Southwest 132nd Avenue was on the edge of Miami in 1972, when Marily Reyes and her husband Frank moved into their new home just south of Bird Road. Their view across the narrow avenue was elephant grass for six long years.
When I arrived in Miami in the early 1970s, I never could imagine that I would end up calling this city home.
We came to Miami after a short stay in Spain. I came with my parents, Isabel and Ramon Santos, and my younger sister, Ana. Like many young children, we were excited about moving into a new place, learning a new language and making new friends.
My maternal grandparents, Sam D. and Ida Ellen Roberts Johnson, were born in Harbour Island, Bahamas. It is believed that their foreparents were among the millions of black slaves forced from West Africa and sold in the West Indies.
My father, Ernest Peyton Jones, worked for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was his campaign manager for the southeastern United States and became the associate commissioner of the Federal Housing Administration. My mother, Betty Schwab Jones, was the secretary for Sen. George Norris of Nebraska. They married in 1936 and lived in Washington.
Miami boasts, of course, a reputation as a major clubbing center — but in decades past, the city is also where a big chunk of clubbing music actually got made.
Most histories of disco music focus on New York legends like DJ Larry Levan and clubs like the Paradise Garage, where funk and R&B met a new dance beat. But Miami had its own disco sound — and not just that of the Bee Gees, who did, in fact, record major material like their 1975 album Main Course here.
I can imagine my dad's excitement leaving gritty Newark behind him and hitting the highway in his old Studebaker bound for paradise . . . Miami Beach. I can see the bathing suit postcards guiding his way and hear the ocean calling his name: M-I-L-T-O-N B-R-A-N-D, come on down!
Our family came from Havana, a beautiful city that some have called a tropical paradise.
My brothers and I came to Miami on a Pan American flight and were taken to a campground that the Pedro Pan organizers had set up in Kendall, near where Town & Country Mall now stands. We were there for about two weeks before being sent to Albuquerque, N.M., where we were taken in by the family of Dr. Eugene Purtell.