It’s early morning. He sips his coffee, gazing out over the St. Lucie River from the comfort of his own home. It’s a view he knows well, having lived on the same street for a lifetime.
Dr. Dale Hipson has lived in Stuart since 1925, being born in the area. The outdoors have always held a particular fascination for the Martin County native. As early as 3 years old, Hipson’s interest was noted by his parents – that birthday was celebrated by sitting in his father’s lap as aviation pioneer Bert Krueger flew the happy toddler in his plane. It was to be a lifelong interest, suited perfectly to the outdoor culture offered by the South Florida region. Back in those days the river used to be fresh, with hyacinths so thick the water could practically be walked across. The fishing wasn’t too shabby either.
“The fish fell out of the sky,” Hipson chuckles. He’s referring to a particular incident when he was a boy, riding his bike to the school on Fourth Street, current day East Ocean Boulevard. “An osprey flew overhead carrying a 2-pound bass,” he recalls. “The fish dropped on the street, and I picked it up and brought it back home to clean and make for dinner.”
Hipson had his fair share of success in the water as well, spending summers fishing for snook and selling them for some extra spending money. “It started off at two cents a pound in 1949 and went up from there,” he explains. He did pretty well too. On his best day he brought in 500 pounds of snook. His fishing successes continued, once having caught a 100-pound tarpon while out trolling. Well, it started off as 100 pounds, before an 18foot hammerhead shark bit his catch in half.
Even in his professional life, Hipson had a connection to his love of the outdoors. The famous outdoorsman Vince “Trapper” Nelson once left him a $5 tip. Hipson was the third dentist in town, his father having been the first. His father practiced in Jacksonville before coming down to the Stuart area – he decided to wait until the town had electricity seven days a week before making the move. Previously electricity was only available on Wednesdays.
Today, the landscape has changed. Development has left its mark on the Palm City skyline across the water, as well as on the river itself. The rum runners are no longer making their stops near the Roosevelt Bridge, and the cattlemen are no longer burning the fields to the west.
These days, Hipson can still be found appreciating his great outdoors. He and his “soulmate” Shirley drive out to DuPuis Reserve in Indiantown to monitor the eagles’ nests and keep track of the chicks. The ducks still wander up into his yard. There’s a pod of six dolphins that has made the river home as well. He spends time with his son and daughter, both of whom still live in the area, and his four grandchildren. Yes, life is still good. And his beloved river still provides the perfect backdrop for his morning coffee.