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Stock Island

As time passed, I was able to purchase the land next to me. It was almost a necessary purchase because one Frank Smith had moved on there and started a junk yard. Old cars and junk were all over, (kind of a midnight auto supply). Danny and Henry and some of the other local kids thought it was fun playing tag and hide and seek among these junk cars. I'm sure today no one would allow children to play in such a place as they would say it is much to dangerous and force the owner to fence it. I found out later the owner of the land, Rose Segal, didn't even know he was there. Rose, known locally as "Mom", had been the Madam of the Key West brothel, "Mom's Tea Room: for many years. This purchase of the lots included her burned out building "Mom's Tea Room". This old building must have had quite a few stories to tell as it used to be the main brothel for a town that for many years had 12,000 to 14,000 navy men stationed here.

Now we had two large pieces of property but 2nd Street divided them. I set to work on the county commissioners to get them to vacate the end of this street. Everything was going O.K. until some Stock Island property owners showed up to block it. It turned out they thought I was asking for the end of 1st Street instead of 2nd Street but by then there was so much talk around that politically it was not possible. The best I could do was trade the County some of the land on the side of my property for their street that divided mine. That deal went through O.K. too. Now I had it all in a solid block. Whoopee!

Fill is coral that has been dredged up from the ocean. It is locally called "marl". Every place needed fill on it before it could be used and as you got closer to the ocean the more fill was needed. I noticed there was quite a large hole which today is our boat dock area. I learned later that some locals had moved in there with an old rusty crane and a truck and had sold fill out of there for several years. They told anyone that inquired that they had bought the property. The National Bank, which was the owner at that time, was unaware of what was happening while these fellows were stealing their (my?) fill. However, it wasn't bad as we made the hole they had dug into our marina. Today there are slips for twenty boats and a nice launching ramp as well that made good use of this hole. When Henry found a huge anchor at the reef he brought it in on several floats and stored it in this hole. We can't see it but it doesn't rust while we wait to prepare a proper place for it.

I used to do electric work for some of my neighbors on Stock Island and one of these, Ben Bernstein, became my good friend. I used to stop by his office sometimes just to bat the breeze. Things that seemed so complicated to me seemed so simple to him. He gave me much needed good advice from time to time. It made me feel good when I attended the dedication of "Benjamin Bernstein Park" in his honor in 1995. He was a great man.

Through these early years Elsie and I worked very hard. We were living in a house trailer and although it was 12' x 60' it was to small when Danny arrived on the scene in 1965. We had to pull a second trailer up close behind it and open a door between the two. That helped a lot but with seven people and the front room also being used as our office for the campgrounds it was still a busy place. After a hard day's work it was a problem when people woke us up at night so Elsie and I used to take turns sleeping with our clothes on to answer the night calls.

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