Historical Essay 10
Dad, Marlin Eller, starts his second business at age 18…
-Port Everglades opening provides opportunity-
Published April 5, 2007
After graduating from Ft. Lauderdale High School in 1934, Dad sat down with his father, Hoyt, and mother, Mattie, and confessed that he had been married since the previous summer to my mother, Lorena Horton, of Flomaton, Alabama. To put it mildly, my grandparents were not very happy.
However, after sleeping on it, they told Dad that he should go get her and bring her to Deerfield and move in with them in their large, five-bedroom house on north Dixie Highway (across the street, just west of the present-day tennis courts.) But they also told Dad that his plan to go to Atlanta to attend Georgia Tech University with his best friend David Long at their expense was not going to happen. They further told him that as a married man he had to go to work to support his wife.
At first, Dad was devastated. He and David Long had long planned to attend Georgia Tech together. But being the friends and entrepreneurs that they were, they came up with an alternative plan: David would proceed to Georgia Tech and buy two books for every class, sending Dad one of them. When he took a test or did a report he would send Dad the graded test or report so Dad could follow David’s progress in college and study the subjects simultaneously with his best friend via correspondence. Thus Dad became a great engineer by correspondence, and considered himself a “rambling wreck from Georgia Tech” his whole life.
However, he still needed to make a living, and did not want to farm. He did have his own truck by that time doing the garbage business for Deerfield (described in previous Historical series no. 9). However, that was only part-time work and did not bring in enough money to support a wife or have a proper future. So, his entrepreneur genes kicked in again as he talked to Granddad Eller’s cousin, Warren Eller, who had come to Ft. Lauderdale about the same time as Granddad (1923) and had started Port Everglades. The Port needed truckers to meet the ships coming in with fertilizer, and haul the fertilizer to the large farms around Lake Okeechobee.
So Dad negotiated with Warren Eller, who agreed to give Dad a contract to haul fertilizer from Port Everglades to the big farms being established at the time around Lake Okeechobee. Therefore, at 18 years of age, with contract in hand, Dad went to buy his first large flatbed truck. But because he was still a minor, the bank required Dad to have his father officially sign the note for the truck. Granddad Eller agreed and signed the note. So Dad bought his first big truck and made all the payments. Business was good and within the year Dad bought two more big trucks. He was on his way.
To be continued….
By David Eller
Historical Essay 9
My Dad, Marlin Eller, was Deerfield’s first garbage “man”
Published: 22 Mar 2007
In the last essay I shared that Dad and Mother, both 16 years-old, had gotten married secretly in the summer of 1932 in Greenville, Alabama. Dad left her shortly thereafter and returned to Florida to finish his senior year at Ft. Lauderdale High School.
He again drove the school bus from Deerfield to school. But like most teenagers, he wanted his own car or truck. However, he needed to make more money in order to afford it.
There weren’t too many opportunities for a young man in Deerfield to make money in those days. However. Dad’s entrepreneur instincts kicked in. He noted the residents of Deerfield at the time had to carry their own garbage to the dump, then located in Boca Raton. The dump was in south Boca, about a quarter mile north of the bridge on Dixie Highway, just west of the East Coast Railroad tracks. Boca was a small village at the time mostly made up of a couple hundred people who worked at the Boca Raton Hotel. Deerfield, with about a thousand people, is where most of the farmers, workers and business people lived, but they had to cart their own garbage right by the front of granddad’s house on Dixie Highway to dump it in Boca Raton. (Sorry to all my fancy friends now living in Boca, but that’s the way it was. You were Deerfield’s dump. Smile.)
Anyway, Dad took note of this dump traffic and started surveying Deerfield residents to see how many he could sign up for him to carry their garbage to the dump. He soon had enough commitments to persuade granddad Eller to sign the bank note he needed to buy a truck on which to load the garbage. Thus Dad became Deerfield’s first garbage man; or maybe it would be more correct to say…. Deerfield’s first garbage contractor!
Historical Essay 8
Marlin Eller at age 16 is Broward school bus driver
Published 15 Feb 2007
Deerfield’s public school in the 1920s and 30s was located adjacent to the present day city hall, and is still there as a historic building. The grades went from first to eighth. Students wishing for further education had to go to Pompano High School seven miles south down Dixie Highway, (US No. 1, Federal Highway, did not exist yet).
However, Pompano High School was limited in the courses it offered. For instance, math courses in algebra and geometry were not offered at Pompano. Therefore students in North Broward County, aspiring to a higher education such as engineering, which required algebra and geometry courses in high school as a prerequisite for college, had to attend Ft. Lauderdale High School some 14 miles away.
Dad’s best friend, David Long, had already moved to Ft. Lauderdale when his father got a job as a manager at the Broward County jail. Therefore, he was already attending Ft. Lauderdale High School. Dad, however, was stuck with going to Pompano High School, which did not offer the courses he needed to be accepted at Georgia Tech, which he and David both aspired to attend.
Dad needed to attend Ft. Lauderdale High School to get the courses he needed, but Granddad Eller refused to approve him riding his motor scooter back and forth every day to Ft. Lauderdale. Thus dad was stuck with attending Pompano High School for 9th and 10th grades. However, as soon as dad reached his 16th birthday, he took and passed his driver’s license and immediately applied for a job as a school bus driver for the Broward County School Bus System.
Amazingly, he was hired and assigned a school bus to drive from Deerfield to Ft. Lauderdale, picking up students along the way. Thus dad attended and graduated from Ft. Lauderdale High School in 1933, by driving a Broward County School bus back and forth from Deerfield to Ft. Lauderdale every school day while only 16 and 17 years of age.
My dad had two girl friends at the time. One, Lorena Horton, age 16, lived just north of Pensacola, Florida, near the little town of Flomaton, Alabama, on her daddy’s cotton farm. One of seven children, she had been dad’s “girlfriend” since they started first grade together in 1922. Dad’s family when he was eight years old had moved to Deerfield, but nearly every summer his father, Hoyt, drove the family back up to Alabama to visit relatives and friends, including my maternal grandfather L. Allen Horton. Therefore, Marlin Eller and Lorena Horton had known each other since age six, and kept in touch after dad moved to Deerfield via summer visits and letter-writing.
But when dad started to attend Ft. Lauderdale High School he was smitten by another pretty girl by the name of Virginia Young. She and dad dated their junior year, and dad took her to the prom. But when he went up to Alabama that summer he and Lorena Horton decided suddenly to get married. (No! For those of you with dirty minds, she wasn’t pregnant, but later admitted to simply wanting to “check mate” Virginia Young. No one knew about it except Lorena’s older brother, Harvey, who encouraged them, made the appointment with the Justice of the Peace in Greenville, Alabama, and served as their best man. However, there arose a serious problem, because back in those days you were not allowed to attend a public high school if you were married. Therefore, they had to keep it a secret for a year, which they did. Only my Uncle Harvey Horton knew.
Virginia Young later on became the Mayor of Fort Lauderdale, and served about 20 years through much of the 60’s and 70’s. Fate set us next to each other at a political event many years ago and she confirmed with me that I was Marlin Eller’s son. After complimenting me as a look-alike to my dad, she shared how he “broke her heart” their senior year in high school when he did not “take” her to their senior prom. She went on to share that within minutes of their actual graduation ceremony at Fort Lauderdale High in 1934, when my dad, with his diploma in hand, rushed to her to apologize for not dating her their senior year, and explained that it was because he was married. She then shared with me that he had really smitten her by playing the guitar and singing to her on some of their dates.
Historical Essay 7
Granddad Eller buys new land to farm west of Deerfield – now known as Parkland
Published 1 Feb 2007
Granddad Hoyt Eller with a fresh $,3000 in his pocket from selling the land that is now Quiet Water Park for $15 per acre was ready to farm on land that was not so rocky. So he looked west and found some cheap property which is now called the City of Parkland. The soil was friendlier there, so he was able to clear the land and plant his first crops of green beans and peppers. Labor was a problem, however, since the Butlers (Essay No. 2) and another new farm family, the Jones brothers, Alvin and Emery from Georgia, were soaking up all the laborers needed to work the farm.
Granddad was in a crisis. His crop was planted yet he didn’t have enough labor to harvest it. Desperate, he came up with an idea: he would offer 10 percent of his farm produce to be “shared” with laborers who would agree to pick the other 90 percent!
Suddenly the word got around and laborers came out of the woodwork. Silvia Poitier, our former mayor, former county commissioner, and current city commissioner, was a young teenager at the time. She has shared with me that once the word of my Granddad’s “deal” spread throughout the community, she and her friends jumped off the other farmers’ labor trucks and onto my Granddad’s trucks to go to his farm and be “partners” with Granddad. Thus Granddad Eller came up with one of the first business profit-sharing plans, and it worked.
Granddad prospered and soon built one of the largest homes in Deerfield. It was a five bedroom house on the west side of Dixie Highway about 100 yards south of the Hillsboro Bridge. It had a big white clapboard porch on the front with screened windows, and a huge living room with a fireplace located next to Granddad’s piano which, many years later, he played for all of us grandchildren. I remember as a child that on Sunday afternoons the family would gather around granddad’s piano and he would play gospel music and sing tenor. My grandmother Mattie would play the banjo and sing soprano, while my father, Marlin, played the guitar and sang bass. My mother, Lorena Horton Eller, had the best voice of all, in my opinion, and sang strong alto. This is how we spent many a Sunday afternoon in Deerfield in the old days.
Historical Essay 6
My father, Marlin Eller, was a natural born mechanical “genius,” at least in my opinion
Published 18 Jan 2007
My father, Marlin Eller, was a natural born mechanical “genius,” at least in my opinion.
The proof of that on paper is that he was the recipient of a number of patents on mechanical products later on in life.
However, his genius started to show in 1930 when he was only 14 years-old. He and his best friend, David Long, (who I was named after) built fully functioning airplanes in Granddad Eller’s garage in Deerfield on North Dixie Highway in year 1930. Both boys were enthusiastic mechanics and bought and studied Mechanics Illustrated magazine on how to build your own airplane.
Using Granddad Eller’s tools and shop, and utilizing small gasoline engines, they were able to craft working models of airplanes, one of which they intended to expand to full size and fly themselves.
In fact, it was the feature story on the Deerfield News front page on July 4, 1930.
Unfortunately, however, they were never able to complete their project and fly their own plane. It seems someone (my Grandfather probably) arranged for them to get an inspection from the U.S. government agency in charge of airplanes, or at least from an Air Force officer, to certify their main airplane design as appropriately air- worthy. When this occurred, the officer complimented them on their plane, but told them they would not be permitted to fly it even if completed.
Dad was disappointed but never lost his enthusiasm for airplanes and flying. Up until the time he passed away in 1977, he could quickly identify any airplane he saw as to manufacturer, and vital statistics such as speed, altitude rating, distance capability, etc.
However, his best friend, David Long, actually put their hobby into practice by joining the Army Air Corps right out of Fort Lauderdale High School. He became an experimental pilot for the military airplanes being developed just prior to World War II. Unfortunately, he died in a test flight crash in one of them in 1938. Dad honored him by naming me after him when I was born a few years later.
Historical Essay 5
Al Capone comes to Deerfield
Published 28 Dec 2006
My father Marlin Eller was 12 years old when he first met Al Capone. The year was 1928. Dad’s father, Hoyt Eller, had bought the gas station from J.B. Wiles (see Essay No. 3) in 1926, after the hurricane had destroyed his own house across Dixie Highway. Granddad was busy trying to get his own farm started west of town, so my then 12-year-old father, Marlin, was designated to pump gasoline for customers at the family gas station/garage on the east side of Dixie Highway about 100 yards north of the Hillsboro canal, where the tennis court headquarters is today.
My father told me the following story, and repeated it to others in my presence several times: When he was 12 years-old and “running” the gas station for his father Hoyt, a big black car filled with several men, pulled in to get gas. The first time they stopped in they were coming from the north; the car had Illinois license plates. Dad heard Chicago mentioned, and they had a lot of inner tubes from tire punctures on the road from the trip which needed to be patched. My Dad patched them for them, and when they picked up the tubes later on their way back north, the “boss man” of the group paid for the gas and tire patching, and then handed my father a $10 tip!
This was a huge tip for a 12-year-old boy at the time. My Dad thought he was the nicest man in the world! But later on, when Al Capone was arrested and his picture was in the newspaper, my Dad saw the picture and realized who it was that had tipped him so generously. My grandmother, Mattie Eller, was an excellent seamstress and told her daughter, my Aunt Lavelle Tubbs, that she used to make extra money making dresses for the girls who “worked” at Mr. Capone’s private “establishment.” Located where the Intracoastal Waterway intersects the Hillsboro Canal, the “fish” import business, also had lots of gambling machines and fancy girls around.
Therefore, although Al Capone had a big home in Miami Beach, his main “business” was in what was then the very remote little village of Deerfield Beach. Capone would generally travel by boat from Miami Beach to visit his Deerfield “business.” Capone also owned the 60-acre island directly north of his place. The island was artificially created when the Intracoastal Waterway was dredged out, as it served as a spoil location.
Officially named Deerfield Island a few years ago, many locals still call it Capone Island, because legend has it that the island is where Capone hid all the booze during prohibition. He brought the liquor from Europe to the Bahamas, and then smuggled it onto Capone Island where it was put in the bottom of watertight containers, topped off with fish and dry ice and delivered to the railroad station for onward shipment to Chicago. Capone became enormously rich in a very short time via this illegal Deerfield Beach- connected enterprise.
When the Fed’s convicted Al Capone of tax evasion and put him in prison in 1931, they also confiscated all of his property in Deerfield and put his Intracoastal Waterway “speakeasy” up for auction. It was bought by Mr. Bill Stewart, who then opened it up as a public restaurant which he named “The Riverview.” He operated it from the thirties to the fifties when he died and left it to his nephew, also named Bill Stewart, who became a good friend of mine. The Riverview Restaurant was decorated with the leftover old gambling paraphernalia on the walls, and was considered the premier restaurant in town in the 60’s and 80’s, specializing in Florida lobster, local fish and “the best steaks in South Florida”! Unfortunately the building was damaged beyond reasonable repair by a hurricane a few years ago, and actually torn down last year, 2005!
As a final point, when I was a young teenager here, we used to hear rumors that Al Capone had hidden a lot of his money on “his” island. Therefore, as a young teenager I personally spent many hours swimming over to the island with friends, digging holes looking for Al Capone’s hidden treasures. The only things we actually got were blisters and sandspurs.
Historical Essay 4
Granddad Eller loses out on tens of millions of dollars!
Published: 14 Dec 2006
When Granddad Hoyt Eller’s first house started coming apart during the 1926 hurricane, he was able to get his wife and five children, including my 10-year-old father, Marlin, across Dixie highway to J.B. Wiles’ gas station which was constructed of concrete rather than wood. J.B. told me later that it soon became apparent after the storm that the gas station was too crowded. He suggested to my Grandfather Hoyt that maybe Hoyt should buy the gas station. Hoyt agreed, bought the gas station, and thus began the Eller family investments in Deerfield. Meanwhile, J.B. and baby girl Molly temporarily moved north to Boca Raton to stay with friends there.
My Granddad Eller, however, was not satisfied with only owning a gas station. He wanted to farm. So entrepreneur that he was, he located some property west of Deerfield, now known as Quiet Waters Park, and bought it for $1 per acre!
However, there was a problem with farming that particular piece of property. It seemed that when they tried to plow the land and prepare it for planting, the plows were torn up by the extensive amount of rock just beneath the surface. My father, Marlin, 14 at the time, shared with me that it was a big problem trying to keep the plows operating. Eventually they gave up and sold the property to someone else for $15 per acre.
Generations later, I jostled with my Dad about how “wrong” it was for Granddad to sell what is now Quiet Waters Park for $15 per acre. My Dad would then look at me seriously and ask me: “How many investments have you made, son, where you got 15 times your investment when you sold it?” With that I would shut up and be real quiet. I guess Granddad did relatively alright.
However, unbeknown to him, there was a fortune of road rock just beneath the surface on the property he had owned. To make matters even more dramatic, it was the northern end of the limestone formation of road rock beginning in Dade County coming north;meaning that all the roads and highways north of Deerfield, including the Turnpike and I-95, for decades would depend on the rock mined from Granddad’s property, now known as Quiet Waters Park!
Thus tens of millions of dollars of road rock was mined from Granddad’s former property which he sold for only $15 per acre, or about $3,000 total!
Historical Essay 3
Published: 30 Nov 2006
Page 6 of the November 9 issue of the Observer, had the first of a series of historical articles about the founding families of Deerfield Beach. These stories will continue until at least the next Founders’ Days, February 17-20, 2007. To read the first two essays, visit www.deer fieldbeachobserver.com and select the “History of Deerfield” section. Essay number three is mostly pictures of the people written about in the first two essays. Enjoy!
Click here to see Photos
Historical Essay 2
Deerfield’s unique location attracts farmers
Published: 16 Nov 2006
Essay number one ended in 1926 when Granddad Eller’s finish carpentry work-contract for the Boca Raton Hotel was completed, and he built his own house on the west side of Dixie Highway about 100 yards south of the Hillsboro canal bridge. Most everyone in Deerfield at the time lived near Dixie Highway because it was the only road going north and south, and it was near the very essential Florida East Coast railroad which Henry M. Flagler had completed around 1900. Later in 1912, when the Hillsboro Canal was dredged, the steam engine coal-fired trains had to stop in Deerfield near the canal in order to get water for their steam engines. While the trains were stopped, local farmers could load their winter-grown produce packed in bushel baskets on the trains for shipment up north, and receive essential materials and passengers at the FEC Railway Station.
Two brothers from Texas, J.D. and George Emory Butler, came to town during this period of time and perfected the growing of vegetables in large scale on the “sugar sand” soils around Deerfield by applying large amounts of fertilizer. Deerfield eventually became such an important stop for the FEC Railroad that they had four houses built for the workers to man the watering point and direct the loading the Deerfield-area-produced farm products. Thus, when Granddad Hoyt Eller finished his contract at the Boca Raton Hotel, he decided to stay in Deerfield and take up farming.
However, before he could even get started on his new career, the infamous 1926 hurricane hit Deerfield full force, and Hoyt’s new house was destroyed. Fortunately, he and the family were able to take refuge across the street in a gas station operated by J.B. Wiles.
Now, Wiles is an interesting man who lived in Deerfield from the age of 20 until he died a few years ago at the age of 102. He was a friend of my Granddad Hoyt, my dad Marlin, and a friend of mine. J.B. loved to talk about the “old days” in Deerfield. A few years ago, I asked him if I could record him on video, telling his story. He agreed, so the video was made and donated to the Deerfield Beach Historical Society, where you can view it if you are so inclined.
J.B. Wiles was born in South Georgia, and at age 18 was drafted in to the U.S. Army to be sent into World War I. He had just completed basic training when the war was declared over, and he was summarily discharged. Jobs were scarce, so he ended up going to Cuba to work helping to construct a sugar mill. When the mill was finished, he made it back to Florida, bought a bicycle and headed up Dixie Highway on his way back to Georgia. Arriving in Deerfield, he stopped at the Australian Hotel, then located at the intersection of Hillsboro Blvd. and Dixie Hwy. He immediately liked Deerfield because people were friendly and several invited him to come back. He didn’t forget.
He married when he got back to Georgia, and his wife soon became pregnant. But the only job he could find was operating a one-man, coal-powered electric generator, supplying electricity for a small town in South Georgia. The work was hard as it consisted primarily of shoveling coal into the furnace of the generator. Sometimes he would get so tired that he’d fall asleep, the generator would stop running, and the mayor of the town would come out, angrily wake him up and threaten to fire him. Finally, the mayor told him the next time it happened, he would be fired.
One night, his young wife went into labor. J.B. had made arrangements with someone else to take over the generator responsibility, but he dropped the ball. Unaware of that problem, J.B. rushed to his wife’s side to be with her. He stayed until, unfortunately, she died in childbirth. Before dying, she had given birth to a beautiful little baby girl, which they had agreed beforehand to name Molly.
Completely distraught, J.B. was trying to figure out what to do, when someone sent word that the mayor, true to his word, had fired him. So, J.B. wrapped his little girl up in swaddling clothes, placed her in the basket of his bicycle, with the rest of his possessions tied to the back and headed down south on Dixie Highway to join the friendly people in Deerfield who had been kind to him and invited him to come back. He not only came back, he spent the last 80 years of his life here as a businessman, a farmer and a politician. He eventually was elected and served as both a Broward County commissioner and a Deerfield Beach city commissioner. Wiles Road is named after J.B. Wiles as it runs adjacent to his former farm. His little girl, Molly, grew up to become a beautiful woman and married Jack Butler, the son of George Emery Butler, the Texas farmer and Deerfield’s first mayor. Molly and Jack still live here. (To be continued…)
Historical Essay 1
The Beginning….at least for me ….
Published: 9 Nov 2006
The Good Samaritan Hospital in West Palm is where most people around here, including me, went to be born back in the 1940’s. I was the second child, the first son, of Marlin and Lorena Horton Eller, both 25 years-old. They brought me home to their Sears RoeBuck pre-fabricated three-bedroom house on the east side of Dixie Highway, a block south of the Hillsboro Canal bridge. I later noticed that the house was made of clapboard wood, painted white, with red shutters and had lots of red flowered poinsettia plants on the perimeter. The house sat on short concrete piles about 18 inches above the ground, which later on provided a good place for me to scoot when playing hide and seek. A white picket fence around the front yard established a boundary between our house, the sidewalk and Dixie Highway. The back yard extended to a small rock road dividing our property from the pine woods in back of the house. Those woods within a few years, with my father’s help, became Pioneer Park.
My sister, Linda, about three-years-old, was always happy to see me, I’m sure. She still is, although she lives in Vero Beach now. My father’s parents, Hoyt and Mattie Gunter Eller, lived across the street in a larger clapboard wood house also painted white.
Grandad Eller brought his wife and five children to Deerfield in 1923 to help build the five-star Boca Raton Hotel. He was a skilled finish carpenter, and Mr. Addison Mizner hired him to do the fancy carpentry work on the columns, ceiling and walls in the main lobby. Grandad’s work is still there beautifying that grand entrance. However, there were no places here for a man with a wife and five children to live, so grandad brought a large tent with him and camped out on the south bank of the Hillsboro canal near Dixie Highway. He and his family lived in that tent until 1926 when the Boca Raton Hotel was finished. He saved his money and built a house on the west side of Dixie Highway directly across from the present day tennis courts.
Grandad’s ancestral Eller family had originated in a little mountain village in Switzerland called Elm, about 40 miles from Zurich. Trying to avoid a religious war going on at the time, they migrated to Germany, to the banks of the Rhine River not too far from Dusseldorf. They started a winery, which is still there, growing some of the best grapes and making some of the finest wines in Germany. However, the family was producing more children than the winery could financially support, so four of the sons enlisted as Hessian mercenary soldiers, and came to America to fight during the American Revolutionary War. After the war they decided to stay in America, with three of them settling in western North Carolina, and a fourth in Illinois. Our old family Bible records indicate the Eller men were quite prolific. By the time the Civil War, or War between the States, occurred in 1860s they had sired enough Eller men to put 63 Confederate soldiers in the field from North Carolina alone, with the highest rank a Captain, coincidentally named David Eller, from Ashe County, North Carolina. The Illinois brother branch of the Eller family, however, fielded a proportional number of Eller Yankee soldiers, including a Colonel Eller.
Generations later Grand-dad Hoyt Eller’s father moved his family south from the mountains of North Carolina to the mountains of North Alabama; and then Granddad moved his family on down to Deerfield , Florida in 1923. (To be continued)