I was now on Vaca Key and in Marathon City proper. This is a town that got its big start from the railroad. It was the main work camp for thousands of men working on the railroad. Many of these men were from the Cayman Islands and others from Philadelphia and New York. It was also one of the stations named by the railroad workers. There was so much pressure to get the job accomplished that they were working night and day around the clock. They started to say, “This is getting to be a real Marathon!” So the name stuck, and that is what the railroad station was named.
I was walking by a gas station right across from the small airport which was on the north side of Highway No. 1. Three boys in a Camaro called me over. We started talking about hiking. A man who must have just finished getting gas came over and joined the conversation. When he found out that I was also interested in the history of the area he told me that the supposedly small airport across the road originally was a World War II airport. It’s actually 5000 feet long and was built by the Army Air Corps in 1942. It was used for training pilots to fly heavy bombers such as the B-17s and an emergency landing strip. I thanked him for that treasure of information.
Marathon was a fairly busy little town. It was built up then, and I’m sure that today it’s full. Street after street of the main road leading to the water had houses lining them. Many of them had docks, piers and boats. As I continued on, I picked up a four-bicycle escort through town. These little boys were really determined. In fact they escorted me all the way to Knights Key, almost to the 7-mile bridge.