Marsha Leibo Pollock & Deborah Mizrahi Katz

Marsha  Leibo Pollock  & Deborah Mizrahi Katz
Mrs. McNeill’s Fifth Grade Class from Southside Grammar School, 1953

Mrs. McNeill’s Fifth Grade Class from Southside Grammar School, 1953

Part 1 – The Elementary School Years

By Laura Jane Pittman
Resident Community News

There is nothing sweeter than childhood friendships. Marsha Leibo Pollock and Deborah Mizrahi Katz go way, way back – all the way back to grade school. They were both born and raised here, and they have stayed close. Katz recently retired and moved back to Jacksonville after 38 years in Massachusetts. Recently the two old friends sat down over coffee and reminisced about the good old days.

Pollock moved to Holly Lane, in the heart of San Marco, when she was four. Katz and her family lived on Largo, in the house her parents built.
They both agree that it was sheltered and simple growing up then – when children prayed in school every day, frequented local shops after school and freely roamed the neighborhoods.
Katz and Pollock met at Southside Grammar in first or second grade. Katz remembers walking to school every day, and it felt like miles. Once, when she and her children were in town for a visit, they clocked the distance with the car. It was actually less than a mile, a fact that got a good laugh from the whole family!

“I came to Southside Grammar because Hendricks didn’t have a lunchroom, and that seemed important to me as a child,” chuckled Pollock.
“When Marcia forgot her lunch, her maid would go to the deli and bring her a sandwich,” added Katz.

The two had a lot in common, including family businesses. Pollock’s family owned Leibo’s Big & Tall shop on Bay Street in Downtown Jacksonville. Katz’s dad was an architect who worked with Roy Benjamin. The elephant house at the zoo was among the buildings he designed. However, when her grandfather died around 1941, Katz’s father began moonlighting at the Mizrahi family store, the French Novelty shop – so named because anything French was “in” and novelties were new and exciting.

The girls spent a lot of time at establishments in San Marco Square – watching movies at the San Marco Theatre when their moms had bridge games or plans with friends, going to the bowling alley, buying Cutex lipstick at the Five & Dime (it was Kress and then Peterson’s later), and having lunch at Jack’s Delicatessen – owned by Katz’s Uncle Jack.

“We had a lot of prominent people for neighbors. Everyone had a family business or a professional degree, like doctors or lawyers,” said Pollock. “Our lives were a lot like the movie ‘The Help,’ but we had a great relationship with the people who worked for us.”

“Our maid Lizzie worked for our family from the time she was 15, when I was 18 months old. She lived with us for 18 years until she left to get married. We enclosed our sun porch into a room for her,” said Katz. “We had no air conditioning in our house, just a few window units for the back rooms of the house because it

wouldn’t look good to have one in the front. Our attic fan was always running, but it just brought in the humidity.  And we always left the front screen door open to catch a breeze. I remember the house having to be painted often because of the mildew.”

The Mizrahi family was one of the first on the block to have a television, and every day at 5:15 the living room would start filling up with kids. Howdy Doody and the Mickey Mouse Club were some of the favorite shows. Both families had houses at the beach in the summers, and they spent a lot of time riding rides and playing games at the boardwalk. The girls were always warned to “be careful of the sailors” who frequented the area. Childhood was safe and carefree, including spend-the-night parties at the Roosevelt Hotel where a friend lived (her father was hotel manager, and it was “just like Eloise.”). “It was a magical time,” said Pollock.

Next time, the ladies talk about The High School Years and Beyond.

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