Monday, July 29, 2013

The Jon Bloom Story 1957, Also My Missed Opportunity


                                                       
                                                         The Jon Bloom Story
                                                                      1957                                                                                               
                                                   Also My Missed Opportunity
                                      Written 10/2011 and rewritten 02/2016 unedited
                                                              Howard Yasgar


      I met Jon Bloom in 1956, Jon was a tall lanky handsome guy with wavy hair who wore horned rim glasses.
      Jon lived about 20 miles up the road from me in Bethany and I lived in Westville which was a suburb of New Haven Connecticut.
      For me to drive to Jon’s house, I would drive up Amity Road past the Bethany Airport. It was about a mile after, that you took a left and drove up a hill to Jon’s house.
      I remember Jon parked his car in front of a big barn that was behind his house. That’s where the family kept their Model “A” Ford.
      Back then in 1956, which was around the same time I met Jon, I had just gotten my driver’s license and I had bought a green 1940 ford convertible. It was a pretty sharp car back then, and I sure wish I had that car today.
      Back then, I wanted to make that 1940 Ford into a hotrod. My problem was that I didn’t know anything about hotrods.
      In New Haven, we had a local auto parts store called, Henry’s Auto Parts, it was located on Whalley Avenue. Henry who was a nice guy sold every kind of junk and knickknack that you could bolt on a car.
      I don’t think Henry had any mechanical knowledge about cars, he just sold the stuff, but his store was always a good place to meet other kids.
     One day my muffler fell off my Ford, and Henry, said for me to go down into  the stores cellar and find a muffler I liked, he said, “My mufflers are called Hollywood Mufflers and will cost you $2.00, each so take any one you like”. I had a feeling they were all the mufflers Henry couldn’t sell.
      That was my big start, when I bought Henry’s muffler, and installed it on my car. I thought I had built a hotrod.
      A Hollywood muffler made a high pitched staccato sound when you accelerated and a louder staccato sound as you decelerated. It made so much noise that everyone in town looked at you as you raced around. The noise of the muffler was louder than the noises made by the worn out bearings in my engine.   
      Now the reason I remember buying that muffler, was because that $2.00 muffler ended up costing me about $20.00. It was because they had just installed parking meters on the street besides Henry’s Auto Parts, and when I came out with the muffler in my hands, a big fat Irish cop with a big red nose, was already writing me an overtime parking ticket.
       I caught him as he was putting it under my wiper. I told him I had put a nickel and was just going to put in another 5 cents, that very moment. The nice cop took pity on me and wadded up my ticket and threw it down the gutter. About two weeks later I received a $20.00 parking fine in the mail. The cop had thrown my half of the ticket away but turned his half in. I really started appreciating the New Haven police force after that.
     After I installed the Hollywood muffler, I then joined the “Road Barons Hot Rod Club, it was a pretty good club, and I attended their weekly meetings where the Club’s president and all his friends, yelled and screamed about anyone owning a foreign car. They wouldn’t foreign car owners join the club. They said you could only join if you owned an American car. That was the law until the president of the club bought a Triumph sport car, then the rules suddenly changed.   
     It was sometimes around the time that I joined the Road Barons that somehow I met Jon Bloom.
     Jon had a penchant for owning very fast Connecticut State Police cars.
     I learned from Jon that every few years, the Connecticut State Police, bought a limited amount of factory hotrods. They were State Police cars that were built to catch speeders on the new Connecticut turnpikes. Most people knew absolutely nothing about these special cars, but Jon was an expert on the subject.
     Jon told me that when the Connecticut State police auctioned off their old cars, he knew which one had the hot engine and beefed up chassis, and that was what he bought.
      The first police car I saw Jon in, was a 1955 Ford. It had an overhead valve V8 engine, a four barrel carburetor, and a heavy duty three speed transmission, the car also had a heavy duty suspension system installed. With that car, Jon was ready to street race with anyone that would pull up beside him.
       By the middle of 1956, Jon had built up quite a reputation, as he was known to have the fastest Ford around but by then the Connecticut State Police also had their eye out for him, he just became too well known in our part of Connecticut.
      That’s when Jon started to drive to upstate New York, looking for new guys to race, he needed to find people that didn’t already know about him, or his car.
      When I went with Jon, he showed me that the interstate highways in upstate New York were perfect for street racing. They were all wide and smooth and appeared not to have much traffic or any Police patrols.
      Jon also said that in upstate New York, there was no shortage of guys with hot cars
That were wanting to race.
      Jon said that he would drive up a New York Highway until he spotted a Roadhouse with some hotrods parked in front of it, he would then pull up in front and rev up his engine three or four times, in a few minutes he had several guys outside, wanting to race.
      I think the name Roadhouse in upstate New York were left over’s from prohibition days when they were country restaurants that had illegal liquor bars hidden in the back.
      New York was famous for serving alcohol to most anyone. When we were 16, the drinking age in New York was 18 while it was 21 in Connecticut, so whenever we guys had a chance, we would stop in New York and have a beer there. We were only 16 but they never checked our age.
      One evening in 1958, we were returning from Canada and I was driving my father’s 1955 Oldsmobile. Jon was in the passenger seat and my cousin Allen was in the back seat, we had decided to stop at a roadhouse in New York State to have a few beers. At the time in 1958 we were just 18 years old and we could legally drink in New York.
     Well, by about 10 in the evening we all had a few too many beers, and we hit finally hit the road for New Haven.
     By the time we crossed into Connecticut, I was only following the yellow line in the middle of the road, and I’m sure I was driving a little erratically.  
       We were driving through some small town in Connecticut, not far from New Haven when a policeman pulled me over. I rolled down my window, and it was pretty obvious to the cop that I was a little drunk.  He said, “Do you know you were doing 60 miles per hour in a 45 mile per hour zone?”  I didn’t reply, I was already resigned to the fact that I was getting a ticket.
       Jon, who was as drunk as can be was sitting on the passenger side of the car, so Jon leaned over my lap in front of me to look directly into the cops face. I could see that Jon’s horned rim glasses were crooked and had slid down to the end of his nose.  Jon looked up at the cop, pushed his glasses up with one finger and said, in slurred speech, “Officer I can absolutely verify that he was only driving 45 miles per hour and I’m, willing to testify to that.
      I just listened as Jon spoke and I watched, as he again pushed his horned rim glasses back up as they had again slid down his nose. I could see Jon had the most earnest drunken expression on his face that I had ever seen.
      The police officer who already had his ticket book out, was speechless, and for what seemed like an eternity he stood there just staring at Jon. Then he said, “And who the hell are you, his roommate?”       
       The cop asked where we were going and I said, Westville and he said, “Slow down and drive carefully” and he let us go. I believe Jon has long since forgotten that incident but I didn’t and neither did my cousin Allen.    
       It was back in July of 1957, and it was about 5 in afternoon. I was sitting at the supper table in the second floor kitchen of our, two family house in Westville.
      All of a sudden we all heard what sounded like thunder coming up from our alley-way which ran alongside our house downstairs.
       Because of the closeness of the two family houses in our neighborhood, the sounds of thunder were amplified beyond belief, so I immediately I rushed out to our back porch to look down and see what the loud thundering noise was.
      There was my buddie Jon Bloom getting out of a brand new shiny 1957 Ford 2 door Coupe automobile. By the time I got downstairs, Jon already had the hood open and I could see a big shiny new Ford V8 engine with two four barreled carburetors on it.
       Jon was just beaming, his smile was from ear to ear. He said, “Factory brand new”, he also said “This car has the same latest model jumbo V8 Ford engine that the Connecticut Highway Patrol had just ordered from Ford, it’s a bear”.
      If I remember correctly, Jon said, that his father knew someone at the Ford agency who pulled a few strings, and Jon was able to order the same hot rod 1957 Ford police car that the State Troopers had ordered.
       Jon said, “This car was designed with a special 3 speed manual transmission, as well as a heavy duty suspension, all stuff that was made only for the Connecticut State Police, and Jon was so happy, he had ordered the same thing absolutely brand new.
      The car was painted a beautiful glossy black. Jon, had gotten the car before the State Police had a chance to paint any insignias on it, or put their decal on the doors.
       Jon said, “How much money you got on you,” I checked my wallet and I had a little over $20.00. John said, “I got $18.00. That means we have enough money for gasoline, lets hit the road for upstate New York.”
      What a thrill that was, a brand new, hot looking, shining black beauty, Here I was sitting in a new car that had less than 100 miles on it, it even had that intoxicating new car upholstery smell.
      Once we were well on the road that’s, when John took out his wallet and had me look for a folded piece of paper with the telephone number on it. It was the number of a fellow we had met a while back in an upstate New York Roadhouse. Jon said, “If we called him, he could set up a few races for us that very evening while we were still driving up there.
     We stopped at a phone booth and I called the fellow, who gave me directions to get to his home, he said it was in the town of Oniota New York.
      Jon drove straight all the way to Oniota, and it was about 9 or 10 in the evening by the time we were sitting in front of the address the fellow had given me.
     As Jon and I sat there, the engine, running we thought I had made a mistake. We were standing in front of a wooden porch of a hardware store, and the place was pitch black with no sign of life.
     Irritated, Jon blew his horn a few times, and we were just thinking about leaving when I heard a second floor window bottom open up, and out climbed this guy. He didn’t even close the window, but jumped on to the wooden hardware store porch roof, ran crouched along it and towards us. He then jumped from the end of the roof to the ground and got in Jon’s car as if it was the most normal thing.
     “Yes, he said that he was the right guy, the one that I had called, and he directed us to pick up his buddy who lived a few blocks away in a small white one family bungalow, also in Oniota.
      He said it was his buddy that had the all the racing contacts.
      When they both were in the car, they said that they had called everyone that they knew wanted to race and we would all meet at a popular roadhouse on the highway in the same town of Oniota New York.
      We got to the roadhouse in just a few minutes, and inside it was fairly crowded, so we all sat down at the only vacant table.
      The two guys with us ordered beers for all of us and said they were hungry. I looked at Jon and he looked at me, we only had $38.00 between us and we needed money for gas.
     We knew we needed the gas in order to race with and then to make it back home to Westville and Bethany Connecticut.
     After we ordered hamburgers and several more rounds of beer, it became obvious that these two guys weren’t going to produce any money to pay for anything. The bill was over $20.00, leaving Jon and me with less than $18.00 left.
      By about 11 in the evening, we noticed that the roadhouse was filling up with girls.
      So we were beginning to think our friends hadn’t really called anyone to come to race with us.
      We asked them who all the girls were and they said that there was a college nearby, and the girls were all students there.
     After a few minutes our two friends got up and went over to talk to some of the girls, leaving us with two empty chairs at our table, and it didn’t take long before two girls asked if they could sit there.
     We were shocked, how exciting for us, they were really good looking girls. So in the beginning we made some small talk telling them we were from Connecticut. One of the girls next to me, asked if we would buy them a drink.
     Wow, what a stroke of luck, what could be better than a good looking girl that was intoxicated, so when the waitress came over Jon ordered four beers. The girl sitting next to me said she didn’t drink beer, she wanted vodka on the rocks, so I ordered her one, it
Would cost me $1.50, but then she caught the waitress and said to make it a double.  I started to sweat, as I knew Jon and I were going to run out of money.
     The girl looked at me and said that her father had taught her how to drink Vodka.
     Well, I thought, after this girl drank a double shot of vodka, luck would be on my side. I felt that after the double drink she would be pretty drunk.
      I nursed my beer, but I was mentally calculated how little money we had left, as I watched her sip her double vodka. I felt it wouldn’t take long before the vodka would take effect on her, but nothing seemed to happen.
      We made some more small talk and then the girl sitting next to me got the waitresses attention, and she ordered another double vodka.
     We then paid for our first tab and Jon and I saw we only had about $12.00 left, and I knew we needed gas for the car, so I nudged Jon, and then I asked if we could be excused to go to the restroom.
     The restroom was in a hallway right near the back door of the roadhouse, so Jon and I ducked out the back door and we made it around the rear of the building to his car out front, and we drove all the way back to Connecticut.
    We thanked god we were safe from the girls who could have drank us into bankruptcy.
     It wasn’t many weeks after that, when Jon came to my house one evening. He caught me while I was working in my garage.
      I could see in Jon’s face that he was nervous, “I’m getting married,” He said.
      Several months later, I went to visit Jon, He was living in a home in East Hartford, and the 1957 Ford was gone. He said he was working at Pratt and Whitney as a machinist, and that was the last time I ever saw Jon.
      Over the years, whenever I had a free moment, I would look on the internet for Jon Bloom, I even called and spoke to a current Pratt and Whitney employee named Jon Bloom, but no one knew what had happen to my dear friend.
       On January 11, 2015, it was 55 years since I had last spoken to Jon, I received a message on face book, it was from Helena Babe Bergeron in Canada, Babe said she knew me and my mom, and that she had been to both my and Jon’s house when visiting in Connecticut, and then to my surprise she said, she knew Jon. Babe gave us the clues we needed, Jon had moved to Texas and had five sons and his middle name was Maxwell. My wife Katherine went to work on Google and found Jon’s first wife Maxine. I called, and her present husband Tom answered. No he didn’t know how to contact Jon but he had the phone of someone that did. So I called and I called and left a message. Two hours passed and I received a call. It was Jon Bloom in Texas. Now I hadn’t spoken to John in 55 years, nor had he spoken to me. You will never believe what he said.       
     It was 2 pm Sunday January 11, 2015. Jon said that  very morning he had said a prayer, and in the prayer he mentioned the name of two of his friends, and he had also for whatever reason had mentioned my name, This had happened after we had not heard from or spoken to each other in over 55 years.     
       

  

        

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Japanese Flag Story



                                                  The Japanese Flag Story
                                                                2000
                A true story written about the gift I received of a Japanese flag from WWII
                               Written in 2013 and rewritten 2/15/2016 unedited     
                                                        Howard Yasgar
 
      It was 1995 when I first met Russel. I thought he was an interesting guy. He told me that his business was driving all around the country buying government surplus aircraft parts. He said that he was buying the kind of things that he was able to sell at specialized aircraft and industrial flea markets.
     When Russel first walked into our office in Miami, I thought he was a pleasant enough looking fellow, he was about five foot six inches tall, had wavy brown hair and kind of chubby, I saw that his clothes were a little dirty.
      Russel told me that he was thirty five years old and he was a confirmed bachelor. He said that he lived in a house trailer located on a rural road on the outskirts of Naples Florida. Russel said he never did any laundry, every two weeks he simply threw all his dirty clothes in the trash and he went into a Goodwill store in Naples and he bought all new clean second hand clothing.
     That day Russel and I discussed what he needed and I learned more about what he did for a living. I detected by our conversation that he was a fairly intelligent guy, and he knew quite a lot about the government surplus parts business, as well as the aircraft parts business.
      Russel said he just loved calling on small government surplus parts dealers, he said he especially liked finding companies that were hidden away in small towns, because he could always buy parts cheaper from them.
     I got to thinking, about my own company, as I was just getting started with buying and selling government surplus parts, perhaps this was a good opportunity for me to utilize Russel’s talents and we could both somehow work together.
     Our company had recently started advertising worldwide on the internet, so now due to our using of this new method of sales, it had opened my eyes to a new potential market.
     Russel agreed that it sounded like a good idea. He said he could find the stuff, and we could advertise and sell it
     So one day Russel came to see us with a surprise. It was a white silk Japanese flag with a big red sun right in the middle of it. It was about two feet wide and eighteen inches tall with all kinds of Japanese writing all over it.
     Russel said he had a booth at a flea market and right next to him was a WW2 war veteran who had captured the flag. He said the fellow told him that he had personally taken the flag off a Japanese ship that was anchored next to where the surrender of WW2 took place.
     The former WW2 veteran said that he had kept the flag for over fifty years, never showing it to anyone.
     Because Russel thought it was a good story and the flag so unique, he bought it for us.
     Upon receiving it, I found inside the flags plastic bag was a three by five card with the WW2 veterans name and his home town hand written, on it.
      I tried every way to find him on the internet, but I had had no luck. I had hoped to find out more about the Japanese flags story and perhaps was written on it.
     Once we realized that I couldn’t find the veteran, I started asking if anyone could translate the Japanese writing on the flag, but no one had any idea.
     That’s when we all started joking about it and everyone said that it might just be a menu for lunch on the Japanese ship.
     The flag was so nice, and so clean and unusual, that we had it specially mounted, in a museum quality gold frame, paying about three hundred dollars to have the work done. We then hung the flag up in our office.
      Because none of us spoke Japanese, we hoped that we hung the flag right side up.
      I have to admit it was truly a beautiful flag and I had assumed that Russel must have paid quite a bit for it, also we also thought that the flag might have some great historical value, if we could ever find someone who spoke Japanese and could translate it.
      One day, I was discussing the Japanese flag with a friend in who lived in Minnesota.
He suggested that I look on Google, or that I search on Ebay to see if there was any information regarding the flag.
      It was a good idea and I wondered why we hadn’t thought of doing that a long time ago.
     Well, we looked, on the internet, and in a way I’m sorry I did. There were plenty of similar Japanese flags for sale on Ebay.
      It appears that every single Japanese soldier had one, and the all writing on it were all his family members wishing him well.
     We learned that it was not a valuable historical Japanese flag, and it appears that our cost of framing cost more than the value of the flag.
     Well, I guess it was Russel’s thought behind it that counted, it’s still a beautiful flag.  
              
      
          

                 

The Stolen Blankets Story

                                            The Stolen Blankets Story
                                                             1962
                                  A true story that scared the hell out of me.
                             Written 2013 and rewritten 01/18/2016 unedited
                                                    Howard Yasgar



      After I had enlisted in the Army Reserves, I completed my eight weeks basic training and I completed the entire 6 months of my active duty requirements.  Then once the 6 months was completed, I was required to do two weeks of summer refresher training every year after that, until my 6 year enlistment time was up.
      My Army Reserve unit in New Haven Connecticut was a fuel tanker unit, so every year I was always attached to some type of Army unit that was vehicular in nature. I never knew where I would be sent for summer training until I received my official orders in the mail. When we eventually did receive the government papers, we reservists referred to them as our marching orders.
     So in 1962, I received my marching orders to go to Fort Drum, located in New York State, I was sent there because I was a heavy vehicle driver and I was being attached to an Army Reserve unit of truck drivers coming out of New York City.
      Because Fort Drum was about a five hour drive from my home in Westville Connecticut, When I opted to use the governments travel vouchers rather than use my own car it meant that I would have no transportation in the evenings unless I met someone there with a car.  
      Once I arrived at Fort Drum I was directed to an old wooden army barracks where I quickly met up with several other guys that were just like me, they had come to Fort Drum from all around the country to do their two weeks of refresher training.
      Besides from those fellows there were about thirty tough looking rude dudes from the New York City Army Reserve unit that we were being attached to. Those guys had arrived by truck convoy the previous day before us. When these New York guys talked to us, they all had heavy accents, some of their New York accents were so thick we could hardly understand them.
       By late the first afternoon after all the reservists, like me, had shown up, and I was happy to see a few had brought their own cars, so if I made friends with some of those guys I wouldn’t be trapped on the base when we were off duty.
      Before supper, on the first day, the Captain of the New York Army Reserve unit gave us an orientation talk. His accent wasn’t so bad, and we all could understand him easily. He explained to us exactly what our mission at Fort Drum was going to be. He told us that there was a field hospital unit that was also coming to Fort Drum the next day. Their mission was to set up an entire field hospital at night, and do it as if they were under battlefield conditions.  Our mission as a trucking unit, was to support them by hauling all their equipment at night by convoy. Once the hospital was up and passed inspection, we were supposed to come back with all our trucks to haul everything again bringing every-thing back to Fort Drum. The Captain said that all of this was to be done late at night, with all of us driving under total blackout conditions, just like a real war.
      What that meant to us was that it was going to be a very boring exercise. For us, as truck drivers we all had nothing to do with our free time, once we delivered the stuff to set up the hospital. We were free until they were ready for us to pick the hospital up, a few days later. So for the next day, we all spent our time checking out all the trucks that were to be in the Convoy, We did all the regular maintenance, like washing and refueling the vehicles up.
     By the middle of the week they loaded up the entire field hospital onto all the 2-1/2 ton cargo trucks, then we drove at night in convoy to deliver them to a large field where the medics had a team that unloaded all the hospital supplies from our trucks. After we unloaded the trucks, all of us drivers headed back to Fort Drum, where we had nothing to do but sit and wait until the following Monday.
     By Saturday afternoon every one of the truck drivers was bored to death, so I asked if anyone had ever been to Montreal Canada?  I was familiar with Montreal because I had been driving there regularly from Connecticut with my cousin Allen, we went there to visit his relatives, who all lived in Montreal. I told the guys how our money was worth 25 percent more there and I told them how good Molsons beer was, and it was dirt cheap.  I told them how I had a favorite bar there called the Devon, and how it was located on St Catherine Street, the Devon never asked our age there, and they had free pork sandwiches.  Once I told all this to the other soldiers, they all got excited and they said, “Let’s all go to Montreal and have a Molsons beer and a free pork sandwich.”
      So Sunday morning two cars with eight of us truck drivers left Fort Drum heading for Montreal. Montreal was about a three hour drive from Fort Drum so by lunch time we were all standing in front of the Devon bar on Saint Catherine Street, but it was Sunday and the Devon bar was closed up tight.
      Now, depressed and with nothing to do, all eight of us, just sat on the curb, with our feet in the street. We were just all sitting in front of the Devon bar, considering what was to be our next move.
      As we sat there, a middle aged couple came walking down the sidewalk. They stopped and the man asked us in a heavy Scottish brogue “What are all you young fella’s doing here?” I said, we are with the U.S. Army sir, “With the American Army now are ya now,” He said. “Yes sir we all replied.”
     “Well what’s your problem,” he asked. “I told him we had come from Fort Drum in upstate New York and drove three hours for a Molson beer, but the Devon bar was closed.” He looked at his wife and then said, “Follow us boys.”
     There was a doorway in between the stores on Saint Catherine Street, and we followed them up a flight of stairs to the second floor, which then opened up into a big room with over 100 people in it. It appeared to us like a big party going on.  There was a long table with chairs, and on the table were bottles of all kinds of scotch whiskey and all kinds of food as well. At the end of the table, there was a bar set up and a bartender opening bottles of Molson Canadian beer, and he was also making mixed drinks.
      The fellow who brought us up, announced to everyone, “Listen everyone I got the whole American Army with me, and he welcomed us to the Montreal Scottish American Club, I think these guys had all been Scottish Canadian soldiers, at one time or another and they said “Eat and drink all you want boys, for the American Army it’s all on the house, and we did.”
      The next day, we were all back at Fort Drum, and we were all just  hanging around waiting for orders  to pick up the hospital unit, and that’s when a couple of the tough looking wise guys from the New York Army Reserve unit came over to me. “Listen up you, they said” I did listen, and it was like listening to the Mafia talk.
      They said, “Tomorrow night when we pick up the hospital unit, the truck in front of you is going to turn off on a side road. You pick up speed and close up the convoy and make believe nothing happened, do you hear me? I understood exactly what they said, these guys were going to steal a whole truckload of something from the hospital and they were making me into a crook.
      That evening as we loaded up the hospital and I saw the truck in front of me was full of army blankets. They were the brown wool ones with the big USA letters in the middle.
      I didn’t want to do it, but I really had no choice, and before I knew it, the truck in front of me had already made a right hand turn on a small dirt road so I closed up the gap in the convoy with my truck just like he was never there.
      I couldn’t sleep that night worrying about it, because I knew there had to be some kind of an investigation sooner or later. The army couldn’t just miss a whole truckload of blankets. I knew that each truck in the convoy had a convoy number, so I knew they had to come and question me. I worried so much about it that by ten in the morning I had myself convinced that I would be going to jail forever for stealing army property.
      How could I have been so stupid to let these guys bully me into helping them steal. I even wondered how long I would have to go to Leavenworth prison.
      I was sitting on my bunk looking out the barracks window, when I saw the Captain of the medical unit approach the Captain of the New York trucking unit that I was attached to. They were having an animated conversation, the officer from the medical unit was waving his arms around. I just knew they were talking about the stolen blankets.
I started sweating profusely and my heart beat rapidly as I saw both of them walking towards our barracks. I was certain they were going to question me about the blankets. Worse than that, I thought they were going to say I stole them.
      As they entered the barracks, I was ready to confess to everything, and tell them that I knew who stole the blankets, my heart was beating rapidly as the Captain from the medical unit said. “I accidently left my field jacket on the seat of one of your trucks, has anyone here seen my jacket”.
      By the end of the week, I left Fort Drum for home, and I never heard another word about the truck load of missing blankets.                            











       

The Disappearing Mercedes Story


                                                The Disappearing Mercedes Story
                                                                       1975
                                                A true story about the Florida Keys
                                        Written 05/2013 and rewritten 02/2016 unedited
                                                                Howard Yasgar


       When I first moved to Miami Florida in 1963, it seemed like everyone wanted to tell me about the Florida Keys and Key West.
       I knew that Key West was an Island, and it was somewhere way down south of Miami, and I knew it could be reached by driving down U.S. 1, a long road that was called the “Overseas Highway”.
      So I started doing a little research and I found out that the city of Key West, was just about 160 miles due south of Miami, and the road to get there, U.S. 1, was now called the Overseas Highway, and it was actually built on top of what was once the old Henry Flagler railroad track bed.
      Flagler’s railroad was destroyed in the hurricane of 1935 and the Government bought all of the railroad land for $80,000.00, and then they built the overseas highway on the old track bed, and in many places, where there were bridges, they used Flagler’s old steel railroad tracks as guard rails.
      The highway to Key West was completed a long time ago, so now by 1963, you could drive the highway over the long string of islands that were called the Florida Keys. You could in about three hours, drive non-stop all the way from Miami to Key West. The highway has little green mile markers all along the way down, so you always know how far you are from Key West.                          
      I started reading a lot about the Key’s and Key West, and there also was always a lot written in the Miami Herald newspaper, it appeared that in 1963, the whole area was in some kind of difficulty.
      According to what I was reading, drug smuggling was rampant everywhere in the Keys, and because of the many wooded coves, nooks and crannies along the shoreline, it appeared that many fishing captains were getting involved with bringing in drugs, instead of fishing. On top of it all, the city of Key West was promoting itself as a refuge for Gays and Lesbians, drug and a free lifestyle, so drug smuggling and its use was prevalent.
     Families were writing in to the newspapers that they would no longer go to Key West because of the nudity and the drugs. By 1963, Key West and the city of Marathon had become famous as the entry points for Marijuana and Cocaine coming in to the United States.
    The city of Marathon was about half way to Key West and had a fairly small population, but it had a good sized airport, and the drugs came in by the planeload.
     Marathon became so prosperous with drug money that a Mercedes Benz agency opened up there.
     So it appeared that by 1963 the Florida Keys was not only the fishing capitol of the South but now it was also the drug capitol as well.
     Mother ships were coming up to the coast, just off the Keys, they were loaded with bales of marijuana. The bales were off loaded onto smaller fishing boats that brought them ashore. Hauling the bales of marijuana was so well known that they were called “Square Grouper”, by the locals, grouper being a local well known fish.     
     I found that once you leave the mainland of Miami, heading south towards Key West, there is a long stretch of road that goes through the everglades, it is commonly called the “18 mile stretch”.
     The 18 mile stretch is a good place to speed if you are so inclined to do so.
     The original road was built by using two dredges, similar to gold dredges, they dug in the swamp, and as they dug, the hole they made filled with water and the dredges moved forward. Later the earth they piled up between them became the bed for the rail road track, and today it is the road they now called the 18 mile stretch.
      Because of the narrow nature of the road there are few places for the highway patrol to hide and wait, but sometimes they do.
      One day in 1975, the Miami Herald ran the following story, it seems that a Florida
State Trooper, kind of hidden off the 18 mile stretch in the upper Keys, spotted a late model white Mercedes Benz coupe with a red racing stripe, it was seen traveling south down the eighteen mile stretch at a very high rate of speed, doing way over 100 mph.
      The Police officer opted not to chase the Mercedes, he simply radioed ahead for a roadblock to be set up either in Key Largo or Islamorada.
      A roadblock was set up in Islamorada, but for some reason, the white Mercedes Benz never arrived there, so the police assumed that whoever was driving the Mercedes was probably staying at some hotel in Key Largo.
     They put out an “APB” for all officers to be on the lookout for a white Mercedes Benz coupe with a red racing stripe.
      Over the next few weeks the state and local police looked in every parking lot of every resort, but no white Mercedes car was ever found, so after several months, they sort of lost interest and stopped looking.
      One morning there was a frantic 911 telephone call, the call to 911 was from a young women living on what was called millionaires row. She had just found her boyfriend shot to death in their sailboat.
       Millionaire’s Row is an exclusive area on the ocean side of Islamorada where there are secluded homes that cannot be seen by driving down U.S. 1.     
     She said that their sailboat was moored at the end of their dock.
     When the police arrived, they met a young blond girl, who took them down to the sailboat.
     Besides from her boyfriend’s dead body in the sailboat, the police found parked next to their house, six late model Mercedes Benz coupes, all were different colors, and one was white with a red racing stripe.
     In the trunk of the Mercedes they found marijuana residue, and scales for weighing.
     The case of the disappearing white Mercedes with the racing stripe was solved.