Understanding our history is critical in today’s world.

Learning about the past helps us all to recognize our predecessors’ brilliant successes as well as their mistakes. Perhaps most important, we can identify the times when evil darkened the world and study how it was fought and how survivors made it to today.

Along our coast, most history celebrates the successes of the early pioneers: the hardy men who opened shops, established farms and delivered mail along the beach; the enterprising women who created libraries and organizations to support the foundation of local government.

When Henry Flagler stretched his railroad to Miami and agriculture took off, so did pockets of winter paradise: the parties of Palm Beach and polo fields of Gulf Stream.

A string of beautiful hotels rose south of Palm Beach to provide additional respite to Northerners — the Boynton Hotel on the beach in what is now Ocean Ridge, the old Seacrest and Colony hotels in Delray Beach, and of course, the original Cloisters at what is now The Boca Raton.

Maybe most beautiful of all was the oh-so-very-private Mizner-designed Gulf Stream Golf Club. The club celebrated its centennial in March with a week of golf and activities, including a black tie gala that spilled over into a glowing tent along the beach. Happy anniversary.

Exhibits currently at our South County historical societies carry that early history into the years of WWII and the 1960s. Years of innovation, war and social division. All on the home front.

A visit to the “Florida in World War II” exhibit at the Schmidt Boca Raton History Museum brings back memories to those remaining few who recall blacking out their windows and watching seekers of enemy submarines patrol the beach on horseback.

It also showcases the area’s involvement in what was then the new technology of radar. IBM came later.

In the Delray Beach Historical Society’s exhibit “Land of Sunshine & Dreams! Delray Beach: 1950s-1960s,” the growth and progress of the “Village by the Sea” is told while also uncovering a legacy of segregation and racism that, while no longer obvious, still hovers in 2024.

Boynton Beach celebrated the repeal of several old racist ordinances in February with a public parade and symbolic burning of the documents.

Boca Raton’s discriminatory ordinances disappeared quietly from the books in the 1990s. And although most of Delray Beach’s segregationist laws had been repealed in the 1960s, the city recently discovered a 1938 sundown law still on the books and is discussing its removal. All of these moves are to be applauded. Boynton Beach in particular deserves praise for bringing its divisive history into the light and publicly erasing these mistakes from the past. Far better than leaving them buried deep in microfiche. Now, more than ever, is the time to learn from our history.

— Mary Kate Leming, Executive Editor

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