Vero Beach…Then & Now ~ By Otis G. Pike


Representative Otis G. Pike, a Long Island Democrat and chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, in 1975. Credit: George Tames/The New York Times.

On September 12, 2017 we published remarks made by Mrs. Leonor Gonzalez to an overflow gathering at The Moorings Yacht Club Speaker Series on March 23, 2009 about the history of The Moorings.

Mrs. Gonzalez’ remarks were printed in the April 2009 issue of The Mooring’s newsletter, entitled The Moorings’ Breeze.

The newsletter was found in keepsakes on The Moorings kept by Mrs. Barbara Wynne Secor, the publisher’s mother-in-law, who died on September 3, 2017.  She and her husband spent many years living in The Moorings at The Billows, socializing with Representative Pike and his wife Barbe.

Mrs. Gonzalez’s remarks have been so well read. Over 10 percent of the Vero Beach population have read them here, and more continue to do so.

Now we want to share another article with you written by Representative Otis G. Pike, which was featured in the same newsletter.  “Vero Beach…Then and Now” ~ By Otis G. Pike.

“I came to Vero Beach for the same reason most people do.  I was cold.  It was in the middle days of World War II.  Our Marine Corps dive bomber squadron had been based on the edge of nowhere, a tiny coral island in the South Pacific called Green Island.  You will not find it on any respectable map, but it was just south of the Equator and hot enough for anyone.  Cherry Point, North Carolina, it was not.  [Publisher’s note: Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point or MCAS Cherry Point is a United States Marine Corps airfield located in Havelock, North Carolina, USA, in the eastern part of the state.]

GI TOP-Nissan-Air-Strip+

Green Island Air Base. (Photo added by the publisher.)

We were told that if we wanted to get warm again all we had to do was volunteer to become night fighter pilots.  They were training in a new skill most of us had never heard of,  in a town none of us had ever heard of, but it was said to be warm.  Welcome to Vero Beach, Florida 1944.  We loved it.

It had attractions other than the weather.  The Ocean Grill was there, carrying on with a double assignment, serving as both bar and restaurant, and also as the Officers’ Club.  The Officers’ Club had a dream location, for the Waves barracks were right across the street, where the Holiday Inn is today.  There were rules against officers and enlisted men (or women) consorting with one another, but anyone who tried to enforce such stupid rules risked his life.  We consorted joyously.  The Patio Restaurant was operating as was the old Riomar Country Club and the Driftwood Inn.  The Moorings didn’t exist.

The Moorings development was only getting started in 1970, when I came back.  There were three of four private homes built on the very raw coral of the island.  The waterways were dug out, but not bulk-headed.  In August 1970, the first condominium was completed – – The Billows.  They hadn’t sold a single unit from August 1970 to January 1971.  ‘There must be something wrong with them or someone else would have bought them.’ I bought the first one and only wish all my investments had turned out so well.

The Billows

The Billows (Photo added by the publisher)

You didn’t need a calendar to tell the seasons, nature told you.  Most of the trees were Australian Pine, but a hard freeze one winter wiped them out.  The land crabs migrated each spring from the river side to the ocean and there would be great hordes of them marching east on Windward Way.  You don’t go barefoot when land crabs are migrating.  Big flocks of Robins passed through, got drunk on Brazil pepper berries and were decimated by attacking cars.  Cars were also lethal to the armadillos that were squashed on the road at least once a week.  Mother Bobcats carried their young by the neck.

The beach grew from the southeast trade winds in the summer, shrank from the Northeaster’s in the winter.  It is wider right now than it has been for 39 years.

Every now and then we foregather for dinner at the home of friends.  After we have done the mandatory routine, complaining about the stock market, the fishing, the golf game, the tennis, and our unlimited supply of aches and pains, we usually stop to to congratulate ourselves on how lucky we are to live here.  All of us.

But my heart is with the tree huggers.  I am glad we have a jillion fine restaurants in town, the mosquitos are mostly gone, that we can play golf or tennis in a dozen venues, but I miss the mangrove swamp that stood just south of South Passage where we caught monster blue claw crabs as they fought hopelessly for survival against the pump draining the swamp.

The new club is opulent, and as the lady’s hair coloring ads say, we may owe it to ourselves, but I was comfortable in the old club.  You could sit at the bar and look out over the beautiful array of bottles to the even more beautiful water.

The Billows was built strong and has survived more hurricanes than I can remember.  It has no elevator and the thirty-three steps I climb every day are steeper than they were in 1971.  I am told they keep me strong.  I certainly hope so, for I have no intention of moving.  Ever.”

Also from The Moorings’ Breeze:

“Otis G. Pike, Moorings’ First Brave Soul.

Otis G. Pike, and his wife, Barbe, are residents of The Billows.  Otis bought his Billows condo in 1971 and has the distinction of being the first condo owner at the Moorings.  After his graduation from Princeton and a successful vocation as an attorney, Otis, from 1961 to 1979 enjoyed a distinguished career as the congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives from eastern Long Island, New York.  After retiring from the U.S. Congress, he became a nationally-syndicated columnist, writing about politics and other interesting subjects for the next twenty three years.”


Photo Credit:  The Pike Family

Otis Pike was an avid fisherman.  When we came to visit my in-laws at the Billows, Otis was always on the beach surf casting.  Representative Pike died on January 20, 2014.








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