By Ron Hayes
Quiet, please, we’re about to begin.
Shortly after 2 p.m. on a sweltering Saturday in May, a caterer moved among the tables in the Briny Breezes Oceanfront Clubhouse, gently ringing a dinner bell to calm the guests.
The tray of cheese-and-cracker hors d’oeuvres was set aside, Jimmy Buffett silenced on the stereo.
The Rev. Ray Brower, a minister of Briny Breezes Community Church, took his place at the front of the hall, smiling as the bride and groom stepped slowly forward to join him.
“I’m so glad I can be here with you today,” the reverend began with a great, wide smile. “Because this could have been done some time ago.”
And the guests chuckled, knowingly.
After nearly 60 years together in Briny Breezes — first as children, then neighbors, adults and romantic partners — David Hugh David, 63, and Edith Louise Behm, 66, are getting married.
When they arrived at this little trailer campground in the 1950s, the sandy dune where the clubhouse stands today was occupied by a tiny office, a general store and a restaurant called the Seascape, where the red snapper entrée cost $2.75 and the shrimp cocktail a dollar.
He was from St. Louis, Mo., a toddler blessed with the wonderfully redundant name, “David David.”
“I’ve had more fun with that name,” he says. “In the Army, I never did guard duty because they’d call for David Davis and I wouldn’t go. I thought, ‘Well, I’m not David Davis.’ Was I teased? Never. People thought it was cute, and it gave me a sense of humor. I’d never change it.”
She was “Edith,” legally, but already known to one and all as Corky.
“I was a C-section,” she explains, “and when they brought me out I was blowing bubbles and my father said, ‘It reminds me of a champagne cork,’ so they started calling me Corky.”
The David family moved to Briny permanently in 1953, when David was 2, and except for seven years in the Army, he never really left.
Corky’s family came down from Elizabeth, N.J., and bought a trailer in the late 1950s. After graduating from Florida Southern College in 1970, at 22, she moved back to Briny to teach art at Boca Raton Middle School — and never left.
David and Corky grew up together. Grew close together. Grew memories together.
“In the summertime you had it all to yourself,” he remembers. “The only telephone was in the office, so they had a loudspeaker that would announce when you got a call.”
Corky attended Gulf Stream School through 11th grade, she says, then transferred to St. Ann’s Episcopal in Boca Raton for her senior year. She graduated in 1966.
“All my friends were from Gulf Stream,” she says. “Wealthy kids, but they wanted to come play in Briny Breezes. The Crown Colony Club used to be nothing but virgin forest.”
David once built a treehouse in that forest. “It was 30 feet off the ground, and when they finished dredging it, it was 3 feet off the ground.”
He remembers vividly when the old auditorium caught fire, where the shuffleboard courts are today.
“It went to the ground in 45 minutes. I was just a kid and I remember standing across the street and you had to turn your face away or it would burn you.”
In 1963, when the trailer park incorporated and became a town, his father, Hugh David, was elected mayor and held the post for the next 34 years.
“My dad had to quit going to church because people would keep stopping him to talk town business,” David says. “He said, ‘I don’t even get to eat lunch. By the time I get home, the bread’s stale.’ ”
They were teenagers then. Now they’re in their 60s, sharing a home with a black cat named Ebony and a large collection of cowboy hats.
“I’ve had diabetes for 15 or 20 years,” David says, “and up at the VA they said wear hats to guard against melanoma, so that’s how that started. Now everybody at the VA knows me because of my hats. And my name. They’ve got a Dr. Thomas Thomas up there, too.”
His 20 cowboy hats are displayed on a shelf above his bed, the crowns adorned with feathers and shells and jewelry — 20 hats from which to choose for his wedding.
They’ve grown older, and Briny Breezes, the campground that became a trailer park and a town, has grown older, too.
“It’s changed and it hasn’t,” David says. “The trailers are bigger.”
In the old days, people would park their small travel trailers in the low dip of land to the west of the road in the winter, then haul them up to the beach come summer.
Ask for the biggest change they’ve seen and David and Corky pause, then decide it’s the golf carts.
“Everybody has one,” David says. “They can’t walk the dog 5 feet. They get in the cart, take the dog 5 feet, and when the dog pees they ride it back. Of course, I’m exaggerating, but still …”
Now they have a golf cart, too, adorned with a Ben Carson bumper sticker. Run, Ben Run.
“We don’t think he’s got a chance,” David concedes, “but we like him.”
They are both “devout Republicans.”
“If you want to see my blood pressure go up, mention Obama,” Corky says. “I admire Michelle, though. She’s done a lot for obese kids.”
Everywhere they look, it seems, they see memories.
“When I was a kid,” David says, “the west side of Old A1A was all freshwater ponds. Now it’s all condos — which Florida needs more of.”
By their trailer door, a rustic wooden sign hangs: Welcome To Our Little Piece Of Paradise.
“I bought that at the Delray Affair,” Corky says.
“When I was a kid,” David says, “it used to be called the Gladiola Festival.”
For his wedding, David has chosen a black hat encircled with bright turquoise stones, a black belt, also with matching turquoise, black jeans and a black shark’s tooth necklace dangling in the open collar of a stylish white shirt.
Corky is wearing a knee-length dress of magenta lace from Nordstrom’s, tastefully bright and colorful like you’d expect of a woman who taught art for 25 years.
Standing side by side before the guests, they seem a perfect match.
“Repeat after me,” the reverend says. “I, David, take thee Edith …”
Hugh David died in 1997 after 34 years as Briny Breezes’ mayor, but Marilyn David, his wife and David’s mother, is still living in the same family home on Mallard Drive. Today, she is seated at the front, not 15 feet from her son and his bride.
“I, Edith, take thee David …”
David’s sister and brother-in-law, Judy and Tim Wood, are here. They met on this beach in 1957, when Tim spied her, liked what he saw and asked a friend to toss the football her way so he could fumble it and strike up a conversation.
They were married in 1961.
“To have and to hold, for richer or poorer …”
Nearby sits Rita Taylor, the town clerk from 1970 to 2007, who bought her trailer in 1967, one row behind the Davids’.
“Til death do us part.”
Next to Taylor are Pete and June Fingerhut.
“I’m 90, and I remember David as a little boy,” Pete says. “Nice as he could be.”
“Well,” says June, “he was like all boys …”
David and Corky exchange rings, and after a short prayer, the reverend turns to the guests and proclaims, “I present to you Mr. and Mrs. David Hugh David.”
And no sooner are the words out of his mouth, then the groom’s mother, 93 in July, calls to him in a loud voice:
“Oh, David, you finally did it! I thought I’d be stuck with you for the rest of my life!”
David gets a congratulatory kiss from his mother, Marilyn,after the ceremony.
A bamboo frame complements a photo of their fishing boat. The couple jokingly describes it as their ‘Briny Yacht.’
Photos by Jerry Lower/
The Coastal Star