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This week in history: West Palm Beach boat service from the Glades begins operation

The tiny pond at the north end of Howard Park was once a basin large and deep enough for barges that carried passengers and crates of produce from the Glades. Regular boat service to the basin began operation on May 17, 1918, but the basin and canal lost favor when a railroad line and motor highway to the Glades opened in the mid-1920s. The 1928 hurricane destroyed the docks and slips.

In 1997 preservationists tried to get the Stub Canal and Turning Basin onto the National Register of Historic Places, but National Park Service denied the application, saying the canal and basin had lost their link to the city’s past. Even without the official National Register designation, the city installed a historic marker in Howard Park.

Glades farmers shipped their vegetables down the West Palm Beach Canal to the Stub Canal that led to the turning basin where there were docks, warehouses and trains to transport the produce to northern markets. (Photo courtesy of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County)

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Posted in Flashback blog May 14, 2012 at 6:00 am.

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Palm Beach County in the 1940 Census

Hotels and other transient housing

April 9, 1940, was the day designated for counting people in hotels. The official manual instructed enumerators: “You are to complete the enumeration of all tourist or trailer camps, missions, and cheap one-night lodging houses in your district on the evening of April 8th, and of all hotels in your district on April 9th.”

The tourist camp and hotel enumerations in the Census are separate from the street-by-street listings that make up most of the Census images for Palm Beach County (you can find all of the Palm Beach County images online here).

Here’s an example of one of the enumeration pages for Palm Beach hotels, listing the Surfside Hotel, Balmoral Hotel, Southland Inn, Ocean Hotel, and the Brazilian Court:

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Guests at the Ocean Hotel included a singer, a petroleum products salesman, a newspaper correspondent, a broker of hides, and a rubber goods exporter.

Only one guest was counted in the hotels in Delray Beach, a building management executive staying at the Colony Hotel. Others listed on the hotel page include hotel owners, staff and their families.

Two tourist camps were listed in Lantana, Young’s Tourist Camp and Jitterbug Jungle Camp:

Prominent locals

In April 1940 George Morikami lived on Federal Highway near the end of Old Dixie Highway in what is now northern Boca Raton. He was 53 years old and listed his occupation as farm operator.

Click on the image to see the whole page from the 1940 Census at 1940census.archives.gov.

Morikami had come from Japan with a group of farmers who planted acres of pineapples, peppers and tomatoes. Ultimately the Yamato Colony failed, and most of the farmers moved to other parts of the United States or returned to Japan.

George Morikami remained after the colony disbanded, and continued cultivating fruits and vegetables and buying land. He lost much of his land during the Depression, and later the federal government confiscated more of it for the Boca Raton Army Air Field, but Morikami eventually donated 200 acres to Palm Beach County, which opened the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens on that land in 1977, one year after Morikami’s death.

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Posted in Flashback blog April 4, 2012 at 4:15 pm.

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This week in history: Harvest of Shame airs on CBS

Edward R. Murrow’s documentary exposing the plight of migrant farm workers in America aired Nov. 25, 1960, the day after Thanksgiving. Harvest of Shame began in Belle Glade and followed migrant workers across the country as they followed the harvest.

Nine-year-old Jerome King, shown here in a still from the video, appeared in the 1960 documentary Harvest of Shame. King, still living western Palm Beach County, talked to The Palm Beach Post in 2003. (Palm Beach Post file photo)

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Posted in Flashback blog November 21, 2011 at 6:00 am.

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Longtime store owner remembers West Palm Beach landmark

Frequent “Post Time” contributor Jim Anderson, nearly 83 and still working hard behind the counter at his downtown Anderson Hardware store, recently passed along this remembrance of “Sonny-Boy’s Fruit Company.”

“For many years, prior to the second world war, a landmark existed at the southeast corner of the intersection of Belvedere Road and South Dixie. It was an open-air market which featured fresh citrus and vegetables. During business hours, one could pull a vehicle right onto the property and ship for locally grown citrus, as well as purchase a fresh-squeezed glass of juice.

“The property was also a place where many of the newspaper home-delivery ‘boys’ received and rolled their morning papers, in the early hours, for distribution to nearby neighborhoods. All of the newspapers of that era made drops at Sonny-Boy’s, including The Palm Beach Post-Times, The Miami Herald, and on Sundays — the Miami Daily News.

“The carriers would arrive to find large bundles of newspapers — marked with route numbers — which would be rolled and covered with pieces of old newspapers, which had been cut into smaller shapes. The wrappers were then glued around the papers, put into large bags and ‘biked’ for delivery.

“Sonny-Boy’s disappeared before the mid-fifties, as the properties became more and more valuable. The Sonny-Boy’s corner became a bank (Security Exchange). Eventually, the southwestern corner of the intersection was (and is) occupied by The Palm Beach Post. Howard Johnson’s restaurant was on the north side of Belvedere — between Olive and Dixie, and the Mount Vernon Motor Lodge (now, Hotel Biba) was opposite.

“A block south of Belvedere (on Dixie) was the El Cid Bar. Another block south is Hall Hardware. The bar has changed several times, but Hall’s still operates.”

Update: Susan “Su” George, American history chair for the Okeechobee chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution, wrote recently with a possible answer to one of our enduring mysteries: the name origin for Ritta Island, at Lake Okeechobee: “My theory is that since no animal life was on the island (except) snakes and gators, the locals might have referred to it as ‘Critter Island’ (and) that got shortened to ‘Ritta.’”

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg September 29, 2011 at 9:00 am.

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This week in history: Glades sugar industry is born

In early March of 1921, Frederick Edward Bryant and G. T. Anderson of the Florida Sugar and Food Products Company took out a series of full-page advertisements in The Palm Beach Post soliciting support for a sugar mill in Palm Beach County. The Canal Point mill opened in 1923. Florida Sugar later merged with the Southern Sugar Company, which was bought by the United States Sugar Corporation in 1931.

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Posted in Flashback blog February 28, 2011 at 6:00 am.

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