Sunday, February 1, 2009

William Jennings Bryan

I was recently contacted by one of my friends from elementary school. For some of you, that may not seem like a big deal, but for me, that was a long time ago and far away. The Internet is such an amazing tool, just wait until we actually make real use of it. But this happening fits pretty well with the 'History of Northern Miami' thing I have going on.

Roads were few and far between in northern Miami, the real highway was the Florida East Coast Railroad. Flagler, the builder, was smart enough to build a lot of stations along the way at settlements which developed into towns. The most northern of these was Ojus at what is now Miami Gardens Drive and the West Dixie Highway. Below that was Fulford named for a weather station watchman who took care of stranded people and recorded the weather along the beach near Snake Creek. Fulford, which was roughly at 163rd Street and the West Dixie was renamed Miami Shores and when there was a conflict with the other Miami Shores farther to the south, renamed again to North Miami Beach.

The next town (OK, railroad station) to the south was Arch Creek. This place was very special because it had a natural limestone arch cut out by the northern branch of Arch Creek. This place had been inhabited by Indians for a long time and was one of the first places settled by non-Indians in the Miami area. There were farms and mills and storage warehouses and it grew a lot faster after the railroad arrived. The arch collapsed in 1973, but they've built a nice park there, maybe they'll rebuild the arch.

Incidently, I grew up along the southern branch of Arch Creek right alongside a canal that had been cut to help drain the swamp that fed the southern branch. It didn't quite work, because it was still a black muck swamp that would make sucking sounds when you stepped on it and your footprint would fill up with water. And, yeah, there were the requisite snakes and bugs and land crabs that contribute to the whole 'swamp' experience. My brother and I would tramp around in there in our bare feet. Geez.

Arch Creek developed into enough of a town that they needed a school, so one was built along what is now 125th Street about a block west of the railroad tracks in 1905. It was replaced by a two story, multi-room wooden building in 1914. Then in 1918, a much larger stucco building was constructed next door to the west on the site of the current William Jennings Bryan Elementary School. It was a smaller version of today's school and it burned to the ground just a few years later. The current school was built on that site in 1928 and named for a popular politician who had run for President three times and lived part-time in Miami.

That means when I started there in 1953, the building was only 25 years old. But based on the rest of what I knew of Miami, that was impossibly old. It was open air, with a court yard, no air conditioning and a wonderful library which was my first library exposure.

So thanks to Richard Scandore Weber contacting me, some other names have come to mind. I remembered Richard, he was my friend. And I remember Nancy Lee Sheridan and Tommy Septembre and Suzanne Slate and Russell Jacobs and Carol Craig. Where are these people now, what are they doing? Do any of them remember me? Why don't I remember more of them? Are they alive or dead? Do they have pleasant memories of the courtyard at Bryan? What do you want to bet the Internet is going to answer some of those questions?


Leah Kleylein said...

"My brother and I would tramp around in there in our bare feet. Geez."


Ay carumba.

By the way, I thought your elementary school was beautiful when we saw it. At least yours still exists. :-( Poor Burnside.

debbie said...

It is a beautiful school, just don't make them like that anymore...sigh...

Terry Ritter said...

Thank you for the memories, I started there a little earlier 1950, and continue to have fond memories. Who needed AC I don't remember being hot.

Kasey Smith said...

i miss my elementary school i been there since 1-4 grade.. wish i could go back just to see how its doing...i miss my favorite P.E. teacher Mrs.Right!!

Anonymous said...

This blog has been up since 2009. It is 2012 and someone sent me the link.

I am Tom Septembre. I returned to Miami Shores in 1978. My good friend since third grade at WJB, Janis Chance Davis who lives in St. Marys, GA., and I stay in touch regularly. I remember having to learn Spanish once a week, Ms. Riggs, 4th grade and Mr. Price 6th grade and Ms. Mirick (sp). Mr sister, Candi, was responsible for obtaining the statue of WJB that sat in the court yard for years.

We have lost a number of the WJB group, but there are others still around, see North Miami Sr. Class of 65 web site.

If you grew up on Little Arch Creek you will remember the Fowler's dairy farm on US1, my father's driving range where 127th street shopping center sits now, Paradise Pools, the diving horse, Ollie's Paint and Body Shop on 123rd and the Boulevard Drive Inn on the east side of US1, the FEC station just south of the Arch Creek bridge and swimming in Emerald Lake, attending boy scouts in the trailer park where the Arch Creek Park is now, sailing my pelican sailboat out of the marina at Arch Creek and US1 and Pelican Harbor Yacht Club, the power boat races, and water skiing around the north bay, jumping off the old Houlover Bridge and being chased by the cops.

Great times when we were innocent, fearless, and excited about school being over and summers at the beach.

Best to all,


Anonymous said...

Great place to grow up and go to school. Went there from 54 to 60. Mrs. Cook my 6th grade teacher was my favorite of all time. Lived on 129th Street, walked to school every day for 6 years. Played in the school yard hundreds of times with other neighborhood kids. Flew model airplanes at the school and further east on 125th Street. Great memories of a wonderful place to grow up!

John Eddinger

Anonymous said...

W.J.B. is embedded in my brain. I grew up being able to look out my front door to see the front of the school. I never played in the courtyard but roamed the neighborhood on bicycle from Arch Creek, Biscayne Park, and beyond. It truly was a great place to grow up. Mrs Myrick was my sixth grade teacher.I remember Mrs. Stoop 1 st. grade Mrs.Lane 2nd Mrs. Wilson 4th. The rest are a little fuzzy. And yes I remember you TS. All the best to you and all who walked those hallowed halls (with no need of air conditioning). A.Y.

Anonymous said...

I grew up across 125th street from WJB and walked to school everyday. I could see the school from my front porch. Some of the best times of my childhood were in and around that school. Mrs. Jacobs, Mrs. Knight, Mrs. Stanshaw, and most especially Mr. Price. I still remember how much I learned from him - things not typically taught in the 6th grade. He was the best....always wondered what happened to him. I remember the shelter and attempting gymnastics there; climbing ropes and the parallel bars in the playground. "Bryan Days" and assemblies; daily Spanish lessions over the loudspeaker. The nurse's office in the front of the school and the little store where you could buy pencils and book straps. Great memories!

Kettelene Philogene said...

Very interesting story, you should befriend us on the ''William Jennings Bryan Elementary Alumni'' on Facebook where we relive those wonderful memories of WJB and Arch Creek from 1950s til now. We have some amazing pictures of the area from then and now. If you're asking about Rich Kleylein, him and his brother are on that page and update information on a regular basis.

Kettelene Philogene said...

By the way, I occasionally visit the area and take pictures every time I'm there. Also the school has this bin full of info from 1950 til now and I was blessed to get permission to captures some of those pictures and I posted them on our site.