Being a third-generation Miamian, I have lots of stories.
This one will begin with my father, Del Matchett, who was born in Miami in 1923 in the original Jackson Memorial Hospital that later became the Alamo Building at UM/JMH Medical Center.
He grew up in North Miami on Northeast 132nd Street. His father built the two-story house that they lived in. He was a newspaper boy for The Miami News and rode his bicycle from North Miami down to the Miami News building, which later became The Freedom Tower. He went to grade school at William Jennings Bryan and later to Miami Edison High School. My mother, Margaret Knowles Matchett, and my father graduated from Edison.
When I was a child, they took my brother and me to many Edison-Miami High football games in the Orange Bowl. The two high schools filled the stadium in the 1950s and ’60s. It was a sea of red/white and blue/gold and very exciting.
We attended First Baptist Church of Miami, which was behind Edison. The pastor there, Dr. Ray Culbreath, always said a prayer with the football players before each game. He was a big football fan. My parents were married in his church on May 13, 1945. That church later became the Yahweh Temple.
After high school, my father joined the U.S. Air Force. When he came back from the military he went to work at Eastern Airlines as a sheet metal mechanic, later rising to foreman in engine overhaul. He met and spoke to Eddie Rickenbacker many times during Eastern’s early years. He always respected and spoke highly of Rickenbacker. He said that he would come on the job dressed in working man’s clothes and sit and talk to the guys.
My father met the Radio City Rockettes in 1979 when they flew to Miami on Eastern. He proudly owned an autographed photo.
We were able to fly free and took full advantage of that benefit. We dressed in our Sunday best when we flew. He told us that we were representing the airline and we had to dress accordingly. He loved working for Eastern Airlines and was fortunate to retire after 40 years, when Frank Borman was in charge. He saw the end of Eastern coming and decided to get out early.
My mother’s family lived on North Miami Avenue and Northwest 60th Street. The Cape-Cod-style house was built by my step-grandfather, Jack Mangum. It was a beautiful white two-story house with green shutters and a fireplace. He also built a two-story apartment building behind the house. After World War II, my family lived on one floor and my aunt and uncle and their family on the other floor. My brother, cousin, and I had many happy days there playing in the big yard. The house still stands, but it is now yellow with brown shutters and there are chickens in the yard.
I have seen many changes in Miami over the years but I still love it here. Just take a look at the Miami skyline at sunset. One word comes to mind: “Paradise.”