By Charlie Davis
In deference to Thomas Wolfe, you can go home again. Today, my home is in Gulf Breeze, but for almost thirty years, East Pensacola Heights was home for me, my parents and my five brothers and one sister. We often hear that “home is where the heart is, “and I know that is true, but part of my heart is still in the “Heights.”
Recently, my wife, Sandra, and I were invited back to East Pensacola Heights for a picnic. The invitation, signed by Jean Wallace, was on a small post-a-note attached to a great little newsletter published by the East Pensacola Heights Association. The message was, “come to our picnic and see some of your old neighbors.”
The newsletter contained a notice about the picnic, showing the address to be 720 Bayou Boulevard. This area was part of my paper route, which seems like fifty years ago…what the heck; it was more than fifty years ago. Obviously I couldn’t remember which house was number 720, so I wondered if it was the old Broome family home next door, or the old Zur Lenden house down the hill on the bayou, or the Black family home at the curve, from whom “Black’s Wharf,” our old “Swimming Hole” got it’s name. It was neither. It was the home on Hyer’s Point, now owned by Edwin and Jean Wallace, which is probably the most beautiful piece of real estate in Northwest Florida.
Hyer’s Point was our jumping off point when we swam across the bayou to Bayview Park and we could always count on catching a lot of crabs between Hyer’s Point and Zur Lenden’s dock. But, what I really remember most about Hyer’s Point was Mrs. Hyer. Mrs. J. Whiting Hyer, that is. She was a very nice lady, of course, and the first thing you would notice about her, other than a nice friendly smile, was that she always wore men’s pants. She probably wouldn’t look unusual today in a pair of men’s khaki pants, because women now wear just about anything, and it was long before the Bermuda Shorts craze hit this country. Some women did wear slacks back then, styled to fit the female body, but Mrs. Hyer seemed to be content with a pair of Mr. Hyer’s pants, and a large belt to hold them up.
Another interesting thing about Mrs. Hyer was that she obviously loved animals, because she had a lot of them, especially the feathered kind. She had the usual number of ducks and chickens, but what interested us kids most was her large flock of white geese, and an equally large, if not larger, flock of guinea fowl. If you can imagine the noise a flock, or about two dozen geese can make, you should hear the noise from a large flock of guinea fowls. It was always interesting to hear the noise coming through the woods from Hyer’s Point when the geese and guinea fowl were trying to outdo each other. They flew all over the neighborhood, and occasionally Mrs. Hyer would round them up and herd them home like sheep.
When I was about eight or nine years old, the geese were in our yard and Mrs. Hyer, with stick in hand, was trying to shoo them back across Bayou Boulevard into their large wooded property. I volunteered to help her catch a recalcitrant old gander which just refused to go home with the others. I was the official “chicken-neck-ringer at our house, so with my experience, I figured it wouldn’t be much difference in catching geese and catching chickens. I was unaware that a gander, especially an old, large one has a bony or calcified knot about the size of a golf ball on each wing. Plus, unlike chickens, a goose can bite the heck out of you. It took that old gander about ten seconds to bloody my nose and scratch me all over. Mrs. Hyer was very concerned and sympathetic, but I bet she had a good laugh when she got home.
By the way, the picnic was great, but I knew only three of the people there, and only one of them lived in the Heights when I did. Although the rest of the people at the picnic were strangers to me, their friendliness and their relationship with each other was just like it was years ago when we had Easter egg hunts at Suter School, political rallies, fish frys and many other events at the Community House. It’s obvious that the friendly ways of the people in East Pensacola Heights never change, even though the residents come and go.
CHARLIE DAVIS is a graduate of Florida State University, with a degree in Insurance and Real Estate, and is retired from careers in Insurance, Real Estate and Residential Construction. He is the father of four children and has nine grandchildren. He and his wife live in Gulf Breeze, Florida.