Miami Stories

Her Miami story starts with the movies


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

Special to the Miami Herald

The year was 1950. My parents, Bernice and Eddie Melniker came to Miami as my Dad had purchased the Coral Way Drive-In theater. They leased an apartment at a building named Brickell Point, on the edge of the Miami River where a drawbridge connects to downtown Miami.

This was the same property where many years later, remnants from a prehistoric Tequesta Indian village were found and remain today. My mom and I frequently walked over that bridge to downtown Miami, shopped at Burdines and Richard’s department stores. I especially remember the pecan pie at Richard’s cafe.

I was entering the 11th grade and enrolled in the Lear School situated on the bay at West Avenue on Miami Beach. Who gets to say they went to school outdoors by the bay under umbrella tables — and only for half a day?

After graduation in 1953, I headed to the University of Miami, then affectionately referred to as SUN TAN U. The best part of my whole college experience was an affiliation with my sorority, AEPhi .

My first job was with a firm that represented the people putting up a new office building called Dupont Plaza right on the water next to the Brickell Bridge; we were the first and only tenants for quite some time.

Happy hour at a place called the Lounge was great and eventually, with my new “working” friends, we ended up at the Boom Boom Room at the Fontainebleau. This was really not my lifestyle, nor was the job in accounting and the ad agency, so I traveled for a year or two.

Settling back in Miami and briefly working for Mary Norton, a dress shop on Coral Way, I was sent by an agency to Enfield’s on Biscayne Boulevard across the street from Sears and down the block from Jordan Marsh at the Omni. This business was the franchised dealership for 3M copying machines and reader-printers.

Wow, have we come a long way from that. My work included serving as a telephone receptionist, taking care of the salesmen’s calls, etc.

It was one of the three salesmen who was single who came to my desk asking if I had a needle and thread to sew on a loose button on his jacket. Now, what good secretary does not have everything in the bottom drawer of her desk?

Taking the jacket, sewing the button and bringing the jacket back to him, I held the jacket up for him to put it on. As he turned, I noticed a piece of “fluff” on his jacket. This Yankee from the Bronx had never even heard that word. At closing time, he approached my desk and asked if I would care to go out for a drink after work. Of course, I said yes. We went across the street to Betty’s Lobo Lounge. That was March 2, 1960.

Needless to say, that date was the beginning of a wonderful courtship. We’d go to the beach at Crandon Park, miniature golf at Funfare on 79th Street, and have dinners at Chandlers, Embers and the Top Draw Club on 79th Street.

We were married at Temple Israel on Aug. 28, 1960. You do the math. We had our honeymoom at the Indies Inn on Duck Key, then went on to New York City. By the way, his name is Lionel “Bud” Barnet.

Life has been a storybook. Our first beautiful daughter, Karen, was born three years to the date of our first date. Our extraordinary son, Marc, came in on Aug. 6, 1965.

During the next years, I wrapped myself up in being an “at-home mother,” but with many interests outside of the home. In the early days at Congregation Bet Breira, I was the president of sisterhood, co-editor with my husband Bud of the monthly bulletin and events planner. I did this all while raising my children in that special place.

I played on the first women’s doubles tennis team at Kendale Lakes Country Club. I also associated with my mother Bernice in her efforts to raise money for Miami Children’s Hospital. Lastly, I presided over two new elementary schools as president of the PTA and PAT.

Kendale Lakes, and that whole area west of Southwest 107th Avenue, was brand new and only extended to Southwest 147th Avenue. New York New York deli at Southwest 107th and Kendall Drive was a famous eating place for many years; but as time takes its toll, is no more.

Jordan Marsh at Dadeland Mall gave way to Burdines. Burdines gave way to Macy’s, Lord & Taylor gave up to Nordstrom, and Bennigan’s was torn down for a bank.

Where now stand mile-high buildings with doctor’s offices once stood a store, Gold Triangle. It’s where we went before there was a Home Depot.

There was a movie theater there, too. There was a very big store called Extra on the land that now houses our home, Metropolis at Dadeland. Where there used to be a Williamson Cadillac is now Downtown Dadeland, with many stores and restaurants.

Even though I have spent the last 35 years as my husband’s legal assistant, I still take part in deeds and actions outside of my work and serve as director on two boards at my condo. Looking back, the physical changes in our Miami have made some major and drastic steps into this new world.

Gone are the Coral Way and Tropicaire drive-in theaters, the stretch of where we all hung out, the Saks Fifth Avenue on Lincoln Road, Nessa Galouis (beautiful stuff) and Jerry’s Famous Deli on Washington Avenue.

We are still here and we have those memories.

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Miami Herald

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