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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
Interviewee: Lamar Louise Curry
Interviewer: Jean Powers Soman
September 1, 1986
S: I am here with Lamar Louise Curry who is going to tell us
about her family history and her life in Florida and what
she knows about Florida history through her experience. She
was a teacher at Miami High School. How many years were you
a teacher there?
C: Thirty-nine years.
S: She taught history. And she is going to tell us about her
interesting life. Miss Curry, would you like start with
what you remember of your family history, please?
C: I suppose we should start with the reason why my family came
to Florida. My great-grandfather was a South Carolina
cotton planter originally from Virginia.
S: What part of Virginia was he from?
C: I do not recall. But I know we are related to the Lawrence
S: Do you know when they came to America?
C: It was in the eary 1700s.
S: Where did they come from?
C: England. My great-grandfather was the grand nephew of the
Queen of Holland. His family were Virginians, and they
moved to South Carolina when cotton became "king." He was a
graduate of the University of Pennsylvania medical school.
While he was in college, his parents gave him a plantation
in South Carolina. When he finished college and got his
medical doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania, he
came home. As his finances improved, he bought more
plantations. In those days, of course, cotton land was at
such a premium he could not get the new plantations adjacent
to his original one, so he ended up with three different
plantations in South Carolina. On the plantation that was
originally given him, typhoid broke out. Being a doctor, he
knew it had something to do with the local conditions. So
he came to Florida in or before 1840, we believe, and
developed a plantation in Marion County.
S: Is that right? My sister lives there.
C: He moved all the slaves from the infested plantation down
here and away from the typhoid, and he came two or three
times a year to check on the overseer--he had a white
overseer--and to take care of his slaves. I know it had to
be before 1840 because my cousin, who lived in Levy County,
called me one day about four years ago and asked who Dr.
George M. Gunnels was. I said, "He is our great-
grandfather." It is a Dutch name. She said that there were
several people that were trying to find out more about him.
He was a thirty-third degree Mason, and he had organized the
chapter in Marion County. So we know, therefore, that he
must have gone there by 1840, if not before.
When the Civil War broke out, he went into the Confederate
army. His son, my grandmother's brother, William Gunnels,
was at The Citadel. He rose through the ranks of the
Confederate Army and was wounded and captured at Gettysburg.
He was imprisoned in a fort by Lake Erie, where he had
neither the proper clothes nor the proper food, and was kept
as a military prisoner for a year after the war ended.
When he did get back to South Carolina--the railways were
destroyed, and it was tough to travel in those days--his
father said that since William was just a shell of a man
they should move to the Florida plantation and see if that
would do him any good. So in 1866 we moved here. He divided
his lands in South Carolina and gave each one of his former
slave families land and livestock, and he moved to his
Florida plantation. That is why we became Floridians.
Meanwhile, many of the slave families, as soon as they could
get themselves an ox cart and get themselves organized, came
to Florida to be with him. My grandmother said that as each
one arrived their greeting was, "Massa, we's here."
S: That was in Marion County?
C: They expected him to take care of them.
S: Their descendants are probably living around my sister today.
C: That is right. When I was in high school, I was visiting my
aunt in Williston, and one morning she came upstairs where
Mother and I were and said to Mother, "There is somebody at
the back door who wants to see you." Mother asked who it
was, and my aunt said, "I am not going to tell you. You go
down and see for yourself." Of course, I, in curiosity,
followed along. When we got down to the black door, there
was a black man. Mother [recognized him as a former slave
and] said, "Paul, what are you doing here?" He said, "Miss
Stobo, I heard you were here, and I just had to come and see
you." He was the son of my grandmother's handmaid, Tilda.
His father, whom Mother and the family had called Uncle
Hank, had been a slave of the Hampton family before he
married "Aunt Tilda." My great-grandfather never separated
families. If they married a person on another plantation,
he would either buy or sell. So he bought Uncle Hank, and
that family was able to stay together and move to Florida.
Well, Paul thought he was one of the family, and he was
delighted to hear that Mother was there, so he had to come
to see her. So you see the feeling that existed. It was
more than friendship, you might say.
S: Where was the plantation in Marion County?
C: On the way to Gainesville to Williston Road. I do not know
its exact location, but it is in Marion County.
S: We probably could trace it in the county records.
C: So that is why we are Floridians.
S: What about your grandfather?
C: My grandmother, Anna Gunnel, and her family moved here in
1866. My grandmother was a young lady who finished college
in 1858 and was a post-graduate at Barronville Female
College. That college no longer exists, because its money
was invested in Confederate funds. She was engaged to my
grandfather, who was from Camden, South Carolina, and was a
graduate doctor, an M.D., at The Citadel. That was when The
Citadel had a medical school. And of course, he had gone
into the Confederate Army as a doctor-chaplain. (You can
see how he used both on the battlefield.) When the war
ended, marriage was still out of the question until things
straightened out. He had never gave up a pastorate in the
Methodist church. He was sent to a very wealthy church (at
that time) in Rutherfordton, North Carolina, which happened
to be in the South Carolina Conference of the Methodist
Church, just across the state line. After Grandmother moved
to Florida, Grandfather came down to marry her and take her
back to Carolina. On the day they were to be married,
Grandmother's brother, Uncle William, died, which postponed
S: Was he very old when he died?
C: No, he was just a young man. He was still in college when
the war broke out. He was probably in his mid-twenties when
he died. By the way, he was in a prison hospital in New
York, and there was in New York a very wealthy lady,
evidentally, who visited the wounded in the hospital. Later
she wrote my great-grandmother telling her about William and
that she knew from his manners and behavior that he must
have come from a very fine, educated family. My grandmother
and she carried on a correspondence until one of them died.
She took him food that he needed and was not getting in the
hospital, and some warm clothing. Of course, my family was
very appreciative for her interest in him.
Because Grandfather did not want to go back to South
Carolina (travel being quite difficult in those days) and
later return for the wedding, he toured Florida on horseback
for about three months. They were finally married on
Grandmother's birthday, December 2, 1866. He had fallen in
love with Florida himself, and instead of taking Grandmother
back to Carolina, he went back there, sold out, and moved to
Florida. He bought an old plantation in Levy County not
very far from Williston. The reason he chose that was
because he could grow Sea Island cotton, a long-staple
cotton. His father-in-law grew Sea Island cotton on the
plantation he had bought. It made such beautiful, fine,
Mother and her sisters and brothers were all born on their
grandfather's Marion County plantation. Grandmother's
nuresmaid was old "Aunt Nicey," who had been the nursemaid
when my great-grandfather was born, when my grandmother and
all her sisters and brothers were born, and when all of
grandmother's children except the youngest were born.
Grandmother said that she did not know that Aunt Nicey, who
was then in her nineties was going to come when her youngest
child was born or she would have sent somebody for her.
Aunt Nicey started to walk there to help Grandmother, but
she became tired and went into a Negro home nearby. She was
stricken and died.
S: What year was your mother born?
S: How many children were there in the family?
C: Mother was the seventh birth. Many children died as babies
of typhoid, which they called brain fever in those days.
Mother and her twin sister Lamar were born April 4, 1877.
S: How many children were there all together?
C: There were seven that lived to maturity. There was Uncle
William, then an uncle that passed, then Aunt Emma, then
Aunt Lamar and Mother (she was the fifth one down the line
that survived), then the twins, both of whom died in
infancy, and then came Uncle George Pierce.
Because Grandfather had fallen in love with Florida, he
began to write about the potential in the state. His name
was Dr. James Perryman De Pass. He was of French Huguenot
S: And they came over to America probably because of religious
persecution in the 1700s?
C: No, I think his father came in about 1830 to Charleston.
That was one of the biggest seaports in America in those
S: So he grew up around Charleston.
C: No, he grew up in Canada.
S: And he started to write about Florida.
C: Yes, he wrote articles for magazines of national circulation
under the name of James Perryman--he left off the De Pass.
But people in Florida did not know him as Perryman, only as
Dr. James P. De Pass. They did not realize that these
articles were being written by their Dr. De Pass. We were
told that [Henry M.] Flagler [Florida developer and railroad
mogul] read his articles and became very interested in
Florida, and that he tried to get in touch with this James
Perryman but could not. He finally wrote our United States
Senator, "Judge" [Wilkinson] Call, and asked him for the
address of this James Perryman and whether he could be
believed. Senator Call replied, so we were told, that his
name was Dr. James Perryman De Pass, gave him his address,
and said he was dependable, that you can believe everything
he said, as he was a personal friend. Grandfather got a
letter in due time from Flagler asking him to meet him at a
hotel in Jacksonville. Grandfather did, and after the
conference for some days, Flagler decided to begin his
railroad [Florida East Coast Railroad].
S: So he really encouraged Flagler to come down here.
C: And likewise, we found out he encouraged Henry Plant to build
his railroad down the west coast [Plant Railroad System].
Just as Flagler had his ships from Miami to Key West, with
the ferry to Havana, so Plant did on the west coast from
Port Tampa to Key West to Havana. In fact, I have been told
that all of Flagler's newspapers were in Grandfather's name,
as he did not want his name associated with their editorial
policy. Mother said she remembered that when Grandfather
died Grandmother had to sign them back to the Flagler
interests. We moved to Miami in July of 1916, it appeared
in both the [Miami] Herald and the Metropolis, which is now
the Miami News.
The first person who came to see Mother and Father was
Walter Graham, who was the editor of the Metropolis.
Grandfather had sent him. Grandfather had been president of
the University of Florida when it was in Lake City. He went
there as head of the state [agricultural] experiment
station. You see, the University of Florida was a land-
grant college and was therefore associated with the U.S.
Department of Agriculture.
S: What year did he first start at the University of Florida?
C: I am not sure, but I know it was in the late 1880s, because
mother went to high school there.
S: Did your mother go on to college after high school?
C: Yes, she went to Florida Conference College, which is now
called Florida Southern. Now, her older sister, Aunt Emma,
who is four years her senior, went to Wesleyan [College in
Macon, Georgia], which was the first women's college in the
United States that was chartered [in 1836] to grant degrees
to women. Because Grandfather was a trustee of Emory and
Wesleyan, my uncles went to Emory and Aunt Emma went to
Wesleyan. Meanwhile, Grandfather had been moved to
Leesburg, where Southern College was then located. And he
felt that he ought to patronize local colleges. So, mother
and Aunt Lamar went there. They were in the class, I think
it was 1896. They were booked to graduate in May, after the
great freezes of 1894 and 1895.
Grandfather had three orange groves in mid Florida that were
killed by the freezes. One freeze was in December of 1894,
and he lost all of his fruit. By the way, he was developing
a grove for each of his two sons and one for himself. There
was a warm spell for about a month after that freeze, and
the trees put out new growths and were flourishing. Later,
in January of 1885, came another freeze, and since the sap
was up, it split the bark and killed the trees.
S: It must have been very devastating.
C: It was. Mother and Aunt Lamar did not get to finish college.
They had one semester to go.
S: When did your mother meet your father?
C: That is another story. Mother and Aunt Lamar were teaching
in Levy County. Grandfather had left the college and had
gone back into full-time ministry. Since he came out of the
army, he spent the rest of his life in pastorates with the
Methodist church. He was sent to Florida as a kind of
medical missionary. There were no doctors in the district,
so he was "the" doctor, and sometimes he furnished medicine
to his patients.
S: Did he ever get involved with Indians, with any of the Indian
C: The last Seminole War was about the time of my grandmother's
birth, and my grandfather was about four years old, so they
were not involved with that. Grandfather had gone to the
college, as I said, as head of the state experimental
station. Shortly he moved up to the presidency, and had
asked the Methodist church to give him a pastorate close by
so he could work with both the college and the church.
Mother said he practically worked himself to death.
I have now a Department of Agriculture bulletin written by
Grandfather April 1, 1891, that Mrs. Krome gave me when she
was in her nineties. She called a mutual friend of ours and
told her that she had this bulletin, most of which was on
fertilizer, which I understand was Grandfather's forte. I
have heard Mother and Aunt Lamar discussing it, and they
wondered why he was so interested in horticulture and why he
was so good at fertilizers. They assumed that it was
because of his medical knowledge of chemistry. Anyway, when
he returned to full-time ministry, the church sent him in
December of 1897 to the largest and wealthiest Methodist
church in the state, Stone Church in Key West.
S: What year did they move to Key West?
C: December of 1897. In those days Methodist conferences were
in December just before Christmas, which is an awkward time
to move. Many years later, the Methodist church changed the
conference time to June so that pastors would not have to
move their children in the middle of the school year.
In 1897, Mother and Aunt Lamar were teaching in Levy County.
That area was the cucumber-growing section of the United
States, and schools started in August and closed in February
so that the older boys would be able to prepare the fields
for early spring cucumber planting. When school closed in
February of 1898, Mother and Aunt Lamar were to go "home" to
Key West, even though they had never seen the place, because
their parents had just moved there a couple months before.
They were invited by a college chum of theirs to spend a
week in Bradenton with them on the way down, which they did.
On the day before they were to leave Bradenton for Key West,
they received a telegram from Grandfather telling them not
to come because the [U.S.S.] Maine had blown up in Havana
Harbor [Feb. 15, 1898, often considered a direct cause of
the Spanish-American War], and Key West was all a-jitter.
They held a little conference among themselves and decided
that since they did not know where else to go they would go
to Key West.
They took Henry Plant's boat in Bradenton to go to Port
Tampa from where they could take another of Plant's ships to
Key West. (The railroad did not go to Key West until
January of 1912.) On the way from Bradenton to Port Tampa,
the boat made a stop at St. Petersburg, where an old couple
got aboard. Mother said that all she could see of St.
Petersburg was a general store downstairs with people living
upstairs and the biggest sandspur patch she had ever seen!
Through the pine trees and palmettos she could see the
scattering of little homes. That was St. Petersburg in
Anyway, when this old couple got aboard, they checked the
passenger list and noticed the names Stobo and De Pass.
Mother's given name was Stobo, a Scottish family name.
Since Archibald Stobo had only two daughters, the Stobo name
was given to one child in every other generation of the
family, either boy or girl. Mother said she was the unlucky
one to get stuck with it. Aunt Lamar was named by Mrs.
Lamar, a friend of Grandmother's. Mr. Lamar's brother,
L. Q. C. [Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus] Lamar [1825-93], was a
United States Senator from Mississippi [1877-85] and a
justice of the United States Supreme Court [[1888-93]. He
was the one that John Kennedy wrote about in his Profiles of
Courage. So when Aunt Lamar was on the way, Mrs. Lamar told
Grandmother that boy or girl the child's name was going to
be Lamar. When Aunt Lamar was born, Mrs. Lamar said her
name is going to be the same as hers, Sara Lamar. Mother
was given her grandmother's name, Jane Stobo.
Well, when this old couple going from St. Petersburg to Port
Tampa saw the name of Stobo and Lamar De Pass, he thought
that they were men. He asked the purser to introduce him to
the De Passes. The old gentleman asked them, "Do you happen
to know Dr. James P. De Pass?" They said, "He is our
father." Well, the old couple were Mr. and Mrs. Plant.
They took Mother and Aunt Lamar from Port Tampa to Tampa on
their railroad and put them up in the bridal suite of their
hotel (which has become the University of South Florida
campus). The Plants entertained them for a day or two, then
took them back to Port Tampa, put them on his ship, and sent
them to Key West.
S: So they were treated royally. What was going on in Key West
when they arrived?
C: Of course, there was the rumor that the United States would
have to go to war against Spain. And Key West was all a-
jitter, the women of the family had to refugee out in couple
of weeks. They went back up to their grandmother's home in
Marion County until the Spanish-American War was over.
S: Did the whole family leave? Did their parents leave, also?
C: No, Grandfather stayed there. He buried most of the
Protestant dead in the military cemetery as their bodies
were brought to Key West.
S: Did he ever talk about what went on in Key West during that
C: Oh, yes. My father was living in Key West at the time, but
he was not there during the time of the actual war. He was
from Spanish Wells, [which is on the island of Eleuthera in]
the northern Bahamas. His mother had practically demanded
that he spend the month of February every year with them.
So father missed the excitement of the war. The Spanish-
American War was a short war. The treaty was signed, I
think, in September of 1898. [Ed.--The peace treaty was
signed in Paris on Dec. 10, 1898, and was approved by the
U.S. Senate Feb. 6, 1899.] Therefore father did not meet
Mother that year because he was in the Bahamas.
S: Was he also a doctor to the ones that were wounded?
C: No, there were military doctors, both army and navy, there in
S: At that time Key West was a very wealthy city?
C: Very wealthy. In fact, the first millionaire in the South
after the Civil War was William Curry of Key West. And
William Curry's tableware was gold, made by Tiffany.
S: Was he related to your family at all?
C: Distantly; we do not claim it. It is true that his family
and my family were very friendly. And the last of them,
Jessie Porter Newton and Minnie Porter Harris, were very
good friends of ours.
S: How did your father's family get to the Bahamas?
C: Let me finish with the De Pass story.
S: All right. Your mother and grandmother went back to Marion
C: Yes. The next year, when the Spanish-American War was over,
Mother and Aunt Lamar were teaching there in Levy County
again, and Grandmother and Grandfather were living in Key
West with the younger children, Uncle Pierce and Aunt Lula.
When school closed the next year, in 1899, Mother and Aunt
Lamar went to Key West again, which was home. Again, it was
in February, and Father was away in the Bahamas. He did not
get to meet Mother until March or April of 1899. They
became engaged in August of 1899.
S: How did they meet? Did your grandfather know him first,
C: Father was superintendent of the Sunday school and treasurer
of the church, so he was in close contact with my
S: Did your grandfather like him right away?
C: Very much. They thought that Mr. Curry was fine.
S: They thought they had a nice match for their daughter.
C: But Grandfather would not introduce them. He was not going
to put his daughters on the spot. Mother said that so many
of the young ladies in Key West had told her and Aunt Lamar,
"You need not be interested in Bates Curry because he is
going to marry a Key Wester." They claimed him as a Key
Wester, and Key Westers were very clannish. Mother, Aunt
Lamar, and Aunt Anna were said to be the three most
beautiful young women in the state of Florida. They were
beautiful, and I have pictures to prove it. After Mother
married, somebody wanted to run Aunt Lamar in a beauty
contest, and Grandmother was horrified. Indeed, her
daughter would not run in a beauty contest.
S: So how did your parents actually meet? Was it one day at
C: No. One Sunday the assistant superintendent came to Father
and said that some teacher was absent that morning and that
they needed a teacher for that class, father said, "I do
not know whom to get." She said, "Why not ask one of the De
Pass girls?" Father said, "I have never met them." She
said, "Well, come on. [I will introduce you.]" So he took
father over to Mother and introduced them. Mother taught
the Sunday school class, and that began it.
S: Isn't that nice. So, what year were they married?
C: In November of 1900.
S: And they got married in Key West?
C: No. Grandfather had moved to Live Oak, Florida. That was
the "Old South." The Live Oak church which was a very
wealthy church in those days, too. It was tobacco country,
and many of the tobacco farmers there were very wealthy.
In the meantime, Mother had contracted malaria, and she was
getting worse and worse. She said she did not think it was
fair to saddle a young man with a sick wife, so she kept
putting off her wedding. Father wrote to her in late
October, saying "I am coming up there, and we are going to
be married on November 14. Sick or well, we are going to be
married." Mother had previously written him, releasing him
from the engagement. But he insisted on their getting
married. Grandfather, as a doctor, realized that the
situation was bad, and he said, "If anyone can take care of
you, Mr. Curry can. In the warmer climate of Key West and
swimming every day, you should improve." He knew father and
On November 14, Mother awoke up with chills and a bad fever.
As she stood up to be married at 4:00 that afternoon, her
fever was 104 degrees. Since she was as sick as she was,
they knew they would not have a big wedding, but just a home
wedding. The invitations were out, so that was that. She
decided that she would be married in her traveling suit,
because the train that they were to leave on was to leave
around 5:30 that afternoon. They thought that would give
them sufficient time after the wedding and reception to get
to the train for Jacksonville. They were to go down the
east coast to Miami, and then take a ship from Miami to Key
S: And this was in 1900?
C: Yes. She was married in a tan wool suit with velvet collar
and cuffs. In those days you had black shoes, period, so
she had a pair of high-top black patent leather shoes with
cotton cloth button-up tops. The very thing to go with her
suit. Mother became seasick in those days if she even went
out on a dock. When they left Miami for Key West, Father
had the stewardess put her to bed as soon as they got aboard
The afternoon of the next day, they were to arrive in Key
West. They knew that Key West was going to turn out to see
Bates Curry bring his bride home. A while before they were
to dock, Father had the stewardess dress Mother. The
stewardess had put Mother's shoes in a drawer under the bunk
bed. When she took them out to put them on, Mother said,
"Those are not my shoes. These are tan buckskin with black
button-up tops." The stewardess looked all around and she
said, "Well, I put your shoes in here last evening, and
these are the only shoes here in the cabin." But Mother
insisted they were not her shoes. It turned out that
roaches had eaten all the patent leather off, leaving them
as tan buckskin shoes! Mother said she was so embarrassed
to get off the ship in Key West with those shoes. But the
Key Westers that had turned out to see her thought she was
in the height of fashion! Those tan shoes matched her tan
suit. She was a fashion hit! Until I was born, Mother had
her going-out dresses made by a couturier in New York, with
hats to match. Key West was a wealthy town, and people
dressed accordingly--in the height of fashion.
S: It was high society. What did your father do as a vocation?
C: He was in a lot of businesses. He was a wholesale
merchandiser broker; he sold anything from food to paints to
materials to retailers. I remember one time hearing Father
on the telephone talking about the problems of two carloads
of Van Camp's canned milk that had come in spoiled. See,
there were no dairies in Key West.
S: Everything had to be brought in?
C: Yes. There were a few cows in Key West, a small dairy, and
the dairymen would lead the cow along the street crying out,
"Milk, milk." And if anybody wanted that kind of fresh
milk, they would go out with their pitcher and have him milk
the cow into that pitcher. The story was that some of those
diarymen carried a water bottle with a rubber hose leading
down their arm through their cuff into their hand. As they
were milking the cow, they would let water from the water
bottle into the milk. Of course, knowing how unclean that
was, most Key Westers used canned milk.
S: So your father really helped.
C: He was also half-owner of a shipping line that shipped
freight from Key West to Miami and all along the Keys. This
was before the railroad went through. Of course, water
transportation was always cheaper than rail transportation.
Key West was the big seaport. Ships came into Key West from
everywhere to load and unload. Cargo was brought in there
and was shipped all over the world. Bringing cargo up the
Keys was a business in itself. One of my father's ships was
the Corinthia, a large, three-masted schooner that carried
lumber between New Orleans and Madagascar.
S: How many people were there in Key West at that time?
C: I do not know. I will say this: when we left Key West to
move to Miami in 1916, we left a good-sized city and moved
to a little village. I remember I cried because I did not
want to come to Miami and lose my friends. I was afraid I
would have to play with little Indian girls!
S: How old were you when you came to Miami?
S: So you remember Key West well, probably?
S: You were going to talk about your father's family, when they
came to the Bahamas, before we get started with your life in
Miami and early life in Key West.
C: What else can I say about my father's business? He was also
a wholesale sponge buyer. Of course, Key West was the
center of the sponge industry in the United States. That
was before the Greeks came into Tarpon Springs and brought
their heavy equipment, which is said to have ruined the
sponge beds. The Key West people would grapple for the
sponges with long poles. Another thing that ruined the
sponge business in Key West about the time we left was a
fungus that killed the sponges and depleted the sponge beds.
Let me tell you about Pete Chase, of Chase Federal Savings
and Loan. His father had come from England to go into the
sponge farming business in Key West. The method was to get
prize sponges, slice them in pieces like you would a seed
potato, fasten each piece to a cement discs about the size
of a dinner plate with a wire in the center, and throw them
out into the shallow waters around Key West. Just about the
time the sponge fungus came, the Chases moved to Miami.
Pete Chase moved to Miami Beach and started the bank there
that later became Chase Federal.
Father, as I said, was in the wholesale sponge business. He
would buy the sponges. The spongers would grapple their
sponges, clean them by getting all of the animal tissue out,
then grade them as to what kind of sponge it was--sheep's
wool, lamb's wool, loggerhead, or whatever the sponge was.
There were several different varieties of commercial
sponges. Then they would string them onto cords, just like
beads on a necklace, however many there were of that variety
and size. Then they would sell the sponges at an auction in
Key West. Never would they sell a dry sponge; a sponge
buyer would not buy a dry sponge. Buyers wanted them wet so
they could feel the texture.
Our home in Key West was originally the fruit lot of the
William Curry. When Mr. Curry died, my father bought the
lots for his future home. He would not build before he
married because he said he wanted Mother to decide what kind
of a home she wanted. Our yard was about four hundred feet
deep, which was a tremendous yard for Key West, in those
days as well as today. The back part of it was fenced off.
We had a clothes lines in the back yard, and when Father
bought a load of sponges, he would hang them on the clothes
line until they were dry. There was a little two-room house
that was the home of the overseer of Mr. Curry's fruit lot.
Father moved it way back so he could use the front part of
the lot for his own home. So that little house became the
sponge warehouse after they dried. I have seen them stuffed
to the ceiling.
S: So you grew up with sponges?
C: Not exactly. The sponges were too far away from home.
Father would watch the markets in New York. You see, that
was in the days before the artificial sponge had been
invented. People used sponges in their kitchens to wash
dishes, in their baths, for makeup, for industry--sponges
were in demand everywhere. The sponge business was a big
business. When the sponge market was right, Father would
have the sponges bailed and shipped to New York.
You asked what some of his businesses were. In addition to
the sponge business, he had a good bit of rental property in
Key West. In 1900 he began investing in Miami real estate.
When we moved here, of course, he continued investing in
real estate, and he also started his wholesale brokerage,
where he worked until he was financially established. He
finally turned it over to Earl Clark of the Clark & Lewis
S: You mentioned his family had lived in the Bahamas. Where was
C: In the Bahamas. English schools there were top quality.
S: Where did he live in the Bahamas?
C: Spanish Wells, which was famous as the choice residential
spot of the Bahamas. Do you remember when the Duke of
Windsor and Wallis Warfield Simpson were living over there
during the war? He was governor of the islands in World War
II. He said that Spanish Wells was the place.
S: So it was really a fine place. How many generations of your
family had lived there?
C: About five. Now, you want the background of that. The Curry
family, were not of nobility, although two of Grandfather's
sisters, two of Father's aunts, married into nobility. My
folks were "upperclass commoners," as they called them.
They were not royalty or nobility. The Curry family moved
from England to Charleston. They were Loyalists, or Tories,
and just before the Revolution they found themselves very
uncomfortable. You see, just before the American Revolution
they moved to the then nearest English colony, which was
Florida. They lived in St. Augustine during the
Revolutionary War. Florida had been given to England by the
Spanish at the end of the French and Indian War, or the
Seven Years War, by the Treaty of Paris of 1763. England
had captured Havana during the war, and the terms of the
treaty were that Spain swap Florida for Cuba. Florida
remained an English colony from 1763 to 1783, the end of the
At the end of the war, when England returned Florida to
Spain, my loyal Englishman relatives would have nothing to
do with the Spanish government, so they moved again to the
then nearest English possession, which was the Bahamas. An
upperclass Englishman, they and other families like them
moved to Spanish Wells and to Green Turtle Key. They kept
to themselves and were, shall I say, snooty, snobbish,
clanish, whatever you want to call it.
S: What type of business did they do?
C: Mostly seafaring business. My Grandfather Curry was in the
S: Bringing things in--import/export?
C: Yes. In addition to the wholesale business in Nassau, he had
several retail stores scattered through the different
islands. He was considered very well-to-do. Father refused
to take anything from him--he wanted to "make it on his
S: Did they ever return to England? Did your father ever go to
C: No, not my father. He came to this country in 1885 for a
three-week visit with an older cousin, and instead of
staying three weeks, Father stayed nine months.
S: Where did he go?
C: He returned home after nine months and notified his father
that he was going to return to the States and become an
American citizen. That was heresy! But, as I said, two of
father's aunts--one of them was his favorite aunt--had
married into the nobility, and he was very bitter about
that. He said, "Why should she be lady so-and-so when she
is not a bit better than I am?" Of course, the aunts moved
S: So that is how he got to Key West. Do you still have
relatives in the Bahamas?
C: Yes, a few. I have very few relatives.
S: Let's go back to Key West again when you lived there as a
C: I was born in Key West. I am the only "conch" in the family.
Father went there in 1885, and Mother went there to live
when they married in 1900. Since I was born there, that
makes me the only "Key West conch" in the family. Key
Westers are unusual in that they are very clannish. Anyone
that does not really belong there as a Key Wester is a
"stranger." Mother said she never could understand why as
long as she was in Key West for sixteen years she was
considered a stranger, but as soon as she moved to Miami,
they considered her a Key Wester.
S: Tell me about the house you grew up in.
C: The house that I was born in was said to be the second
prettiest house in Key West then. Hunt Harris's house was
the prettiest, but ours was second. It was not as large or
as sumptuous as the Harris home, but it was beautifully
built and landscaped. Sometimes even the streetcars would
stop in front of the house to let the passengers look at our
In those days, Key West was quite a port. Ships came in
from everywhere to replenish their supplies and so on.
Therefore, ships were always loading and unloading. Key
West was a coaling station for the coal-burning ships, and
while the ship was loading and unloading people who were
passengers on the ships would take a streetcar tour of the
city. Because our home was so pretty, the streetcars would
stop so the people could look at it.
S: Were there many people that went there in the winter?
S: It was so far to get there, you had to take several ships.
C: There were three military stations there--the army, the navy,
and the marine corps--and they brought additional visitors.
The big event in Key West was in January of 1912 when the
railroad came in. Flagler was to come down on his own
private car for the occasion. As you know, Grandfather was
the one that interested Flagler in the state of Florida. He
was a consultant to Flagler, and Flagler had all of his
newspapers in Grandfather's name. I was chosen to be one of
the little girls to greet Flagler. My dress was made with
real lace--very fancy.
The day before, I ate one peanut. I am allergic to peanuts,
and the next morning I woke up with a high fever. So I did
not greet Flagler. I remember Mother and Father having a
discussion as to which one would stay with me. We had a
maid, but I was the only child and they would not think of
leaving me, especially when I was sick. So each one told
the other, "You go." Well, it finally ended up with
Father's persuading Mother to go because of Grandfather's
association with Mr. Flagler. Father stayed by my bed, and,
feverish, I went to sleep. Later he sat beside me and told
me, "I saw Flagler come in." I asked, "How?" He said, "I
went up on the windmill." We had a windmill that pumped
water from our two cisterns and one well.
Key West was a very compact town in those days. Its
population was rather dense and concentrated. In those
days, for any occasion such as a dedication for a new
railroad, one would dress in his Sunday best.
S: Gloves and a hat?
C: Oh, yes. In those days, especially, the upper crust Kew
Westers spent their money on three things: food, clothing,
There were several districts in Key West in those days.
There were the blacks and the Cubans, and others were called
the whites. The whites were divided into two classes.
There were those that were very social and into drinking,
etc. (including many military officers), and there were the
Mother was dressed in a very nice dress and was wearing her
new diamond necklace. In the crowd awaiting Flagler's
train, she stepped backwards to get a better view of him and
stepped on a man's foot. As she turned to say excuse me,
the man ducked off and darted through the crowd. She
thought it was strange, but her interest was centered on
Flagler, so she forgot about it.
When she got home, I remember Mrs. Sanderson's calling her
and asking, "Did you know that there were pickpockets in
town today?" Strangers had come in on excursion ships from
all over to see this wonder of the world, this overseas
railroad. Mrs. Sanderson mentioned several men that had
lost their wallets and Mr. So-and-so that had lost a
necklace. Mother felt for her diamond neclace, and it was
not there. She said, "Oh, I've lost my diamond neclace."
She remembered the fellow she had accidentally stepped on
and supposed that he was the culprit. But that evening when
she undressed she found the necklace down in the bosom of
her dress. Evidentally he had unfastened the safety clasp
just as she moved, dropping it, and it slid down inside her
S: So pickpockets were a problem, then?
C: Oh, yes. Another occasion was when [former President
William H.] Taft came through Key West on the way to the
opening ceremonies of the Panama Canal. It was dedicated in
1914. Woodrow Wilson was president, but Taft had been one
of the sponsors of it, so he went to the dedication of it.
My folks never cared for crowds, so we did not go to see
him. But our maid wanted to see the president of the United
States, so Mother told her she could go, even though it was
at mealtime. Mother said, "We will get our lunch when you
come back. Just go ahead." We were all sitting out at the
side yard under a big tamarind tree, the largest one I have
ever seen. As the maid came out on the way to see Taft, she
said, "Mr. Curry, I do not know President Taft. How am I
going to recognize him?" Father said, "Well, look for the
man with largest head you have ever seen, and that will be
S: So, did she see him?
C: Yes, she came back satisfied.
S: That was exciting. So there were a lot of interesting things
going on in Key West.
C: That afternoon, Mother had to go to the express office in
town to send a package. It was not very far, so we walked.
On the way, almost to the express office, I picked up a
stick pin off the sidewalk. Mother said, "Throw it down.
Do not pick up anything on the street." So I threw it down
immediately. We went into the express office. As we walked
back out, there was the pin on the sidewalk. She picked it
up and looked at it. She said, "That looks like a diamond."
Going a little further south on Duval Street, she went into
Johnson's jewelry store to have him look at the pin. He
said, "Well, Mrs. Curry it is a diamond. It is the real
thing." It was a 14k-gold stick pin with about a one-karat
diamond. Father advertised it for two weeks in the Key West
Citizen, and nobody claimed it.
S: People were honest.
C: The ad said that it was diamond stick pin, without further
detail. My parents kept it until I graduated from high
school. They had the diamond set in a ring for me as a
S: Is the house that you grew up in in Key West still standing
C: Yes, it is still there.
S: What street is it on?
C: 1017 Southard Street.
S: Is it in good condition?
C: No, it is not in good condition. Father sold it to a banker
in Key West when we moved to Miami, and in due time the
banker died and his widow became sick and housebound. She
had two children, a boy and a girl. Because she was sick
and not able to take care of it, it was not very well kept
up. I understand the son is the only remaining member of
S: Was it a two-story house?
C: Yes. Upstairs there were three porches, and it was so
arranged that each room opened onto two porches. My room
opened onto a back porch and a side porch, and Mother's and
Father's bedroom opened onto a front porch and my side
S: Right across from one another. Did you have ceiling fans?
C: No, we had high ceilings. At the time the house was built,
ordinarily they did not have electricity. People that had
electricity put in later had the wires running up the side
of the wall and across the ceiling. Ours was built with
electrical wiring inside the walls. We had chandeliers with
etched glass shades.
S: Did you have to buy them outside of Key West, or was there a
place in Key West where you could buy these?
C: I suppose they were bought from the catalouge of William
Curry's Sons, the children of the William Curry that I told
you about earlier. He was the first millionaire in the South
after the Civil War.
S: Now, did the Wolfson family move there?
C: Oh, yes.
S: Was there much mixing between the Jews and the Gentiles, or
did they sort of have their own society?
C: Socially, they had their own groups. The Jewish people came
to Key West usually with a backpack, selling things from
door-to-door. Abe Wolkowski came with a backpack. Father
said he remembered when Abe came by ship from New York and
went around door-to-door selling pins, needles, laces,
thread, etc. In those days people had to make their own
clothes. You could not go to a store and buy ready-made
clothes--it just was not done. As so many Jewish families
came in that way, and as it was putting the big merchants
out of business, the city fathers passed an ordinance
requiring a large license fee for peddlers. Well, all the
Jewish folks opened stores and ran the others out of
The Wilson's were there. They had a store on Duval Street
that was a very nice store, one of the nicest dry goods
stores in Key West. Mr. and Mrs. Wolfson were really
superior people. They were accepted as fine, upstanding,
quality people. In fact, the Wolfson family was one of the
few families that the Key West people gave the title of Mr.
and Mrs. to.
S: It was sort of a fragmented society, then, with all the
different ethnic groups.
C: It was very divided into classes.
S: There was no integration, either. The browns stayed in their
area. Did they have curfews when they had to be in, etc.?
C: No, but each stayed in his own area. The Wolfsons had a nice
I remember when a cousin of Father's, Sybil Sawyer, was
going to be married. Mr. Sawyer, her father, was a very
wealthy man. She was going to marry a naval officer at a
certain time, and when he received short notice to transfer,
they decided to get married right away rather than wait for
him to return. So they had to get busy and make up the
trousseau. It was during the time of the Jewish holy days,
and Jewish stores were closed. So Mother went to the temple
and got somebody to ask Abe to come out and talk to her. He
came out, and Mother told him the situation to him. He said,
"Come with me." He opened the back door of the store, and
Mother bought yards and yards of this and that kind of
material that were apportioned out to different dressmakers
in town. They finally got her ready for the wedding.
Because Mother was such a good teacher, when I came along
she thought she could teach me as well as could a teacher in
school. She had father take out all of the furniture in one
of the bedrooms upstairs. He ordered from a school
furniture catalogue a teacher's desk, blackboards, and four
student desks. She chose as other students three children
whose parents were friends, and she held school. When the
schools in town were in school, we were, and when they had a
holiday or vacation, we did. But we went to school only
from nine until twelve.
S: There were four of you?
C: There were four.
S: Were you all the same age?
C: No, all of them were older than I was. We were in school
from nine to twelve, with a half hour for recess. We played
in our big yard. At the end of two years, we all took
entrance examinations into the fifth grade and passed.
S: So she did a good job.
C: Yes, she did. But Mother thought I was too young--I was
seven--for the fifth grade, so she put me into the fourth
grade. Then when we moved to Miami, I went into the sixth
grade at the ripe age of nine, and I went to Miami High at
the age of twelve.
S: So you moved here in 1916.
S: Did you move in the summertime?
S: Did you take the train up here?
S: Had you been to Miami before?
C: Yes, many times. We traveled a lot.
S: When was the first time that you came to Miami?
C: When I was six weeks old. My grandfather died here.
S: Was he living here?
C: No, he was on his way down the east coast to pick Grandmother
up and take her back home after my birth. Grandfather
started the first orphanage in the state of Florida under
the auspices of the Methodist Church.
S: Where is that located?
C: It was moved from Benson Springs to Enterprise. Orphans were
heavy on his heart, so he decided he would tour the state to
speak and raise money. He went to Methodist churches on his
way to Key West to pick up Grandmother. I remember being
told that he wrote Grandmother almost every day. Of course,
the letters would come in packets of two and three because
they would come in by ship. He would tell her where he had
been and how much money he had raised. He said that at one
place somebody at the back of the sanctuary said, "Doctor, I
have several hundred dollars (which was a big amount) that I
would give to you for your orphanage, but you would not take
my money because I am the saloon keeper of the town."
Grandfather said, "I will take your money. You are the one
that made the widows and orphans, and you should support
S: So you went to his funeral when you were a baby?
C: Yes. They came here to accompany the body upstate. You see,
he sent Dr. Jim Jackson [James M. Jackson, physician in
charge of Florida East Coast Railway Extension Hospital,
circa 1900] to Miami. The Jackson family lived up in that
vicinity, in Bronson. In fact, I understand that Dr. Jim's
father was an alcoholic. He was converted under my
grandfather's ministry to stop drinking. Consequently, Mrs.
Jackson, Sr., thought that Grandfather was just about "it."
So whenever they had to make any important decision in the
Jackson family, Grandfather was asked to make it. When it
was time from Dr. Jim to go off to college, Grandfather sent
him to Emory because he was trustee of Emory. He sent him
to Emory and later chose his medical school. When he
finished medical school, his father sent him to Grandfather
to find out where to, as Dr. Jim put it, hang up his
Mother said that she remembered the day that he came on
horseback and spent the day. In those days, dinner was at
midday, so it was at the dinner table that Dr. Jim broached
Grandfather on the subject. He called him Uncle De Pass,
although they were not related at all. "Uncle De Pass,
Father sent me over here today for you to tell me where I
should hang up my shingle." Mother said that Grandfather
thought for a minute and put down his fork--he was a very
positive kind of person--and said, "Jim, I believe if I were
you, I would go to Miami and grow with the town." Mother
said Dr. Jim looked at Grandfather and asked, "Miami? Where
S: What year did he come to Miami?
C: I think it was 1896. He married Miss Ethel Barco and moved
to Miami. It was said that Miss Ethel did not want to come.
She wanted to go to Gainesville, because that was the social
center of the state in those days. But Grandfather said,
"No, that would not be wise, because there are two
established doctors there now, and that is all the town can
support." So they came to Miami. I do not know how many
months, or a couple of years, they were here, but they ended
up in Gainesville. And Dr. Jim's mother sent Grandfather
money and a letter asking Grandfather to go to Gainesville
and make Jim go back to Miami, which he did. That is not
S: Miami must have been a primitive place at that time.
C: Well, it was not really primitive--it was just a small town.
So, as I said, when Grandfather was on his way down to Key
West, naturally he stopped at Dr. Jim's home as a guest while
he waited for the boat to Key West. At breakfast one
morning he chatted with Miss Ethel, so she said later, and
then walked across the street to the Halcyon Hotel (where
the Florida National Bank was later built) to get his ticket
to go to Key West. As he was standing at the ticket window
in the lobby of the hotel, he had a stroke, and he never
regained consciousness. Of course, they took him across the
street to Dr. Jim's office, but he died later. Grandmother
was in Key West, and we all had to come to Miami, including
me, six weeks old, to accompany the body upstate for burial.
S: That was probably in the newspaper at the time.
C: Sure. Dr. Thelma Peters has been writing histories of
various parts of this south Florida area. I think she has
read all of the copies of the [Miami] Herald and the [Miami]
Metropolis, which is now the Daily News. Sometimes she
would either write me a note or call me to tell me what she
had found out about my family.
S: So she really has done a lot of research. You moved here in
the summer of 1916?
C: July of 1916.
S: What was your first impression?
C: Oh, I had been here many times before.
S: And you remembered Miami?
C: We traveled quite a bit, as I said. After the railroad came
through, it was easy to get here. But until then, most of
the time we would go from Key West to Port Tampa, by train
from Port Tampa to Tampa, change again, go from Tampa to
Lakeland, change again, go from Lakeland to Wildwood, change
again, and arrive in Williston.
S: Had you been out of the state of Florida?
C: No, not out of the state. I had been to the Bahamas several
times. We traveled extensively, and my parents took me with
them, except during school. Then I stayed home. When I got
to school age, they would go to Cuba or the Bahamas or
wherever, but if school was in, I stayed in school.
S: Could you describe your earliest impressions of Miami from
the first time that you can remember Miami?
C: No, because it was just a part of my life. I had seen it so
S: You would visit in the homes of your parents' friends?
S: So when you moved here, it was like a place that you knew.
C: We spent the first night at Green Tree Inn--the Royal Palm
Hotel was closed during the summer months. It was on the
northwest corner of Northeast Second Avenue and First
Street. It was surrounded by poinciana trees that were in
full bloom, and it was beautiful! I remember getting up
that morning and looking out the window and seeing street
sweepers in white uniforms that were cleaning and brushing
the sidewalks and gutters of the streets. Everything was
just spick and span!
S: Where was your first house in Miami?
C: Father had come up before we moved and had rented the only
house he could find that was unfurnished so we could use our
furniture. It was on the corner of what is now the
Boulevard and Northeast Twentieth Terrace, diagonally
opposite the Cadillac garage. But there was no Boulevard
there; we had to go out to Second Avenue, which was Dixie
Drive in those days.
The subdivision we moved into was called Bayside Park, which
went from Second Avenue to the bay. At the end of the
street at the bay there was a little causeway leading out to
a two-story dock. The second story was a dance floor with
wide eaves that protected it from the rain. There were two
staircases that went up, one on the north side and one on
the south side. The little causeway that led out to it was
planted with an avenue of coconut palms. It was very
pretty. They kept that dance floor powdered with talcum
powder. It was fun for us youngsters to go up there and
take our shoes off and slide over the floor. There was a
nice neighborhood of youngsters there who became my friends.
It is also interesting to know that Mrs. Burdine lived
diagonally across the street from us. We were on the
southeast corner, and she was on the northwest corner of
that intersection. Down the street there was a family by
the name of Lily, another named Posey, and right across the
street from us was Captain Rose. Down the street was R. C.
Gardener's family. So we were living in Bayside Park with
the Poseys, the Lilys, Mrs. Green, Captain Rose, and the
Gardeners. That was quite a garden of families!
S: Where did you go to school?
C: I went to old Central School, which is where the post office
now is, right across the street from the present Miami-Dade
[Community College] campus.
S: Did you walk?
C: Oh, no. Colonel Brossier, a very prominent person here at
that time, would always go to town about that time, so he
would take me and a couple of my neighborhood friends and
let us off at school. But before the end of that school
year, Father bought his first home in Miami between the
Boulevard and Second Avenue on Northeast Fourth Street. In
those days, the address was between Avenue B and the
Boulevard on Eighth Street. See, they changed names and
numbers of the streets. I learned downtown Miami by the old
addresses, and I still have to translate.
S: It has changed quite a bit. Are some of the houses still
C: No, none of ours. It is strange, but every house that we
ever lived in has been torn down. That home was made into a
hotel. It was a colonial home with four large columns that
went from the floor to the roof with a porch on the second
floor. You know the type. It was a beautiful home. It was
made into the Leona Hotel, I think they called it. It was
owned by the Ferre family, but it was torn down to make the
People Mover. I could walk to Central School just a block
and a half away.
Later we moved to the corner of the Boulevard and old Fifth
Street which would be now Northeast Seventh Street, a block
north of Freedom Tower. Then that was the high-class
residential section in Miami, the Boulevard, south to what
is now Flagler. We were there during World War I and the
flu epidemic of 1918. We were living on the bay front, so
we kept our back windows closed; we opened only the front
east windows, and we did not get the flu during that
historic epidemic. Schools were closed, churches were
closed, everything was closed except the grocery stores.
Father would go out and get groceries, and we would stay
At our back fence facing present Seventh Street, lived Dr.
Edward Peters. Of course, as a doctor he picked up the flu
and brought it home to everybody in the family. I remember
that Father moved a big work table right up against the
fence near their back door. Mother cooked for them and put
the food on the table by the fence and call them, and
whoever was the least sick would come out and get it. After
they washed the dishes and pots and pans and so forth, they
put them on this table and spread them out in the sun, and
Mother would leave them there until later on in the day.
Then she disinfected them and prepared the next meal for
It was also the time when there were a lot of tourists
coming to Miami, but because of the war effort there was
nothing being built to accommodate the tourist crowd. The
McAllister Hotel on the corner of Flagler and the Boulevard
was just a steel skeleton.
S: This is 1918?
C: Yes. The McAllister Hotel was not finished until a couple of
years after the war ended. Tourist space was at a premium.
The chamber of commerce asked people who had vacant bedrooms
to list them so that they could help find rooms for the
tourists. At that time they were renting chairs in hotel
lobbies for a dollar a night. Flagler's church, which was
the First Presbyterian Church, was opened at night so people
could sleep on their padded pews. Some, it was said, went
to the railroad station and bought a ticket on a train going
north, spent the night traveling and sleeping on a sleeper,
and returned the next day to try to find a room.
We were living on the Boulevard at that time, in a three-
story home with a bay window in the living room and bedroom
above and a steeple--the circa 1900 style of house.
Downstairs there was a big hall dividing the parlor from the
library, a tremendous dining room about the size of this
living room of mine, a bedroom and bath, Father's den, a
butler pantry, and the kitchen. Upstairs on the second
floor there were four bedrooms and two baths. When father
renovated the house, it had just an open attic. Mother said
she would have none of that because there would be so much
dust. There were the same nice stairs to the attic as those
from the first floor to the second. So Father had the attic
made into three bedrooms and a bath. It was unheard of in
those days for a house to have four bathrooms. Mother asked
Father if he wanted to open the home to tourists as
requested by the chamber of commerce, but he said, "No, my
home is my castle. I want the privacy of my home."
Well, as days went by, Mrs. Peters, the doctor's wife who
had an extra bedroom, had rented it. On a particular
occasion, the people who had the bedroom wanted to stay a
day extra, but she had already rented for the night that
they were supposed to have gone. So she came over to Mother
and said, "Mrs. Curry, if I bring over the linens and
towels, would you take this couple until I can take them
back again?" Mother said, "Yes, but I will furnish my own
linens. You bring your guests over," which she did.
Well, we understand from what we heard afterwards that this
is what happened. The next morning those people went down
to Bayfront Park where the bandstand was, where [Arthur]
Pryor's band used to play. On the benches there under the
coconut palms, this couple saw a couple who were friends of
theirs several seats over, and they told them, "We know
where you can get a wonderful place if they will take you.
It is 422 Boulevard." There was an old couple sitting
between them, and when they heard this, they got up
immediately and came to the house. This was a Saturday
morning. I answered the doorbell. They asked, "Do you take
roomers?" I said, "No, ma'am." They said, "May we speak to
your mother, please?" I called Mother, and she said, "I am
sorry, but we do not take roomers." Well, I pulled on
Mother's sleeve and said, "Take him. He is cute." He was a
cute little fellow, and she was a handsome lady. So Mother
said, "All right, come in." She rented them the downstairs
bedroom with a private bath.
When Father came home for lunch, she told him about it, and
he said, "Well, if we are going to do it, let's move up to
the third floor--there are three bedrooms and a bath there--
and we will rent the other four bedrooms." The house filled
up before nightfall. So we had our own privacy up on the
third floor, and all went well. As tourists began to thin
out, our renters left, one couple at a time. Finally Father
said, "Let's move back down to our own bedrooms on the
second floor. If you want to rent bedrooms, we will rent
the ones on the third floor." We did, and along came this
young fellow--tall, gangly, freckle-faced, sandy redhead
that did not stay put. He wanted a room, so Mother rented
him the octagon bedroom over hers.
S: Is this still 1918?
C: 1919. We gave him a key to the front door. He said that he
was learning to fly out at the flying field. There was no
airport in those days; they called it the flying field. He
wore tall leather boots that laced up to his knees--
"aviator's boots" were fashionable at that time. In fact,
it was the fashion for ladies at that time. The skirts were
long, and they wore these leather boots that laced up almost
to the knees. I had a pair, and it took time to get the
things laced up in the mornings. We had a German cook who
was very impatient, and if I did not get down to breakfast
on time, she would come up. While I was lacing up one shoe,
she would lace up the other to get me down to breakfast.
Anyway, this newcomer was a very timid fellow.
S: Where was he from?
C: We did not know. He would not come in at night until all the
lights were out. Then he would come; we could hear him
going up the stairs two at a time to the third floor.
Mother said that when he would unlace one boot and kick it
off, she would almost hold her breath waiting for the second
boot to land over her head.
One morning when Mother was reading the paper in the
library, the maid came to her and said, "Ms. Curry, I want
you to see something up on the third floor." Mother said,
"Tell me what it is." "Oh, no, ma'am. You have to see."
Mother said, "Tell me what it is. I do not want to climb
the stairs if I do not have to." "No, ma'am. You have to
see this." So Mother put down the paper and climbed up to
the third floor, and in this fellow's room everything was
smeared with axle grease. There was axle grease on the
dresser scarf. He had taken the pillow cases off and hung
them over the back of a chair, and they had axle grease on
them. The pillows that he had slept on--by the way, they
were French linen ticking on down pillows--had axle grease
smeared all over them. The sheets were ruined, and the
bedspread, which was a Marsaille bedspread which you could
not buy today at any price, was ruined with grease, as were
S: Had he left at this time?
C: He had gone out; he always went early in the morning.
Everything was ruined with axle grease. Mother said, "He
has to go." She told Father about it, and he said, "How are
you going to get hold of him? He does not come in until
after our lights are out and we are in bed." Mother said,
"You folks go to bed, and I will turn the lights off except
the hall light downstairs as usual. (It was left on all
night.) I will stay in the parlor, and when he comes in, I
will accost him."
So that was done. She told him that he would have to go.
She felt that there were enough vacancies in town now for
him to find a room easily. He said, "I know why you are
asking me to leave, and I am sorry. But my hairline was
beginning to recede, and they told me at the airport that if
I put axle grease on it it would stop my hair from falling
out." Well, the fellow turned out to be Charles Lindbergh.
S: Isn't that something. That was in 1919?
C: He was learning to fly, and he was a grease monkey out at the
S: How long did he stay at your place?
C: Oh, about a month.
S: Did you ever get to talk to him?
C: No, he was too shy, and I was equally shy.
S: And then, of course, he became famous.
C: They were just pulling his leg.
S: How old do you think he was?
C: He was about eighteen or nineteen, I would judge. I
understood later that his mother [Evangeline Land Lindbergh]
was teaching [science] at the American University in Athens,
Greece, and his father [Charles Augustus Lindbergh] was a
United States Congressman [1907-1917] from Minnesota, so the
poor kid was just left on his own.
S: Isn't that fascinating. So you had a real famous person
there. Did you continue to rent rooms?
C: No, that was the end of that. No, father was very, shall I
say, solicitous about his home. He always had a beautiful
home, beautifully furnished. He wanted it that way.
S: Had you been through a hurricane in Miami?
C: I had been through two in Key West in 1909 and 1910. The
papers up north said that Key West had been wiped off the
map. It was said in Key West that we were the only family
that slept in dry beds. Our house did not leak.
S: Did you have hurricane shutters on the outside?
C: We had wood shutters made in Maine. Father had specifically
ordered heart wood with no sap for the shutters, but when
they arrived, they were made of outer wood, which contains
sap. Father did not accept that: it had to be all heart
wood. So he sent them back to Maine, they made new ones.
The house is still there, of course. The construction took
place from January to September 1901.
S: It is something that it could withstand a hurricane.
C: It is still there. I suppose it now has termites, like all
the Key West houses get sooner or later, that is, before
S: Did you stay in Miami during the summers, or did you go up to
C: No, we usually went to North Carolina, until mother and I
both got to the point where we could not take the dampness
of North Carolina and the cold. So we began going up to New
England for the summers.
S: Along the coast?
C: Well, in Massachusetts or Lake Sunapee in New Hampshire.
S: And your father would stay here and work?
C: No, he went with us.
S: For the whole summer?
C: No, not the whole summer, but part of it. Father was
bothered by the heat. Of course, that was in the days
before air conditioning.
S: What about mosquitos? Were they bad here at that time?
C: Oh, were they! I should say. We would drive over to the
beach to go swimming. We parked the car on the road--you
did not dare get off it because the car would sink in the
S: Where did you go?
C: Anywhere, because the beach was open. We would run from the
car to the water, and by the time we would get to the water,
you would rake the mosquitos off your arms and neck and then
dive in to get rid of the rest of them.
S: When you lived in Miami, Miami consisted of Biscayne
Boulevard and a few blocks north and a few blocks south.
C: No, let me see. Twelfth Avenue today was Lawrence Drive, and
that was about the end, that was really the end. I remember
that the first city manager of Miami had been Flagler's
engineer. I do not mean choo choo engineer, I mean head
man. He was a friend of Father's. His daughter married a
young fellow and moved to Miami, and they lived in little,
new cottage about where Tenth Avenue and Flagler Street is
now. When my folks went out to see her and her new husband,
the house was in a swamp. They had a little catwalk bridge
from the street over the swamp to their front porch. Now,
of course, you would never know it. That was near where
Firestone's Garage is now. It was Hickson's grapefruit
S: What street was that?
C: Flagler and Twelfth Avenue.
S: Had you been down to Vizcaya during its development and
C: Well, yes. I had not been in it, of course, because Mr.
Deering was living there. When we moved to the home that we
lived in for about twenty-five years at the bay on what is
now Northeast Twenty-first Street, the whole subdivision was
called Bayonne Place. It had been homesteaded by an old sea
captain who had retired and moved there. He planted
tropical fruit trees brought from all over the world, and it
was a jungle! Many kinds of tropical fruits were there.
The home was built by a Mr. Luders, who was Carnegie's
private secretary. It was one of three homes he had. It
was a beautiful home, elegantly furnished by a northern
decorator. To clear out some of the "jungle," Father
offered Mr. Deering some of the fine trees for Vizcaya,
which he gladly accepted.
S: What year did you move there?
S: So you were going into junior high school or maybe high
C: I went to high school in 1919.
S: And you went to Miami High?
S: How old was Miami High at that time?
C: It had started in about 1903. Miss Hattie Carpenter was the
first principal. I did not know her, but I knew her sister
and used to play tennis with one of her nephews.
S: How many students were at Miami High when you went there?
C: When I graduated, I think there were eighty-two in the class.
But all did not graduate. There were stricter requirements,
evidently, in those days than there are today.
S: What year did you graduate?
S: After you graduated, did you go on to college in Florida?
C: No, I went to Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Lynchburg,
Virginia. It is supposed to be the most difficult school in
S: And you went there for four years?
C: No, I went there until I could not take the cold on the James
River. I was spending more time in bed than I was in class.
Finally the college doctor came into my room one morning
when I had high fever, put his hand on my forhead, and said,
"Little girl, I am sorry, but you are going to have to go
back to the Land of Sunshine."
S: You could not take the cold. What did you major in? Liberal
C: Yes, mostly history, and art. I have an art diploma.
S: So then you came back to Florida and finished at Florida
Southern. Was that in Lakeland at the time?
C: Yes, it had just recently moved to Lakeland.
S: Was that a coed school or all women?
C: Randolph-Macon was just a woman's college. Florida Southern
S: So you ended up with a four-year degree. Did you get a
teaching degree, a degree in education?
C: No. Mother did not want me to teach, and she wrote to the
dean and told him she did not want me to take certain
subjects that would lead to a teaching certificate. The
dean called me in and told me her instructions. She also
did not want me to take calculus. I said, "But I want to,"
and he said, "Well, I am sorry, but I have my instructions."
He was the dean, but he always taught one class because he
wanted to keep in touch with the students. The first year I
was there he taught trigonometry, and I happened to be in
that class. He handpicked his classes after that, and I
went right on through until calculus time, and could not
take it. The next year he told me, "I am signing you up for
advanced mathematical physics." I said, "But I cannot take
it." He asked why not, and I said, "Because calculus is a
prerequisite, and I have not had that." He said, "Well, I
will teach you that."
There were eight in my class--two girls and six men--that
took advanced mathematical physics. When they sent my
college credit to Tallahassee for a teaching certificate,
they listed that as a science credit instead of as a math
credit. I never did change it, because I did not want to
teach math. I loved math for math's sake, but I did not
want to teach it to a bunch of dumbbells. I never did
change my certificate so I could not teach math, although I
had three and a half years of college math.
S: So you would come back to Miami on vacations and summers?
C: Yes, for a short time, and then we would be off for the
S: Miami was rapidly changing in the 1920s.
C: Yes, it was. When I finished college, Miami was a different
city altogether. The boom had come and gone, and my
classmates and friends had scattered all over not only Miami
and Coral Gables and the beach but also out of town. It was
a changed place.
S: So many of your classmates did not stay in Miami. Did they
C: Quite a few had moved away. My best friend, Helen Seybold,
went to college with me. She was unfortunate in that she
did not decide to go until it was to late to room on campus,
so we could not room together. She did not go back there
the next year because I did not go. Her parents sent her to
Europe for that year, with a chaperon. The next year she
went to the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
S: That is where I went. My husband went there too.
C: She married a fellow there and moved to City Rapids, Iowa.
S: Many of the people that were involved in developing Miami and
were active in politics later, were a lot of them your
C: Oh, yes. I saw Judge Robert Diehl on television last
evening. He was one of my pupils. He was one of the
busiest little wiggle worms that I ever tried to teach.
S: What other people that made an impact in Miami history did
you grow up with and vividly remember?
C: Well, my generation scattered. Judge Herin was one of my
playmates. He lived on what is now Northeast Third, which
is now part of the Everglades Hotel. When we lived on old
Eighth Street, which is now Northeast Fourth, Lon Worth Crow
was a teenager when I was teaching. I did not teach him at
Miami High, but I chaperoned him. Now they do not know the
meaning of the word chaperon.
S: So you really returned to live in Miami in about 1926?
S: Did you miss the big hurricane here [September 11-12, 1926]?
C: Yes, I missed it. Mother and Father were in it.
S: Was there much damage to the house?
C: Oh, they had just moved from the northeast section. They had
bought a lot on Brickell Avenue, about 2125 Brickell Avenue.
As they were going to build there, they rented a home on the
corner of Brickell Avenue and Twelfth Street, 1235 Brickell.
It was a beautiful, big, two-story house on the southeast
corner on Twelfth Street and Brickell Avenue. They moved in
on a Saturday morning, and the storm came that night. The
movers had put everything on the floor. Boxes of books were
stacked over on the floor hither and yon, and boxes of other
things were put along the walls. The storm came that night,
and the roof went off, the windows went out, and then the
plaster began to drop in hundred-pound hunks and dragged the
light fixtures and the chandeliers out by their roots.
S: Where did they stay when this was going on?
C: They stayed on the stairs between two walls. They figured
that if the ceiling dropped it would not be in large-enough
chunks to be too dangerous. Mother said the stairsteps were
just a Niagara Falls. They had to stay there during the
As the eye came over--Father knew enough about storms from
past experience to recognize the eye--he began to board up
the windows on the opposite side of the house. A car that
drove up during the lull and got stopped in front of the
house because trees had fallen across Brickell Avenue. The
man got out and was going to walk to town to get whatever it
was he wanted, and he left his wife in the car. Father went
out as the wind began to come from the opposite side and
asked her to come in, but no, she was going to stay in the
car. Of course, in those days the cars were very high; they
were great big blunder-buses.
As my parents were busy boarding up the opposite side of the
house from which the original blow had come, the water began
to rise. You see, the height of the storm came with the
crest of the tide which created a storm surge, and as that
area was very low, it began to flood. Father went out and
tried to persuade her, no, she was not coming in, as she did
not see any woman in the house. Well, Mother went to the
door and beckoned to her to come. She got out of the car
and waded through water that was almost up to her neck.
The house, I suppose, was five steps up from the ground, and
the water was up to Father's hips on the first floor. The
seawater came through all of the windows and doors, leaving
the house full of seaweed and trash and debris. The
pendulum of our grandfather clock ticked through the tide--
it was against a wall, so plaster did not fall on it. We
had to have the clock case refinished, but the works were up
high enough that they were not damaged.
It turned out that the lady's husband was an employee of
Vizcaya. Mother gave her dry clothes, which, of course, did
not stay dry. Everything was wet, so my parents had to move
out. The car was in the garage, and the water came to
within an inch of the top. It was a beautiful car with wood
inlay, silk curtains, and a cut-glass vase in a bracket on
the side. It was a new car, too.
S: Unbelievable. The city was devastated.
C: Of course, that meant that all of the grease and chemicals
and ick and mud and oil were all over everything when the
S: Did you come down right after the storm?
C: No, because there was no place for me to stay. Mother and
Father moved to a house that my Aunt Lamar was building for
rental over in the northwest section, which, by the way, was
removed when 1-95 was put through. My aunt had just
finished the home and had gone away for the summer; she and
her husband were still up North somewhere. When the storm
was over, since that house was far away from the bay, my
parents thought it would be all right. They got
transportation to Aunt Lamar's house, and they found that
only one window had been broken by one of the rafters from
the house next door. The rest of the house was intact. So
they moved in and had a dry place to stay until they could
make other arrangements.
S: You came back in 1927 to live in Miami?
C: Yes. Of course, I was worried about the hurricane. The
reports were that so many people were dead that they were
digging mass graves to bury them. I could not get in touch
with my parents. My uncles tried, too. The phone would
ring, but we did not know that it was ringing at the office
and not in the home. Finally, on Wednesday about eleven
o'clock I got a telegram from Father. The way he had gotten
it to me was rather smart. He cabled Havana, Cuba--the
cables were underwater--had it cabled from Havana to New
York and then had it telegraphed from New York to me. The
message was very brief: All well, notify kin.
In the meantime, one of the fellows that I was going with
had a beautiful car, and he said we will load it with
groceries because they would not let cars in from Palm Beach
south unless they were loaded with grocercies. He said, "We
will go to Palm Beach, load the car with grocercies, and go
into Miami." Well, I did not really want to do that, but
finally the dean of women said, "Go. Go." I was just ready
to do that when I got the telegram.
S: You must have been a wreck until you got the telegram.
C: I was. It was just after I had taken my first I.Q. test. I
remember that I.Q. test very well!
S: When you moved back to Miami in 1927, did you start teaching
C: No, Mother and Father did not want me to teach, as I had told
you. Mother had taught before she was married, and she
said, "It is too hard. I do not want you to do that kind of
work. I do not want you to do anything. You can give your
services in volunteer fashion to this, that, and the other
organization if they need you." But I wanted to teach, so
it got to be a joke. You see, I was under age, and I had to
have parental permission to teach.
S: How old did you have to be to teach?
C: Twenty-one. The joke was I would ask my parents, "May I put
in my application to teach?" and they would say, "No." The
Saturday morning before school opened in September, the
Herald came out with a list of the new teachers that were
assigned to the various schools--Miami was still that small.
After reading that article in the paper, I asked if I could
put in my application to teach. Father looked over his
glasses and said, "If your mother thinks so." I said,
"Mother, may I put in my application again?" "I suppose
so." She did not think I would have a chance, because she
had seen that every position was filled.
Well, I rushed downtown to put in my application to teach.
In due time the telephone rang. It was Henry Filer, who was
chairman of the school board. He was a friend of the family
from way back. Mother answered the phone, and he said,
"Mrs. Curry, may I speak to Lamar Louise, please?" He said,
"Lamar Louise, do you still think you want to teach?" I
said, "Oh, yes, sir." He said, "Well, go out and see Mr.
Alleshouse in the morning." He was the principal that had
been at Miami High and retired during the boom. When the
boom broke, he did not want to displace Mr. Thomas who had
become the principal. Andrew Jackson had just been opened
up as a new school, so they put him out there as principal.
So I went to see Mr. Alleshouse. He said, "Come tomorrow
morning prepared to teach." That was it!
S: And you started to teach at Jackson?
C: Yes, and I taught there for three years.
S: What did you teach?
C: I taught history, and I taught several other subjects, too.
S: Was that a high school?
C: No, junior high. I taught seventh, eighth, and ninth grades
English, history, sanitation, physiology, geography, and
S: How big were the classes? Were there many students?
C: Well, that was the trouble. Allapattah was the backwash of
the boom in those days. There were three eighth-grade
classes, all running oversize. I was to take the surplus
from each class to cut them down to size. Of course, as you
can guess, I got the worst discipline problems of all three
classes--all in my one class.
S: And it was your first year teaching.
C: I soon learned it was sink or swim. Fortunately, I had had a
good introduction in discipline. At the end of the third
year, I got a letter from Dr. Pearson saying that they
needed a good disciplinarian at Miami High in the social
studies department, that he had taken the liberty of moving
me to Miami High the next year, and that hoped I would find
it satisfactory. Of course, I was delighted.
S: You wanted to go back to your old school. What year did you
start teaching at Miami High?
S: So you started teaching history in 1930.
S: Did you teach all different grades history?
C: Yes, I taught world history, some English history, and
American history and government.
S: Was in tenth through twelfth grade?
C: Right. I taught world history to the tenth graders, American
history to the eleventh, and civics to the twelfth.
S: So you were happy that you were at Miami High.
S: Did you live with your parents off of Biscayne Boulevard?
C: Yes, Biscayne Boulevard and Twenty-first Street.
S: So you were all settled in Miami by then.
C: Oh, yes. Last month was my seventieth year in Miami.
S: That is historic. How many years did you teach at Miami High
C: Thirty-one and a half.
S: You saw big changes in Miami.
C: Oh, did I! Not only in Miami, but at Miami High and the
types of students.
S: You were teaching during the Cuban influx.
C: All of the Cuban influxes from 1934 on. That was when I got
Desi Arnaz [Cuban-American entertainer, Lucille Ball's
S: You had him as a student?
C: Yes, in 1934.
S: Did he spend all three years at Miami High?
C: No, he moved.
S: Was he a good student?
C: Heavens, no.
S: Could he speak English well at the time?
C: You did not hear much from him. I remember one time the boys
had played a trick on him when I was out of the room. When
he was not looking, they passed his books all around the
room, from one to another. When the bell rang for
dismissal, they walked out and left his books scattered
around the room. He was looking for his books and just
sputtered away in Spanish like you had heard him do on
television with Lucille Ball. I have my gradebook now with
I did not recognize him when I saw him on television. I
knew his face was familiar. When I asked somebody who he
was, they said, "Oh, he is just a drummer from Cuba that got
into show business." Well, I let the matter drop until a
friend brought me some of my old gradebooks of the 1930s
that had been cleared out of the basement of Miami High.
Back in the 1960s, they discarded all of the 1930s
gradebooks, and my friend picked out several of mine and
brought them to me. One of them had Desi's name in there as
Desiderio Arnaz. He did not come for his examination; he
knew he was not going to pass. He was such a poor student.
S: What other notable people have you taught?
C: Well, there are so many prominent people here in Miami that I
have taught--judges, doctors, dentists, lawyers, etc.
S: Will you tell us about a few? Just name a few.
C: Well, for instance, you know our newcomer in the Gables
Estates, Bill Colson. Allen Fogg's brother, Ed Fogg, was
one of my students. Alfred Browning Parker was one of
mine, and Jim Voorhees, my architect, and Jim Ferguson, who
is the Gables Estates architect, were mine. One of my
attorneys was a pupil, and so was my C.P.A.
S: Governor [Robert] Graham [governor of Florida, 1979-1987,
United States Senator, 1987-].
C: Yes. I also taught Bob's older brother, Bill, years earlier.
Do you remember he married Katherine [Meyer] of the
Washington Post? [Eugene Meyer was publisher and editor of
the Washington Post from 1933 to 1946.] I also taught Judge
Floyd, Judge Diehl, Federal Judge Spellman, and Judge Swan.
S: Do you keep in touch with many of these people?
C: Yes. I get many telephone calls, visits, and letters
frequently from former pupils going back to the early 1930s.
S: It is interesting for you to see how well some of these
people that you taught turned out.
C: I am very proud of them, because my feeling was always that
they are mine. I have a very close affection for them. Of
course, I could not show that in the classroom.
S: But you enjoyed teaching.
S: You really devoted your life to teaching.
C: Yes. Many of them have said--I have heard it often--"She was
hard, but she was fair." As long as they added that last
phrase, that was all right.
S: That is a nice thing for people to say.
C: They are there to learn, and I was there to teach, not to
play with them.
S: You were there when Miami High became integrated?
C: No, I was not. I retired before that.
S: That would have been a big change, too.
C: When the strike occurred in 1968, I had been retired for six
years. Teachers were needed for high school, particularly,
so that the seniors would have enough hours to get into
college from an accredited school. I was asked to come back
during the strike, and I said I would teach one class of
seniors. Mother was sick in bed with a nurse around the
clock, and I had to supervise a nurse coming in three times
every twenty-four hours. My aunt, Mother's twin, was also
sick, and I had two nurses for her. Well, I took the 7:30
class so I could get out at 1:00. There were five economics
teachers, all men, who were out on strike, and they put all
five of their classes in the auditorium, hung a microphone
around my neck, and told me, "It is yours. Do not expect
the discipline that you had when you were teaching here
before." I could not understand that, but with five classes
at a time--150-plus students--in the auditorium, with my
being up there on the stage, and two different textbooks to
synchronize, it was difficult.
S: It is totally different.
C: And then testing! I had to test 150 per class period, which
meant mimeographing the tests. It was a lot of work. You
see, six years after retirement, there was no one to tell
them what to expect from me. But I had discipline! You
want to know how? Sitting in the back of the center section
of the auditorium at Miami High there were a few fellows
scattered that wanted to make trouble. There was one Cuban
fellow who could easily pass for twenty-five, and he sat in
a little group and whispered. He was the one that did the
whispering; the others would go along with him. Finally I
stopped and looked at him and waited. He stopped and
smiled. He began talking again, and I stopped again. I
stopped a third time and looked at him. I said, "Will the
fellow in the blue shirt move three rows directly behind
himself?" There was a long pause, and he looked around as
though he was looking to see to whom I was talking. I said,
"You. Move three rows directly behind yourself." He asked
what he had done. I just shook my head and pointed my
finger to three rows behind him.
After so long a time, every eye was turned that way to see
what was going on--he was the center of attention. He
flipped up his seat and went over the back to the third row
and sat down. I said, "Now, you will come back to your
original position?" "You just told me to move back here."
I just pointed to him and to the seat that he had moved
from. I did not waste one word on him. After half a minute
he said, "You told me to move back here." I just pointed to
the seat I wanted him to move to. So he flipped up the
seats and over he went, instead of going out to the aisle,
and sat down. I said, "Now, you will go three rows directly
behind yourself?" "But I just went there." I just pointed
back there, and he put his finger to his forehead and smiled
as if to say she is crazy. I just pointed back to that
other seat and waited. He grinned a ha, ha, ha, flipped up
the seat, and started back over the seats again. This time
I said, "Go like a man and not like a spider." He stopped
in his tracks, went out to the aisle, into the proper row,
and sat down--way down. He slunk way down. He knew
everyone was looking at him. That was all that was needed.
Word got around!
S: When did you move from your house in downtown Miami to here
in the Gables?
C: We moved up to Northeast Fifty-third Street, near the bay.
We were there about twelve years. You see, the Twenty-first
Street area became a guest-house area. Later that house was
torn down for a parking lot. What made it really so
undesireable was when the Cuban rush came in.
S: Which year?
C: About 1960-1961. Castro was putting all of the young fellows
into the army at that time, and the rich people in Cuba who
could not get out themselves sent their boys over here.
Some Catholic organization herded them into that house
because it had so many rooms, and they kept those boys
there. Evidently they unknowingly brought in termites, and
in due time the house was just riddled with termites. Then
along came IBM on the Boulevard and Twenty-second Street,
and they wanted a parking lot. They bought this place,
bulldozed the house, and used the lot for their parking lot.
In the meantime, as I said, we had already moved up to
Northeast Fifty-third Street.
S: What year did you move to Fifty-third Street?
C: About 1948 or 1949.
S: That was a Morningside area?
C: No, north of that. It was just north of Bay Point and just
south of Miami Shores.
S: That was a nice area then.
C: Very nice. Then we decided that I would retire.
S: Your parents were both living at this time?
C: Father had died in 1944. Mother and I decided we wanted a
home in this area [Coral Gables] because it would be closer
to the Keys.
S: You used to go down to the Keys quite often, right.
C: Yes, and from this location we did not have to go through all
of Miami. It is fifty miles from here to our former home.
Mother had decided on Gables Estates and had talked to the
office about buying here. The lot she wanted was the one on
Old Cutler Road, north of Arvida Parkway--Arvida Drive had
not been put through yet. We looked, but we were not ready
S: What year was this? Was this the first time you came down
looking at land?
C: We were going down to the Keys one day by way of Old Cutler
Road, when that main canal was being dredged.
S: Was that in the 1950s?
C: Late 1950s. When we passed by Arvida Parkway, Mother saw the
dredge out there with that canal. She said, "Stop, Lamar
Louise. Let me go back and see what that is." So I turned
around and came back here on this bumpy street, which of
course had not been paved. Mother said, "Here is where I
want to live." In due time we looked at that lot on Old
Cutler Road, but we did not particularly like it because we
did not want to be on Old Cutler. As I said, the Parkway
area had just filled in. There was no bulkhead here when we
bought this lot.
S: Arthur Vining Davis. .
C: He died in November 1962.
S: Who lived in that house? His secretary?
C: Nobody; it was vacant. He let us live in his little guest
house, which is where the Gittleman home is now. We wanted
to be closer to our construction than Northeast Fifty-third
Street and the Bay (it was exactly fifteen miles from there
to here), so Mr. Davis let us live over there.
We moved in on January 24, 1962. After the plans were drawn
for this house, we got Calif Construction to build it. We
thought that if we were going to be in his subdivision in
his area we would go along with him, although his company
did not present the lowest bid. It was the third lowest,
but we chose Calif Construction for that reason. Well, it
turned out that Mr. Davis died the month before we moved in
here, the month before our home was finished. He was
getting unable to tend business anyway. It was all in the
hands of First National Bank, which was really his bank
because he owned so much stock in it. But he died on
November 17, and we moved into our new home December 27.
S: How long did it take to build the house?
C: They broke ground on May 22, and we moved in on December 27.
S: That is great!
C: That was rushing it, but Calif Construction knew that it was
not going to do any more building because of Mr. Davis's
inability to carry on. So whenever they finished with any
of their big machinery on this project, they sold it.
S: They did a beautiful job. It is a beautiful house.
C: Thank you. We know that it is well constructed.
S: Did you stay in this house through any hurricanes?
C: Oh, yes, all of them from 1962 on. We had Cleo and Betsy and
S: And it was okay?
C: Yes. When they were digging the foundation, they brought a
ditchdigger in and dug into solid rock. They did not have
to make forms for the pouring of the concrete because there
were three sides of solid rock. So they just put the steel
in in the proper places and poured the concrete. We found
that the foreman of the job was bawled out by the company
for using more steel in than the code required.
S: Do you remember coming to Coral Gables, the city, when it was
first being built?
C: I remember the first advertising sign that went up in Miami.
I was going to high school, so it had to be about 1921 or
1922. One morning as we passed where Sears was on the
Boulevard and Thirteenth streets, there was a great big,
white sign facing northeast in the southwest quadrant of the
circle. Of course, I did not pay any attention to it except
that there was a big billboard going up. The next day going
to school I noticed that they had painted on that sign in
great big flamingo-colored letters about two feet high just
the words "Coral Gables" across the middle of that big,
shiny, white sign. I said, "Coral Gables? What is that?"
Father said, "That is a new subdivision they are building
way out there in the woods."
S: Had you come out here at all? Did you know any people that
lived here in the early days?
C: No, not then. When we first moved to Miami, a friend of
Father's, Mr. Lambkin, who had moved to Miami about a year
before we did, had bought a grapefruit grove in the Coral
Gables area. He and his wife wanted us to move out here,
too. He showed Father the property directly across the
street from Gables House, which was a grapefruit grove.
Father said, "No, I do not want to move way out there in the
S: And the Biltmore Hotel was a nice, lovely place. Did you
ever go there for any functions?
C: No. I was in college until just before it folded. Mother
and Aunt Lamar did. Teas were very fashionable as social
events in the afternoons. The ladies dressed up in their
tea dresses, with their fancy hats, beautiful shoes,
jewelry, and purses. The purses were called card cases
because they held their visiting cards. Do you know what a
card case is?
S: I am not familiar with them.
C: I have two in the bank vault. Mine was silver, but Mother's
was silver with inlaid gold stripes. Hers was pretty.
S: And you had little cards made?
C: Yes, steel-engraved social cards. The cases also had a
little compartment for loose powder and puff with a mirror,
and there were three little slots for nickels, dimes, and
quarters. You did not need any more than that in those
days. A card case would hold about four or five dimes,
maybe three or four nickels, and several quarters.
S: And that was a lot of money?
C: You did not really need much more in those days, unless you
S: Did you go over to Miami Beach when you were living here?
C: Oh, yes. Father was very fond of swimming. He was crazy
about the water, and he went swimming frequently, even until
just before he died, when we were living on Northeast
Twenty-first Street by the bay. When we first moved to
Miami, people went swimming in the bay. But later, when
everybody's sewage pipe ended out there a hundred feet out
it the water, they stopped going in. So we would go over to
the beach to go swimming. We liked to go early in the
morning. Mother got to the point where she did not care
that much for it. She was not brought up on the water like
Father was. He would come to my room at the crack of dawn
and awaken me and ask, "Do you want to go swimming?" "Yes."
"Okay, get your suit on. I will be at the front door." By
the time I got my suit on, my hair done up (I had long
hair), and my bathing cap on, he would have the car at the
front door, and away we would go to the beach. We would
step into the ocean just as the sun was coming up. Of
course, the beach was clean; the tide had washed it clean,
and everything was fresh and nice and cool and pleasant.
Father was like a duck is to water, anyway.
S: So you have really seen Miami change in all these years.
C: Speaking of the beach, when we moved to Miami, Mr. Ed Lummus,
who was president of the Southern Bank and Trust Company,
and his brother Newt Lummus, who was vice-president, had
both been in school with Mother and Aunt Lamar. The
Lummuses were in a higher grade than Mother and Aunt Lamar,
but they knew each other and their families well. Of
course, Father began doing business with Southern Bank and
Trust Company. They were developing Miami Beach, in fact,
before Carl Fisher began.
S: Lummus Park is there now.
C: So many people mispronounce that: Lum is "lum," and mus is
"mus." It is not "Loomis." Mr. Ed Lummus told Father,
"Pick out any lot on the beach, and I will give it you if
you will build a $5,000 building on it." Father said,
"Thank you, Mr. Lummus, but I do not want to have to go over
there after a hurricane in a boat and say I think my house
was about here."
S: There was gambling on the beach for a while.
C: Later on, yes, until Kefauver came down here and blew the
whistle on them.
Going to the beach story, when we lived on old Eighth
Street, now Northeast Fourth Street, Mr. and Mrs. Sanders
lived right across the street from us. He was the head
surveyor and construction engineer for the Tamiami Trail;
that was in 1917. Sometimes Carl Fisher would employ him
for his engineering skill. When he had to go over to the
beach, he would come by home and pick up his twins, Bobby
and Mary Sanders, who were my age. "Do you children want to
go to the beach with me?" Then he would stop by our house
to ask me if I wanted to go, too, and I would run to ask
Mother if I could go. "Yes, you may go." We would get in
the back of his car. In those days the cars were great big,
high things. We three would get in the back seat, and away
we would go over Collins Bridge to Miami Beach.
There was very little development then. There were two
casinos, Smith's and Hardy's casinos, which were nothing but
bathing pavilions and a big screen porch with benches and
picnic tables. There were little stalls with makeshift
doors on them where you could change into your swimsuit and
back into your clothes. West of the casinos was a row of
little "shotgun" houses, I would say about six or seven.
They were two-room or maybe three-room cottages, one right
behind the other on what is now Alton Road south of Fifth
Street. Way up on a road that had just been constructed
called Collins Avenue Newt Lummus had built a home, and just
beyond that, T. E. James built his house. Mrs. James was
Annie Lummus, a sister of the Lummuses, and Mr. James was
another vice-president of Southern Bank and Trust Company.
Mrs. James was a friend of Mother's back in the days before
each of them got married.
S: So she had friends from way back.
C: Yes. When we would go up to see Mr. and Mrs. James, their
daughter Mary would lead me from their house, which was on
present Collins Avenue near Fifteenth Street, to the ocean
down a little path to avoid the sandspurs, coco plums, and
S: All the beautiful tropical trees?
C: No, there were no trees, maybe a few grape shrubs there. We
would go down to the ocean and play in the sand on the
S: Where was Collins bridge?
C: Present-day Fifteenth Street was Collins Drive, where Jordan
Marsh and the Omni are now. The bridge began there on the
bay front. We would rattle over that bridge to the
bayshore, and it was just mangroves! Where Fisher had
filled it in it was just white sand and rock and rubble from
the bay. You remember how Gables Estates used to look back
in the days when it was just white rubble and sand. That
was the way the beach looked; there was nothing there. Much
further north from where he was filling in was Baker's
Haulover. You know how that is there now; it is a sand stip
along the ocean and behind A1A into that low place, which
was originally mangroves that had been cut out. That was
the way the beach was until it was filled in. There was a
stip of sand along the ocean--in some places wider than
others--and down into mangrove on the bayside. In some
places the mangrove was deeper than in other places. That
was Miami Beach! And when Mr. Sanders was on his
engineering mission, he would go from here to there over
that hard-packed sand and rubble. No roads were needed!
S: It has changed a little bit. Now you cannot even see the
C: After it began developing, in the summer evenings when we
lived on Twenty-first Street we would walk to the bayfront
and sit there and just enjoy the breeze and the quiet. At
dusk we could count the lights as they were turned on. I
remember early one winter evening we counted fourteen lights
over there, and we remarked on how rapidly the beach was
filling up. Fourteen lights over there!
S: Do you remember the old Rooney Plaza Hotel? It was a
beautiful place. When was it built?
C: Yes, I remember it. I would suppose it was built about 1925,
1926, or 1927. The Roman Pools were right across the street
from where Jackie Ott used to perform his diving. He was a
national sensation. Later Jackie became one of my pupils at
S: There were people from Miami Beach coming over to Miami High?
C: Well, there was no other high school to go to. That was it.
I began teaching at Miami High before there was Edison [High
School]. There was just "Aggie High" [Miami High School].
S: Did you know anything about Julia Tuttle? Did your family
C: No. Now, whether Grandfather had met her or not, I do not
S: What about Cocunut Grove? What was it like?
C: That is older than Miami. Cocunut Grove and Lemon City
existed before the original City of Miami.
S: Did you go there very often when you were growing up?
C: Yes, we would frequently go riding. In 1917 we moved to the
corner of Seventh Street and the Boulevard, a block north of
the Freedom Tower. (The present Freedom Tower was formerly
a Boy Scout campsite, surrounded by Australian Pines with a
cabin way back there near what is now Northeast Second
Avenue, which used to be Avenue B. Later, the News Tower
was built, which became the Freedom Tower.) As I said, the
Boulevard was a high-class residential area. We lived there
in a three-story house that had eight bedrooms and four
baths. Four baths was unheard of in those days.
The Bayshore Boulevard was just two lanes wide, just wide
enough for two cars to pass. It zigzagged around the
natural shoreline. On the shore there were mangrove trees
and old rotting boats that had washed up--some houseboats
and general debris. Mother said she thought that was not a
very pretty front door for the city of Miami. She thought
something should be done about it.
Well, about that time, Mayor Smith was running for re-
election, and he advocated the city's buying two blocks of
Flagler's park, which extended from Flagler Street to the
front lawn of the old Royal Palm Hotel on the river. The
bayshore then was at the west side of the present Boulevard.
There was a sand beach about along where the sidewalk of the
new Southeast National Bank is presently.
One day a city councilman--this was in the days before we
had the city commissioner form of government--came to our
house and rang the doorbell. I answered the door, and it
was Mr. Joe Chaille. He asked, "Are your dad and mother in?
I would like to speak to them." Being the only child, and
that being the excitement of the moment, I sat and listened.
He chatted about this and that for a while, and then he
said, "I suppose you people are going to vote for Mayor
Smith's re-election and for the buying of those two blocks
from the Flagler interests for a park." Mother said, "We
are going to vote for Mayor Smith, but we do not favor the
buying of that property." Mr. Chaille said, "Oh, I thought
you folks were progressive." Mother said, "We are. We are
more progressive than you are. For the amount of money you
will pay Flagler (I think it was a million dollars for those
two blocks), you could buy up the riparian rights on all the
waterfront from the river up to the P. & 0. docks, fill it
out to the channel line, and have a park that would be a
park." Mother had been very active in many civic affairs,
and she had talked of that for about two years. That ended
Years later, after the park had been done, John Claussen,
who was the leading insurance man in those days and was also
vice-president of First National Bank and a Miami
councilman, visited us one Sunday afternoon. We were
sitting on the porch and got to talking about old times in
Miami. Mother related this story somewhat as I have to you.
He sat very quietly and then slapped his leg and said, "That
accounts for it! I was on the city council when this
purchase was going on, and Joe Chaille happened to sit right
next to me at the council table. He was one of the
strongest advocates for buying the Flagler park land. At
that time, we had so much business (Miami was just growing
by leaps and bounds then) that the council was meeting twice
a day. We had a morning meeting and an evening meeting.
That morning Joe Chaille was very much interested in pushing
for the park, for buying the two blocks from the Model Land
Company (the Flagler arm of their real estate). And the
evening meeting he broached the subject of buying up the
riparian rights along the waterfront, filling it in, and
making it a park. We knew it was not Joe Chaille's idea,
but we did not know where he got the idea from."
S: So that was the birth of the park.
C: Mother should get the credit for it. I remember that she
talked about it so much that a friend of ours, Judge Penney,
who lived on the Boulevard between Northeast Third and
Fourth Streets--I can see the house now--half a block north
of the Everglades Hotel, said one day, "Mrs. Curry, if I
live long enough, that park is going to be named for you."
Mother was the person behind it.
S: That is not unusual for somebody to say something and them
someone else will take it up. Would you like to talk a
little bit about your philosophy of teaching?
C: Who is interested in that?
S: Teachers are interested in what you wanted to teach your
students. You said there were three things that you wanted
to teach them.
C: The main things I wanted to teach were (1) how to study, (2)
to indoctrinate them in patriotism, loyalty, and understand
that a good action would bring a good reaction, likewise, a
bad action a bad reaction, and (3) I quickly learned on the
first day I taught that the smart thing to do was to learn
the names of your pupils so you could call them by name
immediately. Then they saw that you knew what they were
doing and that they would get credit or blame, as the case
may be, for it. I also never promised them anything unless
I could and did keep the promise. When I told them that
something had to be done, I stayed with it until it was
done. I did not let up. I did not storm at them. I just
talked in a normal voice, and they were old enough to
understand. Why scream at them? They soon learned. Of
course, every year my reputation would build. The newcomers
would be a bit frightened, so they told me, but they soon
learned that it was all calm and quiet and a chance to study
and learn and enjoy. So many really did enjoy history.
S: You got letters from them afterwards thanking you.
C: Oh, yes, every year. I got a long-distance call not long ago
from a girl who graduated in 1934. In fact, she has never
let me go. Every birthday I get a card from her, and every
Christmas. The other day I got a letter from a girl who
graduated in 1935 telling me about her children and
grandchildren and what she was doing with them. Another one
of my pupils is Steve Stanfill, who has the Stanfill Funeral
Homes. Steve calls me about every week or two to see how I
am getting along.
S: Do you hear from Governor Graham?
C: Yes. I have received several letters from him lately. I
remember when I had surgery in January of 1984, one night
the night nurse came in and said, "When we have a patient
here that the governor calls to find out how she is getting
along, ." From the tone of her voice, I did not think
she was a lover of Governor Graham. So rather than push the
issue, I just said, "Oh?"
S: So you have seen Miami change from the very beginnings of the
city to an international city
C: It was a very pretty, little, medium-sized town then. There
were said to be about 10,000 in Dade County when we arrived.
It was clean and very attractive for a town of that size.
The people were friendly, and we enjoyed it here very much.
S: What do you think of Miami as an international city today?
C: Of course, it is an international city, and it is going to
become more so. If Father were living, or could come back,
he would say, "I told you so!"
S: He could see it coming.
C: He could see it coming. Many years ago he said, "This is
going to be the largest city on the east coast south of
Baltimore. Also, it is going to be the gateway to all Latin
America." People looked at him in amazement in those days
when he said that. But he kept repeating, "It is going to
S: Do you still have land in the Keys that you are involved
S: Can you tell us a little bit about that?
C: Well, I have enough holdings that come tax time it is
shocking. If you pay that for one year, that is all right,
but when you have to pay it year after year after year, and
then cannot sell it, Nobody is idiotic enough to buy
land with money borrowed with interest, plan for its
development, and not know when he can do anything with it,
how much he can do with it, or if he can do anything at all.
S: Because of the restrictions?
C: Because of the land-use plan that has been hanging fire for
several years and moratoriums on big land development so
that little can be done. I had to go to Tallahassee in July
of 1986 when the land-use plan came before the [Florida]
Cabinet for a vote. I noticed from the tentative plan that
I would have to prove my "vested interests" in my property.
So that morning before I left I added up my last five year's
taxes on one particular piece, knowing that I had not had
even a nibble in five years. My taxes for those five years
were $236,390, but I could do nothing with it. Of course, I
was disturbed. I want to see the Keys saved, but they are
not saving the Keys, as I see it, with that blanket of
bureaucracy--they are smothering the Keys.
I understand that over 95 percent of Monroe County is owned
by either federal, state, or local government, and the other
5 percent has to bear all of the taxation for the activity
of government." I mentioned it in a public meeting when
somebody challenged me on it, and somebody else
corroborated. There is this land-use plan with a tremendous
bureaucracy, and bureaucrats have to be paid. The few
people that own the less than 5 percent of Monroe County
cannot bear that burden.
S: That is what is happening now. They are making it very
C: It is said that we should save the Keys for the people of the
state and for the people of the nation because the Keys are
unique. Okay, they are unique, and they should be saved.
But if the Keys are so all-important to the people of the
state and the nation, let the people of the state and the
nation subsidize the Keys and help pay for their enjoyment.
S: Make it a state or a national preserve?
S: You have also traveled worldwide for many years. Did you
travel with your parents when they were alive?
C: Oh, yes, until the boom broke. We traveled extensively. My
parents were the kind that would make me learn, whatever
area we were in, about that area and its important products,
and if it were a manufacturing place, I would have to see
what was done there and how it was done.
S: That is educational.
C: It is. For instance, in Chicago I did not want to go to the
stockyards. My parents did not make me go, but they finally
talked me into going. I thought if I went to the stockyards
I would never want to eat another piece of meat in my life.
But when I saw the whole process from beginning to end, I
did not have that feeling. As another example, when we were
going to a textile area, my parents made certain that I saw
the work from the very beginning to the finished product.
If it were paper manufacturing, I had to see it from the raw
beginning to the end. If it were a farming area, same
S: When was the first time you went to Europe?
C: I suppose in the late 1960s. We had covered the eastern
United States quite well before that.
S: You have seen most of the United States?
C: Yes, including Alaska and Hawaii.
S: You took a trip to China a few years ago.
S: That must have been fascinating.
C: Mainland, China, yes it was. It was a hard trip for me, but
I am glad I went when I did because I understand that in the
last several years there have been vast changes. I am glad
I saw it as it had been. I liked Hong Kong. I have been
there five times. On this particular trip I attended a
financial seminar in Hong Kong. This organization arranged
for a trip through China after the seminar ended for those
who wanted to join such a trip. We had access to places
that the ordinary traveler would not have had, such as the
trip to the gold market in Hong Kong. You have never seen
anything like it!
S: Is that one of your favorite places in the world to go?
C: Yes. We visited factories that produced Chinese goods that
we have been familiar with through the years. I saw how
those items were made, whether carved ivory or carved jade,
or silk from the cocoons on up through the skeins of silk,
to the weaving of those beautiful patterns to the finished
product. I have been into communes and seen how they live,
as much as the government would permit.
But there were places where we were not allowed to go.
We had a plethora of Chinese guides. At first we did not
understand why they were so gracious to give us so many
guides. Then we found out it was for corralling us so we
did not go out of line. I remember in Nanking. They took
us to a flea market affair, and I wanted to get a Coca-cola
because I was thirsty. So I told one of the guides that I
was going to look for a Coke. She said, "I do not think you
will find one here, but I will go with you." We started out
up the lane, which was about four blocks long, and came back
down again, but we could not find a Coke. Upon crossing the
great canal that splits China--it was the waterway for China
in the early days--just as we got nearly across the bridge,
she saw one of the men of our party heading the way that we
had gone. She wanted to know what he was doing, and he
muttered something that neither she nor I could understand.
She said to me, "You stay right here. Do not move." She
turned and struck out after him. I stood there I suppose
ten minutes before she finally had him corralled. He was an
oddball anyway. He was a farmer from Nebraska, and he was
fly in the ointment of the whole trip.
S: How many people were on the tour?
C: About thirty.
S: What year did you go?
S: Not many Americans had visited China by that time.
C: Well, there were a good many there. But in comparison to the
number now going, there were not many.
I remember an interesting experience in Nanking. That was
where Sun Yat-Sen, who was the father of the Republic of
China, lived. His home was there, and his tomb is on the
outskirts of Nanking now. The tomb is on top of a hill, 302
steps by actual count. It is a very massive affair. Of
course, I did not go. I just sat there and watched people,
foreigners and Chinese. It was kind of a pilgrimage for the
We were taken to the estate that used to be Sun Yat-Sen's
home. He married Soong Mayling, one of the Soong sisters.
Mayling's sister Ch'ing-ling was married to Sun Yat-sen, and
another sister, Ai-ling, was married to Kung Hsiang-hsi, who
was premier of China. The Soong family was the banking
family of old China and were very wealthy. [Mayling's
brother Soong Tse-wen (T.V.) was finance minister of the
National government and governor of the Central Bank of
China from 1925-1933. He later was briefly premier of
China.] So that was quite a family: T.V., Ch'ing-ling (the
eldest daughter), Ai-ling, and Mayling (the youngest
daughter). Their father was Charles Soong, an American-
educated businessman. When we went into the estate, we
realized that it had been a gorgeous house. Even the wall
around it was beautiful wall, very elaborate. Madam Chiang
Kai-shek had given the home to the Chinese government. She
was said to have become a Communist, and he was also praised
as a Communist. But I do not think the old fellow knew what
Communism was. The Chinese government made the estate into
a tourist attraction. We had lunch there in a restaurant,
and, of course, there was a gift shop. I have a carved
rosewood stand that I bought there. In its day the home
must have been a gorgeous place, but when I saw it it was
quite run down and dirty.
As we were coming out (I had to catch up with the group
because I had stayed to buy this particular piece of
rosewood), when I got to the gate there was a young Chinese
guide there holding back a group of tourists. I came by
just as he said that Madam Sun Yat-sen went to school in the
United States [Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia].
Somebody asked him where, and he said "Mackon." Somebody
asked, "Where," and he said, "Mackon." Being the teacher
that I was, I could not refrain from making the
pronunciation clear, so I stopped and said, "The
pronunciation is Macon. Macon, Georgia." He said, "Yes,
Georgia." Some in the crowd repeated "Macon"--they knew
where it was! My grandfather was a trustee of Emory and
Wesleyan, but I did not stop to tell them that. It was
through his boyhood chum, Dr. Young J. Allen, a medical
missionary, that the Soong children went either to Emory or
Welseyan. As I was hurrying off to the bus, I heard him
practicing, "Macon, Macon, Macon."
S: That is interesting. It is a small world. I was going to
ask you something else about Miami. You were here during
World War I and World War II. Do you remember any movement
of military people? What was going on in Miami during the
two wars? You were pretty young in World War I.
C: I was very sheltered. During World War I, at the end of
Flagler Street (before the park was there) there was a pier
called Elser Pier. Different civic groups used to provide
entertainment for the soldiers and sailors there.
S: They were stationed in Miami?
C: Since Dinner Key was separate Key until then--I remember when
they joined it by fill to the mainland--there were barracks
there for the soldiers. That was quite an achievement in
those days to build that. Now, do you know why Dinner Key
is called "Dinner" Key?
C: It was a separate Key, and Coconut Grove was the big city.
In earlier days, when people went to and fro from Coconut
Grove to Miami, they would stop off on the Key and have a
picnic lunch, either going or coming, so it became known as
As I said, in World War I, when the government needed a
place for housing the soldiers, they dredged in the fill
from the bay, connecting the little island to the mainland
and creating land for barracks.
I also remember at the end of the war Mother was working to
get that area turned into a park, which it now is. But
somebody found out that she was working for that and bought
it from the government for private development. So mother
did not get the park there. Mother was very active in civic
affairs then. She was very farsighted.
S: She helped get some major projects through.
C: She was a hard worker for the Y.M.C.A. when they built their
building downtown on Northeast First Street. During the
war, when the lot was cleared of a home on the corner of
Twelfth Street and Avenue A (now Flagler Street at Northeast
Third Avenue), the Red Cross was on dire need of
headquarters. It was planned for business and labor to
combine their efforts at no expense to the Red Cross.
Businessmen agreed to give materials, and labor
organizations their time to build it. Everything was
donated. Work was begun on Friday afternoon of this
particular weekend, and it continued all through Friday
night, Saturday, Saturday night, and Sunday. On Monday
morning the Red Cross moved in. I worked there, and so did
Mother. She went almost every day.
The Miami chapter was assigned the making of pajamas for the
injured in the hospitals. In those days there were no
button-hole machines, so button holes had to be made by
hand. When they saw that Mother made such beautiful button
holes, that became her chore. She would work there for
perhaps eight hours at a time and then bring home an armload
of pajama tops work until eleven o'clock at night.
In those days, there were also no knitting machines, either,
like we have now, so the knitting had to be done by hand.
Grandmother knitted socks. She knew how to turn the heel
and so forth, having learned as a girl.
My first job was to knit squares for afghans. The Red Cross
furnished the wool, and we young girls had to put a certain
number of stiches on a certain size knitting needle and knit
a square. Then the squares were sewed together. When you
get hundreds of them coming in from school children all over
the county, you can see that such blankets could be put
together rather quickly.
I then graduated to making sweaters out of khaki-colored
wool that were worn by the fellows that were in the
trenches. They were sleeveless sweater vests. We would
purl the bottom hem about three inches and then use regular
knitting from there on up to where we began to take the
stiches off at the neck. Then we went behind the neck and
down the back and purled the bottom hem. Then it was sewn
up the sides. Even in school we were allowed to knit when
we were not doing pencil work, like math. During reading,
history, and similar classes we could knit. I had learned a
fast way of knitting, and since I had been fast at fancywork
and tatting since I was five years old, I did pretty well
with the sweaters. I remember one day I went to school with
the purling at the bottom of the sweater done. I began
knitting in school, and when I went home that afternoon it
was completed to where Grandmother could take off the
stiches for the neck.
S: You were quick.
C: That was one day's knitting in school. Another thing that we
made for the fellows in the trenches that may be interesting
were what were called trench candles. Since wax was at a
premium--everything was at a premium then--they taught us
how to cut out columns of newspaper very neatly. We would
take a hat pin--women wore hats in those days and had hat
pins--and start winding that strip of paper on the hat pin.
We wound it as tightly as possible until we got a roll
candle about an inch and one-quarter in diameter. Then we
tied it at the top and bottom with two little strings.
after collecting hundreds of these, somebody put a heavy
cotton thread through that little center hole as a wick.
These were then boiled in paraffin or wax until they were
thoroughly permeated with wax. That was called a trench
candle. It was sent to the boys overseas.
S: So you really had a part in all of this. What about World
War II? Was there much action? I know my father came down
here. He was in Pensacola, and I think he said they took
some of the hotels over for the soldiers.
C: Oh, yes. Not all of the hotels on the beach, but all of
those on the Boulevard in Miami were taken over by the
government. They were used even after World War II by the
Russian soldiers or sailors that trained here. I remember
coming home from school in the afternoons, and there on the
Boulevard would be hundreds of those Ruskies parading up the
Boulevard in groups going to the ships for training.
S: When was this?
C: After World War II, late 1945 or 1946. The Biltmore, you
know, became a hospital, and so did the Nautilus Hotel.
S: The Nautilus was a V.A. hospital; I remember that. There was
a blimp base down where the zoo is now.
C: Yes. I remember the hurricane on night that the blimp base
burned. We were listening to the radio, and they said the
wind and flames were so high that there nothing that could
be done except let it burn. The hangar was so tall that it
could be seen for miles around. It stood up over the tops
of the pine trees.
S: So Miami had military personnel here in both wars?
C: Oh, my, yes. And so many of those that were stationed here
loved it so much that they moved down here when the war was
over. During World War I there were some German spies here.
In Coconut Grove there was a rock pit from which rock was
taken to build the main highway. It was said that the spies
were taken to that rock pit, stood up against the wall,
shot. Of course, that was exciting.
S: Spies and other events. Do you remember anything about
William Jennings Bryan [U.S. Secretary of State, 1913-1915]?
C: Oh, yes.
S: When was he here?
C: He came here in the 1910s and the 1920s. Mrs. Bryan was one
of Mother's friends. She was a very good woman. But the
poor dear was confined to a wheelchair with arthritis or
rheumatism. Mr. Bryan was the "silver-tongued orator."
S: Did you ever hear him speak?
C: Oh, yes. I remember once when I was about eleven one Sunday
afternoon he spoke in Trinity Methodist Church. I cannot
recall now what he was talking about to save my life. But I
was enthralled. When it was over, Father took out his watch
and said, "An hour and seventeen minutes." I could not
believe that that much time had elapsed, and that for a
child that age to be on the edge of my seat. Of course, he
was silver-tongued orator.
S: Did he live in Coconut Grove?
C: No. At first he lived on Brickell Avenue. He rented from
Mrs. Brickell a different houses each year. Usually the
homes were corner lots on the west side of Brickell.
Finally he bought Villa Serena, which was the second house
north of Vizcaya. He lived there until about the time of
the boom, I suppose, and then he sold it and bought a lot on
Main Highway in Coconut Grove. Do you know where the
Plymouth Congregational Church is, across the road running
from Main Highway to the bay? His lot was so large he did
not need it all, and he donated the western part of it to
the Coconut Grove Methodist Church, which is still there.
One summer when we were in Kent Springs I saw the Bryans.
(Mother had rheumatism in her shoulder at that time and she
benefited from hot springs baths.) We were staying at the
Arlington Hotel, but we walked over to the Majestic Hotel to
see Mr. and Mrs. Bryan. I was just a little girl.
S: Do you remember when President [Frankiln D.] Roosevelt was
S: And somebody tried to assassinate him.
S: Could you tell us about that?
C: Well, I did not go to Bayfront Park that night because I was
not a fan of Roosevelt's. Instead of shooting Roosevelt,
the mayor of Chicago was killed. Whether it was on purpose
or by accident, nobody seems to know. The father of one of
my pupils was standing nearby and hit the arm of the
assassin, deflecting the bullet.
S: What was his name?
C: Tom Armour, Jr. His father was Tom Armour, Sr.
S: Tell me about the inventions that your mother made that were
C: About 1915 Father got Mother a motor that was attached to her
sewing machine. The motor did not come with the machine in
those days. Father's rig worked fine except for the fact
that the motor would not stop at the desired spot but would
run down until the momentum stopped. Disgusted, she was
determined to solve the problem. She was an artist, and she
had her matching in her studio. Father had made an easel
similar to Mother's artist's easel, and on that particular
day she took a knife to carved out one corner of my tack
board and made and automatic stop to this electric mover.
She finally got it patented, but because her patent attorney
took so long to do it, Western Electric, which was working
on the same problem, received a patent. The main part of it
was changed from being absolutely round to an ellipse, which
served the same purpose. But they got the patent, and
Mother got hers later. If one had the patent, they other
should not have had one. Mother and Father blamed the
attorney. A patent attorney was not required unless you
went to Washington to handle it personally. The other
patent was in 1925.
Mother had one of the first sedans owned by a Miamian. Most
cars at that time were open "touring" cars. On this
particular occasion Mother was going to a tea party at the
Royal Palm Hotel.
S: Where was that?
C: At the mouth of the river where the Du Pont Plaza Hotel is.
Father had had the car serviced and delivered to the front
door. Mother dressed in her fancy tea dress and had on a
pair of white kid shoes--not just ordinary leather, but real
kidskin--and drove off to the tea party. When she got out
of the car, her right shoe had a big glob of grease stuck on
it. She was sure there was some way of avoiding that, so
she invented and patented this device that you now see on
all cars with a stick shift.
S: On stick shifts?
C: On stick shifts on boats and trucks, that rubber gadget that
fits around the shank of the gearshift and goes under the
floorboard. Here is the patent certificate,
dated May 5, 1924, serial number 711218, patented January 13,
1925. Have you ever seen one before?
S: No, I have not. That is wonderful. The other patent, for
the sewing machine motor stop, was 1916.
C: It was applied for October 15, 1915, and patented April 18,
1916, serial number 55996.
S: So she was way ahead of her time inventing things. It is
unfortunate that she did not get the credit for the sewing
machine motor stop, which is too bad.
C: Right. Both were stolen from her. On the gearshift guard,
manufacturers waited to use it until the patent was about to
expire. I had gotten a new car in 1938. When it was
delivered, in looking it over I saw a wrinkle on the
gearshift shank. I told the salesman that it had to be
replaced because there was a bend in it. The salesman said
it was not a dent but the rubber protector. Mother and
Father and I all looked at each other, and Father said,
"That is your mother's patent."
S: Oh, you did not know that before then?
C: No. I knew about the patent, but I did not realize that was
it. Back in 1925, Father had written to Buick and Dodge
concerning Mother's patent, but both turned him down. In
1938 he wrote to the patent lawyer, who replied, "I will be
in Miami in the next several weeks, and I will come to see
you." Nothing happened. Mother and Father were both ill at
the time. The lawyer did not show. Then father wrote again
and got the same reply: "I will be in Miami in just a short
time, and I will get in touch with you then." He was
waiting until seventeen years had elapsed, and the patent
died. So, of course, we felt sure he was paid off to keep
us quiet until the patent expired.
S: That is really historic. Thank you.