As a kid growing up in a small New England town, I remember people going on winter vacations to Miami. They always returned with stories about what a magical town Miami was – 70 degrees in January!
The sunny snapshots always featured palm trees and other beautiful tropical plant life, so from an early age I always associated Miami with beautiful summers in winter. My family never got to go on vacation though – my father’s “vacations” consisted of painting the house or putting in a new lawn or something else equally exciting.
In August 1968, a friend invited me to accompany him on a vacation to MIAMI! After two days of driving, we finally arrived. Even though it was the hottest month of the year, that didn’t bother me because Miami was even more beautiful than I’d imagined.
After returning home to New England, I just couldn’t get the place off my mind, and I couldn’t get the girl I’d met there off my mind either. After a couple of months of phone calls and letters, that girl drove up north and, in September 1969, we were married. In November 1971, we moved to Miami along with our brand-new son.
Since my wife’s family was in construction, I soon became a carpenter’s apprentice and worked as a carpenter until 2007, enjoying almost every day of it. Miami was the perfect place to live. Where else can you work outdoors year-round? I must have installed at least 5,000 windows. Now, I notice buildings that I helped construct or renovate: Winston Towers; the Palm Island home once owned by Al Capone; the Imperial House in Miami Beach, where I ran into Meyer Lansky; and the Burleigh House, where I installed doors for Barbara Walters’ parents.
I also like to think back to the weekends – going to Crandon Beach, where the Miami Zoo was also located, with my wife, son and daughter, who was born in 1980. Driving along Bird Road and stopping to eat at Pizza Palace on 87th Avenue or Arbetter’s across the street. There was a Mister Donut and Daddio’s Hot Dog Emporium on 163rd street. Most of those places are gone now but they live on vividly in memories.
We did take one short detour, though. In 1984 we decided to give small-town life another try, as most of our friends were doing at the time. But we just couldn’t get Miami off our minds. Watching the television show, Miami Vice added to our homesickness. One year later we returned, broke, but determined to start over again.
We made a good life here. In September, that girl I met on vacation in 1968 and I celebrated 43 years of marriage. Our son works with the Miami Herald and our daughter is now a teacher at Felix Varela Senior High School. When I turned 62, I retired from construction and took a job at Publix, where in November, I’ll have been for five years.
And, as for my wife and I, we’re still busy soaking up the magic of this town. Miami still is and always will be, “The Magic City.”