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Memories of Old Miami and Dade County - from an e-mail, author unknown - click on image to view

(These are the recollections and opinions of the person writing this list with a few mistakes in the group. There are photos of many of the places and persons named on this list on this website. Since most of the places described in these e-mails have already been mentioned in other e-mails going around, or have photos or advertisements of them on this website, this is the last e-mail like this that I'm going to give a gallery to.)


In 1940, the population of Miami was 172,172 (1940 US Census). English was spoken by 99.9% of the population. Only 5% of the population were "noticeably overweight." Over 92% of the population was white. The Dade County Courthouse was by far the tallest building in Miami, a landmark that could be seen for miles from land and sea. Every year migratory buzzards roosted on top of the Courthouse. The local bad guys "roosted" in the Dade County jail, which was located at the top of the Courthouse. Birds of a feather? Prisoners would escape by using sheets tied together and climb down. You will remember these "birds" included the Cash Brothers Gang; Virgil, Fred and Ray Cash along with "Long John" Fulford. They terrorized Miami during the late 40s and early 50s. You may also remember two other Miami thugs, Wesley Biggs and Freddie Demerit, who were constantly in
trouble with the law.

You knew that Miami's untreated, raw sewage went directly into the Miami River or Biscayne Bay. Getting caught in traffic by a drawbridge going up over the Miami River on a hot, humid day was to be avoided if possible. All kinds of interesting "things" could be seen floating by.

Miami's garbage was burned in a huge incinerator with a tall, brick chimney that could be seen (and smelled) for miles.

But this was offset by the wonderful smells of baking bread provided by Holsum Bakery on US-1 south. And at Christmas time, Holsum Bakery provided Miami's most beautiful Christmas decoration panorama along US-1.

Sticky gunk on cars from planes spraying for mosquitoes & fruit flies.

Your car was painted by "Johnny & Mack by the Railroad Track"

Chalk Airlines and the Goodyear Blimp base on Watson Island.

The entire family rejoiced when in 1942, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, American WW-I fighter pilot, Medal of Honor winner and America's Ace of Aces and his B-17 crew were found alive after floating on a life raft for 27 days in the Pacific Ocean. They had crashed at sea during a
WW-II mission and no one had a clue were they might be.

Whether SE or SW, Eighth Street was actually called Eighth Street, not "Calle Ocho." Anything on SW Eighth Street after 107th Avenue was a rock pit or a farm.

Forty-first Street in Miami Beach was actually called Forty-first Street, not Arthur Godfrey Road. No one had ever heard of Arthur Godfrey.

The major north/south artery for Miami was 7th Avenue. North of 79th Street it was a two lane rock road all the way to the Broward County line.

Kendall Drive was known as "the road to nowhere." There were horse farms out W. Kendall Drive and Sunset Drive.

I-95, the Florida Turnpike and Alligator Alley did not exist.

There were only two roads out of Miami to northern destinations, US-1 and Route 27, aka "Road 27." (What about US 441?)

US-1 was named "Biscayne Boulevard" where it passed through most of Miami. It became "Brickell Avenue" for a short distance south of downtown Miami. As it continued further south, it passed through Homestead and past the famous "The Last Chance," a saloon so named because it was the last sign of civilization until Jewfish Creek, some 35 long miles straight ahead south. There were trillions of mosquitoes along this desolate stretch between Homestead and Jewfish Creek. You prayed your car would not get a flat tire, break down or run out of gas. From Jewfish Creek all the way to Key West, US-1 was called the "Overseas Highway."

Watching the charter fishing boats come in Pier 5 at Bayfront Park was a "to die for" outing. You could buy fresh fish right off these boats. Feeding the pigeons at Bayfront Park was a big deal too. The ship Prinz Valdemar grounded near Bayfront Park. The Bandshell at Bayfront Park.


The best Italian Restaurants were Valenti's and Leo's for Pizza.
The best steak house was the Robin Hood Inn.
The best seafood restaurant was the Chesapeake Inn.
Mrs. Lee's Shrimp Place on NW Seventh Avenue & 21st Street served the best fried shrimp and Key Lime pie in Miami, bar none.
Great chili dogs were served at Sloppy Joe's in downtown Miami.
Smitty's Barbecue - NE Miami Avenue and 36th Street.
The Pig & Whistle - NW 7th Ave.
Kremp's Mile Long Hotdogs on NW 7th Avenue & 45th Street.
Howard Johnson's served fried clams and 27 ice cream flavors.
Jumbo Frank's, The Lighthouse and Rusty Pelican restaurants burned down.
Shorty's burned down (the first two times). There was only a Gulf station on US-1 across from Shorty's.
The Pig Trail Inn on 5th Street, Miami Beach "Longest
>>> >> Bar In the World"
Red Coach Inn (Grill) on Biscayne Boulevard.
The Tropical Grill, Miami Beach at end of County Causeway.
Miami's only fast food chain was Royal Castle. Fresh cooked hamburgers @ .09 cents and birch beer for a nickel and served in a huge frosty mug. You could pig out for under a dollar.
Don Julio's Mexican Restaurant on 20th Street, Miami

- - - - - - - - - - NIGHT CLUBS & BARS - - - - - - - - - -

Col. Lew Mercer's Nut Club
The Vagabond Club
Les Violins was a hot spot.
A gay night club called the Jewel Box was an even hotter spot.
The Clover Club.
The Copa Cabana Supper Club.
The Beachcomber Night Club.
Minsky's Strip joint on Miami Beach 5th Street Pier.
Zorita's Club on Biscayne Boulevard.
Zissen's Bowery.
"Sheila the Peeler" and her big snake.
Mr. James Club on NW 2nd Avenue & 36th Street.
Casey's Oasis in the "Heart of the Irish section" of the Beach.
Mike's Friendly Bar on Bird Road near US-1.
Jimmy's Hurricane on Bird Road.
The Miami Moon.
Our parents took us to see some great stage shows at the Olympia Theater. We wondered why they suddenly became quiet and/or changed the subject when we asked them why they wouldn't take us to see the shows at the Jewel Box, Zorita's or Sheila's?

- - - - - - - - - - RADIO & TV STATIONS - - - - - - - - - -

Miami had only four radio stations; WQAM, WIOD, WGBS & WKAT. They were all AM; FM did not exist yet.

The word "television" was not in our vocabulary. Radio was the undisputed king of in-home entertainment. Speaking of King; Larry King was once on WIOD radio. Larry King was once a columnist for the Miami Herald. Larry King was arrested in Miami for passing bad checks. Louis Wolfson (Jax junk millionaire) put Larry King in jail.

Barry Gray hosted Miami's first radio talk show.

C&W DJ, "Uncle Martin" playing "Wabash Cannonball" by Roy Acuff & great bluegrass music by Bill Monroe, his favorite two artists.

Jerry Wichner dances and his late night radio show on WINZ.

Listening to sexy talking "Sleepy Time Gal" on late night radio and her imaginary love affair with singer Tony Martin ("Kiss of Fire").

Mom's listening to Don McNeil's "Breakfast Club" in the morning.

At other times during the week, the entire family might be sprawled out on the floor in front of the radio listening to: Amos & Andy, Henry Aldrich, Duffy's Tavern, Burns & Allen, Fred Allen, Life of Riley, Lum & Abner, Phil Harris & Alice Faye, Jack Benny, The Great Gildersleeve, Fibber McGee & Molly, Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy, It Pays to be Ignorant, Suspense, The Whistler, Mr. & Mrs. North, Boston Blackie, Superman, Captain Midnight, Jack Armstrong, Sgt. Preston of the Yukon, Inner Sanctum, The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet, The Shadow, The Thin Man, Gangbusters, Mary Noble -
Backstage Wife
, Guiding Light, Portia Faces Life, One Man's Family, Lux Presents Hollywood, Mr. District Attorney, Queen for a Day, Big Jon & Sparky, Gabriel Heatter, H. V. Kaltenborn, Walter Winchell, Bill Stern
Sports Legends
, Bing Crosby, Eddie Arnold and of course, the "Top Ten" songs of the week.

WTVJ, Channel 4 was Miami's only TV station. WTVJ's Ralph Renick was Miami's first news anchor. WTVJ's Jack Cummings was Miami's first sports anchor. Alex Gibson, the laid back afternoon movie host on WTVJ.

Ed "Mark'em Down" Lane (cars), Austin Burke (clothes) and Jack O'Connell (actually it was Jumpin' Jack O'Brien) of Municipal Auto Sales hawking their wares on TV were as much fun to watch as the shows they sponsored.

Actually watching a live broadcast of a University of Miami football game. Watching Whitey Campbell, the 165 lb University of Miami star fullback dazzle the crowd and stun the opposition with his unbelievable runs.

Losing your TV picture and sound completely whenever a plane flew overhead, a real problem for those living on a major flight path for Miami International Airport (MIAD).

- - - - - - - - - - TEENAGE ACTIVITIES & ATTRACTIONS - - - - - - - - - -

Teen dances at the Little River Youth Center.

Colonel Jim's Drive-In & Billy's Drive-In on the 79th Street Causeway.

Kelly's Drive-In on LeJeune Road.

Paley's Big Wheel.

The gorgeous carhops at Scotty's Drive-In at Sunny Isles.

Dairy Queen Blizzards.

A&W Drive-In restaurants.

The diving board at Matheson Hammock pond.

Venetian Pool and caves in Coral Gables.

Bill Ross' Frosty Freeze Ice Cream shop in Allapattah.

Tyler's Restaurant in Allapattah.

Saturday night Student Dances at Tech High School.

Sambo's in the Gables.

Weekend family picnics on Miami Beach when you just drove along A1A until you found a quiet spot, parked your car along the side of the road, taking care not to get stuck in the sand, which everyone did at one time or the other, and tried to avoid the sand spurs as the kids raced to the beach. There were no hotels, condos, lifeguards or crowds. You had no idea at the time of what a great place Miami was to live in and grow up in.

The "nudie beach" just north of Baker's Haulover. Yeah!

Cook's Casino on Miami Beach. Big public swim pool with wooden decks at the South end of beach.

- - - - - - - - - - MIAMI BEACH - - - - - - - - - -

The South Beach area was just below 5th Street.

The Roney Plaza Hotel.

Radio station WKAT on West Avenue in Miami Beach.

The people on South Beach were older than the buildings.

Coastal blackouts during WW-II; ships torpedoed in sight of beach. Black goop from sinking ships
making swimming impossible. The top half of automobile headlights had to be painted black to make them less visible to enemy aircraft. During WW-II, troops were quartered at all the hotels for training. Gas and food rationing stamps during WW-II.

The Olympic sized pool at the McFadden Deauville Hotel.

Sneaking in the swimming pools at fancy Miami Beach hotels. Getting thrown out of swimming pools at fancy Miami Beach hotels.

The new Fontainebleau Hotel was one of the world's finest hotels.

Gar Wood, his mansion on Fisher Island and his huge plywood boat.

- - - - - - - - - - OTHER - - - - - - - - - -

Embry-Riddle School of Aviation & Airlines.

Stock car races at Hialeah and Medley Speedways.

Stock car drivers Bobby Johns and Herb Tillman.

Amelia Earhart Field drag races.

Bayfront Park submarine races.

We went to the movies and the audiences were polite & quiet. If a girl agreed to come sit with you in the balcony, it meant some smooching was sure to occur. We loved going to the movies at: Rosetta Theater in Little River. Shores Theater in Miami Shores. Center Theater in Edison Center. Strand Theater in Miami. Dade and Regent Theaters in Allapattah. Mayfair, Biltmore, Tivoli and Capitol movie theaters. The Rex, Carib, Lincoln, State and Paramount theaters. The Olympia Theater in downtown Miami, where in 1956, a relatively unknown young rockabilly singer named Elvis Presley performed to a sold-out crowd of hysterical teen-age fans. Your parents said he was just a fad and that within a few years, no one will remember who Elvis Presley is or was. Yeah, right!

Miami Edison, Miami Jackson and Miami High were the "big three" high schools, while Ponce de Leon, Tech High and Miami Beach High were the "small three."

Your grandparents knew that Dade County Agricultural High School was built in 1915. It was rebuilt and renamed Miami Edison High School in 1932 to commemorate the death of the brilliant American inventor, Thomas A. Edison.

Andrew Jackson Elementary and Junior High Schools later became Andrew Jackson High School. In 1948 it was renamed Miami Jackson to avoid confusion with Jacksonville's Andrew Jackson High School.

All public schools in Miami were racially segregated. Drugs, gangs and violence were unheard of in Miami schools. Respect for authority, good sportsmanship and good grooming were expected, not optional.

The traditional Thanksgiving Day football game between Miami Edison and Miami High was an event of monumental proportions. It often drew more fans than any of the University of Miami football team games.

In 1951, Miami Jackson High School was the first high school in Miami to defeat Miami Senior High School in football.

- - - - - - - - - - SHOPPING - - - - - - - - - -

We shopped for groceries and various goodies at:
A & P grocery stores. Frederick's Market in Edison Center. Grable's Bakery. Grand Union and Kwik Chek stores. Shell's City Super Store. Brady's "The Little Farm" store. Morehead's Market on NW 7th Avenue and 41st Street. Gregory's, on NW 12th Avenue and 38th Street. Dave's Poultry on NW 7th Avenue and 45th Street. You picked out a live chicken and Dave would kill it and dress it for you on the spot.
A nice roast chicken for Sunday dinner was a very big deal then.

Pickett's on 36th Street across from Moore Park. Gro. & Meats on NW 12th Avenue and 45th Street.

We had milk delivered at home and/or bought ice cream and other dairy products from: White Belt Dairy (Remember the tornado that hit White Belt Dairy?), Ive's Dairy, Graham's Dairy, Dressel's Dairy, MacArthur's Dairy, Home Milk, Sealtest Milk, and Dolly Madison Ice Cream.

We bought cars from: Packer Pontiac, Southland, Luby and Don Allen hevrolet, J. D. Ball Ford, and Spitzer Dodge. Various used car lots on 36th Street.

All Florida rental cars had "E" license tags, 1-E, etc. Florida automobile tags also reflected county population size, e.g., Dade -1, Duval -2, Liberty - 67, etc. Also, license tags depicted the weight of your car; 1, 1-W, 1-WW, etc. (Light cars were 1-T, a little heavier were 1-D)

The Miami and Tropicaire Drive-In Theaters. Sneaking in the drive-in theaters by hiding in the car trunk. Making out at the drive-in theaters. Rarely, really "making out" at the drive-in theater.

Miami International Airport Depot; it was called MIAD. Tamiami Airport was on the Tamiami Trail. Brown's Airfield. At Opa-locka Airbase, planes towed targets for WW-II fighter pilot practice.

Eastern, Pan American and National Airlines.

Rickenbacker Causeway opened in 1947; toll was 15 cents. Crandon Park Zoo and free parking on Key Biscayne. Pan American's airport at Dinner Key.

Biscayne Kennel Club. Miami Marine Stadium and Hydroplane races. Dixie and Velvet Creme Doughnuts. The Monkey Jungle. Lindsley Lumber.

Jackson Memorial Hospital when it was only one building. Victoria and Abbey Hospitals. St. Francis Hospital on Miami Beach.

Jackson-Byrons or JByrons. Sears and Roebuck on 13th Street and Biscayne Blvd. Burdine's, Richard's, McCrory's. The 5 & 10 Cent Store. You could find anything at Railey-Milam Hardware on Flagler Street. "Jahn the Magic Man," a tricks and magic store paradise.

Jefferson Auto Stores & a little motor scooter they sold for $149.95 called the "Doodle Bug." Every young boy wanted one.

The Ferris Wheel atop Burdine's. Robert's Western Wear and OK Feed Store in the Gables. Red Cross Drug/Department store in downtown Miami .

Tropical Drive-In Swap Meets. Claude (Red) Pepper's picnics at Tropical Park. Tropical Park when it was a racetrack.

Colonial Golf and Gooney Golf across from where The Falls was built. Getting a flat tire from hitting huge land crabs crossing Old Cutler Road. Bill Haas (correct name is Haast) getting bitten by rattlesnakes, cobras, kraits and assorted other poisonous snakes at his Miami Serpentarium on US-1 south.

Sunday country dancing at Alabama Jack's. The "Chicken Hotel" (later Embry-Riddle) on NW 27 Ave. Moore Park and Joe Mason Park. Lemon City.

Live & Let Live drug store in Allapattah. Hawkins Bicycle shop. Drs. Elam, Arant and Rentz - Allapattah. The huge painting of the Lone Ranger on the exterior wall of Merita Bakery next to Robert E. Lee Jr. High School. Regal Brewery. The Coca-Cola Bottling plant on NW 36th Street (it was on NW 29th Street). Dexter's and Rustic Roller Skating Rinks.

Coral Castle. The old Miami Marina. Edison Center. Little River. Musa Isle Indian Village. Claughton Island. Greynolds Park. Rare Bird Farm.

Engel's Drug Store in Grove.

Newman's Funeral home on Miami Beach, between 2 night clubs. The Miami Springs Villas. The public library in Bayfront Park at the end of Flagler Street. The Rock Garden at Bayfront Park. Les Rhode's band at the Olympia. The Miami Seahawks pro football team. Miami Drum and Bugle Corps. Baton twirling champion Bill Allen teaching baton at Moore Park. The trolley car ride across the Causeway. Mike Gordon's Tackle & Bait shack (before he opened his restaurant). Men's Grill at Burdines. Sinclair's Grill adjacent to the old Herald building. Richard's Bargain Basement. The big ACL train station on 7th Avenue tracking through Hialeah. Seaboard Railroad Station and the "Silver Meteor." Miami Air Depot making weapons for WW-II. The Miami Daily News and the Miami Daily News building.

Miami Country Club golf course between Miami River and 20th Street . Liberty City jitneys coming down NW 12th Avenue . Street Car on NW 7th Avenue in WW-II...cost a nickel. Banana Supply with truck signs, "Yes, We Have No Bananas!" Kix & Pop Cola, 16 ounces for the same price as a 12-ounce Pepsi. Clouds moved across the ceiling of the Olympia Theater. Hartley's downtown for women's fashions. Venetian Causeway and the .10 cent toll booth. Bus riding all over the county with paper transfers getting punched. The beach on Virginia Key was for blacks. Jose Aleman buying the south half of Key Biscayne. (How did you get your money out of Cuba Jose? In suitcases, Senor.) Greynolds Park hill...the highest point in Dade County . Moore Park night softball leagues. Notable players included Sandy Deas, Buster Zeigler, Maggie McGee, Doc Weinkle and world class pitcher Herb Dudley of the Clearwater Bombers.

79th Street Causeway going to 71st Street Beach. Walt Disney studio on NW 17 Street and 28th Avenue . Warning signs about roasting marshmallows with oleander sticks. Merita Bakery on NW 6th Avenue ...great smells. Monroe 's Grocery store. Burdine's installing the state's first escalator. The Parrot Jungle... Absolutely nothing west of the airport until Doral. Orange Bowl: HS football Thursday nights, UM Friday nights Bill Baggs, Jack Bell, Jack Kofoed, Vic Dunaway and Salty Mallants ("Salty Says") and their columns in the Miami Herald & the Miami Daily News newspapers. Having a paper route with the Miami Herald or the Miami Daily News.

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Robert Taylor 03-Jul-2021 21:30
Anyone have any old photos of Velvet Creme Doughnuts on SW 8th Street or across from UM
Robert Taylor/ or

Thankyou, this is a great site
eldon tripp latham 24-May-2021 10:35
remeber willinghams gas station-store sw16st 22ave.still there operating
ROBERT W. BURDICK 31-Jan-2021 20:26
Anyone remember THE NEWS DEPOT in Miami near or next to the Bank of Miami building? My uncle supposedly was the largest newsdealer in South Florida. He lived at 272 South Coconut Lane on Palm Island off MacArthur Causeway- anyone remember him or know him or my aunt Katherine 'EVE" Pfeiffer?
thanks bobbmd
Jim Cox 07-Dec-2017 18:26

My name is Jim Cox, born 13 Oct 1936 at Victoria Hospital, Miami, FL. Graduated Miami Jackson, 1954. I was astonished, and very proud to see this Memories of Old Miami and Dade County article. I am the "unknown author." One day about 12 years ago, I was reminiscing about all of the wonderful things I loved about growing up in Miami and I started writing them down and saving them on my computer. As the list got longer, I had to start cataloging the subjects until it grew very large. I had the e-mail addresses of several of my old time Miami friends and relatives so I sent them a copy of what I had written and WOW! Everyone loved it. I have updated it since then. Anyone who would like to have a copy of my most recent update is free to e-mail me and I will send it to you. Also, I have done a similar article on Moore Park which is pretty interesting. Just let me know.
Anne Foss Hawman 15-Jul-2013 01:56
My goodness this website is HUGE! I have not had time to read all of the entries, but I have some old memories to share:
The Sunniland Shopping center at US1 and SW 112th Street had The Flame restaurant and the crazy custom bicycles outside of the barber shop, The Flame restaurant, and Dr. Dan's service station with the hearses ("We Fix 'Em Dead or Alive" - the logo was on the tow trucks and on the employees t-shirts).
Guest 07-Jul-2013 20:49
I am looking for any information on my husbands father. If any on Eddie Johns? He played football in Miami FL. We would love to hear anything.
Please email us @
Thank you
Don Boyd07-May-2013 01:59
Randall, thank you for posting those great memories, I appreciate it. And thank you to everyone else for posting too.

Randall Mumper 06-May-2013 15:08
Pelican Harbour/Peckers Point. Pelica Harbour boat races. Mike Gordon screaming up and down the intracostal waterway behind his restaurant. Dave Craig's Skyway Marine. Sundays at Miami Marine Stadium. Beach Bum turned thief, Murph the Surf [Jack Murphy].
Tamiami Trail when it was 10 feet wide. Funland Park on 27th avenue and 79 Street. Hialeah Race Track and afternoon bus fleets running from Miami Beach to that track. Friday Nights at the Castaway Lounge. Netting shrimp on Rickenbacker Causeway. The Seaquarium, Stiltsville, Cape Florida Lighthouse. Earl's Market on 22nd avenue and 79th street. Chalk's 12.00 ticket to Bimini. Holman & Moody Race Team on the Miami River. Miami's own Formula boat factory. Don Aronow, Magnum Marine, Donzi Marine, What a life for a young man.
Guest 24-Dec-2012 03:44
Sambos. It's a shame some racist blacks had a problem with the name of a restaurant.
Guest 26-Sep-2012 10:04
What wonderful memories! I was born in 1949, nine years after my parents married and moved to Miami. Like you, at the time I did not realize what a paradise it was, but now I look back and remember that it was a special, magical, time in a very unique place. Even the air was different. There was nothing to compare with pre-hurricane and post-hurricane weather, and riding around with my Dad after to see the damage.
Today I brag to friends and strangers, "Yes, I grew up in Miami when it was Miami nice, not Miami vice!"
Guest 20-Jun-2011 18:41
Dancing on the bouncy floor of Alabama Jacks!
Guest 12-May-2011 17:13
When driving north on 12th Ave bridge one had to turn left or right. Straight ahead was the Miami Country
Club golf course. Those WERE the days the days, my friend.