Nothing beat growing up in Coral Gables. My folks met at UM in 1927 and my dad played on the first football team against Havana and Rollins.
They lived in one home in their married life, on San Esteban. Across the street was a pine forest where each year we harvested our Christmas tree . . . in the 1950s this became Coral Gables High.
I recall the digging of the Coral Gables Canal. Heading the dig was a one-armed man named John Bouvier, who always wore a stylish straw hat. My dad commented, “They’re getting paid to dig the canal and they they get paid again to sell the fill.”
These were the boom days.
My dad kept a boat at Matheson Hammock. We caught plenty of fish in Biscayne Bay and off of Soldier’s Key; once my sister caught a large Spanish mackerel using a banana peel for bait. His fishing buddies were old Coast Guard friends, some city bus drivers, and his longtime pal Arthur Finnieston, whose family still runs a South Florida business.
My brother and I would make daily bike trips to the old UM north campus to watch football practice. We’d catch the balls for heralded kicker Harry Ghaul. A billboard near the field advertised war bonds and had caricatures of Mussolini, Tojo and Hitler.
The Rankin family owned two cafeterias in the Gables and eating at the Coral Way or Tropical was always a treat. Sam Silver operated a taxi stand on the corner of Ponce and Coral Way, the German folks loved Henri’s Restaurant down the street and the Peacock Bakery on Ponce, across from First Federal.
Gazley’s Riding Academy was where the new bus station was built and it was common to see folks riding all around the northern part of the Gables.
Many of my classmates at Gables Elementary went all the way through Gables High. My first love was a pretty blue-eyed blonde, Patsy Ussery. We used to go to the Coral Theater on Saturday mornings, a quarter allowed you admission and a treat. Bus fare home was a nickel.
Patsy and I planned on getting married and saved about $3. . . . She jilted me for an upper classman in the third grade. She is just as pretty today as she was then. The principal, Miss Guilday, was very stern and all were afraid of her. In the fourth grade she gave me the job to play the colors on my bugle each morning at 8:30.
While a student at Ponce de Leon Jr. High, my mother woke me, up on my birthday, and said, “There was a fire at the school, you don’t have to go.”
Indeed there was, we had several days off. When we reported back, Jim Crowder and I, trumpeters in Jesse Blum’s band, announced by bugle calls the time to change classes as the electricity was out.
In my senior year the Miami Herald appointed a Teen Panel. Almalee Cartee and I were from Gables, Robin Gibson & Helen Treadwell from Edison, among other students.
We found out about The Big Wheel, on 32nd Avenue a drive-in restaurant where the other schools would gather. We had Jimmy’s Hurricane on Bird & Douglas roads.
My memories are of Royal Castle hamburgers and birch beer in a frozen mug for a nickel; Troop 7 Boy Scouts; the wonderful job Betty Ward did in running the Youth Center; huge sandwiches at Don Arden’s Casa Le Jeune; pizzas at Red Diamond Inn; Frenchy, in the beret, who came through the Gables in his small truck to sharpen your scissors and knives; Royal Palm Ice on South Douglas Road;, the Gables Equipment yard across from Gables High where young Parker Stratt pulled a young girl from the mouth of an alligator; the French & Chinese Villages and putting our pajamas in front of the fireplace on cold South Florida nights.
I treasure these wonderful memories and the folks who made them possible, my parents, Ruth & O.B. Sutton.