Miss Boca 1953 recalls town in its infancy,
world at her fingertips as longtime travel agent
ABOVE: Alberta Schultz’s half century as a travel agent has taken her to 139 countries. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star BELOW RIGHT: Schultz worked for Southern Bell in 1953 when she reigned as Miss Boca Raton. Photo provided
On Monday evening, Dec. 15, 1952, Alberta Domeyer was crowned Miss Boca Raton 1953 at the local Lions Club.
She was 19 and new in town, and Boca Raton was pretty new, too. The town, incorporated in 1925, was only 27 itself.
“Well, I didn’t have a lot of competition,” she says now. “The population was only about 1,000.”
In fact, 200 citizens had voted for Alberta Domeyer, The Delray Beach Journal reported at the time, which means about a fifth of the population wanted her to reign.
“My cousin, Dorothy Steiner, had been Miss Boca Raton 1952, so we kept it in the family,” she remembers.
Dorothy Steiner went on to be crowned the Delray Beach Gladioli Queen on Valentine’s Day 1953, then Miss Florida 1956 and fourth runner-up in the Miss America pageant in 1957.
Alberta Domeyer got married, became Alberta Schultz, had four children before she was 30, got divorced, became a travel agent — and went around the world several times.
She’s 85 now, and in November her four children, along with assorted grandchildren, great-grandchildren and about 100 friends and colleagues, will gather to celebrate both her birthday, Aug. 15, and her 50-plus years as a local travel agent.
Last year, Schultz and her daughter Cynthia sat down and drew up a list of the places she’s been.
Of 195 countries and continents recognized by the United Nations, Schultz has visited 139, from Antarctica to Zimbabwe, with Antigua and Yemen, Argentina and Vietnam, etc., etc., etc., in between.
It’s been a long, lovely trip for a girl who already thought she was going to the end of the world when her family moved to Boca Raton from Detroit.
Her parents had arrived at Ellis Island from Germany in November 1923, on different ships in the same month. Neither spoke English, but they learned, and in time her father owned five bakeries in Detroit.
“At high school graduation, I wanted to do two things,” Schultz says. “I wanted to do makeup or something in the theater, and I wanted to travel. But my father didn’t believe in college for girls.”
ABOVE: When Alberta Schultz posed for the cover of a 1953 city map, a Boca real estate company was offering two-bedroom retirement homes for $6,250 and three-bedroom homes for $7,650. BELOW: A newspaper clipping from Schultz's scrapbook. Photos provided
She was working as a mail clerk at Michigan Bell, the phone company, when the Steiners persuaded her parents to join them in the sunny joys of Boca Raton.
“There was one church, the Methodist,” Schultz recalls. “I’m not Methodist, but I was Methodist then. There was nothing west of Dixie Highway, just the Air Force barracks on Spanish River.”
When she posed — in a tasteful one-piece bathing suit — for the cover of a 1953 city map, P.L. Weeks’ Realty was offering two-bedroom retirement homes for $6,250 — $7,650 if you wanted a third bedroom.
The town had no theater then, so the Boca Raton Club showed free movies.
The end of the world, she discovered, could be a delightful place.
“You could sleep on the beach all night, and you never locked your doors. Everybody knew everybody. Everybody was friendly. I loved it right away.”
It was a lovely place to live, if you were white.
“Black people had to be off the streets by 7 o’clock,” she says.
Her father opened Domeyer’s Bakery next to Love’s Drug Store on Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach, and she found work at the Southern Bell office.
“I was a sales rep and took orders over the phone for people who were moving here.”
And people were moving to Boca Raton. By 1955, the year she got married, the population had nearly tripled to 2,872.
She worked for a time at the Boca Raton Club, serving cocktails off a tray suspended from a strap around her neck, like a cigarette girl. She sold tickets to the chimpanzee show at Africa USA, a 300-acre “Authentic Reproduction of the African Veldt” just south of Palmetto Park Road.
“Oh, boy, those chimpanzees were cute,” she says.
On Dec. 17, 1957, the “town” of Boca Raton officially became a “city” with more than 4,000 residents, and Schultz’s personal population was growing, too. By 1967, she had given birth to four children — Frank, Christopher, Cynthia and Felicia — and divorced a husband. She was a 34-year-old woman with four young children to support.
“I was a waitress at the Captain’s Table on Deerfield Boulevard,” she says, “and I didn’t want to be 50 and hauling trays around.”
She went to the maitre d’ and told him, “I need two nights off a week to go to school to be a travel agent.”
The night school class was at a high school in Fort Lauderdale, and later that year she went to work at the Dugan Travel Agency.
“At 75 S. Federal Highway in Boca,” she remembers. “I made $45 a week.”
Aruba, Australia, Austria, the Bahamas.
The adventure began.
When Mr. Cherry, the owner, went to Chicago for the summer, he asked her to manage the business while he was gone.
“I can’t do that,” Schultz protested. “I’ve got four kids.”
“You can do it,” he assured her.
She did it.
Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize …
In 1979 the new owner, Richard Hart, died and left her the business. She ran it until 1984, sold it to an employee and stayed on another five years to help out.
Canada, Chile, China, Colombia …
In 1989, she moved on to Red Carpet Travel in Delray Beach, stayed there six years, then came to Reid Travel in Boca Raton. She’s been there ever since.
“I haven’t stopped working since I was 14 years old,” she says, “except to have four babies.”
This is not a complaint.
Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary …
Fifty-one years a travel agent, 23 at Reid.
“When people ask me what country I like best, I say nothing’s the same,” she says. “Every culture is different, but if you keep your mind open, you find that people are basically good in their heart all over the world.
“But if I could only go back to one, I’d go to Germany, because my parents were from Germany.”
Nowadays, she’s an independent contractor, going to the agency a couple of days a week to set up appointments while otherwise working out of her home office.
“I take groups on tours. We go to Israel, Greece, Italy, the Amazon …”
Two years ago, she went horseback riding on a beach in Uruguay.
Last year, she went whitewater rafting in Washington state.
This year, she and her daughter Cynthia went on a six-week cruise to Japan, Korea and Alaska.
“Sailing from Japan to Alaska,” she says, “we crossed the International Date Line and lived May 7 twice!” Her eyes twinkle at the memory. Next April, she’ll lead 28 members of Advent Lutheran Church to Ireland.
“But no matter where I went in the world,” she says, “when I came back home to Boca, it was home.”
Scotland, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia …
Thailand, Trinidad, Tunisia, Turkey …
Next year, she’ll retire.
“It’s time,” she says, without regret. “It’s long enough. The party’s over, let’s call it a day. I’ve always loved the work, but keeping up with all this new technology, the airline maps — everything’s changed.”
The town she came to 66 years ago has changed, too. The population is nearing 100,000, and what Boca Raton has gained in people and prestige, she fears it has lost in simplicity.
“I’m disappointed with all the high-rises,” she says. “They’re too high, cutting off the air we need, and the sunsets. And the growth!
“I used to go to the grocery store and know everybody.”
And she used to be Miss Boca Raton, elected by nearly a fifth of the town. It’s all there in her scrapbook, the 8-by-10 black and white photos, the newspaper clippings. The memories.
Does she still have the tiara?
No, she laughs. No tiara.
For winning the title, Miss Boca Raton 1953 was awarded an orchid corsage, dinner for two at Brown’s Restaurant, an oil change and grease job from the local Sunoco station, and a load of topsoil.
“I gave the muck to my father for our yard,” she says.