In the years shortly after World War II, my father who was born in Greece would make numerous trips to Miami Beach on vacation. He became a sun worshiper and could not get enough of the sand and sea.
In 1948, he sold his apparel business to his brothers and made Miami Beach his home. Our first apartment was on South Beach facing the ocean on Ocean Drive. Starting at age 3, I knew my daily routine would include an afternoon trip to the beach.
About that time, my father purchased an apartment house, The Indian Creek Manor, on the corner of 67th Street and Harding Avenue. The parking lot was adjacent to the original Pumpernick’s restaurant and a half block from the McFadden Deauville Hotel, which at that time boasted the largest swimming pool in the United States.
My Uncle Dave also fell in love with Florida. He purchased the Rivera Ocean Villa Apartments on the ocean. This is the spot where the current Deauville now stands.
I attended Miss D’s Nursery School until we moved to a new housing development called Golden Shores. This was just south of Golden Beach on A1A. This area quickly became Motel Row, but at that time, A1A was a two-lane road.
A popular restaurant called Grandma’s Kitchen was on the corner of Collins Avenue and 163rd Street.
When I turned 6, I attended Biscayne Elementary School on Dickens Avenue and 77th Street. I attended Nautilus Junior High, Miami Beach High, Miami Dade College and Florida International University.
My years at Beach High were some of the most memorable. Although I was one of the poorest kids in the school, it didn’t matter. My friends had cars and boats, cabanas at the better hotels, and houses with pools and even an extra bedroom if I needed it.
After school, each weekend and summer vacations I worked as a pool boy/lifeguard, up and down the strip — the St. Moritz, Surfcomber, Sands, Carillon, Sterling and others.
While at Miami Dade College, I worked as a delivery boy for Surf Drugs on 74th and Collins.
The area around 48th Street was our hangout. When I wasn’t working, this is where my friends and I would be. At night, we would cruise Collins Avenue, grab a pizza at Fun Fair and eventually wind up at Wolfies 21 on Collins Avenue.
I usually had only enough money for a cup of coffee but would eat an entire bowl of cole slaw and pickles that were on the table. On occasion, when we felt brave enough, we would invade another school’s turf to get the world’s best French fries at a new drive-in called McDonald’s.
I’ve never left South Florida. Over the years, I turned down offers to relocate to Los Angeles and other cities. I met my wife Carol while attending college in Miami. We just celebrated our 42nd anniversary.
We have raised two daughters here and have three grandchildren.
Whenever I have the occasion to be on Miami Beach, it’s like a homecoming. Every corner holds a special memory. Like my father, I still have sand in my shoes.