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Palm Beach: Around the Island

Palm Beach Day School

Above: the opening ceremony during Field Day at Palm Beach Day School, 20 April 1968. For intramural competition the school was divided into two teams, the “Pelicans” (blue uniforms) and “Flamingoes” (yellow uniforms.) Both my brother and I were in the latter. (View the video in QuickTime/iTunes format.)

Right: A “tug of war” during Field Day. This wasn’t the only competition to be lost at Palm Beach Day School; the students were never shy about reminding me that I was on the bottom of the social scale as well. Few things belie the whole “compassionate” nature of liberalism more than their sloth in dealing with students persecuting their fellows whom they think are inferior, “anti-bullying” programs notwithstanding.  Being on either the receiving or the giving end of this kind of thing is a lifelong lesson that most in our society don’t want others to learn.

Postscript: evidently little has changed since our “tug of war.” Thirty years later, a friend coached a lacrosse team up the coast. The one school they would not allow their kids to eat lunch at was Palm Beach Day School, on account of the harassment by the “home team.” PBDS kids would even shout obscenities at the visitors as they got on the bus to leave.

Note also the closeness of the buildings behind the field. Palm Beach’s real estate is expensive and used very efficiently, more so now than when we lived there.

“There’s a hole in my bucket…” Fourth graders at Palm Beach Day School perform a satire on “hillbillies” called “Appalachian Legend” during Stunt Night 1969. Attitudes from the “coasts” about “flyover country” in the U.S. have been deep seated for a long time; stage productions like this only reinforced that. It’s fair to say that, if the “Religious Right” had fully grasped the contempt they were held in when the movement first got going in the late 1970’s they would not have started the Moral Majority: they would have started a revolution.

Other Items

Right: Our home in Palm Beach. It was located on the old “Dodge Estate,” one of the last of the large estates to be broken up (Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago is an example of one that is still intact.) Built in the late 1950’s, it survived the hurricanes that were reasonably frequent during the years we lived in Palm Beach (we experienced two the first summer we lived there.) All of the windows were fitted with shutters (as shown here) or had a metal shield that could be fitted for a blow. This obviated the need to strip forests for plywood every time a hurricane arrived.

Note also the ficus hedge running along the street. Using a hedge to both close in the yard and to obscure the view of the property (they’re generally higher now than they were then) is fairly common in Palm Beach. After living with this, being forced into the “open yard” mould so common in the U.S. (especially in the South) just doesn’t quite cut it.

Left: The back of the house. Note that the driveway actually slopes upwards. This is unexceptional in most places but in flat South Florida it is worthy of note. Our street sloped upward from the ocean end to the lake end. The reality is that most of the “barrier islands” in South Florida are on top of a coral ridge, as opposed to being just sand spits. Much of Palm Beach is at least five metres above sea level, and it is the closest point on the U.S. coast to the Continental Shelf, which helps to mitigate storm surge. All of these make parts of Palm Beach a reasonable place to ride out a storm if you can stand the loss of power (ours was out four days after the first hurricane we went through.)

if-this-be-heresyThe advertisement on the right for James Pike’s “If This Be Heresy” appeared in the Saturday, 2 March 1968 issue of the Palm Beach Daily News. It appeared directly below the ad for Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, and would have effectively precluded attendance at their Evening Prayer service.

In holding his lecture in West Palm Beach, Pike was invading what was for him “enemy territory.” In an article in the July 2006 issue of Chronicles magazine, author Tom Landess reminded us of the following:

In 1966, a group led by Henry I. Louttit, bishop of the Central Archdeanery of South Florida, demanded that Pike be tried for heresy.

John Hines, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, met with Louttit and a small delegation in New York and told them he had polled key figures in the mass media, who had declared unanimously that a heresy trial would severely, disastrously damage the Church’s image.

Most of the bishops agreed. The Bishop of New York expressed the feelings of the majority: “Of all the methods of dealing with Bishop Pike’s views, the very worst is surely a heresy trial! Whatever the result, the good name of the church will be greatly injured.”

Hines asked Louttit and his cohorts to allow an ad hoc committee to address the problem more informally, less visibly. Louttit reluctantly agreed. Members of the committee met, engaged in a great deal of hand-wringing, and came back with a report that said in part:

It is the opinion that this proposed trial would not solve the problem presented to the church by this minister, but in fact would be detrimental to the church’s mission and witness…This heresy trial would be widely viewed as a “throw back” to centuries when the law in church and state sought to repress and penalize unacceptable opinions…it would spread abroad a “repressive image” of the church and suggest to many that we were more concerned with traditional propositions about God than with the faith as the response of the whole man to God.

At Wheeling, West Virginia, the House of Bishops adopted this statement by an overwhelming vote, though they also agreed to “censure” Bishop Pike – a small, dry bone tossed to Christian orthodoxy. In the above passage, two phrases — “acceptable opinions” and “repressive image” – revealed what was really going on.

Henry Louttit was a frightful bore from the pulpit, but he was right: it was heresy, and frankly it still is. People such as Pike detonated the jerk to the left that caused the Episcopal Church to lose a third of its membership in the 1970’s. Once again the Pharaohs on the left are making their move and once again God’s children are forced into exodus.  But now there is a Promised Land.

Below: Ah, the good life: Palm Beacher Fred Tod Ketcham relaxes in style.  It’s an affectation for many, but Tod was the real article.  A scion of the du Ponts, he attended Palm Beach Day School and graduated from St. Andrew’s in Boca Raton with me.  I saw him once after gradation in Edinburgh, Scotland, while I was on the way to this experience.  He was a superb photographer (he took my photo which I used for my novel The Ten Weeks‘ web page.)  But alas, the good life was fleeting: Tod struggled with asthma, finally succumbing in death in 1981 at the age of 26.


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