My family and I arrived in Miami from Cuba in October 1956 and that was the start of my lifelong love for all things American.
I have so many wonderful memories from that time, but a few stand out. The first Halloween and those sweet mallow pumpkins. Royal Castle hamburgers, eating roasted peanuts at Bayfront Park, visiting Crandon Park Zoo, and my sister and I taking turns sitting on my dad’s shoulders to see the Orange Bowl parade.
My parents tried to enroll me in first grade, but the school thought it best to have me begin in the fall of the following year since the term had already started and I didn’t speak English. It turned out they were right.
My mother used that year to have me practice reading and writing in Spanish and I learned English from my cousin, neighborhood kids and television. I Love Lucy, Sky King, Mighty Mouse, Captain Kangaroo and The Mickey Mouse Club were my favorites. By the time I started Riverside Elementary in the fall of 1957 I was completely fluent in English. We later moved near the Orange Bowl and I transferred to a brand new school, Citrus Grove Elementary.
In the summer, we would visit the playground at the stadium in the morning and watch amateur baseball games played there in the evening. We kids didn’t care about the game, only about the snow cones sold there.
At the corner of our block was a drugstore where we could get candy for a penny and a vanilla or cherry Coke for a nickel. You could buy a lot of sweets with just a quarter.
I remember all the kids in my neighborhood getting their hula hoops and my sister and I having to wait until the end of the week when my dad got his paycheck. That Friday evening we finally got our hoops, but when we returned home all the other kids put their hoops away and wouldn’t play with us.
My dad told us not to worry and play by ourselves, but that was boring. Then magically, as people leaving the stadium walked by, one man stopped and offered me a quarter to show him how I used my hoop. I put on a show and earned my quarter. All the other kids ran as fast as they could to get their hoops.
To this day, when reminiscing about the innocent fun we had as children, I remember my yellow hula hoop.