Thursday, January 19, 2012

You Grew Up in South Miami if you remember...........

The Holsum Bakery and Restaurant on US 1
Joe's News on Sunset Drive
Connie Banko's swimsuit shop
Feeding the ducks at the Duck Pond
Dante Fascell Park where he served hotdogs and hamburgers on the 4th of July
Robert's Western Wear for saddles, bridles and all sorts of western gear
Sunset Drugs and the lunch counter there..yum!
Sunset Elementary
The old coral rock South Miami Library
Parrot Jungle and the parrots roosting on our trees before heading back there every night
The Depot Restaurant
Zips Sporting Goods
Doc's Feed Store
Kids riding their ponies down Red Road
Orr's Pond when it was a homestead and not a walled community!
The College Inn restaurant for tasty sandwhiches
Bob's Pipe and Tobacco store
Gardener's market on Red Road
Chief Tatum and the tough but lovable South Miami cops on the beat
Pencil Pines where Robert Frost spent his winter months
The Howard Johnson's Restaurant on US 1 with the all you can eat catfish lunch on Teusdays
The Moderne Book Shop on US 1
and Finally, Fox's Serron Inn that IS STILL THERE and serving tasty burgers and roast beef still!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Frankie's Pizza

Having done a piece on Arbetter's Hot Dog stand, I couldn't fail to also do one on Frankie's Pizza shop that has been in the same spot on Bird Road and 91st Street for over 55 years, just a few blocks away from Arbettter's. Now I consider myself a bit of a pizza expert having sampled all types throughout years of my travels in the USA and Italy. I also lived many years in NYC where some of the best pie in the US can be sampled on many different forms. Frankie's is the thin crust square pan type, one that folks in the northeastern part of the US will instantly recognize. If you're a deep dish pizza lover like Chicago style, this may not be your favorite, but if you like thin crispy crust lighter style pizza, Frankie's is one of the best in town and maybe in the top ten for the entire USA. I admit that since I grew up in the Shenandoah area of Miami, we mostly hung out and ate pizza at the old Pizza Palace on SW 8th Street and 31st Avenue, but in high school I did hit Frankie's up anytime we went to the Bird Bowl bowling alley or to a high school game that took us in that direction. Frank and Doreen Pasquarella came from Ohio and opened the original Frankie’s Famous Pizza in South Miami in 1955. Two years later, they moved their pizza shop to a small grocery store located on Bird Road. Back then, that area was like the wild west with practically no other shops around and some folks riding horses in the early morning hours. Frankie's is still run by Frankie’s daughters Renee and Roxanne Pasquarella and it looks identical to what it looked like in the early 60's when I first went there. It's a little hole-in-the-wall place that the minute you step inside you feel like you stepped back in time 40 years! If you decide to take a trip back in time, just remember that it is closed mondays and is a cash only joint.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Arbetters Hot Dog Stand

Arbetter's is a Miami institution that began as a humble hot dog stand on SW 8th Street back in 1960. I don't remember the exact location, but I do remember it was next door to a Dairy Queen, somewhere near Red Road (SW 57th Avenue). In those days, it was run by Bob and Phyllis Arbetter. Bob was a Boston native and rabid fan of all things basketbal but specifically the Boston Celtics. It was a popular place with local high school students and the nearby University of Miami. The chili and corn dogs were the favorite items on the menu along with the chili cheese fries as they still are today. As I remember, Bob lost his lease on the original site back in 1972 and moved to the current location on Bird Road and SW 87th Avenue. Today it is a favorite after school hang out for Columbus High School students and those like myself that can't resist a good CO and Coke! His son Ronnie a Southwest HS graduate ran the place until 2008 when he passed away at the young age of 52 due to pancreatic cancer. Ronnie was a chip off the old block and played basketball in high school while working his every free time at the stand with his dad and mom. He was much loved by all the regulars and will be sorely missed. Ronnie  loved the Dolphins and the Canes as much as his Dad loved the Celtics. Ronnie and his Mom and Dad gave countless high school and college students their first job and their story is a classic american working class success that imbued all that came in contact with them a true sense of honor integrity and love of life. To me, Arbetter's is a constant reminder of what it was like to grow up in Miami surrounded by folks that really cared and always offered a kind word or helping hand. If you'd like to step back in time to those days, do drop by Arbetter's and enjoy a great dog and fries!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Venetian Pool Open Again!

Being so bummed out by the tearing down of St. Stephen's Church, I thought I do a new post on something very positive and uplifting. The Venetian Pool in Coral Gables is once again open to the public after a complete renovation that has left the site still looking like it did so many years before. Thank you Coral Gables, it is one of the few things left in Dade County that has been preserved and maintained in it's original beauty! The pool, so-named for its Venetian-style architecture, began as a rock pit for the stone quarried to build Coral Gables in the 1920s by city founder George Merrick. Today, its waterfalls, coral caves and grottos, architecture, loggias, porticos, sandy beach, cobblestone bridge and a palm-fringed ''island'' earned it a historic landmark designation in 1989.

Believe it or not, in the 1950s and 1960s pools in some one's back yard were a pretty rare sight. Only our neighbor Mr. Geigenshot, the president of Dade Federal Savings and Loan had the wealth and position to have one put in. Growing up in the Shenandoah part of Miami, we kids would jump on our bikes on hot summer days and head to the public pools in the area. Our hangout was the city pool next to the Boy's Club on SW 32nd Avenue. Painted a rather sickly shade of government green, it was a crowded venue with little aesthetics to redeem it. Of course, we loved spending the day there carousing with our friends and being warned for the umpteenth time by the lifeguard to cut out the horseplay! By days end, we headed home with a good sunburn and a strong smell of the over chlorinated water.

However, for a really special treat or some one's birthday or special occasion, we got taken to the Venetian Pool. It was like an island holiday at a ritzy hotel for us kids. Natural cold spring waters without a trace of chlorine and surrounded by what appeared like the backyard of a Venetian Palace. We could hide from the sun's rays in the beautiful grotto away from the prying eyes of the lifeguard and engage in all sorts of horseplay. Of course, this could lead to minor tragedies in our horseplay. My New York City cousin managed to crack his head open on the grotto's craggy roof as we fought a particularly vivid water battle. While much blood was spilled, it was just a minor scalp would that ended the day somewhat abruptly! We had a great time!

Friday, May 22, 2009

St. Stephen's Church-Another one bites the dust!

Once again, the rich and greedy of Miami, ignoring all pleas of preservationists and lovers of our community, have torn down an important historic building and a big part of my Miami memories. On May 5th of this year, in a stealthy and secretive move, the church elders called in the wrecking ball. Going back on their word to preservationist Arva Parks Moore and community leaders, they summarily tore down the 1912 church, the oldest in Miami. Their argument? Not good enough for the students, has a few leaks, blah blah get the picture. The real story? A deal with Jorge Perez and the Related Companies to build commercial space on the coveted MacFarlane location to line their greedy little pockets. Hardly news in Miami but still shocking that the religious leaders and community church members would do such a dastardly deed.

In 1958, now so many years ago, I attended St. Stephen's Episcopal Day School on it's inauguration. I have wonderful memories of that little school on the edge of Peacock Park where me and my buddies would run around playing our games and trying (unsuccessfully!) to stay out of mischief. I remember our headmaster Father Densmore herding all our classes to make the procession into the chapel every morning. The church was an anomaly in its day, a spacious airy structure that felt warm and filled with light all day long. It was in the Mission style and unique in a city of traditional stuffy churches of classical style. It would mark special events like when we went there to pray for the safety of the new Mercury astronauts. I actually liked to go to church every day! Not many 9 year olds could make that claim today!

When one gets older and begins to lose their immediate family, these pentimentos are what keeps us anchored to this world and feeling we are part of a greater family, a community of people tied by our common past and the physical spots that remind us of them. Preservation, therefore, is not just about keeping beautiful old buildings and monuments in place. Rather, it is about preserving our common memories and experiences and passing on a small piece of them to generations here and yet to come. To me the church was not just a wonderful old building meriting salvation but also a repository of all my memories of those early days of my youth, of Father Densmore and Mrs. Agnes Johnston, my fourth grade teacher. Of my buddies Vose Babcock, Nat Heiner, Brian Bowman, Malcolm McNaughton and Jesse Merritt. Of whatever surrounded that beautiful old church that was the Coconut Grove of my memories. Now it's gone. Shame on you Pastor Wilifred Allen Faiella! You may become a successful entrepreneur with your new venture but you have destroyed a beautiful thing.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wayne Arnold's Royal Castle Reopens

For all you RC fans out there, please note that the second to last surviving RC has reopened at the corner of Northwest 125th Street and Seventh Avenue. Wayne Arnold has owned the restaurant since 1982, but the business has been at that corner since 1956. The store had been closed since a fire caused by a faulty freezer compressor swept through the inside of the restaurant on Aug. 30, 2005. Fortunately Wayne was able to reopen in part thanks to a $80,000 loan from North Miami's Community Redevelopment Agency. Only one other descendant of the original Royal Castle which started in 1937 remains in Miami-Dade at Northwest 79th Street and 27th Avenue. Arnold's is open 24 hours a day, just as it always was. It also brought back its breakfast menu of pancakes, eggs and grits, which customers can order any time. But the real stars are the tiny little castleburgers and birch beer, which are now served in a plastic cup instead of the frosty mug we all remember from our childhood. The burgers are now $1.00 compared to the 15 cents I remember, but just as tasty and satesfying. It is still true to its slogan ''Fit for a King'' ! I encourage all you old time Miamians like me to take your kids down to Arnolds RC in the near future and sample a really wonderful Miami memory!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Coppertone Girl looks for a new home

Anyone who grew up in Miami in the 50s and 60s remembers driving by the Coppertone Girl when going through downtown Miami on Biscayne Boulevard. She and her naughty dog graced the Parkleigh Building on N.E. 6th Street and Biscayne strategically placed so that every tourist driving into Miami or going to the old Seaport to catch a cruise ship was greeted by her cute surprised expression as the dog pulled down her pants just enough to show what a beautiful tan you could get on any Miami beach. Unfortunately when the Parkleigh was demolished in 1991 the poor girl was left homeless. But not for long! Schering-Plough, owners of the Coppertone trademark, donated the sign to the citizens of Miami and placed it in the care of the Dade Heritage Trust. The Trust has taken loving care of its adopted daughter ever since. After refurbishment of the sign, the Trust relocated the sign to the east side of the Concord Building at 66 W. Flagler St., where the golden girl sans pooch hangs today. Sadly, now this second locale is no longer able to host the popular image.

The solution to this dilemma is to entrust the sign to the MiMo Biscayne Association. The group was verbally promised the sign last November and has been just as diligent as the Trust in pursuing any option that will save it for a second time. Schering-Plough has offered $2000 for the removal and inspection of the landmark. According to a spokesperson, Schering-Plough expects the sign to come down sometime in April at the latest, and then all parties involved will determine the next steps for the Coppertone tyke. It is expected that Miami's most famous sunbather will be relocated to the MIMO district to carouse among her contemporary motel row surroundings. Stay tuned for her rebirth.

By way of historical background, the Coppertone Girl was the creation of graphic artist Joyce Ballantyne Brand, using her daughter Cheri Irwin as the model. Cheri is presently employed as an aerobics instructor in Ocala, Florida. Later, Jodie Foster made her acting debut as the Coppertone girl in a television commercial, when she was 3 years old. The sign was built buy the well known Miami sign company, Webster Outdoor Advertising, that created many of the famous old signs around Miami of that era.