Water Cooler Wednesday: Remember When

1984 Boca High Yearbook photo taken at Dirty Moe's.

1984 Boca High Yearbook photo taken at Dirty Moe’s.

Six months from today I will turn 50 years old.

Just writing that sentence feels surreal, actually turning 50 (the big 5-0) is something that I guess I have six months to get used to.

But one of the best parts of getting older is you gain perspective that can you only earn through actual experience.

I moved to Delray Beach in July of 1987, about a month before my 22nd birthday. I had taken a job as a reporter at the Boca-based “Monday-Thursday” papers, a large group of weekly newspapers that were owned—for the first week of my employment anyway—by the corporate parent of the International Herald Tribune. I thought that was pretty cool at the time. But a week or so later, we were called together in the newsroom for a meeting. Worrell Enterprises out of Virginia had bought us. Little did I know at the time that the owner of the chain, Tom Worrell, would end up playing a major role in a city I was covering as a cub reporter. I had zero clue I would ever be mayor (Mayor!) of Delray. And for the record, I never formally met Tom until I was mayor, even though I worked for him for nearly 10 years.

Such is the serendipity of life, which is why I actually don’t really mind getting older—I’m certain the adventures will continue.

Back in 1987, Boca and Delray  were very different places—from each other and from what they are today. But some things never change. Delray has always had a magnificent beach, even if the downtown was dormant at the time and the nickname of the city was “Dull Ray.”

Boca was home to IBM and while Big Blue is no longer the big player it was, the city is still home to many tech companies and feels way more “corporate” than Delray.

Back in those days, we’d go to Dirty Moe’s after our deadline to compare notes and share stories about local politicians and colorful characters we had interviewed.  That old bar with the cheap, cold beer and great wings was owned by former Mayor Emil Danciu of Boca.

You can still visit Dirty Moe’s on Facebook and buy vintage Moe’s t-shirts from the 80s through Etsy, but Tom Sawyer restaurant, is very much around and I still go once a week. It was the first place I ever visited in South Florida on my very first day of work. I was treated to lunch there that day by my new boss– a city editor named—Tom Sawyer. Nope, you can’t make it up.

The Monday-Thursday Papers are gone, sadly– because the hyper local coverage they provided was really a benefit to the community. We were the community “water cooler” and for a young reporter it was a great place to hone your chops. We would write 5-7 stories a week, plus news briefs and a police blotter. We also did man and woman on the street interviews, until some enterprising reporter started to go to a local “gentleman’s club” where he would ask the week’s question of the dancers. That didn’t set well, with Mr. Sawyer as you can imagine.

Boca looked a lot different back then. FAU was known as “Sleepy U”, and was mostly a commuter school. There was no stadium and no football.

Mizner Park wasn’t built yet, but there was a depressing mall where Mizner now sits.

Delray had a depressing mall of its own, on the corner of U.S.1 and Linton Boulevard. I remember shopping for last minute holiday gifts just before Christmas and being almost the only shopper in the place.

Atlantic Avenue was sleepy as well. You could have bowled on the avenue after 5 and not hit anything.

I did love The Green Owl (still do) and a place called Ken and Hazel’s, where Vic and Angelo’s  sits.

Rents on the avenue were as low at $5 a square foot. I just heard that the site for the recently closed Linda Bean’s went for over $130 a square foot. Times have sure changed.

West Atlantic Avenue was home to the Paradise Club and it wasn’t uncommon to see several hundred people hanging on the avenue on a Sunday night. I spent lots of nights riding with the local police. It was the height of the crack cocaine epidemic and Delray got hit real hard.

There was a rivalry between Boca and Delray back in the 80s and 90s. I don’t see it as much now, but maybe I’m missing it.

Legend has it that there was a sign in the Boca Planning Department that implored applicants to “Do It Our Way Or Do It In Delray.”

Not sure if that was actually true, but the people in Delray believed it and it spurred them to shore up the city’s standards. I used it myself two weeks ago when I spoke at Nova Southeastern U.

They were fun days. Being a reporter in Boca-Delray back in the mid 80s was an adventure. A truly great job where you met interesting people, wrote about fascinating topics and got paid next to nothing.  But hey…we were young and we were learning.

Still, I don’t find myself pining for the good, old days. I kind of like what happened in Delray and in Boca too. This is a fascinating place to live, with lots of opportunities and cool things to see and do.

I wish the old Monday Thursday papers would crank up again though. Or even the old Boca News, which I edited for a brief period before it was sold. But until such time, we’ll share some stories right here on yourdelrayboca.com

Thanks for reading… and when Dave throws me my party in six months drinks are on him. It’s the least he can do.