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This week in history: Lantana’s new town hall

Lantana’s new town hall: On June 30, 1962, officials in Lantana moved into the new town hall building at Greynolds Circle. The Post reported that the town council gave the old building, at 212 Iris Ave., to the chamber of commerce for use by civic and social clubs.

Lantana’s town hall in January 1961

Lantana’s new town hall in September 1962

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Posted in Flashback blog June 25, 2012 at 9:13 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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‘Enquirer’ capsule just held soggy news

Last week we told the history of the National Enquirer and Generoso Pope Jr.

Randy Hefelfinger, now of Kennesaw , Ga., recalled helping fill a time capsule buried at the tabloid’s Lantana complex around 1973.

Here’s the rest:

In 2000, the company broke Lantana’s heart by picking up and moving to gleaming new headquarters in Boca Raton.

Everything was rosy — until Oct. 5, 2001. Photo editor Bob Stevens, who had opened a letter containing a white powder, died of anthrax poisoning. Soon others had been exposed in other parts of the country.

Coming weeks after Sept. 11, the anthrax attacks generated a whole new round of terror. The building was sealed. And the Enquirer and sister publications at American Media Inc. eventually moved to New York.

But what of the time capsule?

The Post rarely wrote about the Enquirer — except about what was touted as the world’s largest decorated Christmas tree — and no mention of the capsule was found in Post archives.

A July 1980 article in the old Miami News did mention that it “contains the paper’s creed, a good-news gospel that has attracted millions of faithful readers.”

It said a plaque on the capsule read, “The National Enquirer newspaper on Feb. 28, 1974, buried here a sealed capsule containing good news items of 1973. When opened on Feb. 28, 2074, these items will prove that despite the many crises of the year 1973, Americans still showed the courage, kindness and strength that made this country great.”

AMI corporate folks in New York checked around, with no luck. So we started contacting current and former Enquirer staff, many still living in South Florida. Most didn’t want to be named but did pass along recollections.

“Time capsule was under the sundial right in the middle of the gardens to the west of the old main entrance,” one wrote. Another ended our mystery. He said that, weeks before the move to Boca in 2000, “the capsule was opened. Nothing but soggy newspapers. A non-happening.”

The American flag flies at half staff on Oct. 3, 1988, at the Lantana headquarters of the National Enquirer, in honor of Generoso Pope Jr., who died the day before. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg March 1, 2012 at 10:21 am.

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‘Enquirer’ mogul blazed trail for tabloids

Question: “Does anyone know what happened to the National Enquirer time capsule? When we were kids, we put stuff in it. I think it was in 1973.” — Randy Hefelfinger, Kennesaw Ga.

Answer: This gives us an opportunity to profile yet another person and business that came to South Florida and added to our wild and colorful narrative. It’s too good to limit to one column, so we’ll do two.

We start with Generoso Pope Jr. His father had come from Italy alone at 15 with $10 in lira in his pocket and become one of the most powerful men in New York.

After the senior Pope’s death, in 1950, his wife and two older sons voted Generoso Jr. out of the businesses of family construction supplies, publishing and broadcasting .

Gene Pope borrowed from gangster Frank Costello and bought the foundering New York Enquirer for $75,000.

Within a decade, he’d morphed it into the wildly successful — “UFOs!” “Elvis!” “Scandalized politicians!” — National Enquirer tabloid.

And he’d discovered a potential gold mine in a changing marketplace. Instead of newsstands — now pretty much extinct outside of big cities — he started selling his screaming headlines in the supermarket checkout line.

Like so many others, Gene Pope saw more streets of gold — in the tropics. In 1971, he moved his operation to a quiet settlement along Federal Highway known as Lantana.

“Generoso Pope was called a gossip monger, digging out the most sensational tidbits to be found about celebrities,” former

Post colleague Belinda Brockman wrote when he died in October 1988. “He was called a taskmaster, sharing the 60-hour workweeks of his employees. And he was called a humanitarian, quietly giving millions to the struggling and ailing. But most of all. Mr. Pope was the tabloid king — the man who gave the American public just exactly what ‘inquiring minds want to know.’ ”

Pope died young, at 61, like his father, who died at 59.

The family sold the properties for $412 million. It eventually became American Media and included other tabloids. The properties were sold again in 1999 for $835 million.

Next week: Time capsule.

Generoso Pope Jr. looks at a copy of the National Enquirer’s legendary 1977 front page photo of Elvis Presley in his coffin. Pope moved his tabloid operation from New York to Lantana in 1971. (Palm Beach Post file photo)

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg February 23, 2012 at 1:44 pm.

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This week in history: Lantana incorporated

On July 20, 1921, when the town incorporated, J.H. Vance was elected mayor, but he changed his mind right after the election (or discovered he lived outside the town limits, according to one source) and never took office. The town appointed Ellen M. Anderson as the first woman mayor in Palm Beach County. Anderson led the town for two years, followed by Mary S. Paddock, who served until 1924.

When Lantana was incorporated in 1921, it contained one square mile and a hundred residents. Twenty-two people voted in the first election, according to Mary Linehan’s Early Lantana, Her Neighbors and More.

Lantana’s town hall in 1961.

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Posted in Flashback blog July 18, 2011 at 6:00 am.

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