The Way We Were – Hayes and Norma Basford

The Way We Were – Hayes and Norma Basford
Hayes and Norma, sons Matt, Scott and Brett

On a Sunday afternoon in the early 1940s, Hayes Basford, Jr., his father and maybe a couple of friends would saddle up their horses at the Basford home on five acres between Prunty Avenue and Tunis Street in Murray Hill for a 10- or 15-mile jaunt.

“We would cut through the woods, cross Cassat and go down San Juan to Hyde Park Stables,” Hayes, an Ortega resident, recalled. “We would ride for miles, from the bridge to Hyde Park was a dirt road and the stables were just past the duck pond on San Juan. There was a pasture and commercial dairy on the corner of San Juan and Jammes, and a goat farm on Lenox, where we’d stop and drink a Co-Cola,” he said. “The horses drank Co-Cola too!”

Hayes’ grandmother lived two miles from his family in Murray Hill but when Hayes’ father bought the 1930s house on Prunty Avenue, he recalls she said, “Y’all are moving too far out in the country.”

Although the countryside is now gone, the Murray Hill Theater, Florida Christian Home and the Dreamette still reflect those bygone days when Edgewood Avenue in the late 1940s and 1950s had a big post office where the Edgewood Bakery was located. The Amber House, a restaurant known for its hamburgers, was on the corner of Post and Edgewood. Tarantus Five and Dime, Nell Wage’s Dress Shop, a hardware store, Wood’s Pharmacy, and Thomas and Padgett Grocery Store contributed to a vital community, Hayes recalled.

Hayes, 15, in swim trunks

As an only child, Hayes had the run of Murray Hill and Avondale, whether on his horse or on his bike. His father owned Hayes Lounge on St. Johns Avenue (where the Mellow Mushroom is now). It was the stopping point for Avondale and Ortega residents to gather in the comfy chairs on their way home from work, he said. Hayes Sr. also built the building across the street on the corner of St. Johns and Dancy, which he later sold. The name was changed to Monte’s West Inn and is now Shores Liquors and Bar, Hayes said.

The Basford family had 100 chickens, 10 pigs, five horses and a huge vegetable garden. A young entrepreneur, Hayes would spend afternoons when he wasn’t operating his egg and vegetable selling routes visiting the grocery store, antique shops, bowling alley, hardware store and bakery in Avondale Shopping Center. “I rode my bicycle everywhere and knew everybody. Sometimes I’d go to Easterling Drugstore in Lakeshore,” said Hayes.

“We might have crossed paths there,” said Hayes’ wife, Norma Jean nee Sherouse. “My sister, Marguerite Motes, is 14 years older than I am. She was married and lived near there and when I was about 12, I’d come visit her and her husband, and go to the drugstore. Who knows? I might have seen Hayes there,” she said.

Norma grew up in the small town of Micanopy, Florida. Her parents had a Standard Oil Station where their reputation for friendliness brought Miami-bound vacationing families back time after time.

“Until 8th grade I attended a school where we had two classes in one room. My graduating class had seven people,” said Norma. “But then we were bused to P.K. Yonge – a private high school in Gainesville.”

While Norma was miles away in her little corner of Florida, Hayes was in Jacksonville at Murray Hill School – now Ruth N. Upson Elementary, then Lakeshore Middle School, and then The Bolles School, where he graduated in 1954.

Everything changed for the couple when they met their junior year at Emory University in Atlanta. Hayes declared it was love at first sight. “Well for him, maybe,” said Norma. “I was dating someone else, but I knew Hayes. Five minutes after we broke up, there was Hayes asking me out. We’d go to places like Manuel’s Tavern, The Varsity, fraternity parties – nothing exotic – just where people gathered. When we first dated, he had a beard because Kappa Alpha, his fraternity, and Kappa Delta, my sorority, were celebrating Old South. I was afraid I wouldn’t like him when he shaved it off. But I might have noticed him, he was pretty cute back then,” she recalled.

Norma was good looking, sweet and everybody liked her, and she had a good reputation on campus, Hayes said. “I was really attracted to her great figure, and she typed my term papers and ironed my dress shirts, she was the total package,” joked Hayes.

“Hayes was good looking, fun, with a great sense of humor,” laughed Norma. “We won’t say what all I’d heard about him, but I felt he had character and integrity. I was quiet and he was…Hayes.”

“And I had a car – a 1957 gold Plymouth!” Hayes quipped.

Wedding day

He claims he was once caught in the headlights of his parent’s car kissing his girlfriend while on horseback in his yard when he was in the fourth grade, and said he was voted Most Bashful in the 9th grade at Lakeshore. “People will hoot when they read that!” said Norma.

After graduation from Emory, Norma, with degrees in English literature and sociology and Hayes, with a degree in economics, came back to Jacksonville and were married by Rev. Dr. Douglas Leatherbury at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on December 5, 1959.

In addition to 200 guests, Norma’s students at John Stockton Elementary School attended the wedding and put on a Womanless Wedding skit. Their reception at The Woman’s Club was catered by Mrs. Goode of Goode’s Bakery, and Hayes’ father made sure they had a champagne fountain, which did not please Norma’s parents at all, she said.

Times were challenging for the newlyweds when Hayes went into active duty in the Army Reserves, making about $100 per month, and Norma’s teaching job paid a whopping $3,500 a year. But the man who had an egg route and sold mistletoe for 15 cents a bunch as a child put his “go git ‘em” spirit to work and landed a job as a stockbroker in 1960 with Pierce, Carrison and Wulbern.

In 1973 Hayes transitioned to an Atlanta firm which, he explained, had many buy-outs over the years, but he maintained his career there for 50 years before retiring in 2010. “I gutted out the tough times,” he said. Norma agreed. “He stuck it out when others gave up!” she said.

Hayes and Norma had been living in the Wedgewood Apartments on Roosevelt but later bought a little house in Westfield for $10,000.  By 1964 they had sons Brett and Scott, and managed to upgrade to a $20,000 house on the corner of Yacht Club and Roosevelt in Ortega. Then the “deal of a century came along and we bought the house on McGirts Boulevard for $40,000,” Hayes said. “It was a stretch for us. My dad said, ‘You are paying too much for it.’ It was just a three-bedroom, two-bath brick house with those ugly old jalousie windows all across the back. You couldn’t even see the river!” 

After adding on a bit at a time and removing the old windows, the home now has fabulous views of the river.

In 1969 their third son, Matt, came along. “I loved being a mother and it was important to be home when the boys got home from school,” said Norma. “We had cute birthday parties; I made Halloween costumes and baked a zillion cookies.” The Basfords now have four grandchildren although three of them live in Texas.

During this time of raising a family no moss grew under their feet. Called to leadership, Hayes was named president of the Rotary Club of Riverside. Meanwhile, Norma was president of the Junior Woman’s Club, taught a young woman’s Bible group at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, and established the Redeemed Caregivers group, which she conducted for over 10 years.

The couple started the Greater Jacksonville Families in Action in the late 1980s as part of the Say No to Drugs campaign. “I didn’t even know what marijuana was!” said Norma.

Norma modeling at a city-wide tennis tournament

When the local schools were no longer accredited in the 1970s they worked with a group of about 20 families to start St. Mark’s Episcopal Day School. “We all pitched in – hired teachers and a headmaster, begged and borrowed books for a library,” Norma said. “I knew nothing about library science so we finally hired a retired librarian to set it up in a more professional way. We had about 100 kids – one class of each grade, and it is so exciting to see how far it’s come.”

They also became interested in mental health issues and were instrumental in reorganizing Jacksonville NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). Hayes served as president from 2011 to 2015 and continues to raise funds to support the organization. Since 2011, Norma, as director of education, has helped the group establish four support groups for families, several for those with mental disorders, a Helpline, Family to Family classes, a Board of Directors, educational meetings, taught classes, and opportunities throughout the year and has taught classes and served in innumerable capacities. And yes, she is still organizing Hayes’ notes. 

In 2015 Hayes and Norma accepted Mental Health America’s Agency of the Year Award for Jacksonville NAMI, and Norma has twice been a finalist for the Eve Award for her contributions to mental health awareness and advocacy.

In his spare moments, Hayes can be found playing pickle ball (which he was instrumental in establishing at the Ortega United Methodist Life Center), fishing, walking his 10,000-plus steps a day or picking up granddaughter Mason from St. Mark’s School, attending her recitals and school events – all while looking for ways to be a benefit to his church and his community.

Norma enjoys reading and plays pickle ball occasionally. Both agree that faith is a large part of their lives. “It hasn’t been a bed of roses – but prayer has gotten us through so many challenges,” said Norma.

By Peggy Harrell Jennings
Resident Community News

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