Tuesday, June 18, 2013
There was an impromptu mini-reunion of North Shore High School graduates recently. We're an anchorless group of people inasmuch as our high school was torn down to make way for the new Bak Middle School of the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach. Several of us also attended North Palm Beach Elementary--also recently demolished.
We met at a restaurant along the water in North Palm Beach. Memories flew around the table and laughter was fierce as teenage mis-deeds were recounted. Who knew shooting a flaming arrow at a balloon of gas could cause a problem? And the imaginative uses of Ex-lax? And what happens to a boat when no one's steering? I had no idea...
While it was a small group of ten plus two wonderfully patient spouses who were able to make it due to the short notice and spontaneity of the event, I'm so glad I went.
There's something so inherently right about touching base with friends who knew you when--those people who knew you when you were still trying to figure out who you were and what you were going to do with your life. One of the men present was a playmate of mine from high chair days--our mothers were friends. Another, I started kindergarten with and he was among those marching to Pomp and Circumstance with me in 1977.
In this season of graduations, it seems fitting that some of us who once graced the halls of North Shore met again, shared pictures of spouses and children, and spoke of accomplishments and memories. And laughed until we cried.
Like children on a playground who run back to Mom sitting on the park bench for a quick hug of reassurance before tackling the mighty Jungle Gym, from time to time over the years I think most people seem to need to run back to those who knew us best and longest for our own dose of reassurance. The confirmation of our worth as human beings that only old, dear friends can give pushes us to set sail again to tackle the lives we've created.
For the graduates of 2013, I hope that when you sit down to a table of your fellow graduates sometime in the far-off future, the laughter is fierce, memories fly fast and furious, and the hugs of your friends as you say good-night sends you back out into the world with the same intensity and passion that you experience this year as you graduate with your youth, your passion for life and your courage to conquer the world.
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Florida has always been a magnet for golfers. The mild year-round weather coupled with beautifully designed courses has been bringing them in for decades. The Breakers Hotel claims to have built the first eighteen hole golf course in Florida. According to Golf.com, the Breakers links opened in 1896.
Quite a bit north of the Breakers, there’s a little road in Jupiter named “Toney Penna.” Not everyone knows who Toney Penna was or how he ended up with a street in Jupiter named after him. I’ve been told bits and pieces of the Toney Penna story by my parents, but this month, I decided to learn more.
Toney Penna, who became a well-known golfer beginning with his 1937 win of the Pennsylvania Open Championship, moved to Delray Beach in 1946. The Pennas moved right next door to my Aunt Eleanor’s house along the Intracoastal Waterway, a few blocks from my grandparents’ house on N.E. 7th Avenue. Penna’s son, Jerry, was a year or so younger than my father. I’ve been told that Jerry, Dad and my Uncle Warren ended up getting into mischief together. There’s a hush-hush tale about an abandoned building, the three boys and police… but that’s a story for another time.
Penna used to take a small duffel bag filled to the brim with golf balls to a field to practice his drives. After Penna dumped out the golf balls, Dad and Warren would take the empty bag far down the field and chase after balls, gradually filling the bag back up. I’d heard that Dad caddied for him once upon a time, too.
As a local celebrity, Penna lived peacefully along the water in Delray, but it seems he had some famous friends. He played golf often with Perry Como who had a house along the Jupiter Inlet. Back in Delray Beach, Penna’s visitors caused quite the sensation. According to Dad, Hollywood luminaries showed up at Penna’s house from time to time--Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis among them. Wouldn’t you have loved to sit in on that party?
So how did a street in Jupiter, forty-five minutes away from Delray, end up named Toney Penna? Penna worked as a representative for MacGregor Golf Company designing clubs until 1967. It was the early 1970s when he went out on his own, opening a little facility where he designed and manufactured golf clubs. The building is still there, located on the south side of Toney Penna Drive, just east of Military Trail, but it’s been renovated and its now impossible to tell that once upon a time golfing royalty worked there.
If you’d like to get your hands on a Toney Penna club, be prepared to pay. The MacGregor Toney Penna Clubs are extremely rare collectibles. A collector’s guide on E-bay says, “An all original, excellent condition set of WWs (white woods) should be worth $1000 or more.” And as for irons, the Penna VIP irons (1963-1967) are considered one of those items so rare, it’s hard to set a value.
I’m sure that when Dad and Warren were cutting through Aunt Eleanor’s hedge to get Jerry for yet another adventure, Dad had no idea that Jerry’s dad, and later Jerry, would make golf clubs so well designed that devoted golfers still search for and collect them.
Accomplishments worthy of having a street named after him, I think.
This article first appeared in my column with Seabreeze Publications, Inc., "The Florida You Don't Know."
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
When I was seven, my favorite birthday present was a Camelot costume for my Barbie doll. In a box somewhere in my closet, I still have that gown (minus one sleeve) and the beat up Barbie who used to wear it.
Since that time, some birthdays have been more eventful than others, but this birthday, you all delivered a doozy of a gift!
Sometime between 11:30 pm January 11 and waking up on Saturday, January 12, this blog rolled over 10,000 hits. I'm amazed!
|Earman River East from|
Prosperity Farms Road
My first article was a post of my very first column for Seabreeze Publications, Inc., a publisher of neighborhood newspapers distributed throughout Martin and Palm Beach Counties. It appeared in my blog on July 11, 2011 and had the simple title, "Earman River'." A story about a man-made river in North Palm Beach, it doesn't even appear on my top ten now. (My column still appears every month and is re-posted here after the monthly paper is published. Next week, we'll find out who Toney Penna was and why a street in Jupiter is named after him.)
The post that received the most attention is the "Addendum to Jones" post. A follow up to "Just Who is This Jones Guy?" a contest I ran the week before about Jones Creek in Jupiter, there was really nothing to it. Why this one? I have no idea... Perhaps people were Googling "Jones"?
Second, was "The President and Peanut Island." This was the first time I felt like an official writer-type person. My friend and I headed over to Peanut Island and toured the Kennedy bunker. I identified myself as a writer and asked for permission to run my digital voice recorder. It's a lot easier than scribbling notes I can't see without my glasses. I snapped a hundred pictures (ok, so I exaggerate a little) and was in awe to finally be standing in something that had been off limits my entire childhood.
|Monument to the Chillingworths|
Third? "Birth of an Imago." This was posted for a contest I entered in Rachael Harrie's Writers' Platform Building Campaign. Given some impossible words, we were supposed to write a flash fiction piece that contained them. I think there were over a hundred entries and each one met the challenge differently. My entry managed to tie in Palm Beach County history. People who didn't know the story of the Chillingworth murders in Palm Beach County bombarded my e-mail asking for more so I posted "The Chillingworth Murders" in October.
My favorite post so far has to be the "Dapper Dan Contest" and the follow-up "A Twist in the Road." A picture found in a box of stamps my grandfather had collected led to an ending I couldn't imagine. Still gives me the chills. These two combined were picked up and published by the Glen Ullin Times, the local newspaper in Glen Ullin, North Dakota where our Dapper Dan actually lived.
I've continued to edit, revise and hone the research on most of these stories for the collection of short stories that I'm working on getting published later this year, "The Ghost of Sir Harry Oakes and Other Tales of Growing Up in Palm Beach County." You'll hear about publication dates before anyone else.
You all gave me a terrific present for my birthday, so I'd like to return the favor. Simply comment to this article with the title of YOUR favorite of my posts so far and tell me what it was about that post that made it your favorite. I'll use random.org to find the winner and send an autographed copy of "Betty Tales The True Story of a Brave Bobblehead Cat" OR a $10.00 Amazon gift card. Easy peasy, right?
Thank you, one and all, for your visits here and spending some of your busy day to read my little stories. You helped make this a birthday to remember!
Picture at beginning of post is from Microsoft.
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
This time of year is one that sends most people back though memories of the past year as we try to determine what we're going to do better in the future. We all share memories of big events--the space shuttles, elections, the fiscal cliff, graduations, birthdays and on and on. But I think it's more than just the "big" memories that matter.
Anyone remember the way the sun looked as it slipped into the sea off of Mallory Square in Key West before the cruise ships started docking there? The street musicians, jugglers and crowd of tourists and residents alike who stood in the dirt next to the docks, drinks in hand, socializing until the sun dipped closer to the horizon? And the cheers and clapping that erupted when the last sliver of golden orange disappeared?
How about walking through the halls of your elementary school? Having orange-belted safety patrols yell at you to stop running? How exciting it was to head to the library to agonize over which book to check out to read? (Okay. I admit it. I was an unrestrained book lover even then...)
I have a theory. "Big" memories serve as the anchors as we look back over our lives. They keep us grounded in time and space and provide framework. But the fullness and richness, the warp and weave of the tapestry of our lives, is made up of flotsam and jetsam. The discarded bits and pieces of memories that we normally race through or past as we zip from appointment to appointment, to work, to pick up or drop off kids.
Some of my favorite flotsam and jetsam memories include remembering how really cool Marjorie Keenan Rawlings' writing tabled looked and how the old wooden porch slanted away from the house and the hollow echoe as I walked on it. I remember how it felt to sit beneath the Earman River Bridge and talk the afternoon away with a close friend while we munched on penny candy. I remember glancing out of the corner of my eye at Bryant Park in Lake Worth and seeing a couple of stones and wondering just what the heck they were. It's signing up for the Worldwide Photo Walk just to wander around downtown West Palm Beach by foot with a camera.
My New Year's challenge to you is to try to catch those pieces of flotsam and jetsam and hold on to them. Don't let them drift away on the tide.
For example, next time you're sitting at a traffic light, really look around at what surrounds you. One of my favorite corners that brings back a forgotten memory is U.S. Highway One and 10th Avenue North in Lake Worth. Tuppen's marine supply store is on the northeast corner. Sitting there waiting for the light to change looking at their painted sign, I can remember walking around the store with my dad. My brother and I were allowed to dig through the bin of brightly colored rubber bait worms. We could each choose one to purchase. I have no idea where any of those worms ended up, but we sure enjoyed flicking through the little slightly sticky pieces as we searched.
I suppose in the overall scheme of things, little rubber worms and Rawlings' wooden porch are not all that big of a deal. But as part of the tapestry of my life, it's these types of memories that add the deep, rich colors.
I'd love to hear from you from time to time this year. Let me know what pieces of flotsam and jetsam you manage to salvage from your busy life. My bet is it won't take long for you to have a shipyard of sparkling bits and pieces to take out and smile over when tough times come along.