In Memoriam: Fireman Lacey’s Final Ride

This piece is written by guest blogger, Michael Landress of the Beach Beach Fire Department.

In Memoriam

In early 2007, Rescue No. 4 (C-Battalion) responded to a medical emergency in the southeast portion of the city just north of Woolbright Road. Upon arrival, they found an elderly male patient named James Irvin Lacey in slight distress and complaining of chest pain.

As our paramedics performed their assessment and initiated treatment, the eighty-eight year old man exclaimed he was once a fireman for the Town of Boynton Beach. He was then transported to JFK Medical Center, where he was treated and released several weeks later.

When I was presented this information by the crew, I began to research the gentleman’s claim. With a little digging through some dusty boxes I discovered that indeed, James I. Lacey was a volunteer fireman with our department. He started his career in 1945 and retired during the early 1960s. I called Mr. Lacey and explained that I was working on a chronological history book for our fire department and asked if he would be receptive to a visit. He agreed, but said not to arrive before 1pm.    As he exclaimed; “I like to sleep in.”

As I knocked on the door and waited, I couldn’t help but think of the memories he may share. I was about to step back in time of our fire department’s history and gather valuable tidbits of information from that era in an effort to enhance the project. Aside from the memoirs of A.R. Cook [an original founding member], there really was no information in the city’s archive regarding the early years of our fire department.

When the door finally opened, a shirtless, wiry, old man was standing there and welcomed me in. He offered me a seat and first spoke of his house — a quaint old Florida block home he purchased in the 1950s. He talked about his lovely wife who passed away in the early 1980s and he explained that he left everything, including the décor, just as it had been when she died — he never remarried.

He was then eager to share memories of the fire department and we spent the next two and a half hours talking shop. Once James began to reflect and speak, he was unstoppable. I could see the gleam in his weary eyes when he recalled something humorous. He would crack a smile and shake his head. He boasted with clarity of the Jungle Inn fire of 1946 [his fondest firefighting memory], and spoke of the Kwik Chek grocery store blaze in 1961.

James mentioned the countless motor vehicle accidents that occurred on Federal Highway and he spoke of the wonderful personalities of his coworkers. Feverishly scribbling notes, there was just no way could I document all of his wonderful stories. Many of those unshared memories he would ultimately take to his final rest and that’s my only regret.

Fireman James I Lacey, ca. 2007

Fireman James I Lacey, ca. 2007

Just prior to finishing our conversation, James slowly lifted himself from his chair then shuffled down a narrow hallway and began rifling through a tiny closet. He emerged and slowly made his way back to the living room clutching a small plastic bag. He reached into the bag and brought forth a vintage 1940s era class “A” cap — complete with a tiny silver badge that read “Boynton Beach Fire Department.”

James donated the cap and it is now on display at Boynton Beach Fire Rescue Department’s Fire Station No. 5. It was evident to this firefighter, that even after all these years, Fireman Lacey remained extremely proud of his tenure with our fire department.

James Irvin Lacey passed peacefully in 2010 at his home, just as he left it.

 

Michael Landress

Michael Landress

Michael Landress is a native Floridian and novice historian. He has spent the previous 15 years as a professional firefighter/paramedic for the City of Boynton Beach Fire Rescue Department. He holds a BA from St. Thomas University in Miami, Florida and his hobbies include; spending time with his two teenage sons, writing, photography, supporting the Miami Dolphins and saltwater fishing.

The Wireless Telephone of 1913

This blog does not directly tie to Boynton history, but I found it while looking for information on a 1913 Boynton news event. The only South Florida online paper from that era is the Daily Miami Metropolis; the Palm Beach Post does not appear until 1916. I was scanning the headlines and saw an interesting title “A Glimpse of the Future;”  the writer was making predictions on the newspaper of the future, as seen by the Macon News. I thought this would be a good chuckle to see some fanciful musings of our future life. But what I found was a prophecy that would make Nostradamus jealous.

Some of the prophecies:

“…its pages will be smaller, methods of distribution will be quicker and circulation will cover greater areas” – Newspaper pages have certainly shrunk in size.

“Morning and evening papers will be merged and editions will come out almost every hour of the day and night.” – There are no more evening papers with the Internet, cable TV and the 24 hour news cycle.

“News will be collected by wireless telephone and a reporter will always have a portable telephone with him with which he will communicate with his paper without the trouble of going to a telephone.” – The Mobile Phone

“The wireless telephone message will be delivered to the sub-editors in printed column form.’ – The Wireless Tablet

“All the news of the day will be given hot from its source.” – Live coverage of news events

“…a householder will have his daily newspaper printed in column form by a printing machine in his hall… – Desktop Home Printers

There is no byline in the article, so the prophet will remain a mystery. So what is your prophecy for the newspaper 100 years from today? The complete item from September 2, 1913 appears below.

Article from September 2, 1913 Daily Miami Metropolis

Article from September 2, 1913 Daily Miami Metropolis

The Last Cows of Boynton – Part 1

I guess there has to be a last of everything, and in Boynton’s proud dairy history, these are indeed the last. The last cows of Boynton are in their 12 acre pasture, tucked between a gas station, a development, and Knuth Road. You may have driven past them on Boynton Beach Boulevard. I often take children there to feed the cows carrots, so they can see what

Cow in the Winchester Pasture

Cow in the Winchester Pasture

a real cow looks like. One evening we were lucky enough to meet Mrs. Winchester, who came by to check on them. There was a nostalgic gaze on her face as she told me of the days when thousands of cows grazed across Boynton’s prairies. She laughed as she told me her first name – Elsie! A perfect name for a dairyman’s wife.

These last cows hold the secret of all those that came before them. Boynton’s flat drained sandy and muck soils were ideal for cattle grazing, and in the 1920s,  the Model Land Company encouraged people to enter the dairying business.  The first large-scale dairy had some very lucky cows, who enjoyed an ocean view. In 1920, Ward Miller decided that the lands that today make up Briny Breezes would make a fine dairy. Being near the ocean, diseases brought by ticks would be less of a problem. In 1923, he built the Shore Acres Dairy, along with owning the Miller-Jordan Dairy on Federal Highway, while W.S. Shepard had the Royal Palm Dairy.

Another large dairy in the early days of Boynton dairying was Bertana Farms, owned by A.E Parker and on the Dixie Highway. He was also part owner of the Alfar Creamery in West Palm Beach, and a former city manager of West Palm Beach; much of the milk from Boynton was processed through the Alfar Creamery. Harry Benson and E.L. Winchester also had their dairys on the eastern side of Boynton.

As land along the ocean and the Dixie highway became more valuable, dairies began to pop up along the Military Trail, Lawrence Road and what would eventually become Congress Avenue (Congress was not put through Boynton until 1965). One of earliest and most famous dairy families of Boynton were the Weavers. Their dairy was located along the Military Trail, where the Cypress Creek Golf Club is today. M.A. Weaver served as mayor of Boynton for many years, and their house still stands in Lake Boynton Estates. His sons had land north and south of Boynton Beach Boulevard on Military Trail, all of which was eventually sold for developments and shopping. Stanley Weaver was also very much involved in Boynton, serving as mayor in the 1950s and serving longer than anyone else ever has on the Lake Worth Drainage District Board. The Boynton Canal is now named in his honor.
Next installment – The Last Cows of Boynton – Part 2

Boynton’s First Fire Engine

For this blog, we are pleased to have a second installment from guest blogger, Michael Landress of the Boynton Beach Fire Department. – BBHS Editors

In June 1925, a representative from the American La France Fire Engine Company traveled to Boynton Beach to visit with Fire Chief Charles Senior. The chief was so impressed with the presentation, he requested Mayor Knuth to call a special meeting for later that evening. The mayor and other council members agreed to meet, and shortly thereafter, a deal was struck. The company was trying to sell a fire engine that was involved in an accident in Perry, Florida.

Original hand-cranked siren from the 1910 American La France Fire Engine Company purchased by the Boynton Beach Fire Department in 1915

Original hand-cranked siren from the 1910 American La France Fire Engine Company purchased by the Boynton Beach Fire Department in 1925

The 1910 model fire engine had been returned to the factory and was completely restored to its original condition. The Town of Boynton Beach decided to purchase the truck for the remaining payments, thus ushering in the fire apparatus era.

The fire engine was basically a 500 gallon per minute pumper, complete with a 30 gallon auxiliary soda acid chemical tank, right hand drive and solid rubber tires. The truck was equipped with 1000 feet of 2 ½” hose and 200 feet of 1” chemical hose. Other features included two 10-feet by 4-inch suction hose, an axe and a pry bar.

It was delivered to Boynton Beach on July 4, 1925 by Ray Larabee. He was the chief engineer and mechanic for American La France at that time and drove the truck to Boynton Beach from Jacksonville, most likely using the old auto trail known as the Atlantic Highway. The 300 mile trip began prior to the opening of U.S. Highway 1, and must have been an onerous journey for Larabee, traveling on those unforgiving tires under the searing Florida sun.

It is interesting and remarkable to note that this fire engine was still in service during the 1950s. It was eventually decommissioned after 30 years of service, and then sold to a gentleman in Miami, Florida in 1957 for $350.00.

At the time of the sale, Fire Chief Senior was quoted as saying; “The truck is a rough rider with solid rubber tires and an engine that purrs like a Cadillac.”

The hand-crank siren was removed prior to the sale and is currently on display at Boynton Beach Fire Rescue Department’s Fire Station No. 5.

Michael Landress

Michael Landress

Michael Landress is a native Floridian and novice historian. He has spent the previous 15 years as a professional firefighter/paramedic for the City of Boynton Beach Fire Rescue Department. He holds a BA from St. Thomas University in Miami, Florida and his hobbies include; spending time with his two teenage sons, writing, photography, supporting the Miami Dolphins and saltwater fishing.

 

The South Lake Worth Inlet – an 85 year-old Boynton landmark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2009, local history supporter Robert Neff wrote to me at the Boynton Beach City Library, requesting the assistance and support of the Boynton Beach Historical Society in applying for a historic State of Florida marker at the Boynton Inlet. Mr. Neff offered to fund the cost for the marker. I researched and documented the history of the marker and applied for a Master Site File number. Prior to the application finalization, Mr. Neff passed away at the age of 95. Next month, the marker review board will make a decision on the South Lake Worth (Boynton) Inlet marker. Here is a tidbit of history from the application narrative:

Throngs of anglers and fisherman gather at the inlet to relax, fish and watch the sport fishing, recreation, and drift fishing boats travel in and out of the inlet.

Throngs of anglers and fisherman gather at the inlet to relax, fish and watch the sport fishing, recreation and drift fishing boats travel in and out of the inlet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The South Lake Worth Inlet (commonly known as the Boynton Inlet) is located in Ocean Ridge, Florida. The first inlet into Lake Worth was cut in the mid-19th century in the vicinity of today’s Lake Worth Inlet on the north end of the barrier island of Palm Beach, and was stabilized in 1917 as a navigable inlet. In 1925, the South Lake Worth Inlet was cut at the south end of the body of water known as Lake Worth.

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

A view of the original bridge over the inlet. Over the years the bridge has been nicknamed the Rainbow Bridge or Old McDonald Bridge for its twin arches

In the early 1920s, the need was seen for an additional inlet at the south end of Lake Worth to allow better water circulation and improve water quality. Both the cities of West Palm Beach and Lake Worth dumped sewage into Lake Worth as water treatment was nonexistent in the 1920s. On October 10, 1923, the newly formed South Lake Worth Inlet District appropriated monies for engineering work on the Inlet and construction began with Karl Riddle serving as chief engineer (Palm Beach Post).

The rainbow-style bridge over the inlet was opened September 3, 1926 to allow automobile traffic to continue through to Palm Beach along Ocean Boulevard (Palm Beach Post). Work continued on the inlet and it opened March 16, 1927 (Palm Beach Post). The inlet impeded the natural sand flow to the south of the inlet, resulting in severe erosion along those beaches. In 1937, the world’s first fixed sand bypassing plant, with extended jetties on the north and south ends were constructed, which greatly reduced erosion (Dean & O’Brien, 1987).

Pelicans patiently waiting for a taste of fish

Pelicans patiently waiting for a taste of fish

The Inlet opening jump-started the local economy and launched Boynton Beach as a fishing and boating destination. The Inlet allowed easy access to the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf Stream, as Boynton Beach is the closest municipality to the Gulf Stream waters. The areas surrounding the Inlet became a popular destination with local residents and tourists. In 1988, the county improved the park and its amenities. The Inlet and site continue to draw thousands each year to its blue waters and park facilities.