Key West, Shine Frobes, Blue Heaven Restaurant & Hemingway Boxing
We are dry camping along with some 700 other RV'ers at the Navy Base here in Key West. Actually, there are two bases within the NAS Key West complex that make up the 700-plus campsites. The two locations are at Sigsby and Trumbo Point. Sigsby is located 3 to 4 miles from "Duval Street" in Key West while Trumbo Point Campground is located 6 to 8 blocks from "Duval Street". We are staying at Trumbo Point, an easy walk to Duval-Street. But remember this is Dry Camping. There is central dump station and fresh water. Generators can run from 6am to 10PM. Life is good.
Commercial Campgrounds in Key West start at $100 a night and are located about 5-miles from Duval Street. Parking in Key West starts at $13 a day and goes up. The $13 parking site is about 6 blocks from Duval Street. The closer you get to Duval Street the more expensive the parking site.
We were dining at the famous Blue Heaven restaurant in Key West where we split a jerk chicken meal complete with black beans and rice. Thankfully, although we were dining outside, we were under a large umbrella. I say thankfully because it protected us from the falling almonds, Spanish limes and coconuts. The umbrella didn't protect us from the roaming chickens, biddies and roosters though. I am not sure but I think they would have jumped on the table and joined us if not for me being vigilant. I flicked some rice off our dish just to watch the chickens and biddies dine under our feet. What a hoot.
Blue Heaven Restaurant Key West
While dining at Blue Heaven we learned about Shine Frobes, a local celebrity.
Now back to Shine Frobes and a little about Earnest Hemmingway.
Back in the 1930's Shine was a young black man in his early 20's that was also a pretty good boxer. At that time Shine lived across the street from Blue Heaven.
In the 1930's Blue Heaven
sponsored regular boxing matches.
Well, that is the "vanella" version of the story. Here is Shine's version:
Keep in mind that Shine was in his 80's when he related this version but it was verified by others who were there:
"You remember the place by my house, the Blue Heaven? It was a sporting house where we used to put on boxing shows on Friday nights to make a little change. One night, this big ol' man come down to referee. I didn't know who he was. Well, I was in Black Pie's corner. Black Pie was fighting Joe Mills, and Joe was beating Black Pie so bad I threw in the towel. What's this referee do? He picks the towel up and throws it back, hits me right in the face."
Shine, wearing a Sloppy Joe's muscle shirt, his left eye droopy from so many fights, had to smile, remembering it. "So I take the towel and throw it in again. Same thing. Referee throws it back, hits me right in the damn face. I had a little of this in me"--Shine indicated the Budweiser in his hand--"which is no excuse for what I did."
What Shine did was vault over the ropes and take a swing at the referee.
"That man, he was so big, he could have hurt me. But he just held me off till the other boys could pull me away," Shine said, "I was mad. Somebody said, 'Hey, you want us to take this man to jail?' But the referee said, 'Anybody got the nerve to take a swing at me, I don't want him in no jail.' That's when somebody took me aside and says, 'Hey, man, you know who that referee is? That's Ernest Hemingway.'"
Shine walked over to Hemingway's house later that night to apologize.
"That's when Mr. Ernest invited me and a couple others to come over, to do a little sparring with him. He was a real gentleman about it."
Shine became a regular at Hemingway's house. "We'd take turns with him, three rounds each. He weren't no real boxer, just did it for sport, see? But he so big, you could hit the man all day and not hurt him. And he'd pull his punches on us. We wore these 16-ounce gloves, and we'd kinda bounce off him. Only this one time, I got under him and was working inside when he let one go and knocked me down. Didn't hurt me, understand, but what I'm saying is, the man could hit when he wanted to."
They continued to spar throughout the mid- and late 1930s, when Shine was in his twenties. "Times were tough for us back then," Shine told me. "One Christmas Eve, we didn't even have change for a quarter, so Ernest let us put on a boxing show at his house. It was Black Bob, Black Pie, Iron Baby, and me, with a bunch of Ernest's rich friends there to watch. After we done boxing, Ernest passed the hat, and it had over $200 in it. That was some good Christmas.
"Then one day, Ernest just left. They said he moved to Cuba or something, I don't know. But we missed him."
To add a little insight to this story it may be interesting to note that Hemingway rented himself out as a sparring partner while living in Paris to make extra money in his early days as a writer.
Click here to read more about the Blue Heaven Restaurant.
Locals rave about breakfast at Blue Heaven but we never get up in time to make it down there for breakfast so we had to do a late lunch. Trust me, the physical structure of Blue Heaven is not impressive.
What Blue Heaven has is HISTORY. And what a history it has. Through the years the property has hosted cock fighting, gambling and Friday night boxing matches refereed by none other than Ernest Hemingway. The outdoor courtyard, where we ate, is paved with slate pool table tops from days long ago in addition there is a water tower and a rooster cemetery.A dance hall, a bordello and a playhouse have occupied the second floor of the indoor part of Blue Heaven. Inside the Bordello Gallery above the restaurant, you can still peek through the sliding peep holes into the tiny rooms, so we have been told. We didn't make the trip upstairs to view this but just might on our next trip to Key West.
Blue Heaven specializes in Caribbean cuisine, sea food and vegetarian dishes for lunch and dinner, but remember the locals rave about breakfast----not lunch and dinner. However, their lunch & dinner cuisine is nothing to sneeze at. Charles Kuralt, the noted journalist, once said Blue Heaven's scallop sauce "would make cardboard taste good."
Until next time remember how good life is.
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Until next time remember how good life is.