Historical Essay 50
Linda Eller “markets” Deerfield Beach
20 Aug 2009
I admit to being a little embarrassed when, as a 12-year-old boy, pictures of my 15-year-old sister,
Linda, posed in a bathing suit, was the front page of the 1954 Chamber of Commerce brochure promoting Deerfield Beach. However, I was also kind of proud of her, even though I thought the bathing suit she had borrowed for the photo session from her good friend Shirley Jones in Pompano Beach was ugly. Mother wouldn’t allow her to wear a two piece.
The Chamber brochure was very successful, and helped Deerfield nearly triple its population to 9,573 people by the 1960 census. Most of that population increase, however,
was brought about by one man, Bob Sullivan, (see Historical Article No. 19) who bought and developed the 500 acres called “The Cove” just east of Federal Highway all the way to the Intracoastal Waterway and from Hillsboro Boulevard south to Lighthouse Point. Although Deerfield had been incorporated as a city in 1925, it had grown slowly until Sullivan and a few other developers started “pushing it” in the mid 1950s. Meanwhile, Lighthouse Point was incorporated on June 13, 1956, when 107 people there voted to do so. Mr. R.E. Bateman was the first one there to buy any extensive acreage for development.
Meanwhile, my sister, Linda, mastered the piano as a young lady and went on to play and sing semi-professionally for a few years. She also attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, where she met her husband, Jim Boudet. They raised their five children in Vero Beach, where she still lives.
Historical Essay 49
Deerfield gets it‘s first Black Policeman in 1954
-Moses Bryant hired by Police Commissioner, Marlin Eller-
9 Jul 2009
When my father, Marlin Eller, was elected to the Deerfield Beach City Commission in the early 1950s, and made Commissioner of Police, Deerfield had a substantial number of African-Americans, or blacks in its population, but it had none in its small police force. The white policemen were afraid to go into the black neighborhoods, especially at night. So the black population of Deerfield was left unprotected from the criminals in their midst.
When Dad first ran for commissioner, he knew this was a problem and promised his black friends and employees he would try to do something about it. However, there were a lot of strong feelings from some of the whites in the community to having a black policeman. I remember one of our neighbors across the street telling my Dad that if he hired a black policeman and that policeman tried to arrest his wife or daughter, that would be the last person he ever arrested.
Dad was not amused. But he waited until the second half of his commission term to make his move. After interviewing a number of prospects, he hired Moses L. Bryant to be Deerfield’s first black policeman.
To put it mildly, all hell broke loose within parts of the white community. In fact, Dad had to ride with Moses when he went on duty for awhile to protect Moses from threats which were being made. Dad put out the word that anyone wishing to cause a problem for Moses would have to deal with Dad first. Dad in his prime, well built, nearly 200 pounds, with boxing as a hobby, was not challenged as far as I know.
Moses eventually was accepted by most of the community and life in Deerfield went on. When he moved to Deerfield from Shamrock, FL, Moses had three sons: Bobby Lee, Robert Lee and Clarence. While on the police force he had seven more children, three more boys and four girls, for a total of 10 children. Most went on to get a college education and some became school teachers. When Moses eventually retired from the police force, he became a Christian minister.
The City of Deerfield Beach honored him a few years ago by renaming SW 5 Court, Rev. Moses L. Bryant Court. My Dad, Marlin Eller, would have been proud.
Historical Essay 48
Local Little League Team Wins 1954 State Championship
-Goes to North Carolina for National Playoffs –
11 Jun 2009
As my classmates and I gather for our 50th reunion, I wanted to write about our Little League experience. Since our family, the Eller family, has lived in Deerfield Beach since 1923, I’ve often been asked to put in writing some of the history of the area, either experienced personally, or that I heard from my parents or grandparents.
– David Eller, Publisher
Life was good in 1954. Dwight Eisenhower was the U.S. President.
On Feb. 23, the first mass inoculation for polio prevention was done with Salk vaccine. On Mar. 1, the U.S. exploded its first 15 megaton hydrogen bomb at Bikini Atoll .On Mar. 15, The CBS Morning Show premiered with Walter Cronkite and Jack Paar. On Mar. 20, the first newspaper vending machines were used. On Apr. 2, plans to build Disneyland in California was announced. On Apr. 5, Elvis Presley recorded his debut single, “That’s All Right.” On Jul. 12, President Eisen-hower put forward a plan for the interstate highway system.
Meanwhile, in Deerfield Beach, Pompano and Wilton Manors, large crowds were coming to watch the North Broward Little League Baseball Team All Stars beat Ft. Lauderdale, Palm Beach, Miami and Orlando teams. Winning the South Florida Little League Championship qualified the team to go to North Carolina to play for the National Championship of Little League.(Florida was divided into two halves at the time by the Little League: South Florida and North Florida)
Our parents drove up to North Carolina. The team took the
train. Someone, I was later told it was “Uncle Jim” Butler, who came to every game sitting in his car and watching us, donated new uniforms for us to wear. Rev. Briggs, of the recently established Presbyterian Church in Deerfield, was at every game, helping Police Chief Manning and Policeman Roy Bennett coach us.
We were good. At least we thought we were. My own claim to fame was that my Father’s good friend, Herb Dudley, a professional pitcher, had taught me, a left-hander, how to throw curve balls that would “break” one to two feet just as they reached the plate. My fast balls weren’t anything to brag about, but my curve balls struck out lots of batters. That is, for about five innings —after which my elbow would hurt so badly I had to retire to the dugout.
We arrived in Greenville, NC and stayed in the dormitory at East Carolina University. We thought we were hot stuff and unbeatable. When it was time for our first game, we came out early to warm up. We looked good in our new uniforms and maroon colored jackets with “1954 South Florida Champs” printed on the back.
I’ll never forget what it felt like when our North Carolina opponents arrived on the field. They came from a mountain area and were an average of four inches taller than us. Some of them had slight beards. Their voices were several octaves lower than ours. They were wearing overalls. Our coaches were concerned and wondered out loud about the ages of our opponents. But, when the umpire shouted “Play Ball! “ it was too late to worry about it. We played our hearts out. They scored the first run. We came back and tied them. We held them until the fifth inning, when they scored their second run. We never scored again, so the game ended with them beating us two to one. We cried, and it was the end of my baseball “career.” I never played again, although some of my teammates went on to play high school, college and a couple made it into the Pros.
Historical Essay 47
Famous Golf Pro Sam Snead can’t beat my Dad -out of money, that is-
4 Jun 2009
When I was a child in Deerfield in the early ‘50s, the “Boca Raton Resort & Club” was the main source of economic activity, next to farming, in this area. Other than the hotel, most of the land in Boca Raton was largely owned by the Butts family (See Essay No. 13) or the Japanese farmers (See Essay No. 14). Thus, Deerfield, with its approximately 1,000 residents, was actually much larger in population than Boca Raton at the time. And, it provided much of the small business support for both communities — like two grocery stores, two clothing stores, a drug store, two gas stations and one welding/machine shop, which my Dad, Marlin Eller, owned. It was located on Dixie Highway, where the tennis courts are today. We lived next door to the shop in a wood house painted white with red storm shutters and a white picket fence all around.
Dad would get up early every morning and sit at the dining room table drinking coffee and reading the Bible before going next door to open “the shop” about 7 a.m. We were one of the only machine and welding shops between Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach at the time. Local farmers were our main customers, but we also provided service to the State Road Department, Vrchota Trucking, Deerfield Rock Industries and the Boca Raton Hotel.
One night over supper, Dad told us about an incident he’d had that day with a gentleman wearing a hat who had come in to get some welding done on some sort of golf ball handling device. It had gotten broken and needed to be welded. We had a minimum charge at the time of $3. When the job was complete, Dad made out an invoice to “Cash” for $3 and handed it to the gentleman. The man looked astonished and said to my Father, “You’re not going to charge me, are you? Don’t you know who I am? I’m the pro at the Boca Raton Hotel and my name is Sam Snead!” Dad, who did not play golf, was a bit taken back and responded with, “I don’t care if your name is George Washington …or Abraham Lincoln. You owe me $3!” Sam, reluctantly, reached for his wallet, paid up and left muttering to himself. Dad later found out that Sam Snead was the most famous golfer in America, but had a reputation for trying to avoid paying for anything. He didn’t “get” Dad, but I sure wish Dad had gotten his signature. It probably would have been worth a lot more than the $3!
Historical Essay 46
Deerfield’s Horne Family
14 May 2009
In the last essay I mentioned that Joel Horne was my Sunday School (Bible)
teacher when I was 12 years old in 1954. Joel’s mother and father, J. R. and Ardena Horne, had moved in 1903 from the Lakeland, FL area to this small village, then called Hillsboro,* later changed to Deerfield. Citrus growers and vegetable farmers, they came to Deerfield because the steam-powered trains on the recently built Florida East Coast Railroad had to stop here to take on water from the Hillsboro River to make steam. This stop allowed farmers located here, including the Hornes, to load their winter-grown crops and citrus on those trains for onward transport to northern markets.
J. R. Horne was quite successful and ended up owning a large amount of land in the area, including what is now the Deerfield Beach Country Club, which was his citrus grove, and lands east and west of that all the way to Powerline Road.
But unfortunately, he was murdered at his citrus grove in 1920 when he came across thieves, reportedly railroad workers, stealing his citrus. The murderers were never caught. His wife was left with small children to raise and had to sell off their property to support the family.
*The area’s name originated from the Earl of Hillsboro, who had received large land grants from King George III during England’s hold on the area between 1763 and 1783. In 1897, reportedly an engineer working on the construction of the Florida East Coast Railroad named C.E. Hunt renamed the area from Hillsboro to Deerfield because of all the deer in the area.
Historical Essay 45
God and Me in 1954 at age 12
9 Apr 2009
Last week, I wrote an essay entitled “Seeking God as a 12-year-old boy in 1954.” This is a sequel to that story. When I had NOT joined most of the youth in my church by “going forward to accept Christ” during a church-held religious retreat, our pastor Bob Rowe asked me “Why?” When I explained that I needed to know more about other religions of the world first, he encouraged me to do just that. He told me that our Christian faith was about God reaching out in love to mankind, as opposed to mankind having to fear a vengeful God. My subsequent studies verified that to me. I started my Bible study by re-reading the first chapter of Genesis where it starts off by saying: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth …” It took me a few days to get almost through the second book, Exodus, where in Chapter 20 God used Moses to give us the 10 Commandments. I started scanning through the rest of the Old Testament, ending with the last book of Malachi, in one particular series of verses where God is speaking really got my attention: Malachi 3: “Will a man rob God? Yet, you rob me.” But you ask, “How do we rob you?” “In tithes and offerings … Test me in this,” says the Lord God Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the flood gates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” I really liked that scripture, still do, and
I am a living testimony that it is true. During the next few months, I read all of the New Testament and got excited about how the birth and life of Jesus fulfilled many prophesies made in the Old Testament hundreds of years prior. About that time, in the summer of 1954, we had an evening revival at our church led by a young minister named Bill Taylor. The first night I went into church with my best friend at the time, James Stills. He was one of my classmates who had “gone forward to accept Christ” a few months prior. We went down the right aisle of the church about midway and he went in to get seated on the right side first. He stopped shortly after stepping into the seat section, leaving me to his left right next to the aisle. After appropriate singing, the Reverend Bill Taylor started preaching. He was a lot
younger than Reverend Rowe and seemed to be preaching directly to me. After the sermon, we were standing up singing when he invited all those who would like “to accept Christ” to come forward, Suddenly, my whole body got stiff. I couldn’t move. James, without even bothering to say anything to me, just shuffled to his left, poking me softly with his left arm pushing me out into the aisle. I stumbled sideways into the aisle for a moment, steadied myself and looked up as the Reverend Bill Taylor, 30 feet away, had his outstretched arms reaching out for me. Suddenly, I felt myself, in an almost out-of-body experience, “floating” forward toward the Reverend Taylor. When I reached him, he hugged me and said something like “Praise the Lord! “I found out later that nearly everyone in church was praying for me to go forward to “accept Christ.” It worked and is still working. I was baptized by immersion the next Sunday.
Historical Essay 44
Seeking God as a 12-year-old boy in 1954
2 Apr 2009
An age-old question in many cultures is when does a boy start to become a man?
I noticed at age 12 that my parents started treating me a little differently. For one thing, I was the only child in the church my age that had not “gone forward” — that is, walk down the aisle at the end of a church service during the invitation to “accept Christ.” Most of the kids my age had “accepted Christ” when the Church Pastor Bob Rowe had taken the whole youth group at First Baptist Church up to Ft. Pierce for a retreat. Intensive Bible study for a week was followed by emotional preaching, ending with invitations for all of us to come forward to accept and commit our lives to Christ. I was the only young person from our church who did not go forward to “accept Christ” at the retreat and agree to get baptized. Since my parents had always said that it was important that I made that decision on my own, I decided to wait. Pastor, Rev. Rowe was concerned. He sat with me on a park bench later and asked me why I didn’t want to “accept Christ?” I told him that I wanted to find out about other religions in the world and what they believed, before making such an important decision. He seemed to understand and suggested that I might want to use the new Compton’s encyclopedia that he knew my parents had just bought, and go to the religious section and see what I could learn about other religions. He further offered to loan me any of the books in his personal library, which might help. Furthermore he suggested that I might want to read the entire Bible, starting with Genesis of the Old Testament and ending with Malachi. Then I should read the New Testament starting with Mathew and read all 27 books ending with Revelation. And most importantly, he said I should pray each time before reading and ask God to help me understand the truths that He has revealed to us through His Holy Scriptures. Rev. Rowe then said that he would be available anytime if I wanted to consult with him or ask any questions. Thus began my quest at age 12 in the year 1954 to do a lot of reading on faith and religion. I wanted to learn more about who I was, where I came from and where I was going. Fortunately, I was supported in this endeavor by both of my parents, my Sunday School teacher, Joel Horne, and, of course Rev. Rowe. It was a great year.
Historical Essay 43
Deerfield Beach used to be a Party Town!
19 Feb 2009
In the early fifties, television changed social life in Deerfield Beach, just as it did in communities throughout the United States. Before television, Deerfield had an active social scene with people regularly visiting neighbors and friends and often bringing food and sometimes musical instruments with them to make their own entertainment.
House parties were common and sometimes involved a theme or even costumes. My parents, Marlin and Lorena Eller, were active participants, both throwing and attending parties. One party in particular that I remember them attending was at the large new home of Alvin and Betty Jones on Hillsboro Boulevard. It was a costume party. Dad went as an Indian Chief and mother as a cartoon character, Little Annie. They won first prize and received a Super-Puzzle game. I remember Dad telling me he had to wear his sleeves long to cover up his hands in order to keep people from recognizing him.
Mary Jones, to mother’s right, dressed as a Seminole Indian, hosted the most parties in town. She could afford to because her husband Alvin was a successful farmer and Chairman of the first and only bank in town at the time, the Deerfield Beach Bank and Trust Company. Ethel Jones, to Dad’s left, also in Indian garb, was married to Alvin’s brother, Leo Jones.
We knew all of our neighbors then. Life was simple. Life was good. We didn’t even have to lock our doors at night. Brownie, our mutt dog, protected us with his bark and, if necessary, with his bite.
David Eller, Publisher
Historical Essay 42
From dead buzzards, to best drinking water in the state
22 Jan 2009
There are a lot of reasons that cause people to run for public office. My Dad, Marlin Eller, ran and was elected as a city commissioner in 1953 (see Essay No. 38) on a platform to improve and increase the city’s parks and recreational areas. Victorious in the election, he was confronted immediately with the fact the City didn’t have money for such projects. However, being the resourceful businessman that he was, he was able to find more money for the city by getting hundreds of acres of vacant land, in what is now called The Cove, reevaluated in value for the tax roll.(See Essay No. 39 ). The City used these additional funds then to build the pier on the beach, assist with the beach pavilion project, and install the boat ramp at Pioneer Park.
Just prior to Dad’s election, the City had built a new elevated water tank located where the fire department is now at Federal Highway and Hillsboro. I remember being happy because the water pressure was much stronger, allowing me to fill the bath tub up quicker and to squirt my sister with the hose outside from a further distance. However, as time went on, we all noticed that the water tasted worse and worse.
One morning I heard my parents talking about it. Dad had met with the men running the water department and had determined that they all seemed to be doing their jobs properly and the water tasted fine there. Something else apparently was happening to make the water taste bad before it reached our homes. Someone reported that they had seen birds flying around the top of the new elevated water tank. So Dad took Chuck Craven, a welder that worked for Dad, and who had worked in Chicago for a company who built elevated tanks, with him to climb up that tank and check it out. Dad was a little afraid of climbing so high, but Chuck helped him and they went up together.
When they reached the top, they couldn’t believe what they found. Everyone had always assumed that there was a top on the city water tank. However, Dad and Chuck found out there was no top. It was wide open, and full of dead birds, including buzzards. I remember Dad saying the stench was awful and made him nauseous.
Back on the ground he immediately called an emergency meeting of the City Commission to discuss what to do. Chuck offered that he could put a top on the tank, based on his experience in Chicago, but would need some help and would expect to get double pay for the risk and difficulty involved. This was conveyed to the other commissioners who immediately agreed to have Chuck do it on an emergency time and material cost basis. Dad abstained from the vote but everyone else voted to do it. Thus Deerfield got a top on its first elevated water tank, and has had excellent, good tasting water ever since.
Years later when Dad was up for reelection, I remember a sleazy looking newspaper reporter from the Palm Beach Post, wearing dark glasses and a crumbled dark brim hat, came to our house one night, apparently with a hidden agenda. Dad welcomed him and when he started asking questions about the water tank project Dad went next door to our shop office, and got the file. He invited the reporter to look through the time cards to verify the charges, and suggested he could interview Chuck and other employees as well. The reporter declined and then wrote a nasty little article with insinuations which were completely untrue. It made my mother cry. This event shaped my opinion of the newspaper business. It made me realize how important it is that newspaper reporters be fair and accurate in their stories, without a hidden agenda. If mistakes are made, they need to be corrected, and opinions should be reserved for the editorial pages by those assigned the task for doing so.
And incidentally, since then, the water in Deerfield Beach has won many awards for quality and is rated one of the best in the State of Florida.
David Eller, Publisher
Historical Essay 41
Christmas 1953: The Tree and the Tramp
18 Dec 2008
When I was 12 years old Deerfield was just a small rural community. Dixie Highway was our main north-south road, and our family home was the first house on the east side coming south from Boca Raton. There was no such thing as a store-bought Christmas tree back then —at least not in Deerfield. So at age 12, a few days before Christmas, it became my job to go find a tree “in the woods” (i.e. in Boca Raton), cut it down and haul it on my wagon back to the house down Dixie Highway. I’d received my own hatchet for my birthday in October, so I was anxious to use it to cut down a tree. I hid my wagon in some bushes and searched the area just north of the bridge on the east side. While searching, I heard some voices down by the river. So I crept down to see what I could see. I saw three hobos sitting under the bridge talking. One was coughing badly and he looked really skinny. I felt sorry for them, especially the one coughing (because it was really cold and they didn’t have on jackets). But I knew better than to approach them, as they might be dangerous. They hadn’t seen me, so I headed back north by the highway looking for a Christmas tree. I finally found one that was shaped just right and about as big as I could put on my wagon. So I chopped the tree down, dragged it to the highway and put it on the wagon. Then I pulled the wagon with the tree back over the bridge, above the hobos, and to our house about 100 yards south of the bridge. When I got the tree home, Mom congratulated me and we installed it in a special sand-filled bucket container with spreader legs that Dad had made for that purpose. We added a little water and started the decorating process. While we were decorating, I mentioned to Mother about the hobos I’d seen and how cold they looked and how one was coughing real bad. I knew that sometimes Mom had made sandwiches for hobos who knocked on the door. So after we finished the tree, she went into the kitchen and started making peanut butter sandwiches. She put them in one brown bag and then got another bag of old sweaters and jackets which Dad didn’t wear very often and one old blanket. She then told me to go back down to the bridge and drop the two bags down to the hobos without saying anything to them. Then I was to run back run back home quickly making sure they didn’t see where I went. With mission accomplished, I was proud to have done something to help those poor fellows. I remember Mother and Dad talking about it that night and Dad saying that it happens every winter. When it gets cold up north, the vagrants, as he called them, come south looking for warm weather. They apparently don’t realize that it can get cold down here, too. So they end up unprepared when a cold spell hits. The next day was a Saturday and I was watching Hop-Along Cassidy on TV when the police car pulled up front. The policeman, Mr. Lloyd Newman, came to the front door carrying the same brown bag I had dropped down to the hobos the previous evening. He said, “Mrs. Eller did you make some peanut butter sandwiches for some hobos by any chance?” Mother said “Yes, I did. David dropped them off to the hobos down by the bridge yesterday afternoon.” Officer Newman continued, “Well, we found a dead man, a hobo down under the bridge this morning, with a half of a eaten peanut butter sandwich in his hand. We just wanted to make sure he hadn’t been poisoned or anything like that. But if you made the sandwich then I know everything is alright. So…you have a Merry Christmas, you hear?” Mother responded “Thank you Lloyd. And Merry Christmas to you too!” I share this true story as a reminder that we all need to be sensitive to the needy in our midst. Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas to all.
David Eller, Publisher