Interviewee: William and Helen Muir
Interviewer: Polly Redford
Date: February 20, 1967
HM: Oh, you should see those orchids and bromeliads. That whole family has green
thumbs sticking out all over.
R: He married. Art married __ Betty died. __ awful eulogy that Mr. Angel at
the Baptist church gave. I do not know if__ when Betty died. I have never
forgotten it. I just cannot bear it.
WM: I remember out here at Elita. You had a great big black stallion. I always
liked him. We had our real communications with Trader Hunting, because he
had a bit of a clash, I think, more than any of the other.
R: Do you mean Heart?
WM: He asked me if I would like to ride this stallion around the track. He said: "Do not
get him over__ I do not want him to __ Just do not get him __ My
God, I started out, and the old boy wanted to run, so I thought, I cannot frustrate
this beast a second more. I turned him loose and gave him the works. We came
around there, and we were just __ I do not know what I thought about it, but
they were conservative as hell.
R: Well, they are Quakers, you know.
R: And this is very, very funny. I have an aunt who lives in Philadelphia, and
Quakers are very strange people, as far as their attitude towards money and how
HM: Oh, I know it. The whole line where they go this far and not any beyond, so
whether they are __ more peace or what.
WM: That is right.
HM: I know. __ boy knows a little about the Quakers, having been up against them
for all these years. They are all very fond of Pa.
R: Well, they treated [Carl] Fisher pretty well, actually. When he was down and out
they gave him a salary that they did not have to, did they not?
WM: No, they did not.
HM: They did not do it.
WM: That was Fred Humpage.
R: Oh, was that Fred Humpage?
WM: Fred might have raised plenty of hell there. I thought I gave him a legal point to
do it on, but they noted. __ settlement, Polly; they got a grand settlement.
That was the deal and the general settlement that the creditors would have to
pay. The __ had nothing to do with it at all. They still had the stock in the
main company, the Miami Beach __ Company. They had the controlling stock
of that, so they did not care particularly about Fisher. They were not willing to
help him out in any way, either.
R: They were not?
R: Then the $10,000 a year he got was from ...
WM: Out of a settlement of what he ...
HM: I think he had loyal friends. I think Daddy paid $25 for that one. My good Lord.
WM: Look at that.
R: Nash. Did you buy it, or was it given to you?
HM: My good and loyal friends.
R: The Magic of Miami Beach, the one written by [Charles Ogden] Nash].
HM: The family book.
R: The family book.
WM: He endorsed this.
HM: Well, that is what we had. __
WM: Oh, this is the Pancoast [family] angle. They were jealous as hell.
HM: Oh, they still are!
R: I am sure they are.
WM: Oh, my God. They were nuts.
HM: It is true, though.
WM: They were green with envy.
HM: Still if you talk to any of them they say, ."
R: No, but this is interesting, because it has to do with the relationship between the
Fishers and the Pancoasts.
HM: There was not any.
R: Well, yes, there was. Those people were in business together, for good or for
evil, for years and years and years. It was a partnership in which there was no
particular blow-up. I mean, now, look. Those people are like oil and water. With
all due respect for both sides, Fisher was one kind of person and they were
another kind of person. Now, how could they ever have [had an amiable
HM: Now, Daddy knows the answer to that. Speak.
WM: They are quicker to go along with anything to make a buck. Anything. They did
not understand or respect the man, but they knew he was being __
HM: He looked down on them. That is my guess.
R: Well, they went along with it. They got through umpteen ...
HM: __ the first time you saw Carl Fisher. What did you feel about him when you
first saw him. You were a young man. Bill went to Stanford, [and] he went to
WM: I did not see him for a long time.
R: Oh, really?
WM: Golly, no. I was just in the __ there.
R: Do you remember the first encounter after?
WM: No, I do not know that I do.
R: Well, I do not think it is so important anyway. I just thought something might
HM: with someone who knew him slightly but somebody who knew him as
R: Yes, for years.
WM: But yes, I remember one thing that just burns me. I never gave it the right
answer. The colored man was the elevator man at 846 Lincoln Road, and he
was a Negro minister. He was always in trouble with the police, and Fisher had
absolute confidence in him. This last time he was arrested I went over and saw
old Judge Stoneman--you probably know him--and told him that Fisher was very
disturbed over this. is coming up, and Fisher has the idea that the police
are harassing him." Stoneman told me that he had investigated, and this man
has a bad record and not at all. He just was a bad Negro.
Anyway, a couple beat him up once, so Fisher was afire over that. He wanted
me to do something about it. General Tyndall was the fellow who used to try to
HM: Yes. That name comes out in my research. You know it, don't you? General
WM: Bob Tyndall.
R: No, I missed that.
HM: A big Negro, wasn't he, Pop?
WM: No. He was an officer of the First [World] War and was cited. He was a
commander with an artillery regiment from Indiana. He was not much of a man.
He might have been a good soldier. I hear he had a __ Of course, everybody
called him "Dugout Bob." [Laughter.] I hear he had a pretty good record.
Anyway, he went up and told Fisher that Muir did not want to have any part in
this, that he is in Virginia, and he does not have his heart in this Negro business.
HM: Oh, dear.
WM: Well, of course, Fisher called me and said, "Muir, if you cannot represent a Negro
the same you would a white man, I do not want to have a damn thing to do with
you." So I said, "Well, we are doing the best we can, Mr. Fisher," and we took it
up slowly __ and retire. I should of said, "Who is your Aunt Farmer?"
HM: Yes, you goddamn ...
WM: But I never did.
HM: And the Muirs went from George Washington staff in Virginia to Kentucky to
Missouri to Oregon, you know, in 1776 [laughter].
WM: Bob Tyndall was snooping around.
R: Oh, that is too bad, Tom. I am sorry you did not say the right thing.
WM: Well, then too, I always say the wrong thing. Anyway, it shows [that] Fisher did
not give a damn whether you were white or black or yellow.
R: Well, I guess you knew he was quite a guy. I am sorry I missed that one.
HM: I was so occupied __ Also, I have been writing columns, and somehow it was
all too much. He was just an interloper. Even when I wrote the book--I got this
later when Bill and I did the interviewing--it may be that I had something. You
were talking there. I kept my hand notes, and I kept them in little papers with
knitting around them, and they were put in a box. You were talking about
something before that I think might be very helpful to you, something that I never
used. What could it have been? It has to do, of course, with Fisher, but what
area was it?
R: It will occur to you in the middle of the night or when you are taking a bath.
HM: It was before this. Oh, I know. I got an impression of Fisher, and I put a quote of
some of it in my [book Miami] U.S.A. from this adorable man, the sheriff, Hardy.
WM: Dan Hardy. They were very close friends.
HM: He adored him. So there may be many notes in that that I have not used that
you are very welcome to.
R: Oh, that is so generous of you.
HM: Oh, no. If you are doing it, you are doing it. I have them; I know where the box
WM: Well, they respected each other and were very fond of each other. Fisher
respected physical and by God, Dan had it.
HM: I remember Dan. Oh, I must have been __ They died the same--poor--and I
put my introduction: "Dan Hardy died in a condition that some men would call
poor, but he was never poor. He was rich right up to the end." But there he was,
I remember. I had been only a month in the interviewing when he died. But I did
[get to interview him], and he had quite a bit to say. I will get the written notes
out. There might be something in there that will give you a wee bit of a thing.
This should have been done. Actually we should have done it, and we did not.
Now you are going to do it, and everything we had you ought to have.
WM: He was a rough-and-tumble fellow, Dan was, and so was Fisher. They are both
physically brave, and they had that ...
HM: The thing I love about everything is the flare and the warmth. I do not care if you
are right or wrong, but you are in there swinging and you are alive. You are
alive. You can be so wrong that you wake up screaming, only if you are on the
other side of it, but nevertheless it has to be [done].
R: Let me ask you something that is a little bit aside from Fisher, and that is: What
happened to the beach, and what made it from what it was then to what is now,
in your opinion?
HM: In my opinion?
R: Yes. You were here from 1934 on. You saw the change.
HM: Oh, it is a convenient word. It is called progress, a dirty word. Oh, well, when I
came, I would love to tell you a wee bit about that. When I wrote the 1930s in
that book I just went out the __ and we used it right out there. I just wrote it; it
just wrote itself, because it is a gorgeous place. I came here __ the __
R: From Fisher?
HM: Yes. That is what brought me here, from New York. It was a great place. There
was a Burdine's store on the end of the Roney [Hotel Plaza] Then I met Pa, but
no until May. I came in December.
R: He was __ then. You met at the Roney.
HM: No, we did not meet at the Roney, but we will not take up the time here. It is kind
of fascinating, but we will not take up the time on your tape.
R: Oh, but I can laugh
WM: The whole damn thing is Sheckle.
HM: Well, Bill you say. It was beautiful then.
WM: Sure it was.
HM: Tell it. Tell what you think.
WM: Well, it was a change from what the original idea was of for kind of peace and
decency into a commercialized, goddamn Jew outfit where everybody busts
around and tries to make a dollar. So the whole thing changed like that. The
climate changed from one of peace to one of...
HM: I have to go on record for the tape to say that for many, many years we went to
the same raising children __ My back would stiffen, and then I would say,
"You cannot say 'Jew' because it would ruin everything." Then Pa said, "Well,
you have not practiced law in Miami Beach." He did until World War II, when he
went flying with the ATC. Then he would go over. He says you get back down to
the bay and you have the whole deal set. If it happens to be a member of the
Jewish faith, at the very last minute they will try to change something in the
paper. This kind of thing.
WM: There was that factor all right. That is the idea I get out of it.
R: Well, most of the people who knew it the old days ... I wish you would go back,
though, and tell me__ 1934.
HM: Oh, I would love to tell you. Well, it was like this. The Roney Plaza__
gardens were the center of a lovely thing on Sunday afternoon called a tea
dance. You went there, and they had indirect lighting. That was the year that the
big thing from Cuba was coming in. I had not met you, Pa. One week we got
Bust Eighty-Eighters, and the next week we had this. It was all so much fun.
R: A rumba.
HM: The rumba. Of course, the whole scene was dominated by Henry Daugherty,
who had taken over the Roney and who sent me here to work. __ the Roney
and what they called they Key Largo, and they called it the "Florida Year-Round
Club." There it was. There was not a lot of south Pops. Alfred Barton was
holding for us, but he and his mother were still living in their house, and they had
the Christmas party and all.
R: All right. Let us go. In 1933 was absolutely the depths of the Depression in the
United States. Who came to the Roney in the 1935?
HM: Mike Benedon, the oil man; [and] Doris Duke. I was the first person to interview
her of anybody ever.
HM: Yes, and I wrote it. The devil of it was, the reason I got out of that publicity
business--really I was going to be one of those people that made a lot of money--
was that I had to write for the [Miami] Herald, the [Miami Daily] News, the UP[I]
and the AP, and after four times around . The only thing she did not tell me in
that whole bit, and I think I do have this in my book, was that she was going off to
marry a Stokestree son, a Cromwell. But then the first person I interviewed
when I came in town--I was wearing a green crepe dress with a tunic down to
here; it was shocking and very hot--was the Eastern Air Lines patriarch, [Eddie]
Rickenbacker. Here I was in the sand taking his picture with the photographer
and all that. It was lovely, though. I do not know what other people knew about
in the way of things, but I knew as a child in Yonkers our big bit was to go to
Rogoy Beach. Rogoy Beach was just beautiful without all that __ stuff; it was
beautiful. It was lovely. Don't you think it was pretty? Now you talk, because
you were here.
Daddy had a little roadster, and he played polo. You must talk about that and
what that was like. It was nice, wasn't it? With Angeline and Delaney and Peggy
WM: Yes, sort of.
R: But this was only for a short season in the year. Anyway, there was enough on
the beach that the hotels were open in 1934, and you came.
HM: Oh, yes.
R: What did you do all day?
HM: Well, I do remember the woman who Criden Morrow. She was there
with the husband, the judge, lying on the beach, getting awfully tan. At night they
ate. There were night clubs. There was gambling, Bill. Do you remember Tom
Smith was .. There were those night clubs where ... I was not aware of
gambling very much, but occasionally I was. They had a lot of gambling in 1934.
You were not aware of it, and I was not. I remember being taken there
sometimes to the various clubs. I remember they had little clubs at Miami Beach
that were very ... Of course, Mother Kelly's--you should write that one down.
That was a place where I know Flora Gibbons came in that year, and he bought
a house on Lockbay Road, and he had a big party. That was kind of fun. It was
kind of a good time here, wasn't it? It was for me.
HM: I cannot remember names.
R: Well, listen, I do not want to overstay my welcome here.
HM: You will have to come back for more questions.
R: Well, I think maybe I should come back another day with more questions to ask.
HM: You had better grab it now, because it kind of hard to do. What else. Pop?
R: Let us go back to old Carl, because one morning I will come around and talk with
Helen about what it was like in the 1930s. If you were to talk about Carl [Fisher]
to someone who never knew him or never heard of him, what would you say
about him? How would you describe this man to someone to someone who did
not know him?
WM: I could not say__
HM: Oh, you could, Dan. Do not be negative. Of course, you could. You would say,
"Carl Fisher. ." I will give you half an ounce while you work this out. I have
WM: I went up there at the __ and he could not make a talk to save his soul that
day. Jane picked him right. I was a very good friend of his, Polly. They got
along so well together. Old Riley had a series of unprintable stories of where he
put poetry into the damnedest things you ever dreamed on and off-color stuff.
But he would get down to __ They were Cat for each other. I never met
Uncle Jim. He was living with some woman, that ol' woman that used to try to
protect Uncle Jim.
HM: I cannot embellish the joys we have had [laughter].
R: You could finish it off.
WM: Fisher told me of some dinner they had over here in Miami, and he was taking
Uncle Jim. Now, the woman that Uncle Jim was living with told him that he
should not have anything to drink. Well, Uncle Jim took a few drinks, but his
mind was clear. He got up because he was tired and old, and Fisher said he
remembered the name of every man at the table and said something nice about
everybody there, so he took him home.
Well, they started up the walk, and Uncle Jim stumbled a little. This woman was
standing there waiting, and she tore out there and called Fisher every kind of a
son-of-a-bitch in the world [laughter]. She just raised hell about bring Uncle Jim
home this way.
R: And he just tripped a little bit on the path [laughter].
HM: The thing about the feeling that I got all these different pictures from Dan
Mahoney, who of course I knew because I was busy with the Miami [Daily] News.
In fact, I could not take the publicity thing, even though I was going to be an
associate and make a million dollars. No. I said, "Count me out." I was about to
go back to New York and back to newspapering when I got a call from the News
saying, "Come to rewrite now." That is how I happened to meet Bill. If I had not,
you see, . That was May.
Dan Mahoney was a kind of a big phoney that everybody cared for. [laughter] I
slightly cared for him, but not enough to make anything of it. In fact, we never
could get together. Governor Cox and I could get together very well, indeed. He
respected me. Whenever he wanted me on his paper he would call, and I would
go. That is just the way it was.
Anyway, their impression of Carl Fisher was so darn different from Pa's.
Therefore, I know that there must have been very few people who really
appreciated the essence. Yet you have been interviewing, and you say they did.
I am glad to hear it.
R: Let me put it this way. I have been interviewing his friends or his business
HM: Yes, but if they can appreciate, ...
WM: Listen, Polly. Let us hear [what] you got from this Gar Wood, of all people.
R: Well, Gar Wood was a fascinating interview [see DADE 6, Oral History Archives,
University of Florida]. I could not get much about Carl Fisher. I am not just
writing about Carl Fisher. I am writing about the beach in the early days and the
sport and all the rest of it. Actually, Gar Wood's memory is kind of going, and he
has a number of stock stories about "how I made my money" and ...
HM: Now, am I wrong in thinking--I liked Pete [Chase], and Bill liked him--that is what
Pete has: a bunch of [stories]?
HM: Except you can plumb it a bit.
R: Not only that, but Pete really loved that man. He really loved Carl Fisher. It is
like he gets going. He is quite a talker; he loves to talk. I think he is lonesome.
HM: There is a tape that I can get to you at the Miami Public Library where I
interviewed eight people a year ago of Pete, Russell Pancoast, and many other
people. I do not know if it would be that __ I can make available to you.
R: Speaking of that, I want to ask you about the Miami Pioneers. What are the
Miami Pioneers? It is a club, I know, but can you explain it to me?
HM: Well, I think you had to be here before the railroad. The only time I went was
when Mariam took me. You had to be here before the railroad. It was a
little, teensy thing. If you really want to get the flavor of it, call Martha Lummus's
husband, Newt Lummus. Start from there. They had a darling little club room on
R: Oh, did they?
HM: Yes. That is where the library thing wanted me to go and say, "We are going to
do this __ ." And he came, too.
R: But this was a little club for people who had been here before the coming of the
HM: Before the railroad. He is kind of darling. You have to go into it. I will not take all
this time to tell you. In fact, you have to get your own impressions of it. It is all
so kind of inbred and stupid, but it is also darling.
R: Well, I just wanted to know what they were. I did not know if they counted
themselves on. I have always been amused about this term pioneer, because
everybody here is a pioneer.
HM: Oh, no, dear, you are not a pioneer unless you came before the railroad.
R: Everybody who came here even once before everybody else feels that they are a
HM: We really do not. [Laughter.]
WM: Pioneers give me a pain. They call themselves pioneers coming down here to get
HM: Yes. The old pioneers crossed in covered wagons. Mine came from Ireland a
hundred years ago, and by God one of them was waving a flag at Gettysburg,
and another son got killed or something. Pa's people were all from the other
side. To hell with these pioneers. But there a few who think ...
R: No, but it is amazing. It struck me the other day.
HM: You are going to do a good book. I know you are.
R: Nobody is going to speak to me afterwards. Every time you read about
something it is always about the people who pioneered.
HM: Who cares if they speak to you. You are going to write a book. I have been
sitting on my ass for so long not writing any book I cannot stand it.
WM: What the hell are a bunch of local down here get out of They
put up with a few mosquitoes. __. I mean, when you get down to brass tacks,
HM: "What the hell were they?" That is what Bill said. When you think we named our
second daughter Melissa, she was a ... playing with Melissa when she was two,
so I said, "Gee, I want Melissa Muir for our second daughter. When she was
___ we said, "What do you want, Melissa, for your birthday?" and she said, "I
have not had any good __ in a long time." I thought, Oh, boy, that is my girl!
[Laughter.] We pull it out.
R: Everybody is
WM: Old Dan Hardy was the only pioneer, because he was up battling the__ devils
up Miami Avenue.
HM: Who was that, dear?
WM: Dan Hardy. He was the only man, the only pioneer, trying to keep ...
HM: He was so dear.
R: He was a
HM: Yes. He got in trouble. Charlie is still mad about something with the board.
Charlie is our old dear friend from way back.
R: Well, I know Charlie quite well.
HM: Yes, but we go way, way back. Bill and Charlie buy land together. Bill is his
lawyer. We were very close to Charlie. Charlie every once in a while would get
mad __ representing the Boy Scouts, and dear old Dan Hardy __ Oh,
aren't they old? I do not even say, "Charlie, you do not understand." I just saw
this man and his little old __ strong as a lion dying. He stood in the door and
said, "How long will ?" I will never forget him. And he died, see, and I love
him. I introduction. He was worth it.
WM: The old man __ die. He was just stumbling around.
HM: Oh, he will love you, and he worried about it. If he had lived I would have done a
WM: Polly, he said: "I hope I have not tied you. I am so dynamic." [Laughter.]
HM: I love him. __ And then the old girl--I loved her. She said __ Then when
the book came out they The children __ are probably getting now.
They sent big, absurd flowers with the whole ... It was just marvelous.
Anyway, it is quite a town.
R: Oh, it is marvelous.
HM: You are going to do a great one. If we can help you in any way, you have it. I
have those little notes, and I will have to get Mrs. Cole or Potter
R: Oh, do not do that.
HM: No, I can do it after this is over.
WM: Tell Polly __ Fisher.
HM: I have so much damn much material ...
[Break in the tape]
HM: Oh, that old man was a doll. He was the one that really died. He was riding his
bicycle in the grove, and somebody hit him. There appeared a story in the news
[that was] very facetiously done, and I was appalled. I went to the bank, the old
bank, and I saw Pole and Doris and said, "I just hate it." They said to me,
"Could you write a letter to the editor please?" I had never; that was the only one
I have ever written. I do not know why, but it is some sort of a thing that you are
a pro and write under your own name. Still, I am for it, but not for me. So I wrote
the letter, and I still have that in my file because what I got back was an invitation
from the managing editor, Jim Fallow, to try to come try to upgrade his
newspaper [laughter]. I did that for six years, and then he departed.
Really he was a great man.
R: Old man Reno?
HM: Great. Maybe if you use that anecdote and get him in there, that would be nice.
R: That is a funny story.
HM: Isn't that a good one? Don't you know, that is exactly the irreverent kind of thing
that Fisher would do. Irreverence just for irreverence is not so hot, but he was
doing it because he could not help it. Nevertheless, it is kind of sweet when you
WM: You talk about not being educated, Polly, that was an educated man. He read
R: Did he?
WM: I do not think he ever had a degree from anywhere. I doubt that he ever got
through high school.
R: No, but he went to work when he was about fifteen years old.
WM: But he read anywhere, all the time.
HM: What is the matter with that? Why is it going so fast? All of a sudden something
odd happened. Hold the phone. I think I know what I am doing, but maybe I do
not. That is going much too fast.
R: They have various speeds sometimes.
HM: Too much high fidelity. I like these low fidelity [machines].
R: What is the one thing that you feel that ...
HM: The one thing--we never would have achieved it if we had not done it tonight.
Milton Makiah is here, and Max Wiley is coming. Everybody has been in and
out all day. If we had put you off it would not have happened. It has happened, it
is a happening, you have it, don't you see? It had to be.
WM: I do not know if Polly got anything out of it.
HM: Well, I do not know either.
R: Well, listen, for the record I have to tell you what I propose to do about the library.
I have all types of papers if you want them. I __ where these tapes are
merely put in the library archives. They are not [subject to circulation]. You have
your choice: you could make them available to the public, you could make them
available to qualified scholars only, or you can have them, as they do with the
tape library at Columbia, closed; in other words, nobody can listen to these if you
want for twenty years or thirty years or whatever you want to put on. You should
say now so that it is part of the tape. So what do you want to close them for?
HM: You speak first, Papa, and I will speak second.
WM: Oh, I do not care.
R: You have not said anything really shocking or libel[ous].
WM: No, I have not, except for the __ tribe, and I like him. This man was my man.
R: I have discovered after having set up these tapes that my publisher will not allow
me to quote from anybody identified unless I have their written release. You
should know what this
HM: I do know; I am very aware of it.
R: I cannot say, "Helen said it was a nice day," without coming and saying, "Helen, I
am saying this _."
HM: Isn't that ridiculous. Who is the publisher again?
R: [E. P.] Dutton.
WM: How big a book are you going to write, Polly? How many words?
R: Well, I do not know. Oh, it is supposed to be 80,000 words or something.
HM: I am very fond of Dutton. I have their spring catalog.
R: Oh, you do? I have not seen their spring catalog. Well, I am going to shut this
off. There is no point in my talking. [Before I do,] I have to know: Do you want
this shut? Do you want this to be after your death or not or what?
HM: You say what you want. I know what I am going to put it. I am going to put that it
is shut for twenty years. If that does not satisfy you, you can make it more.
WM: That is fine. Twenty years is all right.
HM: We will be gone.
R: This tape is closed for twenty years [laughter].
[End of the interview.]