February 4, 1995
January and February sound like a great time of year for visiting Florida, so Laura and I chose last week to accept an invitation from my cousin, Fred W. Beers, to spend some time with him at his home in West Palm Beach. We've done this before so we pretty well know the type of clothing to take along. As you have probably already guessed, we were wrong this time. Oklahoma was warmer than Florida for at least part of our visit, but we enjoyed the trip just the same. Florida is a beautiful state.
Cousin Fred lived in Perry for ten years, during the decade of the 1930s, but since then Florida has been his home for something like 45 years. Despite that long gap, he has a great fondness for the friends he made here and the time he spent in Perry.
In recent years he has had successful surgeries for abdominal cancer and cataracts on both eyes. Before that he suffered a stroke which left him weak but not paralyzed. His wife of nearly 50 years died five years ago after a lingering illness, and he will be 86 years old in June. His marvelous bass singing voice is no longer dependable and it is difficult for him to play the piano now. Despite all that, he is a positive thinker, cheerful and well informed, and able to live alone. Although he is focused on today, his recollection of people he knew here and events that transpired while he lived here is just remarkable. I frequently call on him for help when researching local history.
Super Bowl XXIX was played in Miami, just down the road from West Palm Beach, while we were there. Since the game was widely expected to be strictly no contest, we had an idea that tickets would be readily available at the gate. It was just a thought and we made no effort to test it out, thank goodness. The cheapest advance regular admission seats were $200 each. By game time, they were being offered at prices ranging from $700 to $1,200, and eager fans were snapping them up. We're glad we settled for the TV version. South Florida enjoyed a significant economic boom during the week because of the hyped-up game, but we didn't contribute much to that.
Across the waterway from West Palm Beach is the elegant community of Palm Beach, the location of some of the most palatial homes in the U.S. Adding to their classic architectural beauty is the unparalleled natural flora of that area. Graceful palm trees, year-round green lawns, flowering shrubbery and all kinds of bright blossoms in carefully tended bedding, plus the mighty Atlantic creating its own type of majesty in their front yard.
Many notables maintain homes there and their number is growing almost daily. Donald Trump has purchased one of the largest estates in Palm Beach for his own home and is attempting to convert part of the property into a private, high-dollar club, over the objections of some in the community. The fabled Kennedy estate, familiar to all of us as the locale of Willie Smith's gambol with a local (Palm Beach) girl, is for sale but there is talk of converting it into some type of national historic site. The Kennedys are not of one accord on that project.
Cousin Fred has driven, alone, from West Palm Beach to Perry on more than one occasion in recent years, but his health may not permit that this summer. He is not fond of flying because he likes to see the countryside while traveling. He was a gracious host while we were there and we wish he could find a way to make the trip. In the meantime, he asked us to convey his greetings and best wishes to his friends here in Perry.