1st District Newsletter page 2March, 2006
Diane’s mother would wrap cigarettes in waterproof paper and carry them in her bosom for the swim. Diane’s mother, Florence Amelia Hummel, was raised in the Bronx. Grandfather Hummel was an elegant man who owned a hat factory in Danbury with offices in New York City. Florence attended Cooper Union and the Art Student’s League. She was skilled in decorative arts and she modeled for I. Magnin, wearing their clothes at clubs and speak-easies.
In 1922 Diane’s parents moved out of the city with their two young boys and rented a big house in Scarsdale which was off Route 22 on a cul-de-sac not far from the residence of Anne Morrow Lindberg.
Diane was born there and fondly remembers her childhood, including such particulars as a Saturday afternoon when she was 8, swiping one of her father’s cigars, walking into town with her lifelong best friend, Martha, standing above the train tracks to spit on the trains and talk about where babies came from. She also remembers smoking 17 cigarettes in a row to become the champion of her block.
By the time she was 11, Diane’s parents had separated. Diane’s aunt Pauline, her father’s sister remained good friends with her mother. Pauline was married to Alfred Luders, the yacht designer and owner of Marine Construction Company which was on the waterfront in Stamford, Connecticut. Diane spent a month every summer with Uncle Alfred’s family in their house on Shippan Point. Alfred Luders had two children. His son, Diane’s cousin Billy, A.E. Luders Jr. also became a marine architect and was the designer of the popular Luders 16 and Luders 42. His daughter was Paula, known as “Bubs”. The threesome of Diane’s mother, "Bubs" and Diane were inseparable friends, 20 years apart in age.
Though surrounded by yachts and sailors those summers, Diane never went sailing. She would swim in the mornings and then play at the beach with the Luders’ big husky dog and being “such a good little girl”, enjoyed reading the new Esquire Magazine, particularly noting the cartoons of women with big pointy bosoms. Pretty racy stuff at the time!
Still, some portion of sailing expertise must have seeped into her because for two summers she taught sailing to younger girls at an exclusive camp started by Dr. George Longstaff in the Adirondacks. Her brothers also worked. Ten years older, her brother Earnest was an aerial photographer who eventually flew for Chennault with the Flying Tigers in China during WWII. Brother James was two years older than Diane and uncle Luders arranged for him to work on ocean-going tugboats. At the age of 16 he was financially responsible for Diane and their mother.
With both brothers at work and as war approached in 1941, the house in Westchester was too big for Diane and her mother so when Bubs said “go to Miami”, they stored their furniture and took Jimmy’s new maroon and white convertible Ford and moved. They arrived in Miami seven days before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
They rented an apartment on 34th street right next to Biscayne Bay, where Diane remembers manatees in the water next to the house and yachts and yacht captains at the Biscayne Bay Yacht Basin. Diane graduated from Miami Senior High
School in 1942. Her mother worked and also volunteered for USO, providing entertainment and pleasant surroundings for the GIs. Gas was not yet rationed so for several months they were able to take trips to air shows, and to the Naval Base in Key West where they enjoyed the visiting USO entertainers including all the stars of the Big Band era.
Diane went to work at the Roney Plaza Hotel on Miami Beach, earning $75/month. At first the clientele were civilians but then the army took the hotel over for a contingent of older commissioned officers. Diane was shifted to work at the PX Post Exchange, an easy job with non-commissioned officers. There she met Bill Holden, Alex Campbell, and another famous actor: She was working in the department that distributed new equipment to the new non-commissioned officers and one day looked up at a man with a dimple in his chin and a familiar smile to see that his name tag read Clark Gable. To her embarrassment, that day she was handing out jock straps and had to ask: small, medium or large?
On Saturday nights the social hangout was at Lou Walter’s place (father of Barbara Walters) in the Latin Quarter. Diane next worked as a bookkeeper for Miami Ship Building where they were building PT boats for the Russian navy. Then as the war business tapered off, she worked at Miami Beach Boat Slips at the end of Venetian Causeway. It was therethat she first met Ding Schoonmaker, then 11 years old, who would come there to launch and sail a small dinghy. Diane was also good friends with Dick Bertram when he returned after the war from the Caribbean where he had moved with his family to avoid the draft.
In 1948, a young Swede, Bengt Knutsson sailed in and talked Diane into marrying him. Bengts’ family owned cargo ships and Diane traveled on one to Marstrand, Sweden to join her new husband and tour across Sweden to Stockholm. Diane lived in Sweden for two years before giving up the marriage. She moved to an apartment in Paris and briefly attended the University of Paris before returning to Miami. Her mother and brother James were living in an apartment on SE 8th Street on the Bay. Starting in 1950 Diane worked for yacht broker H Morton Jones Masted Vessels which specialized in bringing yachts down from New England for the island charter business.
Her brother James had a business running fleets of used Mack trucks, eventually becoming the largest Mack truck dealer in the US. He had a house on an acre on Poinciana Avenue in Coconut Grove which he had purchased from Kitty Cudahy of the Chicago meat packing family. Diane and her mother rented the tack house from the Mathewson Estate during this time.
In 1952 Diane moved north to work in New York City. Her uncle Luders arranged for her to have an interview with Al Stanford and she so impressed him that she got a job working on his Boats magazine. Al introduced Diane to Mead Batchelor and the Milford Yacht Club. One day Mead showed Diane a beautiful dark green, Parkman built, Star boat, #626, “Jay”. Mead said to buy it, which she did in October 1955, from Buzzy Worzin. A previous owner had been C. Stanley Ogilvy, who had won the 1937 Atlantic Coast Championship (1st District Blue Star) in her, as well as numerous other