suppose many of you can see it but it's the

outline for my talk and those up close can be able to see it. It's a

map of the places I will refer in Fort Pierce. I thought you might be interested

As I say it's an outline of my talk. Why don't you stnad

It was prepared by, with the assistance of my grandson, Ron. The coloration

you see. That, ah, Morris Creek up here, after I started him on a dark

color I thought it wasn't a very appropriate color for it. It reminds

me of my other little grandson who got a swimming pool

not long ago at the ., and the water was something like

that, a pale green, and he was just splashing around there all by

himself having the greatest time and finally yelled a "Whoopy I'm

swimming in Mountain Dew." And, but I can't remember Morris Creek

ever looking like Mountain Dew. It's just all back and mudded. I

ain't remember it any different. But the river was pretty. Ah, dne of

my pineapple fans gave me this gadget and I thought I might use it for

a pointer for my health. I'm going to start in our house, right there.

It's leaning back of this place now, you know. The house has a porch

on the west, south, and probably in the east. We had a fence, hogwire

fence and cattle proof fence around it. One time I it always had

holes in it as I remember it. But the cattles and hogs had free range

in the city and the area at that time, it wasn't a city, My father and

mother bought two lots there in 1896, March, I believe for a hundred a

fifty dollars, from the canning company. Now the two lots, and just

across the road from us, they go down to the river. has

a boat shop down at the river there, close to the creek, they had


St. Lucie Tape #'H/fA

Page 7

the Morris Creek there. Now, the, Fort Pierce was, naturally a fishing_

place to start with. An old darkie one time told me that he worked on

one of those steam boats worked the river and the table on the steam

boat was provided with fish, just the Pompanoes that jumped on board.

At that time and, the area was suited to boating, across over in the islands

this black mangrove. You should all examine it some times. If I hadn't

gotten so busy I'd gotten a chip to bring you. It's a natural plywood,

black mangrove. It's the kind that grows, not with the roots coming

down from the tree but with the fingers come up from the ground. And

it's a natural plywood and it made excellent stems for the boat, the

curved part. Now Ray Saunders said his dad uses black mulberry

but I'm sure used this other. He'd leave it in the river for

a few days and that would cure it so it wouldn't crack and they'd have

a natural, very strong stem for the boat, the curved part. The, between,

this little layer between, I don't know what the streets were named then.

As far as I know they weren't named but it's Avenue D there, yeah,

Avenue D. Across the, that road from us between, the creek was march

and murky swamp and now the river, the land didn't go out nearly

as far as it does now, of course, I expect . .

. right now. At the Creek there was sandbar thatwas

beyond the water in low tide. We could wade across from our side to the

sand bar and then and then back to this side We wouldn't try to wade

across! because that creek was walsys very muddy. Now the creek was

always very important in the economy. Very important indeed, it was

a necessity. In time of storm the boats would go in there. And that's why

that bridge aluEys had a hump in it for as long as I can remember so if

St. Lucie Tape #14/7

Page 9

some it was crowded the boats could go on under it, further in, to be

safe in time of hurricane. Then across the creek, where the forest land

is, was a mangrove, a and saw grass swamp with lagoons. I've

had that lagoon covered brown, which really is more appropriate and the

roads coming south was went right close by the wide part of the

lagoon and we would often see, it was just kind of a an old

alligator would be taking a sunbath in the mud at the side of the road.

Most people didn't pay him no attention. He didn't pay people any attention

as I remember. Almost across from that was a Methodist Church, which

was on kind of a slope. It was built kind of high and the legs on the

north side were long and the south side was short. Then, oh yes,

when the creek __ there was a sidewalk, a wooden sidewalk, I think

it was two planks, two planks, I think parallel going

along because it got pretty sandy, to tell you the truth. Beyond the

creek, beyond the lagoon, was a school house. You remember

there was the town hall was built close to the

lagoon later but at first there wag, all had that on there, the town

hall..And then, next to school, the school had, when I started the school

mind you, it had two rooms, at the Fort Pierce school. And taking

the sidewalk on south along side the street, Lowrey's had a aJewelry

store and then Fabin's bakery at the corner. Now up at Lowrey's and

the bakery, just north of what is now Avenue A the road, I remember the

road when there was no paving, no shells or anything there and the

ruts were a foot deep in the sand, and there was sort of a hill there.

And that is one explanation for the sidewalk there because you couldn't

get or anything. Now what's brought this on

St. Lucie Tape #i' />.4

Page 10

this kind of a talk, I got thinking about it and Fort Pierce at that

time was arranged so conveniently. No one made it out, I suppose,

but look how conviently it was arranged. Here's Cobb's dock, the

biggest dock in town, and that, they have a tramway from that to

several picking houses out on the dock and beside the dock

there were small plants growing out with the frams for:the fishermen

to mend their nets. And the tramway went from the dock right down to

the river. And just south of the dock was the Cooper shop, a place

they made barrels. Put the barrles together, and there was Tom's

store where he sold everything to eat, wear and use. There was a

post office. The first time I used the post office I put a valentine

there. And I remember the postmistress Miss Ella Hanson was the

aunto of the girl I was sending it to and I tried to slip it in without

being seen. Then in the corner there east of Second

street and the cross side was Hardware and they were,

that was also an undertaking establishment. And next, close to the

railroad was the arts factory whcih was all important for the fishing

industry, of course. And I believe there was another

factory near it somewhere. I don't remember. I put a chimney in the

art factory because, they burn light wood and they had a mountain

of light wood there at one time and'I remember one day from White City,

I was about four and a half miles from our place. I saw a great cloud

of smoke, black smoke, going way up in the sky. That's when the art

factory burned down. Art factories often burn down around here in

those days forthatreason that wood is so, it catches fire so

easily. Then came the railroad and across the Railroad the East

Coast Lumber Supply Company. My Tylander was running it then. He

St. Lucie Tape -f~~/f4

Page 11

ran it for many years. Connected with it for many years. He

told me ten years or so ago that they used to seel as many as

a million crates a year, yes. Of pineapples, and the pineapple

crates were long affairs. Abdut so long, they held nearly

two bushels. That gives you some idea how many pineapples were

growing at the time between Vero and Jensen. On the other side of Avenue

A was the barrel factory and hen there was a Fort Pierce Bank came

around 1901 or 1902. And at the corner was W.J. Nesbitt'snclothing

store. In those days I Mr. Lowrey's jewelry shops. His

business was mostly watch repair, I think. The railroad men needed

watches to be kept on time. I don't think the common laborers used

watches very much, although we began to have pretty soon these dollar

watches. The laborer would start at daylight and would become an

expert at telling what time it was and when it's time to take his noon

rest, lunch and then of course he worked until dark. I bought a dollar

watch from Mr. Nesbitt one time. My first watch was

a dollar and he would it and he said, "It sounds like a song there,

doesn't it?" During, as I said the hogs and cattle had free run. I

don't remember seeing cattle or hogs around our place but during the

Spanish American was a whole lot of hogs one time died under Mr.

Nesbitts store. They played down low to the ground. Now I heard that

the hogs got so much bisquits and stuff thrown out from the soldiers

on the trains going throu and they just gorged themselves and got too full

and went under there and died. But they thought they had cholera

and I expect that's a more rational explanation. Anyhow they got under

there and didd. And across the street to them, of course, second street,

the pioneer it's been in recent recent years called the Pioneer

St. Lucie Tape #f /9A

Page 12

Drug Store, my father and Mr. Cobb went into partnership and got that

first drug store, Mr. Cobb's initials are P.P.C. and my father's

C.C.P. and they made a red cross, P.P.C. and C.C.P. on it that was

their emblem. Then west of, oh, next to the drug store was Eddie

Ager's Barber Shop, then the Stetson house. Frank Stetson, I believe

his father's the station agent his names Frank, isn't he? And

Mrs. Stetson owned the Stetson house which was a boarding house for

drummers. They don't use that term anymore, but they used it then

for traveling salbsmen. Then the depot was right about there near

Second, near Avenue A next to the railraod, a round building with a

freight and a passenger fair and somewhere aroundthere is a coal shoot.

I think runs in different places. They had begun to

use, maybe they always did, coal on the east coast railraod and

would have a supply of coal to pit

under the locomotive. Across the:) following Avenue A further west

I think there was a jail there and then the Baptist church but

at the corner. I remember the church for the reason that one Christmas

we left the Methodist church, I think, at the time and I was small

and the Christmas Arthur Jennings was superintendent of one of

the churches and he asked me to prepare a recitation for

the Christmas doings and so I was part of and went to the

doings and waited and waited and waited and never was called on.

So I remember it. Next yesr, a little further, across the railraod,

south of the Avenue A there was a two story building which was a

S__ hall. for two reasons. Upstairs in that I saw my

first movie pictore. They showed a volcano eruption and it was a

St. Lucie Tape #t3/W

Page 13

very picture for me and I still remember when it burned down.

It made a big fire. It was at night and after that

for laundry was there for years and years and years so that some of the

old timers remember it. I always look for it to burn down, too. It was

just like it was going to for fire. But it never

did. It's been rebuilt now. And then at the well, let's get'

back to the east side of the Railroad Avenue there. Butcher shop,

clothing, and one of those of Orange

Avenue and Railroad Avenue they were called was
Tucker's Saloon. It had a tar board fence around the back. He

faced toward the railroad. And there would be a bear you could see

sometime back in there. Fort Pierce was often called Fort Tucker in

those days. Saturday afternoon there's supposed to come a time

everybody goes to Tucker's and so that was called Fort Tucker. Across

from the railraod from Tucker's on the corner, I think there's a saloon

there now, was Henry store.Was that John Henry. John Henry.

ANd Phil Jergenson, I remember the store right around

that corner one time told me

recently when he taught school out at he became well

acquainted with old John Henry. And John Henry told him how he did

business here. He'd sell the colored folks groceries on credit

and then every Saturday he's go around with a clipboard and a shot gun

out at colored town and collect While we're over here,

our __ from Henry's livery stable and on the west side of the

livery stable was Men's blacksmith and I think somewhere around there

was a place where the fire engine was kept. Was it to the west of

St. Lucie Tape #~i9/*4

Page 14


?: In the same building.

P: Same building, okay. Mr. Mens and he couul make

wagons. I don't know to make wagons in those days

but anyhow I know he made our and fixed up our model T

cars and made a school bus out of it and so on. Then there was

a round house down there, next to the railraod where ..

where they had locomotive and so on. On the east side of the railroad

there was another livery stable and at the corner of

Second Street and Orange, just about where the county, just where the

county was divided they built a two story concrete block building

downstairs and upstairs. As soon as the county became

my dad and some others got to work and they voted prohibition

for the area. And it was just a short time that a bank came in and

took the place of the saloon was and ah, it seems to me that one of

the newspapers had their offices up over there. Then sometimes,

I don't remember just when the building went up to start but the Fort

Pierce Hotel was found here, near to where it is now. It wasn't called

the New Fort Pierce Hotel then. It's been called the New Fort Pierce Hotel

for fifty years. But it wasn't called the New Fort Pierce Hotel, then.

About then, across Orange Avenue Mr. Rollins lived at the corner and he

and Frank Hart, my uncle, it must have been some what later than most

of these earlier places. They had the first Coca Cola plant here in
"'I C"; "!"' 0 '\
Fort Pierce. I remember ehese-placeiabecause in 1910 a storm that came

up where the printing press, that printing outfit is

now. Ah, and right by there, just northof that for many years the local

St. Lucie Tape # #

Page 15

weather reporting place was. A lady kept it after her husband died.

I don't remember the name, but they had the gadgets in the shade of

the palmetto trees. It was only sixty feet from the river and so if

there was ever any colder weather in Fort Pierce than there was in sixty

two, between sixty two and ninety nine, one reason may have been that the

thermometers are, were so well protected, and the cold couldn't get to

them very often. Let's see. Down here, the first Ford agency down on

Second Street somewhere. Charlie Horton and I think some partner owned

that. I, somewhere along in here the first the

somewhere along in here. Any questions. All right.

That's about all. I about run out of material. My map, I've come to

the bottom of it. Any questions or somebody want to ask something?


P.: So, ah, well you see, I think it was, it stricks me as being

very accomodatingly played out. There was a way up here and

somewhere there was a shoe maker. Mr Hines, I think, was a shoe maker.

Now where he had his office, his shop, I don't know. 1-o, before

him, long before him. Hines. No, you're thinking about the son. I'm

talking about the old man. No, he was Well, there was

a shoemaker before I'm sure.

?: There was one before him.

P: I think so. When did he come?

?: Oh, I don't know

P: OH, well, that's the end of my story.

Full Text
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