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The Saving of Our Local History Continues—Part III


By Seth H. Bramson

First, an apology to our now, as I understand it, many readers, along with great thanks for being said consumers of the columns and comments which I share with you on a regular basis.

As some of you know, I have been teaching at the college level for somewhere in the vicinity of 34 or 35 years; I think I’m losing track. (Of course, as you may have heard, old railroaders never die: they just lose track! ( : > )) ) This past week was finals week and with three classes and 63 finals to grade I did get a bit behind, but since Barry University never misses a pay date, I really do feel obligated to keep my time commitment to that wonderful seat of higher learning, where I have been teaching, in some capacity or another—graduate, undergraduate, adult and continuing ed—since 1992. So, and again, apologies for being a bit behind, both to our readers and to the wonderful man who owns this fine website, Brad Berkwitt.

At any rate, as you may remember, we ended our previous discussion with the statement that we would next write about the next of the three great collections which we have been fortunate enough to have “turned up” in the last several months, the latter two—that of Jim Farrell and that of the famed Greater Miami architect Donald F. Roban—just in the last six weeks or so.

Approximately two years ago (perhaps a bit longer) I received a phone call from the above-mentioned Mr. Farrell asking me come up to his apartment in Hillcrest and look over his collection, which, bringing along my friend, the great Ted Grossman (“Night Train with Ted Grossman” on WLRN Radio, 91.3 FM in Miami and points north every Sunday night from eight till midnight is the longest running radio program—now coming up on 43 years—on the same station in the history of Florida, and, yes, I have documented and verified that statement of fact), I and we did.
Mr. Farrell was a lovely man, a bit gruff but a fine guy. Married to an Israeli woman (also a delightful person) for 53 years, he grew up in Chicago, where he was fascinated with both that great city’s history and the various modes of transit which allowed the city to grow. For many years, Chi-town was America’s second (only to New York) city and now, as some of you may be aware, the nation’s third largest, having been passed by Los Angeles several years ago. At any rate, probably close to thirty years ago, the Farrells moved to Hillcrest, where he continued his collecting.

When Ted and I got there, Jim showed us all of the books and tapes which he had in his apartment as well as “the stuff” in the storage room which was at the other end of the hall from his apartment, same taking up probably somewhere in the vicinity of 150 boxes of various sizes, of material.

The problem was that Jim, who had worked as a manager for a construction company, had xeroxed dozens and dozens of books, amounting to thousands of pages. While that and those are terrific for the researcher, they don’t have a great deal of re-sale value, as most collectors are looking for “the real”—the original—books, magazines and/or articles.

While Jim wanted to sell the material at a fair price I had to regretfully explain to him and Mrs. Farrell that I could only use the original items and that unhappily what he was asking was well above what I felt I could ever get for said items. We wished him well and told him how much we appreciated his getting in touch with me, but, unhappily, could not, at the prices he was asking, purchase the material. As it turned out, it was fortunate that we left with both good wishes and good feelings.
About two months ago—perhaps this past October—I got a call from Jim. He was not well and realized that he had to get rid of the boxes and told me that, if I would come up, he would give them to me. Ted and I made three trips, each one filling my Pacifica from just behind the front seat right back to the rear cargo door.

And what, you ask, were the treasures? Before I “tell you” I should mention that Jim advised us that, due to what he felt were medical errors, he was, as he put it, “a short timer,” and that he wanted the material to go to somebody who could and would make good use of it. Happily, I was that somebody, and, indeed, it has been put to excellent use.

In the last issue I advised you that among and in addition to the boxes of historic material were several items which we were able to give to Myrna’s son for use in his business. Hundreds of books, classic music CDs or DVDs or 8-track stereos or whatever they are were donated to the Friends of the Library, the wonderful group that does so much for the North Miami Public Library, which is one of only four municipal libraries in operation in Miami-Dade County, those being, besides North Miami, North Miami Beach, Miami Shores and Hialeah. All of the others, including Myamuh, Miami Beach and Coral Gables are now part of the County library system.

In addition to those donations a good bit of material went to Barry University to be used by different departments while some of the “loose” xerox material which had not been formed into a book, was, of necessity, recycled. Nothing—absolutely nothing—was thrown away. By now, of course, I know you are all “fainting dead away” to learn what I kept, and so “back atcha,” I keep all of the hard-cover books about and regarding Chicago as well as all the traction (electric railway) and railroad books, booklets, brochures, articles and accompanying material. Some, of necessity, will go on eBay or go to shows with me to be offered for sale, but a goodly amount will remain with us, here in The Bramson Archive.

So, and as the great line from the late, great Neil Rogers show went, when a caller would end an interesting call, “…and in closing…” with Neil replying “yes….” and the caller giving those marvelous closing words, “Neil, god!” we end today’s episode—and in closing–by sadly having to report to you that when Ted and I last went to the Farrell’s apartment, it was clear that Jim was failing and, unhappily to advise, he passed away about a week and a half ago.

As with the collections of Albert Weber, James G. Lavake, William Gleason and so many others whose material I was able to preserve, the memory of those men, along with Jim Farrell, will always live on through our work at The Bramson Archive.

“Next time around” we will discuss the acquisition of the collection of blueprints, drawings, color and pencil renderings of famed Greater Miami architect Donald Roban and I know you will really enjoy learning not only how but what I saved, that material, as so much else we have preserved for lo these many years being utterly and absolutely priceless.

We’ll see you shortness. Have a wonderful, happy and safe holiday season and we’ll be back with you in just a few days.

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