In 1916, my grandmother, Nell Hurst, was 14 years old when she traveled by train from her family’s farm in Thomasville, Georgia, to Miami, Florida. Making the long trip with her was her 18 year old sister Norma, (who I called Auntie), and their mother, my great-grandmother, Ludie. My great-grandfather Charlie had passed away and Ludie decided that her small family needed a fresh start in life. So, packing up her daughters and enough food for a couple of days train travel, the three left Georgia behind.
Grandma’s older brother Russell, his wife and their four children, had settled in Miami some time earlier, and this was the place that my great-grandmother had decided would become home to them all. She had purchased a large house which would not only provide shelter for herself and two daughters, but income as well, for she turned it into a boarding house, offering two hot meals a day and a clean room to a dozen or so of the settlers.
Many of these new arrivals came into this developing region for the same reasons as my great-grandmother had; things had not soured for them in whatever place they had journeyed from, and/or they had little money, education or means of making much of a future for themselves anywhere else. South Florida offered land and opportunity in abundance. “Homesteading” allowed a person to freely take a large parcel of land and work it for 5 years, at the end of which the government would give them ownership. To someone who had a lack of money, but not ambition, this was a most viable option. Another draw was the 75 degree weather in the middle of January. This afforded the poor year ‘round farming, while allowing the wealthy the luxury of sunbathing on white-sand beaches while blizzards paralyzed the great northern cities. Thus, the 1920’s “land boom” was born.
In order to fill the demands of the wealthy, men and their families flowed into Miami and the surrounding areas to construct the beautiful mini-palaces that were needed. But, the vast majority of South Florida’s residents were living in houses that were a far cry from these luxurious estates. The homes which belonged to the “worker bees” were built of whatever wood could be found or bought cheaply, and hurriedly slapped together to provide some modicum of shelter for the fast-growing population. Continue reading “Fish Fruit by Janie DeVos”