Who Am I? Fall 2016

At twenty-one, I lived with my best friend and her family in a sweeping 1930s house on Pine Tree Drive in Miami Beach. We were recent college grads with expensive degrees in writing and we wrote stories for a local rag about winners of civic awards and the escalating stray cat problem. A bit pedestrian, perhaps, but our business cards had the name of a recognizable publication and the words, “reporter of culture”—a title we made up for cards we had printed at Kinkos. Those cards got us into any nightclub in South Florida. And for six, glorious months, we certainly sampled the scene.

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Fast forward one PhD, two decades, and several kids later, I am back in Miami Beach to research the history of the city’s fashion industry. Shacked up at HistoryMiami,  I’ve scoured the records of the department store giant, Burdines, and snapped shots of the fashion illustrations by Jay Anderson. Drawer upon drawer and box upon box, the archive kept producing material—the original map of Lincoln Road with all the high-end merchants who had committed to lease; 1920s promotional brochures that a very-active Chamber of Commerce used to lure potential residents; napkins from restaurants such as Merry-Go-Round. HistoryMiami is a meticulously organized treasure trove.

 

At night, I got hopped up on Cuban coffee and wandered the back streets of South Beach, trying to decide on my favorite Deco house. The prehistoric-looking plants, the historically inaccurate pastel colors, the sickening sweet mix of forever-blooming flowers and seawater. Yes, I did check out a nightclub or two and was glad to see that Mangos was still rocking. My life has changed so much since those wild days on Pine Tree Drive. My best friend and I have put those writing degrees to use, and as mothers, we have more early mornings than late nights.

 

But one thing is still the same Miami Beach. I still love you.

 

Check out more on my forthcoming book, Chic Streets: Urban Development, Shopping, and the American Fashion Industry.

Jay Anderson for Posh Designs, c. 1968

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