Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Trailblazing the Tamiami Trail

Official car of the Tamiami Trail Blazers Expedition
April, 1923.
(Click image to enlarge)


From the Seminole Tribune:
On April 4, 1923, the Trail Blazers left Fort Myers driving toward Miami across the vastness of South Florida. The motorcade consisted of nine vehicles, one tractor, 25 men and four women. Russell Kay, business manager of Florida Grower, was chief director of the stunt later called the Tamiami Trail Blazers Expedition.

Two Seminole Indians played major roles as guides, hunters and food gatherers: Conopatchee (Little Billie), who was the father of medicine man Josie Billie; and Assumhatchee (Abraham Lincoln Clay). Both were popular among the pioneers living in Lee and Collier counties.

Allen H. Andrews, a Koreshan Unity church member and expedition member, wrote about his experience during the “blazing” stage, which began immediately in the first hour after leaving. Andrews described the terrain as a land where “law and order are practically unknown, home only to the Seminoles and assorted moonshiners, bootleggers and other outlaws.”

As the expedition of mostly city slickers progressed through wet prairie, marsh, sawgrass and hammock islands, the group lost three vehicles, rendered “out of commission” by the muck. Andrews and the others relied on the knowledge of their Seminole guides to find water, food and the best route across the Glades.

Andrews commented on the constant need for fresh water: “To the writer the lack of good drinking water proved the greatest privation and there were frequent periods when one’s thoughts dwelt in anticipation upon the ice cream and cooling drinks one would get in Miami when the Trail’s end was reached – but when?”

As they reached the halfway mark from Fort Myers, Andrews also started to worry about food, which was “practically gone” at that point. His outlook brightened when Seminole guide Clay returned with a fresh-killed deer. Soon the men had boiled venison for dinner, sufficient to satisfy the “almost famished crowd.”

When the group hadn’t arrived in Miami on the expected date, rumors circulated that the Trail Blazers were lost in the Everglades and likely dead, giving the expedition daily national news coverage. Each day, airplanes scanned the rough terrain and rescue parties were dispatched from both sides to find them.

On April 10, The Miami Herald ran a story with the headline, “Rain Dashes Only Hope of Trapped Party – Believe All Have Perished.”


April 10, 1923.

Seminole Tribune: Blazing a trail through swamps and the Everglades

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

July 29, 1956 - TV station WCKT goes on the air

Ad for WCKT in broadcast trade magazine (1956.)


From the Miami Sunday News, July 29, 1956.

TV station WCKT, (forerunner of WSVN) goes on the air.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

The 1977 South Beach restaurant burglary that paved the way for cameras in courtrooms

Cameras in the courtroom
U.S. Supreme Court could kill the 'Florida experiment'

by Gene Miller
Miami Herald, Nov. 11, 1980

The case is Chandler vs Florida, and the last thing that lawyer [Joel] Hirschhorn wants to argue — at this late date - is innocence.

For now it is the camera that is on trial, not the client.

The crime began as a bizarre whodunit late one night in May 1977. John E. Sion, 22, a sickly junior college student, couldn't sleep.

"I have a digital clock, and when I woke up, it was 2:50 a.m." He lived with his mother on the 10th floor of a Miami Beach high rise. He owned a ham radio.

He picked up a book that night and turned on the radio. By chance it was set on Channel 3, 146.52 megahertz. "Some voices came on. I didn't pay much attention."

Two voices, male, spoke surreptitiously for possibly five minutes. "The numbers didn't work...I got it open anyway....the registers are empty."

Slowly, a thought dawned. "I think I tuned in some cat burglars." He fumbled around for a cassette. He found one on which he had taped "Police Story." He flipped it over and taped conversations for 7 minutes and 42 seconds.
Eventually, he mentioned the tape to a man who lived in the same high rise. He was Donald Froschneider, retired, a police buff, a sort of Jack Ruby character, a gentleman hard of hearing and in ailing health, in need of an oxygen tank, Valium, and smelling salts.

Froschneider meandered over to the Miami Beach Police Department. Casually, he gave the tape to a detective with the unlikely name of Lt. Jack Webb.

Some days later Sgt. Fred Morgan and Martio Mongeaugdo, of internal affairs, finally figured out exactly what they had. And it shocked them.

Not only had they a tape recording of a burglary, they recognized and identified the voices of the burglars: Two Miami Beach policemen — Noel Chandler and Robert Granger.
But solving the crime didn't come easily. "We didn't know what joint they'd hit," said Morgan. "We pulled all the sheets on burglaries and nothing fit."

Enter here, some weeks later, Martin F. Dardis, chief investigator for the Dade County state attorney. Dardis is a smart cop, an explosive, Type-A personality. He was the cop who linked Richard Nixon's campaign money to the Cuban Watergate burglars.

Dardis walked the sleazy South Beach neighborhood trying to make geographical sense from the tape.

Suddenly he noticed a 9½-foot tall chain-link fence. A couple of links had been replaced. Why? He spotted a new padlock. What happened to the old one? He found it lying in the weeds, broken and discarded.

Dardis glanced westward. And he knew instantly. Picciolo Italian American Restaurant, 136 Collins Ave., had to be the place.

"Any burglaries there?" he asked.

Weeks before, Picciolo's headwaiter, Larry Smith, had locked up 10 doors at about 12:30 a.m. on May 23. The cook, Louis Page, found one back door ajar the next morning.

And owner Vincent Picciolo found three neat drill holes in a kitchen safe concreted into the floor. Missing, he calculated, was about $5,500 in cash.

Investigator Dardis checked out Chandler's off-duty employment at LaGorce Country Club. Not so incidentally, he heard about a $16,000 safejob there, too. Chandler was a club mechanic.

At the club, Dardis found a man who had seen two walkie-talkies in Chandler's car. The man remembered the Japanese manufacturer. Dardis traced the importer to Las Vegas, then ran down the Miami distributor.

Dardis confronted his two brawny suspects. "I'm not going to arrest a cop unless I can guarantee a conviction," he began.

"I wanted to know what else they'd pulled. They stonewalled me."

In the courtroom, defense attorney Hirschhorn, then 34, fiercely contested almost everything.

Some years ago Hirschhorn qualified as the finest pornography lawyer in Miami, defender of adult bookstores, champion of the First Amendment for films such as "The Devil in Miss Jones."

In recent years his practice has narrowed to big money drugs: cocaine, marijuana and Quaaludes, along with an occasional white-collar defendant.

For Chandler and Granger, he argued invasion of privacy on the incriminating tape. He tried to get it suppressed. For a pre-trial motion, Chandler testified.

"We were, you might say, playing a practical joke. We had a bet going as to whether or not anyone was listening to that particular frequency — and the best way to prove it would be to stage a burglary on the airways."

Chandler professed that he had purchased the walkie-talkies for deer hunting.

He didn't convince Circuit Judge Alan R. Schwartz. The tape became state's exhibit 1-BB.

Hirschhorn, long a ferocious opponent of cameras in the courtroom, had filed numerous protests even before the cameramen arrived.

During Florida vs Chandler, WPLG-TV televised 90 seconds on the trial one night; 65 seconds the next. WTVJ-TV Channel 4, using a pool arrangement, showed 80 seconds.

On Dec. 8, 1977, the jury convicted. The judge sentenced the two safe-cracker cops to seven years each for four felonies. They spent one night in jail before posting appeal bonds.

Hirschhorn petitioned the Supreme Court on Feb. 18, 1980. He labeled television "a blind rush to electronic justice."

"An electronic narcotic," he called it, "serving the public's attention to the sensational."

When the court granted the petition April 21, a congratulatory downpour drenched Hirschhorn in instant bar-celebrity status.

Legal heavies for the networks, public television, broadcasters, publishers, editors, reporters responded to Hirschhorn's assault. They argued the public's right, how public scrutiny fosters fairness, how television makes lawyers, witnesses and judges more conscientious.

Jim Smith
For Florida, Attorney General Jim Smith declared: "The defendants cannot defeat their convictions by arguing the hypothetical rights of hypothetical persons in hypothetical circumstances, absent a clear First Amendment claim."

Smith, 40, is political, a land-cattleman worth $8,033,762, an addicted jogger, and according to Hirschhorn, a perfect adversary for oral arguments on Wednesday. "Like taking candy from a baby," said Hirschhorn.

It will be Smith's first appearance before the court; Hirschhorn's too.

Hirschhorn denounced the media's so-called "surrogate" role to the public. "The real basis for the 'surrogate's' effort to override the accused's constitutional right, is economic competition. Next, the copy editors and typesetters will clamor to have their equipment in the courtroom. Perhaps the solution is to simply move the trial — lock, stock and barrel — to the television station or to the newspaper's plant," he said.

"The televised criminal trial rule is neither a social, nor economic experiment. It is, instead, an ill-advised experiment in 'living' jurisprudence, the effects of which, at best, are unknown, and at worst, disastrous.

"If, for any reason, the defendant were to be acquitted, his unwanted television notoriety will follow him to his grave," argued Hirschhorn.

He quoted an admirer: "As for Justice — she should remain blindfolded — not have one eye peeking at TV cameras."

Hirschhorn concedes, though, that for his clients, the safecracker cops, the case might be the wrong one to be argued before the Supreme Court.

"It reduces the issue to its purest form," he declares, and most lawyers, as well as television viewers, agree that he is quite correct.


Thirty-four years after he argued against cameras before the Supreme Court, Hirschhorn still firmly believes that they have no place in courtrooms.

"I am unabashedly, wholeheartedly, and unreservedly against cameras when the defendant objects," Hirschhorn told me by phone today.


Lakeland Ledger, July 7, 1977: Cyclops in the Courtroom

Palm Beach Post, Jan. 27, 1981: U.S. Supreme Court ruling will allow cameras in court

Miami News, Jan. 27, 1981: Camera-in-court fight not quite over

New York Times Magazine, Feb. 15, 1981: Television's Day in Court

U.S Supreme Court: Chandler v. Florida, 449 U.S. 560 (1981)



Thursday, September 18, 2014

Vintage postcards: By the pool

Vintage 1950s and 60s postcards showing iconic Miami and Miami Beach hotel swimming pools.

Airliner Motel, 4155 NW 24th Street, Miami. 
(Click all images to enlarge.)

Fontainebleau Hotel. 

Fontainebleau Hotel. (1956)

Hotel Americana, Bal Harbour.

Hotel Lucerne, on the ocean at 41st Street, Miami Beach. 

Lombardy Hotel, 61st Street and Collins Ave., Miami Beach.


Friday, September 12, 2014

1910 newspaper ad for Holly's Oyster and Ice Cream Parlor

From the Daily Metropolis, March 7, 1910.

Click to enlarge.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Monday, September 1, 2014

South Beach Art Deco Hotels by L. Murray Dixon

South Beach hotels designed by L. Murray Dixon, Art Deco's forgotten master builder.

Senator Hotel, 1201 Collins Ave. (Built in 1939)
(Click all images to enlarge)

Pelican planter, Senator Hotel. (1980. Via Library of Congress)

Raleigh Hotel pool (Built in 1940)

Raleigh Hotel, 1775 Collins Ave. 

Marlin Hotel, 1200 Collins Ave. (Built in 1939)

Marlin Hotel

Tudor Hotel, 1111 Collins Ave.  (Built in 1939)

Tiffany Hotel, 801 Collins Ave.  (Built in 1939)

Tiffany Hotel main entrance. (1980. Via Library of Congress)

Tiffany Hotel main entrance. (1980. Via Library of Congress)