SFMA History: 1930's and 1940's

A few nationally-recognized events took place in south Florida in the 1930's and 1940's. In 1937, aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart departed Miami for her ill-fated second attempt at a round-the-world flight. Everglades National Park was created and dedicated by President Harry Truman in 1947. Other events from the decades include the first Orange Bowl game hosted by University of Miami in 1935 and the founding of the state highway patrol in 1939.

Musically, several south Florida cultural landmarks were founded. Florida Grand Opera (at that time Opera Guild of Greater Miami) was founded in 1941. The Opera was founded by Arturo di Filippi, a voice teacher at the University of Miami. Its first performance was of Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, with Dr. di Filippi singing the role of Canio, performed at Miami High School. The Opera Guild of Fort Lauderdale was formed in 1944, and merged with the Opera Guild in 1994 to form the present-day Florida Grand Opera.

Fort Lauderdale Symphony first concertThe Fort Lauderdale Symphony was founded in 1949 by its first conductor, John Canfield. Canfield grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, inspired by the Cleveland Symphony and other orchestras that performed at Severance Hall, and returned to his childhood home of Fort Lauderdale to teach music and direct the band at Pompano Beach High School. The first performance took place at the South Broward High School Auditorium to an audience of 1100, quite a feat considering that the population of Fort Lauderdale at the time was only 36,000.

Broadcasting took a few steps forward in the 1940's. WLRN went on the air in 1948. Its call sign is short for We Learn, appropriate given that the station's owner is the Miami Dade County School Board. WLRN is Florida's oldest NPR affiliate, having joined in 1970. In 1949, Florida's first television station, WTVJ, began broadcasting.

Local 655's records are scant from this time period, but we do know that Morris Weiss served as Secretary Treasurer during these decades, and Roy Singer was President from 1939 to his passing in 1951. Singer served as Business Agent for the fourteen years prior to his election as President, and was active in charitable work, including with the March of Dimes and the Children's Cardiac Home.


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