My parents, Harry and Mildred Grand, met each other on South Beach in 1946.
My mother was on vacation from her home in a very cold Roxbury, Mass. Dad and his family owned and managed a small apartment/hotel at 112 Ocean Dr., The Rainbow.
Today the Rainbow is the home of Prime 112, the chi-chi restaurant. Previously, Dad had lived in Ellenville, N.Y., and had helped build and run a family hotel, the Paramount Lodge in the Catskills. His family had enough of the frigid winters so it was time to head south to Florida
I was born in St. Francis Hospital (now condominiums) in Miami Beach in 1948. We lived on the second floor of the Rainbow in a one-bedroom apartment with a balcony overlooking Ocean Drive. We had an unobstructed view of the beach and ocean. In fact, my bris (circumcision) was celebrated on that very balcony, which is now used for diners at Prime 112 restaurant (just between you and me).
In 1950, my parents decided they needed more room and moved to a newly built subdivision in Miami on the border of Coral Gables, named Coral Gate. Most of the homes were bought by young families purchasing their first home.
“The Gate” was a wonderful place to grow up in the ’50s. It was only two blocks from Miracle Mile, the main shopping street of Coral Gables. I remember at the age of 11 collecting candy with a group of friends on Halloween night. We would walk around most of Coral Gate, yelling in unison at each house for whatever treats we could get.
We had no adult supervision and we rarely returned home before 11 p.m. It was a different point in time.
I developed my life-long love of film at the three movie theaters in Coral Gables – the Miracle, the Coral, and the Gables. These movie theaters were all within a mile of each other.
While attending Merrick Demonstration School for fifth and sixth grades, all of us patrol boys walked after school to the Coral to see a free movie each Friday. This was a reward for helping fellow students cross a busy Douglas Road each morning. Many years later just before graduating from Coral Gables High School, I spent a summer working as an usher at the Parkway movie theater .
At the time, this theater was Miami’s only “art” theater, showing mostly European and independent films. In addition, patrons were offered free coffee and various showings of art in the lobby – very unique for 1966.
The Sears on Coral Way near Miracle Mile was the place to get just about anything you needed in the 1950s and ’60s. There were some wonderful memories hanging out there with friends on weekends and shopping with my parents.
But there were also some disturbing remembrances of a department store (at a certain time in history) with bathrooms and water fountains clearly marked “white” and “colored.”
There were always a few restaurants that were our favorites during those years. These included Red Diamond, Dean’s Waffle shop, Jahn’s ice cream parlor, Biscayne Cafeteria and China Maid. And, yes, how can we forget Royal Castle? We were all addicted!
Meanwhile, my dad had opened a store on Giralda Avenue in the Gables in 1959. He was a distributer of Westinghouse light bulbs and also sold small electrical appliances. My mother helped him each day with various accounting and secretarial duties. I usually walked over after school and helped out until closing most days.
After attending Shenandoah Junior High and during my time at Coral Gables High, I worked most of the University of Miami football season selling Cokes at the Orange Bowl. I would take a bus from the Orange Bowl at 11 p.m. back to the Coral Gables bus station and walk two blocks to Royal Castle for a well-deserved “refueling.”
College was divided between Emory University and the University of Miami, graduating in 1970. It was while attending my junior year at UM that I decided what was to be my future profession: optometry. My four years of post-graduate study brought me to Southern College of Optometry in Memphis.
I returned to the Miami area to scout for future practice locations after many dreary and cold Memphis winters. I first established my Kendall optometric practice in 1979. My present office location is in the Pinecrest/Kendall area.
Seven years ago my wife Belle and I moved to Miami Beach. We always felt a special connection being close to the ocean and the beach. Somehow, things have come around full circle.