Monroe County Beach

County beach is what we called it back when I spent my summer days there. It was our water playground. My first memory of it was my mom taking me to a small carnival there when I was about five. There was a ride with little rowboats in a circle of water. I remember being a little scared because that water was ten feet deep in my mind. It’s interesting which memories stick in our brains and are brought up occasionally.

I remember during summer vacation time in early elementary school years, all we neighborhood children would gather early in the morning and rather than going to County Beach, we would walk to Miss Louisa’s Beach. I assume Miss Louisa lived there, but it is an assumption since we never saw her. There were a lot of rocks along the beach, which had tidal pools. When the tide was out, we would pour over all the interesting little water creatures, which harbored there. We went swimming and I remember schools of fish swimming about our legs. It was right next door to the restaurant, Louie’s Backyard. Of course Louie’s Backyard wasn’t there then.

When in our younger teens, we went to County Beach. There was more entertaining stuff there. It had a beach concession stand, serving hot dogs, hamburgers, and sodas. It also had a pinball machine and a rifle game that we fed quarters into when we had them. Now it is Salute, a restaurant right on the beach, where you can have a nice dinner, enjoy the evening sunset and watch young men and women play beach volleyball. Later when in high school we used to go in the evenings to the pavilion on the beach and bring our ukuleles and guitars and play and sing folk songs, a very cool thing to do in the Sixties._DSC0016

Now, Peter and I often go to Monroe County Beach, renamed Clarence Higgs Beach when the county transferred the beach to the city of Key West. The sunsets are breathtakingly beautiful there when reflected in the calm waters. One rainy and overcast day, we were sitting on the beach lamenting the lack of a sunset when the sun broke through the clouds and we walked out on the pier and sat to watch. There was one other man standing behind us taking one photo after another. There was a cloud that partially covered the sun so we wondered why he was taking so many photos. Then Peter started laughing and said, “We’re watching a partial eclipse. See, the shadow is going down with the sun.” And we had no camera with us.

At certain times of the year there are swarms of birds that fly in formation and swoop and turn and are fun to watch. One evening a wet osprey landed on the top of the mast of a sailboat pulled up on the beach. He ruffled and shook his feathers and smoothed them out with his beak. He was fun to watch as he made himself presentable to the world. He had just had his meal and was making himself ready for a night on the town.

Another evening we were walking out on the pier and saw a large blob about six feet long moving in the water under the dock. It left the pier and started swimming out to sea. There was a young man on the pier and he told us that it was a Manatee and that there are lots of them out on Stock Island near the fishing boats. They are usually found in Middle Florida near the Tampa area and until the last number of years not seen in Key West. They are mostly herbivorous, and sometimes known as sea cows.

In the beach area there is a playground and tennis courts and a Dog Park and Bocce Ball courts, and an AIDS Memorial; and coming soon a new running and exercise course for all those buffed millennials. Also, there are beach chairs and umbrellas to rent for us more sedentary bookish types. West Martello Towers, a Civil War defensive fort is on the beach and the Key West Garden Club has quarters there; inside the walls there are lovely gardens. Peter, a Yankee, says that it serves as a reminder that Key West remained in Union hands during that war.

One New Years Eve we were at my parent’s house and there was a fireworks display at midnight off the White Street pier. We went down to the beach where we usually go to watch the sunset. It was a warm evening and we were dressed for summer. They don’t do that anymore. Now a popular female impersonator in Key West named Sushi (Gary Marion) descends from a bright red glittered high heel shoe eight feet long with a four-foot heel above the Bourbon Street Pub. This year will be her 17th time celebrating the New Year in a very stylish Key West way._DSC0020

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