APRIL 26, 1940
MIAMI BEACH, Fla., Thursday—I drove quite a distance in miles yesterday but it seemed very short. The flowers are far more beautiful than when I was here in February. Everything still looks deliciously green and is a riot of color. I think it was epitomized for me when I saw a girl crossing the street wearing an orange blouse, brilliant blue shorts, a green sash and carrying over her arm a bath towel with all the colors mixed together.
The tourist season is over, so the place seems to belong more to the people who really live here. The beach has a few children with their parents or nurses watching them. The water looks very tempting when the sun comes up and when the moon shines on it at night. Since I did not come on a pleasure jaunt, I brought no bathing suit but, as I drove yesterday, I could not help thinking how pleasant a dip in the ocean would be.
I have never seen the Everglades before. Miles and miles of flat, rich soil, beginning with muck about a foot deep and increasing to well over six feet. You drive along a straight road with a canal alongside, which serves as an irrigation canal when necessary. This is probably the biggest acreage of undeveloped farm land we have left in this country. At present there are fields of beans, celery, tomatoes, cabbage and sugar cane in an area of about 100,000 acres. Packing houses are dotted here and there.
The farming system is a peculiar product of this area. The man owning the land does not, as a rule, live on it. The farmer may not own the land, but may lease it. He may not even be a farmer, but hires a manager and a labor boss who provides him with labor. You can see that this is like an industrial situation, with little or no contact between the man at work and the man with money at stake.
From the point of human beings, the result is quite deplorable. I, who have always believed that a good example is of greater value than many words, received quite a shock to my confidence after I went over a model plantation of the U. S. Sugar Corporation at Azucar. Here the Quaker gentleman in charge said it was good business to have his people live decently, and those he keeps all year round have little individual houses with gardens of their own. Only a short distance away, however, the county health department has condemned a housing unit where conditions are almost unbelievable.
Why should you, in the country, find houses so close together that you can touch them on either side as you walk through the alley? Even though condemned, these places are still lived in. I saw packing house workers living in tents on muddy land, or along the banks of the canal, and farm hands in shacks unfit for animals.
One can only hope that the new Farm Security Camps being established for both white and colored labor will set a new standard of decency which will have to be followed by employers generally.