The Way We Were: Helen Brinson Covington & Guy Dietz

The Way We Were: Helen Brinson Covington & Guy Dietz
Dupont High School cheerleaders from classes of 1961-1962

You can’t ask more of time spent growing up than to reach retirement years with the kind of memories Helen Brinson Covington and Guy Dietz have about growing up in Lakewood and attending Dupont High school as part of the Class of 1962. “I have nothing but good memories,” Helen said. Guy quickly agreed.

Helen’s parents met, married and had Helen’s older sister, Mary Jane, in Miami, but moved to Jacksonville when Helen’s mother became pregnant with her to be near her sister and brother. “She wanted some extra help now that she was going to have two children,” Helen said.

Halloween at Little Red Schoolhouse, 1950: Halloween at The Little Red Schoolhouse, 1950, where both Helen Brinson Covington and Guy Dietz attended
Halloween at Little Red Schoolhouse, 1950: Halloween at The Little Red Schoolhouse, 1950, where both Helen Brinson Covington and Guy Dietz attended

Helen’s parents were living in Miramar at the corner of Dover Road and Birmingham when she was born. Helen remembers walking by herself to Mrs. Warren’s Kindergarten, which she operated out of her home. Later Mrs. Warren opened the Little Red School House on St. Augustine Road that Guy attended. Guy went to kindergarten in The Little Red School House, too.

Her family lived on Dover Road in Miramar until she was eight years old. Then, her father wanted some property and they moved to Fort Caroline Road in 1952 “back when there was nothing up there,” she said.

Her sister, Mary Jane, who eventually married retired banker Jack Uible, was attending Landon High School in San Marco. After they moved to Fort Caroline, her mother had to catch a bus to get Helen to Arlington Elementary, and from there Mary Jane had to catch a bus to Landon.

Mary Jane was a Lionette in high school, part of a precision marching team that practiced after school. Helen would get home from elementary school, and then she and her mother had to drive all the way to San Marco to pick up Mary Jane.

Lakewood Pharmacy in the 1950s was “the hub of the Lakewood neighborhood.”
Lakewood Pharmacy in the 1950s was “the hub of the Lakewood neighborhood.”

Eventually, Mary Jane convinced their father to move from Fort Caroline because no boys would come out to date her, Helen recalls. So, they moved to St. Nicholas into the Belven Apartments. 

“I remember there used to be a great restaurant there on the corner called Old South,” Helen said. Her family attended Mayfair Baptist Church on Atlantic Boulevard, and after church each Sunday they would go to the Old South for lunch.

They stayed in the apartment until Mary Jane graduated and then they moved to the Lakewood neighborhood on Clemson Road, south of University Boulevard and near the land where Winn-Dixie was eventually built. “It was just a dirt plot then,” Helen said. 

Meanwhile, Guy lived north of University Boulevard at the corner of Tulane Avenue and Vassar Road also in the Lakewood area. Oaklawn Cemetery backed up to woods near his home. He and the other boys in the neighborhood used to play cowboys and Indians, built pits, threw dirt bombs and played war in the woods. Guy would ride his bike around to Emory Circle between two houses, then ride down dunes on a dirt road up to Stetson and then follow it around to St. Augustine Road. 

Postcard of The Little Train
Postcard of The Little Train

“But we knew that when you hear the whistle, you’d better get your butt home,” Guy said. “If I didn’t respond right away, my mom would yell, ‘Guy! Time to come home!’ You could hear her for miles.”

The whistle was a 32-inch copper steam whistle that had been installed at the municipal waterworks beside Hogan Creek near First and Main Streets in Springfield in 1895. At 7 a.m., noon, 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., “Big Jim” blasted into life with a long, throaty baritone.

Guy was adopted when he was almost five. They lived at 5218 Vassar Road in Miramar until his mother died. After his father remarried and moved out in 1977, Guy moved into the house and lived there until 2006, completing some major remodeling along the way that resulted in the 1,100-square-foot home becoming 2,800 square feet. 

Helen and Guy both remember catching a bus on University Boulevard (which they say was called Love Grove Road when they were growing up) to go to Annie Lytle School in Riverside for seventh grade. Helen remembers that when she lived on Dover Road and was in the first or second grade, she could ride the bus on Saturdays straight into San Marco for a dime, then go to the theater and watch cartoons all day for a dime. “That was my mother’s way of babysitting,” she said.

At Christmastime, they would go to Cohen Brothers up to the toy floor where they had a huge toy display, then walk across the street to Morrison’s Cafeteria. “You would walk the entire block around Cohen’s because every window had an automated Christmas display,” Guy said.

Helen remembers her mother bought her shoes at Cohen’s. “They had a machine you put your foot in, and then it would X-ray your feet.” Guy’s shoes were bought at Spencer Ladd’s in San Marco and then at Rosenblum’s for his Weejuns.

When Helen was 12 years old, her mother paid another child to give Helen his front row seat at The Florida Theatre to see Elvis Presley perform on stage in August 1956. Helen loved Elvis. “I used to lip-sync all of his music on my 45 turntable,” Helen said. “One time my mother had a garden party, and she got me out of bed to come to their party to lip-sync his songs and do his gyrations.”

Helen and Guy have many of the same memories of fun times with friends in high school. Guy went to parties at Helen’s house. They also hung out at the Texas Drive-In on San Marco Boulevard where Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute is now located. “The drive-in had a burger joint that made the best onion rings in the world,” Guy said. “The Texas was a favorite hang-out for Dupont, Bolles, Landon and Bishop Kenny students.”

Downtown San Marco, 1950s
Downtown San Marco, 1950s

If she was late on her curfew, her mother would come driving through the parking lot at the drive-in to find her and drag her out. “I was so embarrassed,” Helen said.

“When we were in high school, if the Texas was full, we overflowed to the Krystal drive-in across from Bishop Kenny,” she said. The building is still there but it is now a used car lot. Helen and her mother would eat dinner at Krystal while waiting for her sister to finish Lionettes practice.

Another favorite hangout was Southside Drive-In Theater at University and Philips where Big Chief Tire is now. The building had offices on top and the building itself was the screen. Big Chief chopped the top portion off to turn the building into the tire store.

They also went to Midway Drive-In where Walmart is on Beach Boulevard and to Atlantic Drive-In. Helen remembers mosquito coils that gave off a vapor to kill mosquitos that sneaked into the cars because moviegoers had to crack car windows to hook on the speakers for the movies. “The kids who had station wagons backed them into the parking spaces so that they could lay in the back with the door open and watch the movie,” Guy said.

The original Bono’s on Beach Boulevard was another favorite hangout from high school days. “I still go to Bono’s with a group of guys every month that has five Thursdays,” Guy said. “We all knew Harvey, Bono’s pit boss.” Harvey Green is legendary for spending more than 50 years working the pit for Bono’s. 

The Class of 1962 also frequented Beach Road Chicken, which opened in 1939. “We still go there regularly to eat,” Helen said.

And, what would high school be without a few pranks? Helen remembers when she was in high school at Dupont she drove a little red and white, two-seater Metropolitan. “I used to cram all my friends in that car,” she said.

“All of us were part of what they called Y teams back then – one for girls and one for boys – sponsored by the YMCA.” They would congregate at Lakewood Pharmacy after the teams met. The pharmacy was the hub in the neighborhood. 

One time, Helen parked her car to go in and get a Coke.The boys picked her car up and plopped it in front of the door so that no one could go in or out. “The manager was very upset and finally convinced the boys to move the car,” she said. 

Guy remembers going out to Julia Knight’s home on Mandarin Road. “They had an orange grove, and it was a regular Sunday afternoon outing to go pick oranges,” he said. Guy and Helen both remember riding a small train at Mandarin Road and San Jose and watching sugar cane being crushed. The small-gauge train was known as the Little Train at Mandarin. It chugged riders around its tracks, passing through the woods, around curves and over small trestles. 

Helen and Guy remember going to dances when they were juniors and seniors. The Y-Teens held dances to raise money – $3 stag, $5 a couple. Single teens would come to the dance as a couple to save money. 

Guy Dietz and Helen Brinson Covington at the 55th reunion of the Dupont High School Class of 1962
Guy Dietz and Helen Brinson Covington at the 55th reunion of the Dupont High School Class of 1962

Guy recalls dances underneath the swimming pool next to the San Marco Branch Library on Hendricks. It was popular for both guys and gals to wear madras then. There was no air conditioning and they remember their madras clothes fading onto their underwear, because it was so hot during the dances.

The most popular local band was the all-black J-Notes. Dances were held almost every weekend at Southside Woman’s Club, Friday Musicale, Riverside Woman’s Club or Riverside Garden Club.  

A popular second choice band was Freddy Caddell and the Twirls. Linda Willard (Dupont Class of 1960) sang and danced. Freddy, who went to Bolles, was two years older than Guy and Helen.

The guys wore Weejuns and Gold Cup socks. “The color of the socks had to match the color of our GANT shirts,” Guy said. Helen said that girls wore Weejuns, too, but with no socks, and Villager dresses that hung just below the knee.

“Our high school wasn’t air-conditioned either,” Helen said. “When crinolines were in vogue, we started out the day starched but came home drooped.”

Helen and Guy both live in Ponte Vedra now. Helen is retired; she worked at St. Vincent’s and then for several doctors as a medical technologist until she had children. Daughter Laurie Hatsall lives in Julington Creek and son Brian Covington lives in World Golf Village area.

Guy had three children – Jeff in Mandarin, Brooke in Rivertown off San Jose, and Andy in the Navy, stationed in Washington, D.C.

Helen and Guy serve on their class Reunion Board. They have planned reunions every five years starting with their tenth. “I kind of took over and put everything on the computer to keep up with everyone,” Helen said. Having a designated and steady contact person has helped, and now Helen has a page dedicated to the class. “She found people for the 50th and 55th reunion that we had never been able to contact before,” Guy said.

The Class of 1962 has an “Alfred I duPont Class of 1962” Facebook page. Lots of memories are also found at “You know you are from Lakewood/San Jose/Miramar/San Marco in Jax, FL if…” Facebook page.


By Karen J. Rieley
Resident Community News

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