Interview with Russell Pancoast, March 30, 1967

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Interview with Russell Pancoast, March 30, 1967
Pancoast, Russell ( Interviewee )
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Miami-Dade County Oral History Collection ( local )
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Miami-Dade County (Fla.) -- History.


This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.

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Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
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This interview is part of the 'Dade County' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
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Fla. Pers. #13 f

March 30, 1967

Interview with Russell Pancoast

I: March 30, 1967, interview with Russell Pancoast, the grandson

of John Collins, at his architectural office in Coconut Grove

on Bayshore Drive. (pause) Well, okay then, I have

to check occasionally on my electricity. I have to say for the

purposes of the University, Dr. Laplame wants me to say, you

know that these will be given to the University and I have a release

that will clear it and if you want to they may be put in a, the

tapes will be put in a closed file. Now, you were so good to me.

I've talked with you twice and I have notes from the interview

that I took with you years ago. I don't want to waste your time.

You've been so good already.

P: Well, the time isn't so important. I'd rather do it regular and

you get what you need than worry about time. We've got all morning.

I: I think that I have, and perhaps I don't, but I think that I have the

main outlines of the stories about Mr. Collins, well first Mr.Lum,

and then Mr. Collins, and then Phil and Oscar and the plantations

and that whole business and if you have any sidelights they'll

probably come up in that conversation. I would like to start out

in the year when your father came first to Miami Beach and I

did a little homework last night and I have this book of Mr. Morrisons

which your father must have..

P: It mentions Miami Beach.

I: Yes. This book has a forward by your father and I gathered that he


seemed to approve of and be in favor of this book and it represented

the family...

P: It's the best one that I know of beyond other things'as far as we


I: Uh, huh. Well, according to that, it says says that Thomas

Pancoast visited Miami Beach farm in 1911, it doesn't say the month,

when Mr. Collins first mentioned the canal. According to this, as

I configured, he seems to have gone home and returned with his wife

when the family venture, which was Miami BeachImprovement Company,

was organized and incorporated in 1912. Can we start then with your

father and now you tell me-----it was two or three of you. Not only

your father, but one with your uncle.

P: That's right. They had their wives.

I: Well, let's start with the first visit. In fact, let's take us back

before the first visit. They were all up there in Merchantville,...

P: Merchantville, not Merchantsville.

It Mer-chantville.

P: No, Merchantville.

I: Merchatville, no n.

P: Merca tville.

I: Mercatville. And they were living there and they were, well I know

that your father was in this business connected with his--your grand-

father in this...

P: Yes, in another words, my grandfather financed this business.

I: Uh, huh. And your father...

P: My father ran it under the name of Collins and Pancoast. That's

the name of the firm.


I: And they sold agricultural ....

P: They sold coal and lumber and agricultural products and agencies

for automobiles...

I- Oh, automobiles too.

P: Yea, and hardware and just a general hardware and coal, lumber supply

store. Agricultural products, of course, along with it.

I: Well then, if you could take the start from there, then...

what was it that decided them to come down, and how did they come down,

and the whole thing?
P: John S. Collins had a friend, the original found/of th New Jersey

Horticultural Society. And he was a prosperous farmer who owned

several farms in the area. His home was in Morsetown, New Jersey,

not Mwrristown, Moorestown.

I: Moorestown, yes. It's near Philadelphia.

P: Which is five miles from Merchatville which is where my father

was located and where I was born.

I: It's all in the Philadelphia-Camden area.

P: Yes, that's right. It's east of Camden and he was fairly prosperous

and he had financed each one of his sons, and in this case, in my

case, his son-in-law, and put them in business at one time or another.
Lester Collins was not/XIN at that time. He was the youngest

son. He was put in charge of the farms.

I: That was for---

P: And after a while my grandfather came to Florida when he wanted to

in the winter and to do whatever else he wanted to do because he--

Lester, the youngest son, would take care of the actual day to day

farming. The oldest son, Arthur Collins, stayed in the old Collins


homestead in Moorestown and farmed out and had a nursery business

in addition to that and sent out catalogues and all those other

things, grew all kinds of nursery products, and sold them by mail

or by direct sale.

I: Parenthetically I must say that this extraordinary hereditary green

thumb that grows in your family--I have seen your brother L

thing and you and the whole--

P: And Marty comes along and she's good--

I: Is she good at it too?

P: Yes, yes, she's--she likes it and works at it. That's all the rest

of us do.

I: I never heard of a hereditary green thumb before--

P: No, not---well, we all like the soil I guess and we like to work

good at anything. Irving Collins was put into the same business

that my father was put into, except that he started with a store in


I: I see. Advanced, I think.

P: He sold coal, lumber, hardware, and farmer supplies, and he later

branched out and I'm not sure if at 1911 they had branch stores or

not in Remington and other places. And then my father had this store

in Richfield. Now, my grandfather had made a wild investment sometime

previously in mining--

I: Gold mining--

P: I guess gold and probably maybe precious stones. I don't know,

there's still some there, they tell me, semi-precious anyway, in

the Carolina mountains.


I: Carolin--well you see I thought it was the west.

P: And then he lost that, and he'd also invested in the Miami Beach

and the coconut venture in 1882 and then, of course, he lost that.

I: (laugh)

P: So with this background, in spite of his money-making ability

and his fairly prosperous life, he had invested a great deal of

his capital in these various businesses that his sons started.

So, when he decided that uh, to make things go properly in

Miami Beach, then he would have to furnish water in the '

and he would have to sprinkle the whole bowl in order to make

the trees prosper as they should and fruit as they should. And

he grew crops in between the trees and of course they needed water

too. And this was a very expensive thing. I don't know how

much detail you want me to go into about this stuff.

I: Well, I, I, I do think that I have in my notes the fact of what

he grew and it's explained in the books what he grew and some .e

I remember that he grew tomatoes and potatoes in between the avocado

and the mango trees.

P: Potatoes and onions and peppers and some other things, I don't know

what they all--all kinds of things.

I: But he was a really fantastic me.

P: That's right...

I: He just wasn't any dirt farm, he mad everything...

P: For instance, he was the pioneer in developing the large black bay

in New Jersey, and in the blueberry fields ..

I: Yea.


P: And I think I told you before about the fact that he wanted to send

pears to England and he knew that he would have to grow a special

pear in order to do that, and he proceeded to plant what was called

the kittle pear...

I: Well, that's still growing in this part of the family,... don't you


P: no..

I: cousins that have orchards up there in..

P: No, that's gone...

I: That's gone...

P: I think that there all .

Anyway, they did grow those pears and they were the first to be

sent by boat to England. You also knew about the early and late

fruits that were tests now of markets...

I: I think that is important because he understood the marketing the

fruits and that was part of his...

P: Consequently when he saw the black sandy soil and he was used to sandy

soil and he knew anything would grow in it if you could fertilize it

with water. And he saw that on the west side of Indian Creek. He

decided that he could grow there avocados which were...he did not

have any competition with in this country at that time. And he felt

that no frost would ever bother them across the bay although it might

on the mainland.

I: Well he was right there.

P: Well, yes, although frost has come to the beach once or twice in

my lifetime. But it didn't hurt the trees when it did. So he had

a premonition there that was good, probably, and his thinking was

probably sound. Then he...

I: When he first started this farming venture he was around seventy or

a little short of. Was he not?

P: Well, you have to work backwards.

I: Well, I know, but I've got the date, and I believe that he came

down here...

P: It's about right...

I: In 1904, and he bought some more of his land in 1909....

P: In 1907 he planted the first avocados.

I: Well, we can figure out the date, he was close to seventy.

P: Yes, that's right.

I: He was seventy-five in 1913, in 1909 he would have been near seventy.

P: Yes, that's right. So, he didn't have any more ready cash so he

had all these investments for his children, and so he went to them

and said he wanted the company so they,...individuals could loan him

money to put down here. And there was no question in his mind they

would have to do it...

I: Well, he had set them up in business..

P: That's right and he felt that this was his share regardless of

what happened.

I: Yea.

P: And ah, but they, ah, were a little conscious at this time of what

he might do. It was unfamiliar to them and perhaps unfamiliar to

him. So they said that they would like to come and see what their

money was going to be used for. And he agreed to that and then,

see Lester didn't have a wife at that time, but Lester and Arthur and

his wife, and Irving and his wife, and my father and mother, then


got on a boat. New York and 7. in Havana,

and then came back....

I: Flagler's Steamer from Havana probably?

P: Yes, you see,cause they were running a ferry then and this was Flagler's

idea to run the ferry to Cuba. This was the only reason for the

overseas highway, really, not to get to Key West but to get to the

coast of Havana so that they could run a ferry.

I: Well, of course the ferry went to Palm Beach it did not go to...

P: No, the ferry never went to Palm Beach at all in those days.

I: Oh.

P: It was...

I: So they went to Havana from Key West.

P: No, Key West,...the railroad wasn't there yet.

I: No, but they...

P: So...Nice Key then was open then and so they put a dock in for the

ferry ancthen the railroad got to Nice Key and later as they went

south of course they changed the ferry to Key West.

I: Well, now where is Nice Key?

P: Nice Key is at the end of Marathon.

I: I see.

P: Key Vaca.

I: I see.

P: Yea. That's where they were in operation -

So, I don't know this for a fact, but if the date works out,

and I can't see any other way that they must have gone to Nice Key


and then taken the railroad back up to Miami.

I: If the railroad was completed.

P: Well, it wasn't completed except to Nice Key...

I: Well then it was completed then I suspect.

P: Yes.

I: Well, this is the one date that I'm interested in. Now this, when this...

P: Everything is r. what time of year I don't know.

I: Well, would they have come in the summer. John Collins never did.

P: I doubt it. Cause he never wanted to come in the summer and so I

doubt if it was in the summer. Probably, it was probably in December,

or somewhere along in thereXXXXKJ in 1911, I don't know


I: If I, would probably been in this respect, it would have probably been

something that would have been the last flat season in the foods

business, in agricultural business.

P: Yea, it could have been November, December,...

I: November,... right in there.

P: Or it could have been January, February, or ... but that would

pu1 it another year in the past.

I: Yea, but I have a chronography which we can check up on. Alright,

then in this insepction party, let's see, there was

Thomas J. Pancoast and his wife Kathryn, ...

P: Yes.

I: Irving Collins, was he married at that time?

P: Yes.

I: Irving Collins, and his wife.

P: That's right.


I: Ahhh...

P: Arthur Collins..

I: Arthur Collins and his wife?

P: Yes.

I: Ahh...

P: Lester Collins.

I: Lester Collins and his wife?

P: No. He wasn't married at that time.

I: Oh. So that you had two married Collins's and two

unmarried Collins's. Four men and two women.

P: That's right.

I: So that this party of six, you don't know whether John Collins


P: He went.

I: He went?

P: Yes.

I: OK, so four men and two women and John Collins was already was

down there?

P: Yes, he was down there. He didn't come on this trip with them. I

don't know how he got there unless it was the usual way.

I: Well, he could have ..well, if he got here he could have taken the....

P: train down...

I: The train down, ... from down in Miami...

P: The train down from down in Miami .... that's what he done actually.

I: Well, take a train to Miami and have a boat take...

P: That's right.

I: Alright, then, this family group then came, alright, somewhere

in the fall, let's say in 1911. And how long did they stay?


P: I don't think they stayed over three or four weeks, if even that long.

I: Uh, huh. Your grandfather, then, had enough room to put them up and


P: They stayed in Miami.

Is They stayed in Miami?

P: They stayed, I think, in the House End Hotel.

I: Uh-huh. And then they went over by boat, obviously?

P: That's right. And they went by boat to look over this area.

I: I would like to...the reason that I am being so-picky about these

details is that I want to, in my writing I have plans to rather

skip over the earliest things, and not, you know,..,.

P: You don't want to make too much emphasis on some of these things,...

I: Yea, so in order to sorta begin the story, the emphasis of this

story begins when these seven people come down from..from Moorestown,

so I am trying to get in my mind something about Arthur and I'm trying

to ask in a few moments and put into rather a mosaic of what this little

peninsula looked like in the fall of 1911 when they came...that is the

description that I want to take. Now Arthur says, and besides, don't

expect that you have to agree with what he says.

P: No.

I: According to him, at that time, of course there was no bridge,

there was no road, there was no canal. Apparently the house of

refuge on 79th street had been either demolished,..

P: No, it wasn't demolished..

I: Was the house, there again, was the house of refuge at 79th Street

still standing in 1911?


P: Yes, yes it was. It was still standing in 1914 cause I saw it when

I came here.

I: Was it still functioning as a house of refuge?

P: As far as I know it was. As to what degree, I'm not sure.

I: You know there wasn't too much there except one fellow and a boat

and who maintained it then.

P: That I can't say. But I'm sure, yes, I'm sure that it was still

there, I know.

I: Yes, alright, so the house of refuge,...I'm just trying to see what

was there then,79th Street, a house of refuge, and the remains,

sort of a public scarecrow, of an old Tequesta Indian mound

that was later discovered rather near there.

P: Yea.

I: The one the Smithsonian...

P: That's right, but I don't think anybody..

I: Nobody knew about it. I'm trying to relate a picture, you know.
Here we are IHXKX/high over the beach in a metro helicopter then

to 1911 '

P: Well, virtually its a strip, a sand stretch along the oceanfront,...

I: Uh-huh.

P: Starting somewhere along what is now 63rd Street, or maybe south

of that a little. There were tall coconut trees and short coconut

trees along the sandy...

I: Leftover fromthe coconut groves..

P: That's right, and those have managed to survive and the others they

planted never did survive. You'd never know that they had been planted.


I: Yea, them was...

P: For some reason or another these have survived. A lot of them did,

and there were places where they didn't. But none-the-less you

could still see them in rows.

I: There were still in rows there! How about down around

south there...

P: No. These had been planted a good many years before this...

I: But they were planted..

P: So sometimes the nuts fell off the trees and started another tree

that wouldn't be in a row.

I: Uh huh.

P: A young tree, so they could still distinguish the rows.

I: The tall ones would have been in rows,...

P: Yea.

I: And the shor ones would have been...

P: q Now, from the pawning

operation that was started by the company that my grandfather was in,

headed by Latham T. Steele,...

I: Latham T. Steele and Henry Osborne.

P: Henry Osborne,...Henry Osborne,was, I'm not sure, he was one of the

early investors. I'm not sure whether he was active, not certainly

in the way that Phil was.

I: Well, of course Phil first collaborated this with your father that,...

with your grandfather, until....according to the story Phil and your

grandfather were in partnerships awhile, but Phil wanted to grow coconuts

and... grapefruit:..


P: This is much later. This is much later. We're getting all mixed up here.
John Collins
because HIXKX didn't even have any ideas about growing anything

else but coconuts back in 1882.

I: Yea. Yea.

P: And there were a lot of other people in this company.

I: Yes, there was quite a.....

P: I think there was sixty if I'm not mistaken, and it may say in the...

I: Somewhere in the....

P: Somewhere around sixty people in this company, I believe. The

greatest amount. I'm trying to say that some of the coconuts did

survive. Now south of fourteenth street would have been the

other grove that had been planted in 1880 by, ah-what's his


I: Rum?

P: No. ... and some of those trees were there too, see. So now

the coconut trees that we think of as in the city limits of Miami
Beach today are in that UKnI strip. Part of it.

I: That sandy strip KLK probably had a little dune on it, you know....

P: Not many dunes. This is the coming thing, I think. It wasn't dune

country, as you think of it at all.

I: Well, no-not like the northern dunes,...

P: No.

I: But there's always a, you know,...

P: There was a little high rise there...

I: Yea.

P: At the top of the beach and it gradually diminished back to the creek.

Now the position of Indian Creek today would be very similar to


...would more or less describe what was in that sand strip. It was

very narrow, for instance, at the south end and then widened a little

as it went north and so the sand strip was wider at some places than


I: Yea.

P: But they went back to a mangrove shore along the east side...

I: Indian Creek.

P: ...of Indian Creek.

I: And of course...

P: And Indian Creek had,...was deep in some places and was very shallow

in others and there were islands growing in it. *

And the shallow parts are important in this early ecology because

that's where the crocodiles lived on the fish life on the shallows

and the mullet were there by the thousands of course and other

fish that lived with them and the alligators could live on that mullet

and on the birds that fed on the fish,.. in the shallows again, see?
cable to
I: Well you see, there..would it be inappli-/ say that it's rather

like one of those little creeks that you find on inland that run

off of Florida creeks?

P: Very similar to that in a way, yes.

I: With the mangroves and the little islands and turtle grass and birds...

P: That's right, yes. Well now then

I: And no west of that...

P: West of that then we come into what we would now call highpotland...

I: Highpotland..

P: Well, but there was not rock in this case, it was on black sand. This

was quite deep, about eighteen feet deep.

I: Eighteen feet?


P: Yea.

I: Well that must have been the remains, the remains of what had

once been 1.

P: That might have been the oceanfront at one time, and the sand

was deposited there, you see.

I: Yea.

P: And the rock,..that part across the bay it varied a great deal

The south end by the, you know where the cut is, it might have been

five to seven feet deep and on up north it was deeper. I would

say at 41st Street where the farm was started it was probably about

eighteen feet down.

I: Well, underneath, way deep underneath this sand, this black sand,

was also a spine of rock on which...

P: Yes, uh-huh...

I: This is important.

P: The rock shelves under the bay generally and rises again. It might

have been a reef at one time and then as the land went down the

sand was deposited and the beach built up and then it was

done over again. And the creek was left in there so...

I: Yea.

P: Now ah---

I: Let's see the pine and palmatto land then was of various lengths, but

then it too sagged down again...

P: It sagged down...


I: ...mangrove on the western shore...

P: the Bob Ware Prairie out where it is today. In other words,

about where, I don't know how to describe it otherwise, ah...

I: Well, that's alright. It will be adequate. We have the maps, we

know exactly...

P: And then west it was very high in mangrove and if I'm correct, they

were as high of mangroves as Florida ever grew. The only ones I've

seen to compare with it are at the end of the Honey'River and Six Sharp.

I: Yea. I remember you mentioned that once before that you thought that

it probably was one of the most extraordinary stands of mangrove..

P: Well, for height anyway and for the extensive part that goes, there's

an awful lot of them. It can't compare with Shark River area for

extent, but it can for height...

I: Well, then...

P: ...south of here we never saw mangroves grow that high. There wasn't

good enough soil for them or something, I don't know. The rock was

too close to the surface in so many cases and you just can't get

any height with them.

I: Uh-huh. But of course with all that thick yuck...

P: Anyway, I have photographs of it here which I think might give you a

mental picture of it. Now if you want to turn that off while we look

at the photographs.

I: Well, that's alright. We'll have time. It's just not...ah...

P: Well now this is the one about the.....This is the way the sandy ocean-

front strip looked like. And the coconuts. You can't see the rows

from here, but you can imagine them...


I: Yes, well you would have to be standing in the.....

P: Yes, you see the young ones have come up since then and the

storms have knocked a lot of the big ones down so there's no

way to tell, and now there were some very tall ones like

this doesn't show, but I don't know how tall these are and I've

seen them much taller than that and these little fellows interrupted


I: It was...where Washington Arenue is now is what we're looking at


P: Well, anyway, this could have been right on the ocean...

I: Could have been right along...yea.

P: I think that that's Washington Avenue, I don't know what all

that's back in there...doesn't make sense to me...looks like water.

I: Maybe it's taken from Washington Avenue looking towards the sea.

Does that make sense?

P: You can't see the sea from the western edge of that coast. So that

that's not right.

I: Maybe it's mistitled.

P: Nevertheless, it could be. That's ...

I: Yea, that's what...

P: That's what disturbs me a little bit. It says 1910. Now who took

that I don't know. But I am pretty sure that the...

I: Incidentally, I'm going to come around behind you. This book that

you're showing me...

P: Oh, I'm sorry. Here, let me do it upside down.....You can come around

if you want to...


I: This book that you're showing me. Is..thei's a duplicate in the

Miami Beach Public Library, isn't there?

P: The man that made these photographs, a man named Mattlay..

I: Mattlay...yes, I know who he is.

P: ...Has all these negatives and he went to various people and

said I would like tI make you up a book. So you select out of my

photographs what you want...

I: I see...

P: And each one then might not be an exact duplicate....

I: Oh.


P: This side we have the mangroves that were toward the ocean and on

this side we have coconut trees.

I: Well this looks very much, except the Everglades Park...

P: I know...

I: Everglades State Park looks like now.

P: Yes, uh-huh.

I: Well, then in 19--, I didn't realize, no, this is 19--....

P: Nov, this is Alligator Hole, and we call it Crocodile Hole at

that time.

I: Uh-huh, well there wouldn't have been alligators...

P: Now this is very near the House of Refuge.


I: Yes, and it's also...

P: And you could go through this and up into here and get out of the

boat and walk over a little sand stip and you're on the ocean. Now

the closest point that you can get to with a boat without having

to wade through an awful lot of stuff....

I: Isn't this--correct me if I'm wrong--but, isn't this rather near

....wasn't that widened out to be near where the turnbasin, you know

that big basin where the present King Cole Hotel is now, you know

where that's found?

P: No, that's too far inland, you see. The King Cole....


P: Yes, that's right. The House of Refuge is on beyond that.

I: Yes, this is...this is just a few blocks north of what is now the


P: That's right.


P: Yea, .

I: And this is your tremendous mangos.

P: That's height was...

I: Yea...

P: This is....I did have one of a man standing along side of it.

I: I have a picture of that. I think that's in Jane Fisher's books...

there's a picture of a colored man with a big ax....

P: Yes, that's right...

I: ...standing underneath the...

P: Yea, and that gives you an idea of the height of the...

I: Yes, tremendous..


P: There's nothing in here to give you the scale, see.

I: Yea, tremendous. Well, get back to our party of

seven New Jerseyites who come down here for the first time in


E: Just one moment...let me finish with this...

I: Oh, excuse me...I beg your pardon.

P: This is where

I: Yea, that's the palmettos...

P: The palmettos and the pines would be a little further up here, and then

it ran low enough to come into the mangrove swamp and from there to the

bay which was a long strip...

I: What was Mattlay doing down here that early?

P: Now, I don't think he was and this is what puzzles me.

I: Oh.

P: Where he got these from I don't know, but it's possible that, I don't

really know that much, you know, about the party He may have

collected these- from others or he may have taken them himself, I don't


I: Alright now this then...thereagain, alright, now that we are at the

picture let's talk about it. That was my question. Down at the south

beach the mangroves had been chopped back to a certain extent to put

in this pier.

P: Well, just a little piece where they don't have...

I: The pier and the boardwalk...

P: Just a little here and there, that's as far as they went.

I: And, ah...


P: Then they came out here to get to deep enough water for the boats

to land.

I: And is this stuff in the background, is that...was it smithcaseena...

P: Smithscaseena...

I: That they found?

P: Smithscaseena, that's right.

I: And that would have been smithscaseena still in 1914hen ah...

P: That's right, still smiths...

I: Well that, well that fits the descriptions of them.. Well that would

have been the one, except for the Collins farm...

(changing sides of tape)

P: ...they had to catch the high tide in order to get them

I: So then to get back to our family party, which it must have been

kind of a holiday in you know there

was business...

P: That's right. They wanted to make...they wanted to make a holiday

out of this...

I: Obviously ,

and they even brought their wives along with it..

P: Oh, well this was a holiday you see, and they took a holiday since

they were going to come down anyway, let's make a party out of it.

I: Yea, so they all went and they stayed at the hotel in Miami and then

when they all would come over to the Collins' farm they would have

taken a boat across the bay...

P: A small boat now.


I: Yes, because the bay was shallow at that time and then they...

P: The farm had been in operation since 1907. They started the plant-

ing in 1907 and increased the planting a great deal in 1908.

I: Yea.

P: Now, ah, they had farm boats running back and forth, workboats,

you see.

I: But these were boats that would have landed in Miami, gone across

the bay, they were shallow draft dodgers...

P: Gone north across the bay...

I: North up around Indian Creek...

P: Northeast.

I: And all the way down....

P: 'A

I: To land at what must have been the Collins's dock at say...

P: 41st Street.

I: 41st Street. Well, that's where...near where the Fountainbleau docks

are now at 41st Street.

P: Very close to that. But then on the other side of that. This is where

the 41st Street bridge comes in.

I: Yea, yea. I see. Where the 41st Street bridge and then the people

would have gotten off and there was at that time...

P: At that time...this is the way history grows up and land gets planned
because/farmhouse was there and the dock was there before 41st Street

became a street at that location.

I: Uh-huh. Yes.

P: See? Then they it Pine Tree Drive.

I: Yes. That was the sheltered drive...

P: Because they put the...planted the trees there as a windbreak. They


planted a double row to make it a good one. And so there was...

I: I handy place to put boats.

P: All the traffic then ardthere's no fruit trees there

and nothing planted there. And that was the way to get back and forth

and that's where the farm people mostly go. And therefore it became

Pine Tree Drive eventually.

I: Now, see, this is just perfect. It's exactly what I want because

when people...people reading this book would presumably, you know,

be sitting at the Fountainbleau and they could look out and they

could see how the whole thing grows up...

P: Now, now this goes...

I: ...we think of cities...

P: Yea, yea, that's right...

I: We think of cities as being planned and laid out by people, but we

con't always, they grow automatically like that.

P: No, they....grow. Well, most of our cities in the United States

have grown around a port, because sailboats could land at it, and

they started, and since they didn't want to walk too far to their boat,

why, they...most of the development in those early days came next to

the docks. Alright now, this is a little bit because there was the

farm and so forth, and some of these things began to determine these

these things. And I think that Indian Creek originally had an outlet

at the south end, just south of Maroney Plaza.

I: Well, if it didn't have a popular outlet, I'm sure it had a drainage

to the mangroves, because you know how that goes.

P: Yea, but there were no mangroves on the oceanfront again, you see...


I: Oh, you mean you think it went to the sea.

P: It went to the sea, I think so.

Now, practically all of those did in the early days. It didn't come

down to a dead end, and I think that eventually the sea closed it up,

and it became a dead end. So, the thought was then, that if they could

put a canal in, the easiest place to start was the south end of Indian


I: Yea.

P: And then go to Miami about as straight as you could go...

I: And that..
P: And that would determine the position of EKHK Canal, till as far

back of that would become a road...

I: Which is now

P: And then if they build a bridge across the bay where would they

build it to a place where they had dirt in order to build a road

to get to the beach after they got over there? So therefore,

Collins' bridge got...

I: across at that point...

P: Across at that point and that turned into Venetian Causeway and so

the position of all those islands and the Venetian Causeway was determined
the end of
by the idea of building a canal from/Indian Creek.

I: When they built...

P: ..this is all I'm trying to say...

I: Oh, no, that's fine. That's just exactly the kind of thing, that's

just exactly the kind of thing, and that's the kind of thing that

books..that books don't tell you that...


P: Yea.

I: And this is what interests, well, it interests me, and I hope

to interest others. Tell me, as long as we are on the Collin's

Canal, when the Collins' Canal, when they did get around to digging

it and we'll have to come back to the family conference later on,

but when they did get around to digging it, it must have, it's

route must have lay mainly in what was rather low land...

P: All through mangroves, most of them, not all of them. The east end

again was high land. Due to the waves, you see?

I: Yea.

P: Oh, maybe ah, five or six blocks or seven or eight blocks, then it's

from there on.

I: Well, he cut it then rather than to dredge, I mean the choice he would

have had two choices, would he not? Collins, I'm speaking of. He could

have either dredged out Indian Creek all the way...

P: Oh, he would have had to dredged the whole bay cause this is where the

shallow part was. His boat always got stuck in the bay, not in the


I: Oh, I see.

P: They got stuck in the bay and after they got out of the north end of

Indian Creek, which was deep enough, they didn't have any trouble there.


I: Well, some of these...

P: At the dock at 43rd Street they had to dredge into the shore.

I: Yea, yea.


P: But they got down there alright. They didn't have much trouble.

I: So Indian Creek, despite of its size, was deep like Steamboat Creek...

P: It would not flow, I don't know what he had to do. I don't know what

the controlling depth was at that time. It was plenty deep enough.

I: The bay was the problem, so in other words...

P: The bay was the problem..

I: So they dug a canal south of the shallow spot in the bay.

P: Yes, that's true.

I: Is that correct?

P: Yea, in other words, yes. The idea was to build a canal down to a

place where there was...

I: A clear shot across the bay..

P: And that worked out to join the south end of Indian Creek. And it

would give a flow of water through there, too. I'm not sure that

this occurred to them at that time, but I noted...

I: Well, it must have resulted in that.

P: Yes, in fact it did.

I: Well, alright, back to the family place. It was a rather holiday,

and I'm sure that there was the spirit of adventure there, that these,

because your family, as I could gather from looking up the times in the

Encyclopedia Dictionary of American Biography, the Collins, except

perhaps for your grandfather, had stayed perhaps fairly close to

home. They were not, they were not tremendous world travelers, nor their

business interests were all located within a thirty or forty mile area.

P: Yes, that's right..

I: ...of Moorestown, or Camden.


P: Yes, that's right.

I: So, it must have been quite a jaunt for them.

P: Quaker settlements grew up around Burlington.

I: Uh-huh.

P: They could get to that on the Delaware River, you see, and they

came before William Penn up there and...

I: Yea, I know. That must have been...

F: ...and he developed on the other side of the river more. You see,

these Quaker people had settled in this area on the New Jersey side

up around Burlington. Moorestown not very far from Burlington and

they kinda spread out that way and occupied all that land there and

finally farmed it.

I: I know that of course the Collins family was completely Quaker from

the way ...from way back, but was Irving Pancoast also?

P: Not, there was no Irving Pancoast.

I: I mean Thomas

P: Yes.

I: He was also a Quaker...

P: That's right. John Pancoast, the first immigrant, had a letter

from a meeting in England introducing him to the meeting in Burlington.

I: I see.

P: He came somewhat later than them and Francis Collins who was the first

Collins to come, but in the same area. His wife had died, and it had

almost killed him, going back to the things he had left here. So...

I: So, but it's interesting.

P: Yea. Anyway, he came over with his children, cause his wife had died,


and he wanted to get out of the country, except his oldest son, who

had been indentured to somebody in London to learn a trade as they

often do back then. So he didn't bring his oldest son and his oldest

son later came to America, but landed in Virginia and his father

didn't know that...

I: That his son was...

P: ...that his son was also in the United States, or what became the United

States, but he found it out and he went north and missed the family

and on the way back he drowned in the Potomac River.

I: Oh, for heaven's sakes.

P: Now isn't that something?

I: These old family stories, you know my husband is the director of

k, of Salem witches, and you know, you get kinda

off on these things, they're so...

P: So far as we know, there's no Pancoasts. We don't think he had any


I: Uh-huh.

P: We're not sure of this, but we don't think he did. So we possibly

know that all the Pancoasts in this country came from that one.

I: From that one heir. Well, ... I think, I'm sure that would be true,

because Pancoast is such an unusual name and such a stout old English

name and it's so extraordinary.

P: It's spread all over the country now. You'll find it everywhere. There's

some in the telephone books here.

I: Huh. But there no relations?

P: No relations whatsoever. You find them in Florida, you find them...

there's a football coach over in Tampa, and find them in California,


you find them in Arizona, ". there all over the place now, but

Not very many again. It's not...

I: It's an unusual name, extremely unusual. Well, alright, so we go back

to 1911 and we have this group of a family of, and I gather from later

sort of internal evidence, this was as families go, a close knit one.

And they must have been...

P: Certainly, financially they were, you see. And they were close knit


I: Yea, I mean, they were just, you know how, they weren't at each other's

house every minute, but I mean the very fact that they would all take

their wives together shows that they got along well.

P: That's right.

I: So. Were they all serious practicing Quakers?

P: Yes.

I: Alright, so here we have seven practicing Quakers.

P: And their wives were too.

I: And their wives. No children obviously. They'd been left back.

P: Yea.

I: Seven practicing Quakers taking the trip down there and coming in
November, when, let's say, when the weather would have/been bad up there.

P: The funny part of it is that you used the word practicing with Quakers

when you wouldn't use it with practicing Catholics. Now why do you do that?

I: I simply don't know.

P: I don't know. I think I'd look into that, cause I don't think they were

members of the Quaker meeting, but I don't know if you would call them



I: Course, by practicing I meant people who were not...

P: Members of the meeting.

I: They were members of the meeting. In other words, thepewere

plenty of Quaker people who were Quaker ancestors.

P: But if you say practicing, you may mean, I think, that they were

ministers of the meeting or they were...

I: They were members in good standing in the congregation of Pittsburg.

P: That's right.

I: Now for instance...

P: I don't know why this happens, but I'm...

I: Your children are of Quaker ancestry, but as.far as I know, they

do not belong to a meeting.

P: Tbey do not belong to a meeting. But I wonder why that word practicing

comes in and connects with Quaker somehow. I've noticed it before.

I: Have you?

P: Yea. I don't know why it does.

It Well, there's so much of language that's in the book.

Well, this was rather a gay party of holiday Quakers and they must have

been in their lives, generally speaking, rather solid citizens.

P: Oh, yea.Very well respected.

I: And.respected, and-so it was really a holiday.

P: Yes, that's right.

I: Crossed with a business, well being Quakers, they would have of course

wanted probably to combine both because with a Quaker conscience maybe

you couldn't just run off to Florida, but if you had business, ah..or

am I being...

P: Well, I don't know whether to get back into this. We're getting too far

back, I think. There are two practices of Quaker meeting. Two meetings.


I: Yea.

P: One is the conservative crowd and the other is the non-conversative

crowd and this family all belonged to the non-conversative. And so,

they might have a piano or give their children piano lessons and

they make good grades and so forth. And they did it. And so they were

...they were on the more liberal side, see? So, I don't want

to give you the impression that they were staid people who were

Quaker proud, cause they did not. Although my grandmother did.

I: But they were staid, say compared to Carl Fisher, who came down

with hisyachts and people later on.

P: Yes, I daresay they never thought of owning that. But they were fairly

prosperous and they had of economy.

I: Yea. When they came down here...your mother must have...ah...somebody

must have been a talker in your family. I don't know who, but somebody

must have and they must have told you what it was did they

feel about him when they came down and saw this and what was their

impression of the whole thing...and...and..ah...

P: Well, the good part of it is that the women had to...the women didn't

talk much about it to me evidently, but my dad, of course, is the one

that caught fire on this thing and my mother had to tool along, or else

she never would have come down to this God-forsaken place, you know what

I mean?

I: Yes, well it's's a horrible place.

P: but it wasn't so bad in Miami, as it

had about eight or nine thousand people in it, but over there it was

just a wild country with the mosquitoes and sandflies, just unbelievable.

We don't even conceive of what they were like.


I: I know, your brother said that if you went out with a white shirt.on,

it would just turn gray.

P: That was so. Anyway, they looked over the farm and they decided that,this

is what I understand is important I think, looked over the farm and they

decided that there might be some prospects to the farm, but they didn't

want to pour a lot of it because they didn't think the prospect

were good enough. In other words, they had their own prospects and

their own business and they would rather put their money in that.

But I think I told you this before, but these New Jersey people thought

that when hot weather came that the haven, the escape from it, was

the oceanfront.

I: If only to get away from the sandflies.

P: And a lot of them, now I'm talking about in the north...

I: Well, I know, but about down here.

P: No, but up north I'm talking about, they'd spend, have a cottage

or rent a cottage on the oceanfront and they usually took the ocean-

front locations directly on the river, but went past Merchantville,

Moorestown, and Mount Holly, and went right on out to Barnegat Bay,

and then there's a little place called Seaside Park and that's where

they had a cottage cause it's easy to get to. And they thought this was

the ideal escape for a vacation and hot weather. When they came to Miami

and found it wasn't on the oceanfront, they were shocked. They thought,

you know, from the geography that they would be on the ocean, but they weren't.

And they thought well it's hot down here in the summer and nobody could

stand it and they would all want to go to the beach and although Smith's

Casino was there and you could go up by prairie at that time, nobody

could have a cottage there. Nobody had any cottages and there was no

place to stay and they thought there was a good market then for all kinds


of people from the north who'd come down for winter vacation and

go to the oceanfront. They'd rather be on the ocean than on the bay.

They were sure of that.

I: Yes, particularly if it was at that time.

P: This is where the whole thing starts right here, see, in this idea.

I: -And that results...

P: This is the concept of shall we put the money in this farm or shall

we put it into real estate for people to build over here and why

did they think of that. Because of their background I think.

I: And they were already, as far as you could tell, thereagain, this

is your personal view,..

P: That's right.

I: We can't turn the time back, but as far as you personally think this

is what they talked about when they went back to the hotel in the


P: There is nothing personal about it again, because they thought it

out and decided they would be willing to give my grandfather money

from the businesses if he would build a bridge across the bay

and they could open the real estate deal as well as the farm.

I: So you mean the bridge was contemplated even before the canal?

P: Well, at the same time. Could have been...

I: Well, now there again. This is just a minor discrepancy, but let's


P: I'm not sure when the canal was thought of first.

I: Well, it...according to Nash's book, it says that Thomas Pancoast,

this must have been the first trip in 1911, came down.

P: Well, it says he did, it should have said that...


I: He and the family. Alright then. Now we've cleared up that discrepancy.

He then, apparently, went home says he went home and then returned

with his wife and family when the Miami Beach.....

P: Well, they all went home. They all went home, you see.

I: Well, it...

P: But it was determined then that who was going to come down and what they

were going to do.

I: Well, alright then, they must have decided the whole thing right then

and there. I mean the outline.

P: Well, there might have been a little left-over decisions, but nevertheless,

this is the

I: Yea. Yea.

P: ...concept that was made.

I: Well, they must have been...

P: Well, my grandfather agreed on all this. He wasn't...he said yes,

he thought this was right. He's quoted as saying yes, this could

become another Atlantic City. Those were his words. But, in my opinion,

it's the family that decided that it should become a real estate

development in preference to the farm development. My grandfather's

heart was in the farm development.

I: Yes, of course. I ..

P: So then.-..

I: Well, there were at that time three sons and one son-in-law who came

down to make the visit. Why was it of alirts, there were four men

who couldn't come down. Why was it Th&mas Pancoast, rather than the


P: He and one other were the only ones willing to come.


I: Well, let's go back. Why were they willing, then?

P: Well, I think that they liked a challenge. I think that this is, or

was. I think that they were adventurous enough to want to do it.

I: Yes, I think that...

P: They were established in a small town. He was director in a bank

and so forth and so on and ah...

I: Well, hw long...

P: ...there really wasn't any need for them to move out...

I: That's...I'm sure there was no reason. That's, well you see,

this is what interests me cause we're coming now into one of my

questions which is the psychology of your father and ah...

P: My mother, too, don't forget...

I: Well, alright, your mother...

P: She has...she would have the worst of the pioneers and this always happens

and people don't realize it. No women wanted to come i, in those

days. Lots of men did, but most women did not.

I: Well, alright, now old was your father then in 1911, approximately?

P: I'll have to check.

I: Oh, I think I probably have something.

P: I probably don't know the year.

I: Well, alright. He certainly was no baby. He was not of an age that...

P: No, but he was a young man.

I: Somewhere between thirty and forty, maybe?

P: Forty, I would say, maybe something like that. You'll find out.

I: Alright, if you...

P: Check it.


I: OK, well I think I can check it cause I must have a birthdate

for Thomas J. someplace.

P: If you don't, I do.

I: Alright, let's assume that he was somewhere around thirty-five or forty.

P: Yea.

I: If you are of that age and he already had at least two children didn't he?

Or was his other born?

P: He had three children, three boys.

I: Three boys, it's Arthur, Norman, and Russell. Alright, so here he is,

he's a bank president, he's got a...

P: He wasn't the president.

I: I mean the bank director,he's got the...

P: Well established in the town...

I: Well established in the town...

P: They had one commercial, hardware, building-supply store

I: Alright, I mean, but let's talk about this. To me this is interesting.

Alright, now, here he is the director of the bank, he's got two children

who are probably in school or starting in school. He's settled, he's living

he's a member of a family that's stayed in the same place for two hundred

years. Why should this man move out? He must have fallen in love with

this place and your mother too. So, what happened to them? What struck

them all in this place?

P: Well, I don't know, but, I don't think...

I: I mean it's not quite common to pull up your stakes that way...

P: I know, this is what always suprises me. But the rest of the family

would not. They were ...

I: That's it.


P: ...they would not...and it was decided that Irving Collins who has the

hardware, same business in Morristown, could run the other store so that

business would not disappear. So that took care of the economics of the


I: Did they all invest approximately equally and, well they found a company

and they must have...

P: I'll look up that in those books of mine. I think there was an incentive

there and the couple that was moved out were given certain shares because

they had to come down and do the work. They were given certain shares

they did not finance.

I: Yes, well of course, well they would have gotten an extra bonus doing


P: Yes, that's right.

I: Still, your father was not a poor man...

P: My mother got some too, you see, as well as my father.

I: Well, what kind of people were they that they would pull up what had been

to some people, let's not put it this way because I don't necessarily

think it, but they are of the type of people that some people would have

considered kind of stick in the mud, at least not just as solid...

P: Yes.

I: All of a sudden here are two people who are willing to upstake and go

in an age when most people are tending to settle down. What kind of people

were they that would want to do this kind of thing?

P: Well, I think that America has been made up of people like that for a long

while. Why did the original John Pancoast come over. It might have

been economical, might be, I don't know, and ah religious persecution.


I: Well, yes.

P: All kinds of things. But in this case they did try to . I'm

sure, and they...the prospect of the size of the thing and the challenge

and so forth. And, ah...they really their lives and

not too excited about that.

I: Well, I mean, I felt...cause I felt that this must have entered John

Collins too, cause John Collins is a respectable merchant and he's

made and lost money, but even when he lost money he provided for his


P: Yea, but he didn't stay and invest his money up there. He was going

into all kinds of things too.

I: Yea, but he was more of a...he was more ing, think perhaps than...

P: Yea, but he wouldn't let his wife be bearing. He made her stay home

all the time when anything came up.

I: Oh, you mean during the winter when...

P: the early days he would just pack up and come to Florida, he

wouldn't think. I'll be gone. I'm going to Florida. And then he would

go. No women involved for a while and no invitation to come for a while.

Then after a while, he did. He had one unmarried daughter, Mary, and

he would bring his wife and the unmarried daughter down later, down to know where the barefoot man came from?

I: Um...I'll have to look it up.

P: Just south of Palm Beach...ah...

I: I don't know...Dania? Oh, no, not Dania.

P: No, Uh-uh. I want to say Hommossassa, but I can't think of that.

I: Well, I've got a map and Ill look it up. Then his wife would stay there

while he...


P: So they would all come down there. They had a cottage they could

all get into then. I don't know if he built it, rented it, or what.

But they did come down here in the early days, and ah...after he had been

down here some. They didn't come on down here then until after the farm

was started and then they would come to the House End Hotel. See?

I: And they allstayed at the House End Hotel?

P: That's right.

I: The thing that you think it would be unfair to say that

John Collins was a good businessman, at least an enthusiastic businessman

all his life, as he was able to make money and often people who make

it lose it. But don't you think that it might have been...

P: He was somewhat of a gambler, of course, and irresponsible.

I: Don't you think that it might have been that there's a kind of...

isn't it hard when you come from the north and come down here

and's just so glorious, it kind of overwhelms you.

P: Coming from cold weather into warm weather, it always impresses you.

I: Well, see what we have here, I don't think, I mean if you

were a Quaker of the type and the era of which most people were. Perhaps

you wouldn't, your Quaker conscience wouldn't let you just come down

to Florida and lie in the sand the way people do. But if you came down

to Florida and had a bonafide business venture, this would allow you a

little bit to have your cake and eat it too in the highest sense of the


P: There's certainly plenty of people that have done that. They have retired

or they have changed their occupation and come down and have been challenged

by the things around them. They can't stay still. Some people just can't.


They've got to move. They've got to do something. They can't just lie

around. That never occurred to them.

I: Well, don't you think that mi ght have somewhat been the same feeling that

your father had. He came down here and he would love to stay and here's

a budding business...I mean....

P: That's right. He felt this was a challenge and there was a great opportunity.

No question about it.

I: Yea.

P: He must have liked it. He never would have decided to come...

I: Alright then, to get back to L,

Finally, then, he came down in 1911 on the big trip. Then, in 1912...

P: Then they were back to make arrangements to leave town.

I: Yea. He came back and brought...were you then in the Collins thing?

P: I was left up north. They knew that there was no good place to stay here

and they were going to bring the youngest boy Norman with them and they

hesitated to break up my school year and I think also they had problems

enough. So they found that they could put me with an uncle and aunt on

the Pancoast side.

I: Yea.

P: The name wasn't Pancoast, it was Holmes, but nevertheless, Dad's sister

agreed to take me for that school year.

I: Which school, I mean that would have been the year of what school year?

I don't mean grade, but what year would it have been?

P: This would have been...they came down in 1912.

I: 1912, yea, alright. Now that would have been then May?

P: Then, so they left me up there. What time of year they came in 1912

I don't know...


I: Well, if it's the funny type of school year it must have been...

P: That fall, then, I went to school at the same school as 1912 and


page 1




P: And I'm going to make a note too, because I'm going...

R: This is the uh...

P: find out...

R: I have to make a note...

P: ...when Esther Hines was married, uh, came back on his honeymoon I'll know

exactly when I came to See here's where my memory fails,

'cause I think I only had part of a year out there on my uncle's farm, and

that doesn't work out with the 1912.

R: Yes, there is a discrepancy there, but I think that probably you're

memory not of the farm, but of the school year would be more accurate, that

you started eighth grade in New Jersey...

P: this is, no question about that...

R: You started eighth grade in New Jersey, and you completed eighth grade

in, in Miami here. I think I remember you said, you told a very amusing

anecdote about how you were the northern kid and, and all these other kids,

and you had to prove yourself, Paul...

P: Gee, I walked out the door to see where I was and, and was met by a

small gang right away, and called me a and started

to beat me up, and uh, any quicker, I started to fight.


R: Well, I guess you got out alive all right...

P: I got out all right, and I know who those people were...two of 'em.

R: But did they later become friends?

P: No, we were never friendly, but we of course tolerated each other, and

page 2


we grew know kids lose their savage angle sometimes, they...

R: That does bring up a point. Do you think that there was a great deal

of...particularly later on...of the thing that came this successful, without

mentioning any names, do you think that generally speaking that there were

a number of people who became...particularly Miamians on the mainland...who

became resentful of the success of the, of the beach enterprise?

P: Oh, possibly, but I don't think that was the big thing, because it was

all part of the growth, and they were all, uh, growth minded, you know what

I mean? So any...

R: Sometimes in Key West, you know, if somebody from outside of Key West

or particular that era too... if some damn Yankee comes down,

and is very well, or doing crazy stuff over on the beach, but

sometimes it might happen that, that with the success of the project that,

that they would become resentful, of course, perhaps, they were and you never

knew it.

P: Yea, I wouldn't know, you see, as it were, I wouldn't know, but I don't

think there was too much there, because, uh, people were coming

in all the time from the north and from everywhere else, and this wasn't

the only growth, it was going westward and it was going Northward, but uh,

so all these things were happening all at once, particularly later on. The

early part, why we just thought we were crazy.

R: Yes, well in a sense, you can see how it was. There was so much extra

land, and why should you...

P: We called it the Folly.

R; Yea.

P: They, they just thought he was crazy.

R; Now, let me ask you another question. With...

page 3


P: What would happen in hurricanes? was one or two...


R: Well there haven't been no hurricanes in Monroe...

P: you know...we were crazy, cause hurricanes would, no

covered the beach at one time.

R: Mmm, and of course your grandfather had not experienced a hurricane...?

P: No, but you could see the, you could see some big trees, though that

had been washed over, so you know, if you looked you could see...

R: Well, maybe they didn't wash up...

P: But uh...Monroe didn't realize what he was saying either, because the

water never so deep on the beach as it does in Miami,

R: Yes, because of the_

P: Because of the that'sright.

R: Uh, all right.

P: Nevertheless, uh, we were concerned about the water washing over,

because he was right...

R: He was right.

P: be concerned about it.

R: Yes. But that the Pancoast Hotel, it (laugh) couldn't (fare) too well,

I mean...

P: That's right.

R: a hurricane. Well, there hadn't been many hurricanes at that
particular time anyhow, it / a period of about ...

P: But, but Monroe knew about'em...

R: When Monroe did, but I mean, your grandfather...between 1900

and 1926, there were not very many hurricanes.

P: He hadn't experienced any...trees were still there and so forth and

page 4


so on; it looked pretty good to him.

R: Um, what...may I ask a question...was your family or at least certainly

John was very clever about the developing of with

an idea to the New York market, so the principles of marketing...

P: Well, now this is remarkable, because most people didn't know what

avocadoes were at all, and you'd think that if he was going to plant

avocadoes, he wouldn't have any problem selling them at all if

he could get people to use them. The idea of planting early avocadoes and

late avocadoes, you'd think wasn't part of the picture at all, because the

big part of the picture was to develop a market at all for them.

R: But your grandfather certainly understood the principles of marketing

and I cannot believe...

P: Well, he sure did that all right...

R: I cannot believe that his son-on-law and grandson sons did not too.

So here is the problem. Here you've got a beach property. All right,

there is a railroad to Miami, but it's way at the end of nowhere, and

these, this family there again are Quakers from a small town.

P: Yea.

R: Where did they expect to get their customers from?

They themselves were not, I don't believe, correct if I'm wrong...

P: Customers...they expected to send them up, send them north on the


R: Yes, but, is that... ?

P: The same with oranges and grapefruit, they wouldn't) be eating oranges

and grapefruit up there...

R: The oranges and grapefruits you send up north, I'm talking

about customers for real estate. You're...

page 5


P: Oh, for real estate?

R: Your families weren't, your family was a very stolid, old line family,

I know because we have the same background of ourselves in New England.

P: Yea.

R: But, these people were not social mixers. They would not go to Newport,

they would not travel in the wealthy, uh, what was the jet set of the day.

P: No.

R: Where then did they expect people, to get...this was a, for wealthy

people come down in 1912 and 1914, come all the way to Florida

just to li ve for a few months. Where did they expect that they would

to get these live real estate customers to build these ?

P: I don't know how much history they knew, but, uh, people from the north

had been coming down from 1850, and they...

R: Society, wasn't it?

P: Well, right, but coming down in great numbers in north Florida,

and even when they had to come by boat, go up the St. John's by boat, in

that area, and they were coming all the time; now, here we're really

getting down to where it was different, and they thought now that it's

accessible, everybody will want to get away from the north if they can.

R: Because they wanted to themselves?

P: Yea, sure. Why go through this cold weather... well look at this beautiful

place with the palm trees and the weather is beautiful, and so forth

and so on. Why not away from it? I don't think...they didn't seem

to have any doubt at all about that people would want to come down the

railroad and so forth.

R: Well, well that bothered me, because that would have been my doubt, and

of onurse this is when Carl Fisher later appeared in the picture; it was

page 6


Carl Fisher who attracted a certain type of clientele to the beach that later

was, I believe was very instrumental in determining what later happened to it.

P: Yes.

R: But, um, all right.

P: Fisher was a good advertisement. I think I've told you this (before)

anyway. He was a...he was a, he knew how to merchandise his

(Our) thought would have been to be something nice, and have people want it

because it was nice.

R: Like the Pancoast hotel?

P: Well, whatever we did. This is, this something I practiced architecture

a good many years. But you just go so far if you don't have a merchandiser.

If you want to really go big, and this is your idea of size, and work by

to make a lot of money...if that's your primary motive, you better learn to

advertise, and learn to get public relations wherever you can get them and

so forth and so on. Now this, this Fisher had this inherently in his blood, and

he knew how to do it. And we recognized that when Fisher began to develop

in what he did. So that unowned land by our family and by Fisher which was

just swamp land was still

not owned by either company and we couldn't clear up those swamps, and Fisher

probably should be and we probably should be, but we didn't .So we went together

on a fifty-fifty basis shortcoming.

R: Yea.

P: They shortcut on a hell of a lot of land, though, when they get


R: Why did Har-...?

P: ...between them, but we didn't market it. We let Fisher market it, and

we were fifty percent over, see, and we did a lot of the work, and directed

the work and had as much to do with it as he did

page 7


except the selling, and we said he's the seller, we'll let him sell it..

So the the official organization, which he build up with

little state men and so forth with the advertising and all that. They

did the advertising, they did the selling see and it was all

under his name. So a lot of people never knew that we were the fifty

percent owners of the bayshore land.

R: Well my...this brings me to, uh, to two points. First of all, this is

a minor question to clear up. The, uh, I remember you once described to me

what part of the deed of your grant went from the ocean shore to the lily

pad ...

P: Well that was a, that was a description of the deed that, uh, Field

got from a piece of land he bought way north of here, and I don't know

where it was...

R: Well, no, it, it doesn't make any difference, _on the beach.

P: It could have been just south of Fort Lauderdale or it could have

been north of Fort Lauderdale where there was fresh water and where the

inland waterway is now.
R: Well, but I, as I understand, the land/that, that, even in the state of

Florida laws at that time, the could not give you the title, the original

title must not have included much of any submerged land; it was probably

to the high tide line...

P: He didn't want to buy it, anyway...

R: Well, now...

P: He, what he wanted to buy, what Field wanted to buy to put coconuts on

was, was only along the beach.

R: That's right, but the land was there, he had to take

the whole. bit, but what I'm, what I'm saying now is that when the Miami

Beach Bayshore Company...when it filled up considerably into the bay, therefore

page 8


you must have bought submerged land from the II Board.

P: We bought it from, uh, from uh from Field.

R: You bought the land from Field, but did Field...

P: Field owned a lot of that personally, see, where, where we bought, and

when the company went defunct he still held title to this area that we


R: Uh huh, the alley but who had, did, did Field, who had bought the

bay, submerged bay bottom land, that's my question?

P: Well, uh, owned some of it, and Field some

in their own names.

R: And, and, and was all the bay bottom land that was later filled in by

the mainland beach bayshore company, was it all, had all that been purchased

or been granted from the state of Florida before the Pancoast

came in?

P: Most of it, and there might have been some exceptions. Most of it

was owned by Field or or there might have been others in the picture,

but not many.

R: Well you know what I mean, nowadays we think about ; it's

kinda of a dirty word. In those days of course it was not, and it was...

P: They didn't even know where the shoreline was, you see, because the

mangroves through the years had grown out some places, and in some; there was

a meandering line...

R: Yea, that's what they...they still call it the Meander Line...

P: Yea.

R: Well, I was just wondering how the title to the bay bottom was...because

you see you had not only your bay bottom, the Collins Fisher interest by

this time, the Miami beach bayshore, had not only a question of the

page 9


the bulkhead line...

P: That's right.

R: but, the areas, because obviously the bay was at that= time

very shallow, and the dredging that the Miami beach bayshore, and the

Fisher company...

P: bottom of the bay...

R: ...was what made the bay so deep all over there, and I just wondered

what, how they had squared that if there was any...

P: They probably had to go to the II Board to get permission to...

R: But you're not familiar with that aspect...

P: No, only, one little detail which may throw a little light on it, it may

not, and that is that uh, beyond the bulkhead line or beyond the meander

line, uh, well within it would be Bell Isle, which was mangrove ..

R: That was just a mangrove...

P: It was an island actually with a little shallow water between there and

the mainland of Miami Beach.

R: But that's Key; it's just...

P: It's just off of it, see. Now, uh, when it was finally decided that Bell

Isle would have to be developed, you couldn't come across that small island,

you had to fill that too. They bulkheaded it and filled it, and when they

did they deepened the water between the island and the mainland of Miami

Beach, and then the II Board said you don't own that island...

R: Because it,...the channel...yea.

P: Because of the deep water you see, and we made the deep water, and then

we had to go to Tallahassee and bid the island in in order to get it.

R: Yea, yea, I remember that story... Nash or something.

P: So, that's right, so it means that, that uh wherever they established

page 10


the bulkhead line, the meander line, and uh, why from there on they dug deep

water, the chances are they could never own

at least couldn't use the land, it would become, it would...the title of that

land would be in the, in the in the state, and no doubt they

had to go to the state to get permission to dig out, but there was no problem

in those days, because...

R: Well, no, of course, there was no, there was no shortage of bay land...

P: They just, they just thought this was a wonderful ...

R: ...Sure. No, no, I, I don't mean to...I mean there are people...that's

one part I want to...

P: We never even thought about the ecology of the bay, it never even

occurred to us...

R: well, no, ; it was unknown.

P: Well it was just part of the, great part of conquering a wild part of the

United States which was that area,...

R: Even if it had occurred to you, there was not ...

P: ...and it was delayed a great deal down here, because Florida was late

being improved.

R: Listen, there was not a scientist in the United States, even if you

had been concerned, there was not a scientist in the United States that

would have paid any attention to your,'s only when you begins to

; it's only when you begin to run short of things...

P: That's right, then we begin to be concerned about ...

R: But, I, I wanted to clear up this point, because a lot of people talk
and everything
about how it's just piracy and rape/and how they took these public lands, but


P: Oh no, these...

page 11


R: ...the state was more than glad, they would have given you the whole


P: Yea, I think so, yea. And I don't think they came beyond their

meander line to ...I think they followed it as best they

could; it was some problem, but...

R: Well there were certain technical problems...

P: That's right...

R: in connection with it too...

P: but, uh, they didn't, they didn't go out in the bay, but the people
out there
who built the islands /that was something else.

R: Well, to get back to...

P: ...but we didn't build those islands, and...

R: No, that was later given up to another development company...

P: later...

R: and of course they would have had to go to the II Board...

P: and we didn't see anything wrong with it when they did it, I mean...

R: No, no...

P: ...but we didn't do it ourselves...

R: No.

P: ...we expected that, what we thought was that Miami was...

R: Well, you had plenty of land, to uh...

P: ...owned by people that were there.

R: You had penty of land too. Well to get back to what you were talking

about just before about how, how the, the Pancoast Collins family understood that

Fisher was the advertiser. See this started out my talking about where you

were going to get the customers and um...

P: I don't think there was any doubt in my mind that people would want to

come to Fri in i r; never thought about coming in the summer.
to Florida in the winter

page 12


R: Is that your telephone?

P: Yea.

R: I'll turn this off.

continuing after interruption:

All right, it's my contention, I would like your opinion on an opinion

which I am now going to venture, and which you may trample on at your

pleasure. It's my contention that, my feeling, that in a very curious way,

now we're coming out to Carl Fisher and the Collins Pancoast family,

corporations; it's my contention that dissimilar though these people were

and probably although the relationship was always a cordial, a friendly

and honorable one, that, as far as personality is concerned you probably

couldn't find two more unlike sets of people as they were.

P: That's right.

R: But, and it's to everyone's credit that the relationship was conducted

in such a good way, but in this very curious way, just as you must have

the sun and the moon, the tides and the opposite, but the two were necessary,

that Fisher not only for his money...

P: That's right...

R:'s not only Fisher's money; everybody said oh the Pancoasts just

want Fisher's money, I don't think that's true, I think...

P: No.

R: ...that they did need Fisher's money, they needed his ...

P: That's right, we borrowed from everywhere we could as far as that goes,

and if we could sell a piece of land to him and get money, why we did.

R: But, Fisher was a wild, erratic, uh, he was extravagant, y'know I...

extravagant in, in this sense of the word, I've been following up a lot on

page 13


Fisher. He was extravagant in the dictionary definition of synonyms; he was

inordinant, violent, absurd, foolish, fanciful, exagerrated, excessive,

high-priced, prodigal, vulgar and ridiculous.

P: There's one thing that should be added to uh...

R: ...implacable...

P: ...yea, there's another essential quality here that isn't mentioned there;

that is one reason we got along together, because his word was as good as

any contract he would put in writing.

R: He was also honest, ...

P: In other words, there was an integrity there; if he gave a promise or if

he gave an offer or if he does anything, he would live up to it.

R: Uh huh.

P: Now this is an important thing, this is...this goes back, it means that

uh, basically he was going to stick to what he said; there was an integrity

there that should be recognized, and I don't think it always is.

R: No, there was, you're quite true, you're quite...

P: And as long as we dealt with a man that we could trust when he said he

would do certain things with us and so on, and we thought that we could always

be trusted you see, why this is the reason we got along, because it didn't

all have to be put down in writing, it had to be agreed upon verbally, but that

was good enough for both parties.

R: It's my contention also that you, meaning the Collins and the Pancoasts,

were as necessary to Fisher as him to you, I think my grammar's loused up


P: Yea.

R: because when you have, not kind of the traditional picture of an

eccentric genius, but when you have someone who is flamboyant, who is a

showman, you need a steady, you need a business manager, a wonderful

page 14


vaudeville performer is no good without an agent, a manager...

P: That's right.

R: ...and Fisher, as I iindetstand it in his other ventures, Jim Allison

must have played this role.

P: ...role, and we played it here to some extent of course.

R: was not a personal um...

P: ...and probably the, the most talented of the group in that respect

was Irving Collins.

R: Talented in what sense?

P: In the sense of knowing what, what could be done, what should be done,

and thahold-back on certain ideas and to go forward with others.

R: You mean he had to kind of...

P: And he was, he acted as a brake in some respects on Fisher's ideas.

R: Well that's right, he was very much associated with, with...

P: And my father also in the same way in some cases, but my father was

always probably more interested in, in doing what he thought was right

for the community, the beach and everything else, and whether or not it

would line his pockets.

R: Well, what sort of a fellow was he? Your father, he was greatly beloved;

that comes out in all the records, and ...

P: Well, he liked people, and people liked him, and uh, if there were bad

things, uh, on the beach for instance and -ing, and everybody

else realized it, he would somehow not acknowledge them to himself, 'cause

he wanted everything to be right, you see. He wanted to be good, and he would

not, he would not acknowledge that these his own mind I don't

think he acknowledged it, though as bad as they might be in some cases...

R: Well...

page 15

P: ...and uh, he always wanted to go forward, he was shall I say...

he was a constructive person, he wanted to...he didn't uh...

R: He didn't like to look on the dark side, I, I understand...

P: He always liked to look on the side; he planned that way;

he worked that way, and I would say that oh, after the well after the

boom, there's no reason to put a date on it, but uh, call it a

boom, he spent probably two-thirds of his time working for every

organization he could work for that would help the quality of the beach.

Not working for the companies directly, but indirectly in that respect.

R: Well, I think everyone understood, I think Fisher understood that, too.

P: Well he needed, Fisher needed somebody that was close to the picture

in that respect because he couldn't do it just that way, he never felt that way

R: He was pretty high-handed wasn't he?

P: So all these people...yes, he was pretty high-handed, and he needed

somebody that would take care of that particular angle and have that

particular aim, although I don't mean that Fisher didn't have the same aim.

There's an interesting speculation here, and that is if Fisher had never

come along, what would have happened?

R: What do you think would have happened?

P: I think that the whole thing would have been much slower, but I don't

see anything that could stop it.

R: Well, that was behind my question when I asked...

P: And the question is whether it ever would have developed the same way;

I think it probably would, but it would have developed much slower.

R: Well, now this, this is really the heart of the, the heart of the thing.

That was behind my question when I aksed you where were these stay-at-home

page 16


Quakers going to find the rich people that were going to come down to the

beach and 1912, 13, 14. Uh, it was certainly true that, that development

costs were so tremendous that the cost, beginning with the cost of the bids,

that it was so huge that the Collinsfamily in purely financial resources

alone, could not have, have swung this thing from the beginning. They would

have had to get some sort of outside capital.

P: They did get outside capital, to go as far as they did go. They got

it from local banks, they got it from credit on their northern businesses

and so forth.

R: But they wouldn't have had that much money, would they?

P: No, but they could have done it slowly.

R: I think if they had done it slowly...

P: There was too much resource up there not to be able to go on from year

to year unless some catastrophe came along, and uh, they would earn so

much a year and be able to advance their credit up there and put the money

in here, and then they would have had to sell uh, concentrated on the small

pieces, develop them, and sell them. They could take a small area on

Indian creek and it and take the mangroves down, and sell it,

and another piece on the ocean front and put the roads in, and they always did

their development first by the way; they didn't sell ...

R: Yea, well neither did Fisher.

P: Yea, neither did Fisher, see; there, there was another agreement between

us, we never, we didn't like that kind of selling; there was too much integrity

on both sides to do that sort of thing, although north of Miami beach it was


R: Well, it's done all the time, everywhere else.

P: That's right, but they didn't believe in doing that, and uh.

page 17


R: Well, there's no doubt that, that it was the, that it was the quality

of development that made it so.

P: Well, I think...all if Fisher hadn't come along, the uh,

the type of people would have probably been somewhat different, but we're not

sure of that, it's a question of uh, I think it's a question of speed and uh

concept. Now, if Fisher hadn't taken his land from ocean to bay

and cleared it all at Lone time, it would have been much harder going for us,

because we couldn't have afforded to clear that muchjungle at one time.

So people would still think of it as a mosquito haven, and the very fact

that you could see all over the country made people realize that the land was

there. They, they didn't realize how much land was there when the swamp

covered so much of it. They could only see the oceanfront, that was possible

to build out there all right andback on the farm property and that area

back of Indian Creek and south of there...

R: See this...

P: ...but they couldn't conceive of tewhole thing as being a great big

development, and it would have been much slower, there's no question about it.

I think it would have gone ahead; I don't know where...what people would have

been interested, but Fisher wasn't the only person who

bought a big chunk from us.

R: Before Fisher, he did?

P: Well he didn't buy it from Fisher; he bought it from us.

R: Yea, but I mean, Fisher...

P: But I think we could have...and that's what...I mean to say that other

people were interested, and uh, many of them in the east, and never had any

contact with Fisher at all, were coming down here from the Philadelphia and
and so forth
New York areas, and uh, we could have sold them property, we did sell them

page 18


property. Which entirely....before Fisher/orgoing we sold them property.

So, before he did his buying and so on.

R: Well, not only...didn't he do his clearing very early ?

P: And L did the same thing. L put on his first

subdivision in 1912...

R: Oh yes...

P: Ours wasn't filed until after that.

R: That's right, and this is later on.

P: That's right, so L was going to push his end of it, and he

wouldn't have been able to progress as fast either, because the money

to clear it was going by Fisher to L

R: Oh my God, L got a hundred thousand dollars from Fisher

right off the bat. Oh, that's another minor point, L in his

book claims that Fisher loaned him the money first before he loaned

Collins the money for the bridge. I don't know if it's important.

P: All right, I don't know. He may have. It's not important, I think.

R: Um, Yes, well this, I'll tell you, this is the reason then, this is

just a gold mine, I'm so glad I waited to talk to you til later.

P: I don't think L bought the land about that same time, they

didn't own it for years.

R: No, no, no they bought it rather late in the game. But my uh.

P: And I don't say that they wouldn't have gone ahead and eventually

gotten a causeway over to their place.

R: They might have done.

P: Because they had political influence in Miami and in Dade

page 19


County and uh was the head of the Southern Bank and

Trust Company, and they loaned us money...

R: Yes...

P: Southern Bank and Trust Company.

R: build, to build a_

P: Well, we needed some credit.

R: No. this is very interesting, you see the part of my ; believe

me nobody is interested in business details,just as such...

P: Yes.

R: may surprise you I'm going into this so exhaustedly, because this

is kind of for the record and what you say...this is on the tape here,

somebody 50 years from now can untangle if they're interested. But what my

interest is that most people talk about business as if it's just a, you know,

as, you see, the figures, and it's not true. Uh, a business partnership is

like a marria ge, and there is as much psychology and interest in human

interrelationships and as you point out if they hadn't built the canal

the world wouldn't have been in the same place. Well, and that's why the,

the business of ,Pancoasts, Collins and the Fishers, their

relationship (I keep worrying about this thing dropping off again), uh, is

uh very interesting because it's my belief that once the thing had

happened and once the Fishers came in, that indirectly, you see, that

what later happened to Miami Beach lie very likely in Fisher's personality

because the use of showmanship and other things although,

talk about you know the cunning of the Jews as if it were an invasion of the,

page 20


from outer space and all this and that, but, Fisher's anti-Semitism

and all this is a whole n'other thing that I don't think we have to go

into now. But, or his lack of it, but the thing was, that in putting his

stamp...he put willy-nilly a kind of a stamp on Miami Beach which later

on was exagerrated by the people. Now, let's go back, going back to the

days long before Miami Beach was developing a long way there was always

a problem of these difference between this type of people that came from

Maimi Beach, and the people that came to Palm Beach. And, um, you see

the two, the two developments were in the beginning rather similar in the

sense that they were luxury homes for the wealthy, except that Palm Beach

was society, was it not?

P: Yes, you might say it this way, although a very exceptionss,

and that is that Palm Beach was settled by people of second generation money,

and Miami Beach was settled by first generation money.

R: Yes, but you see...

P: I know...

R: But you're right...

P: ...there are exceptions, but this is true.

R: and you know, and the first generation money was, there again, please,

I'm talking but correct me if I'm wrong, if I, if what I've gathered from

talking with everybody that the first generation money was very largely the

new rich young, middle western millionaire who made all their money on the

automobile and on the, the by-products of the automobile industry.

P: A lot of that is true; there's not question about it.

R: And they rather set the tone of the Beaches; they certainly were not

members of the Moresetown Quaker meeting that came down here.

P:No, of course they were not. But, it's still interesting, I think the

page 21


development of the Beach was inevitable and I think more and more people

were making more and more money in this country and they would have come

south in the Winter now what would have happened, how it would have

developed, I think it probably would have developed similarly anyway, because

if you remember Fisher didn't build an oceanfront hotel, and neither did he

have hotel property per see along the oceanfront. So he certainly didn't...

R: How about when put up the ...

P: That was our land, Fisher.

R: What about Fisher putting up a sign saying he was..

P: And we had that, we...1912 before Fisher...


page 22



R: Fisher, someone told me that Fisher didn't think too much of the

oceanfront, that he, there was too much, I don't know if this true or not

but this is the story that I, was told to me, that Fisher did not,...

thought that the bayfront was a much better place for hotels, that the

oceanfront was too much salt and spray and I don't know if it's true, but

that Fisher believed in the bay shore for his hotels, and uh,

P: I'd like to give you another version for that.

R: Good.

P: Although that can be, you're, you're expression, you're opinion can
be substantiated by the fact that he didn't have oceanfront/property

himself, but he built on the oceanfront for his own home.

R: Yea.

P: ...and he attracted other people to build up there, and he built two

or three houses for sale up there, to encourage people to buy oceanfront.

But, when the bayfront property was filled, there was nothing on it, and

he began to plant a little on it, but nobody was encouraged to every build

on that part of the land, and when he had an area that was absolutely

stagnant the thing to do was to build a hotel on it and attract things

around it.

R: Laugh; that makes more sense.

P: This is exactly what he did; there!sno question about this; this

was talked over many times. The Hotel was started for the

same reason and that was bayshore, we were in the picture, -and we

both decided that nobody would build up that way and you couldn't attract

people up that way unless something was being done.

R: That...I believe you hands down, because the other, that other story

page 23


doesn't have the ring of truth.

P:P: There was a little bit minor influence there, and that is that Fisher

was a boatman.

R: Yea, and he wanted...

P: And many others had boats- and they knew that they couldn't handle

these boats an the ocean front...

R: Mmm...

P: So they thought they could attract people with boats on, on that side

and they thought they could get the customers there all right. But this was

done as a real estate, (emotional) situation, really. That...

R: Go on.

P: No, that's all.

R: A, well...

P: were made where, where nothing else had been

happening.. We did the same thing start with, he'd

build a little in order to, uh, start ______ ..

R: Um, with Fisher, someone else said what Fisher had in mind was very

largely a community of Dmes, and that he had built hotels and had all the

polo and beat races and the shows and the bathing beauties

and everything as a kind of an attraction to get people down from the north

so that once having stayed there they would then want to buy land.

P: No question about that.

R: Well then did the hotels, uhm,, was this also the plan of the Collins


P: Yea, but we thought we could get some hotels started; we:wanted one

on the oceanfront, we, uh, wanted one on the west side of the Pancoast Lake,

at the end of Indian Creek.

page 24


R: Yea.

P: And uh, we tried very hard to get one there and we finally got somebody

interested, but I think the balloon broke before they got it started. I know

that when I was finishing my last year in the, senioryear in college

my uh, uh my senior problem was a hotel to be built on the west side of

Pancoast Lake.

R: Oh, unless you were...

P: They were trying to promote this idea, that, to build a hotel there.

R: Was it all the build-...just on a, to get back on a personal level,

was it all the atmosphere of building and hotels and pools and stuff that got

you interested in architecture?

P: I suppose so. Every building that went up we always went to see
on the weekends; there wasn't a house that was built that we didn't go through

on, several times on, while it was being built.

R: Yea, yea.

P: That and the fact that I liked to draw. I had an art teacher that

took an interest in me, and I found I could draw, and I liked to draw. Uh,

these little things, it's hard to say, but I'm sure that the, that the

drawing had a s much to do with it as anything else. And the fact that uh,

I watched building going: up and so forth and that uh, there seemed to be

a field there; nobody in our family had ever been an architect, so there was

no help there and, and thedidn't quite know how to help me if they wanted


R: Uh huh. Well this...

P: So I had to make up my own mind about what I wanted to do, and uh...

R: I am...

P: I did it with much hesitation...(laugh).

page 25


R: My, uh, time here is about running up, and you must have other things

to do besides talk to me.

P: We can go to lunch if you want to.

R: Well, I have a husband to get home to feed, but I have still another

half an hour, but I, let me clear up a few questions here let me see. Do you have...

P: I've got sme people I'll have to tell I'm going to long will

it be?

R: It's up to you...if you have an appointment, I'll leave, and hope to...

P: I don't have an appointment, I just go to lunch with these people, and

I don't have to go to lunch with them, I ...I just want to tell them to go

ahead without me.

R: Well, would twenty minutes be too bad?
P: No, I can ask them/if you want to wait or go ahead.

R: Fine. I'll shut this off.

(after interruption)"

I have a couple of small little picky questions merely to clear up

things that when I talked with your brother I wasn't able to,uh, forgot

to ask. Do you remember if there was a bar in the Pancoast hotel? after


P: I (don't) remember there was ever a bar before he sold it, but uh

they did serve drinks in the dining room, I think. I don't remember that he

ever put a bar in there.

R: Yea. Well that was a minor. When did Arthur Pancoast's wife die?

I ask this because he told me that when his wife died he/became discouraged

and left the beach, and then I didn't want to dwell on when his wife had

died and everything so....

P: I can't think of the day. I can look it up for you.

R: Oh, good.

P: I'll look it up for you.

page 26


R: That's, that's not important, just around the, when did

you leave the beach?

P: In August, it'll be 8 years this August.

R: But your office has been here longer than that.

P: Yes.. We knew we were going to move long before that.

R: When...

P: years before that.

R: So you made up your mind to leave 8 + 3 years, eleven, this is

67, you made up your mind to leave in 1956?

P: Yea, '55, '56....

R: Without being, being, without asking a personal question, may I ask

you why?

P: Um,, very easy to answer. (laugh)

In the first place, uh, we were getting practically no work on the beach.

R: Uh huh.

P: We had, I had done my career, I had, most of my work was on the beach, but

not all of it. And all of a sudden the trend began to go the other way.
The Jewish/didn't come to us, and if they did our fees were too high for them

to pay or they didn't pay 'em. And little by little we got no more work over


R: You weren't in the hotel construction, you were more or less homes?

Your business didn't...

P: We'd have liked to have been in the hotel business, but they would

never do it except on a cut rate...

R: I see.

P: And I think they paid for it eventually, because of that, but uh...
kind of
this is a question of whether man gives one/service or another and gets

paid for it

oage 27


R: Mmmm.

P: Anyway, uh, this was the way it worked, we wouldn't cut our services,

so we couldn't cut our fees below a certain point and this wouldn't satisfy

them, so they, they didn't come to me, and I don't think it was religious,

entirely either although it might have had something to do with it. So uh,

little by little our business began to develop over here and other parts

of the state, and uh...I was the only one of the four/force that was

living on the beach, and it always seemed most inconvenient to have

them come over, uh, across the bay every day. And it seemed that since

our work was over here and uh since everybody lived overthere except

me, that it made sense to come over here, one more thing and that is that

the area in which our house was in,uh, began to get pretty commercialized, in fact

it had been for a long while, and uh I wanted more room to grow more


R: The green thmb again.

P: The green thumb again, and I didn't like the position we were in over

there, and the temptation to build a new house, and I always wanted to be

on the water, and here we were within a block of the water and 2 blocks or

3 blocks from the ocean and we never say it. And I said I want water where

I can see it all the time. So we came over to this side, and we, we came

I went all over the area looking for a rock pit.

R: And that's how you found...

P: And we found some rock pits, but every time we found them, we didn't

1 ike the surroundings or what might happen to them; there was no guarantee

that we wouldn't be in isolated spot that wouldn't tie in with everything else,,

until we did find where it was located that we found out that the owner of

all that property around there belonged to, uh, Davis, who just

page 28


bought it and put it together; we were doing a lot of work for him at

the time.

R: Yea, and then you later _; yes I

remember that.

P: develop it is all.

R: Well, what is your feeling, you are also a, a personality

because you've started me, but because you fit in, I wish I had the card,

my little notes here, you fit in with the most extraordinary

from to which if you're interested I'll explain

it to you, about how in the life of one man, a whole thing was developing

Nature herself will change a most extraordinary quotation

that fits in. Uh, so how do you as a person who really, with your style of

life is very much, very close to what that is what's going on; how do you

feel about...what, what do you think and how do you feel about the changes

that overtook the beach, what happened and why, and this of course will take

another three hours...

P: Yea.

R: sum it up, but uh, maybe I can come back sometimes when you

suggested this and have another hour to give me. Uh, what happened,

what happened after...all right....we had the real estate press, followed

b y the hurricane, followed by Fisher's collapse at Montauk point, and the

Depression, but then what; why did it happen; why did it go one way then

the other; why didn't it go the way of Stock Island and the Keys for instance?

Why...what happened that made it what it is now, so you think?

P: I don't know if I can answer that. I'd like to go back again and

page 29


assert one idea, and that is that I heard it said many years ago, and there's

a certain grain of truth to it. If you had had the personalities that were

here at the time this whole thing was growing, and put them anywhere else,

it would have been a success. (laugh) If you'd had the uh, if you'd had

Carl Fisher, and uh and any, and uh...our giggles went, um...

R: ...Mary...

P: ...Mary and my Dad, and L and a half a dozen others that

you've been mentioning, they were so forward looking and so forward moving

and so sold on their own area they could have pushed anything through anywhere

(laugh). And I think there's a lot to this. There was a gathering of

people here that all, or what do you call 'em, ambitious, or, or energetic,

or...but they were certainly sold on the area and they were trying to sell

it to everybody else, and they did the darnedest thing to sell it to

people in the North, and they did sell it.

R: Sure they did. ...

P: It wasn't only Fisher alone; of course he was the big one to sell, but it

was all these others, and all this combination and the things they did

and getting the channel in and they fought about where it should go and

all that, but they got the channel in and, and I can remember bringing,

taking very proudly by my Dad out to see the little building out there

at the airport...

R: L where they had the...

P: ...and what he visualized what would happen, but it went far beyond

his visualization, but nevertheless he was confident it was going to be

a jumping off base for South America. And, they didn't think little in those

days; it was a little building, yes, but it was going to be a big thing.

page 30


R: Well they, they were boomers, boomers...

P: They were really boomers. They...

R: This is an American thing. But do you think this the American

dream now this is what interests me, Ron,...

P: It was a combination of all these personalities, though, that

made it go as fast as it did, I think.

R: All right, but is this the American dream, to start out with all these

people, and Quakers, and automobile millionaires and all this wonderful

skyrocket people, and come down here and do all of this, and then, look

what it comes into within one man's lifetime.

P: Yes, well they didn't know where it was going, but they did/Know

it was going to grow, and they were sold on the fact it was going to grow,

but they didn't know how to control it when it did grow.

R: Well, do you think this...

P: And uh, once a developer who loses control, and he does lose control

when the community is incorporated, is then a political problem of handling

people, and uh, it's a question of uh the wiseness of uh, of the uh
political leaders and the developer and how much he can influenceand how

far he can see as to how the town and country will develop and what will

become, and most people, of course, at that time couldn't see far enough

to know how to zone, how to restrict property, the use of it, what roads
it was
would be important and what would be too, much too small, and/by luck

in many cases that things happened as well as they did and in other cases

it was just the opposite. For instance, by establishing road,

north and south, and Washington Avenue north and south as far as it went,...

it didn't go far enough, but it connected into 23 Drive indirectly...

R: Yea.

P: And by having Collins Avenue with a long thin island we had three means

page 31


of north-south travel pretty well established.

R: Uh hmm.

P: Now that could have been any other way than that, and if it had been,

something would have had to be done to establish those ways to get north

and south.

R: Yea.

P: And when they went out of Miami Beach and out of the control of that

land, then they got into a terrible mess, and we've always had a hard time

getting north from that point, from 79th Street north, and we've had to

do all kinds of things to get people north there, and it still isn't good.

But we were lucky in the, in the fact, and I, I don't know how wise they

were, but they knew that they wanted to make certain lands accessible and

this is the way it was done, and then the east-west roads were never important

because the land is comparatively narrow the other way...

R: Well, and that...

P: ...but there were plenty of roads.

R: That and made the Miami develop, Beach and develop in kind of


P: But anyway, then uh, you can read the early deed restrictions before

something came into effect, and you'll find'that they didn't visualize at all

what was going to happen to the automobile and uh, how much room it would take

and no other city did that,I know of.

R: No, nobody did.

P: So we got into the same problems that every other city had, and then

they uh, for instance they didn't require parking for a hotel; put a hotel

up with 300 rooms, but you didn't require any parking, and you didn't require

the necessary setbacks. So if you formed this, almost a solid wall

page 32


of buildings which is something that should have been stopped long since,

and the city should have known this, and uh, there was enough thinking

going on at the time, but no action.

R: Uh humm.

P: And uh, it was if anybody did think and start to talk

that way, well the property owners were too influential at the time, and

they didn't want to lease/lose any land, the little oceanfront strips

were too small, and of course nobody visualized that all this residence

property on the oceanfront would become hotel property; if they had they

might have moved Collins Avenue back, or done away with it altogether, so

to get the property deep enough.

R: Uh hmm.

P: Well, they left it so shallow that uh, now they're losing the,

they encroach on it too much when they build and then that loses the

sand that would be the beach, see.

R: Well, what you're talking about are, are very vital things and of

course with your background as a city planner, these are the things that it,

P: That's right.

R: that would occur to you, but do you think that, when people see

Miami Beach and worry about the hotels and, and's become in some

ways, it's kind of a, a national joke, although a very ambivalent national

joke, in some things, and people always talk about Miami Beach as it

repres-...counter-represents something; do you think this is kind of the

American dream, that this is what happens to progress when you, uh,

here you have these people and they come down and they do all this thing,

and, and it changes from night to day, in one man's...less than a lifetime.

page 33


P: Well, of course, the growth was extraordinarily fast, and sometimes

the faster it is, the more mistakes that are made, but many a city has

made the same, or similar mistakes, but do it a whole lot slower. We just

couldn't look forward enough to know what was going to happen, I mean

we're looking forward now and fighting for automobile parking. Everything

we do, everytime we design a building it takes more thought on how to get

the car problem solved, and it's certainly possible that within thirty

or forty years, we won't have any cars.

R: Yea, I see...

P: See what I mean, we can't look forward that far because...

R: I think that's very true, but now for instance ...

P: ....we don't know...

R: ...the city of Chicago, which is where I come from, never forsaw

the car either, and neither did the city of Philadelphia, and I'm sure

neither did the city of Camden, but they never, none of them became the

flamboyant place that Miami Beach...

P: Well...

R: so we can't really blame the flamboyance of Miami Beach on the cars...

P: No, as I...keep getting off on another angle, and I think this is, this

is an answer to where the money is made and what the, and how the people

want to spend it in this country. There are many people who, who work

under what we would think is impossible conditions and live under them,

perfectly content to and then accumulate enough money to come down here

and make a big show. And uh, when those people do, and you know they don't

live that way all the rest of their life it became, it becomes something that's

...unnatural to me, that they would go spend that much money at one time,

and yet I, I see it, for instance, I just took two weeks in the West Indies,

page 34


and when the boat stops at the or three or four boats

at the same time, uh, everybody has money, which they may have saved

for fifty years to get enough to go on this cruise, but they're going

to spend that money because that's what they wanted to do. And so they

go into these cities and the people that live there look at them as though
oh, these are some,/the most undesireable that ever walked into our streets.

Why, because they've got an accumulation of vacation money, and they're

going to spend it, and this comes with prosperity and it comes with a

certain aim that they've had all their life to get enough money to do

something and now they're going to do it. And they are...these are

the people that come down to our hotels and don't live what we call a

natural life. And they don't take the type of vacation or have the

same enjoyment as people who might have had that money and interspersed

their vacation and leisure all during their normal living.

R: That's true, and...

P: It's a, it's a burst of

R: That's true, and yet your, your brother told me very frankly and the

nothing, that the Pancoast Hotel was, I asked him was it true that the

Pancoast Hotel was the most exclusive hotel in the country, and he said

it was the most expensive. So, even back in the old days there was a

great deal of wealth spent, spent in this kind of thing.

P: Well a great deal, but note uh...that's a hundred and twenty five

rooms, now we're talking about figure 400 hotels with 300 rooms a piece

or something and this entirely a different thing. One hotel that way

wouldn't have created the impression...

R: No, I don't...

P: It's the quantity of these people that are willing to, to accumulate

page 35


money to spend in the concentrated time, and who had the money and

the prosperity the country has created this money, and the background

ins't there to spend it the way we would normally think people would

spend it, and so people that don't live that way, and never have, or

don't spend their leisure that way or have the same desire look

askance at people, and there's nothing to say that in another generation

or two that situation won't change; it's perfectly possible.

R: So it's...

P: A lot of these are first, con't forget these, a lot of these are

first generation money again, and they come from hard work and they

come from bucking impossible conditions and they finally came out on

top, and now they're going to spend it and show that they made the grade

and so on. So this is first generation thinking and this is a natural

reaction I think. Of course, it's not, you can't put anything as simple

as a conversation like this and then generalize so much, but I think this

is the...this is a secret of mine...and uh everybody that doens't do it

that way, and doesn't think that way, and doens't live exactly that way,

resents it somewhat and they resent the artificiality that comes along

with it, and uh the show and the extraordinary extravagance and so on

and so on. They don't, they don't think this is right. We have a little

too much puritan blood in, in some parts of the country; have to...

R: (laugh)

R: resent this sort of spending, and resent this sort of money, and

this is another influence that we've inherited, you see, in this country.

Now we're looking at the other side; these two people don't agree in their

philosophy, and yet those same puritans might get on this cruise ship

I'm talking about and go down to this West Indian island and act like a,

page 36


a bunch of spendthrifts, you see, and get...

R: Uh huh.

P: disliked thoroughly.

R: Yea. No, I think that the psychology, you see, because, the thing

about Miami Beach is, that uh, is that the whole thing is a financial

phenomenon, but it's a psychology, it's an interest, y'know, with the

puritan ethic and everything, we are used to thinking of industry,

commerce and wealth, and being things like farm machinery, or steel

mills; they've got to be something, y'know, that you can hold in the

hand, that you could look at; it's big...the railroads, even airplances.

But here you've got people spending money on, on intangibles. The

whole thing is psychology, it's showmanship, it's...

P: No question about it.

R:, that's the problem that has to be met. Now if you can

make money on these things, this is, this is the new thing in America,

this is the new, the new,, the money made on intangibles instead of

tangibles. But uh...

P: That's part of it, but also there's another little thing, and not

too little, and that is the airplane has helped it a great deal.

R: Oh yea.

P: But it is easy to get here and easy to get away, and a man can bring

his wife and go back to business, for a few days and come back on the

weekend, and the ease of getting back and forth made it flexible and

possible for a lot of people to come here that might have chosen an area

further away. And then around this situation we've accumulated all kinds

of attractions. The concentration of those attractions keep people coming


page 37


R: But that was Fisher again, don't you think?

P: Well, now...

R: ...don't you think that Fisher set the tone with the polo beans...

P: Yes, this, this...

R: and the race to lure people down.

P:'re right, this is part of it, no question about that, and uh,

he, he but was the same idea again.

R: No, I mean he set the tone, uh, in the sense that it was this idea

of what he was...

P: Yes, except he didn't do it quite the same way.

R: No, but the principle the same.

P: Well, he had polo instead of horse racing.

R: That's right.

P: You see.

R: Bu t that was just the other words, we had a...

P: Yes, he was...

R: in our family where involved in real estate;

we'd say well it's poor / four million with the decimal point

moved over another, another two places, in other words the, the polo

of the rich...

P: Yes.

R: ...became the dog races of the not so rich.

P: It's the same thing, but the idea is, uh, I agree with. But they're

entirely different situations. One's a participator sport, primarily,

and there's no gambling in it, and the other's a gambling sport, the gambling

instinct will take people to dog races and horse races, everything else...


page 38


P: ...and they don't care a hoot about dogs or horses.

R: That's couldhave those

P: So I don't think it's a fair comparison, but I understand what you're


R: The idea behind it. Well let me pa-...I'm just about running out of

tape, let, I have a little bit yet, but I know you're anxious

to get to lunch...let me pack up here...oh, I must again on this tape

ask you that you know that this may, what I want to ask you, and

you should speak loud and clear, is there any reason that you want this,

whatever you've said, restricted in any way in as far would only

be open to qualified scholars at any rate, but do you want to have this

held, uh...

P: No, I don't care; there's nothing I've said that uh I care about,

escept that I don't want it to get in the newspapers and rewritten some


R: No, no...

P: ...because they can take a small piece of it and blow it up.

R: No. What this, this will be for...

R: If it's taken in context, I

R: Let me put it this way, this tape recording, a duplicate of it actually

will be put in the archives of the University of Miami library, open to

qualified scholars and historians only.

P: That's all right.

R: Now, if I, and I should explain to you that the-laws, particularly

since the Kennedy business, uh, my publisher will not let me quote even

the day of the week from you without signed release, so I could never write

in any book, Russell Pancoast told me that it was sunny on March 15 (laugh),

page 39


without asking you, without signed release from you.

P: Uh huh.

R: It, it, and it may come...I want to prepare you, I'm going to

shut this tape recorder...