Born in Chicago IL. Oldest of five children. Lived across the street from Lincoln Park.
Entire family on Mom’s side lived in Chicago at that time. Entire family on Dad’s side lived in Toledo at that time.
When we moved down here we were ostracized by the family for “leaving the fold and moving to a no-man’s land,” but a few years later guess who came down to visit in the winter… sometimes for a month or two.
My Grandfather and Grandmother moved to Florida from Chicago in 1955.
Their home was an oceanfront converted four-unit efficiency motel that my Uncle Lou had purchased for them named Sea Island Manor, so there were four apartments with complete kitchens in the house.
Shortly after that my father diagnosed with TB and sent to a sanitarium in Madison, WI.
Mom was alone with five kids in Chicago, so we all came to Florida on Columbus. Day 1956 and moved in with our grandparents… Route 1, Box 197, Ph 1979J, no dial and a party line.
Flew on an Eastern Air Lines Super Constellation from Midway Airport in Chicago to Melbourne. That was a pretty fancy plane to land in Melbourne at the time.
Melbourne airport was a Quonsett Hut. The stairway to get out of the airplane was on an old truck that billowed blueish colored smoke as the stairway was extended up to the airplane, not to mention hydraulic fluid leaking everywhere. Quite the change from Chicago.
We landed at night, and there was a tropical storm approaching.
Remember going across the Melbourne Causeway, and you could see the whitecaps on the river… it was rougher than I had ever seen Lake Michigan.
When we got to house went to the beach access steps and the ocean was roaring…gusty winds, squalls and waves coming up to the dunes.
Home was ten miles south of 5th Avenue Indialantic, three houses south of the Sea Dunes Motel which was formerly the Crystal Beach Resort Motel.
A1A at the time was only paved to Honest Johns…it was a dirt road south of there to the inlet. Honest John’s was one of our popular hangouts as kids, as we would row our boat there.
There were three Coast Guard watchtowers along the beach…one at the inlet, one at the Sebastian Beach Inn, and one halfway between there and Melbourne Beach.
We were the second family on the school bus back then, which was M-1…and old International Harvester bus.
Honest John’s wife (and Barbara Arthur’s mom) Gladys was our bus driver.
There were no beachside schools at the time, and all the grades rode one school bus.
Gladys got one of the first flat front diesel school buses. If you acted up on the bus, she brought you to the front and made you sit on the hot seat. If you didn’t learn your lesson and acted up again, she kicked you off the bus, no matter where it was along the route, and it was a long walk home down A1A back then. Usually there was no 3rd time.
The mosquitos were fiercely bad then. Several times a week a spray truck would come down A1A, back up our driveway and sit there for a minute or two fogging the house with DDT. When it left we would all follow it on our bikes, riding in the fog. They gave away free DDT at the airport, and we would load several 5-gallon cans in the back of the station wagon and fill them up. Everyone had a potato chip can fixture attached to their lawn mower where you could fog your house with DDT, we sponged it onto the screens to keep the gnats out, used it in the hand pump sprayers inside the house, and used is as a week killer on the driveway. Everything reeked of DDT, including the inside of the car.
Obviously no one considered that it might be harmful to humans.
They also sprayed DDT using biplanes, and sometimes those pilots flew so low that you could only see the top wing over the dune line when they would fly over the beach.
We had three TV stations back then, Channel 2, 6 and 9. Channel 2 was from Daytona; channels 6 and 9 were from Orlando. You had to rotate the antenna by hand on the mast to get the Daytona station to come in… all three were very snowy and of course black & white.
As the oldest I was elected to be the person to rotate the antenna, until this great invention called a Tenna-Rotor came along, and with the turn of the dial the antenna would rotate. That lasted about a year until the gears in it all rusted together, then I was back outside rotating it by hand again. I was also the designated TV remote control.
Hurricane Donna in 1960 was the first hurricane that we experienced.
We evacuated the beach to the Belcelona Hotel, now Florida Air Academy.
We came home to find the house intact with the exception of the TV antenna pole that was bent in half, and with a few souvenirs from the Belcelona.
South A1A beachside was completely buried in sand, as was our patio, lawn and driveway.
In October 1962 we had the Cuban Missile Crisis. I remember well the troop carriers running down the beach, the fighter planes flying over, the missile launchers set up in random locations, and the talk of underground silos in Satellite Beach.
And who could forget the “Duck and Hide" drills. Not sure that would have saved us.
When we were all old enough to drive, we all had beach buggies… you could drive the entire length of the beach from the inlet to Port Canaveral.
Surf fishing was excellent back then… you could catch pretty much everything (whiting, blues, mackerel and tarpon, and of course cat fish) with a bottom rig and sand fleas.
When we first got down here, my Grandmother had one kitten for each of the kids, and of course none were spayed or neutered so before we knew it we had 35 cats. Fortunately they all loved fish, and would follow us to the beach when we were fishing, so we never had to buy cat food. They also were good controlling the large population and variety of snakes and rodents, which were plentiful back then. I taught one of those cats how to surf, and my Mom sent some pics to the local papers and Life and Surfing magazines, and Stupid became a legend.
He eventually had his own car and surfboard, and someone who read about him in the Chicago Tribune even made him a pair of baggies, with of couse a hole for his tail.
When I was 13 I got a job at the Sea Dunes Restaurant as a dishwasher. At the time the motel advertised an “Olympic Pool,” and was a very popular vacation spot. The automated dishwasher was broken, so all the dishes, glasses, pots and pans were washed by hand, and of course at the end of the night you reeked of grease.
The Sea Dunes had a $5.95 all-you-can-eat lobster special at the time so the restaurant was very popular. One of the perks of working there was my free dinner of any menu item.
My Dad was released from the hospital in 1957 and joined us in Florida. His first job down here was as a bartender at Mac’s Midway Bar, and he filled in at the Bali Hai, the Melbourne Beach Casino, the Melbourne Beach Steakhouse, the Tradewinds Hotel and the Neptune Hall.
My Mom was a hostess and entertained at the Tradewinds Hotel (formerly the Hotel Indialantic). My Dad bartended there, and my brother and I were handymen there one summer.
It was a grand hotel at the time, and the hotel and its Roaring 20s lounge was world renowned as a celebrity vacation spot.
In 1959 Dad got hired on by Convair (later General Dynamics) and worked on the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs. My Mom hosted parties at the house that many of the original Mercury 7 astronauts attended, driving down in their corvettes.
School History - Many new schools were being built here at that time:
5th grade at Melbourne Elementary (next to Ruth Henegar Building)
6th grade at Indialantic Elementary (1st year that is was open)
7th grade at Airport school, and old US Navy Hospital building
8th grade split shift at Eau Gallie Jr. High (Southwest still under construction)
9th grade at Southwest Jr. High (1st year it was open)
10th grade at Melbourne High (split shift with Eau Gallie High School)
Pretty much no one had a/c back then… the houses had jalousie or awning windows that were open all the time, terrazzo floors helped to cool the house, along with with oscillating fans.
Entertainment options were limited… there was the Van Croix Theater in the Hotel Melbourne which was one of the few businesses with a/c. It was my Mom’s babysitter on Saturday mornings. Each of us would get a quarter for admission, popcorn or candy, and she would drop us off for the Saturday morning cartoon matinee while she went shopping, and came back three hours later to pick us up. Cheapest babysitter ever.
When we were old enough to drive, we went to the drive-in movies… the Melbourne Outdoor on 192, the Brevard Drive-in in Eau Gallie, and the Beach Drive-in on South Patrick Drive.
After the drive-in we all congregated at the A&W or Dog n Suds.
There were many efficiency motels in the South Beaches at the time
Once a year a truck would stop by with heavy wood Adirondack chairs for sale.
Every now and then a group of black men would stop by selling Florida landscape paintings to decorate the hotel room walls with. These paintings were something like $5 each. That group of black men is now known as the Highwaymen… some of their old paintings are worth thousands of dollars each today.
Joined South Beaches V.F.D in 1981. Elected Fire Chief 1982-2010.
The South Beaches Spessard Holland Station was built by volunteers in early 50s.
That station (originally station 63, now station 64) served a 14-mile area from Melbourne Beach south city limits to Sebastian Inlet.
Volunteers had all their gear in car… responded directly to the scene by pager, fire and medical.
Originally, there were only two paid personnel on each shift… the rest were all volunteers. I was the first EMT on that Department in 1983. Today every firefighter must also be an EMT or PM.
Volunteer contract with Brevard County was terminated in 2010.
I left the area in 1967 when I joined the Navy. When I got out of the Navy, went to work at Radiation/Harris for two years, then went to work for Gould as a Field Engineer living on Oahu for a year and a half.
Gould transferred me to Cleveland when the job in Hawaii ended, and I lasted not quite half a winter… I quit my job at the end of the year, came back to Melbourne and was hired as an Electronic Technician by a little 24 employee company named DBA Systems in January 1974, and retired from that company (after two mergers and with 60,000 employees) 39 years later, and have lived in Melbourne Beach one mile north of where I grew up ever since.