I am sitting here in our den and weathering another tropical storm. Fortunately it is one of the smaller, less significant ones, but interestingly enough, it is on the 20th anniversary of Andrew.
I was born in Miami and so storms and hurricanes are just some of those things that we have to endure for the pleasure of living here all the rest of the year.
When I was a child, I lived in Shenandoah. My Aunt Anna had moved here when she married a man I never knew, William Mankes. They started a bottled gas company on Flagler Street, near the courthouse, which was the tallest building downtown at the time. It was also close to the train station, our major source of transportation. I remember sitting in front of the store on a curb watching the Orange Bowl Parade. We had great seats.
William Mankes passed away very shortly after they moved here and my aunt was left to run the business. She had a large family in Connecticut and she sent for my father Robert Brenner to come help her. Soon after, almost everyone moved here.
My aunt married a man named Ben Meyers, and in doing so, she became Anna Brenner Meyers. She had been a teacher and a nurse before she came here, and at some point she also became an attorney. She later met many political figures, was involved in politics and once ran for mayor. I remember handing out leaflets and stomping for her. She did not win, but she did serve on the Dade School Board for many years. She also received many, many honors (too numerous to recount). In her later years, a building in downtown Miami was named for her.
One of my best memories of my mom Rose was our Saturday girls’ outing to Burdines Tea Room. She would always order a Snow Princess for me. It was an ice cream sundae with candy pearls on it. After lunch, we would go into the bookstore and I could add to my collection of the orange-covered Bobbsey Twins set. After that, we would go to the Olympia Theater (now, Gusman). We would see a stage show and then a movie — our rendition of Radio City. Some years later, I would take my little sister, Helene, on the number 9 bus. It was so safe; I was 10 years old.
Also, when I was 9, my dad was on a radio show. I don’t remember the name, but he decided I should go into show business and he put me on the show. That did hook me into theater for quite a long time. My Dad used to put on shows at the Coral Gables Jewish Center, and other venues later on. He continued acting and directing for many years. Early in his life, he had been in vaudeville and the Federal Theater. The Federal Theater, which was created during the Depression, had many actors who later became very well known.
We had moved to Coral Gables and lived around the corner from the Coral Gables Youth Center. My sister grew up loving that place and later worked there. Also, living around the corner were our good friends, the Barrishes and the Skops. I was encouraged to send my story after reading other Miami tales.
I choose to remember the really good things about Miami, but there was a lot going on in those days. I remember “KKK” on temple buildings, signs where certain people could not be seated in restaurants, waiting for colored water to come out of the fountain, and some people purposely walking to the back of the bus to be seated. But the great thing was, there were so many other people to counteract that.
When I rode with my bus driver, Paul, after dark, he would drive me off his route on Le Jeune to deposit me safely in front of my house. I have been fortunate enough to have spent my entire life here, watching Miami grow and seeing cultural changes that have totally enhanced our jewel. These memories of my Miami will stay with me forever.