We had a competition in April asking for your memories of Miami Beach. The requirements were to write a 500 word essay about your favorite Miami Beach memory. We would like to share the winning essay with you. Be sure to follow this Visual Memoirs Project on Facebook to see who is being interviewed and to follow all the exciting updates.
MEMORIES of MIAMI BEACH
by Sheryl Gold
The stately Roney Plaza hotel, built in 1925-26, was located at 23rd and Collins, facing the Altantic. An enormous structure, designed in Mediterranean revival style by Schultze and Weaver, the "Roney" was the grand dame of
Miami Beach hotels...like the Biltmore in Coral Gables and The Breakers in
The hotel was a standout for several reasons: its flamingo pink color, huge size, towering height, architecture and unique amenities. It was a real tragedy when, in 1968, the city permitted new owners to demolish this landmark. Of course, this was before preservationists found their voice.
I grew up on Miami Beach from the age of four, not far from the Roney. My best friend Bonnie (half-sister of former Miami Beach mayor Mel Richard) and I played in the hotel garden. After school, we would walk along the promenade from her home in the Francis I DuPont & Co. building, a beautiful limestone structure, to the hotel. Once there, we would romp among cages with exotic birds and fountains. The Roney garden was its own tropical paradise...a combination of botanical garden and parrot jungle. What an enchanting playground!
The Roney wasn't the only place where we could interact with colorful birds. Live macaws and other multi colored birds greeted moviegoers from their perches in the lobby of the Carib Theatre on Lincoln Road. They complemented stylized fish designs, natural stone walls, miniature waterfalls, fountains, plantings and sea and wave motifs. When I grew up, I worked at WTVJ, Florida's first TV station, owned by Mitchell Wolfson, the man who had the vision to build this tropical movie palace. One of my first responsibilities was as "gatekeeper" of the tickets to the Jackie Gleason show at the Miami Beach Auditorium.
Continuing with the bird theme, just down the street at Collins and Lincoln, was Pickin' Chicken, a restaurant featuring fried chicken that had folks standing in line.
We not only lived on a barrier island...we rarely ventured off the island.
As youngsters, we flourished in our natural surroundings in spite of the
challenges of living in the tropics with undeveloped swampland and without air conditioning. We were covered constantly with calamine lotion to soothe prickly heat and mosquito bites. In retrospect, the most harmful side effect was our exposure to DDT spraying by low flying planes.
To end on a positive note, growing up in this abundant Eden led to my environmental activism and advocacy for our urban forest. Being introduced at a young age to the abundant wonders of nature--flora and fauna, sun and sand, and the endless ebb and tide of the ocean-- instilled in me a heightened awareness of the delicate balance between our natural resources and development.
Miami Beach remains a barrier island, with a location and geographic limitations that influence how best to ensure its sustainability. I'm hopeful that all who love this special place in the sun will be good stewards, now and into the future.