We were sponsored into the United States by a dentist in Detroit. My dad was from Sweden and didn’t speak English very well. My mom was born in Trinidad to a Barbados family. I was born in Barbados. We lived in an efficiency on top of a garage. My dad joined a union and worked for the power company repairing meters. My mom worked at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital.
I remember the two successive cars we had — an old Packard and then a Studebaker with porthole windows. I got very sick from the cold weather in Detroit, so my mother took me back to Barbados. When I was 4, we flew back to the United States to meet my dad in Florida. Again, we lived in an efficiency on top of a garage in the Coral Gables area.
My father got bookkeeping jobs at Sanborn Plumbing and then Chapman Septic Tank Co. and then at Polly Davis Cafeteria on Miracle Mile. I remember my father taking buses to and from work and then to and from the University of Miami for night school, where a large portion of what he earned went, as there were no local state colleges at that time. He finally scraped enough money together to buy a clunker of a used car, a Ford Edsel. He worked and went to night school at UM for seven years and finally earned his degree in accounting.
We made the move west to unincorporated Miami-Dade County. We lived on the western edge of countywide development, almost to where the Palmetto Expressway is now. For me, the late 1950s and early ’60s were so much simpler for a kid than it is now. I played baseball at Flagami Khoury League, played football or basketball at Flagami Elementary School or fished in a local canal. We usually had a used black-and-white TV, and sometimes listened to radio shows when the TV was on the blink. We were the first family in our neighborhood to get a color TV. The neighbors would come by to see a TV in color.
Our school would take field trips to Dressel’s Dairy, just west of the airport, and a great place for kids. I would fall asleep at night with my transistor radio (all the kids had one) under my pillow, listening to UM football and basketball games. Everything changed so fast in the ’60s. This was also the beginning of the Miami Dolphins, when the bus ride was 10 cents each way, and the student entry ticket was $1. My mother would take me to Pier 5, where Bayside now is, to buy fresh fish.
With his degree and experience bookkeeping, my dad was able to get accounting jobs at local banks and savings and loans. Among the ones I remember were Citizens FSL, Greater Miami FSL, American FSL, Dania Bank, Hollywood FSL, Home FSL and others. My father got an opportunity to be comptroller/treasurer of American Savings and Loan in Miami Beach, so we moved in the middle of my “promising” football and basketball career at Coral Park Sr. High School. (This move proved disastrous for my hopes and dreams.) My father later ended his career as the finance director of several local municipalities, such as Opa-locka and Pembroke Pines.
It was a long way from our arrival in the United States with virtually nothing — thereby proving the American Dream is alive and well.