Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #Potluck – Miami Beach Where Neon Goes to Die 2019 by Bill Hayes

Welcome to the series  Posts from Your Archives, where bloggers put their trust in me. In this series, I dive into a blogger’s archives and select four posts to share here to my audience.

If you would like to know how it works here is the original post:

This is the final post by Bill Hayes who blogs at Matterings of Mind and there is definitely a treasure trove of posts to be found covering many subjects. This week a more recent post and a lovely look back at Miami Beach in 1988

Miami Beach Where Neon Goes to Die 2019 by Bill Hayes


“It’s full up, no rooms. Nothing” the old Jewish woman sitting out on the porch said as I pushed at the stiff front door of the decaying Art deco hotel on Ocean Drive. Stepping out of the Sun’s glaring heat into the air-conditioned artic air – I could see the high white walls of the dirty marble lobby and a bare deserted reception desk; devoid of the usual hotel paraphernalia. No computer, no leaflets or maps, indeed no receptionist. Just a rotary phone with a padlock on the dial.

A sign on the wall warned “No Loitering”

I stepped back out into the searing afternoon heat. The woman looked up said “No Vacancies, probably won’t be till one of us passes on”. She sat easily in her plastic chair, shaded by the canopy of the Art Deco awning; a delicate faded cotton dress rested lightly on her fragile skin.

“If you want a room, you’ll have to go down a-ways to where they are fixing up all the old places for the new folks coming in”

I had just met Lilian, my first Snowbird.

It is 1988 and I was lucky enough to be on Miami South Beach with photographer Barry Lewis at exactly the moment when the next page in the resorts’ unlikely history was being turned.

Lilian was one of the thousands of Jewish retirees – or “Snowbirds” – from NYC, Chicago & Philadelphia who had cashed in their chips and moved South to the cheap run-down beach hotels and rooming houses, looking for better health from the constant Miami sunshine. After a prolonged drug fuelled violent crime wave, and restrictions on property development the Beach had lost its lustre and was shunned and so accommodation was easily affordable.

Sitting out on the hotel porches, quietly enjoying the ocean view, swapping memories queuing for the “Early Bird Special” at the local Jewish Diner these Snowbirds were eeking out their dwindling funds and diminishing years in what has been called “God’s waiting room”

Then in what seemed just a heartbeat, the curious mix of Retirees, Latinos, Blacks and misfits who managed to co-exist on this narrow strip of land – which only three generations before was crocodile infested Mangrove swamps – had simply vanished. Many Snowbirds died, others were pushed out by landlords and developers, who were waking up and smelling the coffee; and the aroma was good and was going to make them a lot of money.

Working with London photographer Barry Lewis we tried to document this moment; all in black & White as a counter point to the Art Déco pastels and the Neon nights. In the 1970s, comedian Lenny Bruce said that Miami Beach was where neon goes to die.

This has resulted in a book of photographs shot during those days when we walked all the streets of Miami Beach; meeting crazy and extraordinary and quite ordinary people, over 20 years ago. It has been published by the very fabulous husband and wife owned Hoxton Mini Press in London, who have been releasing affordable photo art books for a few years; with dedication to the image and great affection to the subjects of the pictures.


Click here to see more of the book & Hoxton Mini Press

© Bill Hayes 2019

About Bill Hayes

I am in my late 60’s, living in Plymouth (launching point of the Mayflower) with my wife and 3 great late teenage kids. I work in the film industry searching out and organising locations. Sounds exotic – but I spend most of my time parking cars.

I have been writing since school days, but not very well. I have written for newspapers and magazines. I wrote book on the history of Steam Railways published 30 years ago. Still on Amazon. 50,000 words and I used a typewriter – remember those? I have written a text for a book I worked up with photographer Barry Lewis:

8 years ago this month I started my blog. The title comes from an e.e.cummings poem…”all matterings of mind do not equal one violet” I could write what I liked, when I liked and how I liked. It was here that I finally found my voice. I also found a kind and interested audience and a source of great and varied inspiration from around the world.

Connect to Bill Hayes


My thanks to Bill for allowing me to surf his archives and I hope you will head over to read some of his recent posts.. thanks Sally.


8 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #Potluck – Miami Beach Where Neon Goes to Die 2019 by Bill Hayes

  1. I loved Bill’s story. I could soooooo relate. We had a condo there right behind the Rascal House Bill, lol. In our childhood we’d go there for holidays and a few weeks in the summers – boiling hot! My father loved it there and even when we grew up he’d spend a month there and my sister and me would go stay for a week or two. He ultimately, died there while on vacation.
    The strip was fabulous with the neon lights and the iconic hotels. And always great shopping. Downtown, Lincoln Ave was a big snowbird congregation, and I’ll add, tons of Canadian snowbirds too. And lots of delis lol. Then suddenly it became Southbeach and all the art deco was renovated. It’s a different place now. I don’t care for it anymore. I prefer Fort Lauderdale now. 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Weekly Round Up – Children’s books, Crooners, Cravings and Cartoons. | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  3. This is beautifully written and photographed. I really like shooting areas known for their sunny skies and colorful architecture and landscapes (like Florida and Southern California) on monochrome film. As stated in Bill’s story, it tells an interesting, sometimes sobering and more realistic, story of the often-not-idyllic life in beach cities. I’m looking forward to reading more of Bill’s blog. Thanks for posting, Sally!

    Liked by 1 person

I would be delighted to receive your feedback (by commenting, you agree to Wordpress collecting your name, email address and URL) Thanks Sally

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