Monday, November 26, 2012

Another Saturday at Seminole Estates: Shooting with Cheryl Maeder & Practicing French

Skirts off: House in a state of undress.
It has been two months since I first visited the Seminole Estates Mobile Home Park. I participated in the 2nd protest, sat down with the newly evicted residents, and continue to walk the streets of the community and witness its undoing. Despite the demolition on every block, the incessant drone of power tools, and the park's adjacency to the bustling Turnpike, there is something remarkably serene about the site. I see why the residents once loved this place they called "home."

Maeder was particularly attracted to the old statuary and felt somewhat like she did in Italy and Greece where she walked among the ruins.
I like to share the experience of the park with certain friends. On this Saturday, I brought photographer Cheryl Maeder along. Maeder, as I like to call her, has an affinity for subject matter that celebrates American heritage. She says, "I came there to photograph the mobile park as to me it is as Americana as apple pie." Maeder and I parked and set out on our adventure. 

(photos below, except where noted, taken by Maeder)

I passed this house often and admired the deer. Today I met the owner who will soon be abandoning it.
Preparing to go: Packing up 30 years worth.
Barbara (left) is moving back to Ohio to be with her family. Kim came down for a few weeks to assist.
First we spied Kim who came down from Ohio to help her mom empty a house. With blond hair and a royal blue outfit, Kim was a bright spot amidst a pile of garbage bags and boxes. Her mom Barbara is 79, and has lived at Seminole Estates for 30 years. Her husband was a supervisor in the community before his death 10 years ago. Barbara remembers the good old days of dances, bingo, and going to the gym. She will be abandoning her home this coming Friday - turning over the titles, gate pass, and keys in exchange for the $3,000 grant given by the Seminole Tribe of Florida to those full-time residents who qualify.

Recent knee surgery makes the rigors of packing a challenge.
Guy Johnson is preparing to move his 3 bedroom 2004 home
Maeder and I continued up the street where we met Guy. He was on the porch enjoying the fresh air. We approached and were soon invited in for a house tour. Boxes are stacked in every room; packing tape and wrapping paper are out on the dining table alongside a bottle of vodka and wine. Guy and his wife have lived at Seminole Estates for 8 years; they are not full-timers. Two years ago he resurfaced his entire driveway and fixed his roof. Guy was not surprised by the closing; rumors had been flying for years. He feels badly for the people who have nowhere to go and no means to get there. They will be relocating their home to Maralago Cay in Lantana.

Bubble wrap decor chez Yvanhoe et Monique.
Guy introduced us to his Canadian neighbors. It was here, in the company of several French-speaking persons that I unearthed my rusty francaise (and it actually felt kind of good!). Yvanhoe and Monique took us into their renovated 1972 home. They bought the house for $25,000 and invested another $30,000 into it after Hurricane Wilma. Improvements included sheet rock, ceramic tile floors, new kitchen cabinets, and new bathroom fixtures. Yvanhoe and Monique spend their winters here and are not seriously affected by the community closing. They will abandon their home and move to Maralago Cay. "I'm OK," says Yvanhoe, "But lots of the Americans aren't."

(photos below by me)

Besides the laundry room, the mailroom is the only common area left to the residents.
Some residents wanted to host a community wide yard sale, but said management would not allow it.
Next Maeder and I visited the mailroom. 

 And then we drove around some more.

I asked Maeder how she felt about the closing of Seminole Estates. She said, "What I find ironic is that the settlers came and took away the land from the Indians and now the reverse is showing up.. the ebb and flow of life.  But who really loses in this and who are not honored are the ELDERLY... that is what saddens my heart deeply.. that they are misplaced and forced to leave their homes and lives... they lived and loved there and the place is full of memories of their lives.  Now they are displaced and dont know where to go and there is no one to help them. That is what angers me." 

Photo: Cheryl Maeder

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Reporting from Seminole Estates Mobile Home* Park,
7 weeks post-eviction notice.

It's been said that "pictures speak louder than words" and I think
that applies to pictures of words as well.
 I found this sentiment sprayed inside of a nice-looking home.
You can even read it clearly in a drive-by.

That's what my friend Kathy and I were doing,
driving around surveying the manual ruin.
As we drove down one street, Kathy blurted, "This just makes me so angry."

 There's lots of furniture out on semi-deconstructed porches,

 and remnants of peoples lives left out for the taking,

and there are mixed piles of trashed stuff everywhere.

We stopped at Joyce and Pop's house.
They are moving on the 7th.
Joyce hadn't slept all night and didn't really want to take a picture. But I begged a little bit, told her it would be from a distance, and she obliged. (thank you Joyce) She began telling me about moving to the park, and how her mother passed away, and then... she started to cry.  I have seen many tears flow at Seminole Estates out of fear, anger, sadness, disbelief, and sympathy for others.

This is Pop's shed. With his bad shoulder and knee, he's emptying it slowly. The shed will come down before the move.
(btw, i thought this could have been a good blog opening shot too, being on the eve of the election and all!)

There goes the neighborhood... literally
 post by post.

 Some homes are looking swell as if nothing has changed. 

Lawn ornaments are in place as is porch decor and poodle graphic.

 I have never seen a dolphin decoration such as this.

 I always enjoy seeing David and...

None other than...

 Here today, gone tomorrow or by June 30, 2013.

*(Every time I write "mobile home park" rather than "manufactured housing community" I feel like I am doing a disservice to the manufactured housing industry. But then I was reading Alan Wallis' "Wheel Estate: The Rise & Decline of Mobile Homes" (1991) last night. And Wallis also addresses the use of the two terms. Regarding the term "manufactured housing" here is what he says:
"I am aware of the term and appreciate the desire of the industry to use it. The fact remains that most people still think about the housing discussed here as mobile homes, and...I have kept the term mobile home because it conveys better than any other, the basic hybrid character of the innovation and the essential basis for the conflicts it has engendered."


Taking the space here to express my extreme sorrow for the people who have lost 
homes and loved ones in Hurricane Sandy. Hang in there.