My family came to Miami from Holland after World War II. My father had first visited the United States during his youth while working for the Holland America Cruise line.
He knew the United States was the land of milk and honey. So after the war, in April 1947, my parents, my brother (6 years old) and I (1 year old) came to the U.S. aboard the SS Noordam II and were processed through Ellis Island and then directly to Miami, Florida.
We lived with Mrs. Miller, who was the mother-in-law of my father’s uncle. She resided in South Miami near the Cocoplum Women’s Club on Sunset Drive for a short time. We then moved to a home on Red Road and SW 46 Street. My parents became proud citizens in 1953 and my brother and I were naturalized through our parents.
I attended kindergarten at the Cocoplum Women’s Club on Sunset Drive; I was in the Red Bird class. From there I went to David Fairchild Elementary.
I remember being so excited after getting out of school and my mother would walk with me to Allen’s Drug store on the corner of Red Road and Bird Road to get a nickel (yes, that is correct, 5 cents) ice-cream cone. Walking to the supermarket and drug store was common for us.
It was about 6 blocks which seemed very far for my little legs but it was well worth the trip to get ice cream or candy. There was very little traffic on Red Road at that time, and I can remember sitting on a coral rock fence that surrounded our property waiting for a car to come by so I could wave at them.
We frequently went to Matheson Hammock; I learned to swim there. The Eskimo Pie ice cream was an added treat from the concession stand in the coral rock building. We also went to Tahiti Beach years later so we could go on the slide, which was moored in the lagoon. That public beach has since gone to make way for the elegant houses there now.
My father worked as a Master Mechanic for Pan American Airlines for 25 years. This would enable us to fly to Holland on a few occasions. I was 9 years old on my first flight to Holland and remember it being a propeller aircraft. It flew from Miami to New York, Greenland, Iceland, London and finally to Amsterdam, Holland.
I was airsick most of the trip; flying has greatly improved since then. My father took me to visit the Pan Am building on 36 Street when I was about 10 years old. I remember being so impressed with how BIG the aircraft and hangers were. It was a sad day when Pan Am stopped flying. My Dad was very proud to have been a part of Pan Am.
My mother would take me to Dadeland Mall, which looks nothing like it does today – it was an open air mall. Before Dadeland opened we would take two buses to downtown and take time out to feed the pigeons at Bayfront Park. At Christmas we would go downtown to enjoy the carnival rides that were on the roof of Burdines. What a special time it was!
After attending Southwest Senior High I went to work at Sears in Coral Gables in the credit department. Several years later I started my own office products company, which was located near The Falls. After 20 years of ownership I sold my company to invest with my stepson into a financial services company which was located in Palmetto Bay.
I have since sold my shares and enjoy all the free time I have to appreciate how beautiful our area is. Having lived in Palmetto Bay for over 30 years, I have many memories, such as dining at Black Caesar’s Forge on the corner of 152 Street and 67 Avenue, famous for their potatoes baked in a tree resin.
We also had land crabs the size of a small dinner plate running through our yard. It was impossible to drive 152 Street without running over them. I never see any large ones anymore once in a while a few small ones appear.
It has been a blessing to see Miami grow from a small town to the multi-cultural beauty that it is today.