Back during the mid-1950s, my parents migrated from rural Georgia, with five young kids in tow. Seeking a better life with more opportunity for their children, they sold most of their possessions, left family and friends behind and struck out for the big city.
Getting to Miami was quite a journey for us, with many stops along the way. But there was no doubt that our destination was Miami.
We arrived during the summer of 1955. For an African-American family, there were still many limitations in place at that time, barriers that would literally take years to come down. As young kids, we didnt really understand it all.
My parents would often sit us down and try to explain to us about the harsh realities of life during those times. My father would tell us stories of his life and the many things hed gone through as a young black man living in the Deep South. Now, living in this strange new city, they kept us very close, not wanting us to ever fall into harms way. In spite of this, they were determined to make the most of our new life.
We moved in with my mothers older sister in Coconut Grove, where my aunt Irene lived in a small duplex just off Grand Avenue. We were all packed into this little two-bedroom duplex, and my aunt made pallets for us kids to sleep on in the living room. It was like a slumber party every night; we had so much fun.
I was third from the oldest, barely 5 years old, but I have such vivid memories of those days. Everything was a new adventure for me. Id never seen a palm tree before, and I remember seeing my uncle open a coconut for the very first time. My aunt used to make the most delicious coconut candy. Some evenings we would walk up to Grand Avenue just to watch the traffic and see the hustle and bustle of the city.
We soon moved into our own apartment, just off U.S. 1 in Coconut Grove. By that time, my father had landed a job working for General Tire Company in North Miami Beach.
My mother was attending nursing school at that time. With five small kids at home, that was not an easy task. My mom did eventually graduate and began working at Mercy Hospital.
There were times when my dads car would break down and my mom had to pick him up from work. She would let us kids tag along just for the ride. For us, driving down Northeast 163rd Street was like touring a vacation paradise.
I remember seeing the tourists walking around and frolicking in the pool at the Howard Johnsons right at the cloverleaf interchange. There was a McDonalds just down the street (that McDonalds is still there) and sometimes mother would stop in for a rare treat.
I began first grade, with great reluctance, at George Washington Carver School. I hated school and would have preferred to stay home with my mom watching Captain Kangaroo or Popeyes Playhouse.
Over the next few years we moved a few more times, until we were settled a bit further north, in an area called West Little River. My parents purchased the most beautiful and spacious home (at least to us) three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a Florida room. We were in heaven.
We invited friends over and our cousins would sleep over sometimes. By that time, my older sister had married and moved out. I was in middle school by the mid-1960s and had made a few friends, and those relationships lasted many years after high school. Ive known my closest and dearest friend since second grade.