Tag Archives: memories

The Stuart Middle School Pond That “Was Made to Disappear…” SLR/IRL

Left, 1947 photo of Stuart High School that today is the location of the Martin County School Board Administrative Buildings. Right, “The Log Cabin,” that is now located at Langford Park in Jensen Beach/Rio. Today’s Stuart Middle School along East Ocean Blvd. is located exactly where this pond used to be. Photo shared by historian Alice Luckhardt from Clyde Counant, Thurlow/Collection.
Google Earth (from opposite direction) shows 2017 image of today’s Stuart Middle School (large roof in middle of photo, marked as #102 East Ocean, Stuart) at corner of Georgia Ave and East Ocean Blvd.  The school is built IN the area where large pond once was located that you see in the 1947 black and white photo above . Notice the small depression to the right of the building. That is what is left of the pond.

This week, with a short reprieve from politics, I have been sharing historic photos and videos of the once wetlands and ponds of East Ocean Boulevard. Land use changes interest me as land use is of course directly connected to the water quality and health of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

After reading yesterday’s blog, historian and family friend Alice Luckhardt, shared the remarkable 1947 photo above. I wanted to make sure everyone saw it as well! Look at the size of that pond that once was at Stuart Middle School! I remember it; do you? Now it’s gone.

The question posed to Alice in a conversation thread on Facebook was “why was the school board allowed to drain and build over the pond?”

It appears “the powers that be” had been eyeing the land under the pond for some time…

Alice has included two old news articles, featured below, explaining how students, two different times, did save the pond from destruction in both 1964 and 1971, but no one spoke up during the real estate boom era of the 2000s when the “new Stuart Middle School” was built. Why didn’t the adults save it?

Now I must state that I love Stuart Middle School as I attended there as a student and taught there as a teacher, but this disappearing pond act is incredible and should be noted. At the time I saw it happening, I did write a personal note of concern and disbelief to the current principal who did not write me back. Now that I am a “politico” person, I understand the principal does not make these decisions.

Many locals who grew up here still have memories of the pond. My Dad does as he went to hight school here in the 50s. Generational Stuart resident Boo Lowery  says:”Jay Davey and I fished in that pond a lot 1949-53, we caught a lot of bream.. there were two  islands then, –they later connected them to shore; I guess to make mowing easier.”

Yes, the goal is always to make it “easier,” for we humans, unfortunately over time this adds to the desolation of our St Lucie River…Easier is not the answer.

Well enjoy Alice’s articles below! Thanks, everyone; see you at the fishin’ pond.

Jacqui

P.S. Go Jaguars!

 

Center JTL 6ht grade at SMS. Nice hair doo.
Full page SMS 1975-76, recognize anyone? 🙂

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Photo Stuart, Florida, in 1947. Source: Clyde Coutant Photography, Thurlow/Collection. An aerial with Stuart High School on left and the pond and Log Cabin on right.

By Alice Luckhardt
Alice can be reached and her Historical Vignettes are available at: http://www.stuartheritagemuseum.com

JULY 16, 1964, THE STUART NEWS, SCHOOL POND IS TO BE ‘SAVED’ BY CONSERVATIONIST GROUPS
The pond at Stuart Junior High School will not be filled. Instead, its water level will be restored, its banks will be graded to stop erosion and it will again be the habitat of water lilies and fresh water fish. Martin County School Board Monday night approved a plan advanced by six local conservation groups: Garden Club of Stuart, Izaak Walton League, St. Lucie-Indian Rivers Restoration League, the Historical Society, Junior Conservation Club and U. S. Soil Conservation Service. Charles Kindred, president of the Isaak Walton League, detailed the plan, which involves grading of the banks with county equipment, stabilizing them with Bahia grass and other plantings, installation of a well and one and a quarter-inch pump, operated by the city, to maintain the water level at three or four feet during drought periods and the planting of bream and bass.

JAN 10, 1971, THE STUART NEWS JUNIOR HIGH POND IS DUG OUT

The pond on the campus of the Stuart Seventh and Eighth School is in the final stages of renovation. Assistant Superintendent of Schools Jack Smouse said that the pond is somewhat of a landmark in the community and that it has been here “as long as I can remember.” School officials have intended to update the pond for some time, Smouse said and with the cooperation of the city and the county the work has been done. The county donated a dragline and the city provided fill for the project. The pond was originally designed with two separate islands in the center. Smouse said the design made maintenance difficult. Transporting mowers and other equipment from one island to the other was virtually impossible without a boat. With the fill which the city provided, the two islands have been connected. Smouse said the pond was originally dug to provide fill for other areas and that the spoil taken from the recent work will be used on the campus. Moves to fill in the pond in the past were blocked by local conservationists, Smouse said. They felt that if the pond is eliminated the city will lose one of its areas of beauty. The digging is now completed and the next step is to clear the area of cattails and other debris. When this work is complete the area will be planted and stocked with fish. Smouse said it will provide a fresh water pond for the area and will be used primarily as a “classroom” by the science department at the school. The pond is filled by surface water from the campus. In the past, storm sewer drainage went into the pond, but with the present drainage system this is impossible, Smouse explained. With the present low water table the surface water will be the only method of fill in the pond. Smouse said that eventually the school hopes to erect a flagpole at either end of the island with a school sign.

2000s: “quiet as a mouse”….pave it over!

Stuart Middle School along East Ocean Blvd. 2017. Photo courtesy of website.
The remaining pond at Stuart Middle School. Photo courtesy of website.

Stuart Middle School:http://sms.martinschools.org/pages/Stuart_Middle_School

“Holding on to the Old Ways,” Pitchford Camp~Still Alive Today, SLR/IRL

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Boo Lowery

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Courtesy of “Historic Jensen and Eden of Florida’s Indian River,” Sandra Henderson Thurlow

When I was kid growing up in Stuart, I remember seeing a lot of cottages. I loved these structures ~so simple, efficient, and adorable too. I remember cottages at Frances Langford’s Outrigger Resort just north of Sewall’s Point;  I remember cottages in Rio along Dixie Highway; and I recall the cottages along Indian River Drive in Jensen at the old Pitchford Camp. Somehow the more run down they were, the cooler they appeared. A reminder of days long past before Martin County developed and we were all brainwashed of the need to build bigger houses and complicate our lives.

Today, when one hears the name “Pitchford,” one may envision a Martin County Commission embroiled in a decade of controversy, but this wasn’t always the case. In fact in the early 1900s the name “Pitchford” was a family name that defined “good times” of fishing, dancing, and playing shuffle board along the beautiful and healthy Indian River Lagoon.

Recently, I was invited by long time friend of my parents, Boo Lowery, to see his modern-day, old-fashioned, fish camp.  Boo, himself, an “old-timer” is related to many of the early families of the Stuart area. Boo’s career as a respected contractor working closely with famed architect, Peter Jefferson, allowed him to become an expert in building, moving, and renovating homes.

In the 1980s when the cottages at Pitchford Camp were going to be demolished, Boo, who along with his wife Soo is a “lover of all things vintage” stepped in and saved five of the Pitchford Camp cottages. Over time, the little structures have been moved alongside land where a “borrow pit” (dug to build part of I-95) was located. This hole in the ground, today, is a serene pond in the middle of a pine forest, and a living museum housing the Pitchford cottages and of a way of life along our waterways that no longer exists.

It was so much fun going to Boo and Soo’s and today I am sharing some of my photos. While eating hush puppies and alligator, I told my husband, Ed,  “I could live in one these cottages.” That I wanted to live in one of these cottages! He looked at me like I was out of my mind… Perhaps, he thinks I’m too soft and spoiled by “progress.” Maybe I’m dreaming, but I think I’d love it. I think I’d be as “happy as a clam…”

In any case, enjoy the photos of this very special place and thank you Boo and Soo for holding on to the old ways and for keeping  our Indian River Lagoon history alive.

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“Robert McClinton, “Doc, ” Pitchford was the only remaining Pitchford brother after Herbert’s death in 1988. When Doc died in December 2001, it was the end of an era. Doc tried to hold on to the old ways and was quite successful. The Pitchford holdings were like a time capsule surrounded by computer-age progress. Although most of the original Pitchford Camp cabins were demolished….”

Boo saved a few!

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(Excerpt and photo below from my mother, Sandra Henderson Thurlow’s book “Historic Eden and Jensen on Florida’s Indian River.”

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Pitchford Camp, Jensen ca. 1930s

 

Hutchinson Island’s Indian River Plantation, the Shifting Sands of Time, SLR/IRL

Hutchinson Island 1957
The barrier island of Hutchinson Island, 1957. Atlantic Ocean on left. Indian River Lagoon on right. Photo courtesy of Thurlow Archives.

The sands of time….shifting, reforming,  just like my childhood memories. 1977–Seventh grade—I remember riding my bike with my best friend, Vicki, out to Hutchinson Island. No  traffic. Along the way we would take our hands off the handle bars holding them over our heads, laughing and shouting “look mom!”

A veritable paradise and giant playground we left our bikes at Stuart Beach not locking them and jumped into the ocean.

This photo was taken in 1957, twenty years before Vicki and my bike ride, but it was still relatively undeveloped at that time. If my memory serves me correctly Indian River Plantation’s first condo, The Pelican, went up in 1976 and later in the 1980s the establishment filled out to its final glory. Later sold to the Marriott these lands, though altered, remain a beautiful part of Martin County with public beaches for all to enjoy.

I got ahold of this photo from my mother asking her what kind of vegetation pre-development was on the island. This was her reply:

“This aerial was taken on October 16, 1957. The causeway was under construction as were improvements to Stuart Beach. It is hard to tell what kind of trees are there. They were probably a variety of things, oak, salt bush, cabbage palms, palmetto and Australian pine. The later were growing at the House of Refuge at this time so they were no doubt popping up everywhere. It was “disturbed land” since patches of it had been cleared for farming. Mangrove would be growing along the water but I doubt they had reached inland yet. You can see the new piles of sand indicating mosquito ditches had recently been dug. Notice the little Beach Road.” Historian,  Sandra Henderson Thurlow

Thinking a bit more about this area I asked my brother, Todd Thurlow, if this area formed “the fan” because it was once an inlet, such as the Gap, he talks about so much. He sent me this:

“The steady forces of long shore drift have operated over the eons to produce not just the current BI and previous BIs such as the ACR on the mainland, but even the peninsula of Florida itself (Schmidt 1997). The strong linearity of the east central and southeast Florida coastline, its low fractal dimensionality (Rial n.d.), indicates the steadiness and consistent directionality of these forces. Chaotic events like storms, on the other hand, produce drastic BI and lagoonal modifications via overwash and tidal inlet cuts, and leave chaotic, or irregular (“squiggly”) backbarrier shorelines, the former producing overwash fans, and the latter producing flood tidal deltas (Figure 3-6).

Figure 4-19. Cartographic signatures of geomorphic stability and instability. Map to left is most north, right map is most south”

Alan Brech, NEITHER OCEAN NOR CONTINENT: CORRELATING THE ARCHAEOLOGY AND GEOMORPHOLOGY OF THE BARRIER ISLANDS OF EAST CENTRAL FLORIDA, 2004.
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Translation: Breaks occurring during storms create overwash fans. (e.g. IRP and Sailfish Point). Tidal inlets produce flood tidal deltas, somewhat like the old Gilberts Bar. BI = Barrier Island; ACR = Atlantic Coastal Ridge. —-Todd Thurlow, “Time Capsule Flights:”(https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDaNwdmfhj15bmGNQaGhog9QpkQPAXl06)
The shifting sands of time… So many wonderful memories, and so many more to make as times and sands continue to change.

IRP Marriott today, Google Maps.
IRP Marriott today, Google Maps 2015.
Wide view, red dot is IRP Marriott.
Wide view, red dot is IRP Marriott 2015. Sewall’s Point east.

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The IRP Marriott today/photos:(http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/pbiir-hutchinson-island-marriott-beach-resort-and-marina/)

The Search for Blue Sea Glass, SLR/IRL

Blue Sea Glass, (Photo
Blue sea glass. (Photo via “West Coast Sea Glass.”)

One of my favorite childhood memories is searching for sea glass along our beaches, on the other side of the Indian River Lagoon…

My parents’ friends, the Nelsons, were one of the first to build “out there,” on Hutchinson Island; I would often spend the night with their daughter Lynda.  Lynda and I would wake up in the morning before dawn, climb the stairs to the roof, and wait for the sun to rise. Like yellow gold, it would emerge over the ocean, and we would begin our treasure hunt for sea glass.

In those days, in the late 1960s and 1970s, our Martin County beaches were not “renoursished,” and if you picked the sand up in the palm of your hand,  it was beautiful and consisted of thousands of little crushed shells of every imaginable color….often a piece of sea glass would be there too.

Lynda and I had baskets her mother had given us, and on any given weekend we could fill a small basket full with glass. The most common color was brown, then green, then clear, and the rarest of all was blue! Blue was the prize. Blue was goal…Lynda always won!

Sea glass comes in many colors....
Sea glass comes in many colors. (Photo via “Odyssey Sea Glass.”)
Sea Glass Color Chart
Sea glass rarity color chart. (Image via “Find Sea Glass.”)
Along the beach, 1968. Lynda Nelson, Cindi Luce, and me. (Family archives)
Along the beach, Jupiter Island, 1968. Lynda Nelson, Cyndi Luce, and me. (Thurlow family archives, via Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)

It is harder to find sea glass today. And this is a very good thing…

Prior to the 1970s, and many places until the 1990s, trash was dumped from barges off the shores the United States. It was not until the 1972 passage of the “Marine Protection Research and Sanctuaries Act” that laws, regulations, and public awareness stopped this practice.

The plethora of glass along  Atlantic beaches came from the bottles dumped with the trash. After years of being tumbled in the sea, once sharp pieces emerged rounded and frosted by nature….just beautiful!

What do they say? “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure?” Thankfully in this case, there is less “treasure” to find.

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Links:

The History of Waste Disposal in the US and Ok. (http://www.deq.state.ok.us/lpdnew/wastehistory/wastehistory.htm)

Ocean Dumping History: (http://marinebio.org/oceans/ocean-dumping/)

NOAA  Ocean Dumping: http://www.gc.noaa.gov/gcil_mp_ocean_dumping.html

EPA Ocean Dumping and International and National Laws to Stop Practice of: (http://water.epa.gov/type/oceb/mprsa_before.cfm)

Sea Glass Sites: (http://www.findseaglass.net/sea-glass-colors-what-are-the-odds-of-finding-them/)(http://www.odysseyseaglass.com/north-beach-sea-glass.html) (https://westcoastseaglass.com/glass_color/cobalt-blue)

The Secret Lagoon, the Founders of Florida Audubon, and the Town of Sewall’s Point, SLR/IRL

A Lagoon on the Mt Pisgah Property, ca ca. 1950 (Photo Aurthur Ruhnke via Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)
A Lagoon on the Mt Pisgah Property, ca. 1950.  (Photo Aurthur Ruhnke via Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)

When I was a young person growing up in Sewall’s Point, things were unlike today. Very few people lived here and some of the old estates sat empty for us kids to explore with out the Sewall’s Point cops arresting us for trespassing.

In the late 1970s and early 80s,  I often rode my bike to what I called “Paradise Found,” or the “Secret Lagoon” which I later learned was part of the north Sewall’s Point Mt. Pisgah estate, last owned at that time, by Mr Louis Dommerich and his wife Margaret. This large parcel was later developed as “Plantation.” It is the northern most subdivision in Sewall’s Point. It is a lush amazing piece with all sorts of palms planted by the Dommerichs and many lagoons attached to the rising and falling tides of the St Lucie River.

After school, I would ride my bike up the long, winding driveway as fast as I could so my skinny 10-speed Schwinn wheels would not sink in the shell-like sand. Upon getting to the top of the hill, lay a veritable jungle, as beautiful a thing as one has ever seen. There were egrets and herons and jumping fish. I could think here; I could wander in the most gorgeous nature ever seen; I could be away from my “nagging” parents whom I now know were just trying to raise a disciplined and productive child.

An empty house sat like a lone sentinel amongst the vines and sweeping palm trees. I never approached the house as it seemed to hold too many memories, but I made the lagoons my second home.

Margaret and Louis Dommerich's Sewall's Point home. (Aurthur Ruhnke via Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)
Margaret and Louis Dommerich’s Sewall’s Point home. (Aurthur Ruhnke via Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)
Shore birds--Florida Audubon photo.
Shore birds–Florida Audubon photo.

In my mind of memories, this area is a sacred place and I feel so lucky that I was able to wander its magical shores. I somehow feel the spirit of the place helped form the person I am today.

A lot has changed since those day, but I still recall it all with great fondness…

Very recently my mother contacted me saying she had a hunch, and had it for quite some time. Her hunch was that the Dommerichs of Sewall’s Point may be related to Louis F. Dommerich and Clara J. Dommerich who founded Florida Audubon.

Wow that would be cool! Why wouldn’t we know this?!

It is well-known and written about recently in “Conservation in Florida, A History of Heroes,” by Gary L. White, that the Dommerichs of the United States became wealthy socialites, and used it for “good cause.”

“On March 1, 1900, in their Maitland, Florida home, near Orlando, they organized with friends the first Florida Audubon meeting.  In time, Florida Audubon changed the world, and the fate of shore birds in Florida. Until the Florida Audubon campaign these birds were being recklessly slaughtered in late 1800s for their beautiful feathers.  Their chirping, starving,  chicks were left to rot in the sun. Thousands, and thousands, and thousands of birds were shot—entire rookeries decimated—all to adorn ladies hats….

Within a decade, through advocacy and education, Florida Audubon had turned this slaughter around. Today we protect birds, and ten percent of what once graced the skies is remaining…

What a legacy….saved by a shoe-string.

So back to our detective work. The couple that owned the Mt Pisgah property were Margaret and Louis Dommerich, Louis died in 1982. The older Louis F. must have died in the early 1900s. Could Louis be related to Louis?

I knew just who to contact to find out, my mom’s friend historian Alice Luckhardt who specializes in genealogy. I wrote her and she wrote back in one day. Mom’s hunch was right!
From: “Alice L. Luckhardt”
Subject: Dommerich Family
Date: August 1, 2015 at 4:31:49 PM EDT
To: Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch <jthurlowlippisch@comcast.net>

Hi Jacqui –

As you and your Mom know finding information on families is my special area of research.

I have attached a MS Word document I did up of what I found and attached a photo of Louis Ferdinand Dommerich (1841-1912) – the one with his second wife, Clara who started the Florida Audubon Society – bring together many of the local branches across the state.
In the Blake Library on microfilm are the obits (Stuart news issue dates) for Louis and his wife Margaret, who lived in Sewall’s Point, who both died in 1982.

Alice

Louis Ferdinand Dommerich (1841-1912) photo provided by historian Alice Luckhardt.
Louis Ferdinand Dommerich (1841-1912) photo provided by historian Alice Luckhardt.

DOMMERICH, LOUIS F. November 14, 1982 Pg A8
OB
DOMMERICH, LOUIS FERDINAND November 15, 1982 Pg A5
DA
DOMMERICH, MARGARET WHITEHEAD October 29, 1982 Pg A8
OB

Louis Ferdinand Dommerich born Feb. 2, 1841 in Germany, died July 22, 1912 in NYC

Louis F. Dommerich was born on February 2, 1841 in Cassel Germany. His father was a college professor. In 1858-1859, Dommerich came over to the United States where he worked for as an apprentice in a German factory, Noell & Oelbermann, which served as a direct agent for a foreign manufacturing. He was employed there for ten years before becoming a partner in the renamed E. Oelbermann & Co. In 1889 the company was renamed once again to Oelbermann, Dommerich and Co. His company specialized in dry goods exchange and bank dealing in textile commerce, and became so successful that it had manufacturing companies all across the United States and Europe.

In 1885 Dommerich visited Florida for the first time, and two years later he visited Winter Park and stayed in the Seminole Hotel. In 1891 Dommerich bought 400 Acres of land in Maitland, Orange Co., Florida. His holdings included the orange groves on Lake Minnehaha. It was there that he built his first home in Maitland and called it “Hiawatha Grove” to serve as his winter residence. He kept also a home in NYC. The house constructed was a 30 room-mansion surrounded by 130 acres of landscaped grounds and 72 acres of citrus trees. The mansion was an impressive three-story frame house containing multiple turrets and gables. His wife, Clara J. Dommerich (his second wife, married in Oct. 1884) established the Maitland Public Library in 1896 — started with 360 books and Louis Dommerich was its major contributor. In 1907 he donated $3,000 in memory of his late wife, who died in 1900. From 1897 to 1904, Dommerich served on the Rollins College Board of Trustees. He and his wife founded the Florida Audubon Society in mid-1900 in the their home because of the all the bird feathers being used in fashion hats and served as president from 1901 to 1911. Supporters of the Florida Audubon Society in 1900 were President Theodore Roosevelt, railroad baron Henry M. Flagler, Gov. William Jennings, the presidents of Rollins and Stetson colleges and the editors of leading newspapers in the state. In 1903 Dommerich donated $5,000 towards Rollins College’s first endowment. In 1907 Dommerich donated $500 to help secure Carnegie Library and in 1910 he donated $1,000 to help secure a science building. Back on the Board in 1909, he remained a trustee until his death in 1912.

Louis Ferdinand Dommerich died at the age of 72 on July 22, 1912. His son Alexander Louis Dommerich served on the Board of Trustees as his other son Otto Louis Dommerich helped Hamilton Holt finance the College in 1927. By the time Louis Ferdinand Dommerich died, his company had become one of the most prominent commercial banking houses in the world. Hiawatha Grove stood until 1954, when the property was sold for $420,000, the house was torn down to make way for homes in the area.

 Louis Ferdinard Dommerich and first wife Julie Louise Dommerich (1843-1882) – one of their sons was Otto Louis Dommerich (1871-1938). A son of Otto was Louis Ferdinard Dommerich, born May 4,1906 in NYC, married to Margaret, their had a home first in NYC and later in Deer Park Meadow in Conn. and on Sewall’s Point.

Louis F. Dommerich, born 1906 died in Martin County on Nov. 11, 1982. His wife Margaret died in 1982. This Louis was the grandson of Louis F. Dommerich who with his second wife, Clara started the Florida Audubon Society.

Their son was Louis Alexander Dommerich, born 1929 and died 2004.

Well thank you Alice and thank you mom! And thank you that I was born in a time when I got to experience “Paradise Found”, because so much of paradise has been lost.

The Google Map photo shows the lagoons today just along the curve of North Sewall's Point. If you look closely, you will see them.
The Google Map photo shows the lagoons today just along the curve of North Sewall’s Point. If you look closely, you will see them.
Photo of Mt Pisgah area in 1957 featuring the Langford Estate. the Dommerich's property can be seen in the upper right corner where the vegetation has not been cleared for orange groves. (Photo from
Photo of Mt Pisgah area in 1957 featuring the Langford Estate. the Dommerich’s property can be seen in the upper right corner where the vegetation has not been cleared for orange groves. (Photo from “Sewall’s Point a History of a Peninsular Community of Florida’s Treasure Coast” written by Sandra Henderson Thurlow.)
Geodetic marker at Mt Pisgah. This ancient sandbar rises 57 feet above today's sea level. IT is the highest point in Sewall's Point. (Photo Sandra H. Thurlow.)
Geodetic marker at Mt Pisgah. This ancient sandbar rises 57 feet above today’s sea level. IT is the highest point in Sewall’s Point. (Photo Sandra H. Thurlow.)
Today the lagoon and palm still remain. A 7 acres estate is now owned by friends Jack and C.J. Heckenberg. There home and surrounding acreage is perhaps the most beautiful in the Town of Sewall's Point.
Today the lagoon and palm still remain. A 7 acres estate is now owned by friends Jack and Ceejay Heckenberg. Their home and surrounding acreage is perhaps the most beautiful in the Town of Sewall’s Point.

Thank you my mother’s (Sandra H. Thurlow) chapter on Mt Pisgah in her book Sewall’s Point, a History of a Peninsular Community on Florida’s Treasure Coast,” form which content and photos come.

History Florida Audubon: (http://fl.audubon.org/timeline-0)
Florida Audubon: (http://fl.audubon.org)
Audubon Martin County: (http://www.audubonmartincounty.org)

51 Years of Marvelous Memories Along the Indian River Lagoon

Sunset North River Shores, 6-27-15
Sunset, North River Shores, 6-27-15

In the opening chapter of Nathaniel Osborn’s soon to be published thesis, “Oranges and Inlets: An Environmental History of Florida’s Indian River Lagoon,” he quotes Herman Herold in 1884: “It is a wonderful river…immensely deep and very fine sweet water; the beauties of nature are here very manifest , in fact it is a wonderland…”

Eighth birthday party at Sandsprit Park, with S to R Brenda Bobinski, Barbie Bobinski, Linda Nelson and Dale "Chip" Hudson.
Eighth birthday party at Sandsprit Park, with L to R Brenda Bobinski, Amy Harmon, Barbie Bobinski, Linda Nelson and Dale “Chip” Hudson. (Photo Sandra Thurlow 1972)

In 1964, Stuart News editor, and iconic award-winning environmentalist, Ernest Lyons, wrote something similar, in his piece “Life is a Changing River.” 

“And what a marvelous river it was, with the pelicans diving into the mullet schools, bald eagles screaming as they robbed ospreys of their prey, a river teeming with interesting things to see and do, and such good things to eat…Pompano jumped into the boats. Tasty oysters were abundant–‘squirt clams put hair on your chest.’ How sad it is to see it change. But life, too, is a changing river. I suppose the river today is just as wonderful to those who are as young as I was in 1914.”

Lyons was born in 1905.

I was born in 1964.

The river, as life, is always changing and even though we are fighting for the river’s life and it is not well, it still provides wonder to all.

After graduating from University of Florida in 1986, I wanted to get as far away from “boring” Stuart as I could so I lived and worked in California, Germany, and Pensacola.  Nonetheless, I always considered the Indian River Lagoon Region “home,” and after growing-up and realizing Stuart was actually paradise, it was “to its shores” in 1997 that I returned. But it was not the same. Stuart had grown up too. Things change.

Today is my birthday. I am fifty-one!

It is interesting to be 51, only because when I was a kid, I thought someone who was 50 was “really old…” I had no idea that although “weathered,” and “dried-out, “by the storms and rainbows of life, being old is really quite fun and can actually be an advantage.

First of all, no one is telling you what to do, as much as when you were a kid;  and second of all, for me anyway, there is a much deeper appreciation of this life. This gift. This wonderland…

First Fish, Jacqui, IRL. (Photo Sandra Thurlow, ca .1968)
First Fish, a blowfish, Jacqui, IRL. (Photo Sandra Thurlow, ca .1968)

A quick run though of my early memories of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and why its memories are powerful for me, would include:

….every day at sunset, climbing the gigantic tree in my parent’s yard so I could see the river and the ocean and the sky; sneaking on my bike to the “black-road, “Riverside Drive,” in Stuart, so we kids could play in a fallen Australian Pine, pretending it was a ship and we were pirates; fishing under the bridges and then later making a pact with God that I would never do so again after the blow fish grunted so much I thought it was talking;  after school, visiting the shoreline of the river, never thinking of who owned the property because it was all wild, to find hermit crabs and horseshoe crabs and any number of small and amazing creatures; seining with my classmates at the Environmental Studies Center; long summer days with my best friends in high school, learning to slalom; spending the night on the spoil islands and talking until sunrise under a gigantic shining moon;  traveling from the river through the inlet into the dark blue ocean while accompanying my father fishing for sailfish, straddling front bars of the boat, to see an enormous  manta-ray jump so close that I could see its eye….

Manta Ray public photo
Jumping manta ray public photo

Today my Indian River Lagoon adventures are less so, but still remain wondrous. This past weekend Ed and I went out in the boat at sunset with my brothers’ family and my nieces. We took silhouette photos against the sky…One day my nieces will be old too.

For the young, for the old, for the future…

“What a marvelous river it is…..”

Sunset photo over the St Lucie River 6-27-15. (Photo Ed Lippisch)
Sunset photo over the St Lucie River 6-27-15. (Photo Ed Lippisch)

 

 

 

 

A Simpler Time and Place? Hutchinson Island, SLR/Indian River Lagoon

1949 aerial photo of the Peter Klive house on Hutchison Island. Near this area became "Bathtub Tub Beach" and the exclusive development of Sailfish Point. (Photo Thurlow Archives/Ruhnke Collection.)
1949 aerial photo. Atlantic on left, Indian River Lagoon on right. Photo shows the “Peter Clive House” on Hutchison Island. Just south of this area became “Bathtub Reef Beach” through the Save Our Beaches Campaign of MC. The land furthest south became the exclusive development of Sailfish Point. (Photo Thurlow Archives/Ruhnke Collection.)

I always enjoy looking at old photographs, and fortunately my mother and father have acquired hundreds through their history work. Many of them spawn memories of what for me was a “simpler time and place” in Martin County history—as I was a child.

My mother probably took me to the “Bathtub Beach,” with family and friends, for the  very first time, when I was an infant, but in my first memories of the place I was probably four or five years old.

Somewhere down from Bathtub Beach ca 1969- Lynda Nelson, Cindy Luce, and me. (Photo Thurlow Family Album)
Somewhere down from Bathtub Beach ca 1969- Lynda Nelson, Cindy Luce, and me. (Photo Thurlow Family Album)

I can remember my mother parking along the road and all of us walking– carrying all of our towels, buckets, and nets to catch tropical fish in the reef (to be returned) and my looking down and seeing bright, yellow beach-sunflowers— the sand was SO hot, you wouldn’t believe it, and there were stickers. Hundreds of stickers that stuck in your feet and you had to stop and pull them out as the sun beat down on you like a flashlight.

I remember, it became a game with me to see if I could walk in the burning sand from the road, along the path, to the beach without any shoes. I remember jumping in the cool water and swimming  to the reef and sticking my homemade net into a hole to catch a little fish and a moray eel came right out and put its scary face up to my mask!

I remember the simplicity of these times, and the beauty of this place that is no longer wild like it was then, but is still equally remarkable.

This photo is labeled as "bathtub washout" no year but from the same era as above photo  ca 1950. (Thurlow Archives)
This photo is labeled as “bathtub washout” no year but from the same era as above photo ca 1950. (Thurlow Archives)

The photo above shows Seminole Shores, that became “Sailfish Point” and a formalized  county beach–“Bathtub Reef Beach.” Even at the time of this photograph there were “issues:” the photo is labeled “Washout.”  As we all know, today, this area is still eroding away and the county must spend substantial amounts of monies  in partnerships with the state of Florida to “re-nourish” this area. See chart below for all Martin County, provided for me by Martin County.

Beach Re-nourishment Costs.
Beach Re-nourishment Costs Ten Year History, 2015.

When I really think about it, every era of history has its difficulties. It is never simple.

The aerial photos I am sharing today were taken not long after the atrocities of World War II. I was born in the social and political unrest of the 1960s…Today has its own set of problems whether it be the possibility of terrorists training in Treasure Coast airports; our eroding beaches; the “tipping point” that has occurred with releases from Lake Okeechobee and the area canals into our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon; our struggles with the US Sugar option land purchase; or the next population explosion that our state is counting on….

Nonetheless, it is rather amusing to me, that after all these years, some things remain the same: it is still beautiful here;  I still love the fish; and somehow sometimes I still feel like I am running on the hot sands to see how long I can stand it, having to stop to pull out those irritating stickers; and every once in a while, I stick my net into a hole, and out pops a moray eel…. 🙂

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Martin County Beaches: (http://www.martin.fl.us/portal/page?_pageid=354%2C1238847&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL)

TreasureCoast.com news piece HISTORY/SAVE OUR BEACHES, JTL: (http://www.treasurecoast.com/index.cfm/on-the-water/fishing-news/e2809csave-our-beaches-campaign-e2809cinstilled-activism-1974-2014-indian-river-lagoon/)