Excerpt from CAN WE COME IN AND LAUGH, TOO?
In 1949 the family moved to Miami, lured by her sister-in-law's offer of a free apartment for as long as they needed it.
It took almost a week for us to drive to Florida, and when Al pulled up in front of the address his sister Helen gave us, I thought he made a mistake. The building looked so small I couldn’t imagine how it could hold three apartments.
We quickly discovered what his sister hadn’t told us—her “apartments” were only efficiency units. In just one room the living space was combined with a kitchen space, if you can call it that. A sink with a drain board took up one wall. Under the drain board was a small refrigerator and a few cabinets overhead. We had a tiny bathroom, and as far as sleeping arrangements, closet doors on another wall in this room hid a bed on hinges known as a Murphy bed. It was built into the wall and at night you opened the doors and pulled down the bed. Once the bed was down, you barely had any space between the couch and the bed.
These efficiency units were furnished with a few sticks of furniture, and it just took one glance for us to realize they were only meant to accommodate a single person or a perhaps couple in a pinch, but certainly not four people. Al and I were pretty upset that Helen hadn’t explained what kind of apartments she had, but we couldn’t say anything to her. She meant well. With no children of her own, she probably didn’t have a clue what it would be like to live in that one room with two kids.
We tried to make it work, but it was just too tight. Since we didn’t have much money and Al didn’t have a job yet, we had to make the best of it until we could find better accommodations. Phyllice had to squeeze onto the Murphy Bed with Al and me and Morgan slept on the sofa. We felt like we were living in a sardine can.