By Amy Woods
Citizen Staff Writer
If the clock could be turned back 20 years to a September day in
Key West, locals would have just heard the news of
a jail break by a well known hippie
named Hume Ronald Kumpf.
"Search fails to get hippie back to jail," screamed the headline
in the Sept. 16, 1970 edition of the Key West Citizen.
Kumpf, known to his friends as
"Matchbox", eluded law enforcement
officals by swimming to Christmas Tree Island and hiding out with
the other denizens of the offshore hippie colony.
To date, Kumpf remains at large. He was never tried on the drug charges that
landed him in Monroe County Jail 20 years ago.
Apparently, all charges against the 29-year-old Hume Ronald Kumpf were
dropped in Monroe County, and all records have disappeared.
Maybe that's beacause Hume Ronald Kumpf no longer exists.
Looking into the eyes of the alledged
criminal's mug shot, one can see
that the face belongs to Ron Carter, an outspoken,
bald-headed, mustachioed ex-Navy man who gained local popularity as the
"Noodle Man" at Key West's
nightly sunset celebration at Mallory Square.
Carter wants this skeleton out of the closet.
"I don't know what's going to come down after I announce this to the world,"
he says. "I have people that still call me Matchbox from when they knew
me in the 1970's, but I'm still a little paranoid about it."
Carter says that last year he considered
turning himself in for his
escape. But his attorney said the charges
had been dropped and the
book had been closed.
"She said there was no record and you
couldn't turn yourself in if you
wanted to," Carter said. "That means I'm a free man".
Carter no longer sells noodles at sunset, but instead puts his distinctive
baritone voice to use by hawking customers on Duval Street for a
He describes himself now as "very happy, very satisfied."
But that wasn't the case when Carter was sitting in the concrete jail
cell on Whitehead Street. He said he had no other choice but to escape.
"I hated jail so much that I became suicidal,"
"It was driving me crazy."
"The county jail was ringed by gun-toting police and sheriff's men as
they searched and played spotlights in dark corners looking for the
elusive Matchbox," an article in the Citizen said.
The investigation was unsuccessful. And efforts to locate the suspect on
Christmas Tree Island failed, as Kumpf smartly swam out in the ocean and
hid on a derelict vessel.
He eventually swam ashore and found solace at a friend's house. When
things calmed down, Kumpf left Key West for stints in New York,
California, and Miami.
When he returned to Key West in the 1980's he opened up his noodle cart and sold
pasta during sunset.
Born in New Jersey in 1941, Kumpf arrived in Key West in 1962 when
the U.S. Navy stationed him here during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Kumpf remained on
the island for six months, then moved to Washington, D.C.
In 1964 he was discharged from the Navy. He returned to Key West five
years later, and the nickname "Matchbox" was bestowed upon him by his
"I used to stuff pot in little matchboxes and sell them to people," he explains.
"That's how I made my money."
Carter will turn 50 this year. As for the future he says he'd like to
get involved in local politics.
A frequent speaker at city meetings
and the author of numerous letters
to local publications, Carter says he'd like to stage a
His platform? "The legalization of all drugs."