South Miami Where Everyone Knew Your Name

Edward M. LongoPREFACE

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he city of South Miami (formerly Larkin’s) was located in an area that was once part of America’s last frontier. Pioneers settled into a region called, by the Tequesta Indians, the Little Hunting Ground (Coconut Grove) and the Big Hunting Ground. (Cutler Ridge)

A wagon trail connected the two areas and became what is known today as the Old Ingram Highway.

Settlers flocked to the area and a city was born. The first school building was erected in 1898 at the southeast corner of Sunset Drive and Erwin road. (South West 52nd Avenue)

In 1904 the Florida East Coast railroad extended its trunk line from Miami to Homestead, thus opening up the entire frontier. Freight service was established and Larkin’s became a regular stop, thanks to Henry Flagler, a railroad tycoon.

In 1925 the Florida real estate boom made for phenomenal growth as construction projects began springing up everywhere.

Some of the prominent names at the time were; the Larkins, Stoms, Paxsons, Shelleys, Fosters, Barrs, Meyers, Stangs, Dorns and the Martins. The Federal Marshal was William Weaver, who later became the city’s first Police Chief.

In 1926 an incorporation committee headed by J. Lamar Paxson succeeded in getting the name Larkins changed to South Miami.Eventually, two old Florida families, the Dorns and Martins merged, forming the Dorn Martin Drug Company, the area’s first and only drug store.

Tragically, in 1940, The Angel of Death struck at the corner of US#1 and Red Road. A fast moving Florida East Coast railroad train struck the automobile in which Doc Martin and his wife were occupants, killing both of them instantly. It was a time for great mourning for Doc Martin was loved by everyone.


[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n the year 1898, South Miami was called Larkin, named after its first Postmaster Wilson A. Larkin. The first school was erected at the corner of Erwin Road and Sunset Drive. It was built by A.H. Ramsey and John Burtashaw, W.A. Larkin’s father-in-law and close family member.

In 1900, a census taker by the name of W.A. Hobbs built the first stone house on Battersea Road and the Old Ingram Highway.

The first man to be charged with the health of the residents was O.O. Underwood, who, incidentally, purchased the first fire truck for the area.

The city’s first mayor was W.A. Foster, an ex-judge, while J.L. Paxson, John Barrs, John Meyers, W.G. Stang, R.L.Martin, J.B. Jones and Harold Dorn were the city’s first aldermen.

After constant wrangling, the city of Larkin received its charter in 1927 and changed its name to the City of South Miami.

In 1931, the charter for the city of South Miami was surrendered, but it was later restored in 1932, on the grounds that no provisions had been made to take care of the city’s creditors. After 1932, all attempts to surrender the charter failed. And the name, City of South Miami was here to stay.

In 1953, a city manager form of government was established and Leonard Bishop, an avid pigeon enthusiast, was appointed South Miami’s first city Manager and Sylva Martin was the city clerk.


[dropcap]A[/dropcap] cool wind was sweeping across Lake Okeechobee, as I Edward M. Longo cast a fishing line across the bow of my boat. I had decided to take a few days away from the office and spend the remainder of the weekend with my son, Eddie II.

I was a former GI, having served two years with the U.S. Army in Germany. Being, it was peacetime I wanted my son to consider the United States Military as a viable occupation and felt the military experience would be exceptional.

Reminiscing about the good old days was something I often did, and when the conversation shifted towards the Army, Eddie seemed to be all ears. I had hoped that this fishing expedition would bring father and son closer together. Trying to communicate with the youth of today created quite a challenge, as many of the young didn’t put much stock in God or family values, in fact in any of the values that my father had instilled in me.

Traditionally, the family (la famiglia) was the one and only entity my son could rely on, the family is paramount, and, in my opinion, comes before any person, place or thing. However in this fast moving world, all that has disappeared. The youth of today had other ideas on how they wanted to live their lives.

My life began to change when the University of Florida gave me the boot, and forced me to secure a job at the home for the dead. My son inquired, “Dad, how could you work in such a depressing atmosphere and maintain any semblance of sanity. Replying, I said,

“Working at the funeral home wasn’t half bad, and the experience I gained while working among the dead changed my whole perspective on what is truly important in this short lifetime.


[dropcap]M[/dropcap]y story unfolds with “The Padrone,” Anthony, my Grandfather, outlining the challenges he and the family faced back in 1935.

America was in the grip of the great depression. Money was tight, and employment was virtually at a standstill. Thousands of people were out of work and the bread lines stretched around the corner. It was a terrible time for the workers of America.

Anthony, along with his two sons, Eddie Sr. and Sam, packed up their belongings and headed for Florida. Eddie Sr. was my father. Sam was my Uncle. Anthony had a daughter, Ennis, who lived in California with husband Lamar and didn’t make the trip. She preferred California over Florida. Her decision to stay in California didn’t make the family very happy.

In 1930, Anthony had purchased 350 acres of farmland in the southern part of Florida’s largest county, Dade. There he decided to try his hand at farming. He was a Contractor in New York, now he wanted to be a farmer in Florida.

The family set out early one morning in two automobiles: an old Chevrolet and a new La Salle Cadillac and headed south. They traveled, one thousand three hundred fifty miles and settled in a little town nine miles south of the city of Miami. The town was called South Miami Florida. If you ever saw a town that was Hicksville, South Miami was it.

Previously, it was decided that Sam’s and Eddie’s children, whose ages ranged from thirteen months to five years of age, would ride with Eddie Sr., in the old dilapidated Chevrolet. While Anthony and his wife, Caroline, plus the wives of Eddie and Sam, would ride in the big and luxurious LaSalle Cadillac. Eddie didn’t seem to mind with arrangements because he loved to tease the kids.

During the journey to Florida, a funny story comes to mind. While traveling south, the new LaSalle encountered car trouble. Sam pulled the disabled automobile over to the side of the road, and waited. He was aware Eddie and the kids weren’t far behind, and help was only minutes away.

Within a short time, Eddie appeared on the horizon, chugging along in the old Chevrolet. Sam waves frantically. Eddie, thinking Sam is waving him on, continues driving, leaving Sam and the wives stranded in the middle of South Carolina. They were furious at Eddie for not stopping and rendering aid, but Eddie, undaunted by the harsh criticism was un daunted.

The journey to Florida continued at a slow pace, due to the children having to go to the bathroom every fifty miles. Travel and stop. Travel and stop. It was getting mighty tiresome.

Eddie realized that at the rate he was traveling, the journey to Florida would take forever. Subsequently, he fashioned a giant spaghetti pot as a make-shift toilet, in order to make the trip move along at a faster pace. It worked for they arrived at their destination in four days.

At the time, the women were not aware of Eddie’s inventive way of solving the children’s problem. When learning of the make-shift toilet, the women threw the old spaghetti pot right into the garbage can.

Eddie, at a great many of the family gatherings, would say, “I miss the fine taste that old spaghetti pot offered,” which brings to mind an old truism: it is sometimes better not to know.

The new city the family had settled in had one Policeman and one Fireman. It was quaint and had a total population of well under 500 people. However, in the city proper, there were less than 100 families. It was just the kind of city Anthony had dreamed of.

Italians have the strange custom of holding their first born in high esteem. By doing so, this favoritism created friction among the rest of the siblings, who were vying for their place in the family. Something’s never change and this practice still exists in some Italian families today.

Living in a small southern town was quite different than living in city as large as Mt. Vernon New York. It seemed as though everyone down south knew one another. The residents seemed to display a variety of southern charm and culture, unheard of by northern standards. The family was accepted into their new surroundings and fit in very well.

On the contrary, living in New York had posed an entirely different scenario. For example, if one were to keel over in the middle of the street, the people would continue going about their business, walking right over the dead body. It isn’t that New Yorkers aren’t friendly. It is more like they are wrapped up in their own little world leaving little time to give a fellow New Yorker a helping hand. Southerners seemed to be of a more hospitable nature.

Later in life I learned I was completely mistaken in my assessment of New Yorkers. In the face of a great tragedy, 9-11, New Yorkers risked all by standing together, as one, with many cultures, one mind, helping the less fortunate. No one should expect any more or any less. These New Yorkers were simply wonderful.


Edward M. Longo was born in Mount Vernon, New York, in 1934. At the age of fourteen months, he, along with his entire family, moved to South Florida and settled in the little town of South Miami.

During his years of schooling, he attended South Miami Elementary, Coconut Grove Elementary, Ponce De Leon Senior High, and graduated from Coral Gables Senior High in Back in 1952.

In 1953 he attended the University of Florida, in 1954 and 1955 the University of Miami and in 1957 he attended the University of Maryland. In 1972 he earned a Associated of Arts degree from Miami Dade Community College.

He was drafted in 1956 and served two years with the US Army in Germany plus 6 years in the active reserves. After completing his tour of duty in 1958, he returned to the city and remained in the immediate area for 80 years.

This is his first novel, and is 100% factual. Only the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

He can be reached at 305-397-4131 or via email at

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1 Comment on "South Miami Where Everyone Knew Your Name"

  1. Frten Poitnine Prcnt | May 5, 2015 at 6:54 pm | Reply

    Why doesn't South Miami Hospital offer free and reduced-cost healthcare for those who qualify? Charity Healthcare?
    Who funds South Miami Hospital?

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