“Oh, BOY! A Cartoon History of Earliest Miami, in a Nutshell!”, 1898. “Paul’s Safari into Miami’s History”
“Oh, BOY! A Cartoon History of Earliest Miami, in a Nutshell!”, 1898. “Paul’s Safari into Miami’s History”
“Paul’s Safari into Miami’s History” Oct. 5, 2016 (Hurricane Matthew “Out There.”)
(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.
“Paul’s Safari into Miami’s History” Oct. 5, 2016
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.
FROM 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!
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.
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.
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).
(Image: HistoryMiami Archives)
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.
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!”
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.
“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.
TONIGHT, as Easter approaches, almost as if my life were reasonably organized, and affairs somewhat in order, etc., I wanted to grab the opportunity to send out your way the canvas as of the next phase in its evolution. Timing can be everything, and between the last image you’ve seen and this one there has been a critical “redefinition” of the work, or shift within it, that would affect and guide every step of its future progression.
It’s simple, really; the night painting you last saw has begun its transformation into a work to be called “Biscayne Day!” The deeper blues and purples that seemed to gather in the aged and mysterious branches like approaching darkness have begun giving way to that greater range of color called for by the light and “feel” of a sunny afternoon, spent by the bay.
Why? The reasons are not particularly subtle or complex, but call for just a bit more time than I am now give an explanation. The story will be told, and we will stick close along the journey’s path, no matter the highs, lows, or unexpected and winding curves that might lie ahead. We will get there together.
As much as anything, I wanted to send the painting out to you tonight as an expression of my hope and prayer that we might all be somehow opened up to receiving the gifts attendant to the spirit of Easter. And I mean, no matter what our faith, creed, or any lack thereof, in part or in whole. I speak of a shared human need for (what might feel like) miracle sometimes, and a promise of resurrection that is much, much more than merely poetic.
Because it seems that if we are not being always reborn, then we are not really living, but closer to dying. Many these days are finding themselves suffering almost unbearably, simply in the being. We wonder how to even ask how it might be that we’ve arrived at such a pass. If any answer might be forthcoming, at all, it’s often quite lost in the braying distraction now so prevalent, serving only to ruin perfectly good silence. And, to keep us violently at each other’s throats, as if we were each, to one another, the only enemy in reach, and very, very angry.
Just about everyone I know seems to be finding themselves engaged in pitched battle, of one kind or the other, or multiple variations, with no end in sight. We are left spent, rudderless, discouraged, and easy pickings for rapacious Corporate America, and a feeble representation of government that doesn’t seem to give a damn, or maybe understand quality. Which is NOT America at all, yet purports to be, and has available to use against us MUCH of our money, and never hesitates to use it.
All of this might feel the way of things now, but it will not always be this way. It will be better. I know that is so, but am not really able to explain it, at all. The knowing comes from deep within my soul, and I cannot doubt it.
And so I send out to you this message in a bottle, in a spirit of profound hope, signed, sealed and delivered in the conviction that we are none of us as alone as we now feel, and neither are any of us the real enemy.
“EXACTLY what Miama needed,” remark was frequently overheard approvingly as the “locals” strolled casually about the grounds. “Just a wonderful place… oh my, and built to last!”