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From Jacksonville Beach, FL

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Letter to Jon Stewart

Dear Jon,

This is your last week as host of the Daily Show.  I read that Thursday, August 6, will be your final show.  How I will miss you!!  You keep me sane after I hear news of stupid politicians, racism, war and all the ills of our times.  I couldn't be too depressed about the world when you made me laugh at it. Thank you for that.

You are a man whose opinion I value. You shine a satirical light on the sometimes hopeless daily events, putting them in perspective.  How could we take the fools of the day seriously when you imitated them so humorously and revealed their inconsistencies and weaknesses.  

I hope you will not leave us totally.  My hope is you will return in a new form maybe as movie director or writer.  You have already taken on both those roles, but hopefully, you have something more of that sort in store for us.  With apologies to Hamlet, I bid you "good night, sweet prince;  And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

A friend you've never known,
J. Y.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Jacksonville Beach Classic Cars Parade

If you love vintage cars, go to the Latham Plaza/Seawalk Pavillion area of Jacksonville   Beach on the 3rd Wednesday of each month.  At 5p.m. over 40 cars are on display for free public viewing.  The proud owners are usually sitting near their cars to answer questions.  

    At 8:30 pm, the engines are cranked and the cars cruise down First Street.  It is a lot of
   fun seeing these old cars in pristine condition parade down the street in style.

   Here are some of the cars/trucks I liked:

If I could own any vehicle in the show, it would be this little ford truck.

Or I'd take 
this little 1937 coupe.
        This Ford with wooden sides was the SUV of its day.   

                                       This is the front grill of the Woody.

This '57 Chevrolet was popular
well past its day and became an 
icon for the 50's.

You don't often see a REO truck.  The top photo shows a closeup of the front windshield which opens slightly.

                           A Chevrolet Corvair with the engine in the back.

This was one of the strangest displays in the show.  A cadillac pulling a cadillac which has been cut through the middle.

                              This Ford-F-100 is the precursor to the current F-150 and all the higher model numbers of Ford trucks.

See also Better Jax Beach website or their Facebook page.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

When the Railroad came to Jacksonville

    Jacksonville's Union Terminal was built in 1919.  During the WWII years, it was one of the busiest depots in the nation.  This illustration pictures the way it looked in the early 1950's/late 1940's. (illustration is a section of drawing by D. West)
There's always been something romantic about trains.  I personally love to ride them.  One of my long-time wishes is to ride the Orient Express and see what train luxury was like.  The Orient Express aside, Jacksonville, where I live, has had a long history of rail travel.  
The first railroad from Jacksonville to Alligator Town (now Lake City) was completed in 1860. It was named the Florida Atlantic & Gulf Central Railroad and was headed by Dr. A. S. Baldwin.

On its maiden journey, many excited Jacksonville residents rode to Lake City for the first train ride of their lives. Then the people of Lake City made the trip to Jacksonville where they were warmly greeted and fed barbecue. The engine that pulled the train was christened "Jacksonville."
Until 1881, this first line was the only railroad into Jacksonville. Trains from the north stopped in Live Oak, where transfer was made for Jacksonville. In 1875, a ticket from Jacksonville to New York cost $36.75 and the trip took between 75 and 90 hours.

 A problem was that rail tracks in those early days were different gauges (widths) which many rail companies preferred because of the extreme competition among the various lines. Finally, in 1888, the first train traveled directly from New York to Jacksonville through Savannah, over Florida & Western tracks, and made the trip in 29 hours and 30 minutes.

In the late 1800's and early 1900's, many railroads developed, merged, and changed. A few of the many important names in the Jacksonville area were Florida Railway & Navigation Co., Fernandina & Jacksonville, Florida Central & Peninsular Railroad, Atlantic Coast Line, and ultimately, the most influential, the Florida East Coast Railway.

Henry Flagler opened the entire east coast of Florida from St. Augustine to Key West with the Florida East Coast Line. Towns were developed along the tracks as the train line progressed down the state. For Jacksonville, the culmination was  the railroad that opened the Jacksonville beaches. The Jacksonville & Atlantic Railway Co. built a line from south Jacksonville to Pablo Beach (now Jacksonville Beach). Beach Boulevard was later built over the old track bed.  That's one reason the road is so straight.

The present downtown Union Terminal Building replaced one that Henry Flagler built.  As its first president of  the JTC, Flagler built a depot in the classic Spanish mission style, opening on February 4, 1895, but not completed until January 15, 1897.  The Flagler Depot, as it came to be called, by 1912 handled as many as 92 trains a day, and in that same year planning began for a new and even larger station, which became the current building.   It opened in 1919. 

During the years of  World War II, as many as 100,000 servicemen and civilians passed through the Jacksonville Terminal on the busiest days.
Those were the years when everybody who was anybody passed through Jacksonville by train. The famous and the infamous, from John D. Rockefeller to Al Capone; the high and the mighty, from the Duke and Duchess of Windsor to Presidents Roosevelt and Truman; and most celebrities of stage and screen passed through on their way south at one time or another. (Florida Railroad )

The story of the railroad in Florida and Jacksonville is romantic and complicated. The Union Terminal building saw its last train depart on the night of January 3, 1974. I remember the impetus to save the building and find a new use for it. Several huge so-called Terminal parties were held in the building to raise money. I attended the first one and it stays in my memory as one of the best, craziest parties I've known--shoulder to shoulder people, music and drink in every room, and all for a worthy cause.  The building was saved and is now the Jacksonville  Convention Center.      

Union Terminal as it looked in the 1930's when it was in use as a railway terminal. (Photo from Florida Photographic Collection.)

Information from: 

  •  History of Jacksonville, FL by T. Frederick Davis (reprinted 1990 by San Marco Bookstore)
  • Florida Railroad,

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

If they build it . . .

                      Small, moneyless towns take note,
                      Create an attraction, a purpose, a redo. 
                      Helen, GA went Alpine.

A few weeks ago, my extended family traveled from their homes across the South to Helen in northeast Georgia for a family reunion.  My husband and I decided on the scenic route and went north on highway 441 and returned on US1. I had not traveled this way in many years.  

The changes I saw were shocking.  Never very prosperous, many little Georgia towns had sunk into dilapidation.  Whole blocks of stores were closed.  Even the fast food restaurants were empty. Trash littered the sidewalks and weeds grew in the cracks.  The failing economy had done its work.  Only a few towns looked normal. Then we reached Helen, our destination.

Naturally beautiful, Helen with 2000+ altitude is the doorway to the Appalachian mountains.  In 1968, some townspeople had the idea to transform the town into an Alpine village to draw tourists and visitors. Since that time, downtown stores have all been renovated to create the look.  In the beginning there were nine businesses, now there are over 150 shops and 30 factory outlets.  The effort was successful and Helen lives and lives well.  Most of the shops are owned by the people who run them.  Anyone with a good idea can make it. 
                             A Helen business complete with Alpine windmill.

Unicoi State Park is close to Helen and also draws visitors.  It has a small lake for fishing and boating, several lodges with rooms to rent and cabins.  There is also camping.  Helen and Unicoi have helped each other gather visitors and be successful.  

                                The lake at Unicoi State Park near Helen

The towns people in some of the falling down towns I saw on the way to Helen need to see what Helen has done and create their own miracle.  Imagination and a few sponsors will help.  It has taken more than 20 years for Helen to reach the place she has today.  It is slow
progress, but any town can do it.

                             Wendy's in Helen has been done in the Alpine style.

This brochure shows the attitude and the ingenuity
of the people of Helen.

 Helen web siteHelen Visitors/Convention site

Unicoi web site

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Florida Road Trip: Washington Oaks State Gardens

    Washington Oaks State Gardens is a combination of Florida wild and orderly formal gardens.  The above view has been the scene for many spring and summer weddings and there are other equally good wedding spots.

The gardens are 35 miles south of St. Augustine or about 70 miles south of Jacksonville Beach on A1A.  On A1A drive through St. Augustine, over the Bridge of Lions, past the Alligator Farm, surf shops, motels and Marineland.  Two miles past Marineland, turn west into the sign-marked entrance.  You'll pay $5 for a vehicle with multiple visitors, $4 for a single visitor, and $2 if you're walking, biking or pedaling.

Once in the park, walk through the gardens, fish in the Intracoastal Waterway, enjoy a picnic, visit the Gift Shop or just relax in the shade on a bench.  You can go out the park entrance, cross A1A and to the Atlantic Ocean.  The beach has an unusual outcropping of coquina rocks that catch the water in interesting ways.  Swimming is not allowed in the vicinity of the rocks, but there is a lot of beach if you want to walk to a swimming area. The park is a great place to spend a morning, afternoon or a day enjoying nature.

The area has an interesting history.  It was once part of Bella Vista Plantation.  The land was donated to the State of Florida by Louise Young after her husband died.   It is on the National Register of Historic Places highlighting eight historic structures scattered through the park.  

                                      Path into the park and to the Intracoastal Waterway.

                            The Intracoastal Waterway, fishing and boating are allowed.

                                    The Gazebo

                            Koi, carp and other pond fish live in the garden waterways.

                            Staghorn fern hang from the numerous huge oak trees in one
                            part of the property.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Let's bring back the lost art of wearing a hat

                                             An over-the-top outfit from the past.
                                            A hat can say, "I'm elegant."

When was the last time you saw a woman wearing a hat, not a baseball cap or hat for the beach, but an elegant, beautiful one that complemented her clothes and her demeanor?  And I don't think I've seen in man in a dress hat since the 1950's.  We can blame President Kennedy for that.  He didn't wear hats and so it became the fashion.  

This weekend, the Kentucky Derby will be run in Louisville, KY.  Every woman there will have on a big hat, some beautiful, some outlandish. They say it's bad luck not to wear one. I've always wanted to go to the Derby just to wear a hat. Without a reason, most women feel self-conscious no matter how it complements them.  Last year, I attended a Kentucky Derby party.  All the women and a few men walked proudly in a hat.  The hats made the party fun.  A Kentucky Derby hat is usually "Old South,"  broad brimmed and flowery.  At the party, we all felt prettier in our hats.

                                        A hat can say, "I'm sassy."

When I was a child, women always wore a hat to church, especially on Easter.  It was a symbol of sophistication and looking your best.  Women also wore them in a big city to go shopping.  To go to downtown Atlanta, my mother and aunts wore little white gloves and a hat with their suits or best dresses.  It was a different time.  Now, some women see hats as non-liberating, restricting and associated with the past.  It does take a certain confidence to wear one, or you need to be Queen Elizabeth.

I say, let's get beyond that narrow thinking.  Wear a hat for fun, for beauty, for rebelliousness.  I have a favorite memory from a New Orleans vacation.  My husband and I had dinner at one of the fine old restaurants.  At a nearby table, a youngish woman was wearing a most elegant hat.  I thought she looked fabulous and sophisticated.  When I got home, I bought a wide-brimmed one, similar to hers, but sadly, never had the nerve to wear it.  I'd love to wear it out to dinner, but in Florida and at the beach where I live, I would get some funky stares.  Maybe I will wear it on my birthday.  Who cares if they think I'm eccentric.  I'm getting old enough to pull it off.

A hat can say "I'm flirty."

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Photo story of Mother Goose and her 7 little goslings

    Mother Goose carefully constructed her nest in the ferns under a maple tree.  True, it was in the yard of a home in a suburban neighborhood, but she felt safe.  She had built her nest in the same yard for the past two years.

  She laid seven perfect eggs in the nest that she lined with her own feathers.  She sat there patiently even in  rain and the lawn sprinkler's cycles.

If a cat, crow, seagull or any other creature came near her nest, she scared him off with a hiss and outstretched wings.  The look was very effective.

   After 28 days, the goslings pecked their way out of their shells and were ready to see the brand new world.


           A few hours after hatching, Mother Goose took them for an outing.  They held out their tiny wings and ran to face life stumbling and falling, but happy and eager.


           Daddy Goose was always nearby to chase anything  that got too close to the tiny
 goslings.  He set up a great hue and cry with much honking and hissing.  He sounded quite scary.

    One little chick liked to lay on his mother's back.  It was less crowded up there than in the nest with six others.

    The goslings loved swimming in the water with their parents.  Mother and Daddy Goose are always with them keeping them safe and showing them how to find food.

      This is a true story that happened in my backyard.  It has been such a pleasure and really an honor to watch them.  I've learned that geese are very good parents.  Both of them care and protect the babies.  After watching them my new metaphor for patience is "as patient as a goose."

Sunday, April 12, 2015

In remembrance of a favorite aunt

                                Photo taken on a NYC leave during WWII, Sara's first trip
                                to New York.  She brought home a statuette of the Statue of Liberty.
                                To me, a young child, it was exotic and fascinating.
                                You can see the sense of fun and humor in their faces.

    Last month, I traveled to a small Georgia town to attend the funeral and memorial for my dear Aunt Sara.  It seemed strange to visit her town without being able to talk with her and laugh with her.  She was my dad's sister, the youngest of four.  I used to love to listen to their childhood stories.  Tales of climbing trees where they ate cornbread and drank buttermilk, stories of helping dig a huge hole as a fort in the back pasture, and having imaginary adventures with their many nearby cousins.  

My aunt saw the humor in life and loved to laugh.  She and her husband always had a funny story to tell. As was the custom in those days, they married young.  Sara was just 20. I loved it that they had a little dog named Pest.  They also had two children whom I always considered lucky to have such funny parents.  I'm sure they weren't always funny, but it seemed so to me.  My contact was limited, however, I was around them only as a young child then my family moved 400 miles away. 

One reason I loved Sara was that she was always kind and attentive to me.  She remembered my birthdays with a card and note even when I got to be a little old lady.  She was sympathetic when my parents were ill.  My dad enjoyed her telephone calls and news about their family.  She could cheer him.  

Her life was not always rosy.  She cared for her older sister when she was ill with cancer, and later her husband, who died at 67 with cancer.  She was quietly devout and volunteered at the hospital gift shop until her 80's and with Meals on Wheels until she was 90.  She lived a long, useful life, dying just two months short of her 95th birthday.  I will miss her; I already miss her.  One legacy she will have for me is to remember her life, her kindness, her humor and try to emulate her.  

So young, so beautiful, both of them

Sara on her 80th birthday. She was
always youthful and stylish.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Lynyrd Skynyrd plays Jacksonville

     Lynyrd Skynyrd came home to Jacksonville the first weekend in April to play two concerts and film a video.  I saw the group Thursday night, the first concert.  Jacksonville, their hometown, was the perfect venue. The Florida Theater was jumping, literally.  As I looked around in the semi-darkness during the concert no one was still.  Heads were bobbing, arms were waving, and people were jumping and singing and clapping.  It was a grand welcome home.  The original group grew up and attended school in Jacksonville, ( See Jacksonville's Boys) and much of the city feels a kinship with them. 

    If you're a purist, you might insist this group is not really Lynyrd Skynyrd since most of the original group is no longer with the band, or they have died in the interim since 1973, when the group's first album, "Pronounced Leh-nerd Skinnerd," was released.  Even when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, only original members were invited. Thursday's concert played in order all the music from the first album ending with "Free Bird." Then, the band took a bow and left the stage for a short intermission.  After the intermission, they returned  to play music from their second album, "Second Helping." They ended with "Sweet Home Alabama," but did not play the entire album.  The audience applauded, screamed,  and whistled for an encore, yelling "We want more," but they didn't get it.  The band did not return even for a final bow.  While they were on stage, they gave it their all.  Perhaps they considered they'd done enough.

Lynyrd Skynyrd seen from the nosebleed section of the Florida Theater.
(photo, D. Young)

Receiving the most screaming and applause were favorites, "Free Bird" and "Sweet Home Alabama." Everyone knew the words and sang along.  It was a sweet homecoming for Skynyrd.  Though the members have changed, the group's spirit is the same, part sweetness, part rebellious Southern Rock.  The drummer in this show and the piano player were outstanding.  

It was a very Mr. Clean performance with no mention of drugs, marijuana, Jack Daniels or whiskey.  As always for a Skynyrd concert, the audience was totally white.  All those years of confederate flag waving discourage anyone else. It was, however, an age-mixed audience.  Many old 1970's Skynyrd fans with grey hair blended in with 20 and 30 somethings.  Everyone was polite with no disruptions or disorderly conduct even though big, burly Security lumbered up and down the aisles and rows trying to stop cell phone photo taking. 

 There was one concession to the Southern roots of the Lynyrd Skynyrd of old.  I saw them do a concert in the 70's with a confederate flag draped across the entire back of the stage.  In Thursday's show, Ronnie Van Zant displayed a small  confederate flag during one song and a smallish confederate flag was hanging from the back of the piano but later removed.  Ronnie wore an American flag on the back of his denim vest.  Others were displayed about the stage.  In today's environment even Southern Rock bands want to be PC. 

The video filmed during the show will be shown at some unannounced time in the future.
All told, it was a great show and a trip down Memory Lane for some of us.  As my young grandson would say, "Peace out."

                                          Van Zant with confederate flag.

                                        Photo on the side of Skynyrd's bus.  Still, lots of hair

 {Once again tragedy has struck a musician from Lynyrd Skynyrd.  Original drummer, but retired from the group, Robert Burns died in an automobile crash in Georgia Friday night, April 3, 2015.  He hit a mailbox and a tree. No other vehicles were involved.}   

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Bunnies, colored eggs--How do they relate to the meaning of Easter?

       Even the youngest child recognizes the Easter bunny, basket filled with dyed eggs, or a yellow chick as being symbols of the holiday.  How did they become related to the meaning of the Cruxifiction.  A little research reveals many reasons and multiple explanations.  Here are a few of the more common ones:

The Name "Easter"
In the early Christian days, pagan symbols and practices were incorporated into Christianity because they were familiar to people and, therefore, more acceptable to them. Eostre was an Anglo-Saxon pagan goddess of spring and fertility.  Easter comes from her name.  

Easter Bunny--German settlers brought the Easter bunny to America in the 1700's.  The rabbit or hare was a symbol of fertility because of its ability to procreate abundantly. German children were told stories of an "Easter hare" who laid eggs for children to find. Parents also baked cakes for Easter in the shape of hares, which may have started the tradition of baking chocolate bunnies and eggs. 

Colored Eggs and Baby Chicks--Easter eggs are probably related to pagan traditions.  They are an ancient symbol of new life.  They were associated with pagan festivals honoring spring. Coloring eggs for Easter dates back to the 13th century.  A possible explanation is that the egg was a forbidden food during Lent.  Eggs that were laid during that time were preserved by boiling or other means and colored and decorated.  Then on Easter when Lent was over, the people celebrated by eating the eggs.  The egg is also a symbol of the rock tomb out of which Christ came when he rose again. 
Orthodox Christians in Greece and the Middle East painted eggs red to symbolize the blood of Christ.  Germans gave green eggs as gifts and hung hollow eggs on trees.  
The chick hatching out of the egg, represents new life and re-birth.

Easter Candy--Only Halloween is a better selling candy holiday than Easter.  Chocolate eggs, jelly beans, marshmallow Peeps are all best sellers at Easter.  The eggs and jelly beans have the shape long associated as symbols of new life and therefore, the Resurrection.

New Easter Clothes--Wearing new hats and clothes at Easter symbolizes new life offered by the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Easter Parades--In Medieval Europe, churchgoers would take a walk after mass, led by a crucifix.  These walks were the start of Easter parades.  People like to show off their Easter clothes and hats.  In New York City, the Easter Parade goes back to the mid-1800's when people would again take a walk after church services to display their Easter finery.  
In 1948, Fred Astaire and Judy Garland were featured in the film Easter Parade.  This settled the tradition.  The parade lives on in Manhattan with Fifth Avenue from 49th Street to 57th being shut down for the event.  It serves no religious purpose, but Easter processions have been part of Christianity since early days.  

Easter is also a celebration of spring with flowers and baby animals.

Sources of information for this article:
Cirlot, J.E., A Dictionary of Symbols, Philosophical Library, New York: 1962.
The Holiday Spot 
Easter Symbols Easter Symbols and Traditions