“Live and act within the limit of your knowledge and keep expanding it to the limit of your life.” Ayn Rand
Did any of you ever hear of Charlie Weeks as we were growing up in West Palm Beach?
The answer, for all but a few of us, is a resounding NO! Unless you were raised near the west end of Allendale Rd., down the street from Belvedere Elementary, his name will mean nothing. Sandra Peacock will and the late Nick Coppola would have remembered him only as the old man down at the end of the road that farmed papayas and raised worms.
There is, however, one member of the PBHS Class of “58” that, not only very vividly remembers Mr. Weeks but strives to emulate him on a daily basis.
Charles Julius Becker
Charlie Becker is, by virtue of his upbringing and abiding faith, without a doubt the most demonstrably Christian individual I’ve ever known, but when he reminisces about his youth, any comment or reference he makes on or to Charles Weeks fringes of pagan idolatry.
Charlie Weeks was already 59 years old when he moved to West Palm Beach in 1932. His international recognition in raising poultry and communal agricultural concepts in California had already established him as both a socialistic visionary and an entrepreneurial genius. *(An OVIATT LIBRARY reprint on Charles Weeks is attached below. It will prove a very interesting read for serious scholars and California residents…….there may even be an overlap?)
But hey, let’s get off this “did you know that old man” kick and tell us a story!
Charlie Becker (hereafter referred to only as Becker) ‘s mother taught piano (to, among others, classmate Linda Tyner) while Charles Becker, Sr., (not to be confused with Becker), enjoyed strumming the guitar. The venerable Mr. Weeks played the violin and was also a very religious man … paving the way for a Becker/Weeks weekly get together for prayers and instrumental and vocal renditions of all the old favorite Hymns.
Becker, as a grade-schooler, remembers the Old Rugged Cross and Just a Closer Walk with Thee but what he recalls most vividly about Charlie Weeks were the sunny days spent spear fishing with the old man and his Dad at the Jupiter and Palm Beach Inlets. Even old time Florida crackers knew very little about spear fishing in the 1940s. Charlie Weeks had brought his know-how with him from California and even fashioned a long wooden spear rifle as a gift to Becker’s father. The divers, with Becker tagging along, would not only spear the fish (mostly snook), but go on to build a fire and fry’em up right there on the beach.
Time passes and …”Not far from the oak does the acorn fall” … 1958 and the night of our Junior – Senior Prom. Becker is with the one person whose company he is most familiar and doing what he has learned to enjoy more than anything else … he’s all alone on the brightly lit up little wooden dock at the Palm Beach Inlet on the south side almost where it empties into Lake Worth. He has his 12 volt spot light lowered into the water. They’re all schooled up and he can see them, only 8 or 10 feet down in the clear brine, but they won’t bite. He tries everything–jigs, trolled plugs, feathers, spoons, even live shrimp … dangles them right in front of them but nothing … they just stay there; suspended, facing up into the incoming tide, with their mouths rhythmically opening and closing. But Becker will not be denied. He has learned from his Dad and Charlie Weeks that there’s always a way! He reaches into his tackle box and takes out his secret weapon … a large weighted treble snag hook.
I choose not to quote him verbatim but according to Becker, “you don’t know what a fish fight is until you snatch hook a 15 lb. snook in the ass h…!”
After graduation Becker found the best of all worlds; he hired on at top dollar with RCA Services to track missiles fired from Cape Canaveral and, get this, had to commit to a full year stationed at the ETR Range Tracking Station on Great Sale Cay in the Bahamas … poor Becker, he had become a “Range Rat” with nothing to fill his idle hours but diving and fishing!
I think he liked it so well he re-upped for another year before deciding to, in his words, become a “college boy”. After and uninspiring year at the JC on Congress Ave., Becker became disenchanted (one can only assume this was because of the campus’s lack of proximity to salt water) and got back in touch with RCA.
H.H. ARNOLD at sea off Baja California
The years that followed found Becker shipboard on the H.H. ARNOLD in both the South Atlantic and the Pacific. He was still following missiles but now he was tracking, not their flight path, but where they came down. There was no GPS in those days and guidance systems were still a work in progress. The U.S. and the Soviet Union were pitted against each other in an arms race and RCA Services was contracted to help make sure Uncle Sam won it. What this all boiled down to was Becker, along with the rest of the crew, spent 24/7 figuring out “where they were?”. The equipment on the Arnold enabled these, now floating, Range Rats to determine the location of their ship on the Ocean’s surface to within 15 feet and, thus, be able to confirm that any designated earth-bound warhead splashed down within 75 feet of its pre-programmed target. Oh!, … did I forget to mention … the rocket had probably left the ground some 12,000 miles away.
A couple more years and Becker, like many of the rest of us, soon found his way back to WJNO, Clematis St., and Russo’s Subs. He settled into his bachelor pad on Avon Rd., reunited with his fishing “chums” on the Juno Pier, converted an old beer joint on Lake Ave. into a body-building emporium resulting in the collection of membership fees from a cadre of meathead iron pumpers, and eventually returned to his father’s profession as a dental technician. Somewhere in this time frame Charles Weeks quietly passed away but few took note. He had, once again, become only the old man down at the end of Allendale. His home and papaya farm would soon be cleared away and paved over to make way for I-95 and …
For much of the next half century Becker dedicated his working hours to crafting perfect gold and porcelain bridges and crowns and this quest for perfection overflowed into his personal life.
Carola & Charlie Becker
Becker, now living in Vero Beach, has never been satisfied with “good enough”. He has a wonderful wife that always seems to do what needs to be accomplished and strives to make her marriage, her animals, her home, and especially her husband happy and content. Carola is an actively employed dental assistant that loves to travel and doesn’t mind making the sacrifices and preparations that come with doing so. When it comes to Becker, she gives him the freedom to pursue the ideas for the sometimes questionable, and always time consuming, “projects” that seem to effervesce from his pillow into his brain every night.
Becker’s latest quest involves going back in his memory bank to construct a submersible hand-held catapult from years gone by. He has a nephew in Newbery, FL that frequently fishes for black grouper over 50 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Recently the nephew has encountered fishing lines with only shredded heads when they are brought up from the deep. The culprit(s) is/are Goliath grouper and, according to Becker, the best way to get rid of them is to scuba dive down (only 50 or 60 ft.) and follow the same prescription for the giant predators that his dentist clients routinely prescribe for a patient’s bad wisdom tooth … “cold steel and sunshine!”
Weeks “Model 1942” California spear rifle
To accomplish this feat Becker is, painstakingly and by hand, applying the finishing touches to an exact replica, as he remembers it, of the spear rifle Charlie Weeks made for his father in the 1940s. It is truly a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. He intends to make it a Christmas present for his nephew and Becker is hopeful he’ll be invited out for the required overnight anchorage to witness his handy work in action.
Becker is also blessed with a gift that only an aging father can ever adequately describe …. the pride of having a grown son that he can be proud of! Just “proud of“… that’s all, no other qualification, no other measurement, … nothing else need ever be said!
Shane Becker attending a Palm Beach fundraiser
Shane Becker has been cultivating an expansive list of loyal discerning customers of fine men’s clothing on Worth Ave. in Palm Beach for over 11 years. First with Giorgio Armani and currently at Brioni, Shane has built an international following of “clients” that will do business with no other haberdasher. He has recently returned from a weeklong meeting in Penne, Italy where he received a corporate award for excellence (and gained 5 lbs on the pasta).
Why don’t you drop by and browse around before the holidays–the Single-Breasted Cashmere two-button Blazer Jacket at $7,750 may be a bit pricey but the $425 three-button Jersey Polo Shirt might be just the stocking stuffer you’re looking for?
* Charles Weeks was a visionary in the world of poultry and communal farming. Born on an Indiana farm in 1873, Mr. Weeks grew up with a thorough understanding of farming and farm life. In 1904, Mr. Weeks moved to Los Altos, California with a plan to raise poultry on a ten-acre farm he had purchased there. Unfortunately, due to inadequate water supply, Mr. Weeks’ Los Altos farm was doomed to failure. In 1909, Mr. Weeks moved to a five-acre farm on the outskirts of Palo Alto, California. It was here that he established new methods of raising poultry, concentrating birds into coops. Previous to this time, it was a commonly accepted farming practice to raise chickens in large, space consuming, chicken runs. The “Weeks Poultry Method” of raising poultry in compact houses became so successful that visitors from all over the world began arriving at Mr. Weeks’ farm to study and learn his method. William E. Smythe, a socialist utopian, promoted his vision of independently owned farming communities after visiting. Weeks in turn adopted these ideals and established his own version of a utopian farming community.
In 1916, Mr. Weeks established the “Weeks Poultry Colony,” also known as Runnymead, on land near his Palo Alto farm. With a heavily promoted motto of “one acre and independence,” Mr. Week’s experimental utopian community grew quickly, housing 400 families by 1922. Adding to the success of the colony was his monthly magazine publication called Intensive Little Farm which attracted new buyers to the area and kept the area thriving for years, peaking at over 1,000 citizens by the mid-1920s.
In 1923, Weeks moved out of Northern California and engaged himself in actively promoting a new colony in Owensmouth. He had been invited to the San Fernando Valley by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce in 1920 to establish a series of one-acre farms in the area that would emulate the success of his Los Altos “poultry colony.” The colony Mr. Weeks created eventually developed into a small farming community, which actively engaged in uplifting the spirit of its members, and aided in the social, intellectual and artistic enlightenment of the region.
Unfortunately, the Great Depression and the dramatic downturn of the Los Angeles economy drastically affected both the Owensmouth and Runnymead communities. By 1932, many of the farms faced bankruptcy and Mr. Weeks himself lost almost everything. With the failure of the poultry colonies, Mr. Weeks relocated to Florida, where he lived out the remainder of his life growing papayas, raising fishing worms and skin diving. Charles Weeks died in Florida in 1964 but the impact of his communal experiment can still be seen in some areas of both Palo Alto and Winnetka.
Charles Weeks (1927 in California)
One thought on “Charlie Becker and the John Galt of Allendale Road”
I love everything about this. I lived on Tuscaloosa Street, backed up to Belvedere School’s playground, and played cowboys and Indians, hop scotch, roller skated, rode my bicycle, and had fruit fights with the Cushman brothers across my back fence and occasionally was visited by Charlie Becker, who joined in the childhood fun. I carved PC + CB at eye level for a ten or eleven-year-old on the banyan tree in my back yard and found it still there many, many years later when I drove down the street and saw a “for sale” sign in the front. I wandered to the back yard and found the initials still there, much higher in the tree. He was a sweet, quiet boy, probably a whole lot wiser than he advertised. It looks like he grew into a good and decent man, and I’m relieved to know he found a wonderful woman to share his life with and that he had a son he was proud of. Thanks, Jimmy, for the memories, for your transparency and candor, and especially for being his friend.
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