The Way We Were: Dorsey-Ann Holz Rhames

The Way We Were: Dorsey-Ann Holz Rhames
Cohen’s Department Store Soda Fountain (Courtesy Jacksonville Historical Society)

Dorsey-Ann Rhames is proof that you can come home again. After growing up in Murray Hill and moving to Ft. Lauderdale, she eventually moved back into the house in which she grew up. Like the neighborhood itself, however, with her husband’s and her efforts, the house has changed somewhat.

“My father’s name was Gunther Schlichtholz, but he shortened it to Holz when he went into the Navy,” Dorsey-Ann said. Her father was born in Germany. Her grandfather came to Ellis Island first, and then her grandmother brought her father to America in 1924 to settle in Chicago.

“My parents met at a USO dance when my father was in the Navy and stationed here in Jacksonville,” said Dorsey-Ann, who was born in 1944. 

Dorsey-Ann, in front of the cake at her 6th birthday party
Dorsey-Ann, in front of the cake at her 6th birthday party

After she was born, Dorsey-Ann and her mother, Bebe Holz, lived in an apartment on Market Street in Springfield. Her grandparents lived at 7th and Liberty in Springfield, too. After her father left the Navy, he worked odd jobs. Eventually he went back into the Navy and then her parents divorced.

In 1950 when Dorsey-Ann was 6 years old, her mother moved them to Murray Hill into 1022 Antisdale Street, where she now lives again. The house was built the year before in 1949.

“Murray Hill was a nice place to grow up,” Dorsey-Ann said. “It had a post office, department store, Edgewood Theater, other retail stores, a meat market and Woods Pharmacy.” She walked to the downtown Murray Hill shopping area which was only about two blocks from her house. “I could go to Murray Hill Theatre for a dime.

Edgewood Movie Theater (Courtesy Jacksonville Historical Society)
Edgewood Movie Theater (Courtesy Jacksonville Historical Society)

“The grocery store used to run a tab for shoppers,” she continued. She remembers an A&P grocery store opening up on Post Street.

Edgewood Avenue Christian Church Disciples of Christ owned a large brick building across the street from the church that was known then as the “Old Folks Home.” At the time, the church owned all the property. “It had a beautiful garden,” she said. “Now there are condos and the Florida Christian Home, which are not part of the church anymore. The gardens were removed.”

On the corner of Post and Cypress Streets was a soft ice cream store. “When we first moved into our house, it was called the Creamette,” Dorsey-Ann said. About five years later, however, someone complained when the store stopped using cream because it was too expensive. “A lawsuit made them change the name to Dreamette,” she laughed.

She remembers roller skating was the big past-time. “They were the kind of skates that you clamped onto your shoes with a key. All of us girls skated. We had to wear shoes with thicker soles like saddle oxfords for the skates to have something to grab onto,” Dorsey-Ann said. “We regularly lost our keys and would go to the five-and-dime store where we could get a new skate key for a nickel.”

Dorsey-Ann did a lot of walking back in her growing-up days, of necessity because her mother couldn’t drive, and they didn’t have a car. Her mother worked for Admiral Distributor on Edison Street, and another employee picked her up each morning to take her to work and bring her back home.

Dorsey-Ann Holz yearbook photo
Dorsey-Ann Holz yearbook photo

“To see my grandmother after school, I had to take a bus downtown, catch another bus to Springfield and then walk from Main Street to Liberty Street. Either that or I had to pay 20 cents to take a cab.

“We put on our Sunday dresses and high heels to go downtown on Saturday mornings to high-end department stores like Furchgott’s and Cohen’s and tried to look like we could afford to buy things there. I remember going to see “Gone with the Wind” at the Florida Theatre.

“Walgreen’s drugstore had a soda fountain. My mom would take me there for a special treat. I always wanted a tuna fish sandwich. My grandmother would take my mother and me to Morrison’s Cafeteria.”

Her grandmother’s house at 1642 Liberty Street was a big, two-story house. “After both of my grandparents died in the late 1950s, the house sat empty for five years because the heirs couldn’t decide whether to sell it,” she said. “My mother finally sold the house for $5,000 because it was going to need major repairs.”

Her best friend lived across Post Street on College Place. “We rode bikes and went to sock hops at Good Shepherd Church when we were in high school.”

They collected soda bottles to turn in at A&P for a nickel each and then rode their bikes to Lackawanna Pool about a mile from her house, where it cost a quarter to get in. Sometimes she would go with her friend’s family to Jacksonville Beach.

When her cousin from Chicago came to visit, they would get a wagon and go door-to-door asking if they had ceramic figurines they no longer wanted. Dorsey-Ann and her cousin would clean them up and sell them to people living on another street. They would also collect empty cream soda bottles because they were worth five cents each.

Dorsey-Ann has generational history with the Red Cross. During the war, her grandmother went to the train station to hand out coffee, doughnuts and cigarettes to servicemen passing through. When Dorsey-Ann was a teenager, her mother and she served sandwiches during dances at the Naval Air Station and at beach parties for the servicemen. 

“We took the bus on a two-lane road to the Naval Air Station,” she said. “I’m not sure it was even paved.”

John Gorrie Junior High School (Courtesy Whiteway Realty)
John Gorrie Junior High School (Courtesy Whiteway Realty)

Dorsey-Ann attended Ruth N. Upson Elementary School from first through sixth grade, John Gorrie Junior High School in seventh through ninth grade and then graduated from Robert E. Lee High School in 1962. “I walked to and from school because our house was just inside the two-mile limit for being able to ride the bus,” she said.

After high school, Dorsey-Ann married and divorced, then moved to Ft. Lauderdale in 1975 where she raised her daughter, Donna Marie Hitch, and worked for a heavy construction equipment dealer. When Donna was 17, she was killed in an auto accident, so Dorsey-Ann decided to come back to Jacksonville.

Her mother had married Herb Kuebler and was still living in the same house at 1022 Antisdale. Her stepfather wanted Dorsey-Ann to buy the house across the street from them, 1035 Antisdale. “He bought it for me in 1983 and let me pay him back,” she said. In 1984, Dorsey-Ann met her husband, Vernon Rhames, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, who had two daughters.

Dorsey-Ann and Vernon lived in the house for 32 years until 2015. When Bebe died in 2013, she left her house to Dorsey-Ann, and she and Vernon decided to totally renovate the house so that they could move into it and rent out 1035 Antisdale. 

1035 Antisdale, built in 1926, before renovation
1035 Antisdale, built in 1926, before renovation

Just as they were nearing completion, however, one of the stepdaughters moved back to Jacksonville and her family needed a place to stay, so they moved into the same house with Dorsey-Ann and Vernon in January 2014. By March, Dorsey-Ann knew that they needed more room, and she and Vernon moved into her nearly-
renovated home so that her stepdaughter and family could have 1035 Antisdale to themselves.

Dorsey-Ann thinks it is great that millennials are moving into the neighborhood. “When I was growing up you could lay down in the middle of the road on a Sunday afternoon and not worry about any cars driving through.”

Dorsey-Ann retired in 2009 after 33 years working for the same heavy construction equipment dealer. Vernon retired in 2014 from more than 20 years’ work with the United States Postal Service. He died in 2017.

Dorsey-Ann Rhames and Vernon Rhames
Dorsey-Ann Rhames and Vernon Rhames

Dorsey-Ann serves as membership secretary for Riverside Park United Methodist Church, where she has worshiped and worked with Vernon for 22 years. They started Sunday breakfast and Dorsey-Ann continues to serve at the breakfast. 

You can almost always find Dorsey-Ann at the church on Mondays and sometimes one to two other days each week. The church has recognized the Rhames’ commitment by dedicating its fellowship hall to them, one sign of how woven into the community Dorsey-Ann remains.

By Karen J. Rieley
Resident Community News

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