By Jay Meisel
HOBE SOUND - Not many businesses exist where one could be greeted by the owner and then 60 years later, visit again and see the same owner.
But that's the case with Harry and the Natives, a local restaurant where Pauline MacArthur began greeting customers when Harry Truman was president and years before Interstate-95 opened or Port St. Lucie became a city.
Although approaching age 98 and not as physically adept as in the past, Mrs. MacArthur comes to work every day.
"I try to help wherever I can," she said.
While the food is a draw for customers, Mrs. MacArthur's presence attracts many, as well, said Paula Cooper, her daughter, who along with her brother, Harry, manages the business.
"Everybody wants to see her," the daughter said.
Some of those customers met Mrs. MacArthur for the first time when they were children and now visit the restaurant as adults.
Her mother thinks of the restaurant as home and she enjoys visiting with people, Mrs. Cooper said.
There aren't a lot of other places where her mother could work, she said.
"There's not a big job market for 90-year-olds," she added.
Besides enjoying visiting with Mrs. MacArthur, customers often ask her to sing, Ms. Cooper said.
Mrs. MacArthur chooses from a large repertoire of songs from the 1920s and 1930s, many of them Irish. She also sings Christmas songs to customers later in the year.
While never a professional singer, she sang for years in a church choir, she said.
Mrs. MacArthur and her husband, John B. MacArthur, who died in 1986, were only involved in the restaurant business part of their lives.
They decided in the early 1950s to move from Michigan to Florida because Mr. MacArthur wanted to live in a warmer climate, Mrs. MacArthur said.
The restaurant opened originally in 1941 and included cabins that were accommodations for travelers. Originally, it was called Cypress Cabins and later was named The Farm.
The MacArthurs bought the business on May 6, 1952.
During the time they've owned it, they had sub-businesses with it, including the cabins, gasoline tanks and serving as a local station for Greyhound bus and Western Union.
Mrs. MacArthur recalled selling one bus ticket to someone traveling to New Mexico.
Harry MacArthur, one of Mrs. MacArthur's sons, said they sold gasoline until the 1980s when his parents were told the tanks were leaking and it would cost $50,000 to clean up the situation. But when the tanks were later removed, no leaks were found, he said.
At times - especially after Florida's Turnpike opened in the 1960s and traffic was reduced on U.S. 1 - the MacArthurs had to supplement their income.
Mrs. MacArthur worked as a home economics teacher at Martin County High School. Occasionally, former students visit the restaurant, her daughter said.
At one point in the early 1970s, the MacArthurs considered selling the restaurant.
Mrs. MacArthur recalled that her husband wanted to move further south. But she didn't want to move in that direction, she said.
However, in 1971, Chevron Oil Co. wanted to buy the property to build a gasoline station, Harry MacArthur said.
Business negotiations failed and there's been no desire to sell the property since then, he said.
In the 1980s, Harry MacArthur, who, like his sister, Paula, had helped out as a child at the business, returned.
The family at that time decided to upgrade the restaurant and it became Harry and the Natives.
Before, it was run to some extent on a less formal basis.
But Mrs. MacArthur said she likes that the restaurant has retained some of its original character and everything is cooked from scratch.
She likes that the building is wood, which provides a different atmosphere than concrete.
"It feels homey and comfortable," she said.
Some people might be content in their 90s relaxing at home. Not so with Mrs. MacArthur.
"I've been active all my life," she said. "I grew up on a farm in Michigan and I worked on the farm. Responsibility as a child on the farm made me responsible earlier than most children."
When asked if she plans to continue coming to the business at age 100, Mrs. MacArthur said, "I had never planned to be 100."
But if that occurs, she said, "We'll have a good party."