|The Florence Club|
Raul, who came to Key West with his parents when a child, learned the trade of "cigar selector" and worked at it for a number of years at the Gato factory. With the closing of the factory his need to provide for his family in a seriously depressed Key West led him to Rumrunning and turning his house into a speakeasy. His first trip that he anticipated a day and a night to accomplish took him a couple of weeks and provided him with several of perilous moments. The house still exists at 1117 Duval Street and is still a bar that is part of a bed and breakfast.
There were a lot of people that were involved in the illicit movement and sales of liquor during the prohibition era. The sales, supply, and distribution of liquor was the only really profitable business on the island during the era. There were "outlaws that would hijack the loads of rum that was being smuggled in as well. One such group known as the "Pelicans" were one of the most active during the era. This group would watch at night as the runners would stash their cargo and come in behind them and steal their load.
Joe Russell was another of the enterprising individuals who operated illegal speakeasies. Even Ernest Hemingway, who made Key West his home at the time, slipped over to Russell’s on occasion to buy illicit bottles of Scotch, and the two struck up an enduring friendship. Joe and Hemingway would take numerous trips together on his boat the "Anita" to Havana for fishing and to party in Havana. Who knows what they brought back with them besides the fish?
These were tough times in Key West and the the rest of the country. The noble experiment that nearly brought the country to its knees, made "outlaws" out of everyday people, some of whom became very famous. Key West still to this day shows many of the signs of that era and it's colorful history. ;o)