Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Florida Memories -- Part I (Early Days)

I'm a Chicagoan by birth as are both of my parents. Chicago has harsh winters so both sides of the family spent a good deal of time in Florida for part of the year. As a result, throughout my life, at least until both of my parents passed away, I have been a frequent visitor to Florida.

I thought that I'd write a series of vignettes of family memories of Florida. Things will not be presented in chronological order. Because of the shear volume of memories, this will be separated into three separate posts. This one consists of a few short memories that my Mom and Dad told me regarding their time in Florida before I was born. The second one will deal with traveling to Florida over the years. The third one will cover were we stayed and other memories.


Mom's childhood home in Miami Beach

My Mom's family had a house on the Venetian Causeway on Rivo Alto Island in Miami Beach. My Grandfather bought it sometime in the 1920s because one of my Uncles had health issues that made winter in Chicago problematical. In high school (and probably earlier) my Mom would start the school year in Chicago (at Lakeview High), transition to Miami Beach around November (at Miami Beach Senior High), and then back to Chicago around April for the end of the school year. There was one exception to this. For her senior year she and my other Uncle stayed in Florida and both graduated from Miami Beach Senior High. I believe the house was sold right after World War II.

The Rivo Alto House
In March of 2011 during Lizzy's spring break, Barb, Lizzy,  my sister Kay, and I spent some time together in Florida for the last time with my Mom. We stayed in the Boca Raton Beach Club. My Mom said that she'd like for us to drive down to Miami Beach to see her old house one more time and have lunch at Joe's (more on Joe's in another part of this story). I did some research and found out that the house was now owned by the Chairman of Elizabeth Arden, a high-end skin care company. I sent their PR office a message and asked it it would be possible to visit. I do not recall if they replied, but we did make the trip and when we arrived at the house we found it under massive renovation. After a chat with the construction foreman we were invited to walk the planks across the mud to see the inside of the house. The foreman took us on a guided tour and along the way my Mom would point out where things (such as the vault from when the house had been a casino before my Grandfather bought it0 had been in the house. It was fascinating for all of us and we had a lot to talk about over lunch at Joe's. Subsequent to the visit my Mom wrote to the Elizabeth Arden Chairman to tell him about the visit, to thank him and give him some of the history of the house. He wrote a nice personal letter back and about a week or two later sent a big box full of products from Elizabeth Arden's premium skin care line.


Where's the bookie?

During World War II, my Dad was sent from basic training to the east coast of Florida for training in radar (he would eventually serve in the Aleutian Islands). He started training near Jupiter Florida, and he and my Mom got married in Palm Beach. They honeymooned (such as it was) in Miami Beach and set up housekeeping in an apartment in Palm Beach. Sometime after they were married my Dad's Mom, Goldie, came for a visit, dropped her bags in the apartment and asked my Dad "where's the nearest bookie?" and ran out the door to place a bet or two.


Cherry pie

Before his deployment to the Aleutians they went for additional training in the Clearwater, Florida area. One day while my Dad was on base, my Mom went out and managed to put together the ingredients to bake a homemade cherry pie, complete with a lattice crust. That evening, after they finished the main course, my Mom proudly showed Dad the pie and he said "I'm sorry dear, I don't like cherry pie." She never baked him any sort of pie again. For the few years that Mom outlived Dad we'd share a piece of cherry pie on or near his birthday when we'd come for a visit.

I hope you've enjoyed this brief memoir. In part two of this series I'll remember traveling to Florida over the years.

No comments:

Post a Comment