Key West, that crowded little Cuban-flavored nest just 90 miles from Batista's outposts, is surrounded by a U.S. Naval Station, a Naval seaplane base and the airfield where National Airlines lands its planes incoming from Miami. Jammed on the rest of the island, which contains the southernmost city in the U.S., are the home of Tennessee Williams; the former home of Ernest Hemingway; the onetime hideaway of Harry Truman; the onetime hideaway of Dwight Eisenhower; 26,433 citizens, one-third of whom speak Spanish; the southernmost house in the U.S., and across the street from it, the Southernmost Motel, one of 40 in town. Besides the Southernmost Motel, which has the southernmost pool, there is the Blue Marlin Motel, a double-decker affair which sports the second southernmost pool. Out near the airport is the Key Wester, which has 92 units, charges $17 to $26 for a room in winter, plus a dollar a day extra if you want to lounge on a chaise by the side of the pool. You can sit upright in a chair for nothing.
Tourists also like to see the two Little White Houses where Truman and Eisenhower stayed. Both Presidents lived on the Naval Station grounds, Truman in the small white-shuttered home of an admiral, Eisenhower in the cottage of a captain. Tours that trundle past both houses and visit the ships and submarines of the naval base depart at 10 a.m. daily except Sundays from the Chamber of Commerce Building. In memory of the visits of Truman and Eisenhower there is an avenue named for each. They cross.
Restaurants in Key West are by and large undistinguished, but I wouldn't miss places like El Anon, a Cuban icecream parlor where the flavors, so help me Howard Johnson, are cantaloupe, guava, soursop and tutti-frutti. Benny's cafeteria, Benny Fernandez, prop., offers steam tables steaming with arroz con polio, paella, pork Spanish style with black beans and pata Andalusia, which is to say, pig's feet. There is an outdoor garden, with red, white and blue chairs. Ramonin's on Duval St. is too formica-and-fluorescent to be quaint, but the menu, arranged to suit both Cubano and Conch, includes fried turtle steak, fried conch steak, broiled yellowtail, shrimp enchiladas and Spanish bean soup. There are guava shells or paste with cream cheese for dessert, and anybody fattening up for the swim to Havana can order the Cuban sandwich. It includes ham, cheese, mustard, pickle, roast beef, salami, mayonnaise and lettuce and tomato. While this frightful amalgam tastes pretty good, the danger of lockjaw should be considered.