I’ve spent my entire life in South Florida and after celebrating my 80th birthday I’m sharing my story.
My father Danny came from Greece to Miami before the 1926 hurricane hit. He joined his sister Mary Hatzopoulos and her family.
By 1929 he saved enough money to return to Greece and marry my mother Evangelia. When they returned as newlyweds, my Mother called Miami “Paradise” and she lived here the rest of her life.
I was born in 1930 at the Edgewater maternity hospital in what is now known as Buena Vista in the Design District. My family owned an apartment building at 4025 NE Second Ave. near Moore Furniture Company. As a child I loved to ride the trolley car to downtown Miami.
Miami was a very small town then where many wealthy people would come and spend the winter season. They would either arrive by automobile or ride the train called the Seaboard Railway or the Silver Streaker.
I attended Miramar Elementary School on Northeast 19th Street and Second Avenue. When I started the first grade I could not speak English, but was quickly taught by my first grade teacher, Ms. Young.
I went to Miramar through the fourth grade and then Buena Vista Elementary and Robert E. Lee Junior High for the seventh and eighth grades.
About this time my family bought a house and I attended ninth grade at Shenandoah Junior High and afterwards went to Miami Senior High, from which I graduated in June 1948. The house I lived in was one-half block east of Miami High — I loved walking the short distance for my first class.
After graduating from Miami High I worked in the insurance department of the American Automobile Association (AAA).
Things I remember about growing up in Miami include swimming at South Beach at 10th and Ocean Drive. During World War II, U.S. Army soldiers filled the Art Deco hotels and the windows facing the ocean were covered with black-out shades because of the threat of foreign submarines and ships in the Atlantic.
I raised funds for Greek War Relief by performing Greek Dances at the Bayfront Park band shell. On Saturday I went to the movies at the Olympia, Roxcy or the Paramount theatres on Flagler Street.
After the movie we would eat at the Paramount Restaurant, or we would gather at the downtown Walgreen’s in the basement restaurant. Miami was the best back in those days.
With my young children I often ate lunch at the Burdines Tea Room downtown. I shopped at the great women’s clothing stores Hartleys, Nordells and of course, Burdines.
In 1955, I married George at St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral and we had our children Alexandra, James and Danny. James and his wife Nikki have two daughters, Arianna and Mia.
Miami is a special place — a paradise.