J. Edgar and growing up in paradise


Tell us your story

HistoryMiami invites you to share your Miami Story.

To submit: Submit your story and photo(s) at www.HistoryMiami.org. Your story may be posted at MiamiHerald.com/miamistories, published in Sunday’s Neighbors print edition and archived at HistoryMiami.org.

About Miami Stories: This project is a partnership between HistoryMiami, Miami Herald Media Company, WLRN and Michael Weiser, chairman of the National Conference on Citizenship.

Special to the Miami Herald

I was born in 1946 in Greenwich, Conn. Every winter we would take the train to Miami and stay at the Gulfstream Hotel in Miami Beach.

One could look down the beach and not see another hotel nearby. There were a lot of “snowbirds” (although that term had not been coined yet) who stayed there, among them some of the rich and famous, as well as the infamous.

I had my picture taken with J. Edgar Hoover when I was 4. Sorry to say I lost the newspaper clipping of that photo in my many moves. I had no idea who this pudgy man was or why the photographer was making a fuss over us. There were other children around my age. There was Sherman Billingsley, whose father owned the famous Stork Club in New York. There were the Kresge children, Cary and Kitty. Their family owned Kresge’s 5 & 10 cent stores. The name may not sound familiar now but the K in Kmart stands for Kresge.

My family eventually bought a home in Miami Beach and we moved there full time when I was 6. Growing up in Miami Beach in the 1950s and ’60s was wonderful. I don’t think we realized then what a paradise we lived in. There was the dog track at the end of South Beach. The Art Deco hotels were filled with vacationers from New York and New Jersey. There were the Orthodox Jewish diamond dealers who would come in the long heavy black coats, even in the heat. There were the retired people in their orthopedic shoes schlepping their lounge chairs. Frank Sinatra was singing in the Poodle Room of the Fontainebleau, and once I passed Sammy Davis Jr. on Arthur Godfrey Road. He was this tiny man with two enormous bodyguards.

I went to St. Patrick’s School and then to Carrollton in Coconut Grove. Many of our classmates had fled from Cuba. They taught us the meaning of freedom and added spice to our city. I remember driving to school during the Cuban Missile Crisis, never realizing that we were in such danger. We were just excited to see all the cute sailors and soldiers all over Miami.

I have returned to Miami Beach a few times over the past years. It is not the place I grew up. The small motels vibrate with the beat of Latin music and “the beautiful people” come from all over to lie on the beach. If it weren’t for Joe’s Stone Crabs, I would think I was in the wrong place. I am glad this amazing city has been revitalized. In the 1970s, the hotels showed their age. The shops on Lincoln Road were all closing and parts of it looked like a ghost town.

The people who walk the beach and sidewalks now don’t know what the Stork Club was or that there were such things as 5 & 10 cent stores way before the dollar stores came into vogue. The young ones won’t know who Hoover was, nor will they have heard of Sinatra or Sammy Davis Jr., except through old black-and-white photos or a song they hear in an elevator. I don’t know if 41st Street is still called Arthur Godfrey Road or if people remember that Jackie Gleason did his TV variety show from the Miami Beach Convention Hall.

I do know that I was blessed to have grown up in paradise. I hope those who reside there know how lucky they are and make wonderful memories that will come back to them when they are old and living in New Jersey.

Read more Miami Stories stories from the Miami Herald

 <span class="cutline_leadin">Pedro Fournier</span> shows a photo of himself outside his home in Havana before fleeing 20 years ago. Fournier was among the 35,000 Cubans who fled during the Balsero Crisis in 1994. He currently lives in Miami’s Little Havana.

    miami stories

    A long journey by raft, and a lesson in freedom

    I was born in Guantánamo in 1956. I moved to Havana as a teenager to study and ultimately graduated with a math degree. In 1994, I decided take a raft to the United States.

 <span class="cutline_leadin">Quite a change of heart: </span>From left to right, daughters Flynne and Jana, Marlene Warren, and daughter-in-law Amy pose for a photo in 1995.

    Miami Stories

    Converted: New Yorker thrilled to be a Floridian

    I wanted to spend my retirement entertained with a million things to do each and every day. My husband Steve, on the other hand, wanted to spend his retired life in the sun, fishing for permit. He said, “Key West.” I said, “New York.” I was determined to remain in New York, and Steve was just as determined to move to Florida.

Rosichan family. Richard and Ellen Rosichan with daughters (L-R) Becky, Lori and Amy.

    Miami Stories

    Making a home in an exotic land

    In 1963, I made my first trip to Miami.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category