Miami Stories

Woman recalls simpler time in Miami when families bowled and went for pizza

First barbecue at Crandon Park: Cecil, Lauraine, Gertrude, Cecilia, Frances, Mary and Heleker Bremner in 1950.
First barbecue at Crandon Park: Cecil, Lauraine, Gertrude, Cecilia, Frances, Mary and Heleker Bremner in 1950.

My grandparents, Cecil and Gertrude Bremner, along with their three daughters, Cecilia (Scanlon), 10; Frances (May), 5; and Lauraine (Durrance), 3, left Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1949 to start a new life in Miami.

My grandparents both worked at Fraser Refinishers furniture store on Northwest 27th Avenue.

My mother, Cecilia, graduated from Miami Senior High and started working at Southern Bell in Miami Beach. She later married my father, Ralph Werlau.

In 1958, I was born at General Hospital in Coral Gables, and 10 months, 17 days later my brother Keith was born.

My parents bought a house in a newly developed residential area called Westwood Lakes in 1959. My father worked for The Miami Herald as a composer/typesetter and my mother became a housewife.

Keith and I went to Westwood Christian and then Royal Palm Elementary.

Our neighborhood was such a great place to grow up. There were lots of other families with kids in Westwood Lakes. My best friend was Donna Page.

My parents joined the Miami Herald bowling league on Wednesday nights at Bird Bowl. Their team sponsor was Frankie’s Pizza. Sometimes after bowling we’d get a pizza to bring home. I still love Frankie’s.

My brother and I started bowling at a young age; we each had our own bowling ball, bag and shoes.

In the mid-1960s there was a league called The Roadrunners; it was a group of 150 young bowlers. There were two divisions: Bantam (6-12 years old) and Juniors (13-19). We bowled Saturday mornings and were coached by my mom and assistant coach, Shirley Shockley.

Mom bowled in a Tuesday morning league and several women’s tournaments that included a young Paula Sperber (Carter). In 1971, mom joined a new organization called The Dade County Bowlerettes, and then, between 1972 and 1973, just before she stopped bowling, she worked in the pro shop at Western Sunset Bowl.

Mom was one of my Brownie leaders and also for Girl Scouts. We usually had meetings at our house and worked on projects to earn our badges. One of our field trips included the Tremendous Color Plant, where we each received a Kodak Brownie camera.

I loved selling Girl Scout cookies and Keith earned money by delivering newspapers from his bike.

We lived near Bird Road and 112th Avenue. Closest to us was the Concord Shopping Plaza. There were so many stores and restaurants available to us. Each place has a fond memory, like the Burger Castle where my brother and I got our first jobs.

On the weekends, Tropicaire Drive-In would become a swap meet during the day and sometimes we would sell stuff there. My favorite thing was going there at night to watch a movie from our car.

On Southwest 112th Avenue and 51st Street, there was a small but steep bridge. My dad would accelerate the car just before going up the bridge and as we came down the other side you could feel your stomach jump a little. We always laughed. The bridge has been leveled.

We went to Rivera Junior High. Next to the school was a park and pool where my brother and I learned to swim. As I finished up 10th grade at Southwest Senior High, my parents divorced. Mom, Keith and I had to rent a house in Kendall. It was very hard leaving my friends.

I’ve always regretted not keeping in touch with them when I had to move away. I found out that my friend Donna Page was shot and killed while being robbed as she was leaving the Copa Lounge on Bird Road in 1982.

Mom got a job at Southern Bell in Coral Gables on Alhambra.

During the summer I would catch a bus to the Coral Gables Bus Terminal. I would meet my great-aunt Nellie and we would go to the Coral Gables Library.

In 11th and 12th grade, I attended and graduated from Miami Killian Senior High. Starting a new school was scary but I made new friends and earned a spot on the school’s bowling team and badminton team.

Then Mom remarried and they bought a house in Cutler Ridge. It was so nice and quiet.

In 1977, a new Denny’s Restaurant opened on Marlin Road and US 1. I got a job as a waitress there. My mother suggested I apply at Southern Bell and in January 1979 I was hired on as a clerk.

Southern Bell later became BellSouth and in 1987, we moved our Yellow Pages office to a new five-story building on Kendall and 117th Avenue. AT&T acquired BellSouth in 2006. Many lost their jobs. I was able to hold on and retired in May 2009 with 30 years.

I’m very grateful to my mother. I learned so much working at BellSouth and have many friends for life. We keep in touch through social media or get-togethers.

Being a Miami native, I’ve witnessed the growth and many changes that make Miami what it is today.

My brother lives less than four miles from where we grew up. Mom and I still live in Cutler Bay which has experienced a large population growth.

If I’m in the area, I will drive through the old neighborhood. Many of the homes have been updated, but amazingly, there are a few that still have the original 1956 design.

We all have wonderful memories of living in Miami, from my family that moved here, to the generations since.

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