4th of July Parade 1971

4th of July Parade 1971. Photo Courtesy Bob Bristol/4th of July Parade Committee

The loosely defined fraternity of former and current Key Biscayne residents known as “Key Rats” will hold a reunion over 4th of July weekend as they seek to re-connect with old neighbors, classmates and friends to celebrate local history and tap back into that island-style living groove.

The event is organized by Mark Spradley who attended Key Biscayne Elementary and Coral Gables High School before moving away in the 1970’s.

Planned activities include watching the parade and attending the fireworks display. On July 5th a large party at the Beach Club is planned.

Spradley is unruffled by the apparent magnitude of the reunion with an ever-growing confirmed attendance.

“I was talking with a friend and it just happened,” he said.

“I have organized events that often had 1,000 guests or more so the reunion is nothing out of the ordinary in terms of planning.”

Initial outreach was done via Facebook and high interest spread fast.

“The first concrete step was creating the website with details of the events planned,” said Spradley.

The site also contains an album of historic photos, a signup form, extended activities, and a list of confirmed attendees. www.keyratreunion2019.com

There is a $20 attendance fee to defray associated costs.

Dea Silvani Ochs will be traveling from Dallas Texas with her brother Randy.

“I didn’t realize how special Key Biscayne was until I moved away.”

Susan Loveland is a frequent contributor to the Key Rat Chat group on Facebook.

She will be organizing a bicycle tour of historic sites on July 5th and a kayak trip on July 6th.

“Our simple idyllic island lifestyle shaped our characters,” said Loveland.

“The reunion will be an opportunity to tell epic stories that will surely be passed down to the next generation of Key Rats.”

Membership requirements are somewhat ill defined but most agree if you lived on the island at some point you qualify as a Rat. Beyond that there exists a complex web of seniority.

Highest ranking are those who lived on the island from a very early age, next are those who attended Key Biscayne Elementary, followed by those who participated in youthful pranks or sports.

“Swinging from the tall rope swing on Pines Canal, water skiing from the makeshift dock in the mangroves, or climbing the lighthouse before the installation of stairs” can serve as qualifier for high ranking membership according to George Scopetta.

The moniker Key Rat seems to have originated as a derogatory reference from mainland-Miami describing island residents.

“When a group of Key Biscayne students in the 1950’s arrived by bus to their junior high school for the first day of school, as they were disembarking in very casual attire, the principal said ‘well here come the Key Rats,’” said local historian Joan Gill Blank.

Whatever the derivation, the name has persisted and morphed from a criticism to a badge of honor.

There will also be a meeting with Joan Gill Blank and representatives from the Key Biscayne Historical Society on efforts to preserve rich local history through photographs and artifacts.

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