Noilly Prattle: Looking Back: 8 – Eldorado

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Looking Back: 8 – Eldorado

      In 1513, Ponce de Leon, a Spanish Conquistador probably looking for gold and slaves, named it La Florida—the flowery land. And it really seemed like the fabled land of Cibola, the mythical golden land that attracted the Conquistadors in the 16th Century, after the sailor-phobic Norfolk, Virginia area. 

Biscayne Blvd., Miami
      We rolled into Miami on US Rte. 1 in brilliant blue sky and sunshine; Biscayne Boulevard lined with coconut palms on both sides as far as the eye could see, behind the palms glass-covered buildings glittering in the sun seemingly made of gold—the mythical golden land of Eldorado just like in the travel posters. We rolled down Biscayne in a kind of delirium of ecstasy unable to absorb the beauty of the scene quickly enough to satisfy our appetite for...what?...rain after a long drought.
Fountainbeau Hotel, Miami Beach
      Miami and Miami Beach in those days were already, of course, well-known tourist resort towns, but they were still not overly spoiled by too much emphasis on tourism (or, at least, didn't seem that way to us), and the alligators weren't romping in your swimming pool yet, either. At any rate we didn't have the kind of money or time to truly sample the delights of Miami; we were due to report to our new assignments in Key West and were compelled to continue south on US Rte. 1 all the way to the tip of Florida and across the Overseas Highway to Key West, the southern end of US Rte. 1.

Key West, Florida
      Gatch and I said good-bye when we arrived in Key West and went on to our new assignments, I to the USS Salinan.

      Did you ever meet someone you took an instant dislike to without ever having exchanged two words? That turned out to be the case with my division officer—a snotty ROTC wonder Ensign (lowest ranking officer) who gave himself credit for a lot more than he actually had on the ball. And, I suppose, the feeling was mutual—as far as the dislike not the on-the-ball part was concerned. I had, by now, more time and experience in the Navy and at sea than he did, but he was an officer and I was just a dumb swabbie as far as he was concerned (even though I was QM3 [3rd Class Petty Officer] by then). Our denouement came later although our mutual antagonism occurred instantaneously.

drive in restaurant
      Life aboard the “Sally” was relatively leisurely paced so we had a lot of liberty time to enjoy the exotic locale of the Florida Keys, especially having a car on base. A couple of shipmate buddies and I used to jump in my old '55 Ford and drive along US 1, go to one beach or another often stopping at roadside restaurants for lunch or dinner before coming back to Key West and the Sally. Back in 1961, a more innocent time, some of these restaurants had catchy signs to attract the attention of passing cars like, for example, the interesting sculpture on the right. They may still have them to this day for all I know. 

To be continued...

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