Wednesday, June 29 2022

When incorporation became a reality for the village of Key Biscayne in 1991, the population was 8,854 (now 14,809) and the median home value was $ 312,500 (today the average estimated value is approximately $ 1.2 million).

Yes, things have certainly changed over the years.

The Rickenbacker Causeway drawbridge is just a memory; Lipton-Ericsson-NASDAQ 100-Sony Ericsson-Itau Miami Open tennis tournament left Crandon Park after 31 years; and area code 305 has given way to 786 (incidentally, “Mr. 305”, Pitbull, was only 10 years old in 1991, 10 years before he launched his reggaeton / hip hop career).

But some things have remained the same – for the most part.

Take, for example, the 50-plus-year Sir Pizza restaurant and the equally historic Donut Gallery, which, now in its 49th year, remains in one location on Harbor Plaza, but without donuts.

“We haven’t served donuts for 25 years,” said Ota Zambrano, who runs the business with her husband, Nelson. “There was a time when people (perceived) donuts as unhealthy. In addition, they were brought in from outside the island. My stepfather wanted a restaurant or a restaurant where he could see all his customers.

Donut gallery one donut left

They have served celebrities, such as resident Andy Garcia, a host of tennis pros and visiting NBA stars (who stay at the Ritz-Carlton), and the late MIami Herald sports columnist Edwin Pope, who was a regular – just like “Barney”, 90, who always orders his “two easier eggs” like he did last Saturday morning.

“We have seen the whole clientele change,” Ota said. “Unfortunately, some have died and others have moved. A lot of development on the island has changed the dynamics. The whole demographics have changed dramatically. But the change is going to happen.

She said the restaurant was the last to close and the first to reopen during hurricanes.

“We have always provided the community with a staple food,” she said, remembering the time they opened at 5.30am to serve those leaving nearby Stefano’s, a bar and a living room, which at one point let party goers out at 5 a.m.

For a region that affectionately presents itself as an “island paradise”, many can remember life even in a simpler time, before traffic, skyscrapers and tourists.

Austin Tellam, one of the “key rats” as the island children are called, remembers this time.

Austin tellam

“We used to live a few blocks from elementary school; my sister and I walked to school, ”he said. “We had a golden retriever, Ashley, and one day she went out and I was probably in first grade, but she walked into the classroom and sat under my chair. The teacher let her stay there. The next time that happened, the manager gave us a ride home. But you won’t see that happening (today).

Tellam, who for eight years served as a sort of master of ceremonies for the July 4th parade and festivities on the island, remembers the popular lunch counter (“It Was Like Woolworth’s”) vividly and Vernon’s phone booth (“Everyone had to go there to make calls.”). Eventually, the drugstore became a Blockbuster video store.

Vernons ols post office

There was old Kentucky Fried Chicken, the place to refuel before fishing, and Sir Pizza became the nostalgic place to unwind after Little League games.

Tellam remembers that the Village Green was a coconut field; when raccoons roamed freely; when Crandon Park Zoo, once a hotspot, became a botanical garden.

There was the huge anchor and pirate scene outside the Jamaica Inn Pub, where President Nixon held his first interview with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, as well as shopping at the old Pantry Pride, and trying to outsmart the drawbridge as to when it would open.

For a while, Tellam’s family had lodges for the “Lipton” tennis event, as many still refer to.

“The players were renting houses for the tournament,” he said. “One year, one of the famous players, Yannick Noah, rented my grandparents’ house and left them a pair of signed shoes and cases full of champagne. He was known to have partied.

Tellam said he wouldn’t change his youth in Key Biscayne.

“No way, man,” he said. “It’s still a great place to grow up. It just changed a lot.

H. Frances Reaves, Chairman of the Board of Oceansound Condo, who first moved to the island in 1986 and returned 10 years ago after living in Baltimore, also has recollections of the older times. simple.

“I would say the big difference besides the traffic now is pretty much everyone knew everyone and most went to church on Sunday,” she said. “People weren’t as diverse (the 1991 population included 4,998 non-Hispanic whites, 3,790 Hispanics, and 19 non-Hispanic blacks), there weren’t many restaurants, and all the Orioles stayed here during training. of spring.”

She recalled that Key Colony was then “the cool place – the only big condo complex” and “Crandon (Boulevard) was the same, but not as landscaped as it is now”.

Reaves affectionately refers to Betty Sime Conroy as the village’s “mother of incorporation” because her incredible efforts have led other municipalities, such as Pinecrest, Doral and Cutler Bay, to follow suit.

“Without the incorporation, we wouldn’t have all the beautification we have now, nor the community center. We wouldn’t have our park (Village Green), all the wonderful amenities that we have now, ”said Sime Conroy.

If only they could get that lunch counter and phone booth back to the Vernon pharmacy.


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