It was a kind of beach bar where folks could clean up from
the beach, have a drink and dance to the jukebox.
“From the time I was a little shaver my mother and father
used to stop in for a drink and a dance,” said Bill O’Dell,
82, one of the earliest residents of South Beach. “There were
slot machines there in the 1930s. We would come by ferry to
South Beach and land at Jaycee Park.”
Eighty-year-old Fort Pierce native Spencer Gilbert, who has
lived on South Beach for the last quarter century, also remembers
trips to the casino as a child.
“When I was a boy I would play in the park in front of
the Casino with my sister,” Gilbert said. “There was nothing
exciting about it, but it was the only place on South Beach.”
That was until 1943, when the U.S. military invasion of
South Beach in 1943 changed Fort Pierce forever, bringing
140,000 troops over three years to train for amphibious landings
during World War II.
THE WAR YEARS
A gate was set up on Jan. 26, 1943, at the east end of the
bridge to South Beach to bar civilians from the U.S. Naval
Amphibious Training Center Fort Pierce. Barracks, a
hospital and dozens of other facilities were built as soldiers
trained for beach invasions while sharing tents with swarming
“The coming of the military changed the lives of the people
South Beach at a Glance
Boundaries are from the east end of the South (P.P. Cobb)
Bridge to the Atlantic Ocean, south to Ocean Village and
west to the Indian River.
Two square miles are within the city limits of Fort Pierce
A U.S. Coast Guard Station
900 single-family homes
68 multi-family buildings
More than two dozen businesses
St. Lucie County Historical Museum
St. Lucie County Marine Center/Smithsonian Marine
Approximate population: 4,145
PHOTO BY ED DRONDOSKI
Jaycee Park is a popular riverfront park for picnics, sunbathing and people enjoying their personal watercraft. Inset postcard is of the Fort Pierce beach
including the Coast Guard tower.