The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on May 12, 1970 · Page 21
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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 21

West Palm Beach, Florida
Issue Date:
Tuesday, May 12, 1970
Page 21
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Bean City Beans A re Gone; Troubles Remain Palm Beach Post, Tuesday, May 12, 1970-B3 Walkin' down the levee tvid my head hangin low Lookin' for my sweet mama an she ain'here no mo' Baby, you don't know, don't know my mind When you see me laughin, laughin' jus' to keep from cryin' Black Folk Song Huddie Ledbetter (1885-1949) By MIKE ABRAMS Post Staff Writer BEAN CITY The beans are gone but memories of a pioneer past linger in this little village on the fertile muckland ap ron of Lake Okeechobee. This unincorporated city is a collection of individualists who seem content to live out their lives in a seclusion of which many can only dream. The cane is often so high, Bean City disappears and, indeed, Bean City folk have a difficult time seeing the rest of the world. Mrs. Ruby Forkham is one of those individuals who would rather be left alone. She runs a general store in the city. She planted her feet squarely on the rickety front porch of the store, the rotted planks sagging under her weight. "Now I've been here four years and I love it," she said, obviously angry at being disturbed. "I ain't nobody's damn fool. I may act like one but I ain't. Let me tell you Belle Glade ain't much better and I ought to know. I lived there 28 years." Mrs. Forkham walked over to her pay phone and put a dime in to call the sheriff. - "They're standin' right here agitatin' and causin' trouble," she said. Trouble is nothing new to Bean City, however. The ,. site has a rough and tumble history. Bean City was pioneered by former Belle Glade . Mayor Arthur Wells in 1916, according to his sister, Mrs. Jane Armstrong of Belle Glade. Mrs. Armstrong is the only surviving member of the Wells family. Wells, uneducated but as tough as any Everglades ' pioneer, took a squatter's claim on the land until he was . called to fight in World War I. "My mother and father moved out to Bean City from Miami," said Mrs. Armstrong, one of six daughters in the family. "Somebody had to take care of the claim. Me and my husband moved out there in 1932 and '' raised three daughters there," she said. Wells died about five years ago, according to his sister, who managed the general store for 27 years with . her late husband, C. A. Armstrong. Times have changed for the little settlement which has less than 300 people living in it now. "It used to be a continuous bean farm," said Mrs. Armstrong. "We used to plant sunflowers for wind-breakers between rows of beans." . , Rough times were to be had, especially with the Negroes who worked the bean fields, Mrs. Armstrong recalls. "But no matter what, we never let 'em go hungry. Why they'd come into my store and hold up their hands 1; & Cane Will Grow Tall And Tower Over The Town, Hiding It From Sight to God that they'd pay me. They'd come with babies in their arms and ask for milk. "Then they'd go somewhere else on Saturdays to buy their groceries. It ended up they owed me $12,500," Mrs. Armstrong said. Everglades historian Lawrence Will of Belle Glade believes Bean City began its demise when farmers were unable to recruit pickers for the beans. Soon, nobody grew beans anymore. "Beans require a great number of pickers," said Will. "It was getting to where the pickers were hard to get hold of. The advantage to beans was that they grew fast. You could plant them between frosts. "They used to ship 'em out by train," said Will. "There were string beans, bush beans, black valentines, and bountiful beans." Bean City was wiped out in the 1928 hurricane, according to Will. Arthur Wells built the town up again, including some of its black quarters, and lived to become a millionaire grower. About 12 years ago, the late John L. Evans and South Bay grower Billy Rogers purchased Bean City from Wells, said Mrs. Armstrong. Evans was the nephew of pioneer Bob Creech who brought Evans down to the Glades from Georgia. Mrs. Jane Evans, his widow, continues to own rental property in the black section of Bean City. Most if its residents are employes or former employes of Evans and Rogers. Joe Walker, 70, recalls big times in Bean City. There were plenty of women in those days. "This used to be a loud place and I ain't jokin'," said Walker, who worked for John Evans until a tractor accident nearly killed him. "Yessir there were plenty good women around here, plenty of 'em. We used to have some time. There were so many people in Bean City a lot of them lived in tents," said Walker. "Bean City ain't nothin' now. I haven't seen a bean in so long I don't know how it looks. The good times are gone." Bobby Garrett, manager of the Rogers Machine Shop in Bean City, first came here in 1933. "It's no different than any other rural town in America," said Garrett. "But now you've got the federal government forcing people into the cities with the new housing developments. Many of the Bean City people are growing old, Garrett, said. "But they're well taken care of. A lot of them pay no rent. We've always looked after them." Bean City had a large white population when there were several small farms between that city and South Bay, recalls Garrett. "Those farms fell by the wayside to the larger farms," he said. "Times are changed. People used to know each other by their first name. ' ' What will happen to Bean City? Will its relics be left for archaeologists? "I don't think Bean City will ever die," said Garrett. "The land's too rich for it to ever die." Yet if the land is rich, often its inhabitants are poor. In the black quarters down a dusty back road, mangy dogs romp with dirty children and growl fiercely at visitors to . the two shabby rows of tin roofed homes. i j i n , I. i w U f k f "This used to be a loud place and I ain't joking ... Bean City ain't nothing now. I haven't seen a bean in so long I don't knotc hoic it looks. The good times are gone. " Joe Walker (left), lounging in his doorway, and the workman at the town's machine shop (above) are both part of Bean City (right), a town struggling to survive despite the end of its economic base. Staff Photos By Guy Ferrell umu iim- -" "' -: ": -"-rrrr"aga&iri , .,' :: ..s Traffic Officer Must Often Compete With Stork A f Third in a series By JACK OWEN SGT. DALTON . . .experienced midwife ii Post Staff Writer Sgt. Ed Dalton's reputation with kids was not cultivated. "It just grew," he said. Since joining the Delray Beach Police Department 13 years ago, he has had to deliver nine babies in emergencies and assist at a number of other births. His prowess at midwifery coincided with the growth of his own family. He has seven children all boys. In Ed's case, you either get to like kids or go down fighting. When he was first confronted with being a midwife, he had only a vague idea about procedure. For the first emergency, it was a case of on-the-job training. Today every mannhelepartment has been exposed to the theory, if not the practice, of delivering a baby. It is a facet of a policeman's job. During the day Sgt. Dalton carries the official title of safety and training officer. He is the guy who directs where radar units will be stationed. He says radar can determine speed and safety patterns and by compiling lists of offenses adjustments can be made in traffic signs, signals or patrols. He also directs a training program for increased police proficiency. Naturally, the course includes First Aid and a blow by blow account of delivering babies. That's his regular job. Then a couple of nights a week he teaches driver retraining to motorists who have selected school rather than a court fine on traffic offenses. Then he has a security job with a banking concern. Then he runs the Police Benevolent Association. Then he goes home to seven sons. t Sgt. Dalton, a 33-year-old policeman, has many responsibilities. He could get out, join "civilian" life, get a regular-hours job and possibly more money. But he doesn't. He has seen a change in the role of policeman. He has heard the insults of those with prejudices against policemen. But despite this, the Sgt. Daltons will go about their business. A ticket for the speeding driver. A lecture for the rookie cop. A midwife for a laboring mother.

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