A Look Back at 2012

A Look Back at 2012

Rosa Parks once said, “Memories of our lives, of our works and our deeds will continue in others.” One of my favorite things about this column is getting a glimpse of Old Jacksonville – what the city looked, smelled and felt like many decades ago…or sometimes even just a few decades ago.

My family has only lived here for 18 years, long enough to call Jacksonville home but not quite long enough to have truly experienced it pre-21st century. So writing the column is a bit like working a puzzle. Every person I interview shares a few pieces, and eventually, fragments of a picture begin to appear.

Here are some of my favorite “Way We Were” bits from the past year:

  • It’s been so long since a major war has truly affected our American soil that it’s nearly impossible for us young’uns to imagine what that would have been like. But Henrietta Younger remembered having to show ID during the war in order to cross the Intracoastal Waterway to visit the beach, one of the family’s main forms of entertainment.
  • Speaking of the beach, Dave and Mary Nell Fountain solved the mystery of Beach Road Chicken, which is actually on Atlantic Blvd. But back in the day, that stretch of asphalt was called the “beach road” because it was truly the only way out there.
  •  Sometimes I imagine my children growing up in the days when they could (and we would have actually felt safe letting them) roam free and explore nature all around them. They would have gotten a kick out of the alligator in Mercer Creek that showed up in Dorothy Harding’s neck of the woods or the manatees coming to feed on the water hyacinths along the banks of the St. Johns behind Betty Sterling’s home. My artistic daughters would have loved hanging out on the riverbank in St. Nicholas, watching artist John McIver work his magic – like Alice Coughlin’s son Mark used to do.
  • I went to a big high school in a tiny Louisiana town, which is why I can relate to the many stories told by Landon High School grads. Jacksonville was much more like a small town back then, and their experiences somehow seem similar. Joyce Jones spent many a weekend at a sock hop in a friend’s garage, spinning the 45rpm records the kids bought for 49 cents. Friday nights for Carolyn Graham were a workout – she was a Landon Lionette, the dance team famous for their precise and spectacular halftime formations…different ones every single week. My high school also had a wooden paddle (rumored to have holes in it for extra hurt) in the front office just like the one Reed Tillis remembered from Landon.
  • And, of course, we all long for the days when the cost of living just seemed so much more reasonable. Like when David Gum could get all the Krystal burgers he could hold for 10 cents each, or buy a full spaghetti dinner for just 85 cents.
  • One of my favorite stories, however, has to be when turnips began growing along the banks of the St. Johns after someone scattered turnip seeds following a dredging. Voila – the earliest beginnings of community gardening!


I hope you’ve enjoyed the memories as much as I have. And if you are age 70 or better and want to add some pieces of your own to the puzzle, give me a shout at (904) 200-0070 or [email protected]

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