Today in Keys History – Jan. 30, 2023

A band performs and a woman sings as people sit at small round patio tables under umbrellas.

1901 – The schooners Lilly White and Dr. Lykes were seized at Key West by the revenue cutter McClane. The vessels, bound from Havana, were found to be carrying demijohn bottles of contraband rum and a quantity of unregistered cigarettes.

1911 – Curtis Aircraft test pilot J.A.W. McCurdy attempted to fly from Key West to Havana but crashed short of the island and was rescued by a Navy destroyer.

1915 – Florida East Coast Railroad announced that it would begin fueling its locomotives with oil instead of coal, to make travel “both dustless and smokeless and add greatly to the comfort of the traveling public.” Oil storage tanks were to be installed at Key West and Miami for the purpose.

1916 – Over 500 people attended the Jewish Relief Ball hosted by the Hebrew Social Club at Aronovitz Hall on Duval Street. The event was organized to raise money for Jews suffering in the European war zones.

1920 – J.R. Fraser, owner of a Ramrod Key Plantation, sent a load of asparagus by train to New York, the first time the vegetable had been grown and shipped from South Florida. Fraser expected asparagus to become an important product of the Florida Keys.

1947 – Al Jolson, stage and radio star, appeared at the Birthday Ball at the Naval Base. He also appeared at the Casa Marina for the March of Dimes campaign.

1950 – Berlin Felton of A&B Fish Company announced, “Within a radius of 100 miles of Key West, a fleet of boats has had good luck in finding shrimp in unlimited quantities.” Felton would not say exactly where the beds were, but he predicted there would be 150 shrimp boats operating out of Key West within 30 days to take advantage of the discovery.

1967 – Charles Helberg, 62, died of a sudden heart attack at the Key Wester Motel on South Roosevelt, which he had built in 1951. In December 1949, Helberg, Vicent Conley and Abe Golan formed Key West Improvement, Inc., which purchased most of the eastern half of Key West from William R. Porter and the Key West Realty Company.

Information compiled by Tom Hambright, Historian Emeritus, and Dr. Corey Malcom, Lead Historian, Monroe County Public Library, Florida Keys History Center.

Image: Postcard of the Key Wester Motel. Owner, Charles Helberg. Photography by Larry Ward, South Miami, FL. Monroe County Public Library, Florida Keys History Center.


Arts & CultureFlorida HistoryToday In Keys History