Slow Down. Pull Over. You’re in Hacienda Village. A deliciously fitting headline told the story for the tens of thousands who missed the obscure speed signs and got ticketed in the town’s five-mile chunk of State Road 84.
The hamlet, once consisting of just 14 mobile homes, an orange grove and three junkyards, had no need of taxing its 133 residents. The 18 police officers – yes, that’s 18 – made sure of that.
One reporter noted that a Texas town had promised to reduce its number of monthly tickets from 1,000. “Hell, in Hacienda Village,” the account went, “on a cranky day, they’d issue that many before lunch.”
All credit for this goes to Mayor Sherman “Red” Crise – and he never minded taking that credit. Nor did he mind taking charge: He also appointed himself police chief, fire chief and judge magistrate. The heavyset man with thinning red hair explained his philosophy: “If you’re a redheaded man, you’re either a sissy or a son of a bitch. I’m not a sissy.”
Red could be spotted roaming city streets in his red 1968 Cadillac Eldorado, which he used as a police car.
Tickets were such an industry, the village even had a night court to process citations. (Try doing any business with Fort Lauderdale City Hall after 5 p.m. today.)
During Crise’s reign, the town grew from one-and-a-half to five square miles through a series of annexations right up to State Road 7.
Most prominent of the town’s businesses – aside from ticketing – was a large building painted in gaudy polka-dot patterns. Called the Hacienda Inn, it featured country bands and was open until 4 a.m. The hours were no problem for Red – he was owner and proprietor. The village also featured the El Toro Pub, a dive bar frequented by the Outlaws, a notorious motorcycle gang.
Not just anyone can pull something like this off, and indeed Crise had a backstory in New Jersey. He was not only a championship boat racer, but also a World War II pilot and founder of a small airline. When that business tanked, he took 460 engines out of planes and attached them to so-called “midget cars.” Thus was born midget car racing.
Crise and his fellow investors weren’t sure what they had until the first promotional night at their Pennsylvania track.
“As far as you could see, here are the headlights coming into Hershey,’’ Crise told the Sun-Sentinel in 1990. “Lines so far outside you couldn’t get a seat.’’
Crise and his wife Evelyn moved here in the late 1950s. They also had a home in New Jersey and a 65-foot vessel docked in Fort Lauderdale. Crise ran for mayor in 1964 and won. His first job was to break up the drunken fistfights that broke out at village council meetings.
Soon after, the Hacienda Village speed-trap notoriety got in gear. Amazingly, the town’s shenanigans went on for two decades, right up to 1984 when the legislature, I-595 construction and the mayor’s own pique finally brought the village down. The ball got rolling when one legislator was ticketed in a trap. State Sen. Tom McPherson tried to unincorporate the city, attaching it to Fort Lauderdale. He called it a “cancer in the center of Broward County.” Crise told the Sun-Sentinel he’d wager McPherson $100,000 that Hacienda Village would survive the senator’s efforts.
The paper reported that, indeed, Crise outtalked McPherson before the Broward delegation in 1983.
“I ripped that man up the wall and down the wall,” Crise boasted.
But the fight continued the following year, now with two state senators, a state representative and the city of Fort Lauderdale against him. Not to mention a section of I-595 that swallowed up valuable acreage, annexing half of the trailer park and much of the business property. Crise personally lost two-thirds of his six-acre estate.
But it was the mayor himself who pulled the plug. The fact was, he couldn’t stand his likely successor, the town council president eager to supplant him. The village’s council meetings had now returned to raucous shouting matches, with lots of rancor focused on the domineering mayor.
“I got tired of it one day and called up my friend Rosenbaum in Davie,” he told a reporter years later. That was Davie town administrator Irv Rosenbaum, who set the annexation in motion in Tallahassee.
Hacienda Village was disincorporated in 1984. And with most of the traffic rerouted to I-595 and Davie police in charge, yet another colorful Broward chapter came to an end.