My name is Alex Sturman, and I am sharing with you a glimpse in the life that took place in the summer of 1957 when I was a nine year old in a family of six.
We were living in Charleston, S.C., where I was born. My father was a ‘travelling salesman’ at the time. He would pack up his company station wagon with restaurant supplies and take off for a week or two, covering most of South Carolina.
I’m sure that he was ready for a change when my uncle gave him a call to join him in Miami. My father decided to pack up the family and join his two brothers in business down in Miami.
The business was owning and operating lunch stands and trucks that serviced construction sites such as the Fontainebleau Hotel along Miami Beach. My Uncle Ben started the business a few years earlier and by 1957 he saw a chance to get his two brothers, Coleman and Nathan, to come down and work with him in beautiful Miami. The business was called Hadacal’s Mobile Canteen.
It was August 28th, 1957. My father, brother Philip and I packed up our 1953 Studebaker Champion Starliner, hooked on a U-Haul trailer and headed for Miami. My mother Ruth and sister Anita would join us once we got settled. My oldest brother Joey left for Miami a few months earlier and rented a house with our cousin Dave Hill. They were both nineteen at the time. Dave would later own the Taurus restaurant in Coconut Grove during its heyday in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
There was no I-95 back then. We drove all the way down using US1 and A1A. My father drove and Philip sat shotgun. I sat in the back with our two myna birds, Heckle and Jeckle. When we hit Hollywood, I kept sticking my head out the window looking for John Wayne. My father laughed. I didn’t know that this was a different Hollywood. We made it to Miami and pulled into the Chelsea Court Motel, made up of small cottages located on Biscayne Boulevard.
The car stopped, and once the dust settled I could see these shirtless, shoeless kids looking into the car window. They were my cousins Max, Annie Kay, Ina Rae and Martin. They were my Uncle Nathan’s kids that I was meeting for the first time. Max and I would later attend the University of Miami and become architects.
The next day my brother Joey had to run errands and asked if I would like to join him. He had a 1947 Hudson with an in-dash radio that was the size of a present day boom box. As he ran errands, I would sit in the car, windows down with the smell of horsehair padded seats and listen to the radio on a beautiful sunny day.
I remember the songs that played as I waited. They were “Honeycomb,” by Jimmie Rodgers, “Bye Bye Love,” by the Everly Brothers, and “Diana,” by Paul Anka. I was hearing these songs for the first time ever that day. To this day, whenever I hear any one of those songs, I am a nine year old back in that old Hudson, so excited about this new life in Miami that I am about to begin . . . and what a beautiful day.
Miami seemed so new back then. Everything was clean and freshly painted. It was as hot as it is today, but I never complained. The uniform of the day was shorts, sneakers and no shirt. No one wore shirts back then. The only air-conditioned buildings were the drug store and movie theater.
No such thing as graffiti and the only thing that kept an intruder out of your house as you slept was the latch on the screen door. There was no need to protect your property, because everyone respected each other and a break-in was unheard of. And as you slept, the oscillating fan kept you cool. It felt so good when the fan made its sweep and got back to you.
Trips to Miracle Mile and Lincoln Road were always family events. We would put on shirts, eat at the local cafeteria, and Mother would shop. I always remember the sky being sunny and bright as you looked through palm trees that were everywhere.