Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tamarac, Florida. A look back at its unique beginnings, as I remember it told by those who built it.

Ken Behring moved to Fort Lauderdale in the early 60s’s and bought a piece of land. Today it is the city of Tamarac. Tamarac was the first city to be granted a charter to incorporate as a city, before anyone lived there.  In the 60’s you could do things like that, if you knew and supported people like the Governor and Bud Dickenson, who held some elected State-wide office at the time.  Ken Behring appointed the first Mayor, John Morse. Since no one lived in Tamarac, there were no votes or elections. Ken just appointed John Mayor.

 Tamarac was the first city that offered houses where all of the exterior maintenance was done by the city. Ken knew that there were people who wanted to have a small house in Florida, but didn’t want the maintenance headache, and he met that need with Tamarac.

Ken was also one of the pioneers of pre-fabricated houses. Not mobile homes - they were traditional homes on foundations, but they were manufactured and delivered to the site and assembled, not in months, but days.  His factory had to be walled from view because people were coming from all over the world including Japan to see what he was doing. Ultimately, he abandoned the plan, mainly due to pressure from the construction trade unions who saw that his pre-fab  concept could put their members out of work.

Ken hired my mother after seeing her at a Museum of Art function where she roasted members of Beaux Art, a Museum of Art support group and a much anticipated and fretful annual occasion for the group. Ken said “You should be in public relations. Call me if you are interested” My mother was teaching high school at Stranahan raising two children on 4,000 a year at the time. She soon called him, and became the Director of PR of The Behring Corporation. She hired Kate Hartland as her first secretary, not because Kate had any office skills, in fact she couldn’t type. Kate was just very funny. Kate went on to become PR Director for United Federal Savings and Loan. (Another story for another time)  When I was sick at Sunrise Middle School and sent home, or when I missed the bus, I would be picked up, not by my mother, but by James, Mr. Behring’s driver, in Ken’s limousine.

The Behring Corporation eventually went bust in a market crash. All of the company VP’s including my mother piled into Mr. Behrings limousine for a ride to the unemployment office.

Ken moved to California and  made an even bigger fortune. He was featured on the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous TV show.  Later in life is proudest achievement was founding a charity that provides wheelchairs for people around the world who otherwise wouldn’t have one.

Ken was also involved with a plan for another city in Florida with Jackie Gleason as his partner. I’ll save that story for another time too.

The 60’s was a time in Broward County where more than one person created a city out of thin air, flat land, some money, and raw nerve.

Thank you Ken, for the City of Tamarac, for all of those wheelchairs,  and for launching my mothers career in Public Relations.

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