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Pinecrest Freeway News (1977-1978)

original artwork by Christina Pettersson commissioned for Booklandia

The first time somebody referred to that grassy vastness below Lake Okeechobee as the “Everglades” was in 1823, when Charles B. Vignoles, an Irish-born engineer, employed the term in his Observations upon the Florida to refer to South Florida’s endless emerald wetlands punctuated by palms¹. Almost exactly a century ago, those Everglades were nearly untouched. Those that dared venture within its thickets of heat and mosquitoes and serpents returned with lore of uncountable alligators, ancient cypress stands, and flocks of wading birds so dense that, when alight, you could barely see the blue of sky. Then, in the 1920s, engineers constructed the Tamiami Trail to carry residents and South Florida’s growing tourist population between the state’s two coasts. The roadway’s easy access to the heart of the swamplands made quick work of the cypress stands for timbermen, and by the 1940’s nearly all of the glades’ giant bald cypress trees had been downed. By the 1950’s, demand for hides and uncontrolled hunting was so prolific that the American alligator was nearly driven to extinction. In the 1960’s began the developers’ infamous “draining of the swamp” to make way for an expanded Broward and Dade County².

In 1928, just after the Tamiami Trail opened, a settlement called Pinecrest developed along the sleepy gravel byway of Loop Road. Pinecrest residents settled in the unforgiving swamp in the hopes they’d turn a profit in the cypress logging or oil industries; one of two oil reserves in the state of Florida, the Sunniland Formation beneath Big Cypress was discovered in 1943, and continues to be a site of oil extraction to this day³. However, many Pinecrest residents fell victim to the trials of the Great Depression or the hurricanes of the 1940s. Those that remained, or arrived shortly thereafter, were “mostly refugees who, for one reason or another, do not take to the restraints of urban living,” and enjoyed the freedom and legal sanctuary of Pinecrest, with the nearest police station over 90 miles away⁴. Residential life in Pinecrest was emblematic of the traditional “Florida cracker” culture of, "wasteful hospitality, reckless indulgence in food and drink, a touchy and romantic sense of honor, and a strong tendency toward lawlessness." In a steadily intensifying suburban turfgrass monoculture, Florida Cracker culture was becoming otherwise obsolete⁵.

Most emblematic of Cracker culture was the social center of Pinecrest, Gator Hook Lodge, where Ervin Rouse, a fiddle player who wrote the bluegrass hit “Orange Blossom Special” – popularized by Johnny Cash in 1965 – was a permanent fixture. A sign that read “No guns or knives allowed inside” hung above the entrance of the Gator Hook, but proved ineffective against the trend of Saturday-night brawls, knifings, and shootings. Amid that chaos were couples slow-dancing in dungarees and cloggers doing a dance self-described as the “Everglades stomp.”⁶ Despite a proclivity towards recklessness, a sense of honor and camaraderie pervaded; Ethel Hawkins, the former owner of the Pinecrest Bar attested that she never locked the front door of her establishment. Sometimes, in the morning, she’d find a stack of money on the counter from Pinecrest residents who’d come in overnight and helped themselves⁷.

The isolated village of Pinecrest wasn’t opposed to fostering community with others, but rather to the governance and order of cities like Miami outside the lawlessness of the swamp. On making Pinecrest home, Ervin Rouse said, “When you get out here, something tells you to just relax, to kind of go along with the county. ‘Cos you cain’t own it. And to be proud. Out here in the wilds when night falls, it is so dark. Oh, it’s wild!”⁸

The residents of Pinecrest were the last of the so-called “gladesmen” to enjoy life on Loop Road. On November 23, 1974, Congress created Public Law 93-440, establishing 570,000 acres (900 square miles) of Big Cypress Swamp – 40% of the original swamp – as a national preserve. Congress gave the National Park Service until October 1980 to buy (or condemn and purchase) acreage owned by almost 50,000 private hands, many of whom purchased their land from various brokers at exorbitant prices, sight unseen. With $156 million in state and federal funds allocated for the whole acquisition, for unimproved land, the service offered about one-third what the owners paid for it as long as 10 years ago. As a result, 20-25% of land acquisition cases went through condemnation.⁹ By the time Rick Gore of National Geographic visited Pinecrest for a feature about Big Cypress for its August 1976 issue, few families remained. The village of Pinecrest consisted of a few houses, a cluster of trailers, an abandoned school bus, a convenience store, a gas station, and two taverns. “As the land is bought, an extraordinary ‘Florida Cracker’ way of life will disappear. This is the last frontier, the last great swamp,” declared Jack Knight, then the owner of the Gator Hook Lodge.¹⁰

Wayne “Skip” Prussman, a long time Loop Road resident, foresaw Pinecrest’s dissolution at the hands of the National Park Service, and spearheaded a publication documenting the last few years of residential life on Loop Road, entitled Pinecrest Freeway News. Issues were either handwritten or written on a typewriter, then photocopied and placed in various places in town for sale. The two volumes of newspapers discussed neighborhood events, local gossip, snippets of articles from the Miami Herald and the now defunct Miami News, and of course, logistics about Pinecrest’s monthly Loop Road parties. Skip sought out hosts for Loop Road parties by advertising them in the paper, and always made sure to report on each evening’s festivities in the following edition, down to the details of the host’s spread – typically an assortment of any of the following: BBQ pork ribs, fried chicken, macaroni and potato salads, cole slaw, beans, pickles, and olives, plus anything guests decided to bring. Food, ice, cups, and “mix” (cocktail mixers) were nearly always available, but guests were encouraged to bring their own “bottle or beer,” and sometimes an extra chair, crate, or cement block to sit on.

In Volume 1, No. 5 of the PFN, Skip announced that he would be printing what he termed “souvenir issues” or “Scrap Book Editions” that would include hand drawings of Pinecrest and South Florida landmarks by Pete Richey. “Loop Road changes every month,” he noted, “And eventually won’t be here, so here is your chance to put some pictures in the old scrapbook for the future.” Featured in the subsequent issues were drawings of some centerpieces of Everglades residential life, including Sulllivan’s Old BBQ, Pinecrest Bar, Airboat Landing, the Egg Farm, as well as places on the Trail like the Ochopee Post Office, Monroe Station, and Trail Center. Others clearly noted the archival value of this cultural artifact as well; by its fifth issue, Prussman noted, PFN readers spanned beyond Pinecrest to Ochopee, Key West, Hollywood, and Williston, and there were rumors abound that PFN was being posted on the bulletin board at the Miami Herald.¹¹

The series of newspapers published from September 1977 (Vol 1. No. 1) to April 1978 (Vol 2 No. 8) also traced the slow encroachment of the Big Cypress purchase onto Loop Road. In a December 1977 issue of the paper, Skip wrote, “It’s estimated…that there will only be 15-20 families living on the Loop by 1978… Northern Monroe County shrank from 118,240 acres to only 6,000 acres (privately owned)... since 1971. Jim Sewell, spokesman for the Big Cypress Purchase states that there are about 500 owners of 6,000 acres surrounding Loop Road.” Later, a February 1978 issue announced a rumor that the government would ramp up its forced acquisition of properties straddling Monroe and Collier Counties that year, and by January 1980 would condemn all remaining property by law. The following month, Skip wrote, “Well the road’s getting deader and deader, and the news is getting harder and harder to find… The government man was on the road visiting Pete Larry and Sullivan’s old place and talking money. Look for a few more people to leave Pinecrest in the near future.”¹²

In Volume 2, Number 7, published on April 8, 1978, Skip gave a “Loop Road Update” announcing the closing of Gator Hook Lodge, heralding the death of Pinecrest. Later in the issue, another article entitled “As the Road Goes, so Goes the P.F.N.” detailed the newspaper’s origin story as a Loop Road newsletter and date book first published on September 9, 1977 in a run of 25 copies. Skip wrote, “This is the 15th issue and circulation still runs at a couple hundred copies, down from a one time high of 289 copies.” As foretold, Skip also listed the closures the community had seen since the Big Cypress land acquisition: the Egg Farm, Fellowship Ranch, Sullivan’s BBQ, Pinecrest Restaurant, and Pinecrest Service Station. “Larry doesn’t see having a school bus this fall, Chuck Hughes will be closing his General Store and moving to Arkansas, and the future of the Gator Hook looks shaky… No new subscriptions will be taken,”¹³ he lamented.

For Pinecrest locals, mythology pervaded the landscape, preserving histories of like-minded, ungovernable predecessors hell-bent on individualism. MacDonald “Uncle Mac” Johnson was a toothless Florida pioneer who moved to Loop Road in 1908, before the construction of the Tamiami Trail, and lived there in an abandoned Miami-Dade school bus until the early eighties. He and Jack Knight used to reminisce about the old days on Loop Road, when Al Capone’s syndicate ran a hotel out in Pinecrest. Knight, who claimed to have waited on Capone in Miami, noted that he doubted Capone ever came out to the swamp himself, but Uncle Mac added that his syndicate used to bring “so-called ‘dignitaries’...for a vacation. A man can vanish real easy takin’ a walk in the swamp. And a lot of them did – without a trace. Put a dead man in a gator hole, and in a day or so there won’t be nothin’ left of him. Not even bones.” For those who recall a pre-drainage Everglades, stories and myths like these reanimate the landscape, revitalize old fantasies, and preserve a folk culture that Glades inhabitants feared would be eclipsed amid NPS land acquisition. On the Big Cypress land purchase, Uncle Mac declared, “They’ll never starve me out.”¹⁴

In its state of nonlinear conservation and destruction, the Everglades interrogate the durability and use-value of static notions of place, especially where place intersects with humans and nonhumans over time. Much of the rhetoric surrounding the topic of the Everglades, albeit through a sentimental lens of loss, is strictly ecological, following the timeline of the physical landscape’s devastation and subsequent rehabilitation. In Swamplife, Laura Ogden discusses notions of place prevalent among Western scholars that, perhaps in an attempt to retroactively right colonial wrongs, are seemingly allergic to acknowledging humans as a natural part of a landscape. Roderick Neumann coined the phrase “national park ideal” to describe the Euro-American aesthetics of Edenic, uninhabited wilderness that federal efforts to conserve and restore environmentally sensitive lands aim to achieve. Mark Spence’s work expands on this notion to portray how the national park ideal relies upon an ‘atemporal natural history’ that undermines and erases the human history of landscapes.¹⁵ That is, this eco-centric approach to place enacts a different kind of erasure, precluding relational understandings that take into consideration the multiple histories, commonalities, and conflicts among stakeholders of and within the natural landscape that are as critical to our understanding of the place as the conditions of the flora and fauna within it.

Ogden notes how state conservation movements often wield science as a tool to justify the control or removal of peoples from environmentally sensitive lands and how naturalists tended to the subject of indigenous peoples as “somehow within the same romanticized conceptual space as landscapes they considered wilderness.”¹⁶ However, naturalists’ constructions of non indigenous peoples, Euro-American inhabitants of wilderness, were abstracted from nature and considered out of place, despite what role they may have played in stewarding the land themselves. Residents of Pinecrest were infuriated by their removal not because they were opposed to the Everglades’ rehabilitation, but because the federal government understood them to be at fault for the decimation of the Everglades after they’d developed such a profound kinship with it, and respected the ecosystem far more than the residents of suburban communities on its drained perimeter. The residents of the neighboring town Ochopee, angrily dubbed itself the “Site of the Federal Land Grab.”¹⁷

When understood relationally, through its networked politics, the Everglades starts to take on a more dynamic and personal meaning. That the landscape is storied is critical to the publics’ personal stake in its rehabilitation. Donna Haraway writes in Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene:

Each time a story helps me remember what I thought I knew, or introduces me to new knowledge, a muscle critical for caring about flourishing gets some aerobic exercise… Each time I trace a tangle and add a few threads that first seemed whimsical but turned out to be essential to the fabric, I get a bit straighter that staying with the trouble of complex worlding is the name of the game of living and dying well together on terra.¹⁸

Storytelling has long been an exercise in empathy, an opportunity to put oneself in someone else’s shoes. Maybe that’s why Skip undertook the role of documentarian in Pinecrest’s last years: to preserve a cultural landscape that would soon be lost amid efforts to conserve the physical one. In stories and archives, however, the multiplicities of the landscape live on. Volume 2, No. 8, published on April 22, 1978, was the final issue of Pinecrest Freeway News in the archival collection. News included details on the previous weekend’s Loop Road party, which was well-attended and lively, despite the circumstances, and a column bemoaning the death of HB1048, a bill that would have legalized the sale of gator products in Florida. The issue also featured an update from Mama Nelly, or “Big Nell,” as members of the community referred to her. Nelly’s letter to the newspaper was the first response to Skip’s request for those who have sold their land to the NPS and moved away to write the newspaper, so everyone would hear from them. She wrote, “I’d sure love to see everyone again. I miss Johnny wanting a beer but he sure wouldn’t get one up here (dry county)...Please write soon. Love to all, Nelly.”¹⁹

Below is a digital flipbook version of

Pinecrest Freeway News. Enjoy!

Charlotte Foreman is a poet and essayist raised in Davie “Cowboy Town” Florida and schooled at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY.

Christina Pettersson's studio says "SWAMP BALLERINA" on the door. She was born in Stockholm, Sweden, and has lived in Miami, FL most of her life. Her artwork focuses on the combination of her local environment, history and community outreach.


  1. Laura Ogden, Swamplife: People, Gators, and Mangroves Entangled in the Everglades (Minneapolis, USA: University of Minnesota Press, 2011), 11.

  2. Rick Gore and Patricia Caulfield, "Twilight Hope for Big Cypress," National Geographic, August 1976, 254.

  3. National Park Service (NPS), "A National Preserve - One Land, Many Uses," Big Cypress: National Preserve Florida, last modified September 20, 2022,

  4. Gore and Caulfield, "Twilight Hope," 266.

  5. Chad Gillis, "Gladesmen: A culture preserved within the Florida Everglades," News-Press., September 25, 2015

  6. Gore and Caulfield, "Twilight Hope," 266.

  7. Wayne "Skip" Prussman, "Pinecrest Freeway News," September 1977, Booklandia: A Digital Library, Bookleggers Library, Islandia Journal, Miami, FL.

  8. Gore and Caulfield, "Twilight Hope," 267.

  9. Frank Davies, "72% of Preserve Bought: Swamp Acquisition Moves on Schedule," The Miami Herald (Miami, FL), February 26, 1978, sec. D

  10. Gore and Caulfield, "Twilight Hope," 266.

  11. Prussman, "Pinecrest Freeway."

  12. Ibid.

  13. Ibid.

  14. Gore and Caulfield, "Twilight Hope," 267-268.

  15. Ogden, Swamplife: People, 99.

  16. Ibid.

  17. Gore and Caulfield, "Twilight Hope," 258.

  18. Donna Jeanne Haraway, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (Durham: Duke University Press, 2016), 115-116.

  19. Prussman, "Pinecrest Freeway."


Davies, Frank. "72% of Preserve Bought: Swamp Acquisition Moves on Schedule." The Miami Herald (Miami, FL), February 26, 1978, sec. D.

Gillis, Chad. "Gladesmen: A culture preserved within the Florida Everglades." News-Press., September 25, 2015.

Gore, Rick, and Patricia Caulfield. "Twilight Hope for Big Cypress." National Geographic, August 1976, 251-73.

Haraway, Donna Jeanne. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Durham: Duke University Press, 2016.

National Park Service (NPS). "A National Preserve - One Land, Many Uses." Big Cypress: National Preserve Florida. Last modified September 20, 2022.

Ogden, Laura. Swamplife: People, Gators, and Mangroves Entangled in the Everglades. Minneapolis, USA: University of Minnesota Press, 2011.

Prussman, Wayne "Skip." "Pinecrest Freeway News." September 1977. Booklandia: A Digital Library. Bookleggers Library, Islandia Journal, Miami, FL.


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