In July of 1921, my father, mother and two older sisters and I moved to Miami from Brunswick, Ga. We lived in a tent in the area of Jackson Memorial Hospital. My first memory is living on Northeast 17th Street near the Old City Cemetery.
Our neighbors were the Albury family, with whom we have remained friends over the years.
When I was about 3, we moved to Lemon City on Northwest 58th Street. Most of the whole block was a family who settled there years earlier. There was Ma and Pa Johnson, their sons Uncle Leroy, Uncle Dick and daughters Aunt Essie and Aunt Emma and Aunt Laura. It was like one big family. On the other corner was the Lyons Family. He had been a major in the Philippines. We lived there during the 1926 hurricane.
I started kindergarten when I was 4. Miss Pearl Desrocher was my teacher. This was in the old Lemon City Elementary School, which no longer exists. I attended Sunday school at the old Lemon City Baptist Church on Northeast Second Avenue and 59th Street, which later moved to Northwest 60th Street and First Place.
In September, 1926, a big hurricane hit Miami. My mother was eight months pregnant with my youngest sister. When the windows started blowing out my daddy tied us all together. We scurried next door to the Baker’s house. Soon their roof started to go. We went over to Pa Johnson’s home. The lull came and we all thought it was over. Then the winds picked up even stronger than before. Soon Pa Johnson’s roof started to go.
Behind our house was a new house that had just been completed. Some people from the North had it built for a winter home. My dad and the other men broke into the house and carried my mother and Aunt Essie, who was pregnant, to the home, where we spent the remainder of the storm.
We returned to our home, which was filled with water. My dad bore holes in the floor to let the water out. Everyone in the neighborhood had outdoor toilets and hand pumps. Most of the pumps were broken. The only car we ever had was a Model T Ford, which was destroyed along with the garage.
The Russell family, who owned the Russell House Movers, lived across the street. After they moved away the Cecil Turner family moved in. He was county commissioner for many years. Our families became very good friends.
We were in the Great Depression then so everyone did what they could to earn a little money. Aunt Laura was a single mother and she baked cupcakes. She packaged them two in a package for 10 cents. I had a little cart on wheels and I would go all over the neighborhood selling them. She paid me 10 cents a week.
On Saturdays at the Biltmore Theater on Northeast 40th Street they had the Mickey Mouse Club, followed by Westerns and cartoons. If you were one of the first to arrive you would get a free candy bar. Needless to say, I was always first in line. It cost 10 cents for admittance.
The theater was located on what is now Decorator Row. The area north of Lemon City was Little River, where the Rosetta Theater was located. If we had a dime, we would walk there on Sunday afternoon.
I started school at Lemon City kindergarten in 1923. I remember when I was in the fourth grade and I watched them build the auditorium and gymnasium for what would become Edison High.
It was a great privilege being able to attend the same school for so many years. I was fortunate to have had teachers like Mrs. Knoll, Mrs. Peters, Mrs. Annin, and Mrs. Majors, who kept us in line. I loved playing basketball, baseball, acrobatics and croquet.
My sister Birdie graduated from Dade County Agricultural High School in 1930 and my sister Stella in 1931. In 1933 the name was changed to Miami Edison High School. I graduated in 1937. My sister Mary in 1940, and my sister Bertha Dean in 1944.
On Saturdays I worked for W.T. Grant Co. on Flagler Street. In my senior year I worked part time at Binswanger Glass Co. on Northwest Fifth Street. After graduation I continued full time. My next job was at Peninsular Life Insurance Company in the Seybold building in downtown Miami. I worked there until I got married in 1940 to Harry Brown of Homestead.
In 1940 I moved to Homestead, where Harry lived and sold insurance. His father was an agent for the Florida East Coast Railroad, when it went to Key West. He had been the agent in Marathon in 1935, when the railroad was destroyed by a hurricane. He had ridden a handrail car from Marathon to Key West and took a boat to Miami. It was a week before his family knew if he had survived the hurricane.
During the war we lived in Charleston, S.C., where Harry worked in the Navy Yard. At the end of the war we moved to Perrine in time for the 1945 hurricane. There was one highway in Perrine – U.S. 1, a two-lane highway. We lived on Franjo Road in an old Dade County Pine house with three of our four boys. In those years there were many old time residences as well as many small businesses along U.S. 1 such as Barfield’s Department Store, Dent’s Drug Store, Golden Rule Grocery, and The Street Car liquor store.
In the early 1950s Harry went to work for Dade County Fire Patrol, which became the Miami-Dade Fire Department. Two of our sons later worked for it as well. Station 4 was in our backyard and for the next eight years, I relayed messages from the Miami Fire Department for calls south of Perrine.
The 1945 hurricane destroyed the old wooden Perrine Baptist Church, so we met in the community house that was built by the Works Progress Administration. The building still sits in its original location on Datur Street and Perrine Avenue.
The northbound highway was built in the 1950s. I would walk my three boys across the highway to visit their grandparents, who lived on Cleveland Avenue facing the railroad. Harry’s father was the station master at the Perrine Railroad Station.
Perrine Elementary School was on southbound U.S. 1. It went to sixth grade. Students often would go to Ponce de Leon Junior High School for seventh and eighth grades. My son and his friends then attended South Dade High School, from which he graduated in 1958.
In 1958 Palmetto High School was built and I had two boys graduate from there in 1963 and 1964. My youngest son chose to go to Southbridge High School, from which he graduated in 1977.
In 1958, we built a house on Southwest 174th Street and 90th Avenue, which was mainly woods. There was a large strawberry field west of 87th Avenue. There was a big potato field off Richmond Road, where Perrine Elementary School was built.
In 1958 I went to work for University of Miami Cancer Research Laboratory located at the old Richmond Blimp Base. The director of research was Dr. Wilhelmina Dunning. She had brought the first research grant to the lab at the University of Miami, which years later was moved to Northwest 23rd Court. It became a part of Papanicolau Cancer Research Institute and today it is the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. I retired from cancer research in 1978.
I am still living on 174th Street and attend Christ Fellowship Church, the old Perrine Baptist Church, where I taught Sunday School for 46 years.
I feel very blessed to have lived in Miamah all these years.