My father’s parents, Tom and Jane Thurlow, moved to the warm breezes of Stuart, Florida, along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon in 1952. They were coming from the cold winds and snow of Syracuse, New York. My grandfather was no “spring chicken;” he was 46 years old.
My grandparents have passed now, but I remember multiple conversations with them when in my youth when they would take me to “Francis Langford’s Polynesian Outrigger Resort,” today’s Dolphin Bar, on the north edge of Sewall’s Point in Jensen. During these special outings I would always ask the same question:
How was it that you moved to Stuart?
My grandparents would look at each other and smile, and then my grandfather would talk about how he refused to shovel anymore show, and how one day after great thought, he put aside his law practice, hooked the “Lightning” sail boat to the back of the station wagon; put my grandmother and the two young kids in the car…Oh yes, along with the dog, “Tanya,” a great dane; a mother cat with two kittens in box; and “Mary B,” my great grandmother, and drove down to Stuart, an area they had raced sailboats before….their beloved hobby.
About this time my grandmother would chime in that once while in Jensen, they went to “Francis Langford’s Outrigger Resort,” which reminded them of where they had been married, Bermuda, and John Hall, who played “Tarzan,” and Francis Langford, who had sung to the troops in World War II, and was a famous movie star of their era, owned the restaurant back then….. My aging, beautiful, grandmother, with a smile on her face, then told the story of Francis Langford and John Hall’s pink Cadillac, and how one night after a few cocktails, the couple drove them around the few roads of Jensen and Stuart in the 1950s. What fun! According to my grandmother, after the “ride” in the pink Cadillac, they “were hooked,” and moved to Stuart soon after in 1952.
After my grandparents passed away, the legend of Francis Langford and the remnants of her Polynesian Outrigger Resort, took on an even greater romanticism in my mind. For me, the essence of this era and my grandparents were symbolized in the Francis Langford’s remaining peacocks I would often see prancing around Jensen—- all of which are descendents of a pair which she brought to Jensen in the 1940s.
You may remember, that in 2001, some people in Rio/Jensen complained about her 100 or so peacocks that roamed freely on her 60 acres and often jumped, flew or walked to neighboring Sewall’s Point. Often, 707 would be backed up as drivers stopped to allow the menagerie to slowly pass…
The famous actress and philanthropist is quoted as saying in a 2001 Stuart News article:
“You just can’t keep them caged up. They are all around and I love them. They are part of my family….”
I used to see the peacocks all the time, but rarely today. In fact, I used to see them right in here in Sewall’s Point, for years, until the US mailman accidentally ran over the male in the Archipelago and the remaining females and chicks were eaten by bobcats. The peahens even laid eggs in my yard one year.
I wish they would come back….even though they are an invasive bird, they hold a special meaning for me.
So if you would, if you are passing along 707 in Rio and see the striking indigo blue of some local peafowl or some trailing yellow chicks, please stop, and let them cross the road. And when you have to wait, think about a bygone era of the Indian River Lagoon that included pink Cadillacs, Francis Langford, peacocks, and “Tarzan” as your chauffeur.
Florida Times Union: (http://jacksonville.com/tu-online/apnews/stories/060801/D7CGI3M81.html)