Meet the Humans of the Keys

Meet the Humans of the Keys

Monday, May 2, 2016

PJ Milazzo, Plantation Key

I worked with NASCAR as part of the pit crew and I worked for Holman and Moody for a while, Tiger Tom Pistone, Neil Castle, and a few other guys. I was in NASCAR for quite a few years, about 20. I was in Pennsylvania for a while and worked on Sprint Cars for Bobby Allen. It was a lonely life, you work 7 days a week and you travel a lot; I can’t tell you how many times I have traveled across the U.S.

I met my wife in North Carolina when I was with NASCAR. I brought her to Miami to meet my mom. We were staying with my mom and one day my wife said ‘Get me away from that women, let’s go somewhere!’ So we drove to the Keys. We stayed for a couple of months. We went back to North Carolina, I quite working with NASCAR, packed up, and moved to the Keys.

I have been in the Keys for a long time, since 1970. I have a lot of memories and stories!

In the 70’s there were druggards and cops; there weren’t too many people in between. I had to leave the Keys in 1985 because everyone was offering me money. The law wanted me to work for them and the druggards wanted me to work for them. I told my wife I was going to be killed by accident, so we needed to leave because I knew everyone and was friends with both sides; we went to Tennessee then North Carolina for a while. We were out of the Keys for 10 years. It was hard to get back, but we really wanted to be back in the Keys.

When we moved back we got affiliated with Island Christian; they had just been given the old movie theatre. Here’s a funny fact: The last movie to play at the movie theatre before Island Christian got it was ‘The Godfather’!

I have watched the Keys change since 1970. The Keys aren’t for everybody, but people don’t realize that; when they first get here, everyone is fascinated, but it’s a hard existence here. You have to have a lot of money, and for the people who work here it is a constant battle. It’s getting worse.

When I first came to the Keys, we used the barter system; there wasn’t much cash. The marine mechanics would fix boats and then the boat owner would go catch some fish and give the mechanic fish. It was always ‘I’ll trade you this for that’.
The Trading Post was the only grocery store. Mr. Jacocks would let you charge there, and he didn’t even know who half the people were. There was a code. Most people don’t understand that anymore. Even if you didn’t like somebody, if they were having problems, you helped them out. It was a brotherhood here, everyone depended on everybody and everybody looked out for each other. You never knew when your turn would come up when you were going through hard times. It’s just the way it was.

Everything was word of mouth. There wasn’t a lot of last names used, we all knew each other. Most of the people were good people. I have a lot of stories from back in those days.

The Keys has changed a lot.

I have 7 kids they are all doing well. We are all certified divers. I have had several businesses. A poor man can live as good as a rich man in the Keys, you just have to work it a little harder. There are opportunities here.

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