The Way We Were: Dorothy Harding

The Way We Were: Dorothy Harding

When DorothyHarding, her husband Jen (short for Jennings), and nine-year-old daughter Bette(now Bette Loyd) first moved to Jacksonville in 1957, they were lucky enough tosettle in the Lakewood area, in part because Harding’s mother-in-law andstepfather had a house on Rollins Avenue. And they have never left.

Hardingand Loyd now live next door to each other on twin riverfront lots at the end ofBaylor Lane. The two gracious Southern ladies recently had fun reminiscingabout their many decades in the neighborhood.

Afterthree short months at the Lakewood Apartments, the family lived first on MercerCircle, which backed up to Christopher Creek, and then on San Carlos Road.

“Thekids on Mercer Circle told me there were alligators in the creek, but Momma andDaddy told me there certainly were not,” remembers Loyd. “One day, I heard abloodcurdling scream, and there was Momma standing there with a big old gatorin the yard.”

Thechildren would play in the woods on the other side of the creek. The woods arenow the San Jose Forest neighborhood. Loyd attended Grace Chapel Parish School(now San Jose Episcopal Day School), and her grandparents were members at thechurch. Back in those days, if women didn’t have a hat on for church, theywould pin a Kleenex on their head before going to the service.

TheHarding family spent many Sunday afternoons driving down to Mandarin. San JoseBoulevard at that time was a two-lane road lined with big oak trees and Spanishmoss. A family friend in Switzerland (“way out in the country”) had a housethat looked like a Swiss chalet, which is still there today, and Loyd loved topet their goats and pick oranges from the many orange trees on the property.

LakewoodShopping Center was a place the family frequented. Loyd would go to LakewoodPharmacy every Saturday with friends to have a banana split, and for a time,Harding worked at the Lakewood Children’s Shoppe. They also liked Clark’sMarket for meat (the current site of Mojo BBQ), dress shops French Novelty andthe Vogue (where Winn-Dixie is), the record shop – where Loyd would buy 45 rpmsingles of Top 40 hits – and Dipper Dan’s for ice cream.

In1960, Harding’s husband acquired the Atlantic Firebrick Company, which is stillin operation. Harding worked the night shift as a switchboard operator at thenaval station when her daughter was little, and then stayed busy with volunteerpursuits – she was at Memorial Hospital to volunteer the day it opened – andwith a longtime bridge group.

“Wecalled it ‘Margarita Bridge’ because we started with coffee in the morning,played bridge, and then about 11:00 would have margaritas and lunch,” shelaughed. “It was a lot of fun, and we played together for about 20 years.”

In1972, Harding got wind of a riverfront home for sale on Baylor Lane. She didn’tever imagine the couple could afford it, but she mentioned it to her husbandanyway.

“Jentook one look around the property, heard the price, and said, ‘We’ll take it!’without ever setting foot in the house. We paid $130,000 for it,” sheremembered.

Theysubsequently acquired an additional two-acre lot next door, which Jen set up asa putting green (laying concrete and maintaining perfect grass turf on top). Hespent many afternoons honing his golf game and using the river for drivingpractice.

Loydnow lives in the family’s original house, and Harding built on the adjacentproperty about nine years ago. The two eat dinner together a couple of nightseach week, usually joined by Loyd’s two sons, and they talk on the phone everyday.

“Itfeels good being next door to each other,” said Harding. “I’m so thankfulbecause this is all the family I have.”

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