Monday, November 25, 2013

Bits and Pieces

Since I have way too much time to be on the computer, I've been sleuthing a bit into my old stomping grounds, connecting with people and places around where I grew up. It was a place that has pretty well disappeared now, according to all I read, but in my mind, it is still very real.

One of my favorite places was Mather's Bridge. I've written about it before, a wooden bridge with a swing center where we - with our parents and later by ourselves - fished, shrimped, crabbed, had dates, stomped on one end of a plank of wood to watch the other loose end jump up. We climbed that bridge like a jungle gym and no one ever said stop, including the bridge tender.

It's impossible to tell that the bridge was wooden, but it was!
On one of the sites, Florida Backroads Travel I got in touch with a woman, Donna Lewis, who's family managed the restaurant there from 1964 - 1966. She had some photos and kindly shared them.

The cabins here were the subject of much speculation. Fishermen, hookers, we guessed all and more in between. As curious as I was, I never really investigated them - the mystery around them - that I most likely created - kept me at bay.

This was one end of the restaurant. It was funky and dive-y in a perfect way, very much the river and not the beach, which was a mile in the other direction. My Dad would take us there once in awhile. Never a fast food place, but we could go here. I'm still glad.

This is Donna and her Dad, but the main thing here is the water wheel. On one side was a more than  anatomically correct mermaid and the subject of many a young boy's fantasy and giggles.

The other side was a dolphin, being ridden. It was our inspiration and we tried more than once to gather the courage to jump on one of the many dolphins passing by near our dangling feet where we sat on the piers under the bridge. Up close, they were NOT like Flipper, but rather, they were big and wild and wonderful, not tame. I know people who have been pulled along by dolphins - it's still a fantasy for me.
This is a photo/painting of Mather's Bridge in the 90's by Lloyd Behrendt -  "they are photo oils - "I start with a silverprint ( B & W photograph) and then color it with transparent photo oils"
How it looks today
The restaurant is gone now, and the huge Dragon that was located at the very tip of Merritt Island is gone as well. The places we rode our bikes madly or slowly, past groves of avocados and oranges and grapefruit, with homes set so far back you couldn't see them, with honor stands on the road selling fruit, with a scary abandoned nursing home that still had pianos madly out of tune scattered here and there, is now the home of manicured lawns and mcmansions. The clickity clack of our bike tires going across the bridge, (a bridge now replaced by a spanning/swing bridge  - are the days  gone of waiting for it to open, while tall masted sail boats lazily made their passage?), the excitement of discovering something new, the juice of an orange picked and peeled and eaten right then and there - little thieves that we were - are part of a gone era, but I still hear the rhythm.

How good, then, to find others for whom these memories are as real as my own! One person commented that now there are signs on the bridge with Rules of Do Not posted everywhere. We grew up when there were no rules, when supposed common sense, which we only had in small measure but enough to keep us from killing ourselves, was the only rule. It worked.

What does that have to do with Culebra? Oh, quite a bit. And as more people discover her, more rules will come. My yard becomes my Indian Harbour Beach more and more, but you still have to go a long way to go shopping at anything resembling a mall, there are still no traffic lights or fast food joints or car lots. There is still water every direction you care to look and all roads end at a beach.

Yes they do. And you can't take that away from me...

Have a memorable Monday. Do something melodic.


  1. what a nice picture this last one is......... is that "mainland" puerto rico in the background? i enjoyed your memories of the bridge and is that merritt island or where is that located where you grew up, so to speak..? pretty cool having the dolphin swin under you as you would be up on the bridge ............nice little childhood location.......! i also clicked on the artist's name and read about his process of painting.........thanks...!

    1. That's Vieques. Glad you liked the stories, it really was an ideal place to grow up. We lived almost exactly mid-way between the beach and the river, a barrier island not more than two miles across at that junction. We weren't up on the bridge (at least not for that story), we climbed down under it onto the pilings, the water only a couple of feet below. Looking back, it's hard to believe what we got to do, but we did. Yes, he's got a great technique, love the bird ones!