Tag Archives: Bob Washam

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Do the ACOE and SFWMD Release Toxic Lake O Water Into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon?

Paint colored shocking green algae at the gate entering Lake Okeechobee,     2009. (Photo from video by Jacqui thurlow-Lippisch)
Paint colored shocking green algae at the gate entering Lake Okeechobee, 2009. (Photo from video by Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch.)

I am well aware that the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon have location specific e. coli bacteria problems, as well as “overall water quality problems,” due to our local canals. This summer has been a great example of such with our SLR/IRL waters colored putrid brown all the way to the St Lucie Inlet just from releases from C-44, C-23, and C-24 canal basin runoff releases.

This is why it is beyond my comprehension, that with such terrible local water issues, our state and federal agencies can legally and in good conscious, “if necessary,” on behalf of flood control, release more nutrient, sediment filled waters into our SLR/IRL through Lake Okeechobee when they know that those waters often contain Microcystis Aeruginoas, a cyanobacteria that can produce health threatening toxins through its blue-green algae blooms.(http://www.doh.wa.gov/CommunityandEnvironment/Contaminants/BlueGreenAlgae.aspx)

Various SLR 2013 photos of cynanobacteria. Bob Voisenet, Mary Radabaugh, Jenny Flaugh, Douglas Ashley.)
Various 2013 SLR photos of  microcystis aeruginoas, cynanobacteria. (Bob Voisenet, Mary Radabaugh, Jenny Flaugh, Douglas Ashley, Gary Hendry.)

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In 2013, the Martin County Health Department, through spokesperson, Bob Washam, urged residents to avoid contact with the algae in the entire estuary from the St Lucie Canal to the St Lucie Inlet. Luckily with our local, “yuk” releases, we have not had that situation occur yet in 2014.

I have had two personal experiences witnessing these blue-green blooms. The first was during a boat ride into Lake Okeechobee, September 5, 2009, and the second was last year (2013)  with the Everglades Foundation team, at the St Lucie Locks and Dam when the ACOE was releasing. As we walked over the gates,  I clearly saw bright blue-green algae on the side of the dam allowing in Lake O water. Believe it or not, the SRWMD was testing the water right there… Mark Perry from Florida Oceanographic was with me and I ask him:

“Mark, is that “toxic” blue-green algae?”

Mark replied:

“Yes, blue-green algae can be toxic is most prevalent in fresh water systems. It is often in the lake.”

“And they are releasing it into our river?!”

I stood there in a daze….amazed.

Then I recalled the boat trip I had taken with my husband and dogs in 2009,  and how we had seen the blue-green algae clearly along the edges of the locks while going into the lake and I had videotaped it.  I am including some photos I took of that video below.

photo 5 photo 2 photo 3 photo 4

boat ride

When Senator Rubio visited  Stuart on behalf of the SLR/IRL, I told this story….I have told it many times at many official meetings to no avail. I think it a significant issue. Anyway…

So far this year, with the releases from our local canals, toxic algae, or Cyanobacteria, has not been reported in the SLR/IRL. It could be in the future, but it is less likely than when the ACOE is releasing from the lake. Why? Because often when they release from the lake it is TREMENDOUS amounts of freshwater, even more than comes from our local canals. Plus the blue-green algae is already in the lake as its fresh.

According to Bob Washam, blue-green algae was first reported around 1995 and it was blue! They thought it was a paint spill. The outbreaks have been more common since this time the worst being in 1998. Whether blue or green in color, it is bright. Very bright. You can see it.

How could our government, in essence, “poison its own people,” and how can we allow this, especially when we can see it?

We must push our government for change. Health, safety and welfare is something we rightfully deserve. Send the water south. 

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Army Corp of Engineers (http://www.usace.army.mil)
South Florid aWater Management District (http://www.bing.com/search?q=south+florida+water+management+district&form=APMCS1)