Jensen’s Coconut Heads, and the Old-Time Fun Establishments of the Indian River Lagoon

The crowd having fun surrounded by coconut herds at Pichford's Bar, Jensen Beach. Billy Pichford is behind the bar. (Photo shared by Bob Washam/info. from historian Sandra Thurlow)
Crowd having fun surrounded by hanging home made coconut heads at Pitchford’s Bar, Jensen Beach, ca. 1950s. Billy Pitchford is behind the bar. (Photo shared by Bob Washam/info. from historian Sandra Thurlow)
1943 aerial photograph of the Jensen School and today's downtown Jensen with the wooden Jensen Bridge. As shown on page 20 of "Historic Jensen Beach and Eden on Florida's Indian River," by Sandra Thurlow-Henderson, 2004.
1943 aerial photograph: Indian River Drive shoreline along the Indian River Lagoon approaching  today’s Downtown Jensen Beach. Wooden bridge in distance. As shown on page 20 of “Historic Jensen Beach and Eden on Florida’s Indian River,” by Sandra Thurlow-Henderson, 2004.(Jensen School in center.)

Recently, I visited Bob Washam and his wife Cynthia in their home along the Indian River Lagoon in Jensen Beach. Because Bob has recently retired and had a very long career at the Martin County Health Department, I  wanted to interview him about the river and the history of toxic algae blooms. Obviously this is a very serious topic, and I kept trying to ask him questions, but I couldn’t keep my eyes off the coconut head hanging in his kitchen.

“Sorry to go off topic, but what’s the story with the coconut head in the kitchen Bob? It looks authentic. Old. It’s really cool.”

“Oh that’s Connie.” He matter-a-factly replied…

Coconut head belonging to Bob Washam. The head comes from the old Pitchford's Bar that used to be on Indian River Drive in Jensen. (Photo Bob Washam)
“Connie the coconut head” belonging to and photographed by Bob Washam. The now historic coconut head once hung in the old Pitchford’s Bar that used to be on Indian River Drive in Jensen. (Photo Bob Washam)

Bob told me that when he was a young man and went to college at FIT in Jensen in 1975 Pitchford’s Bar was closed, “but the heads were still hanging there.” Eventually he was given one. It’s a special reminder of Jensen’s earlier days…Bob took out some old photos and allowed me to share them with you today.

Jensen establishments, Seymour’s Inn, Pitchford’s Bar, and Poor Bobs were all located right next to each other on Indian River Drive, just north of the Jensen (Frank Wacha) Bridge. Their popularity somewhat overlapped, but over the years they all deteriorated. Nonetheless, these establishments left wonderful memories for thousands of people. Bob Washam also has great memories. He told me a story about “Pineapple Louie,” a Jensen Beach local character from the 70’s.

“One day when I was working at Poor Bob’s, he ran into kitchen, grabbed a big knife and chased another bar patron onto Indian River Drive. That was our big excitement back in those days. That and dancing with…ladies at Seymours after our work shift. ” –Bob Washam

Poor Bobs. (Bob Washam and Sandra Thurlow)
Poor Bobs. (Bob Washam and Sandra Thurlow) ca. 1950s.
Poor Bobs. (Courtesy of Bob Washam)
Poor Bobs. (Courtesy of Bob Washam) ca. 1950s.
The crowd having fun surrounded by coconut herds at Pichford's Bar, Jensen Beach. Billy Pichford is behind the bar. (Photo shared by Bob Washam/info. from historian Sandra Thurlow)
Pitchford’s Bar. (Courtesy of Bob Washam)ca. 1950s.
Seymour's Inn ca 1950s. (Photo courtesy of Bob Washam)
Seymour’s Inn ca. 1950s. (Photo courtesy of Bob Washam. Taken by Art Ruhnke)
Francis Langford, Seymour Giddeon, and an unidentified man at Seymour's Inn, ca 1940s. (Photo archives Sandra Thurlow)
Even famous Francis Langford would come by for a cocktail! Here with Seymour Giddeon, who became a Martin County Commissioner, and an unidentified man who certainly looks like a movie star.  (Photo archives Sandra Thurlow, ca 1940/50s)

My mother writes more historically about Seymour’s Inn in her book “Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River.”

“Jensen’s main attraction was its wonderful fishing. The mile long bridge was not only lined with fishermen on both rails, it was a social gathering place. What was needed was a place to enjoy a cold beer after a day of fishing…

Seymour’s Inn officially opened on December 13th, 1936 in the former filling station building and grew through the years with numerous additions.  Seymour’s became the “fun spot” of Martin County. There was square dancing, round dancing, and mixers seven days a week. Seymour, the owner,  played harmonica, musical groups performed, and there were Sunday afternoon jam sessions and costume parties…

…War came in the 1940s and Seymour’s became a popular place with servicemen stationed in the area in the 1940s during World War II. Following the war, Seymour’s continued to be popular and drew people from miles around…

Today, times have changed, but the spirit of these places along Indian River Drive absolutely lives on….next time you drive by, if you slow down and listen, you may even hear the music and laughter of the age. 🙂

Close-up from "Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida's Indian River Lagoon." Sandra Henderson Thurlow. Page 23. Notice clear water and healthy seagrasses.
Close-up from “Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River Lagoon.” Sandra Henderson Thurlow. Page 23. Notice clear water and healthy seagrasses.
Full page 23 with text. SHT
Full page 23 with text. SHT

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Seymour’s Inn  is-now popular attraction Conchy Joes owned by the famous and generous Fred Ayres;  Pitchford’s Bar much later became Dena’s Restaurant, and now is under new ownership with the funny huge shark with a ladies legs hanging out on the facade; and Poor Bob’s is an empty lot just north of the bridge.

Florida Audubon: Toxic Algae Blooms in the SLR/IRL (http://fl.audubon.org/crisis-indian-river-lagoon-solutions-imperiled-ecosystem)

*All of Sandra Thurlow Henderson’s books on local areas, Stuart, Jensen, Sewall’s Point and the House of Refuge can be purchased at Barnes and Noble on US 1 in Stuart, near Jensen Beach Boulvard.

 

 

 

 

 

18 thoughts on “Jensen’s Coconut Heads, and the Old-Time Fun Establishments of the Indian River Lagoon

  1. Hi.. love your blog. However, I believe Seymour’s Inn became today’s Conchy Joe’s and Poor Bob’s was just north of the Jensen Bridge.

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  2. Very interesting comment!

    Hi Jacqui,
    In case you would like to identify the man who looks like he could be a movie star, in the picture with Francis Langford and Seymour Giddeon in your blog about
    the old fun establishments….It is non other than Jon Hall, her first husband. I know because I was her daughter-in-law when she was married to Ralph Evinrude.
    He was jealous of Jon (what man wouldn’t be?) but her friend Patti Thomas had some pictures she shared with me so I recognized him right away. (see link below)

    Take care, and keep the good blog going. Please put me on your email list and tell your mom I send my best.

    Shirley (Evinrude) Chasen

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  3. Jacqui, cool post and seems like a fun time being around back then. I do remember Poor Bobs in probably late 70s. I think I remember it being all you can eat buffet, with the food being very good. Thanks for sharing this good stuff.

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  4. Thanks for the pictures however one correction about Pitchford’s bar. You give the location as the current restaurant with the shark coming out of it. This however was a small convenience store. Behind the store was an old two story building/hotel my parents would take us to when we came up from Ft. Lauderdale. The bar was a small building to the south of the current restaurant just off the road. Poor Bobs was built between the bar and the causeway road. Hanging on the wall was an old practice aerial bomb we found while exploring the river. My brothers put our names on the “bomb” before it was hung up with the coconut heads. The story is the health department told Pitchford he had to put in a lady’s restroom and he said something like “Hell, any woman I ALLOW to come in my bar had better be willing to use the one room we already have!” They came and put a padlock on the door a bit after that and so it remained. My mother convinced my dad to stay at the “new place” down the road (Langfords). I would often stop by the old bar and look through the cracks at the dust covered bar, our bomb, and all the old coconut heads. We even talked about breaking in to “rescue” our childhood find and maybe a coconut head or two. We never got around to the “rescue” mission but glad to see some of the coconuts were spared the wrecking ball! My father now rests just down the road at All Saints but my mother and her four sons call the area home. Thanks for the look back in time.

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      1. I used too work at pitchfords trailer park. Either in one of the sheds or the main office all those coco heads were still being stored in a giant steel cooking basket.if I had known I would have saved them. I always wondered why Beverly pitchford commented on those dammed creepy heads.

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  5. I moved to a small trailer area about a half-mile north of Poor Bob’s back in 1971 and began visiting this restaurant around that time. Although this was much later in time from the photo’s in the article, I vividly remember Poor Bob’s and how different it was from what it became later on. I spent many a dinner there and it was a great time to be in Jensen Beach. I still reside in the area (Port St Lucie now), but I’ll always remember this small section of the greatest small town in Florida. I’m astounded how clear the water was back in the 40’s and 50’s. I sure wish it looked like that today. Thank you indeed for this wonderful look back in time.

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    1. Forgot to mention how in the early 70’s I remember the Martin County fireworks show used to be held every year just off the Jensen Causeway. I don’t know how they did it but everyone seemed to be able to fit (cars and all) along this small causeway, which looked very different back then from the way it is today. Back then there was a drawbridge and you could pull off the side of the road at any point across the entire span of the causeway and everyone would congregate on the west side of the causeway to watch the annual fireworks show. I was nine years old in 1971 and had just relocated to Jensen Beach from Sarasota. Being a native Floridian, I always loved Jensen Beach and always will. These have been the best years of my life 🙂

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