Blending a born-in-Miami beginning with only one adult job as a Miami police officer and a special piece of property that has a rich Miami history of nearly 100 years might seem like a lot to digest. However, my Miami story blends all of the above and more.
My Miami story begins before I was born. In the 1930s, my grandfather came to Miami to relax in the winter months with other family members. Coming from New Jersey, they were part of the blue-collar Jewish community in South Florida that was here in the winter and gone in the summer. They flourished in certain parts of the South Florida scene and were less than welcome in others.
Downtown Miami and some of Miami Beach were our family’s stomping grounds. Our family was far from being wealthy, so a lot of Miami and Miami Beach were off-limits. Our family members were hard-working small-business owners. In the mid-1940s, my uncle owned a small snack bar and orange juice stand in downtown Miami, near Walgreens. We think the name was “Juicy Juice.”
During the World War II years, downtown Miami was a major staging and marching area for Allied soldiers. Thousands of soldiers trained in Bayfront Park and on Biscayne Boulevard. The orange-juice stand was a big hit. Fresh Florida orange juice was a special treat for the “plow boys” from the Midwest who were experiencing it for the first time, along with the foreign Allied soldiers from Europe and the Far East.
Our family’s orange-juice stand was an important part of my life, even before I was born. My mother, Clare J. Kovach, was in the U.S. Coast Guard and worked in downtown Miami at the USCG office. Mom was a Western Pennsylvania coal miner’s daughter who joined the USCG as a 20-year-old.
It was at the orange-juice stand where my mother met my father, Harold J. Green. Dad had just gotten out of the Army and was working there. Dad said it was love at first sight. Dad started a short courtship, and when mom was transferred to New York, he followed and proposed. After a short stay there, it was back to Miami.
Miami was recovering from the war years, and changes were happening to the way folks lived. One of the biggest changes for the Green family was that the food-ration years were over and beef was back on the menu for our country. The problem was my dad and mom were taking care of a chicken farm in the Redland for the family, and no one wanted to eat much chicken. So with a cold winter blast and 10,000 chickens that no one wanted, the chicken-farm business came to an end.
In 1948, I was born at Jackson Memorial Hospital, and our first home was a wood-frame house on Southwest 22nd Avenue near West Flagler Street. In 1950, mom and dad – using their G.I. benefits – qualified for a G.I. loan to buy a new house in the Flagami area, near Southwest Third Street and 68th Avenue. The house cost $6,800, and the deal was $50 down and $50 a month.
Dad and mom had five boys, with the last birth being a set of twins. The Green boys grew up to be a Vietnam-area Army helicopter pilot who was awarded a Silver Star and unfortunately soon after was killed in a training crash; a Miami police officer honored in the ’70s as an Officer of the Year; one teacher for Dade Schools; and two electricians.
Miami in those days was much more compact than it is today. There were no large suburban areas such as Kendall, Doral and Miami Lakes. Our family enjoyed outings at Crandon and Matheson Hammock parks. We also enjoyed trips to the Venetian Pool in Coral Gables. The pool’s caves were my favorite part.
The old Pier 5 was a special treat. We frequently went to the old Pier 5 to watch the fishing boats come in, buy fresh fish and people-watch. Movies were in downtown Miami and Coral Gables.
Seeing Roy Rogers and Howdy Doody on stage at the Olympic Theater and Christmas trips to the roof of the Burdines building for the rides will always be a special memory.
Being on the Skipper Chuck Show at the old TV Channel 4 was a big time for me. I watched the Orange Bowl Parades from a curb on West Flagler Street. We had many afternoons at Dressel’s Dairy on Milam Dairy Road for soft ice cream and pony rides.
In the mid-1950s, my dad opened a restaurant in Hollywood called the “Corral Bar BQ.” Later, he built the “Tomboy Club” on Northwest 119 street and, lastly, before his death, “Chick N Sub” restaurant in Opa-locka.
In the early ’60s our family moved to the Norwood/Norland area, and I became one of the “60s Norwood Boys.” Norwood Boys from the ’60s were an interesting group of guys. We had our fair share of lawyers, businessmen, firefighters, police officers and lots of everyday honest folks … along with a side group of criminals, dope-dealers and murderers. Not everyone made it through the ’60s alive or out of prison.
High school at Norland Senior High was full of football, girls and a small amount of schoolwork. Cloverleaf Bowling Lanes, Haulover Beach and Sunny Isles were our major hangouts. We spent countless hours playing in the big field where the Dolphins’ stadium is today. We called it the “Ponderosa.” We loved to water-ski on Snake Creek Canal.
My connection to the Miami Police Benevolent Association (Miami PBA) at 2300 NW 14th St. started early in my life. The Miami PBA’s property was one of the few “party” locations in Miami during the 1950s. The Miami PBA had a small children’s amusement park with rides. Besides the large swing, wooden-horse carousel and other small rides, the Miami PBA had an operating miniature coal-fired children’s train.
The park had room for birthday parties, and each year there were special parties for underprivileged children where police officers helped out. Being lifted on a uniformed Miami police officer’s horse was a great treat. My biggest memory was my 5th birthday party held at the Miami PBA Park, 58 years ago.
Presently, I am the president of the Miami Police Benevolent Association. The Miami PBA is a special PBA that has been connected to the Miami Police Department since the mid-1930s.It is not a police labor or bargaining organization, and there is no direct connection between us and the other PBAs. We might be one of the few PBAs in the nation that is truly a benevolent association.