Trivia Tuesday: Red Bugs

Trivia Tuesday 24Jan.pngAbout 100 years ago, Palm Beach was introduced to the “Red Bug.” What was it?

  1. The brilliant Red Lily Beetle, which could be found on the underside of coconut palm fronds. Not a native insect, the beetle arrived on a steamer of fresh produce from Central America and wasn’t eradicated for decades.
  2. Sunburn. The northerners who patronized the first Palm Beach resorts often failed to protect their oh-so-fair skin from the southern sun. When ladies were unable to appear at dinner or tea because of sunburn, they sent their regrets by saying they’d “caught a touch of the Red Bug.”
  3. The Briggs & Stratton Flyer. Getting around the island by “wheelchair” (wicker conveyances powered by hotel employees) was dull. Enter the Red Bug, a little go-cart that let brave motoring enthusiasts zip around at 20-25 mph.
  4. Sweetened palm fruit, a local delicacy. Sold in the lobby of the Royal Poinciana Hotel, the red seeds were a particular (and particularly odd) part of the courting ritual of the young wealthies. Apparently, buying a cone of seeds and presenting them to a young woman’s mother was the island way for a man to declare himself a suitor.

Answer: 3. From 1919-1921, the little “Red Bugs” were all the rage. Selling for about $190, they were an odd little marriage of a low buckboard and early automobile. The Red Bug had a 1- or 2-horsepower engine and a brake… on one wheel. Not only did the swells motor along the trails from hotel to club and back again, they decorated them and staged parades and races.

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