The original Eastern Air Lines holds a special place in the hearts of those who’ve worked, flown or been a part of the Miami carrier over its history from 1926 to 1991. For a younger generation, though, Eastern doesn’t resonate.
Roland Moore, a former contracts lawyer who worked at Eastern from the 1960s until 1991 remembers walking down a Southwest Airlines jetway two years ago when he saw an Eastern lapel pin on the captain flying the plane he was about to embark on. Moore asked the pilot if he flew for Eastern, who said the pin originally belonged to his father.A young flight attendant nearby then said she never heard of Eastern. “We both looked at her and asked how old are you?” Moore said. After replying she was 21, they both laughed and exclaimed, well Eastern did end 25 years ago.
Eastern was founded by celebrated World War I pilot Eddie Rickenbacker, whom Miami’s Rickenbacker Causeway is named after. The airline began as a mail carrier based in New York City and over the years was one of the first airlines to promote tourism in Florida.
“Well, first of all Eastern and Pan American created Miami as a tourist destination,” Moore said. “Eddie built this huge red sign on the Hudson Palisades in New York City which read, ‘Come to Miami, the best tourist destination in the winter!’ So Eastern really promoted Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. We were the No. 1 airline there from probably the late ‘60s to the early ‘80s.”
Michael Zall worked in the airline’s maintenance department from 1979 to 1991 and after all these years he recognizes the nostalgia many still feel for Eastern.
“I believe people still feel like it’s family and they feel like there’s a belonging,” Zall said. “It had a big impact on a lot of people and there was just a lot of great people working there. I just believe it was a great camaraderie everyone had there.”
For other former employees such as Moore and Donna Cole, Eastern helped them get their college degrees while they worked at the company.
Cole worked at Eastern for 38 years in operations, starting as a 17-year-old, but still remembers her early days when Eastern helped pay her college tuition as long as she maintained a “B” average.
“Eastern was my livelihood for such a long time,” Cole said. “I had friends who worked at Eastern for 20 years and after it ended, worked at American for another 20 years before retiring. They told me you just don’t have the same feel as you did with Eastern. It’s something you can’t describe.”
For Moore, Eastern gave him the opportunity to work part-time while he got his degree. The airline even paid for a portion of his tuition at University of Miami Law and Business school.
“Paying for tuition is something that simply doesn’t happen today,” Moore said. “I was eternally grateful and is one of the reasons why I worked at Eastern for some 30 years. It was my career and I loved it.”
Eastern peaked from the 1950s through ‘70s, transporting passengers around the globe during a period many call “the glory days” of flying, Moore said.
During this time, flying was a luxury and not nearly the chore it is today. There were prepared meals from local chefs with a full menu, reclining seats and leg room that would make many of today’s travelers jealous.
“Some of the [airline’s] 747 airplanes introduced to us even had a grand piano and a bar,” Moore said. “It was really a different age.”
Female flight attendants (then referred to as stewardesses) were even required to retain certain measurements on Eastern. For example, flight attendants who were five-feet four-inches tall were required to have a maximum weight of 123 pounds.
“In the early days to be a flight attendant or stewardess it was a very prestigious job,” Moore said. “It was probably harder to be a flight attendant than get into Harvard Law School. They selected one out of 10 applicants who had to be stunning and wear a size four dress. They took great pride in their work.”
Eastern flight attendants called themselves the Silverliners, a group that in its heyday had about 4,000 members. Many are still active today.
Moore says it was also a very different customer base back in the day. Male passengers weren’t allowed to fly unless they had on coats and ties. Also, the cost for flying was much higher.
“Today you can fly from New York to Miami for around $100,” Moore says. “Back then, the airfare was $150 and those were in 1960s’ dollars.”
Eastern’s glory days eventually faded. On Dec. 29, 1972, the airline’s Flight 401 from New York’s JFK Airport to Miami crashed in the Everglades, killing 101 passengers and crew. There were 75 survivors.
In the 1980s, Eastern buckled in large part to airline deregulation and labor disputes under then-company President Frank Borman, the former astronaut.
Michael Zall recalls how he learned of Eastern’s demise from his manager: “In 1991, I wrote up my manager for doing something illegal in aircraft overhaul and presented him a letter of reprimand,” Zall said. “He threw it in the air and said, ‘Didn’t your manager tell you? We’re out of business.’”
Six years ago, Eastern made a comeback, of sorts, based in Miami with charter flights to Cuba, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Guyana and Haiti.
“In late 2011, a professional group of airline managers acquired the intellectual property of Eastern Air Lines,” according to the revived Eastern’s website. “They did this with the goal of developing a new business and financing plan for relaunching the airline. The result was the formation of Eastern Air Lines Group, Inc.”
Eastern’s legacy also lives on through the retiree association — fittingly located next to Miami International Airport — which sends out monthly newsletters to each of its 7,400 members.
This association chose to donate the archive to UM, which also holds the old Pan American World Airways collection, because many wanted the Eastern legacy to remain in the Miami area.
“I was thrilled because I wanted our collection to stay in Florida. It was where the majority of our employees lived and our headquarters was based there,” Moore said. “I had calls from Purdue, Illinois, Auburn and Texas A&M universities as well as the Smithsonian about wanting the collection, but I knew the right place for Eastern’s history was here in Florida.”
A major construction project is underway along Biscayne Boulevard in Northeast Miami to make the overloaded roadway more safe, according to Florida’s Department of Transportation.
And at least for now, some residents say traffic along Biscayne is worse than ever: Left-turn lanes are temporarily gone and there’s little signage to tell motorists how to navigate the mess.
“It’s made the traffic much, much worse,” said Elizabeth Schwartz, an attorney who lives in a condo on Northeast 33rd Street near Biscayne Bay. “When I try to turn into my home, because I don’t have a lane now to turn off Biscayne on 33rd Street, everybody backs up behind me or I have to wait forever because someone’s in front of me and everyone’s backed up behind them. It’s literally just made the situation from bad to worse
The construction project runs along Biscayne Boulevard from Northeast 32nd to 38th streets, as well as along Northeast 36th Street from North Miami Avenue to east of Northeast Fifth Avenue.
This federally funded project came after an FDOT safety study. Construction is scheduled to be done in December, barring weather or unforeseen conditions.
An FDOT safety study recorded crash data from 2014 through 2017, and concluded that the segment of Biscayne Boulevard from Northeast 33rd to 38th streets is one of the top areas in Miami-Dade and Monroe County Districts for frequency of crashes.
About 300 documented crashes occurred during the study, and FDOT concluded they were caused by a lack of gaps in traffic along Biscayne Boulevard when drivers turned to and from side streets.
The main portion of the project involves building raised medians and a widened roadway along Biscayne Boulevard at Northeast 36th Street, just below the entrances/exits to State Road 112 and Interstate 95 and 195. Other work to be done includes upgrading roadway signs and pedestrian ramps, adjusting traffic signals and bus shelters, installing crosswalks, repaving the roadway and trimming landscape.
The Northeast 36th Street project includes paving and restriping the roadway, adjusting manholes, upgrading pedestrian ramps, signs and markers, and installing countdown pedestrian signals at the intersection of North Miami Avenue.
“A series of recommendations were developed by the department to directly address the identified crash patterns along Biscayne Boulevard,” said Sandra Bello, a community outreach specialist contracted for the project. “As a result, the department made the decision to implement medians along this corridor for safety purposes. We are also extending the southbound left-turn lane at the signalized intersection of Northeast 33rd Street, and incorporating a southbound left-turn green arrow to facilitate the left turn.”
FDOT says the medians and extension of the southbound left lane will help reduce left-turn crashes at intersections without traffic signals. The construction will also improve the gaps in traffic to decrease the chance of a collision, according to FDOT.
The construction project is impacting traffic and causing new delays for commuters.
With traffic slowed on both sides of the divided highway, making a left turn is even more difficult due to the increased traffic. And those stuck behind drivers turning left must wait until intersection traffic finally clears before moving forward — causing even worse slowdowns.
Because it’s a safety project, no environmental study was done and project planners could not completely foresee how traffic would be impacted during construction.
Miami Commissioner Ken Russell, who represents the affected neighborhood, says he is aware of the situation.
“We have visited the site and are working together with the FDOT to make sure residents’ concerns are addressed,” Russell said. “We look forward to further study.”
The good news, according to the FDOT: This part of the project will be done by mid August.
“We are prioritizing the roadway and signal work at Northeast 33rd Street,” Bello said. “This will place a dedicated left-turn lane with a dedicated green arrow and widening the road to allow U-turns at the intersection of Northeast 33rd Street.”
FDOT suggests that until construction is completed, vehicles seeking access to Northeast 34th Street may continue south and make a left turn on Northeast 33rd Street followed by a left turn on Northeast Fifth Avenue. They also say vehicles driving southbound on Biscayne can still make a left on Northeast 34th Street.
Construction signs, and markers have been placed to help drivers navigate the work zone. The traffic shift that maintains two lanes of traffic in both directions will remain for a good portion of the project. Single-lane closures may occur from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. during the week and 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays.
It’s not often you mix the ingredients of a 5K race with food and, most importantly, craft beer. For Tank Brewing Co., that recipe made for a fun evening as more than 500 racers and craft beer enthusiasts joined together after the event for music, beer sampling, and, of course, more beer.
Interesting characters from all over Miami came together on Saturday for the South Florida Craft Beer 5K, to race, have fun and support a good cause. All net proceeds benefited two nonprofits: Amigos for Kids, an organization dedicated to child abuse prevention; and Live Like Bella Foundation, which supports childhood cancer research.
Runner Haidar Hachem, sporting nothing but a pink pig beanie on his head and bright pink Speedo, was all smiles with his girlfriend, Marilyn Drozco, before and after the race.
“I’m like what the heck?” Drozco said. “If this naked man has run 12 miles wearing what he has on, I can’t stop. So I finished the race and we ended up finding each other on social media after.”
“The outfit started back in 2013 when I was just a pig,” Hachem said. “I eventually met a friend in Melbourne who always wore Speedos during races, so one day I jumped the ship, starting wearing Speedos and never looked back.”
Recently, Hachem ran for 24 straight hours and 75 miles to raise money for the St. Jude’s Children Hospital, although Drozco still calls him the naked man.
Ethan Clary and Kyle Graves finished the race first and second out of all the participants. The best part for them is they’re also best friends who entered together.
“I’ve been training with Ethan since I came down to Miami two years ago, and the event here has been pretty amazing,” Graves said. “I always enjoy a nice little beer after the race to celebrate with friends, and the craft beer selection is something I’m not used to.”
Clary, who runs semi-professionally, wasn’t surprised he won and said he was even planning to go for another five-mile run after the race.
The race wasn’t all craft beer enthusiasts and semiprofessional runners. It was a family affair, as relatives of the racers cheered them on and were able to play games with their kids inside Tank Brewing Co., 5100 NW 72nd Ave.
Dan Unke planned to race solo, but with his wife sick, he brought their four children along with him to race, with two of them riding shotgun in their single stroller and the other two running alongside him.
“The craft beer is what got my attention,” Unke said. “We may not make good time, but we’re here for a good cause and some fun.”
After they went through the finish line, Unke and his four small children, excitement on their faces, put their hands in the air and exclaimed, “We did it!”
The race was possible thanks to Carlos Padron, owner of Tank Brewing Co., and Frankie Ruiz, co-founder of the Miami Marathon.
Padron and Ruiz were students at Belen Jesuit Preparatory School and ran track under coach Carlos Barquin. That connection helped them to come together and make this Craft Beer Run happen.
“It’s a great event to unite the community and this city,” Padron said. “All of the craft beer guys are proud to make a little dent in the craft beer world that is new to Miami and this is a good way to get it going and have this event that continues year after year.”
The craft beer was one of the main reasons people were attracted to the event.
University of Miami Marine Science graduate students Marybeth Arcadia, Kayleen Mcmonigal and Kurt Hansen still run as a hobby about once a month during school, but it was the beer that certainly got their attention.
“I found out about this event after getting an email sent out by the Brickell Run Club,” Arcadia said. “Honestly, it said beer in the subject title so that was it, I’m there.”
Other runners, such as Jim Fox and Nurys Eduardo, are used to a great beer selection, as their hometown in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is base to more than 30 breweries.
“We try and do a run every week, so it’s more of a hobby and fitness with us,” Fox said. “But of course the beer is the best part, I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Thanks to Hurricane Irma, there were questions about attendance and how big an event this could actually be. Seventy five runners signed up a week before the race and 250 the day before, but on Saturday 500 showed up.
“Everyone thought Carlos was nuts that he wanted to get the whole beer community together, but obviously he pulled it off,” said Louis CasaMayor, owner of Republica, the advertising agency that teamed with Tank Brewing Co. “I get chills just thinking about it and I’m super proud of him.”
The National Garden Club unveiled a new Blue Star Memorial marker during a ceremony at Fuchs Park in South Miami.
Veterans and their family members on Tuesday celebrated the landmark sign along U.S. 1 that pays tribute to veterans. Although there are 3,000 such markers dotting roads across the country, it’s easy to drive past without knowing the significance.
The marker is on a grassy area right outside the park, 6446 SW 81st St., which runs alongside U.S. 1.
Little, 77, says the Blue Star symbolizes anyone who has put on a uniform. The five points on the star symbolize war, peace, honesty, prosperity and honor. This specific marker reads “A tribute to the Armed Forces who have defended the United States of America.”
She comes from a military family, with her father and husband serving. Little says she visits 20 marker unveilings each year throughout the United States.
Some military families feel disrespected by professional athletes choosing to kneel for the national anthem, even if their actions weren’t directed toward those who serve in the armed forces. And some Vietnam veterans came home to anger and hatred.
“They jeered, yelled at us and everything,” said Mike McVay, a lieutenant in the Marine Corps who served in Vietnam. “When we came back we didn’t use or put on our uniforms for a long time.”
Eduardo Lombard, 70, a Vietnam War veteran and Coral Gables resident since 1961, recalls how hard it was to come home during the war, especially dealing with post traumatic stress disorder. He says there was no support system when he returned. The day he left Vietnam, his officer asked him where he was going and gave him a check for the transportation expenses. That was it.
So that’s why this marker is so special to McVay and Lombard.
“I was raised with respect and dignity, so a simple thank you is the same as embracing me physically and saying I appreciate you,” Lombard said. “The more I think about it the more emotional I get.”
The markers date back to 1947, thanks to the National Garden Club. It started as a beautification idea through the planting of 8,000 dogwood trees along highway U.S. 22 in New Jersey, a symbol of helping veterans come back from a dark place. Over time it evolved into honoring veterans through the Blue Star Memorial Highway program, with the mission that these veterans will never be forgotten.
There are now 3,000 markers across the United States, with 176 in Florida and nine in the Miami area. Each marker is surrounded by a bed of flowers.
The club’s decision to put the markers on highways meant veterans coming home by train, car or bus could see them as they arrived home.
At Fuchs Park, veterans and their families were dressed in military attire. One woman wore a red, white and blue American flag sweater, and another was dressed in an authentic Revolutionary War outfit.
The Miami Honor Guard walked side by side in unison during the opening ceremony and were led by Robert Latimer, a professional bagpiper and Vietnam vet, who also has played at the 9/11 memorial.
The keynote speaker was Col. Michael Farrell, chief of staff and second in command of the Marine Corps Forces, U.S. Southern Command.
“Groups like the Garden Club are just as important as what we do overseas,” Ferrell said. “Too often we stay inside our little bubble. We have to take advantage to meet people and put our faces out there. We have such a tight-knit community, and it’s important to expand in such a large urban environment like Miami where the military can be hidden.”