Jensen’s Coconut Heads, and the Old-Time Fun Establishments of the Indian River Lagoon

 

The crowd having fun surrounded by coconut herds at Pichford's Bar, Jensen Beach. Billy Pichford is behind the bar. (Photo shared by Bob Washam/info. from historian Sandra Thurlow)
Crowd having fun surrounded by hanging home made coconut heads at Pitchford’s Bar, Jensen Beach, ca. 1950s. Billy Pitchford is behind the bar. (Photo shared by Bob Washam/info. from historian Sandra Thurlow)
1943 aerial photograph of the Jensen School and today's downtown Jensen with the wooden Jensen Bridge. As shown on page 20 of "Historic Jensen Beach and Eden on Florida's Indian River," by Sandra Thurlow-Henderson, 2004.
1943 aerial photograph: Indian River Drive shoreline along the Indian River Lagoon approaching  today’s Downtown Jensen Beach. Wooden bridge in distance. As shown on page 20 of “Historic Jensen Beach and Eden on Florida’s Indian River,” by Sandra Thurlow-Henderson, 2004.(Jensen School in center.)

Recently, I visited Bob Washam and his wife Cynthia in their home along the Indian River Lagoon in Jensen Beach. Because Bob has recently retired and had a very long career at the Martin County Health Department, I  wanted to interview him about the river and the history of toxic algae blooms. Obviously this is a very serious topic, and I kept trying to ask him questions, but I couldn’t keep my eyes off the coconut head hanging in his kitchen.

“Sorry to go off topic, but what’s the story with the coconut head in the kitchen Bob? It looks authentic. Old. It’s really cool.”

“Oh that’s Connie.” He matter-a-factly replied…

Coconut head belonging to Bob Washam. The head comes from the old Pitchford's Bar that used to be on Indian River Drive in Jensen. (Photo Bob Washam)
“Connie the coconut head” belonging to and photographed by Bob Washam. The now historic coconut head once hung in the old Pitchford’s Bar that used to be on Indian River Drive in Jensen. (Photo Bob Washam)

Bob told me that when he was a young man and went to college at FIT in Jensen in 1975 Pitchford’s Bar was closed, “but the heads were still hanging there.” Eventually he was given one. It’s a special reminder of Jensen’s earlier days…Bob took out some old photos and allowed me to share them with you today.

Jensen establishments, Seymour’s Inn, Pitchford’s Bar, and Poor Bobs were all located right next to each other on Indian River Drive, just north of the Jensen (Frank Wacha) Bridge. Their popularity somewhat overlapped, but over the years they all deteriorated. Nonetheless, these establishments left wonderful memories for thousands of people. Bob Washam also has great memories. He told me a story about “Pineapple Louie,” a Jensen Beach local character from the 70’s.

“One day when I was working at Poor Bob’s, he ran into kitchen, grabbed a big knife and chased another bar patron onto Indian River Drive. That was our big excitement back in those days. That and dancing with…ladies at Seymours after our work shift. ” –Bob Washam

Poor Bobs. (Bob Washam and Sandra Thurlow)
Poor Bobs. (Bob Washam and Sandra Thurlow) ca. 1950s.
Poor Bobs. (Courtesy of Bob Washam)
Poor Bobs. (Courtesy of Bob Washam) ca. 1950s.
The crowd having fun surrounded by coconut herds at Pichford's Bar, Jensen Beach. Billy Pichford is behind the bar. (Photo shared by Bob Washam/info. from historian Sandra Thurlow)
Pitchford’s Bar. (Courtesy of Bob Washam)ca. 1950s.
Seymour's Inn ca 1950s. (Photo courtesy of Bob Washam)
Seymour’s Inn ca. 1950s. (Photo courtesy of Bob Washam. Taken by Art Ruhnke)
Francis Langford, Seymour Giddeon, and an unidentified man at Seymour's Inn, ca 1940s. (Photo archives Sandra Thurlow)
Even famous Francis Langford would come by for a cocktail! Here with Seymour Giddeon, who became a Martin County Commissioner, and an unidentified man who certainly looks like a movie stat. (Photo archives Sandra Thurlow, ca 1940/50s)

My mother writes more historically about Seymour’s Inn in her book “Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River.”

“Jensen’s main attraction was its wonderful fishing. The mile long bridge was not only lined with fishermen on both rails, it was a social gathering place. What was needed was a place to enjoy a cold beer after a day of fishing…

Seymour’s Inn officially opened on December 13th, 1936 in the former filling station building and grew through the years with numerous additions.  Seymour’s became the “fun spot” of Martin County. There was square dancing, round dancing, and mixers seven days a week. Seymour, the owner,  played harmonica, musical groups performed, and there were Sunday afternoon jam sessions and costume parties…

…War came in the 1940s and Seymour’s became a popular place with servicemen stationed in the area in the 1940s during World War II. Following the war, Seymour’s continued to be popular and drew people from miles around…

Today, times have changed, but the spirit of these places along Indian River Drive absolutely lives on….next time you drive by, if you slow down and listen, you may even hear the music and laughter of the age. 🙂

Close-up from "Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida's Indian River Lagoon." Sandra Henderson Thurlow. Page 23. Notice clear water and healthy seagrasses.
Close-up from “Historic Jensen and Eden on Florida’s Indian River Lagoon.” Sandra Henderson Thurlow. Page 23. Notice clear water and healthy seagrasses.
Full page 23 with text. SHT
Full page 23 with text. SHT

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Seymour’s Inn  is-now popular attraction Conchy Joes owned by the famous and generous Fred Ayers;  Pitchford’s Bar much later became Dena’s Restaurant, and now is under new ownership with the funny huge shark with a ladies legs hanging out on the facade; and Poor Bob’s is an empty lot just north of the bridge.

Florida Audubon: Toxic Algae Blooms in the SLR/IRL (https://fl.audubon.org/crisis-indian-river-lagoon-solutions-imperiled-ecosystem)

*All of Sandra Thurlow Henderson’s books on local areas, Stuart, Jensen, Sewall’s Point and the House of Refuge can be purchased at Barnes and Noble on US 1 in Stuart, near Jensen Beach Boulvard.

headshot-jtl-2013 About Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch:

Although born at Travis Air Base, California, Jacqui considers herself a native of Stuart, Florida, having moved there at eight months old. Her father’s family, originally from Syracuse, New York, has lived in Stuart since 1952. Her mother is a 5th generation Floridian from Gainesville. Jacqui is a Daughter of the American Revolution.

Jacqui is journalism graduate of the University of Florida, and an education master’s graduate of the University of West Florida. She went on to teach English and German and later after a serious accident of breaking her neck, started selling real estate. Later, she ran for public office having served on the Town of Sewall’s Point Commission since 2008, and is former mayor. During this time she saw the opportunity to help showcase the work of a locally formed river group, the River Kidz, and this has been her passion ever. She incorporates youth/river education  into her political work for the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

Jacqui is the treasurer/secretary of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council; has chaired the Florida League of Cities Environmental and Energy Committee; was chair, and a six year member of the Treasure Coast Council of Local Governments; is an alternate for the Water Resources Advisory Commission for the South Florida Water Management District; and is a board member for Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Foundation, in St Lucie County.  She also serves as a board member (ex-officio) for the Rivers Coalition Defense Fund, and is head administrator for her beloved River Kidz, now a division of the Rivers Coalition.

Jacqui’s reach involves not only local, but state and federal government. In 2013,  she served on Senator Joe Negron’s panel for the Select Senate Hearing on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee. In 2014, she actively supported the elections of both Senator Joe Negron and Congressman Patrick Murphy who have both been strong supporters of  Indian River Lagoon issues. In 2015, she is part of the Florida League Cities Treasure Coast Advocacy team to influence and educate Tallahassee. Jacqui received the Everglades Coalition’s 2015 “John V. Kabler Award” for “Grassroots Activism” working to organize and educate the public about Everglades restoration. Most recently she has been recruited as a fellow by the University of Florida/IFAS’s Natural Resources Leadership Institute Class XV. The institute focuses on teaching leaders how to facilitate participatory decision making in the most controversial of situations.

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