I am making an effort to collect beach memories, for they give us insights into life at the beaches. Contributions are welcome. On this page, we are fortunate to have some memories of Diana Edwards who lived in Atlantic Beach.

PRE-WORLD WAR II  

I was about 8-10 those years just before the war....all of the big houses were closed and shuttered.  I was in the 4th grade at Jax Beach elem.  school but then the new Atlantic Beach elementary school was finished and we were the first class to graduate from the 6th grade.  The ceremony was held at the Presbyterian Church nearby....all the boys wore white and girls white dresses.  The May festival was a big thing ....weaving the maypole ....everyone was given their color to wear with the ribbons.  Another big thing was the track festival held in Jacksonville....almost everyone got some sort of place in the races for ribbons delivered afterwards in the classrooms. Outside of school, bike riding with friends, climbing big live oak trees, and practically living on the beach. I remember how we had to keep quiet at supper time so we could hear the news from London during the blitz.  Coca Cola was just getting going and we always had cases of cokes out in the garage that were just given free to everyone. My friend Thelma Ann lived at Neptune Beach and we roller skated on the octogon cement sidewalks that were still there when last I saw them.  We picked donacks at the beach and it took a lot of them to make even a cupful.  My great uncles camped out in the dunes near Mayport and made the donack stew that was so delicious...kind of spicy.  The youth group at church was very active at that time and they had lots of contests etc and good times for everyone. If I can, I will try to scan the photo I have of our class...just gawky kids.  My sister was 3 years behind me and on the steps are her class all dressed up in long dresses...kind of a princess contest I think. We moved to NY 1941 so we were not there during all the sinkings and we just had a hard time believing that the Germans actually landed in Ponte Vedra of all places!   We heard later that the CHEROKEE, the liner that we went north in, was torpedoed by the U boats.  This is just a kid's eye view and very old memories, but those years were the most carefree that I remember. 

By Diane Edwards
Written November 26, 2003

                        Atlantic Beach Elementary School 6th Grade Class in 1940

1st Row: __ Olson, Carolyn Davidson, Katherine Johnston, Nancy Stacey, Patsy Cunningham, Nellif Adams, Buddy Ball
2nd Row: Gretchen __, David Howell, Betty Lou __, Unknown, Susan Ellingsworth [may be Hollingsworth], Cora __
3rd Row: Marcus Brown, Buddy Arnold, Richard __ [may be Wingate], Mrs. __ DeGrove (Teacher/Principal)

Names supplied by Katherine Johnston-Doulet
Corrections and additions welcome

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Diana Edwards, July 24, 2005, Atlantic Beach Memories in the 1930s

Here goes, Don, nothing spectacular.

My family used to like to go to the Copper Kettle 1 for deviled crab. It was located near the ramp to the beach. We also used to take long handled nets to get crabs from around the pilings of the pier. Around about 1939, I think, a huge storm took out all the bulkheads that lined the beach. I don't think they ever got around to replacing them.

Sometimes up and down the beach on occasion we would see very large sea turtles that would get stranded. When the jelly fish season was on, we couldn't go in the water. They were large round translucent ones with long tentacles hanging down in the water that would sting if you got too near. We specialized in building large sand castles with bridges, etc. for our toy cars to travel on.

At that time the Writers Program was underway and the government paid people to do whatever they could. My father signed us up for art lessons from one of their artists. I remember how shocked everyone was when some of the WPA2 workers digging a ditch near the school died from handling a "pretty little snake" which was a coral snake. My mother used to keep a hoe near the clothesline on 2nd Avenue to kill any she saw. We grew up "looking at the ground" all the time. It wasn't until I was in my teens and living in northern Michigan that I realized that a person could actually walk thru the woods without any worry of snakes.

Also at the fire hall upstairs Indians used to come and put on displays of their dancing. The theatre at Jax Beach only charged kids 12 cents and somehow we hardly ever missed a change of shows. One time a preacher from away was visiting us, and took all of us kids to the show. My folks were shocked to discover it was to the movie "Seven Sinners!" Nearby at Jax Beach was an arcade and driving the bumper cars was a favorite thing to do.

A boy in our class, George Frazier, used to have his birthday parties out at his farm, with fantastic egg hunts, which were memorable. The school used to have second grade prince and princess once a year. My sister Audrey was in one. The little girls all had long dresses and the boys wore white suits. Since it was depression days, I have wondered how everyone was able to afford the clothes.

In the sixth grade I was a "patrol girl." Every year we practiced for the Jax track meet-pole vaulting, long jumps, relay races, etc. Someone came around eventually and awarded all the ribbons won by people in our class. I won a blue ribbon once for being part of a relay which was a surprise, since I had fallen right at the start of the race.

I lived in what was at that time the "Dowling House." Across the street were woods and large trees with huge limbs hanging down that we climbed on. We also ate Palmetto hearts and smoked grapevine there.
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1. The Copper Kettle restaurant was located where the Sea Turtle now is.
2. The WPA was the Works Progress Administration, a New Deal agency which put people to work during the Great Depression. Armories, schools, and other public buildings were constructed. To aid intellectual workers, programs such as the Writers Program and Oral History programs were created.     

 

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