I grew up in South Florida during the days of the Cocaine Cowboys and Cigarette boats. Miami was fairly rough place, but becoming more multicultural, even back then.
My father was a WWII medic, a salvage diver, a cabinetmaker, a fireman, and an amateur photographer/film maker. He had a Bolex 16 and a Roberts reel-to-reel. My mother was a nurse anesthetist at Jackson Memorial's ER, a brutal place for a mom to work. My brothers and I were just learning to drive...
I remember strife for most of the years we were there, and it seemed to be worsening. To the east of where I lived, the Mariel Boat Lift had just changed the face of decaying, sleepy South Beach. Scarface wasn't far off the mark. In the local news, the Cubans and the Columbians were having Mac-10 firefights in the mall parking lots over coke deals gone bad. Bales of pot were washing up on the beach every day. The Arthur McDuffie verdict had just been handed down, which brought on The Liberty City riots, just a few miles away. I remember seeing the Norton Tire Co. burning, leaving a column of black smoke, four city blocks wide. This was all in a few short years, time span.
South Beach at 1st Avenue (a high school hangout) was pretty much was a half razed, abandoned dog track, a surfshop, a pizza shop, and a crumbling concrete pier where the remaining Jewish retirees of the original immigrant families from NYC would dance under a string of dim lightbulbs on Friday nights. The wonderful old Art Deco buildings, where they lived, were peeling and in need of restoration, and the old metal seashell chairs on the porches were rusty and empty. Weekends at South Beach were a crazy mix of disco types, hispanics, southern sh** kickers, stoners with hot rods, alcohol, Quaaludes, coconut oil, cruising and fist fighting.
To the south and the west, it was miles of everglades, moccasins, mosquitoes and alligators. When I was young, my family camped from White Springs to Flamingo, swamp stomped (hiking in a swamp), shot at cans, and we rode all over the everglades on ATCs. We didn't hunt though, so I was scared of encountering moccasins and gators, but nothing ever happened. My father would tell me that they were more scared of me than I was of them. To the north and west, especially during weekends, when we could drive, my brother and I would go to Pembroke Pines and Flamingo Road. It was scores of dirt bikes, monster trucks, swamp buggies, some broken bones, a few stolen cars, and general recklessness. It was a sight to see.
The Dade County school system was a mess, and really easy to "pass through" if you just showed up with any consistency. And though I was only an average student, and it was difficult to learn there, I still did. As I moved toward college I found science, literature, and drama kept my interest most, with math being a weak spot. I always knew I was headed to college.
Despite the times, my family stayed creative as much as we enjoyed the outdoors. We learned music and how to record live. We did all things nautical ~ sailed, power-boated, swam, water skied, snorkeled, and surfed in Florida's waters. I got sunburned more times than I could count. Today, and looking back, I didn't realize how much it all relates to what I do now.
My family returned to the west coast of Florida in 1980. By1990 - BA Studio Degree in Film Making - University of South Florida. From there, I managed a local film transfer and off-line editing house. I then went to a local educational cable station, starting in master playback, moving to post, then manager of the audio department for location and studio production. Beyond that, I became certified AVID editor, working post for five years, and slowly began training as a professional location sound recordist; this was back in 1997.
As a Tampa Bay native, my connection to Florida goes back some 150 years.
My great great great grandparents were the first married year-round residents in Pinellas County and the first to plant citrus groves in the area. The Thompsons pose for the photographer in 1864, on the porch of their new home. Amazingly, the house is still there in Tarpon Springs, at 412 E. Tarpon Avenue. The home is on the historic registry as the Thompson-Jukes Home. They were also the first settlers in the area to locate south of the Anclote River. Left: Images Of America, 2002, Deloris Kilgo, Arcadia Publishing . Right: Google Street View.
William and Emma Thompson, standing in the doorway of an earlier cabin, before they lived in the 'new' home above. Note the dainty pipe Mrs. Thompson has.
This is 425 N. Osprey Avenue Sarasota, Florida, and the home of my great grandfather, Captain Arthur Rowe, Sr. He was John Ringling's ship captain, and a very capable mariner. The home, was built in1921, and is on the historic registry. Captain Rowe originally had a kiosk in the lobby of the Old Plant Hotel (University of Tampa), and there he met Mr. Ringling who, at the time, was seeking a spring training home for his acrobats.
My great, great grandfather's bike shop, located on Florida Avenue in Tampa, Florida, opened in 1898. My grandfather once told me that he vividly remembers seeing the steam driven fire engine from the sidewalk at this bike shop when he was a child. He said he was in awe, as this flaming steam engine flew down the street with the driver prodding this team of horses racing at the front, while the fire tinder standing on the back platform, "furiously shoveled the coal into the furnace...like his life depended on it". He told me he'd never forget that sight.
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