Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What Lies Beneath

We read all the time about some construction project in Europe digging up an unknown 2,000 year old ruin with artifacts and bones and what not. It even happens in places like Philadelphia where records were (supposedly) kept.

But when it happens in Miami, that's a bit more peculiar since Miami is relatively new. Many buildings in Miami are the only ones that ever stood on their location, more often than not because it was swamp before the land was drained for construction.

Take Keystone Point for example: beautiful homes in a beautiful, richly landscaped setting in northern Miami. I wonder if any of those residents know that before their homes were built, that land was an airport.

People need a sense of history, which is part of the reason I drone on in this dopey blog. You need to know why stuff happened. They are now going to tear down my brother's high school, North Miami Senior High.

My elementary school is still functioning normally after more than eighty years, but his high school is gone after only sixty. They're going to build a middle school in its place, it will probably look like a brick.

My brother went right to work after high school. I'll have to ask him if he ever considered college. It wasn't as though our family ever had any deep ranging discussions about careers and college. It just never came up.

"Well, son, I've talked it over with your grandfather and we've decided you should attend Yale, as we did. I've spoken to the dean and it's all arranged." Yeah, right.

I expected just to go to work after high school, you know, eventually get a house something like my parent's house and perhaps get married. Although frankly, marriage never crossed my mind at that point, it was another thing that was just never discussed. Working was no mystery, I had already been working (pretty much) full time for more than two years. If I was going to work, then I would work, no big deal.

But my high school friends were making plans to go to college and I just kind of fell into the idea with this vague notion of being a teacher, maybe even a history teacher. So I signed up at the North Campus of what was then called Miami Dade Junior College along with practically everyone from my high school class. No one had any money in those days.

The school had opened only a couple years before and just two buildings had been built, the Classroom Building and the Library. It was on a huge site with plenty of room for parking and expansion. But was there anything on this site before it? Hmm?

Well, if you've learned anything about my
foreshadowing technique, you'll have guessed that it was an airport. Master's Field was one of three airports within just a couple of miles of one another. Amelia Earhart Field was immediately adjacent to Master's Field to the west and the Opa Locka Airport was located to the north in beautiful Opa Locka.

Opa Locka (originally
Opa-tisha-woka-locka) the Seminole name for the high land north of the little river on which there is a camping place built on an Arabian theme (how about that!) and has the distinction of having a real Sesame Street.

Actually, all the streets are named on the Arabian theme, this photograph is of the corner of Sesame Street and Ahmad Street. I know these streets very well, I worked at the Opa Locka Post Office sorting mail, so I know (or knew) every house.

So, I wonder if today's students of 'Dade County College' know
their school is built on an airfield? The clues are there. During the first years, we parked our cars on the runways, and if you look carefully, you can still find an occasional old metal ring embedded in the concrete. These rings were used to tie the aircraft down. I found some old images of what the airfields looked like before all the changes. Some of the strips were even used for drag racing back in the day. You never know what kind of history is lurking until you check.

So this image is Master's Field (the actual name was Master Field because at one point, it was the main Miami airport, but no one called it that) from 1956.

That's NW 27th. Avenue running along the right border. Then a few years later by 1970, they had added several college buildings, dug the lake and added the gym and stadium. The south-western part is beginning conversion into an industrial park.

By 1986, it was getting difficult to identify the airport heritage.

And now, you have to squint a little to see it.

Stuff is there for you to find if you look for it. What's under your feet?

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