Article transcribed by Jeff Blakley
This article came from the July 31, 1923 issue of the Miami Herald and I thought it was a delightful piece that captured a sense of what Homestead was like in that era. The Seminole Cafe, adjacent to the Homestead hotel, was owned by Gussie Joiner (divorced from Jim English) and the Jarrett Coffee company was owned by Harvey Jarrett, husband of Gertrude Jarrett, a prominent member of the Miami Womans Club. The Co-Operative Mercantile Company was a grocery store. They offered “Everything in High Class Groceries” according to an advertisement that appeared in the Miami Herald on December 21, 1922. The J. U. Free building was around the corner from the Homestead hotel, on Flagler. The Horne building had just recently been completed. King’s Undertaking was at 209 N. Krome.
Who says folks in Homestead didn’t know how to have fun? The article is a column written by Edgar Hay, entitled Rambles.
One hour and twenty minutes from Miami. Twenty-eight miles. The familiar yellow station. Diagonally across is the older business highway, Ingraham Highway, with the hotels and restaurants.
That’s me — bed and board — The Homestead hotel. Lady tells me to go up and take number 12. She is not feeling well and she can’t climb the stairs very well. Aw right, lady. I tip myself two-bits for bell-hop service.
Now to eat. The Seminole Cafe — the Square Meal Place. This must be the place I’ve heard about. All you can eat for a dollar. Phew! Wot a lotta food on the table. Fried chicken and two kinds of meat — three different kinds of beans — spinach (ah, Comment Column!) — potatoes, rice, cold slaw, avocado salad, corn muffins, pickles, okra — yep, it’s a square meal all right; cubic, in fact. If you ate everything, the corners would hurt. I see Jarrett Coffee company’s truck parked. It has come all the way from Miami with this hot weather confession on its side: “We Roast Daily.”
Stroll across the railroad. To the new business stem of Homestead — Krome avenue. Bank of Homestead. And the Horne building. And Burton’s 21,983 Article Sale — every article has a separate number — wonder if a pair of sox would have two numbers?
Autos parked slantwise at the curbs. New buildings elbowing the old ones with haughty snobbishness. There’s the Co-operative Mds. Co. — Wot does Mds. stand for? “Merchandise.” Ha — that’s how Editor Robards, of the Havana News, useta refer to The Galley conductor, MSD. Homestead Mercantile company — hardware, furnishings — wonder wot’s the abbreviation for “mercantile.” Citizens Bank building — wide and one story high. A drug store window sign: stop scratching — Use Unguentine soap. Why doesn’t that li’l white dog read that? The movie theater — with imposing arched entrance — one of the newer buildings — quite spiffy. Across the street is city hall building — fire station downstairs — city rooms on second floor — mayor of Homestead is Mr. S. E. Livingston.
Latest census of Dade county credits Homestead with a population of 1850. A town of small homes and comfortable grounds around ’em. New roads being built. New store buildings going up — J. U. Free building, Caves and Walker building, where Harris Motor company is gonna hang out their Ford shingle.
NEW high school. Opened last April. Catty-cornered from it is the grammar school — one of the most individual school buildings the kollum has noticed. Cluster of low red brick buildings with red-tile roofs. Auditorium in center. Radiating from the corners are the class-room buildings. All sides open to light and air. Something exotic, yet smacking of Florida — this school. Tennis court and baseball diamond adjoin the school ground. Children are brought by bus from outlying settlements: Florida City, Redlands and Silver Palm. 450 to 500 pupils on the rolls.
Clouds and rain. Home to the hostelry. A cigarette on the wooden veranda. The enjoyment of watching rain splash in the street. Hungry. Another cubic meal. Sunset. Night. Movies. After movies — a stroll along Krome avenue. Hesitate on the corner. Music — jazz music. I follow it down a side street. A shower of yellow falls through the darkness. Babble of voices from an upstairs balcony. Women’s laughter. Dark silent autos parked on both sides of the street. A Ford full of shirtsleeved young fellas.
“Is this a public dance goin’ on upstairs?”
“Yep — but it’ll cost ya a dollar. Luna Park orchestra from Miami is playin’ up there t’night.”
Clutching a dollar, I ascend the stairs. As I do, I notice a sign advertising the business located beneath the dance hall. It is an undertaker’s establishment!
Humm — pleasant thought: the dance of death. Hooray, let’s go. For my dollar, the young lady in filmy blue dress pins a pale lavender bow in my necktie. A turmoil of perspiring faces. All strangers to me. All the fellas have taken off their coats. Quite sensible. Think I’ll do the same. Well, I’ll wait awhile until I see if I get a dance. Girls and fellas sit on tables on the balcony — their feet on the benches. Gaiety and giddy bantering. Many ages represented. Most of the faces are smiling.
The music begins again. The inside room becomes a swirl of faces and hips and backs. A languorous girl in an Egyptian design dress. She would rather dance than eat, I’ll bet.
A THOUGHT is forming gradually in my mind: That you can read a person’s character in the manner of his dancing. Sometime I’ll try to work it out. At least, you can sense personalities in folks’ dancing.
The room becometh hot and oppressive. I squirm through a clutter of male wall-flowers and regain the porch. Not much air stirring.
A girl is smiling through in conversation with a middle-aged fella. As she glances at me, her face becomes suddenly sober. Mebbe my face scared her. Doggone it, I’m still thinking of that undertaker sign — that’s why. Don’t think I’ll dance after all. Get a nice tall limeade and then go to bed, with a few chapters of Ben Hecht to keep me awake.
Homestead is the last filling station for the F. E. C. before it steps off to the south and across the keys to Key West. There are many little stops between Homestead and the Island City. Two trains of tank cars carry water to the little stops every day. Homestead is the filling station.
One of the most appreciated improvements in the town is the new swimming pool, which F. L. Webster has installed. There is a constant flow of spring water through the pool. Water first passes through pipes in the water plant (across the road) which removes the chill. There is a row of bath houses, for which a small fee is charged. The pool has become the popular rendezvous these warm afternoons, for Homestead is not within easy access of any beach.
Thanks, Jeff, for finding and publishing anew Rambles by Edgar Hay. A fun historic slice of Homestead goings on in a clever and humorous article.