My family moved from Plainfield, New Jersey, the state of my birth (and no, I don’t know which exit number) to Miami, Florida in the late summer of 1964. We first rented an apartment owned by my step-grandfather, an Italian immigrant who made his own wine, and sounded a lot like Don Corleone (Brando) when he spoke. We were the second plot south of the expressway, and I attended 6th grade at an elementary school that sat directly beneath the takeoff and landing approach at the east end of the main east-west runway at Miami International Airport. I think the largest passenger jet of the day using that runway was the Boeing 727. Between them and the big Coast Guard choppers (helicopters) taking off and landing, and the occasional hurricane hunters, we took a lot of noise breaks.
We lived there long enough for me to finish 6th grade and start 7th grade at Thomas Jefferson Junior High School. That was in the opposite direction heading east on NW 36th street. To get there I walked past Miami Jackson High School, where the track coach still couldn’t wrap his head around a 7th grade white boy who could do a 21 foot long jump, and a Burger King where Whoppers were 39¢ and a 16 oz coke was 15¢. Under I-95, a couple of blocks, a quick right, and there it was.
I’m guessing my parents got tired of paying rent to family, so sometime in the early part of 7th grade, we moved north. From NW 38th Street and 20th court to NW 159th street and 28th place. Our relatively new 4-br, 2-bath ranch on a quarter acre of land fenced in on 3 sides cost them $12,500.00. That was 1966, if memory serves.
I finished junior high (what they now call middle school since the entrance of Hobbits into the school system) at Parkway Junior High (no Hobbits at our school). The most significant things about Parkway were the PE teacher was an ex marine drill sergeant who built a Marine Corps style obstacle course for us, meeting Andres Segovia in band class and accompanying him in a performance of Maleguena. I had no idea at the time who he was. I flunked Mr. Olivari’s Algebra class, and was the only ‘guy’ who sang above a whisper in Mrs. Feickert’s choir class. We lived 1.95 miles from school, just under the 2-mile limit, so I walked. I’d say barefoot, snow up to here, uphill – both directions, but since I already told you this was Miami, you wouldn’t believe me anyway. I got a ‘C’ in woodshop, and an A+ in the cooking portion of Home economics.
From there it was on to Carol City High school. That was just over 2 miles, so I rode a bus, except on the nights of Gymnastics or Swimming/Diving practice. I also did student government, drama, Choir, Mrs. Feickert’s mixed voice Vocal Ensemble, and flunked Mr. Olivari’s Algebra class again. I was almost 40 years old when I learned why. I think I had other academic things at high school as well, when I could fit them into my extra-curricular schedule.
I graduated from Carol City, then considered still part of Opa-Locka, on June 6th, 1971. After that, Miami Dade Junior College – North Campus (not to be confused with CSI-Miami’s fictitious Dade University (which is probably U of Miami.)
After that I left Miami for a 4-year school in Virginia (Liberty University) where I earned my BA and MA, and on to life.
There are two big differences between the Miami in which I grew up, and the Miami where my Mother still lives, and I was reminded of all that today when we had a home security system installed.
First, the house on 28th Place is now Carol City with its own zip code and everything.
Second, most of the houses on that street, the streets of the surrounding neighborhoods, and the street where my Mother now lives in Opa-Locka proper, have steel bars over all their windows.
I’m not certain that the house on 28th place had a set of keys. I never had one. Most of the time the doors were unlocked. Neighbors looked after neighbors, and if we lipped of at a friend’s Mom, we paid for it from the friend’s Mom, our own Mother, and of course, the dreaded ‘just you wait until your father gets home!’
I’m not naive – I know there was crime back then. I know houses got broken into. I’m just saying, life was simpler in many ways. We didn’t ‘need’ to put iron bars over our windows to keep the bad guys out.
In the last two weeks, four houses in our subdivision were victims of home invasion robberies, and so today, perhaps because I’m older, possibly wiser, and maybe a wee little bit less naïve, have a wife and MIL, a dog and two cats to consider, not to mention being myself partially handicapped, and frankly, for all the aforementioned reasons, a little scared, I had all the doors re-keyed and a home security system installed. No iron window bars, mind you, but electronic counter measures and motion detectors.
Just in case. I guess the ‘Change’ ain’t working out too good around here.