Title: Interview with Alfred Barton (May 12, 1967)
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00006421/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with Alfred Barton (May 12, 1967)
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publication Date: May 12, 1967
Spatial Coverage: 12025
Miami-Dade County (Fla.) -- History.
Funding: This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00006421
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location: This interview is part of the 'Dade County' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: DADE 22

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22 5-12-67

B: Because I think things are little more interesting in a later period.

I: Now, I'm in what you say because I want to relate.

I just want to think that the things that happened on the beach were so

comply etely discontinuing and I do want to relate what happened to people

over the years the original type of thing because I believe

B: the growth of the beach is very gradual and you must remember that when

Mr. Collins first built this bridge, there were no houses here at all.

The only thing that was here was a sort of plantation of, I think, it

that was which
was avocado.growing was up to what is now the ville

to shoot
and I remember going up there because I went up one night

on a boat. We went to the with a light on the front of the boat

and stopped the alligators and shot there heads off.

I: In Indian creek?

B: In Indian Creek, yes.

I: They were crocodiles, were they not?

B: They might have been crocodiles. I'm pretty sure they were alligators.

I: ha!ha!

B: Well, anyway, this, then I did in a boat at this plantation


RED 22

B: I remember a young man and woman who were in charge there and they

as far as
were the only inhabitants on the island ^I know with the exception

of the little beach way down at the south end. Then, of course, after

Mr. Collins built his famous bridge, the first property

developed was Iwards the south and went ihto the causeway.

I: development there, south beach.

B: South Beach. Yes. developed first and then, the causeway developed

and, then, of course, the Lumbertons came into the picture and you

iow, Mr. Lumbers gave that wonderful talk now so impzotant to him.

and that was develop ed- The first part, and then, the big houses

you would houses
That's what call the nice element of only came with the

development of Mr. Carl Fisher, and his principle is, of course,

as Mr. Fish has undoubtedly explained to you was to build the

first golf course in the hotel and then, sell the land around it.

and ofcourse, he started first with Lincoln Road and he built a

hotel on Lincoln Road and the first original golf course was his

municipal golf course down here where the high school had it.

Road the Hotel,
I: The lincoln was at Lincoln wasn't it?

B: The Lincoln Hotel. Yes.


RED 22

as I understand it,
I: He^tried to duplicate rather what happened to Palm Beach. In other

words if the people had first come to Palm Beach and they stayed in

the hotel and they played golf and they lived there and then, they

got home, ad that is what Fisher tried to A.

came after that,
B: Yes. Then.from the Flamingo, which was down along the Bay Front.

I: That was^open in 1920, I think.

B: Yeah.
I: Well, now, what about the first Oak Grove, the houses Naturally,

Fisher built a good hou se himself. A beautiful home.

In fact, it had pipe organs which

Jay use to love to pump, and this.had rolls, ad opposite that

was a house owned by some people named Hannan. They made the Hannan


I: I'm sure, and then, bey'-nd that were three or more houses.

I haven't te slightest idea now who occupied them, but they are very

attractive houses, and there were along the ocean front. We built our

house in 1924 possibly ten or twelve houses, in that area and I don't

think more. Then, there were some built on the west side as

but that was the beginning of the first area,see, whidh was


RED 22

B: social. Now, the Fishers, of course, entertained always for business

purposes and as people would come down from the west, Carl knew, He

would take them out in his boat, and he would entertain them at the house.

and so forth,
informally, small dinners and cocktail parties^and this wasmnstly for

business purposes, of course.

I: He was not a social person in any sense.

B: Not in any sense a social person.

I: In the sense that we speak of the social life.

B: No, not at all.

I: What was your impression of him? of Mr. Fischer?

B: I liked him very much. He was a very human, a very genuine person.

had been a
He wasn't awfully well educated, you know. He bicycle repairman.

and he swore terrifically and he had very little regard for^humanity

of a situation, but he was extremely genuine, and after I suppose you know

that the way he lost all the properties around here was desire to build
I: in building Montroff.

B: And in building Montroff, he suddenly found himself

an extra two billion. I'm not quite certain now, and he got the money

from Mr. Lindsey Hopkins of Atlanta.


RED 22

B: Mr. Lindsey Hopkins loaned him the money and took in return a

mortgage on everything that Carl had from Miami Beach which included

all the hotels, all the unoccupied lots. Everything was young. That

mortgage, unfortunately had to be foreclosed and they did not get this

out of transquilicy until about I think 1937 or '38 and finally it was

all owned by the Hopkins properties. Mr. and Mrs. Lindsey having died

meanwhile and his son and daughter having inherited this as well as his

and they asked me at that time in 1938 if I would go up

to Montroff as sort of general manager and see if I could pull the thing


I: Oh, I didn't know that you had a connection. Well, that

is interesting.

B: So I spent that one summer Montroff and I was presumably in charge

of the hotel, the golf club, the ya'ht club and what was called the surf

club, which was the bathing beach and we did everything we could to make
and change the whole thing over,
it social, tdbring people there and I had to redecorate a great deal but

it was pretty tough because in those days there wasn't a great deal of

money flying around and you could buy almost any house you wanted in

South Hampton with very little and South Hampton itself wasn't doing


RED 22

R: too well, However, we had a very amusing and I had a very amusing

and interesting season there. Anything, you're prepared to get

to Mr. Fisher was the purpose of my telling you this. After I returned,

He said, "Albert,
Carl sent word. I wish you would come down and see me. Now, Carl

which had
wa. then living in a small house the Lindsey Hopkins estate

given him and I believe, that they gave him something like $15,000

a year to live on. He had absolutely nothing and he had this old colored

retainer who was very faithful and lived with him.


3: Now, at that time he was

He had some sort of heart stemming. I don't

know what they were.to drain him and he was really dying and he was there

living in what certainly not luxury with the colored man looking after him.

But he had absolutely no in Montroff, but he was so keen about

it and so interested in knowing what I was doing there and what was happening

and visualizing the future and he said, "Now, Albert, you must go back

and you must do this and you must do that, and you must do the ings exactly

as if still owned it, and I had a great affection for this man.

He was Well, you have to know him. He was a very genuine person. He


RED 22

you know.
B: He was a very knd person. Very kind. Generou s, too, His settlement


I: Indeed. Indeed.

He... I wanted to Do you remember what season you spent at Montr;ff?

What year was that?

P: About '3>.

I: '38. Yes.

B: It wasthe year of the hurricane.

B: Fisher died in '39. Just when we closed the hotel, the day after we closed

the hotel, the hurricane hit us. I was so up set.
I: That was the most star crossed place that Montroff.
Fisher wqs. He was tremendously as a person
B: Yes. Yes.

I: I came from the midwest and he's a.midwestern kind of figure.

B: Oh, ye s, completely.

I: He swore greatly, but I gather he didn't use any hells, and dams.

B: Yes. Well, the perfect story about it is that out at Montroff. Of course,

he wasn't religious at all, but they came to him and said, "You kiow, you

we have a better church here and we'd like to have a church so he said, "

I'll build you the best God dam church there is, and he did.


RED 22

T: to tell that story about the one here on

Lincoln Road, but I don't know.

B: He was very conscious of the fact that people wanted to go to church and

he aid.


to me by
B: His story was quite accurate because it wqs told ^the old Montroff

people up there.

I: Did he? I gather he didn't use much kind of sanctuary.

B: No, not at all, no.

I: That kind of thing?

B: He was a married man.

I: Yes. Very much.

B: He had a great admiration for John R. O' Dull. You see, John R

Gaws was connected with the National Geographical Society and was a

he thought
gentleman and somehow Carl had a great admiration for people who

that education and station in life were above him of this sort.

And that accounts a great deal for their friendship and for the fact that

a good will power drive and all that.

I: Someone told me and


RED 22

I: that he was the biggest stuffed shirt in the world. You don't have

to comment on that.

B: Well, I would like to comment on that because I knew him very well indeed.

He was a member of the board here for twenty years and a great personal

friend of mine. In fact, he was awfully tight. He never spent a dime.

And he was a very nice man. I never found him to be brilliant so and

in fact
if he was it was hidden somewhere beyond me becauseI never thought

you see.
about the subject tradition ally, I was extremely fond of his wife who

I think was I think made a wonderful wife and was very forebearing. She

had a great trouble with him and was like a kid She said he was

a very old man. She sensibly married a charming doctor and

in fact, she was very happy and Jack was always looked up to as people

who are successful are by business men. A businessman only admire other

business men who happens to be the successful member of the board and who

has just made another twenty million dollars or so.and Jack in his own way

National Geographicseems to stun other people it

and Jack was always very popular. He was chairman of the board of the

committee of One Hundred here for many, many years and he was really a

very genial, a very nice man. I can't say about him. He was perhaps


RED 22

B: a little stuffy, but that was the period, too, perhaps.
I: WEll,
I: I don't know.

B: was a little stuffy, too.

I: Still is. People who still have some connections there.

B: Yeah, but I liked Jack and he was very genial and very fine.

I: You came in '24. Wasn't the Bath Club founded in '25?

B: I might say that
B: Jack was not like Carl. He was much more social. He got around with

the girls a great deal more. than Carl did.

there again
I: Carl has this good reputation ^if there's

This one has the reputation of being a great ladies man.

He had a number of women A number of them seemed to h-ve been secretaries.

B: Yes.

I: Like I doubt that he was fairly discrete about it.

B: Well, you know, one really knows about those things. Every one person

gets talked about and sometimes it's highly exaggerated. I really don't

think that under the program that I ought to go into that too much.

Like I said, we could

I: Some people

B: We're still talking about the differentiation in periods because


RED 22

B: right up to 1917 it was considered that this was a very,small community.

I: This was almost a fishing vi-.lage then.

B:It was almost
B: A fishing village and that everything closed up.after the Royal Palm closed.
and at that time I suppose the House Hall was built by then, but it it was,

it closed. Everything closed except one or two small hotels.

I: Was the House and Hall on par with the
I: Well, I thought so.
B: Oh, nol The House and Hall was very second rate., I say second rate in the

sense that opposed to Royal Palm.

B: Especially second rate.
I: Espedally secondrate although.^I:All right, then, you

B: Then, this was a period in which of course, Mr. Dear was building this

great house.

I: Yeah.

B: And during pay roll. I think during the period of 1914 and '15

in the summertime really was kind of large

I: Also. Also. Must have.

I: Then, when you return here,

I: in '24
B: When I returned here,^I turned back. I came back. I was sent back

a message to wish
withGeneral Pershing which General Howard did not to have delivered

except verbally. I mean the matter in 1920 and I then, stayed


RED 22

B: down a steady week here with my two aunts who were then living

and this was the period that they were just having the first sale of

Carl David.


B: And I went out I remember to the first auction sale that they had out there.

I: So you saw Doc Dammer.

B: I saw Doc Dammer and the whole crowd out there, and remind me to tell you the

story. The story about Mr. Barrington and

I: Well, tell it now. That's unless

an awful
B: Well, we're jumping around ..lot, but anyway to get back to period. In 1920,

I was back in the third period and this was the period when Miami was coming

to life at the cities and Miami Beach was just beginning to take form and

then we came back here in 1924. Let's see was it 1924? Yes, in the fall of

it was then
1924. We were determined to build a house and that we started

looking for property and the ocean front was just being developed. That is

around by what was then the Firestone, aid it seemed much too far north

to my knowledge and so we settled in what then already an established

district which we always hoped would be kept as a nice place to live.



RED 22

B: you see, but it was not very carefully drawn unfortunately.

I: It was eighteenth street, I believe it was.

B: Eighteenth.

I: Eighteenth and Cullum.

B: Eighteenth and Cullum.

I: And you were on the ocean side?

B: We were on the west side, but we wanted more land so it's no party line

so at that time we came back and after looking around we decided that we

would take this property and then the architect came down and looked at it

and drew the plan for the house, and it was completed in 1924, and I quickly

moved into it the following Novembor of 1924.

I: It took about a year to build?

B: No, it took probably from May or April until November.

Now, I have a question:
I: Well,^how were they able to set upthese really luxurious houses?

in such short time?

B: Well, I say it took six months certainly. Several houses took six months.

I: Yeah.

B: You can still build a house in six months.


RED 22

I: Well, I know, but not with the scenery and all. They must have had a lot

of trim work and wood work.

B: There was a tremendous amount of plaster work which was done by a very

brilliant man down here. For instance, the Louis V music room had the

most elaborate kind of work which you couldn't possibly afford to pay for

in the North. Panels of all sorts. Very Borroco and then there are all sorts

of stone, flat stone statues that went in with the Gothic part of it all

around the house and Venetian windows and all that sort of thing was

very elaborate.

I: How about the finish woodwork a.d

B: As an example, I that that house the original house^cost something like

thousand dollars.

I: Oh, really?

B: Today would have been two hundredd thousand.

I: How much did the land cost?

B: The land cost, I think, twenty-two thousand dollars.

I: So it's a total of sixty-two thousand.

B: Something like that. Yes. Well, after that, the hurricane came in 1926

and that did considerable damage to the house and that we erected

) 4

RED 22

B: a high wall around it. I'll show you some pictures of it to give

you an idea.

I: Was it the second hurricane.done in so many of the homes here that so

many homes here had a high wall around them or what?

B: Oh, I think that it was just because they liked privacy* I've always

liked privacy, has some protection.

and this is very high walls and gates would close and later on

actually composed all kinds because other people would just wander in

from surrounding hotels.

I: Yeah.

B: Actually, you think my mother and I were the last people to live on Collins

Avenue south of what was then the Firestone Estates. That is the

I: How long ?

B: In a private house. We stayed in the house in November 1941. Just before

I: Then, you were.. B: And at that time, there was not a single person residing

in a private house. Everything was either hotels or apartments or building


B: Well, let's pick that up as far as complexes.


RED 22

I: Well, let's pick that up. That would make it seem more chronologically.

B: Well, now, you know, we areafter the war, and

I: YOu built your house.

the start
B: Yes. The house was built and this was of a different

type of social entertainment. I fixed of early

days of Miami. If there was any large serving in Miami, it was done at the

Royal Palm. I remember my mother giving a

were very popular in those days. Giving a large tea glass. in the

grounds of the Royal Palm. They had a sort of set up and all that.

but I don't think anybody entertained any large parties and usually

they bridge luncheon. They have to have twenty in or twenty-four

whatever it is. to play bridge, or they also, played five hundred in those days.
which was a very popular, bridge party bridge
And if they had a bit of coffee, it was a very smallparty because

people didn't like to play bridge. Now, I'm not talking about the houses at

Coconut Grove. because the number

I: No.



RED 22

I: Well, let's say the Well, let me ask the question differently.

I had sort of decided on the basis of my conversation, that if there

wasn't a populosous of the first period at Miami Beach, it was probably the

year 1925. '25 and '26. This was the year when

B: Before the fall?

I: Just before the hurricane. It would have been the

B: Well, it was over so also the fall of values, you see, because nothing

was ever sold after the summer of 1926. That's when we all went broke.

I: That's right, but the wasn't it? Was not the height of the Miami Beach

scene the twenties and thenthat season? Was it December 1945?

B: Yes. Yes. January

B: Not officially, but actually, yeah.

I: But not

B: More people had money in 1925 and the summer of 1926 than any other time.

I know any number of people who have made and time cards

and that sort of thing and two years later who refuse to vote.

I: If we first take a time and go back to 1925 or 1924 would you

describe .. I'm trying to picture what these people did with their day.

B: We're talking about the beach people.

1 7

RED 22

I: The beach. They are the society beach people. They walk down here for

two or three months. They came around probably shortly after Christmas


B: There were no clubs.

I: There were no clubs.

B: There were very few swimming pools. People got on the beach and bathed

and I think that Roman Pools were still perhaps the one place where

you would go. I think the Roman Plaza which was if I remember rightly

in 1926 ras fashionable for people to go and stay in, but it was not

very social, and I think the Roman pools still if you went anywhere that

that would be the place to go, but I think that most people strictly went

on the beach and sunned, but this is not a great occupation really, and

the races, you see, were very mediocre and hardly attended in the fall.

I would think that life was very quiet. I mean, people thought of it

like the Pole then. It's fairly tropical. It had the that

it constantly brought over and but as recollected, our

life in those days was a mostly going to dances in the evening, I mean

that period,
to a night club, which, of course, was very prevalent in and

there was a very good one.


RED 22

B: They are going to somebody's house for dinner. In other words, public

entertaining was done mostly in night clubs.

I: Well, then, let's say typically what we're living on the beach in.
open type home.
It's funny. I was trying to remember the other day what I did because

I was not working at that time except to get mixed up in real estate.

And I 'as from the building and I don't know.

In the morning, the butler brought up the tray and I had breakfast in

my room and dress. I haven't the slightest idea what I did.

I: I've been told that if there ^any pOols, the fashionable thing to do

was to go there.about eleven.

B: Yes. That's Yes.

I: And then one might have lunch there.

B: You might have a little sandwich.or something or other.

I: And then, you return home for lunch. One returns home fr lunch and what

one did between lunch and tea time?

B: Well, I know quite often I would have people in and I would have a buffet

luncheon and we would go swimming at the beah, and have a buffet luncheon.

And then, they would play cards in the afternoon which I didn't do. If

1 9

RED 22

B: Sometimes I'd let them play cards or I'd go up and take a nap and

sometimes go out, but seldom cared to.

I: I'm told often that~people who like fishing and things.

B: I went to Palm Beach quite often to parties and I had people down fom Palm

Beach and picked them up. I can even remember friends calling up and saying

could you take care of an extra man coming down for dinner because you know,

we have pedestrians and I would even though I didn't even know the people.

quite personally. We had a lot of entertaining going on. Well, there was

a lot of pride in entertaining. People like the Germans entertained a great

deal and the Hollands entertained in town.

I: Yes.

B: Germans you know, were the present

and his family came from Boston. Newark. He was a very great entertainer.

I: That was the story that James Fisher told me about going to the

German Moore wedding.

B: Yes.

I: So they had to


RED 22

B: Yes, on crooks, and she was one


Ben Gilman
B: I'll never forget that discuss ion because then

was quite a decease. I shouldn't say this in public.

"I: Right. You're ta3lng about it being a vulgar period and yes,

Of course, it was a vulgar period and so ws the beginning of

a vulgar period.

B: Yes, of course, it was, and I think Palm Beach was, too, as far as that

went. There were a lot of people spending money. Theymade it. They

wanted to spend it and they didA They loved it. I think it still goes

on. I a very charming little woman from Canada who said to

me just the other day, "You know, I just love to spend money."

I: Well, who doesn't?

B: This is so I don't know I find it very amusing that people

are frank about these things that they are enjoying and for someone who is

just starting to discover all these things and doesn't know, it's very

interesting. Now, you see, I have a theory about the great entertainments

of today: in Miami Beach and in the last thirty years.


RED 22

B: which is that you just remember that most of this money- this first

generation money that almost and I would hesitate to say about the percentage

Let's say eighty per cent of the people,at least,are that I know today made

their money in this generation. This was particularly true after the war.

After World War II, and I think that these women and remember, I

and I remember two couples very famous couples saying that they started to

Chicago. Their husbands each made seventeen dollars a week, and that

every Thursday night they would go out bowling. That was their big deal.

I: Yes.

B: For the week, you see. Well, my theory is that this

seventeen dollar a week deal that this was the great period of

As you know, this was called the in every newspaper of the world. Everybody

Mrs. Crisch
knew what was doing and Mrs. Oliver, Rose P. McDomman, the

and Amy Vanderbilt who incidentally was a great friend of mine.


B: And still more all these favorites about great entertainers and great society.


RED 22

B: but they had two huncdd people for dinner. Now, all of a sudden, they

've got the money and so they want to have two hundred people for dinner.

and this is today why I think we've probably have larger private

entertainments that anywhere else in America.

I: You mean on Miami Beach?

B: Yes.

I: Do you mean specifically your club or just

B: No, I'm talking about the general area. It includes the Bath W. and

the U.C. Club and all that.

I: You mean.

B: I think unconsciously the desire to entertain anything lavishly and well

has been inbred by the fact that in the early days that if they didn't have

the money, they read about all these things and now they want to realize

this dream. It's just like the guy that always wanted to have a Rolls Royce

do finally he's got the money so he buys a Rolls Royce. It isn't because

he needs it; exactly, but that's an expensive car.

I: I agree with you completely. I'd like to just try to side on the truth.


RED 22

I: I think that what you say is absolutely right and I think that in their

own way if the people could come both winter and summer to places like

the Fountainbleu and the Eden Rock, are inclined to do the same thing.

B: Exactly.

I: In a different way.

B: It's absolutely true if they

do. I never believed this until the other day and I actually met a man

who does it.

I: Oh, yes. I think it's all.. I think that you can

B: It's all part of the plot, but I think there's more to it than that.

when we come to our people.

I: Now, let's turn because


B: Will you excuse me just a minute?

I: Yes.

B: Let's have a resume.

I: You were talking about sending money and about how^even the Fountainbleu

people and the other


RED 22

B: Do you want to turn it on now?

I: Very much, very much.
SWhat I was about to say was that I think that this was sort of a release

for lots of people who do not have an opportunity otherwise of accepting

himself socially. Especially, I can prove to you that ladies who lived

insmall town in Michigan and who I feel has great difficulty in having

somebody come in as a cleaning woman and I think has to do her

you see,
cooking. And absolutely no entertaining in this town. outside of four

people in to play bridge, so she buys her clothes in Chicago and comes

you see,
down here and gives very elaborate parties, and this is her great pleasure

because it is the only place ^she entertains. Now, this is sort

of a for her, you see. from having put up with living in a small

the rest of
town and a rather dreary circumstances.of the year.

I: Well, I think that I mean that what I before not to spend it

and show off

B: That's right.

I: I think, at least, that's what my .. I mean when I undertook to write this

book, I knew there was a story here but I didn't quite know what the theory

was. going to be, but that, of course, is the story


RED 22

B: Well, this is my theory on it after looking at this for a great many years.

I: Each successive wave of people it seems to me Please correct to me if I'm

wrong. does this very same thing in the way that they are able to.

B: You're quite right. Very few continue over a long period. I suppose that

I do over the longest period because starting in 1924, we entertained

particular thinner .at least twice a week all the time we lived in that

house and then, I've been entertaining here ever since, and now that was

a good many years since 1924, but my theory is that talking about ways of

people, I think that this is good over a period of about ten years and then

a new group and I've seen so many people come up like classes in

Japan and then they and nobody wants to know

them and everybody wants to know who are those people, and then all of a

sudden, they give a big party and they announce that it's going to be

very fine and they are going to have a wonderful orchestra aid somebody

is going to sing and they invite all the people they don't know and

everybody comes.

I: Why!

B: Because people will never refuse a party,dear. They always accept. Everyone


RED 22

B: else is at those parties, and they're just crazy about it so this is

outlet for them. I can't stand it anymore.



but everyone who is really very smart as a social climber

I: Yeah.

B: can make the grade here very easily. In the first place, if you are willing

on the committee.
to spend money on charities, you can always get

I: With everybody.

B: The biggest social climber we ever had was

did a marvelous job of this thing of promoting ^even though

her husband is Jewish and it was difficult for her.

She was very amusing and very nice woman, but she's Jewish and entirely

by giving money to charities, and getting herself on committees, she's in

charge of and giving large parties and involving people whow I'M

afraid she didn't even know, but they always came because she would always

get somebody else to give the party with her. even in her own house

she'd say, Mrs. So and so and I are giving a dinner and this

you see. Now, I know people who sometimes issued invitations


RED 22

B: on their own name. People particularly even though they didn't know them

because they knew it was in a good club or that there was going to be

and they go.
a good party and some way the news gets around, Why they go, I don't know.

I: Do you think it's pure curiosity?

B: No, I think it's because they want some place to go. because in my opinion

most of my people live in Miami Beach do not have unlimited resources. I can't

tell you how many houses you can go to and never see a book or a picture.

I: I'm sure that is true. I'm laughing only because these are the things that

I had already in my mind had decided had been true. I suppose I'll be terribly
dangerous, but I think it's very true that How shall I say the spiritual quality of
the higher qualities of the people here are not very evident that

they exist

T; Yes. I'M sure that's true but Do you think that

B: I don't mean to be unkind

I: I don't think that they existed in Newport either.

B: Well, they didn't obviously.

I: I don't think that Mrs. Hamilton ever

B: Mrs. Fish was the most bright & vulgar woman that ever lived.

I: And uh..

B: As a matter of fact, Betsy Letter who was a and should


RED 22

B: have know better was one of the most vulgar women I ever knew.

I: She was the one who took part in the dinner wasn't she?although

B: That was just a quick Biscayne party.

but everyone was there. Oh, yeah.

I: Mrs. Fish used her house even a couple of occasions.



B: I think this varies, you understand. I think that the only thing that

makes Palm Beach seem a little better than Miami Beach s that these people

with They are very often.
are better educated more past, Not always -now. Very often not now

because I see some very vulgar, brazenly, outrageous people in Palm Beach

but I think that they have gotten better publicity. They

buy better pictures. They live in better houses and somehow they've managed

to get an air about them, which our people don't have, and I think that

that tatooed, you know You take some of the GF'S who come to
the GOP and kick around
you see.
they're not quite the same person, They come back and they have something

different about them.

I: Yeah. I suppose. I have a couple of


RED 22

B: It's very difficult for me to say these things because I like other people

and I don't want to knock them, you know, publicly, I mean.

I: ha! As a matter of fact, I am more interested in anecdotes than I am

I't very much interested in anecdotes if I don't tell me the names of the

people because then I -can't with all good conscience use them,and so

can you. I mean, I know a lady whom I much rather sit back and than

some people

B: Yes. Yes.

I: I do want to ask about the founding of the Bath Club, and subsequently

the Club.

B: The first social meeting that we ever had was sponsored for the Club

that might be called a club of any sort was started by Mr. and Mrs.

Rollin DeWeese R-O-L-L-I-N.

I: DeWeese.

B: Capital D. E. Capital W-e-e-s-e.

I: I met a Captain DeWeese at Annapolis once.

B: The Rollins was a very good looking man, had a very attractive wife,

a very sweet wife
that is, his wife, and they were part of the set here, and he had a house

on Brooker Avenue on the west side of Brooker Avenue which they leased


RED 22

B: but they always came over and now in 1924 and they came over

for the Royal Palm. Not the Royal Palm. You know the one I mean.

the Fisher Casino.

I: The Roman Pool.

B: The Roman Pool. Everyday to swim, and decided that it would be nice

if some of us could all get together once a week and have a dinner dance.

So they made arrangements when we would take over the inside of the

dining room of the Roman Pool once a week or once every two weeks, it

but it was
was, and each paid our own way, ose, an invitation affair so possibly we

may have had^fifty people down and not more than that. Fifty couples.

And this was the first attempt at any sort of club organization. It was

and from that in 1928, I think, throughihe Bath Club.

I: Hu-i, hum.

B: And from that, in 1928, I think, through the Bath Club, and it was decided

to organize a club and buy some land and so forth. This was organized by

some new builders midwesterners and the names are very clear if you want to

check them. I don't think thatit is necessary.

I: No, it's all routine.

B: But in any case, the thing took on and I think they finally managed


RED 22

B: after some difficulty in getting one hundred people to each agree to

subscribe three thousand dollars for the building of this club. This

may have started in '27 because the club was open as I collect in the

fall of 1928. You'd have to check that, but I'm pretty sure.

I: Yeah.

B: And this was the first club ^was built. Now, there were three men

who really dominated this club.as the head of it, the president and the

chairman of the boardand two other men. Anyway, perhaps, the chairman

of the house committee and some other men. They were all what I call

rather ordinary people who had not had very much contact with the social

world before and they had Neither had their wifes and they, I'm
and very disagreeable
sorry to say, became extremely snobbish.from the very beginning.

This attracted because the fact of very attractive and very

I: It's a beautiful plot.


I: Who designed it incidentally? I love those..

B: I'm sorry you didn't find out.
B: I really don't know. I don't remember. I dd once.
It attracted all the nice people in town so finally it got to a point where


RED 22

B: they thought that they had enough and they got awfully snotty

indeed, and they were very rude and very disagreeable. Two people, two

extremely nice people who wanted to get in here. I remember for instance,

a young lady whose.husband, Horatio, was presidential candidate

who was certainly very qualified in every way and one of the most important

people in America today, came one day to see my mother and cried because she

she had been so treated
said outrageouslytrue with the snob background

and this was treated by people far below them socially if you know what I mean.

I: Could that have been Mrs. Daw?

B: Mrs. who?

I: Mrs. Charles Daws?

it wasn't
B:No, ^Mrs. Charles Daws. It makes no difference.


B: Why, certainly.

give a cocktail party somewhere else, you know, before you come to dinner


RED 22

I: Well, then, so that the

B: So this is
It became extremely successful, and it was very well run. I enjoyed doing it
very.much. It was delightful,,
and it was an awfully nice club, but

but they were very difficult. I can recollect when Mr. Barnswell. I was

the youngest member and when Mr. I guess the least important to them

because probably I had the least money of anybody there, and when Mr.

and his wife were visiting my niece, they expressed the

desire to the bath club and everybody refused to see them.

I: Democrat?

B: He was a Democrat, and I remember that they came to me afterwards and said

as the youngest member, and I did.
to me, Eunice said to me, lie was charming and so was his wife, but he

couldn't have been much then, and I think that it was finally arranged that

where I could take them, but nobody would receive them at all.

I: ha! ha!
It seems almost unbelievable that these people from the middle west

who really had nothing to boast about particularly

,: They were had never found Japanese society, were they not?

B: That's it.


RED 22

I: Japanese Society.

B: This is a very good case.

I: Well, that a wonderful thing.

B: This is true. She was awfully nice, too.

I: Before I there are one or two little questions

that that I'd like to ask

B: Yes.

I: Which W. K. Vanderbilt was it that bought Fisher's Island?

B: William Kane.

I: William Kane. He was then, the son of William Kissen who was the first

husband of outrageous.Alvin. Is that right?

B: Oh, yeah. Why don't you call Amelia Vanderbilt and ask him all those questions?
He'll tell you.

I: I don't know him. I don't know him.

B: Tell him I asked you to phone.

I: Where is he?

B: He's right here in front of his apartment.


B: It's right next door.


RED 22

B: Actually, Mrs. Willie K. Vanderbilt's brother is

I: And this is Cornelius Vanderbilt? My problem is this. I am trying to

B: Cornelius Vanderbilt who had ., house who incidentally these are some

Some of his things
of his things here. He brought them to me.

I: I went over and talked to over there and he showed me through

the place. Have you seen the place? I mean recently?

B: Yeah.

I: It's like something out of Sunset Blvd.

B: Yes, I know it must be.

You know,
I: those houses there.

B: That he built. Is this turned off now?

I: No, it's not, but

B: He was married to a toa he had a lot Album

I: Well, you see the problem is WilliamTiffen Vanderbilt who was

B: I'm sorry my book on the Vanderbilts.. I was looking it up in

I was trying to remember something. There's a book called


RED 22

B: The Vanderbilt Legend, I think, and

I: Yeah.
B: it's quite and interesting book. I can't find it, and I have looked

everywhere and there are no books down in my office.

I: Well, I got this out and William Tiffen was one of was a Vanderbilt who

would have been
married about in the Indies and he married an Alva and Alva was

the one who had the fight with Mrs. Fish.

B: This is a book about his mother. Go on.

I: Alva was the one who had the fight with Mrs. Fish, I believe.

B: Yes. Well, this was Fish's son.

I: But this would have been his son, but then, the name of his father

Alva, the young Alva. Was that named after this


B: Alva, I presume was named after

I: Two questions: Did Carl Fisher belong to the Bath Club or the Surf Club'

B: Neither, no. Carl Fisher was already built when they were formed, but

wasn't either.

I: Uh.

B: I have to take that back. I think that Carl Fisher was a member of this club.

RED 22

B: Different members. I'm pretty sure that he was a member here.

I: How about the Pine Coast family?

Now this tape or a duplicate of it can go the University, but it's kept

in the archives.

B: I've got nothing

I: I don't think you have either, but we have to dbthis for Mr. Neil

All right so that you an

B: I'd like to some of these things because I thing there's some

interesting things that you haven't got.

I: Oh, well, we discussed the purpose that we I'm to


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