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In 1925, my parents and I disembarked in Miami after a three-day train trip from Chicago, and went to stay at a cottage surrounded by a grapefruit grove that belonged to my mother’s aunt. I was three years old, and it marked the beginning of my nearly nine-decade-long adventure in South Florida.
That first evening I responded to a noise at the back door, and found what appeared to be a large kitten, but turned out to be a Florida bobcat. We lived on that farm, now part of the University of Miami campus, for three months before the electric grid reached us.
After the 1926 hurricane, which we rode out in the old McAllister Hotel, we relocated to Fort Lauderdale where my dad operated the city’s only shoe store.
One local character was a Seminole named “Shirttail Charley,” who wandered the unpaved streets cadging nickels and dimes for beer. One day he produced a 50-cent piece as a deposit on “paleface shoes.” Dad gave him a pair, which Charley carried under his arm, donning them only when entering a bar or store.
My life in journalism and public relations began when I was 15, and my football coach asked me to make notes on practice sessions for the Fort Lauderdale Daily News sports editor. After two weeks the editor persuaded me to file complete stories, eventually with a byline. After three months he said, “You’re doing a great job, kid, and I’m going to pay you, too!” He did — one dollar for football season and a second dollar for covering baseball season.