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Saturday Evening Post edition featured The Hut

Jimmy Williams is a Palm Beach High graduate and a longtime reader, and sometime contributor, to Post Time.
Recently he dropped off an original copy of The Saturday Evening Post from June 22, 1946. Of course, this is the edition with the lengthy feature story on, and iconic photograph of, the All-American drive-in known simply as “The Hut.” In its heyday, it was West Palm Beach’s premier teen hangout.

The magazine article stretches across five pages. Photographs show the interior and exterior; one of the restaurant’s outside signs called it “the Tropical Hut ” It even had a cheesecake/beefcake combo of “barbecue King” Mel Williams and his wife cavorting in the surf.

The Hall family opened the place in 1930 between Flagler Drive and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. Williams, a Lake Worth native, had started there as night manager and when the Halls decided to return to construction in 1937, he bought it from them for $5,700. The Halls returned briefly to help run the place when Williams served in the Navy during World War II.

At The Hut, kids in convertibles could drive right up and get curb service: hamburgers, barbecue, and Coney Island hot dogs loaded with cheese, along with milkshakes from the local Alfar Creamery and frosty root beer. The average World War II-era check was 40 cents.

“The Hut is where you went,” the legendary actor and Palm Beach High alumnus Burt Reynolds once recalled. “If you were lucky enough to have a friend with a car, you parked by some girls, your arm hanging out against the door so that it looked like you had a bicep.”

Reynolds recalled that The Hut was flanked by an asphalt apron accommodating up to 40 cars parked three-deep. For somebody up front to back out, he or she had to flash the lights and the cars immediately behind would back onto the two-laned Flagler. Perpetual musical parking was followed by musical car-hopping. Reynolds said seniors and football players got the front spots.

After the war, the Hall family opened Hall Hardware, which still active on Dixie Highway near Belvedere Road. The Hut went through a series of owners and finally made way for the Phillips Point office tower in the early 1980s.

Read the complete Saturday Evening Post piece below. Click on any image to view a larger version (and then click again to zoom in to a readable size).

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg and Flashback blog September 19, 2013 at 8:59 am.


Tip leads to daughter of old drive-in’s owners

Katie Broucke Barrow, now 78, who grew up in Cloud Lake and lives just north of Palm Beach International Airport, saw our recent note asking for more details on “Terry’s,” the drive-in and bar in Glen Ridge, just south of the airport.

“A 1949 hurricane went directly over PBIA and the bar was demolished,” Katie recalled. “My father helped rebuild it.”

Katie recalled that the family who ran the bar was named Quackenbush.

That led us to a 1997 obituary for Georgia “Mom” Quackenbush, who died at 91. She and her late husband James, the write-up said, owned Terry’s Drive In Bar and “were known for their homemade chili and Sunday sing-a-longs with Mel Tillis.”

That led us to Georgia’s daughter, Anita Quackenbush Gierok, now 75, of The Acreage.

The “itty bitty” Terry’s operated from around 1948 to around 1970 at 1552 Southern Blvd., Gierok recalled last month.

And because it was in the tiny municipality of Glen Ridge, she said, it was the only bar in Palm Beach County allowed to open Sunday mornings.

When the place opened at 10 a.m, “it was packed. They’d be three deep,” she said,

Many were from the nearby Palm Beach Air Force Base, now PBIA. It had operated as Morrison Field during World War II and had been reactivated as Palm Beach Air Force Base.

The fly boys, Gierok recalled, were nearly all gentlemen, although she recalled a pretty good fight one night after the bar closed.

And, Gierok said, more than one serviceman met a future wife in South Florida; “I married one of them,” she said.

Gierok’s step-grandmother, the widowed Cora Quackenbush, had come down from Pennsylvania in the 1930s, and in the late 1940s had sold Gierok’s parents the property where they built the bar, named for Anita’s mother’s maiden name. The family lived in a home next door.

“Southern Boulevard was two lanes,” Gierok said. As in one each way.

At the bar, “there were six stools and a kitchen,” Gierok said. The place could sell only beer, not hard liquor. And, she said, “We had hot dogs. ‘Home of the foot-long hot dog. And chili.” And pickled eggs and pickled pigs’ feet.

Although it would violate many a health and labor law today, Gierok, then only 10, cooked the burgers and dogs, she recalled.

The bar had a jukebox that played country-western music, but allowed no dancing.

The great 1949 hurricane blew away an addition the family had built, and tore off the roof, but the bar didn’t budge, Anita said. A package store was added in 1953. Anita’s father died around 1966, and her mom sold the property in 1981. It’s now home to the Peterson Bernard law firm.

Terry’s Drive In owner Georgia “Mom” Quackenbush and daughter Anita – now Anita Gierok – outside the drive-in soon after a 1950 hurricane. (Photos courtesy Anita Gierok)

Terry’s Drive In owner Georgia “Mom” Quackenbush inside the original drive in, 1949.

The package store that was added to the front of the Quackenbush residence in 1953.

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg July 11, 2013 at 10:53 am.

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Ghost tales linger, even 100 years after Flagler’s death

Monday is the centennial of the death of South Florida pioneer Henry Flagler. Other sections of The Post have been, or will be, doing special reports on the anniversary. We thought we’d have some fun with the story of Flagler’s ghost.

First, this: “There are no ghosts, there never have been ghosts, and there never will be ghosts at Whitehall,” said John Blades, executive director of the Flagler Museum, in the Halloween 2007 Post Time column.

In 1974, John Roth, a night watchman at Whitehall, Flagler’s former mansion, had said he saw the man “just as plain as daylight,” in a hallway.

“He was just standing there, wearing a dark suit and tie,” Roth said at the time. “I had a good look and then he vanished.”

Also, silver settings reportedly moved from a top shelf to a bottom one inside a locked cabinet. A ceiling lamp and the top to an urn crashed to the floor and plates inexplicably broke.

And another watchman, since retired, said he saw Flagler’s wife, Mary Lily, many times on an upstairs porch.

Roth later allowed as how he’d seen Flagler only once, when he awoke from a nap at about 3:30 a.m.

Finally, retired director Grant Bedford, blaming the sightings on overactive imaginations, said he’d give $1,000 to anyone who could show him a ghost. But, Roth argued , “I can’t make him appear any time I feel like it.”

Bedford said if Flagler’s spirit had made an appearance, it would not have been in the 1970s, when the estate had become a museum, but in the 1960s, when his former mansion was a hotel and Flagler’s belongings were stuffed away in attics. “It would have infuriated him,” Bedford said.

Henry and Mary Lily Flagler around 1910 (Photo courtesy the Historical Society of Palm Beach County)

Call to readers: After our April 25 column on the World War II-era Wert’s restaurant in Palm Beach, longtime resident, and sometime Post Time contributor, Wayne Miner of Belle Glade wrote to ask about two other institutions. The first, called “Terry’s,” was in Glen Ridge, the tiny community south of Palm Beach International Airport, which Miner believes permitted the place to be one of the few drinking holes in Palm Beach County to be open on Sunday mornings.

The other was “Al’s,” an oasis out at 20 Mile Bend, the spot about halfway from the coast to Belle Glade. Jeff Barwick, who grew up in Pahokee and headed Pahokee’s and Clewiston’s Chamber of Commerce and curated at the Clewiston museum, recalls Al’s being “on the east side of the ‘tee’ where U.S. 98 came into U.S. 441/State Road 80. He had beer and some food.”

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg May 16, 2013 at 9:52 am.

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Wert’s a popular hangout during WWII

Most of you aren’t old enough to remember that, in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, World War II was not a far-away event. Between February and May of 1942, U-boats sank 24 ships off Florida, 16 of them from Cape Canaveral to Boca Raton.

George Payne Marshall of Singer Island, born in 1921, wrote of that time: “I was not only in radar maintenance training but was assigned to a secret intelligence group by the Provost Marshal at Camp Murphy.”

That was the facility just over the Palm Beach-Martin County line that housed the Southern Signal Corps School. It’s now Jonathan Dickinson State Park.

“I spent New Year’s Eve in 1943 at Werts with three of my army buddies from Camp Murphy,” Marshall wrote. “I will always remember the sign over the door carved in wood that read ‘Everybody Goes from Bad to Werts.’ This was kind of a secret hang-out that I and my buddies did not tell too many GIs at Murphy about. Most always one of the rich Palm Beachers would always pick up our check, as they did on this New Year’s Eve. One time we were told it was OK to dance with their wives. The Palm Beachers were very appreciative of all their military in the area and it was a good place for service personnel to be during WWII.”

George wasn’t kidding about Wert’s. At 456 S. Ocean Blvd. in Palm Beach, it was a hot spot for decades.

But during the war, it was especially popular with local servicemen and their dates, lured by its live music and 50-cent meals. They came not just from Camp Murphy, but also from the Boca Raton Army Air Field — now the Boca Raton airport and Florida Atlantic University — and of course from nearby Morrison Field, now Palm Beach International Airport.

The place also played an indirect role in the U-boat wars. Officials quickly figured out that the establishments lining Florida’s coastline back-lit freighters, making them even easier targets. So Wert’s east-facing windows were darkened and its entrance was moved from the oceanfront to the side.

“Uncle Sam darkened my front, but my rear is a blaze of glory,” “Wert” quipped in an ad.

“Wert” was Lionel Wertheimer, a Wisconsinite who had opened a lunch stand in 1924. It came down in both the 1926 and 1928 hurricanes and was rebuilt. After the war, the place expanded and the price of a turkey dinner shot up to an outrageous $1.50.

The colorful raconteur died at age 57 in 1948 while touring through Arizona. The family sold the place in 1973 and it became Willoughby’s.

It later closed, then reopened in 1980 in its current configuration: Charley’s Crab.

Jim and Gimmy McNalley, Josephine Quinn Guenther and Frederick Guenther (left) at Wert’s. Guenther was the sister of Dick Johnson’s mother. Jim McNalley owned two bars: The Music Box and The Alibi. (Photo courtesy of Ginny Lippincott)

For decades in Palm Beach, Wert’s restaurant, once located at the oceanfront location where Charley’s Crab is today (456 S. Ocean Blvd.), was a hot spot, boasting weekly entertainment and this logo: ‘The Best You’ll Get Here is the Wert’s.’ (Photo courtesy of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County)

Carved in the pavement by the entrance to Charley’s Crab is “Wert’s.” (Palm Beach Daily News staff file photo)

During World War II, Wert’s, pictured here in the 1930s or ’40s, was particularly popular, offering live bands and 50-cent meals to local servicemen and their dates. During the war, its east-facing windows were darkened to comply with blackouts. (Photo courtesy of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County)

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg April 25, 2013 at 9:42 am.

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This week is anniversary of famous drive-in closing

Who doesn’t remember that wonderful icon of the 1950s and beyond: the drive-in restaurant? Sonic has brought it back on a national level, but the last local, mom-and-pop drive-in — T.C. Bumper’s — closed 25 years ago this week, on April 5, 1988.

In a column from that time, now-retired Palm Beach Post editor and writer Bill McGoun recalled growing up with the Starlite, on the corner of Dixie Highway and 13th Avenue North in Lake Worth. By then it was a drug store; it’s now a convenience store.

The most famous drive-in in Palm Beach County could well have been the Hut, which stood where Phillips Point is now in downtown West Palm Beach. It was so All-American the Saturday Evening Post of June 22, 1946, featured a photograph of it.

“The Hut is where you went,” actor Burt Reynolds once recalled. “If you were lucky enough to have a friend with a car, you parked by some girls, your arm hanging out against the door so that it looked like you had a bicep.”

McGoun also recalled Fitz’s, at Dixie Highway near Good Samaritan Hospital, Pizio’s on Dixie Highway south of Southern Boulevard, and an A&W stand at Okeechobee Boulevard and Military Trail.

But a 10-minute oil change place now stands at the southwest corner of Southern Boulevard and Parker Avenue in West Palm Beach. Before that was Bumper’s. It had started 32 years earlier as an A&W Root Beer. It featured the usual unhealthy, but beloved fare: dogs, fries, onion rings, root beer, all brought to your car window by “carhops” who worked the 12 parking spaces. Or you had the option of chowing down, in no hurry, at a shaded open-air table.

Owner Thomas Fink had named it for his first and middle initials and the bumper of a car; the logo was a license plate.

Hot dogs, once five for a dollar, were up to $1.25 each at the end, although Bumper’s cut the price to 69 cents on Tuesdays.

But changing lifestyles — the most prevalent of them being the love of the air conditioner — doomed drive-ins, and while lunch traffic at Bumper’s had been steady, dinnertime business had fallen off. So one regular after another came by for one more meal before the “closed” sign went up for good.

“It was an emotional day,” Thomas Fink recalled last month. “It was an icon in the county.”

T.C. Bumper’s, West Palm Beach’s last drive-in restaurant, was originally an A&W drive-in. This location (above) was on Broadway in Riviera Beach. (Photo courtesy of Thomas Fink)

Manager Ruth Place of T.C. Bumper’s pauses during lunch hour under a sign announcing the last day
for the last drive-in root beer stand. (Palm Beach Post staff file photo)

Employees from the A&W drive-in on Broadway in Riviera Beach, which became T.C. Bumper’s, owned by Thomas Fink, of Palm Beach Gardens, and wife. Fink’s son is on the far right. (Photo courtesy of Thomas Fink)

Thomas Fink, former owner of T.C. Bumpers, West Palm Beach’s last drive-in restaurant, poses with memorabilia from the restaurant, including newspaper clippings, a visor, and photos. (Jennifer Podis/The Palm Beach Post)


Posted in Eliot Kleinberg April 4, 2013 at 9:27 am.

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