Jean Rider Pipes: From 1930s “Sister Act” to Boynton Civic Leader

I first saw her infectious smile in 2005. Randall Gill and I, who were working together on a book “Images of America: Boynton Beach,” did not know her name. We did however recognize that the small, brown haired woman in the checkered shirt laughing as she posed holding up the sailfish epitomized the flavor of Boynton Beach in the 1950s. Our editors agreed, and out of several hundred photos considered, this ended up as the book’s cover. It helped that rugged and tan Capt. Homer Adams, well-known in the Boynton community and from a pioneer family also graced the cover. The backdrop of the fish board framed by waving palms added to the joyful scene.

Jean Rider Pipes, center (Photo courtesy Shirley Adams).

At our first book signing, appropriately held at the Boynton Beach City Library, where the book was “born,” someone excitedly announced “That’s Mrs. Pipes! She was married to Mayor Pipes.” We had a last name, but not a first. In the 1950s, many women were still referred to as Mrs. So-and-so, and only their family and friends knew their first names. In 2005, few newspaper collections were available in digital format, so learning more about the pretty lady took time, and involved good old crowd-sourcing.

At another book event, someone remembered that Mrs. Pipes taught swimming lessons. Another person revealed that Mrs. Pipes had a large in-ground swimming pool and invited neighborhood children over to swim. One of the boat captains eyed the book cover and declared “Jean Pipes, she was a wonderful lady angler and won many fishing tournaments.

A display of photographs of past mayors hanging in the Boynton Beach Commission Chambers indicated that J. Willard Pipes was Boynton mayor in 1962. An Internet search revealed that Pipes, of Chicago, retired as vice-president of Pepsi-Cola and moved to Boynton about 1948.

Mrs. Pipes, or Jean as we now knew her, previously led the the dazzling life of a vaudeville-like entertainer – dancing and singing with her sister Loma as a sister act. Jean and Loma performed as The Rider Sisters and tap-danced and sang their way around Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. The duo had gigs in theaters, night clubs and county fairs. They were famous.

Once in Boynton Beach, Jean didn’t totally hang up her dancing shoes, but she channeled some of her energy and vivaciousness into transforming the sleepy bedroom community. She quickly got to work championing for a hospital (Bethesda) and organizing the Royal Palm Republican Club Federated. She helped found the Boynton Lantana Business and Professional Women’s Club and served on the board for the Palm Beach County Libraries and numerous other affiliations.

She enjoyed the outdoors, and the thrill of landing “the big one.” She opened her swimming pool to the neighborhood children. She positioned her husband Willard to become mayor of Boynton. It’s somewhat surprising that she didn’t run for mayor herself.

Rider Road and Willard Way east of Federal are named after Jean Rider and Willard Pipes. Jean Rider Pipes lived in Boynton until her 1999 death, and newspapers from the previous fifty years in Boynton are peppered with her contagious smile. News clips from the 1930s portray the “double pleasure” entertainment of the Rider Sisters. Jean’s obituary claimed that her motto was “Invest in People.” She lived her life well, and left an indelible mark and a little bit of her sparkle upon Boynton Beach.

Palm Beach County’s First Automobiles

1905 – Florida requires automobile registration

Florida Memory - Early Auto Registrations, 1905-1917

Florida Memory – Early Auto Registrations, 1905-1917

In 2015, the State Archives of Florida digitized the first two volumes of motor vehicle registrations recorded by the Florida Department of State. These ledger pages, found online at Florida Memory, Found Here contain detailed information recorded between 1905 and 1917 about our earliest vehicles, including the registered owner, city, county, make, model and horsepower of each automobile and motorcycle.

George Potter

George W. Potter was the first person in this part of the state (Palm Beach County) to legally register his automobile with the state.

George Potter, courtesy Potter Collection, Historical Society of Palm Beach County

George Potter, courtesy Potter Collection, Historical Society of Palm Beach County

Other horseless carriages were dotting the sandy roads, but Potter’s registration of a lightweight, four-horsepower Orient Buckboard, recorded November 20, 1905, was the 80th registered vehicle in the entire state of Florida. Before moving to Florida, Potter studied art and engineering in Cincinnati. His great grandson, David Willson, cartoonist for the Palm Beach Daily News, recounts how you could tell Potter had a fascination with all things mechanical as his sketches were filled with bridges and steam boats.

Record #80 Geo. W. Potter Nov. 20, 1905 vehicle registration

Record #80
Geo. W. Potter Nov. 20, 1905 vehicle registration

Waltham Manufacturing Company was a manufacturer of automobiles in Waltham, Massachusetts, including the Orient Buckboard, between 1902 and 1908

Henry M. Flagler

Henry M. Flagler, courtesy Library of Congress

Henry M. Flagler, courtesy Library of Congress

Henry Morrison Flagler registered his vehicle on December 6, 1905, a few weeks after Potter. Local history sources contend that Flagler did not allow motorized vehicles on his luxury island resort at Palm Beach, instead preferring guests to traverse through the gardens and jungle trials via wicker rickshaw bicycles, powered by Negro guides.
White Auto Co. 1905

White Auto Co. 1905


Flagler’s vehicle, listed as a Touring Car manufactured by White Sew’g Mch. Co. (White Sewing Machine Co./White Motor Co.) operated on steam, hence the vehicle was not a noisy as other autos of the time. Presidents William Taft and Theodore Roosevelt also owned White Motor Company automobiles during this time period.

Florida East Coast Hotel Automobile Registrations

Florida East Coast Hotel Automobile Registrations



Florida East Coast Hotel System

The vehicle must have served Flagler well, for in the next few months his Florida East Coast Hotel system purchased and registered five additional identical touring cars.

1907 White Touring Steam Car, courtesy Henry Ford Museum

1907 White Touring Steam Car, courtesy Henry Ford Museum

Boynton Hotel Company President A.E. Parker

A. E. Parker Touring Car Record

A. E. Parker Touring Car Record

In January 1908, Albert Edward Parker, manager of the Boynton oceanfront hotel and son-in-law of hotel owner Maj. Nathan Smith Boynton, registered his 30-horsepower Winton M.C. Co. Touring Car. Parker conducted business in both West Palm Beach and Miami, and likely used the old, bumpy sand trail to traverse the county for business purposes and to take hotel guests on sight-seeing tours.
Winton Motor Carriage Car

Winton Motor Carriage Car


1908 – 500 registered vehicles in Florida

By 1908, 500 vehicles were registered in the state of Florida.


2016 – Over 20,000,000 registered vehicles in Florida

Currently, there are over twenty million vehicles registered in Florida, with 1.2 million in Palm Beach County.

Vehicles registered in the State of Florida as of February 5, 2016

DRIVE SAFE!

It’s a Wrap: The Sunday Brown Wrapper Weekly History Vignettes

Do you remember the Sunday Brown Wrapper history pages published in the Palm Beach Post during the late 1970s and 1980s? These history pages, resembling a brown grocery sack and sponsored by First Federal Savings of the Palm Beaches (The Big First), were written by local authors and contained short history vignettes (much like today’s blog posts). The accounts weren’t foot-noted, but delivered interesting information on a variety of local news topics with the Sunday newspaper. The history section was wrapped around a thick bundle of advertisements and the popular “funnies.”

wreck of the coquimbo

Many of the Brown Wrappers are available online in their entirety via Google News, and more are being scanned by local historical societies and libraries for your reading pleasure. The Wreck of the Coquimbo, shown here, from the July 27, 1980 edition of the Palm Beach Post and the Palm Beach Daily News, was written by James H. Nichols.

The Wreck of the Coquimbowreck of the coquimbo2png

Jim Nichols graduated from FAU with a Master’s Degree in History and served as a historic researcher for the Boynton Beach City Library. Mr. Nichols was also a photographer and a member of the Boynton Beach Historical Society.

Ronald Tee Johnson created the Sunday Brown Wrapper format in 1975, initially as a monthly special advertising campaign produced by First Federal Savings ad agency. The weekly Sunday Brown Wrappers ran for seven consecutive years in The Palm Beach Post – Post Times and were also reprinted in the Sun-Sentinel Newspaper. The reverse side of each Brown Wrapper contained a full-page advertising First Federal’s services.

Judge James R. Knott

Judge James R. Knott


The most prolific writer for the Sunday Brown Wrapper series was Judge James R. Knott. Judge Knott, a Palm Beach County circuit judge from 1956 to 1977, served as the President of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County. His passion for history resulted in several books on the subject including Tales of Tallahassee Twice Told and Untold: A Reminisce.
tales of tally

Many of Judge Knott’s Sunday Brown Wrapper stories are available in book format, The Mansion Builders, Historical Vignettes of Palm Beach, Palm Beach Revisited: Historical Vignettes of Palm Beach County and Palm Beach Revisited II: Historical Vignettes of Palm Beach County. While now out of print, several local libraries have copies of these books. You can also occasionally purchase copies on used book sites such as Half and AbeBooks.

pb revisited 2

pb revisited

Some of the Sunday Brown Wrappers currently available online are about Boynton history.

Breakfast Poetry (about poet Edgar Guest wintering at the Boynton Oceanfront Hotel) by James Hartley Nichols, September 12, 1982.
Breakfast Poetry

Orange Grove House of Refuge

Orange Grove House of Refuge

The Story of a Pioneer Woman – About Little Pierce Voss and Charlie Pierce
Pioneer Woman
And others that are simply of general interest.

November 15, 1980 – Daddy’s Bicycle Carried Five People
Daddy’s Bicycle Carried Five People

January 4, 1981 – The Currie Map of West Palm Beach 1907.
The Currie Map of 1907

Since the brown grocery sack paper the history accounts were printed on was thick and durable, many of the original copies have survived and can be viewed at libraries and historical societies throughout Palm Beach County. The ongoing digitization efforts ensure preservation of this important facet of Palm Beach County history and will make research and reminiscing easier than ever.

Boynton’s Strange Connection with two of America’s most Popular Songs

Jonathan_Edwards_Spilman.tif

J.E. Spilman

The hamlet of Boynton, as it stood at the turn of the twentieth century, has direct connections with two of the most popular songs in American history. One of the most popular songs of the nineteenth century was Flow Gently, Sweet Afton, with music written by Jonathan E. Spilman, set to the poem by Robert Burns. Written in 1838, the sheet music was found in all the major song books of the time and remains a popular tune. A search of YouTube finds dozens of renditions; one of the most popular recent versions is by Nickel Creek: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNrSMLQ8P7c

The connection to Boynton? The composer, J.E. Spilman, was Byrd Spilman Dewey’s father! Spilman had written the song while a law student at Transylvania Law School. Spilman wrote other melodies which can be heard by clicking here.

If that were not enough, then there is America the Beautiful; many think that this song should be our national anthem. The song’s lyrics are the work of Katherine Lee Bates, who graduated from Wellesley in 1880; music by Samuel A. Ward. Cora Stickney Harper was one of Katherine’s best friends at Wellesley, and they remained lifelong friends.

Katherine Lee Bates

Katherine Lee Bates

Cora founded the Boynton Women’s Club in 1909. This rendition of the song is quite beautiful – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmP9LvHgcaA. The song with lyrics was first published in 1910, so Cora would have heard it while living in Boynton.

Maybe it is just that “six degrees of separation” thing, but the connections are noteworthy.