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Fri June 28, 2013
Veteran Takes A Chance On 1950s Miami
Somewhere in the middle of 1951, my father, Cpl. Norman Segermeister, emerged from his commitment to the U.S. Army.
After he was discharged, he met up with his parents, who had moved temporarily from Long Island to Miami Beach so his mother could escape the winter months and nurse her health.
Never living in a tropical climate before, my dad explored the area with the help of the city bus. One of his adventures took him up Collins Avenue to the Bal Harbour Shops, which was as far as the bus would go because Haulover Bridge was not built yet.
As he walked into the mall, he noticed a sign that read, "No Blacks, No Jews, No Dogs." This was a new concept to him; he figured that if you were a black Jewish dog, this was not the place to be.
Since he was a recent veteran, he felt the sign did not apply.
About three months after he arrived in Miami, his parents were ready to return to New York.
Before heading back to New York on the train, my father suggested to his father that they should buy some land in Miami as an investment. His father remarked, "This place will never amount to anything."
My dad made a commitment to himself to return one day. While living in New York, someone came up with the idea of going to the Catskills. It was most likely his father; they wound up buying some land outside a little town named Ellenville, N.Y.
Talk about a place that never amounted to anything. It was about 11 acres and they built a bungalow colony so they could rent out cottages to city slickers.
My dad got a job in Ellenville, met my mom at a Christmas party in 1953, married in January 1955 and started having kids.
Life was good in rural upstate New York, especially if you were a kid. Every once in a while we would go on a trip, nothing expensive, just three- or four-day getaways. Then came the big trip. We went to Miami during spring break in 1967 in my dad's new Ford Fairlane 500. It was a two-week trip and it took three days to drive each way. Yes, we stopped at South of the Border, where I purchased illegal fireworks and hid them in my suitcase. I was 12 and my sisters were 8 and 4.
We returned home and things settled in until one day in January 1970. My dad left for work; we stayed home because school was closed from heavy snow. About an hour after he left my dad returned home without his car. The car got stuck in the snow and he had to walk back home. When he entered the house, he shouted, "Faye, we are moving to Florida."
I don't remember much between that day and when we left on Oct. 5, 1970. That is the day my world changed from a country life to metropolitan adventure, where every day has been a new experience.
My dad is gone almost 10 years now. This was my tribute to him -- he took a chance on our future and sought an opportunity for a better life.
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About Miami Stories: This project is a partnership between HistoryMiami, Miami Herald Media Company, WLRN and Michael Weiser, chairman of the National Conference on Citizenship.