A Reader's Story:

Finding Florida - 61 Years Ago on the East Coast

By Marilyn Hayden

You have to admit the real, untouched Florida, except for beaches and swamps is pretty boring. My first husband was stationed at Camp Murphy, US Army Signal Corps, during WWII at what is now Camp James (?) Dickinson, between Stuart & West Palm. It was scrub pine, palmetto and sand with no redeeming features.

There is now a tall observation tower with broad stairs that overlooks the Inland Waterway (Hobe Sound) and Jupiter Island. My daughter, my husband and I climbed the tower at Christmas time in 2001. Still sand, scrub pine and palmetto; two buildings remain from Camp Murphy, and campsites are in real wilderness. Hard to believe that the most expensive community in the country is just a few miles south in Jupiter. Not your Real Florida, either. Jupiter was a narrow place in the road in 1942-44, not even as busy as Hobe Sound during the war, which had a grocery store—St. Onge’s (still there) and a Post Office, and a few tiny scattered businesses.

We lived in a huge old house on Jupiter Island that we shared with another couple until the other Lieutenant moved on.  Many of the residents had very casual places - but now the Island is mostly built up and it is all elaborately landscaped. Our dear OLD  landlady (at 76, five years younger than I am now)  came down from Philadelphia and spent a month with us in ’44 and we became fast friends.

She offered to sell us her 6 1/2 acres with a five bedroom house—early 20th century but beautifully rehabbed in 1937—for Gulp! $50,000.  It was on the Inland Waterway, with an acre of it on the ocean and a beach house that was really nice. It had a long pier and a boathouse big enough for a steam yacht, a two-car garage with the Captain’s house attached, and the caretaker’s cottage. Since it was just after the depression - $50,000 was an impossible amount, but who knew? Our parents could have mortgaged themselves and gone in with us and bought it—it was worth millions two years after the war.  Ah, the Land of What Might Have Been.

Journalist’s Note: Over the past few weeks Ms. Hayden and I have emailed back and forth on several occasions. She told a couple of stories that are probably good enough to put me out of a job. Printing them in a newspaper, however, would simply not do them justice. If you are lucky enough to know Ms. Hayden, perhaps she’ll share a few of her REAL Florida stories. I enjoyed them immensely.

-Mitch Traphagen

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