Great Neck, Long Island Meets South Florida
My mother, Zada Wilchyk fell in love with Marvin E. Williams up north. How they met, fell in love and married in 1936, I never knew the details. They came south to start their family in West Palm Beach, FL where I was born in 1941. Then they moved to Miami and my brother was born here in 1943.
Mother’s parents moved here then with grandfather establishing a tailor shop one block off Flagler in downtown while grandmother and mom opened a restaurant called The Spot near the courthouse. Father worked first for Frankie Watts Motors and later at Luby Chevrolet as their best mechanic in town, I was always told.
Life in Miami from the 40’s through the 50’s was a segregated, two paper, “small town” that saw the development of Miami Beach bringing rich tourists down each winter and then the immigration of masses of Cubans, which would forever change the character of this city.
From Colored town (as it was called then) becoming Overtown, to Miami Dade Junior College beginning, to the Miami Dolphins winning under Don Shula, and to television shows discovering South Beach – My childhood memories of life growing up before any of this, near Flagler between S.W 4th St to S.W. 16th Street, with a neighborhood of mom and pop stores like TipTop grocery, Puritan Dairies, and Burdines and Richards, the Olympia Theatre…that’s the Miami I’ll always remember.
My father was born and raised on a farm in South Dade where eventually the Tropical Racetrack was built. He and his twin brother Thorne, dropped out of school in the 4th grade to work with their father on the farm to survive the Depression. I never learned the story of how he and my mother who grew up in the north met, fell in love, and married. I knew that mother was college educated, had a trained operatic singing voice, and was a reporter and editor for the Great Neck News during the “Jazz Age.” I grew up hearing her stories of the Marx Brothers creating chaos in her office whenever they dropped by, and Clifton Webb always visiting with his precious yapping dogs, one with a pink bow, the other a blue bow. She went riding in Central Park with Frederick March and her best friend Sue, and they were hell raisers during Prohibition!
My father was as handsome as Clark Gable when they married, worked as a mechanic for Frankie Watts Motors and Luby Cherolet (now long-gone), and at one time worked as a diesel engineer on the Orinoco River in Venezuela. He was Baptist, mom was Jewish, and my brother and I were raised respecting both religions.