A vacation from my very first job in New York brought me to Miami Beach in 1952 where I stayed with a family friend, just blocks from the ocean.
"Aunt" Gertrude Reid, aka “Madame Zaza,” was a crystal-ball gazer who worked at the Kenilworth Hotel, where Arthur Godfrey did his broadcast. The apartment where I stayed was on 41st Street, down the street from the first Lum’s Restaurant.
The jitney ride from the railroad station to Miami Beach was exciting for a girl just off the train from New York. Miami is where I have stayed and raised a family, and they raised theirs here, too.
My decision not to return to New York caused my parents and grandfather to move here. I worked as a medical assistant for Dr. Koenigsberg in North Miami, and then for the Miami Fashion Council in the Chamber of Commerce building downtown.
I met and married my husband here that year, and we lived on a block off Miami Avenue on Northwest 55th Street in a furnished apartment with caring landlords, the Hollandys. The area was beautiful -- a white duplex with palm trees painted on the front wall. There was a concrete table with umbrella on the grass next to the building and it was surrounded by beautiful hibiscus. My grandfather loved to sit there when he visited. He continually marveled at being in Miami.
My parents had a place near the bay on 26th Street. Mom and I wore hats and gloves when we went to Flagler Street, to Burdines Tea Room, or when we shopped at Oelkers for material to make hats and ate at the Town Restaurant.
Mal Marshall had a clothing factory on Miami Avenue (and occasionally allowed the public to make purchases) and we were introduced to the “Cubavera” style, fashion with a Latin flavor. Rome Mattress Company provided bedding for the area and Sterling Equipment outfitted restaurants.
Smitty’s Barbeque on 36th Street served pretty good food, and Edith and Fritz on Miami Avenue offered all-you-can-eat items for $2. Seven Seas couldn’t be beat for seafood. B-Thrifty was the grocery store of choice close by. In Hialeah, where my husband worked, there was another favorite place to eat, Steven’s (aka Whoppie’s).
Miami Beach offered treats like seeing Sammy Davis, Jr. as a very young man, dancing with the Will Mastin Trio at the Rockin’ MB Lounge right next to the beach, across the street from the Roney Plaza Hotel, and the Noshery, also on Miami Beach.
A move out west to Schenley Park brought us closer to Variety Children’s Hospital, ice cream at Milam’s Dairy, and pony rides at Suniland Park. Hardware items were purchased at Salem Supplies on Douglas Road, and Mainly Art was the place for framing and supplies. The South Dade Jewish Center was born in the living room of Elsie and Joe Segal in 1955, later to become Temple Beth Am when the building went up in 1957.
A move further west saw three children at Blue Lakes Elementary, Glades Middle School and Killian High School. We roamed horse farms, strawberry and tomato fields, the roads west to Krome Avenue, and south to Knaus’s Berry Farm. There was no charge to enter Matheson Hammock. There was easy, free access to the sea wall down at the Deering Estate off Old Cutler where snapper could be caught with little difficulty.
Shrimp cocktails on Key Biscayne at the Hurricane Harbor Lounge were $1.50, and Leonard’s La Pena on Bird Road served ONLY shrimp cocktail and steak. Whitey graciously showed you to your table at The Pub on Coral Way, where the lettuce wedge was huge. Sam & Carl’s Deli on Red Road was a favorite, too, serving a "Messy Bessy Sandwich.”