Lyman A. Boomer’s 1910 Boynton Map

From the October 2004 issue of The Historian. At the time, the society did not know Lyman Boomer’s identity.

In 2004, the Boynton Beach Historical Society reprinted a map of 1910 Boynton in the October issue of The Historian. The map’s creator was Lyman A. Boomer, age 10. At the time, no one at the historical society remembered a Boomer family, and several officers determined that the lad must have been a Lyman family member nicknamed “Boomer.”From the October 2004 issue of The Historian. At the time, the society did not know Lyman Boomer's identity.

The map depicted the original town of Boynton and had a key with family names and businesses. It even showed the Boynton Hotel, Fred Dewey’s orange grove, pineapple plantations, truck farms, the cemetery, and packing houses.

Lyman A. Boomer’s “Boynton in 1910” map reproduced in the Boynton Beach Star, ca. 1968.


Over the years, Ginger Pedersen and I used this map, along with Sanborn maps and real estate sales ledgers to recreate the original Town of Boynton and to research Boynton’s pioneers. Along the way, we discovered that Lyman Boomer was a real person, that the Boomer family did indeed live in Boynton in 1910, that Lyman was a talented artist with a keen interest in history, and we made contact with a family member.

Since Lyman Boomer left us with an important document illustrating early Boynton, I think it’s only fitting to tell his amazing story.

John and Ida Boomer (center/left), John’s sister Ella Boomer, and children Florence, Horace and Lyman in front of the Boomer home, ca. 1910.


John Boomer, a Missouri farmer, tried his hand truck farming in early Boynton. The family arrived in early 1909 and returned back to the Midwest in 1914. The 1910 federal census shows John, his wife Ida, sister Emily, and three children, Horace, age 13, Lyman, age 8 and Florence, age 3. Mr. Boomer’s occupation was listed as farmer. Their small frame house stood on the northeast corner of Ocean Avenue and Federal Highway.

1910 Federal Census record showing the Boomer family living in Boynton. John Boomer’s occupation is listed as a farmer in the truck farming business.


At the time, about 600 people were on the census pages for the greater Boynton region. The Boomer children attended school and played with the Murray kids, and Lyman, we learned, maintained a friendship with several Murray brothers even after they were grown men.

In the early 1920s, the Boomer clan moved to California, and lived in the Los Angeles area. Horace worked in a gold mine and Lyman opened an advertising firm painting signs and backdrops for Hollywood movies. Our Boynton map maker had true artistic talent. In the 1930s, Lyman wrote and illustrated a Wildlife Illustrated trilogy and won national acclaim. School children and families learned about birds, animals, and reptiles in their natural habitats from his works.

Illustrated Wildlife written and illustrated by Lyman A. Boomer, 1935

Lyman returned to Boynton for a visit in the late 1920s, and spent time with his childhood chums, Horace and Arthur Murray. A few years ago, Lyman’s great nephew, Dave Lineberry, saw our Facebook post about Lyman and sent us a link to Lyman’s

of going to a “Cracker Dance” with the brothers Murray. Mr. Lineberry also alerted us to the fact that Lyman also wrote a book about growing up in Florida. We don’t have a copy of it, but are actively looking for one.

The Florida Everglades illustration by Lyman A. Boomer

Lyman later had a cattle farm in Missouri, and over the years earned a reputation as a talented artist and a noted naturalist.

Lyman Boomer, and friends Brice and Bess Jones, ca. 1970s

He cared deeply about history and the environment and learned all he could about the land, including the native American tribes. He served as family historian and kept the family treasures. I feel that somewhere out there there are more Boynton images.

In the early 1970s, Lyman and his second wife sold the farm and moved into town. A local newspaper advertised an estate sale and listed household good, antiques and farming implements. It would seem that was a very sad time for Lyman to give up so much of his estate.

1974 estate auction advertisement for Mr. and Mrs. Lyman A. Boomer. After they sold their farm and moved to town they downsized and sold off personal household good and farming implements.

Lyman and his first wife had two sons, who are both gone now. We are grateful that his grand-nephew is keeping Lyman’s memory alive. In 2004, a newspaperman in Lyman’s hometown was gathering information, photos and stories for a Lyman Andrews Boomer biography. The journalist, Chris Houston advised me a few years ago that he hadn’t received the response he needed and the project is on hold.

One young boy’s simple Boynton cartography leaves us with an understanding of how people lived here 110 years ago. Thank you, Lyman for giving us a glimpse into the past with your legacy. Wish I could have met you.

Lyman Andrews Boomer
1901- 1990

Close-up of Lyman Boomer’s 1910 Boynton map depicting the Boynton Hotel and the Coquimbo shipwreck.

Close-up of Lyman Boomer’s 1910 Boynton map.

Close-up of Lyman Boomer’s 1910 Boynton map.

Historically speaking about hurricanes (part 1)

Hurricane watches evoke emotion. They are oft-times viewed with humor by those who take these weather events lightly and are greeted with stress and anxiety by those who aren’t sure how to react, have responsibility for others, and people who live alone. Many residents and visitors partake in hurricane parties; not a particularly bad idea for commiserating with others placed in similar situations; provided that you’ve already properly prepared for the storm by “battening down the hatches,” stockpiling adequate water, food, fuel, and other provisions, and don’t over-party.

Wind map of Hurricane Dorian on Friday, August 30 10:00am (Windy.com)


Having lived through several hurricanes and countless watches and warnings over the last fifty or so years, I’ve become accustomed to the Atlantic tropical storm action and the community’s reaction.

Surfers and most tourists love this time of year. Homeowners and small businesses dread it.

Boynton Ocean Inlet Park 2019

Exceedingly, newcomers to town are anxious about hurricanes, albeit somewhat excited.
Historically speaking, Boynton Beach, Florida and its surrounding areas have experienced many devastating hurricanes. On the other hand, most years (about 9 out of 10 over the last 130 years), Boynton has dodged the bullet and had no significant hurricane damage.

Looking back, this blog series will examine Boynton’s most significant hurricanes over the last one hundred years or so. While there’s been loss of life and significant property destruction in the early twentieth century, the region’s growth and expanse has taxed roadways, storm sewers, electrical grids and water supplies in ways no one would have predicted.

Just look at how we communicate? Today one can email and text instantaneously to friends and relatives in other states, countries and continents.

Historically speaking…Imagine being in a storm with no warning, no place to go and no way to reach your friends and family? While today, we have advanced warning, computerized tracking models, the Weather Channel, cell phones and social media for connecting with and helping friends, neighbors and family members, communication used to be severely limited. Before the days of daily newspapers and radios, one of the early warning systems came as the FEC—Florida East Coast Railway locomotives signaled an SOS—a Morse Code system of three short, three long and three short horn blasts, symbolizing distress.

Hurricane fo 1928 Mass Burial Site


From the unnamed 1928 killer hurricane (when the Lake Okeechobee levee broke causing massive flooding), to the 1949 storm that spawned tornadoes that flattened parts of Boynton and much of Briny Breezes, to the 2004 triple play of hurricanes Frances, Jean and Charley, Boyntonites who’ve been here at least fifteen years understand hurricane wrath. They also understand how important it is to heed the ample warnings, to take precautions to secure their home, have basic supplies and expect at the least to be without power for several days or weeks.

Today, the City of Boynton Beach, and other local governments have carefully prepared hurricane plans and recovery plans. The community comes together to help. FEMA—the Federal Emergency Management Agency, created in 1978 also assists people with emergency aid after the storm. You might remember people lining up for MREs—Meals, ready to eat, and ice after Hurricanes Frances and Jean.

City of Boynton Beach Hurricane Preparedness

It’s always surprising, but understandable seeing people running around ransacking grocery stores and jockeying for a full tank of gas as storms approach. These precautions are smart moves, but today most gas stations and grocery stores have generators, and unless roadways are impassable after the storm, new deliveries will arrive again in a few days. We won’t starve. If the power goes out, and it’s likely to happen, food can spoil quickly, so having bread, tortillas, crackers, and peanut butter and jelly on hand will provide ample nourishment.

Gathering Hurricane Supplies navy.mil

Additionally, power is now more easily fixed, due to extensive and ongoing utility upgrades and a team of linemen who travel to affected area to repair lines and rescue new South Floridians who have never lived without air-conditioning. Oh, and water. The water coming out of your tap is fine now. Fill up cups, bottles, containers and such that you have in the house. Freeze them. They will serve as ice, then cold water if the power goes out. Even plastic bags can hold ice.

*If you live in a mobile home or evacuation zone—relocate to a safer place—inland preferably, or Wisconsin or Michigan, especially if you have friends and family there.

American Red Cross – Hurricane Preparedness

More to come…but for now, don’t panic. There’s plenty of time to prepare for Dorian, so heed the warnings and get ready. Please remember to help out others, especially people who live alone, and the elderly. We are all in this together.

Boynton Beach Memories

“What’s your earliest Boynton Beach memory?” If one asked that question on the street, the beach, at the mall or even on Facebook, it’s likely there’d be dozens, if not hundreds or thousands of different early memories, visions (or versions) of Boynton. That’s because we all have our personal memories, our familial stories. We may have been born in different eras, grew up in a different neighborhood, or hung out at different places.

There’s probably some commonalities, like food. People tend to fondly remember food. It wouldn’t be an oversimplification to say that Bud’s Chicken, Lucy’s Donuts, Lucille and Otley’s Restaurant and Sal’s (or Danny’s) Pizza comes up. Who the heck is Danny, anyway? Oh, he’s a new kid on the block, like many of you (Welcome to the neighborhood).

Other common threads are the beach, A1A and the Boynton Inlet. Just don’t call it by it’s official name (The South Lake Worth Inlet). That would irritate generations of people who are certain the name is the Boynton Inlet—and that would be especially confusing because there’s a town nearby named Lake Worth. Or is that Lake Worth Beach? Depends upon who you ask, and when they moved here.

And the Boynton Beach Mall. Again, everyone has their version. Back when there was NOTHING to do in little old quiet Boynton, the mall was a HUGE deal. Jordan Marsh, Burdines, food, games, hanging out in something called air-conditioning…ahh. Then there’s haters…haters gonna hate—and supporters. Like mall walkers. They love the mall. And dad, Sears is one of his favorite stores. Oh dear, Sears is gone. Lots of people will say that Sears, ToysRUs, and K-Mart or whatever store is lame—until it’s gone. Then they miss it and post all kinds of photographs wishing that it was still there, and that they could buy some Craftsman tools.

A view of the original bridge over the inlet, sometimes called Rainbow Bridge or Old McDonald Bridge for its twin arches

That reminds me of the Two Georges. No, not the restaurant, the boat. Back in the 1960s (AKA The old days), Boynton was a farming and fishing town. Really, it was. Once the Inlet (the cut to old-timers) opened up, commercial and sport fishermen and even weekend warriors could ride out through the Inlet to perhaps the best fishing spots in the country. That was before wave runners, jet-skis and selfies. The Two Georges was just one of the ½ dozen head boats and several dozen charter boats docked at Boynton marinas. A head boat is a boat where folks pay a few bucks a head (a person) to fish for four hours. They are sometimes called drift boats, because once the captain gets near a favorite fishing spot, or at least the water is a certain depth, he cuts the engine for a time and lets the boat…drift. I won’t tell you what happened to the Two Georges boat (I’ll let the old-timers here chime in), but I can tell you that the Two Georges Restaurant is still here, and so is the Banana Boat. But someone is thinking of the restaurant that was there before the Banana Boat. It begins with an S…..it was owned by the Molle’s…Smokey’s! That’s it, Smokey’s Wharf!

What about the farms? It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that back in the 1970s pretty much everything west of Congress was farmland. West of Military was “the boonies.” That brings us back to the question? What is your version of Boynton? For some it was the blue crabs that flooded the coastal highway, causing tire punctures. For others it was taking horseback riding lessons at one of Boynton’s many stables. Others recall fishing off N. 22nd Avenue (what’s that you say?)…I mean Gateway Blvd. There was a Go-Kart and midget car race track on Lawrence Road…and a citrus farm where you could drink fresh squeezed orange juice, ride a tram through the groves, eat pie, see a native Seminole wrestle an alligator. Certainly you remember Knollwood Groves? What about Palm Beach Groves, Sturrock Groves, Indian Hill Groves, Blood’s Hammock Groves? Why did you think there is a school on Lawrence Road called Citrus Cove?  Have you any idea where the Rangeline is? State Road 441 (AKA the Everglades). Don’t get me started on the dairies. Or the roses and the orchids. Or the pineapples. Or the toms. Tom who? Tom-a-to.

Times change. Nothing stays the same. People are born. We live, we love, we die. Storms come, storms go, we rebuild, preserve what we can, and honor and memorialize what is gone. Embrace what you’ve got. As Joni Mitchell sang “ … you don’t know what you’ve got
till it’s gone … “

Special Event: Florida Highwaymen Exhibit in Boynton Beach

M. Randall Gill & Kay Baker with Florida Highwaymen paintings

Florida’s historic landscape artists known as The Florida Highwaymen will be coming to Boynton Beach on Saturday, January 18, 2020 from 11-3 p.m. Free Admission & Free Parking. This event is sponsored by the Boynton Beach Historical Society and the Boynton Woman’s Club. The popular Highwaymen artists will be in the Fellowship Hall of First Presbyterian Church, 235 SW 6th Ave. They will discuss their art work during the day and will have paintings available to buy. Visitors will enjoy hearing about their fascinating history and enjoy seeing the bold, classic Highwaymen style. The artists tentatively scheduled to attend are Curtis Arnett, Al Black, Mary Ann Carroll, Issac Knight, Robert Lewis and Doretha Hair Truesdell. The Highwaymen (25 African-American men and one woman) were from the Fort Pierce area and took to the highways to sell their paintings of blowing palm trees, flaming red Poinciana trees, cobalt blue oceans and fire sky sunsets. The artists traveled south to sell their artwork and Boynton Beach was a favorite stop. As they traveled down Federal Highway they sold art work to many of the businesses in town. Today you can still find their artistic legacy displayed in some of the local businesses along Federal Highway.

Holiday Magic: Remembering the National Enquirer Christmas Tree  

My favorite childhood memories include the enchanting department store Christmas displays in downtown Chicago. The Marshall Field’s vignettes featured vibrant animated scenes. That special treat and its holiday magic is firmly etched in my mind. New York, too, does not skimp on the holiday sparkle. The festive annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade kicks off the season, and Rockefeller Center erects its signature tree, said to average 75-90 feet in height. 
 

Families residing in South Florida during the 1970s and 1980s witnessed its own annual Christmas miracle when publishing mogul Generoso Paul Pope, Jr. brought holiday tradition and magic to Lantana. Pope, known to his friends and family as Gene, began the tradition in 1972 when he ordered a freshly cut 55-foot balsam fir for his newly relocated National Enquirer offices situated along the Florida East Coast Railway tracks at 600 S. East Coast Avenue.

Dec 14 1972 The Palm Beach Post

At the inaugural tree lighting on December 11th, children of all ages tilted their heads back to view the majestic glittering tree and “oohed and aahed” when Senator Edward Gurney pressed the button illuminating over 7,000 twinkling lights. More than 400 red and green ornaments, 100 red bows and 50 three-foot-tall candy canes decked the tree. The New Directions choir from Riverside Baptist Church in Miami serenaded the enraptured crowd with Christmas songs and hymns. Amid the balmy 80-degree weather that Monday evening, South Floridians indulged in a few hours of authentic holiday magic. For weeks afterward, passersby along Federal Highway (known then as U.S. 1, the main route through Palm Beach County), gawked at the tree and pulled over to take photographs.

Dec. 8 1973 The Palm Beach Post


Most National Enquirer Christmastime attendees knew little about Pope’s six-month struggle to locate and retrieve the big tree. Since trees that size don’t grow in the United States, the tree came from Canada. He had it specially crated and shipped by rail to the coast, then transferred onto a freighter and delivered to the Port of Miami to begin its trek north to Lantana. Pope, his wife Lois and their six children could see the six-foot lighted star atop the Enquirer tree from their home in nearby Manalapan.

Dec 12 1982 The Palm Beach Post


 
People enjoyed the tree so much Pope continued the tradition, and both the tree and the holiday cheer grew in size and scope with each year. Once word got out about the magnificent Christmas tree and enchanting displays, lines to enter the grounds wrapped around the block, sightseers in tour busses came from places like Miami, Orlando and Tampa, and pilots from Lantana Airport advertised sightseeing flights over the attraction. The town brought in extra police, and lucrative entrepreneurs hawked soft drinks and souvenirs.
 

National Enquirer Christmas Displays

More enchanting displays


Perhaps even more mesmerizing than the tree were the impressive animated displays and the seemingly endless trains weaving through an irresistible land of toys. Pope brought in Burl Ives to croon “White Christmas” and delight children with songs like “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” Eventually, the tree topped 126 feet and has been dubbed “the world’s largest Christmas tree,” although it doesn’t officially appear on record. A biker group labored to unload, install and decorate the tree, which arrived most years vial rail in boxcars and had to be reassembled. Once Interstate 95 came through, motorists could view the tree from the highway. The tree was visible to the sport fishing boats that frequented the Atlantic Ocean just outside the Boynton Inlet.
 

Nov 8 1987 The Orlando Sentinel


At times neighbors and local businesses deemed National Enquirer tree and its crowds a nuisance. Although Pope offered free parking, traffic snarled Federal Highway and cut off entry to neighborhoods, shops and restaurants. One year someone called in a bomb threat. Actor Burt Reynolds, who owned a horse ranch in nearby Jupiter, and fed up with the tabloid for exposing his private life, reportedly rented a pilot and a helicopter and dumped a sizable load of horse manure on the tree. Despite the stink from the manure and some neighbors, Pope and his Christmas extravaganza continued to deliver holiday cheer.  
 
A heart attack claimed the 61-year-old Pope in October 1988. Months later, his widow Lois hosted the Christmas tradition in his absence, but that would be the last year crowds pilgrimaged to the little town of Lantana to see its noteworthy tree. 
 

Jan 1 1989 Sun Sentinel

A year later, Gene Pope’s estate sold the the National Enquirer for $412 million to MacFadden Publishing and Boston Ventures. The tree’s decorations, which included three-quarters of a mile of garland, 250 red bows, 1,200 multicolored balls and 150 candy-cane and snowflake ornaments, along with its six-foot lighted star adorned a Christmas tree in Bayfront Park in Miami. 
 
Generoso Pope is buried in Our Lady Queen of Peace Cemetery in Royal Palm Beach. His epitaph describes his legacy as the man who made millions and millions of people happy.  No doubt any kid who grew up viewing Pope’s National Enquirer tree can still recall the festive displays and fondly recall and describe that old-fashioned “Christmas magic.”
 

Generoso Paul Pope’s Epitaph

Bill Newcott posted an eight minute video of the 1985 display on YouTube.

Paul David Pope reposted an interesting story about the last Christmas tree.

This 1987 Sun Sentinel article provides more insight into the operations choreography for the tree.

Pope’s widow, Lois Pope, continues to live in Manalapan.

Eliot Kleinberg’s Post Time column about the Lantana Christmas tree tradition.

Stay tuned for an upcoming blog about Generoso Paul Pope, Jr. (there was too much interesting information to fit into this blog about Christmas).