Monday, June 24, 2013


I wandered today
to the hill, Maggie

I have some time on my hands so, armed with my digi-cam, I decided I would revisit my past.

Somewhere along the way, a song I learned probably as a 5th grader at Coconut Grove Elementary edged its way into my conscious. It seemed almost appropriate, “almost” because all of the “Maggies” in my life have disappeared, most I’m sure to the good life.

I remembered where I left my old high school – Miami Senior, the Million Dollar school when it was built in 1928. Marble floor in the entranceway; three stories high.

The marble floor was long gone – when I visited with my kids when they were small and, frankly bored by the whole thing – we saw the marble had been replaced by bricks. Windows then were replaced by boards.

Today the school has, save for the main entrance, lost any charm it might have one had. Back in the day, there was a small park in front of the school. Even then the Powers That Were wanted to put in a parking lot.

Apparently Dade County’s school board bought not gallons but tank trucks filled with a horrible yellowish paint. Miami High’s original building is now this, “not even mustard” yellow, as is Horace Mann, my first junior high.

Back in my time – 50-plus years back – kids went to elementary school for grades 1 through 6, junior high for grades 7, 8 and 9, and then high school for sophomore, junior, and senior years. Now “junior high” is passé and we have “middle schools” for grades 6, 7, and 8, putting the freshman class back into the traditional setting.

The foot bridge I “guarded” as a student crossing guard still exists, but now the wooden footbridge has been replaced with a real, tarred bridge complete with high fencing on both sides, presumably to keep the kids from Little River from tossing each other into the canal on their way to and from school. Safety trumps simplicity, but I suspect the wooden span would have had to be replaced several times over the years so maybe the new bridge is more cost effective.

Miami High’s once boarded windows have been replaced with glass and the original building, save for the paint job, looks about as it did when I struggled up and down the stair wells. All my classes seemed to be 1st floor then 3rd floor, then back to the 1st floor again.

The little chili and burger stand, with pinball machine, has been replaced by a Burger King; the pinball machine long ago falling into the “history” category; not Burger King image. The “Happy Days” hang out, such as it was, is no more.

While Miami High’s windows are back to glass, the windows we looked out during Mrs. DeFonso’s chorus classes at Kinloch Park are now chunks of brown wood. Kinloch Park has, so far at least, mercifully been spared the Dade Country School Board yellow.

For awhile I lived close to Miami International Airport. In “my “ day, MIA was home to Eastern, National, and Pam Am. There even was a CIA operation there, but more about that some other time.

In the late 50s I was in Civil Air Patrol (Miami Composite Squadron 2, if you please). I would ride my 3-speed middle weight bike once-a-week to MIA riding the main streets, including Lejeune Road (42nd Avenue). The airport's perimeter road during the evening always was crowded with teen-driven cars, ostensibly to watch the planes land and take off, but in truth the airport was better than a drive-in theater – so I’m told. I was still on the 3-speed.

You really can’t sit and watch planes come and go on the perimeter road since there’s really no perimeter road any more. You can watch planes come or go for up to 30 minutes at the cell phone lot, but while it’s “better than nut-in’” it still isn’t the same as the old perimeter road.

If you want to watch planes, go to Hollywood-Fort Lauderdale International which is in neither Hollywood or Fort Lauderdale; it’s in Dania Beach. There are places where cars can stop and watch the planes come and go and there are some interesting birds there.

On the way back this afternoon I decided to stay off I-95. Seems fair. When we moved to Florida in 1952 I-95 didn’t exist, probably not even in Gen. Eisenhower’s grandest dream. (The interstate system was a product of the Eisenhower administration. One of the requirements was that each road had to have straight stretches sufficiently long to accommodate a fully loaded B-52 landing and taking off. )

I managed to stay on Lejeune Road out of Miami and into Hialeah with only one misdirection that put me on US 27 – that road also would have been OK, except I wanted to be on Lejeune.

About the only place I wandered today that seemed little changed was Tamiami Trail, SW 8th Street. Not that there were no changes. The corner of SW 8th and SW 27th Avenue was a shock – the Chevy dealer that had been on the corner ever since I could remember is gone, the dealership now an AutoNation. Only the names were changed; were there any innocents?

So, I’m back where I started, wandering today – not to the hills, but to my past. I think I’m looking forward to more journeys into my past. I know much has changed – Orlando AFB went Navy and then civilian; the newspapers I worked may no longer produce a paper product; downtown Orlando is constantly undergoing change while Cocoa has no downtown to change. It will be, if naught else, “interesting.”

Traditional Scottish Songs
- When You and I Were Young, Maggie

A little history about “Maggie” from

Here is a well known song from yester year, by George Washington Johnson, about growing old. Although it is often found in the repertoire of Scottish singers, George Johnson was a Canadian from Toronto. "Maggie" was Margaret Clark, a pupil of George Johnson who was a schoolteacher. Maggie and George fell in love but although they became engaged, Maggie contracted TB. During one of his fiancée’s more serious bouts of illness, George walked to a nearby hill, overlooking a mill, and composed the verse that provided the lyrics to his song. George and Maggie were married in 1864 but Maggie's health deteriorated and she died on May 12, 1865. George's friend, J.C. Butterfield set the poem to music and it became popular all over the world. George Washington Johnson died in 1917.

I wandered today to the hill, Maggie,
To watch the scene below -
The creek and the creaking old mill, Maggie,
As we used to, long ago.
The green grove is gone from the hill, Maggie,
Where first the daisies sprung;
The creaking old mill is still, Maggie,
Since you and I were young.


And now we are aged and grey, Maggie,
And the trials of life nearly done,
Let us sing of the days that are gone, Maggie,
When you and I were young.

A city so silent and lone, Maggie,
Where the young, and the gay, and the best,
In polished white mansions of stone, Maggie,
Have each found a place of rest,
Is built where the birds used to play, Maggie,
And join in the songs that we sung;
For we sang as lovely as they, Maggie,
When you and I were young.


They say that I'm feeble with age, Maggie,
My steps are less sprightly than then,
My face is a well-written page, Maggie,
And time alone was the pen.
They say we are aged and grey, Maggie,
As sprays by the white breakers flung,
But to me you're as fair as you were, Maggie,
When you and I were young.


Say goodnight, Gracie.

And good night, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.

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