In '40s, Miami Shores a child's delight

02/07/2010 1:00 AM

04/27/2010 10:34 PM

Growing up in Miami Shores in the 1940s was an experience almost unimaginable today.

Mothers were at home when we returned from school -- having volunteered in the earlier part of the day -- and fathers took their children to the Community House on weekends to shoot baskets or play tennis.

On special occasions, we'd go for pony rides on Biscayne Boulevard, near where the Omni is today, or take a picnic to Greynolds Park. Also nearby was a pineapple plantation where, in anticipation of the later U-Pick farms in South Dade, we'd choose our own fruit and pluck it.

At Miami Shores Elementary School, we had air raid drills and packed boxes of supplies (bandages and cigarettes among them) for soldiers overseas. We also received cards with slots for dimes and quarters to collect for The March of Dimes in the fight against polio. Our favorite field trip: Borden's Dairy, where we were given samples of chocolate milk and ice cream!

Another treat: A piña colada, invented (we thought) by a man at the John Owens Fruit Shippers Market at the bend in Biscayne Boulevard near 50th Street. He mixed fresh pineapple and coconut juices for a refreshing drink that was a splurge at 25 cents. (Fresh orange or grapefruit juice was 10 cents.)

Saturday afternoons usually meant the movies, often starring Roy Rogers or Gene Autry. Tickets: 14 cents; popcorn: 10 cents; the nut machine: one cent. Boys were required to leave cap guns and holsters at the entrance!

After the movie, we'd all line up to call our parents on the phone in the men's shop next door. (Years later, I went back there and thanked the son of the original owner!) The main drag was Northeast Second Avenue, and our favorite spot was the ice cream parlor. When air conditioning came to Miami, that was the first commercial establishment to install it.

When parking meters were introduced along the street, the chief of police (who used to borrow my father's shoes for the Policemen's Ball) carried a pocketful of pennies he inserted into all expired meters. (Even at 12 minutes for a penny, no one remembered to go out to feed the meters!)

The Food Palace was our small-town grocery store, until the new and modern A&P brought competition, along with the joy of choosing your coffee beans and grinding fresh coffee. My mother preferred the Eight O'Clock beans. I loved the aroma and the job of measuring and grinding the beans, then neatly filling the special coffee bag.

For large-quantity grocery shopping, we went to Shell's Supermarket, west of downtown. I can still remember the sawdust-covered floor in the farmers' market and a machine where we watched dough turned into doughnuts, then dropped into boiling oil and lifted onto a tray to cool (and be eaten by us, if we were good).

Another Saturday activity: taking the bus to classes at the old Miami News building, now The Freedom Tower. There I learned to twirl a baton and the art of photography. (I had earned a Brownie Hawkeye camera by selling three subscriptions to The Miami News.)

My mother used to take courses at the Lindsey Hopkins building -- furniture upholstery and pastry baking. Once, when I was on Christmas vacation, I went with her and learned to make the rum balls that still remain part of my favorite holiday baking!

We saw operettas at Edison Senior High school and musical theater under a tent on the 79th Street Causeway, and were intensely involved in Brownies and Cub Scouts.

We walked, rode our bikes, frequented the school library and played outside 'til dusk. TV was in the future and, in its early years, had little of interest to us.

Miami Shores, FL 33138

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