Next year, the City of Riviera Beach turns 100. And in recognition of its centennial city officials are planning for the future — and archiving the past with a new oral histories project being done to ensure the city’s roots aren’t forgotten.
You can call 83-year-old Riviera Beach native Dan Calloway a more than accomplished hometown hero.
”I just built on what they were trying to do,” said Calloway, a former pro baseball player and civil rights activist. ”I was the one who signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates right out of school, in 1956 — and I and Jackie Robinson were hitting against Satchel Paige in the Negro League so I wanted every kid to have the opportunity that I had in sports.”
In 1966, an athletic complex officially bore his name. But Calloway prides himself on the diversity the place and surrounding city offers.
”Just think about the piano keyboard,” he said. “You’ve got the black keys and the white keys. If the black keys play alone it’s not got to be a good symphony. If the white keys play along its the same thing. But when you put them together its a beautiful symphony. You can be Mozart.”
It’s stories like Calloway’s Riviera Beach District 4 council member Dr. Julia Botel wants to archive at the Riviera Beach Library.
“We want to go from a static publication to something that is more dynamic and alive for students and people who visit the library,” Botel said.
It’s called “oral histories.” In honor of the city’s 100th year, the Office of Dr. Botel is conducting oral history interviews with lifelong and longtime senior residents by video and audio tape. The recordings will be donated to the Riviera Beach Library for use by historians and future generations.
”We’re hoping people will come to us and say, ‘hey, I know somebody down the block from me and he’s 86-years-old and he’s got great stories about Riviera Beach. We want to know about those people.”
And there’s a lot of decades to cover. According to the city’s Bicentennial Commission a colony of fishermen settled sometime before the first world war in 1914. Fast forward to the 1920’s and Riviera Beach was one of the largest shipping points for fish on Florida’s eastern coast with fish being sold to markets as far as New York City.
”I’d love to find some of the descendants of these people and see where they are today.,” Botel said.
But Botel’s team needs more suggestions from the public on who to capture.
”Sit-down with an older relative and just start to ask them questions of what it was like to live in Riviera Beach when they were young. When they were coming up,” she said. “Send it to us. We’d love to have those homegrown oral histories.”
To contact Dr. Botel’s Oral Histories interviewing team call 561-351-1502.