“If We’d Agreed to Meet Up at the Library in 1925…” “Paul’s Safari into Miami’s History”


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…THEN this would have been the place.

Henry Flagler was a reader; in fact that was how he’d accomplished much of what he had with scarcely a grade school education. Among many other things, he’d redefined the existing structure of corporate business entities, drafted up contracts on the most complex of subjects so ingenious, thorough, and impressive that the contracting party wouldn’t even realize they’d been cut until the arterial spray began, and so forth. His business partner of many years at Standard Oil, John D. Rockefeller, spoke of Flagler as “the brains of the operation.” And, as did many others, he described Flagler’s particular and formidable genius as “organization.” From similar observations made by others, and from context, I suspect he meant not the “untangle a hopeless mess” kind of gift for organization, but something closer to “Let’s consider our present goals, reduce all relevant systems to their bare component parts, and consider how we might put them all back together to serve our purposes.”

So yes, Flagler had a personal library he valued immensely, and found books indispensable. He always generously donated land for churches, because that tended to build community, and tended to keep a frontier populace from getting riled up, all the time. But libraries, not so much.

When it came to that subject, he was no Carnegie.

Thus, this building, titled in its caption “Flagler Memorial Public Library, Miami, Florida.”

See you there!

Thank you.
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(Image: Florida Memory Project)

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“Hey, Folks! Do You Remember When Miami was HAP-Happy?”, Aug. 10,1953. “Paul’s Safari into Miami’s History”

 
GIVEN HALF a chance, (and if you take your eyes of ’em for even a second), certain especially peppy pelicans full of “the business ” will get in tight with the bartender, before you even know it, and then there’s no telling what might happen!
 
(Any UM alumnus will confirm the bona fides of this unlikely yet fantastical assertion, though their experience tends focus upon a certain cocky ibis who might bring “Popeye” to mind.)
 
Here’s both a case in point, and an especially wonderful example, because in a sense the Miami Beach radio station W.I.O.D. (“Wonderful Isle ‘o Dreams”) has been with Miami since close to its emergence as a “real” city, having literally (and in every other way) taken its place as an indelible aspect of the Miami experience with its first broadcast on Jan.18, 1926.
 
A few months later, when the terrible “Miami Hurricane” came barreling in off the dark tumultuous sea quite unexpectedly, around the midnight hour of Sept. 18, 1926 , wreaking utter havoc, the station’s spindly towers went down with the city.
 
But only for two days; and you’d best believe some awfully hard work and plenty of creative ingenuity were invested in that effort, because they knew there were any number of souls out there (in many cases now homeless, and more than a few in utter shock, become quite mad with grief), who craved nothing quite so much as the sound of a human voice, one of their own, better still, demanding nothing of them, nor asking any questions. Just a calm radio voice to remind them how things had once been, only hours before. To cool them down, and offer some comfort.
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So, will we begrudge an especially Peppy Pelican his hour of light-headed joy? You know we won’t. More likely we’ll say “You GO!, bird!, and God bless you and your station, because you have wept with us, shared the moments of high celebration, and kept quite a variety of interesting human voices coming our way, for over 90 years now.
 
So remember, folks: Have yourselves a HAP-happy day!
 
We all could sure use one!
 
Thank you.

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A Playful Glimpse of Miami, Florida as of 1898, From Artist Johnny Gruelle, 1933.

“Oh, BOY! A Cartoon History of Earliest Miami, in a Nutshell!”, 1898. “Paul’s Safari into Miami’s History”

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herald-7-30-33-cartoon-2-post
HERE is a visual goldmine of playful Miami history, published in a special issue of the Miami Herald dated July 30, 1933.  According to caption, it’s “Drawn Especially for the Miami Herald’s 1933 Birthday Number by Johnny Gruelle, Famous Creator of the Raggedy Ann Books.”
 
It’s a wonderful piece of work and well worth a close look; there’s an awful lot of history in it! One able to relate the story of each name mentioned would have an excellent grasp the goings on of Miami’s earliest days, and the constellation of personalities that loomed large in it.
 
Gruelle, born and reared in Ohio, had taken up a happy home in Miami Beach by the 1930’s. His wealth and fame continued to grow, even during the Great Depression, as the result of the success of his famed “Raggedy Ann and Andy” series.
 
This is one of two panels by the artist published that day. The special edition is is delightfully punctuated by a number of personally embellished congratulatory notes from other comic strip artists of note, nationwide, including one Walt Disney of California, and his endearing Mickey Mouse.
 
Please enjoy it!
 
Thank you.
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"A Pearl Beyond Price — & There When We Need It."

“Paul’s Safari into Miami’s History”               Oct. 5, 2016 (Hurricane Matthew “Out There.”)

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(Image: “Miami Daily News Building,” 1925, Florida Memory.)

FROM time to time, when we may find ourselves a little apprehensive, as for example when we’re trying to figure out exactly what a “cone of uncertainty” may be, and if we might actually be in one,

we can take comfort in one another, knowing that there is nothing we can’t freak out, or lose our sh*t over completely, together,

and call to mind landmarks of long standing, beloved of the People, that have remained standing proudly after even the most bad-ass hurricanes.  Such as, for example, this one. 

“Look: if I can do it, then so can you,” it promises without words. “And you will.”

“No matter what.”

(My shrink tells me it’s no good business to be carrying on conversations with buildings, old landmarks or no, but his ass is officially fired! I’ve never heard more useless advice!)______

The proud beauty was built in 1925 by newly relocated Ohioan James M. Cox, to house the newspaper he would be starting here, to add to his chain.  The newspaper soon outgrew the elegant building, and it became abandoned for that purpose long ago.

Years after that, hordes of Cuban exiles left the island en masse following Castro’s rise to power, and found themselves strangers in a strange land. Thousands of the new arrivals were processed there for immigration purposes, etc., and became quite attached to the elegant tower as a personal symbol of their life journeys, the Grace of safe haven, and America’s promise. The building became popularly known as “the Freedom Tower.”

Today I call it “The Miami Daily News Building/ Freedom Tower,” taking a stab at the impartiality called for by one who would study and understand the history of a complex area. As mentioned, it’s most generally referred to as the “Freedom Tower,” for short.

By whatever name it’s known, it is well loved by an entire community. And that seems the true treasure.

Thank you.

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"Ooh, That George Merrick! Have You Heard the Latest? Why, He’s Gone & Built Himself a ‘Douglas Entrance,’ Out in the Woods!" ca. 1926.

   “Paul’s Safari into Miami’s History”                 Oct. 5, 2016
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BEING a “visionary” can’t be as easy as it might seem, years after the fact.

One occupational hazard that can almost certainly be anticipated  is being thought of as “crazy as a loon,” or dismissed out-of-hand as an utter “whack job.” Which probably wouldn’t be so bothersome, or sting quite so sharply, had you not first spent considerable time wrestling with those very questions, yourself.

The only true visionaries that don’t at times seriously question their mental stability, when another dark lonesome season is suddenly upon them, or during the restless stretching hours when they’ve finally laid down their heads, praying only for sleep before the coming of the weary dawn, are those who’ve already gone nuts, no longer troubled by a web-thin connection to frail reason, and its outrageous demands.

Say a prayer for the “visionary,” however his or her state of mind might be labeled by the expert. The world would be a much less colorful place, and considerably smaller, for not having had them in it.

Thank you.

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“When the Sun Sets in the Florida Everglades…”

sun setsFROM the days when the first visitors started making their way down to frontier Miami, generally by railroad as far as Fort Lauderdale and then the final stretch by boat, that vast, majestic, and delightfully ominous realm known as the Everglades, utterly impenetrable yet literally close enough to touch, has lent the city no small part of its sense of magic, or air of romance.

“When the sun sets in the Florida Everglades…,” this vintage card says eloquently by not saying, “just about anything can happen.” Exactly what, has always been up to us.

And that’s the way we like it!

Thank you.

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“Sunday Afternoon at Crandon Park Public Beach, Early 1950’s.”

Crandon

I DON’T believe I’d be able to recall hours of my childhood more sweetly spent, or time more fully enjoyed by the entire family, as a whole, than the timeless weekend afternoons spent at Crandon Park, out on Key Biscayne.
I remember in pictures, mostly (or maybe contrasts?). For example, stepping out of the brilliant golden sun (which we’d not yet learned to fear, even a little) into the lush encompassing shade created by the extravagant green canopy of sea grape leaves overhead. It was like a magical “room” without walls– with the most beautiful view of a pale blue sea, just over there– and a soft sandy floor dusted lightly with green grass. Within that shade sat the sacred family “hearth,” a well-used BBQ grill, around which we would all huddle, fascinated, and as hungry as we could remember being. Something about the salt air seemed to put an “edge” even on our generally voracious appetites, transforming that first bite of whatever might come our way, hot off the grill, into something very like a religious experience.

We knew that God is good, and that we were loved.
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And the beauty of it is, I’m sure that’s still true today, for those of other generations. It seems a “living” thing that sweet memories are being freshly minted, to be stored up as a treasure to last a lifetime. (The image accompanying dates to the early 1950’s, but my experience in the decade to follow would not have been much different.)

I’ve had few fine meals, anywhere in the world, to compare to the burgers, hot dogs, or Bar-B-Q that came sizzling off that smokin’ grill, along with the cold drinks in the ice chest and, or course, the fixings. Wow! is all I can say.

Writer and wit Dorothy Parker once observed, “The funny thing, is the things that we remember.” On one such family “outing” (as they were called in more innocent days), when we were very young, I recall my Dad remarking, “Hunger is the best sauce.” It’s bizarre how the simple memory has stayed with me, so busily was I digging in to the ungodly heaping paper plate before me, focused and “in the moment” in that zen-like manner that can on occasion come quite naturally to the little ones.

And all the while, in the near distance the waves crashed softly upon the shore, and it sounded like music.

Thank you.

 

 

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“The Coming of the Automobile Calls Forth the ‘Tin Can Tourist’: ‘Afternoon dance at a Miami, Florida trailer camp, 1938.”

SINCE the photo is the thing, here’s a view closer to original size for your enjoyment. There are a hundred stories told here, at least.   The event was captured at Ollie’s Trailer Park, a “Trailer Paradise,” which was then situated on Biscayne Blvd. at 107 Street. With that introduction I will leave you to the image, a pure classic.

Just click on image to enlarge. If still further enlargement is desired, used your browser’s “zoom in” function under “View” (or whatever).

DanceThank you.

(Image: HistoryMiami Archives)

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Dateline: "Out Among the Palmetto and Pine, a Miracle Rises Up That Will Lift a Broken City," 1927. "Paul’s Safari Into Miami’s History"

 

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The Construction of Miami High, 1927.

THE PEOPLE had never before heard tell of a school as imposing and elegant as that which was rising day-by-day over the fields of green palmetto and lofty pine out beyond the edge of town, way down Flagler Street. In fact, they’d never seen anything like it, period.

It felt like a miracle, and they needed nothing more. The boom and all of its high-flying dreams and schemes had died, taking down with them in their death throes nearly all of the city’s banks, robbing loyal customers of both savings and trust. The mighty rivers of cash that had for some years flowed so swift and strong that it seemed as if they’d never stop, had all gone dry as dust. It was the peoples’ hearts that were parched, and hope itself that seemed to be withering.

None of it had been easy. On the very day that the official groundbreaking ceremonies had been originally scheduled the year before, marking the commencement of the project, the terrible Hurricane had swept in, laid the city low, and resulted in its indefinite postponement.
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But preeminent architect Richard Kiehnel, collaborating closely with his client, School Principal W. R. Thomas, went about their extraordinary business with fixed determination, for they knew that in this case, a school was much, much more than a school. They were building nothing less than a bastion of hope for a broken-hearted city, and saying without words (and more forcefully) to the young people of Miami:

“You are our future, and we are thankful and glad for it.  You are the very best, are fully deserving of nothing less, and thus you have been given it. Look around you.

” It is each of you in whom we have placed our faith for a world bigger and better, and we cannot doubt that you will rise up, stand tall, and make us all proud. We shall all of us be lifted together!”
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And so it was. Miami Senior High School has always been a great deal more than a school.  It is a rare treasure, belonging in full measure not only to those who have been fortunate enough to study there, but to all who love Miami, or who ever have, or ever will.

Thank you.

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Dateline: "A Place in a Dream, I Once Saw: ‘Miami, Florida Skyline From Biscayne Bay,’" late 1920’s. "Paul’s Safari Into Miami’s History"

 

MIAMI, FLORIDA SKYLINE FROM BISCAYNE BAY

“I DON’T know,” he said, genuinely puzzled and scratching his head. He seemed unable to stop looking at the old card he’d found at the very back of a shelf in the old shop, long ago fallen from sight. Once he’d seen it, he’d had to make the requested quarter in payment. He couldn’t help but keep staring at the damned thing, thinking “it just seems so familiar.”

So he’d brought it home in a little brown bag, and pulled it out to show his (vaguely) curious girlfriend. “Kind of… but not really,” he tried to explain.. “You know what I mean?”

She nodded, then simply smiled and turned away He paused to breathe in the beauty of her, walking away, and was then back to the puzzle.

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Thank you.

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