Erin Muir’s roots run deep in the coral rock of the Upper Keys. The newest addition, 10-month-old Violet, (a seventh-generation Conch on her mother’s side) is already crawling and standing and is just as determined and stubborn as momma, says Muir. That determination dates back to the 1860s, when Muir’s early relatives, the Albury family, first settled in the islands. As trying as those days were for the pioneers, the Alburys are tough. It showed, for example, during the 1935 Labor Day storm, when Muir’s great-grandfather drilled holes into the floorboards to allow water flow and prevent the house from rising up and being carried away. While Muir fared slightly better than her relatives during Hurricane Irma (no holes required), she understands the road back will be work. If the Albury name is any indication, then it’s a good thing history repeats.
Ten months ago you became ‘Violet’s mom.’ What are some things you plan on doing with your daughter that your mom did with you? I cannot wait until she’s big enough to teach her to water ski. It’s something I would do on summers with my extended family, and something my mother did with her parents. She would tell me how my grandmother would go to the beauty parlor and get her hair set every Friday. She was so good at skiing that she could get in the water, completely keeping her head above water, ski all she wanted, and when she was done she would just drop off having never messed up her hair.
With five generations of Conchs before you, your family was one of the first established in the Keys. What did you think of the people saying not to rebuild after Irma? I didn’t read the article, I heard about it, but I purposely did not read the article because I knew it would make me so incredibly angry. I might have gotten on a plane and gone and found that author and personally had it out with him. Like, “Listen, my family has been here since the 1860s and we know a thing or two about what it takes to survive here, and you’re not going to tell us we shouldn’t live here.”
Aside from being a mom, you moonlight as a legislative aide at Representative Holly Raschein’s office. What was the kookiest rumor the office had to dispel post-Irma? Probably the mass evacuation. They were deliberately keeping the cell phone service and internet off to keep people from coming back from the Keys. Apparently government is that good.
What has local government concluded needs changing before the next big storm? I feel like we’re going to have a lot of funding requests towards building a Category 5 emergency operations center. It makes the emergency operations manager’s job that much harder when they have to reestablish a command post. That takes time.
Going into the legislative season, what are some of the big items Representative Raschein hopes to accomplish? We have some very specific local issues coming up this year. One deals with Trauma Star crew pensions. We’re always working towards funding under the Florida Keys Stewardship Act; we have to fund marine debris removal and a lot of hurricane recovery items.
You are co-chair for The Florida Keys History and Discovery Foundation’s new signature event, A Night at the Museum: Exhibits Come to Life on Nov. 10. Which historical figure are you most excited to see? I love Jerry Wilkinson’s Henry Flagler; he’s been doing Henry Flagler for quite a while. He’s also an emeritus board member for the foundation because he’s such a wealth of information on local history. Several of our board members and staff were over at his house after the storm. One of the very first things his wife, Mary Lou, pulled out was the Flagler costume. Everybody’s excited, so it’s going to be fun.
You also helped start the young philanthropic group, Flagler’s Folly Society. What’s in the works? We’re a little off schedule at the moment. We had some ideas for late September – *laughs out loud*. We’re regrouping at the moment to make sure we have some great speakers and locations lined up. Our main program is our Hungry for History; that’s where we go to different restaurants that will host our event and we tie the location in some way to the topic for the evening. For example, Café Moka hosted us last year. They’re right there in the heart of historic Tavernier, so that’s what our speaker was on.
The group was an idea among childhood friends. Why is it important for young locals to be involved in philanthropic events and initiatives? For those of us who started it, like Emily Carter and Liz Huddleston, we’re all local Keys kids. We knew that to be able to have a museum experience before, you had to go to either Key West or Miami. I feel it’s incredibly important for people living here and raising their families here to understand where this community came from. We’re so unique, and the storm has again shown how resilient we are here, going back to people trying to scratch a living out years ago.
With so much of your family’s story intertwined with the history of the islands, what story is your favorite? Probably the stories about my great-grandfather, Captain Rodney Albury. He’s one of the fishing guides that’s featured in the Legends of the Lines exhibit at the History and Discovery Center. He fished with numerous businessmen, politicians and athletes. His most notable client was FDR. He was the president’s fishing guide in the early ’20s. He would come down on his yacht, The Larooco, every winter and come to my great-grandfather’s dock to hire him out and put him on a fish that day.