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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
Interviewee: Pete Chase
Interviewer: Polly Redford
C: ...coming down Alton Road, there was an ice truck. They did
not have automobile trucks in those days. There was an ice
truck, of ice, and it was coming out of an alley
and the truck and the street car, they hit. And I go over
there and here is the truck laying down, all smashed up, big
kicks of ice all over Alton Road, sliding all around, and
here the two mules that had drawn the thing. They were
there, laying there dead, and I had to bury them.
R: So, his prediction came true?
C: It came true. Now, I told you how I happened to join Carl
J. Fisher and quit talking about myself, and you want me to
talk about Carl Fischer so...
R: Yes, I want you to talk about yourself and Carl Fischer.
You see, in the old days, when people just took notes, you
did not have the time for people to talk about themselves.
R: But you have to remember that history is what happens to
people, and the way you saw it is a much more vivid way then
just your telling a lot of dry facts and figures.
C: You want me to tell you how I became a sales manager.
R: I would like you to tell me that. Before you tell me that,
would you tell me, as if you could shut your eyes and see
it, just generally speaking, what Miami Beach looked like at
that year of 1921 when you came.
C: Well, Mr. Fischer had in as far up as about 23rd
Street, I'll say 28th Street. Beyond that, except for along
on the ocean front, where the Roney Plaza is now and up as
far as where the Deauville Hotel is, 44th Street, there were
just a few houses scattered here and there. There were
sidewalks on most of the streets south of Lincoln Road and
they were narrowly, just wide enough for two cars to pass
each other. Between that paving and the sidewalk, there was
just sand and grass.
R: There were no trees or anything?
C: Yes. Mr.Fischer had planted coconut trees that had not
reached tremendous heights except along the ocean front
where a few of the original plantings...
R: From the old field plantation?
C: The old field plantings, yes, you have heard the story about
how they planted the coconut trees and how it was a failure,
have you not?
R: I have heard it, but I would like to hear it again actually.
C: Oh, well, that is tremendously interesting. Want to go back
R: Why not?
C: Did not Russ give you this story, his father and
old man Fields, Fields?
R: Yes, Field and the idea that they were going to
Soff the barges from Cuba.
C: ...and plant the coconuts all along the ocean front, and
they were going to make a fortune out of coconuts.
R: As I remember, they figured it out that they were going to
get one coconut automatically every day. wild,
C: That is right, and that was the supposition back in those
days. That the coconut tree produced a coconut every day in
the year and they were going to get all these coconuts and
plant them, 300,000 of them, all the way from here clear on
up to Jupiter, and let them stay there for above five years,
and then they would come back and start harvesting the
coconuts and making fortunes. But they would come back and
the old little rabbit, the little wild rabbit..
R: Little marsh rabbits.
C: And when the coconut would sprout, here was a nice juicy
meal for him. So, when they came back, very few coconuts
had matured, and they just were not and that is
when old man Collins bought up Field's interest all the way
down what is now Fifteenth Street in Miami Beach clear on up
to what is now about Sixty-Ninth Street.
R: Clear up to the Fountainbleau.
C: Yes, on up to where Deauville is now. Just a little beyond
Deauville. Well, except for those old coconuts, there were
coconut trees that were maybe ten or twelve feet high that
Mr. Fischer brought in here by the hundreds and planted all
around to make the place look nice.
R: He had brought them and they were not raised from stock.
Well, where did they come from? Where did he bring them in
C: Well, from the Everglades, mostly.
R: Transplanted them?
C: Yes, and not only that, but see, he started pumping in here
in 1914 and by 1921, he had set out thousands of nuts, and
in seven years, they started to get up to about five or six
feet high, and they were all up and down the beach, but not
intentionally, but scattered nicely.
R: Tell me one thing. Were there dunes by the beach?
R: It was all just flat?
C: Flat. Flat as a pancake. And the beach was where the ocean
had blown up the sand and the waves carried up the sand for
centuries, and it was sandy beach from the ocean front to
about where Washington Avenue is now. And then, from then
on, it kept getting smaller, lower, lower, lower until you
got over here around Alton Road and then it was a jungle of
mangrove swamp. So that have of an
cut down all these trees and he seemed to think too that he
was going to cut down, them big old mango trees.
R: Now, did the fischer interests, when they did that, did they
leave the mango stumps in and pump over?
C: Yes, they did. Well you say what was here back i those
days. Well, it was pumped in and sidewalks, not all places,
but certain spots had sidewalks and there was sparse
building. For instance, when I came here in 1921, the only
residences north of Lincoln Road were Mr. 's room on
the two homes up in the next block an done,
two, three, four homes on the ocean front as far up as
Firestone's. And the Firestone home was here then that had
been built by another man, I am going to think of his name
pretty soon, that was practically... Then Mr. Fischer had
started a few homes down near where the Venetian causeway
now lands, and that was where the old wooden bridge landed,
what they called the old Collins...
R: Well, now the Venetian Causeway was basically the
Collinsville Bridge rebuilt?
C: Yes. Filled in. The old Collins bridge was just stuck
right up out of the water. Since then, the Venetian
Causeway people, they pumped in that land and made islands
out of it.
R: Well, the first islands were made by Collins interests. I
do not know if they sold out or not, but the original...
C: Not on the Venetian.... Well, the only islands that were
part of the Collins property was what is now Bell Island,
and that was a swamp when Collins' bridge came across it.
It was uninhabitable. One day Mr. Fisher was standing on
the bridge where Bell Island is today, looking over, and Mr.
Collins came along, and Mr. Fischer said to him, "Why would
you fill in this swampy island?" And old man Collins says,
"Well, I do not have the money." So Fischer says, "Well, I
will tell you what I will do. I will fill it in. I
will pump it in and bulkhead it, and you keep the north
half, and I will keep the south half." So, that is how he
happened to get it built in and how Collins those
people on the north side of the bridge and Fischer on the
south side. Well, now where we, what were we talking about?
R: Well, we were taking an imaginary walk through Miami Beach
the way it would be in 1921.
C: Yes, 1921. There wa a little aquarium down at about
Sixteenth Street that Mr. Fischer's old partner in the
Indianapolis Speed-way, Allison, had put up and Financed.
It was so poorly patronized by the people that he tore it
down and gave it up in about two years.
R: Well, by that time, Loomis was pretty well-established down
in the South Beach, was it?
C: Loomis was the original guy that did the first pumping in,
and he pumped in from where the dog track is now at the very
south end of Miami Beach up as far as Fifth Street. The
bayside he pumped in, from the ocean to the bay, and then he
owned that land that was the ocean front from the very tip
of miami beach on up to about Thirteenth or Fifteenth
Street. He did not even have to fill that in. That was the
R: The high ridge.
C: The high ridge. As far as Washington Avenue. But Loomis'
had no money. What they were doing, they were doing on a
shoestring and borrowing as much as they could borrow and
land did not sell as fast as they thought it would, and so
Fischer came along, and he loaned as they some money, and
then Fischer and Allison, they bought out the Loomis'
interests, south of Fourteenth Street, and west of
washington Avenue. And then Fisher and Allison, they pumped
that part of it in.
R: At that time, did you have to get permission from the II
board and all that, the way they do now for dredging and
C: I imagine so because I was not here when that was originally
started, but I am pretty sure they must have had, yes,
because there was a designated bay front line that they
could go to and no further.
R: And then they got the fill by just putting big suction
dredges out in the bay itself and pumping out the bay?
C: Right. And Mr. Fischer had anywhere from one to two dredges
going continuously, day and night, from 1914 until 1928.
R: 1928. That is fourteen years.
C: Fourteen years. Day and night, and gradually moving
northward. He did not try to pump in the whole thing at one
time. He would start from the south end and pump in. He
would develop it, put in the streets and sidewalks, the
lights, the water, everything. And then when that part of
it wa fit for selling, then he would start the bridges up a
little further, up here along where the Bayshore Golf Course
is. And when I came here, there was no Bayshore Golf Course
even. That was being filled in, and that is just north on
the other side of the
R: From... These details get lost. That is the reason I asked
you at such length is before we go back to Carl Fischer
which is the main thing I want to talk about, a lot of these
details of the construction are lost, and that Is why I am
quizzing you. How long was it, roughly speaking, from the
time that the dredges started work until it was, as you say,
fit for selling?
C: Well, the entire development?
C: Well, from 1914 until 1928.
R: No, what I mean if you take a piece of land. From mango
swamp, the time to cut it down, to bulkhead it to pump it...
C: Oh, I get your picture. Well, he started pumping in there
in 1914 and by the time he got it pumped in, filled in,
landscaped, the streets, sidewalks, water line and
everything, his first sales were around about 1920.
R: So, it took five or six years?
C: It took five to six years, yes. Pump it in, get a section
pumped in and then have it fit for development.
R: Now, was Mr. Fischer's personal fortune large enough for
R: He was rich, but this is...
C: Well, Mr. Fischer invested in Miami Beach $6 million dollars
of his own money before he ever started getting any of it
back in the sale of land.
R: And he was his own personal money? it was not that he
formed a corporation and got or anything?
C: The Alton Beach Realty Company which is the company that
developed 23rd Street down to 15th Street, that was his own
personal company. It was his own personal money. Included
in that development was the building of the Flamingo Hotel
which opened up for the first time in the winter of 1920,
1921. That costs him alone over a million dollars, the
Flamingo. Now, back in those days, a million then was like
$3 million today, so $6 million was his money put in was
like $18 million of money today. Now, from 23rd Street on
up north, the balance of the development, Mr. Fischer made
an arrangement with the Collins-Pancoast families who had
title to the bay bottom, the land, and they found what was
then known as the Miami Beach Bay Shore Company of which Mr.
Fischer had the controlling interest, stock interest, and
the Collins-Pancoast people who did not have to put in any
money at all.
R: But they put up the land?
C: They put up the land, and they had a minority part in it. I
always understood that Mr. Fischer had 51% and they had 49%.
Of course, they made fortunes out of that, and it was a very
amicable arrangement all the way through. They never had a
quarrel, they never had a disagreement or anything. They
let Mr. Fischer run the show. His word was it, and he
treated them fairly, and they treated him fairly. So it was
nice arrangement all around, because they all got wealthy.
R: They certainly did.
R: It is not often you find someone to pay the investments on
R: Well, that is about all...
C: Do you know how Mr. Fischer happened to become interested in
starting the development?
R: I have heard, but I would rather hear it from you because I
think you know...
C: Well, Mr. Collins, as they say, he had this piece of land
along the ocean front from fifteenth Street up to what is
now about forty-ninth Street, where the Fountainbleau Hotel
is. It was original land...
R: That was high land.
C: That was high land. From the ocean front back as far as
Washington Avenue. His original purpose was to be a farmer,
he wanted to grow things. But after Miami started to get
going a little bit, like he decided that he had some land
there along the ocean front that was fit for building a home
on, so he put that on the market, but he could not get
anyone to come over here because there was no connections
from the mainland. So, he decided to build what is known s
the old Collins wooden bridge. He started the bridge, and
he got about two-thirds finished when he ran out of money.
And then, entirely out of money. He had no money left at
R: Well, as I understand it, his family up north had been
paying, and they got kind of tired if sinking so much
capital into the...
C: You know, he owned the business up north, but he loved it
down here, and he lived down here, and he let his sons run
the business. Well, by the time he had run out of money,
his sons decided that the old man was just a little bit off
balance, and that there was no use and no need and no money
to give him to finish the bridge. So young Mr. Pancoast,
that is Russ' father...
C: Thomas J. He was a wonderful man. A very fine man. He had
been sent down here to kind of keep his hand on the old man
spending too much money. Well, they ran out of money. They
had no money to finish the bridge, but they heard about this
man, Carl Fischer who had came down to Miami to spend the
winters. A very wealthy, very fabulous man with a lot of
money. So, old man Collins and his son-in-law, Tom
Pancoast, they went over. Mr. Fischer, at that time, was
living in a bayfront home over in Miami, down on Brickle
Avenue, and they made an arrangement with him to borrow $50
thousand dollars to finish the bridge.
R: Now, had he seen the property before he lent him the $50
C: No. So they went over there. So, they said, "Now, in
addition to this money you are going to give us and which we
are going to pay interest on, we will give you a bonus of a
section of Miami Beach from Fifteenth Street to Twenty-first
Street, and from the ocean to the bay. now, the only thing
about that was fit for living on was the piece on the ocean.
Aside of that was all swamp. But they gave hi that as an
R: Was that a bonus, or was that collateral for...?
C: No, it wa a bonus. The collateral were bonds on the bridge.
So, Mr. Fischer, naturally he said, "I want to go see it."
So, they got in one of Mr. Fischer's runabouts. Well, old
man Collins had dug this canal out here.
R: No, not to make a road, but to get their fruits and
vegetables over to the market with out having to go all the
way up to indian creek as far as La Gorce Island and come
all the way down the bay and probably get stuck on a sand
bar. He dug that canal so that they could have quick access
because his farm and headquarters were at 41st Street.
R: Yes. Right up through around Pine Tree Drive.
C: Yes. So they got Mr. Fischer to come on over here in one of
Mr. Fischer's speed boats. I have heard Mr. tell
this story many times, and the canal at that time, was
bulkheaded. It was just dug, and there were mud banks on
each side. And he told the story of how Mr. Fischer and his
speedboat come right up that canal, just zooming, and the
waves went all over both sides of the bank, and washed down
a lot of dirt, you know,__ and how they said, "Well,
anyhow they landed right there in Pancoast Lake where Roney
Plaza is now.
R: Well, that was where, by this time, Thomas Pancoast had his
house there. No.
C: No, no, no.
R: Right. So they landed there. Mr. Fischer walked out on to
the ocean front where the Roney Plaza now stands, and he
looks up the ocean and down the ocean. That is when he fell
in love with the place. And he can visualize. Mr. Fischer
was a great visualizer. He could read ahead. He visualized
what a beautiful, wonderful spot this would be. That is
when he got interested in developing so, he started to
develop just that one little piece, and then he took on more
R: Now, this is quite interesting because most of the stories,
the versions that I have heard do not tell about the fact
that Fischer loaned the $50 thousand dollars before he even
thought of that.
C: He didn't. They went over to get the loan, but in order to
get him say yes, they brought him over here to see what the
place was like. Mr. Fischer was not that much of a...
R: Well, I wondered about that. I misunderstood you.
C: That is when he fell in love with the place and he could see
what the prospects were, so he said, "OK, I will lend you
the $50 thousand. You give the deed to that piece of land."
Where do you want to go?
R: Well, we have talked about it. We have more or less toured
the beach in 1921 and how Fischer got the original starting
from Pancoast. Let us finally go back to your story a how
you became a salesman.
C: Oh, yes. How I planted the there at the mill.
R: Yes, you borrowed the _____
C: Well, when you are ready.
R: Any time. I think I have got my thing going.
C: Well, I could see that there was no job for me here in this
place unless I made one, so that winter of 1920, 1921 was
when Mr. Fischer opened the Flamingo Hotel, that he opened
with his own money, cost him over a million dollars, and it
was the great outstanding modern resort hotel of Florida.
The Flaglers hotel were all the old-style wooden ones, and
they were magnificent and wonderful, but this was the great,
new hotel, the Flamingo.
R: Was it made of concrete block?
C: Poured concrete.
R: Poured concrete?
C: Yes, and when it was originally torn down, they had a
terrific time tearing it down because poured
concrete. Well, anyhow, the dairy situation in Dade County
when he built that hotel was not like it is today. It was
very poor, and the milk situation was terrible. So, in
order to give his guests wonderful milk, Mr. Fischer brought
a whole dairy of cows from Wisconsin down here by train.
R: By train?
C: By train. And he built a farm up where 41st Street is. The
school is now at 41st Street. For this dairy Now,
when the Flamingo closed in March of that year, the
men in charge of this dairy, had just put a whole barn-load
of dairy feed. Dairy feed that could not be bought
anywhere, into this barn. I t was packed from the floor to
the ceiling, and the cows had all been shipped back to
R: Did the cows think that Mr. Fischer planned to commute the
cows like that?
C: Oh yes. He shipped them back, very fine herd of
Wisconsin's finest and they gave the most
wonderful milk Flamingo Hotel could get. Well, they had
several thousands dollars worth of dairy feed there that
with the summer coming on, would ruin. So, I get in_
and I went all selling them a few bags here,
and a few bags there.
POLLY REDFORD TAPES
INTERVIEWER: PETE CHASE
I: Talking to interview with Pete Chase on October 5, 1966.
S: ...proud of you such the success was.
I: So my question is good.
S: He put a price on a piece of property and that was the
price. Nobody could get any better terms. And it was known
all over this area, both to reveal estate men and to the
people who wanted to buy, so we had that we were pricing at
$4, 500 that did not do you any good if you came in and said
I will give you $4, 300 for it. They knew that right off
the bat and that was always Mr. Prich's property. The price
was there if you wanted it--you could by it if you wanted to
make an office but it is no good. That was one of the
reasons of our.. of this great success.
I: What are some of the other reasons do you think, not only
his success, but what do you think that made Miami Beach the
success? We have talked about the publicity. What really
started it going?
S: Well, of course, the main thing was climate. The next thing
was it had the ocean. It had an ocean the people could use
the year round. And then it was developed in the right kind
of way without any slip shods or anything like that. For
instance, some of these other developments. I will not name
them because the people that live in them might get angry.
But some some of these developments on the ocean front here.
When they were pumped in, they did not pump it in as high as
Mr. Fisher did and consequent is that sometimes we have
some of those places where in a storm or a tornado or a
hurricane we land over flood. Mr. Fisher did not skimp.
When he put on something, he made a finished product out of
I: Yes, he put in sewers... and..
S: He put in all the electric light lines, he put in the water
lines, he put in the... of course we did not have sewers...
I: Septic tanks.
S: But we had septic tanks. But he made it a complete thing
and it was all first class--it was not shoddy. And another
thing--in his deeds and in selling his property. No one
could dig a building or a house or anything else on it,
unless the people brought the plans to Mr. Fisher's office
and we had to approve them. That clause was mentioned in
I: Oh, was it an architectural review or a construction view?
S: Both. The cost of what the building should be. It had to
be a certain price. Consequently, there were no little old
shanties erected. It had to be built, for instance, in Mr.
Fisher's developments, you could not build a wooden
building, you had to build it of concrete block. That was
every deed except his very earliest ones, when we found out
that a frame house was susceptible to storm damage and, uh..
I: Were these deed restrictions in effect prior to the 1926
S: Uh, in most of the subdivisions, but in two or three of the
very early ones, the ones that were on the market back in
1918, 1920, they were not, but the later ones were. So that
was something that everybody that bought a piece of the land
they had the assurance that right next door to them,
somebody would not put up a bum-looking property. now, I
will give you a little instance.
I: This was before the first zoning, as I remember..
S: Oh, yes.
I: This was before the first zoning ever to come to the United
S: Yes, it was before zoning. Mr. Fisher, in his commercial
areas, he always liked the idea in a commercial corner that
the building not come to a point at the intersection of a
road, uh, at the cross corner of a road, he said every
building must be built round, so that anything would not
have a corner sticking out right out in front of it so that
when you drove up there, you had to stick your neck out to
see what was coming.
I: He knew.
S: Now, when the building was erected, down here on the corner
of Lincoln Road and... Avenue of that Southwest
corner, Sakes we to go into it. The architect, who was the
architect for that could go right out to a point on the
corner. He did not bring them into the Fisher Company for
approval before they started the construction. So they had
all he steel framework up and there was only building on
Lincoln Road that had a pointed corner instead or a rounded
corner. And what was the consequence? When we noticed it,
we notified them. They were building something that was
against the deeded restrictions--they were open to a law
suit and they had to tear down all that steel that went to
that point and make round again. Well, that was the case
with every home, every apartment house, everything that was
built. They had to bring the plans into us for approval and
we had our regular stamp that we made the approval on. That
was part of my job.
I: And how long did that go on?
S: That went on until the company finally dissolved and went
out of business.
I: Which would be then..?
S: Well, that was various times. Some of the companies went
out of existence in the late thirties an some in the forties
and maybe one of them might have been in the fifties. But
every once in awhile now, people will call me up and say,
"We need somebody that was connected with that outfit to
approve something that was not approved, will you sign it?"
Well, I say, "You will have to see my lawyer first to see
if it is all right for me to sign and the firm of
and Peterson, whom I relied very
much. They tell me yes or no before they sign.."
I: Sign up on these old dealerships.
S: That idea of it was one price and one price only. And the
idea that all plans had to approved by the...the Miami Beach
Bayshore Ocean Beach Bayshore Company, before anybody could
put up a building that built confidence to the buyer.
I: Well, let us go back to zoning because I am awfully
concerned with zoning have some on the shore that
we were over spaced. Uh, then so particularly in this area,
anyway, laid out what was to be commercial and was not.
Was this his own idea or did he employ any city planners or
how did he decide in other words how he was going to control
his stores and everything?
S: He decided that himself. Up until zoning went into effect
and what went into effect in 1930. Up to that time, any of
the Fisher developments, Mr. Fisher decided whether that
should be commercial or apartment house or whether it should
be strictly residential. Now of course as Miami Beach has
grown and developed some of those original zonings have been
S: Now in 1930, there was a committee appointed to draw up the
Miami Beach zoning. I was appointed a member of that
committee. We worked on that idea a whole year, deciding
that some changes should be made here, there or maintained
as is so we finally brought i the first and the original
zoning ordinance of Miami Beach. That was a committee just
appointed to formulate this and bring it in as a
recommendation to the city council. We brought it in and
the city council approved it and then they appointed the
original zoning board. And they appointed me a member of
that board. Now I was on the city zoning board for sixteen
years, from 1930 to 1936, maybe that is a another reason I
became director of a bank. (laugh). But, anyhow, I was on
that and we had a gentlemen's agreement, there were five of
us on that board. We had a gentlemen's agreement amongst
us, and that was that if the zoning board, whatever its
recommendations were, that if we were unanimous in that
recommendation that..and the city council went against our
unanimous recommendation we would resign. So we went along
for sixteen years and of course, during that period,
different properties would come in and they would want this
changed and that changed and the other thing. So, finally,
there was a recommendation or request, I would say, of some
property owners up on 31st Street should be changed for
better apartment houses. Well, our board recommended
absolutely 100%..no.. no change. It went before the city
council. The city council went against our recommendation
and they committed this change. I was the only one of the
five guys on that board that was resigned.
I: Oh, dear. Well, I know what it is when you are...
S: I quit after sixteen years.
I: Well, you were right. After I suppose the flood gates were
S: Well, there have been certain changes made that were good
and certain other changes that have been made that if it was
still on that board, I would not have voted for it, let us
put it away.
I: The fisher property was an essential part of the Miami
Beach area. Now there was still the old thing which had
been the Lomnous property? and the part that was still
controlled by the Pancoast? Now did they also maintain this
kind of regulation to fit the Lomnous people in?
S: The Lomnous people..I am not sure of and I doubt. With the
Pancoast people, yes; they founded that same idea after Mr.
Fisher decided to put in into his...uh...parts of Miami
I: So at least during the early stages, the early stages, in
development of Miami Beach was pretty orderly and it just
S: Just did not grow like topsy?
S: Yes, right.
I: That was because there was a wilderness over Miami at that
I: Now, I bring up the topic... I do not like to bring up but
you have to settle it one way or the other. I have heard,
and this is part of something else that I might
There are difficulties sometimes in what is called setting
the records straight. And by the reason that it is so good
to talk to you is that there are things that ought to be set
straight one way or the other. Now I have heard stories
about the original Fisher himself was not very
interested in having this become a jewish resort. I have
heard the story I am just going to ask you if you think
it is true or false--uh, that, although he did sell lots to
Jewish people but he did it in ind of a finagling way that
he sold...would sell the lot for a certain price and then
immediately all the lot from around him would be
and so on. Now I do not if this is a true story I would
like you to comment on this one way or another if you would.
And there again remember if you do not want to say so but
this is the thing that is setting the records straight.
Either the story's true or it is false--it is...it is
twisted around and let us take this bull by the horns.
S: I would rather not comment.
I: You would rater not comment..
S: The only thing I would say is that Mr. Fisher had some
Jewish friends that, uh, with some of his very best and
closet friends and who, uh, lived in his hotels. For
instance, I heard the other day that Bernard Gimball had
recently died here in the last few days--that is the head of
S: But Bernard Gimball and Mr. Fisher were buddy buddies.
Bernard Gimball lived I the flamingo Hotel. Who was the
great..uh, man that makes_
I: Fleshman. Yes, among the early seventies..
S: Yes. Mr Fleshman who was rich yet he was one of Mr.
Fisher's great friends and played on Mr. Fisher's polo
team here on Miami Beach. In fact, Julius Fleshman died
during a polo game he was playing on the old polo field down
here south of the Lincoln Road.
I: What was it--a heart attack?
S: Yes. He was a man that should have given up probably given
up playing polo but..uh..the game was on and long about the
third period all of a sudden he got off his horse and stuck
down on the ground and a second later, he fell over dead.
I: Oh. How old was he?
S: Oh, I do not now.. Oh imagine he was in his fifties. And
that was the great stunt that Steve Hannigan made when he
sent the telegram to the press up north and this was his
message--"Julius Fleshman the great king of"...what was his
S: "The great yeast king died today on the polo field in Miami
Beach. Please be sure to use the Miami Beach dateline.:
I: Oh, for heaven sakes!
S: You have heard that story, have you?
I: No, that one I have not heard.
S: No? Well, up to that time, nearly everything that came out
of here in the way of news or everything had always had
Miami..Miami, Miami, Miami, this all happened in Miami.
That was the Steve Hannigan--one of Steve Hannnigan's great
publicity stunts when done on it. Please use
Miami Beach deadline.
I: Oh, no.
S: So Mr.Fisher was not, for instance, here is Rosy Dykes, one
of the great characters of Miami Beach. One of the very
earliest Jewish People here. We have been very prominent in
Miami Beach, every since way back in 1918 or 1919. Her son
is now the head of Miami Beach Federal Savings and Loan.
Rosy and Carl Fisher were the...they were pals. Rosy would
come up and spend time in Mr.Fisher's office. H e was crazy
about her; she was about...I mean in a civic way.
I: Yes, (laugh)--I did not mean nothing.
S: But the story that he was anti-Jewish...uh..out and out and
out,now that is not true.
I: Well, certainly some of the Jewish Families, Edward Lasker,
was one of....
S: That is another one. Mr.Fisher helped bring both of them
I: There was a terrible story about Hertz and there Keyclub. I
can remember years ago when Hertz arrived at the Keyclub on
his yacht and they would not even let him on the dock.
S: Can you shut the machine off a minute? There was one other
thing I wanted to tell you about and that were some of the
greatest people in the United States, particularly, as I
said, people in the middle west and..uh..
I: Yes, his home town.
S: People who has come up and become famous or rich. And one
of these friends was James Whitcomb Riley, known as the
I: I believe you told us about the tree.
S: About the tree.
I: And the poe.
S: That is right. As I say, one day James Whitcomb Riley was
sitting on Mr. Fisher had his home on the ocean...
I: The Shadows.
S: The Shadows--it was on the southside of Lincoln Road, and
Mr. Fisher was going to plant a tree right out in the middle
of Lincoln Road. So, they went over and asked James
Whitcomb Riley to come over there and help him plant the
tree which he did and James Whitcomb Riley they wrote a poem
about the particular tree and gave the poem to Mr. Fisher.
Mr. Fisher had it framed because it was written in
James Whitcomb Riley. Mr. Fisher one day gave that to me.
And I have it right here and I will show it to you.
I: I would love to see it.
S: I have it right here. You can read it if you want.
I: I think I can see. Oh, he changed this...
"We class this tree beside the sea,
In trust that in the years to be
Yet may weigh through shine and showers,
For others eyes as glad as ours.
"The Planting of a Tree", Alton Beach, Miami, Florida, April
12, 1915 by James Whitcomb Riley. Well, for heaven's sake.
S: There it is in his own handwriting.
I: Yes, I..I remember reading about this and how long did the
tree actually last?
S: It lasted until the 1926 hurricane.
I: And then..
S: And it blew down.
S: And then the city submitted another tree in its place. But
as Lincoln Road became more commercial and everything--they
could not very well have a tree right in the center of it.
I: No, they have it again, do they?
S: No, there is no tree. There is no tree in the center of
I: Well, it is a mall; there is lots of trees.
S: Yes, yes, yes. They have that planting there but no
traffic, no automobile traffic So this is
I: Well, that ia a great, you know like...
S: Yes. And a lot od people would like to have that to show
that--to show--to say it is in his own handwriting. And,
uh, some day I want to give it to someplace where I will
know it will be kept permanently as..
I: As an exhibit. Yes, it is So you have quite
a collection with Carl Fisher's hat and his coat and how
did he come to wear those hats, those Panama hats?
S: I do not know---well,he was bald-headed and maybe that is
why he always wore a hat. But he loved those great big
slouching hats. And sometimes he wore sombreros(?). Right
here...her is a from an Indian
newspaper that Carl Fisher that, shows him
with a sloppy hat.
I: Yes, it says "Carl D. Fisher looking roguish". Well I
guess he always had been then--even in Indianapolis days.
S: Yes. I think he always wore a big, sloppy
I: Thank you..my phone. Well, I'll take care of it. That is a
I: Paul, there was one thing I wanted to...
S: Speaking once more, here you get an idea of a many who does
not smile, who comes.......
I: He did not have a very big, uh..open face in effect.
S: We did not----we did not. Now that back in those days he
wore those glasses that fitted over your knees. But later
on he wore them where they were,uh.
I: Yes. The_
S: Like the ones you have on.
I: Yes, I had a number of near-sighted aunts of that period and
they all wore those..
S: That was the style.
I: The pa that little .
Now, I think that there may have been, a, talking about
setting the record straight--I think there may have been a
good deal of talk about fisher. Remember I told you last
week I would read to you a--from a book that was written
about Miami Beach--it was written in 1960---only six years
ago. I do not think you are going to like this but I did
not write it. I must say. But we talk about setting the
record straight. It was talking about the..it starts out
with the idea what had happened after the great dade and
Hal? Fisher at the time of his death--says they did not
even recognize him at one of the meetings of the committee
S: Not true.
I: That was not true?
S: No. Mr. Fisher retained his looks has he always had been.
Of course, he had gotten a little stouter--and he had gotten
a much bigger stomach because of this disease he had that he
had to be drained every once in a while. In fact, the last
two or three years of his life. i would say the last two
years, he had his coats made so that there was a row of
buttons that he could button over when his stomach was
deflated and then as it gradually increased he had another
row of buttons that he could button his coat, he could still
button it. But the coast was much bigger round than his
I: Well, the story of course is in James Fisher's book that he
went to the--to the, I forgot where, but to meeting or
committee or club or something and nobody recognized him or
someone did not recognize him and, it was all very
I do not know. Anyway, this is a perfectly horrible
portrait of Fisher because...perhaps, you can set straight
on this. With the of drama, the beach fathers
established through the 1930's and then patiently waited for
National Economic Recoverage to fashion its current role as
an harbor for happiness seekers. Perhaps
the last major event it witnessed before the in considerate
occurrence of Pearl Harbor,was the decline and death of its
creator, Carl Fisher. No levity was intended because
Fisher's degeneration was generally tragedy. Here was a
man who but for his incurable proventialism? And his
emotional frustrations might have stumble into genuine glory
he died. Here again, please do not give the blame for this...
S: (Laugh) No.
I: Those who knew worked and lived with him become to
this day if they recall the stupendous chaos of his energy--
not that they could have helped him and did not--no one
could have saved fisher from himself. Uneducated, crude,
naturally gifted, he found himself emasculated without
money--real money with which to perform gigantic feats.
With a bottle in one hand, a divorce i the other and
sentimentality poured over all-he drank himself into
serosis. In his last days, he as a pathetic figure wearing
suits that were at least double breasted. And then you
explained about he took the buttons-----. Fisher died in
1939--the cause of his death was his inability to find much
value I life outside stone cold gigantism. Miami Beach
could not for get Carl Fisher but of course, it almost has.
Now, there is a How do you feel about that and
do you think it is true?
S: The man did not know what he was talking about. Mr.Fisher
I heard him say one day that although he had lost
financially practically everything he had once had, that he
had once had, that he had no regrets. He was not a man who,
mumbled or bumbled or shiftless or anything of that kind.
He was his own self. Now, he did start drinking very
heavily the last three years of his life but he had always
been, full of and a drinker. Well,
from his earliest days, he was a guy who have a
drink on me. But towards the end, he would occasionally
drink into excess. But, that is not true at all. He was
still full of vitality little instincts. For a
coupe of years in Mr. Fisher's life, he became infatuated
with the idea that the Florida keys were going to become a
great place. After the hurricanes down there, especially
the hurricane that wiped out the railroad.
I: That was 35.
S: Right. He still maintained the Florida Key. So he said, "I
am going to start a little club down there and he bought a
piece of land on Key Largo and it was called Caribbean Club,
financed entirely by Mr. Fisher. He built it,he bought the
land, he built the clubhouse. And he said no I am going to
make this place where the dues are only $25 a year to a lot
of nice people. And he made me one of the heads of the
club.. And we had about, I would say about 100 members at
the time of that. When the war came off.
S: And some of the nicest people up here in Miami and Miami
Beach. And as I aid, it was called Caribbean Club. it was
on the base side of--of the island and...
I: Near where the Key Largo Club now is?
S: It is a little further toward Miami. But it is still there-
-it is being operated not as a club anymore. Mr. Fisher
left word with us that if, at any time, the club could not
continue we were to turn it over to Father Barry if he
wanted it. Mr. Fisher died in 1937. We ran the club up
until the war came on then we had to close it because of
automobile transportation and everything. And, we finally
decided the club would go out of existence. We offered it
to Father Barry. At that time, there was a little
indebtness of it--I think of about $4 or $5 thousand
dollars. Father Barry said, no, the church did not want it.
So we sold it in order to pay off the debt. And, it now is
someplace where they have the bar, I think, the cottages and
they still run it, some individual. But there was Mr.
Fisher the last two or three years of his life still looking
into the future seeing what the key were going to be. He
was not a drunken idiot or sot or anything that had no
ambition or no desire or any get-up-and-go to him. He still
wanted to do something--to do something that had a future to
it. And he did. And that article and that man did not know
it. I was as close to Mr. Fisher as anybody that lived
except maybe his two wives. And...
I: You were with him longer than either one of them. (laugh)
S: I was with him longer than either on of them, that is right.
No, that article is not true. He loved his boat--he used to
go out in his boat that he gave me and, ride down to Key
Largo and out in the ocean and everything. He was not a sot
or anybody that sat around looking like that man tried to
I: He was at this time of his death. How old was he? Sixty..
S: I think he was sixty...sixty-five.
I: Well, that..you see the point is..you can see what it is.
Carl Fisher such a very flamboyant person and he did lose a
lot of his money. So the temptation is...is to make a story
about him..a corny story that everybody has read before, you
know, he was wonderful but he died, you know, so anything
they can do the story..to make it more like the story, it is
a temptation for a writer to fit into this old cliche, is
S: Mr. Fisher was still on the salary of the Miami Beach
Bayshore Company--he was not busted and broke with no money
at all. He had a nice salary from them--they were still going
strong. And as I say, while he was not many times a millionaire,
he was still not a poor, down-trodden, broke person. As I said a
little while ago, his estate, we brought was going to be worth
about $150,000 and instead of that, when worked it all out, it
came out to an estate of over $400,000. So...
I: So he just did not die, oh, what everybody says.
S: No. No.
I: Well, there...(pause) Record again. Mrs. Fisher implies
that the $10,000 a year. And she presents a picture of very
much of a come-down. You get the impression...
S: It was a come-down from the dynamic man whose word was law.
by this time, the Collins Pancoast people had much or even
more to say about the running of the company than Mr. Fisher
had because of the fact that he had turned over so much of
his assets to the people who had taken over the
I: Well, their 49% if they had held onto that--why, they would
definitely be the controlling interest.
S: Well, they were the controlling interest the last two or
three years of Mr. Fisher's life because Mr. Fisher had
turned in some of his stock, assets. And he was no longer
the control, but they still respected him and he was looked
upon as the man who still had the ideas and the gumption and
go. He still had the best office in the Miami Beach
Bayshore Building on 41st Street; he was still the man who
directed and told things how to be done. The idea that he
was no longer fit for ideas or gumption or go and that he
was a sap and a drunkard--that is not true. He did do quite
a bit of drinking but in his own home and not out in public.
As for not being recognized, that is the silliest thing I
ever heard of.
I: Well, I am sure you are familiar with the story and if you..
if you..you know how it is. When you write a book..if you
write a story and say that he drank an d you say he lost
most of his money. And then you say that he..that he went
to a place and somebody did not recognize him. And you
build up without saying too much--you build up a kind of a
picture which may or may not be true. And that is what I am
trying to track down, because that is the problem with this
thing. Well. I know...I know a number of the handful of
people have always. Even if Mr. Fisher had been nothing, I
am sure they would have been extremely courteous and tried
to make him something even if he had not been.
S: Take Mr. Irving Collins, he is, he was the son of old man
Collins and the uncle of Author..uh. and..
I: Arthur Russ.
S: Russ Pancoff. He stepped in toward the end and helped out
very considerably Mr. Fisher left a lot of the decisions to
him, but he and Collins and Fisher were always buddies and
pals right up to the very last. As I say, Mr. Fisher had
the main office in the building and Mr. Collins had the next
best office. So Mr. Fisher was looked upon still as the
great Carl Fisher. But Mr. Collins was looked upon as the
man who was stepping in and helping out considerably and had
a terrific lot to say.
I: At this point, then were you still an officer in the Miami
S: Bayshore? Yes.
I: Let us talk about..what kinds of things were you developing
and doing? By this time, this would have been 1936, 1937,
1938, I know Mr. Fisher died in 1939. At this point, of
course, you had been through the depth of the depression and
there might have been a little up turn coming up. What kind
of thing was going on..what kind of development in buying
and things were going on during those years?
S: Well, there is no further development. The development that
had practically ended long about 1930, we still, however,
had quite a bit of property that we were selling, a lot of
property. And our sales were sufficient that I was still
retained as the general sale's manager up until 1943.
I: What kind of selling did you do during those years?
S: My job was mostly to keep in touch with the real estate
brokers. And any property that we had to sell--the brokers
had to come to me to make the deposits, to agree to the
sale, to get the deeds prepared, and stuff of that kind. I
was still the general manager but we had practically
finished our sales organization of our own men. We were
doing our business now practically all though the local real
I: Well, then the picture of Miami Beach during those years
might have been much the way it was; well, I can Chicago
when I was a child at that time. Your land was all
completely dread. Your streets were laid out; you had the
water lines;you had electricity. But you just had a lot of
vacant lots. Is...?
S: That is correct. We still had a lot of property that we had
developed that had not yet been sold.
I: So that you were in the position of having empty streets
that lead to nowhere. And then with the
S: Well, they lead to the places but they still had a lot of
land facing on the streets here. The land on the bay front;
had lot of land still on Auton road on the Pinetree Drive;
La subdivision; we still had the..we still own
the Golf Course for the Miami Beach
Bayshore...the bayshore Golf Course. We still owned the
Anapolis Hotel, the king Cole Hotel, the Fuller Warren
Hotel--we still owned those properties
I: And you were..but,then were you selling many hotel lots?
What I mean, like the sales that were going on..were they
mostly selling individual home sites?
S: Home sites, yes and apartment house sites. We were still
selling Quite a lot of land that we still developed but not
as yet had sold.
I: And this went along--of course this war, I imagine put
pretty much a stop to_
S: Yes, that practically put an end to it. And as you say, in
1933, we felt that we no longer needed a sale's manager and
so while I still kept my office in the company's buildings,
I went out on my own as my own broker and my own appraiser
I: What was then the big change that came upon Miami Beach?
In other words we have talked, oh, we have talked quite a
while. Incidently, you must tell me when you want me to go.
But, if you would rather, we still have a bit of time on
this tape. But let us continue this one. And let me ask
you--what was the time of the big change and how it come
S: What kind of big change?
I: Well, you started out as small. You told me once that Miami
beach was a small town.
I: And it then got to be a fairly big resort. But still it was
not what it is today--you know, the traffic, and the high
rise and the apartment house and the whole thing changing.
When, how did that happen?
S: Well, the big change came shortly after the end of the
second world war. And that was when the country as a whole
became very prosperous. Miami Beach became a place that
practically had heard of, many people wanted to come to and
that was when the great increase in hotels, especially ocean
hotels began to take place. And a great deal of that
property was still then owned by the Miami Beach Bayshore
Company. When I say they owned, nothing like it had been at
one time but oh, several million dollars worth was still,
uh,in the hands of the Miami Beach Bayshore Company. Sales,
however, were getting very few and far between and as the
S: The amount of property still available for sale so as I say,
by 1933, the powers of be decided--well, there is no use
having our own sales' organization anymore. What we still
have left the real estate brokers can come to us, we do not
need a sale's manager so let us cut down on expenses.
I: Yes, the whole thing had_
S: As I say, that is when I decided I would start in as maybe
my own broker and going out as an appraiser.
I: So you left the organization--you personal business
connection with it.
S: Right. I still stayed in my same office, although I rented
it then from the Miami Beach Bayshore Company.
I: Well, then when we get the wild period of hotel building.
That was just after the war when they talked about the hotel
of the year and that was when the Fountainbleu and
S: A few years afterwards gradually.
I: By that time the character of the beach had changed
S: Yes, it was no longer the home owning predominance. It was
the hotel and apartment predominance in Miami Beach.
I: And was that the war that brought that on?
S: I believe it was because the wars did bring prosperity to
the country. From the end of the war up until here just
recently, this country experienced its greatest prosperity
and again. And so many people who had come down here as
apart of the army training and fallen in love with it that
they flocked here after the war was over. They wanted to
come here and live.
I: I remember coming and staying at the Roming(?) when..just
before the war I guess it was.
I: And I can remember then that there was a very strong...we
got off at the airport and we said we wanted to go to the
Roming(?) Plaza and we got in a taxi and the first thing
when the first thing the taxi driver
said, when we got into the taxi to Roming(?)--this must have
been I 1939 or 1940, I guess--was...
S: Before the war..
I: Just before the war and was to say, well, you have not
Jewish and what are you going over there for? And all the
time that we went on..well, you know was
before the Causeway. It took an awful long time to drive
from the airport to It took an awful long
time to drive from the airport to the Roming(?). And during
the whole thing all this taxi driver could talk about was
Jews an dhow terrible they were and how they hated them and
some dy they were going to throw them out with the mess.
And he told us all sorts of stories about the restrictive
hotels and one thing and another. So at least at that time,
there was a very strong ambivalence because then we heard a
great many stories from a great many other people when we
stayed here. We did some fishing. And at that time, my
feelings was--I had been to Miami and that all people
thought about in Miami was Jews were Gentiles, this is just
before the war. And I know the original Pancoast Hotel was
S: It was. So was the flamingo except for Jewish people that
Mr.Fisher would approve of. But for the ordinary, well, I
do not want to say ordinary. The Flamingo is mostly for
people of retirement and culture and old family rich, not
the new rich.
I: The new rich. Although fisher himself would have been the
first to admit that he was new rich and king.
S: Correct. That is right.
I: So, well, that covers. The people on the mayflower were the
first to snub the people who came on the next boat after the
S: (laugh) Yes.
I: Well when did it change from, as you put it,from the old
rich to the new rich?
S: Well, that was quite gradual but predominately hastened I
think right after the war. That was when the great change
came from being a small city nearly everybody else--knew of
everybody else to a population of influx of thousands and
thousands of new people, strangers that they did not know
everybody and you did not know them.
I: Well,it was a different thing. Do you think that-that was
due to on the part of active promotion the people here on
Miami beach or do you think it was coincidence because at
that time was the chief airline case had something to do
with it. I am sure in other words, was this new trade
actively sought for by people on the beach or what happened
S: I do not think particularly sought for. New York became
quite a place where people could come from to come to Miami
Beach. New York, of course, is very thickly populated by
Jewish people who have made money and because of the air
service from New York down here--I think that a great deal
to do with the growing and the increased population of Miami
Beach and it is possible that there are so many Jewish
People here that have made big money in New York that they
were the, mostly the kind of people that could afford to
come down here. And they came and then the people that did
not have so much money they heard about them coming so they
wanted to come. I do not think there was any predominance
of wanting or not wanting Jewish people here, because we do
have some mighty wonderful Jewish people here that have done
wonderful for this down, that are fine citizens, people that
you are proud to know and associate with. 0 do not think
END OF SIDE ONE (A)
S continued: ..I do not think this antipathy towards Jewish
people has, uh, I think its mostly a matter of people having
it in their mind, something that they want to talk about or
brag about or discuss or not brag about.
I: Well, I think, I am supposed to be interviewing you, but
(laugh), I think that probably what may have happen that at
the time when Miami, when it became apparent that Miami
Beach did change and there, a lot of Jewish people did come
then everybody began to realize that what they had feared
was perhaps not as horrible as they thought.
I: That Jewish people, instead of being the monsters that they
had thought they would be, became civic leaders and this all
changed. Now of course I think we have the reverse. The
image of Miami Beach is it being a completely Jewish city
and now everyone is very surprised to hear that there are
any Gentiles living here at all, or that there is such a
thing as the Catholic Church, or, it is rather surprising.
Now the image of Miami Beach has gone quite the other way.
Then of course we have the problem of the old people who are
in the hotels down on the South Beach. How did that happen?
Was it just a case of kind of, property going down and down
or, how did that happen that all those old people down there
at South Beach...
S: Well, I imagine a lot of it happened because of the fact
that living expenses became so much cheaper in those older
hotels and older apartments because they had to make it
cheaper on account of new hotels that were going up that
could command the higher price and get it. Well, you take,
as I say, a great deal of our population comes from the New
York area, and there is no doubt about it that the Jewish
people in that area have done wonderfully well for
themselves and have made a lot of money. Having money they
want to enjoy it, so where could they enjoy it best? And
best? Right down in South Florida? Why on the ocean.
Where on the ocean? Miami Beach.
I: But those hotels were never...I have been in one or two of
them and it does not look to me as if they were ever what
you would call luxury hotels to begin with.
S: No not as luxury hotel is today, but I remember for instance
when the W Hotel was built, just north of
it was a two story hotel at that time, but it was considered
a luxury hotel. For instance I remember B Daniel,
the very famous actress of, back in the 1920's and 1930's.
And she came here to make a picture; she stayed at the W
S: Well, the W Now today, what great moving picture
actress would stop at the W in which day it
luxury, refined, wonderfully fine hotel. But the newer
ones,have got, they have so much more to them.
S: That its no longer a place where a B Daniel of today
would come if she were coming to Miami Beach.
I: Seems to me that a lot of these new places have the luxury
when it comes to the things like the elevators and the
plumbing, from my small experience with Foutainbleau, it is
not my...I think I am old fashioned, I think of the polo
ponies and everything as much as much more luxurious than
having the air conditioning. (laugh)
I: Let me see. I wanted two more things, before...I think I
better get going. Is there anything else that we have
talked about or have not talked about that you would like to
S: No, I made a few notes and I have explained and talked about
them here. There is nothing else I can think of, but..
I: As far as....
S: ...probably will, but right now...
I: Yes, well as far as setting the record straight, it seems
to me that, the picture of Fisher has been very much
distorted and I, I just wondered if there was anything more
that, any other stories or common misconceptions about Miami
Beach that people like myself would have.
S: I think Miami Beach was very fortunate in its growth in
having a man like Mr.Fisher in control of the things, a man
who, as I told you the story would always tell the truth_
have one price and that is the price no matter who you are
or anything else and that is it. Nobody else can get it any
cheaper or have to pay me more for it. The integrity of the
man, the willingness of the man to spend his own money to
publicize Miami Beach with a healthy, hearty way with its
athletic and physical affect and he was the guiding point of
the developing and the growing of Miami Beach and nobody_
but for him we probably would have been just an
ocean front place with a lot of homes and garages downstairs
and upstairs over the garages peoples would be living.
I: Like it is in the Keys, and part of it.
I: Now, what about...oh yes, there are a couple of questions I
want to ask you about Montauk because I did not realize that
you knew as much about Montauk as you did. When...in the
depression the Montauk thing went...what happened to
S: Well, Montauk, the controlling intersect in the Montauk
development, fell into the hands of a man named Lindsay
Hopkins, after whom the Hopkins...
I: Building, school over there is named. Lindsay Hopkins made
a great fortune out of Coca-Cola. And he stepped in to
Montauk and he bought up the stock of Montauk at a very
low price, for which he cannot be blamed...
S: ...And he had the control of it for many years. He kept it
running and later on he sold enough property so he could
keep it going and he, then he about two years ago sold, or
his son rather, sold it out entirely to a new outfit.
Montauk has grown tremendously; they now have over 65 hotels
and motels there. When Mr.Fisher developed it the only...
S: ...they only, they only had one little wooden hotel up on
the top of the hill where people just came, mostly for the
summertime, and it was run by a woman. Now it has cabanas,
it has 65 hotels and motels, over half of which have their
own swimming pools. It is a little town now; it has two
drugstores, it has two grocery stores, it has two liquor
I: It never became the thing that Fisher had hoped it would...
I: He wanted a Miami Beach of the north. Did he not?
S: Yes, he wanted a Miami Beach of the north; he had a polo
field all laid out there, which now is no longer a polo
field it is a place where they keep cattle. It was sort of
a little inn, but, well it is almost like T ; it
has just grown.
I: Mm. It was never the same.
I: Do you, well when he..here was a man who in his fifties had
made $6 million dollars out of all the stuff up in
Indianapolis; he came down here to retire and he got
interested in Miami Beach and it would start out as a little
hot side line an became a kind of a hobby, and it grew and
it grew and it sort of took over his whole life until
finally he wanted to make another one up north.
I: How much do you think that he...I know he always did it for
money...he, it was not always a hobby. But what do you
think got into him; how did he happen to do this, to want
to make this and build this and then to, once he had
succeeded with another he tried to do it at Montauk. I bet
you if he had succeeded in the montauk he would have
developed something else. Was it something in his
S: Well, I think Mr.Fisher was the kind of a man who could not
sit down and just go boating and play tennis. He had the
itch and the urge and the desire always to be building
something, to be creating something. He was a creator. He
created the Indianapolis Speedway. He saw in Miami Beach a
chance to be able to create something and also to make some
money out of it,and he thought he was going to be able to do
the same thing in Montauk, and he probably might have the
1929 stock market crash and then the depression came on.
I: You know what I mean, most people are willing just to make
money. They do it, whatever they do, they may have great
deal energy, but what they want to make is just money.
I: But I think perhaps Carl Fisher wanted more.
S: Oh he did. Money did not mean so much to him, because he
had the money. A man with $6 million dollars back in those
days and still owning almost half of the Indianapolis
Speedway, what more, what more did he need with money?
Mr.Fisher just did not, he could not stop, he could not sit
down and just do nothing. H had great visions of things
that could be and he wanted them to be.
I: Well he was not very happy in his family life, right? and...
S: Not tremendously so. I think he and Jane originally lead a
very happy life, but as I said before, he liked one kind of
associates and she liked a different kind. She liked more
the artistic, opera, poets, Mr.Fisher liked
the, well he liked the polo player and he liked the guy that
chewed tobacco and spit in the spittoon.
I: Well, you, he had a lot of very good men
friends Did he not?
S: Yes. And men of the...some of greatest in the United States
at that time. Men at that time who were like Firestone and
Siberling and Edstel Ford and and Governor Cox
and, I could go on and on and on. They were the men that he
liked and they liked him. And they had confidence in him.
They thought that he was doing a good job and they wanted to
I: Well I think there are some men who get along, who are what
they call a man's man.
S: That is right. That is right.
I: And I think maybe that would do you think?
S: Yes, that was it. He loved/was the man's man. Mrs. Jane
Fisher. she loved, as I say, she loved the artists, the
artistic types, the cultured type. I say Mr.Fisher liked
you if you were a he-man and even though you chewed tobacco
and spit in the spittoon.
I: (laugh) Well, Mrs. Fisher, well I do not know...
I have never seen her.
S: They remained friends, right up to the end. He...
I: They did?
S: Oh, yes. After she came back to this country and lived down
here, he used to go see her every once in awhile in a, in a
friendly way, no romance or anything like that.
I: Well, she was married a number of times was she not?
S: To my recollection, about four.
I: Oh Because I know after...
S: I may be mistaken one, but I think it was about four.
I: Well it was very strange, that book of hers that, where she
describes that, how when she had her, her second husband,
why how he furnished the house and gave them money and used
to come and call on them; it sounded rather strange, and
after that she did not talk much about him, I gather that
there had been other after that one that...
S: Jane was a very nice person, and still is, and in the early
days of Miami Beach she was a very worthwhile person here.
She used to put on a big Christmas party for the few
children that were here...
S: ...at her own expense and, she did a lot to help start Miami
Beach and make it cultured. But as I say, they...
I: They just did not get along.
S: ...they, liked different things and they thought well we
will both be happier if you go my way, and I will go the
I: Well after all her marriages and then she, she came back to
settle here: she is not currently married to anyone then is
I: I must go and speak with her, then.
S: You will find her very nice.
S: Do you know where she lives?
I: She lives on Pine Tree Drive.
S: No, she lives on the northeast corner of 37th and Chase
I: Well she listed in the phone book as Jane Fisher, and I am
going to write her.
S: Uh huh.
I: Who else, incidentally was, do you think would be, would
enjoy talking with me?
S: What about ?
I: Well I have written him a letter but of course I do not
think he got it until yesterday and that hardly a day
to get it.
S: No, not very much, especially over on his island.
I: On the Fisher's Island, so I do not expect to hear from him
for a few days.
S: Well he and Fisher were good friends, as I say it was that
boat race that he and Fisher and were in that I
happened to pick up with Mr.Fisher.
I: Well it is just a question of who, who is not only the
people who are just alive, but the people that are alive and
would be interested on talking...I think Monseigneur Barry,
if...I think I may have/written him a letter.
S: If you can get,..if you can...if he is, physically capable
of seeing people... he is still in the hospital and I do not
know, but if he is rational and able physically to see body,
he would be delighted to talk to you about Mr.Fisher,
because every time he and I ever get together, he loves to
tell me about Carl this and Carl the other.
I: Do you know what Monseigneur Barry's trouble is, in...
S: Yes, he was in an automobile accident.
I: Oh dear.
S: Yes. Did not expect to live there for a long time, and I
understand he is still in St. Francis Hospital.
I: You do not know if he had any brain injury or anything?
S: I do not know just what it was, but it was very serious, and
they did not...
I: I will tell you what I will do, I will just write a letter
to Monseigneur... what is his first name?
I: I will write a letter to Monseigneur Barry at the hospital..
S: And you tell him how you have been here to see me, because
he and I are very good friends...
I: Ba, or B-e...?
S: And he loved Carl Fisher and would he be glad to talk to
him, I know. He would be able to tell you several things
that I do not know anything about.
I: Well, anybody else you think that would enjoy talking,
S: The trouble is, most of them are gone.
I: Yes, I know. That is the point. You have to talk to people
while you can.
S: Most of them are gone.
I: Incidentally I must ask you while I have this tape, what
about, have you said anything on this thing that you want
restricted in any way?
S: Not that I know of.
I: How about for publication?
S: I do not now of anything I have said that could not be
I: No, I do not either, but I want to make sure that you feel
the same way.
I: I have to, I must do that for protecting...
END OF TAPE