Miami Stories - Les Haber

Trips to the UM dorms yielded many an animal


Special to The Miami Herald

We moved to Miami in 1947 from Yonkers, New York.

My dad had a breathing problem and the family doctor told him he needed to move to Phoenix or Miami. Since my Aunt Peggy already lived in Florida, my parents, Silvia and Herb Haber, decided to move to Miami.

After a brief stay at Aunt Peg’s, we bought our first home at 64th Avenue and 25th Terrace. The house was a two-bedroom, one-bathroom stucco house with a carport. It seemed that back then the town stopped at 67th Avenue and the Everglades started.

Dad had a hard time finding a job and was turned down by the Coral Way Cafeteria for a waiter’s job because he was not black.

He ended up working for Star Cleaners, which I loved because he would take me with him on his route on Saturdays, and part of his route was the University of Miami athletic dorm.

The UM players were not allowed to have pets, so we often came home with animals. Once we came home with a spider monkey (that set the next door neighbor’s house on fire), snakes and other animals.

My older brother, Paul, decided that he would go into the snake business and I would help. We caught coral snakes and water moccasins and sold them to Mr. Hess at the Serpentarium.

My parents went into the children’s clothing business in 1950.

Their store, the Miracle Children’s Center, was originally at 290 Miracle Mile, next door to the Miracle Theatre. They then moved to 212 Miracle Mile.

The store was in that location for 10 years until Sears opened on Douglas Road and Coral Way. Sears sold many of the same products for less, and as a result, in 1960, my parents closed the store and went into real estate.

I remember going to the Coral Gables bus terminal and the signs at the drinking fountains delineated, “for colored’’ and “for white.’’

I remember driving past Arthur Godfrey’s Kenilworth Hotel, where the sign read, “No dogs or Jews Allowed.”

My brother and I were thrown off the bus once because we sat in the rear of the bus, which was not for white folks and when we refused to move the driver made us get off the bus.

My family has a great history of music. My mother played piano with the New York Philharmonic as a teenager and we always had a piano in the house.

My brother (nine years older than I) played jazz piano and I started playing drums when I was 4. I began playing at the Coral Gables Youth Center with two kids from junior high, Bob Rauchman and Elliot Midwood.

As I improved, I was lucky enough to get a music scholarship to the new Miami-Dade Junior College on Northwest 27th Avenue.

I met my friend Don Mattucci, a saxophone and flute player, who plays with the jazz quintet I play with today.

He was in the first CC Rider band led by Wayne Cochran. I played drums at the Cadillac Hotel on Miami Beach, The Swinging Door on 27th Avenue just north of Coconut Grove, The Flick by UM, and many other clubs and coffee houses.

I have worked in broadcasting here since the late 1960s. Miami has grown and changed from the small town it was in the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s.

My kids, Laura and Lon, have moved from South Florida and I still live here with my wife, Ana Marie, and her children in Saga Bay.

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