Monday, July 8, 2013

The Disappearing Mercedes Story

                                                The Disappearing Mercedes Story
                                                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.


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