Rhydon C. Dennette, Jr. Oral History
Rhydon Dennette, Jr. Oral History, Rhydon Dennette, Susan Payment, and Kathryn Tilford, 1989
An oral history of Rhydon Dennette, Jr, whose father worked at the Ribault Club in the 1920’s
Transcribed by Emily Palmer at the National Park’s Kingsley Plantation from a 1989 transcription on February 13, 2009.
KINGSLEY PLANTATION STATE HISTORIC SITE
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
SUBJECT: MR. RHYDON C. DENNETTE, JR.
The following is a transcription of an oral interview that was conducted with mr. Rhydon C. Dennette, Jr. on September 8, 1989. The subject was interviewed at Kingsley Plantation State Historic Site by Museum Guide Susan Payment and OPS Worker, Kathryn Tilford. Throughout the transcription, the initials of the persons speaking will be used for identification: Rhydon Dennette (RD), Susan Payment (SP), and Kathryn Tilford (KT).
SP: Just for the record, I’m going to say that I am speaking with Mr. Rhydon Dennette and if you could just give me the address of the house that your mother lives in and that’s the house that you lived in as a child? The one on Heckscher Drive?
RD: Yes, I was raised… it’s 9861 Heckscher Drive. Now, what else?
SP: And you were born and raised in Duval County?
RD: Right, I was born in old St. Vincent’s Hospital and raised in Pilot Town.
SP: Uh huh, on the island.
RD: Right on Fort George.
SP: Obviously your association with the island has been life long.
SP: Your earliest recollection or remembrance of Fort George would be…?
RD: Now, are you asking me about Pilot Town or Fort George?
SP: Fort George in particular, but Pilot Town as well.
RD: All right. My first recollection, I think I was about a year old. When the road was finished in 1927. I remember squatting down in the middle of the road talking to the foreman.
SP: Uh huh.
RD: And the first recollection that I have of the Clubhouse at Fort George—now I’m going to tell you more about the Clubhouse than I am about Fort George, because that stands out in my memory—was my dad went to work there in 1927.
SP: Uh huh.
RD: And what we did – when the Club opened in the fall of ’27 and the winter of ’28—we uh, when the Club closed, we went to the Clubhouse to take care of it also. And I remember going into the Clubhouse and going in the back and being a kid, my sister and I, we were looking for things, naturally. And the first, I guess, the first thing that I remember is going into the pantry and finding, uh, I believe it was shredded wheat, Kellogg’s shredded wheat, I didn’t know what it was, but I know what it is now.
SP: Uh huh.
RD: Then also, the first year or two, we made our, uh, in the summertime, we made it our living quarters—in the north part of the Clubhouse.
SP: Of the main Clubhouse?
RD: Oh yeah, the main Clubhouse. And then later on we moved – we used the whole Club. But then, upstairs, it was so hot in the summertime, that one day my dad went over to the Lodge, opened it up, and there was a cool breeze, so we started sleeping over there and going back—you know.
SP: Going back and forth?
RD: Walking back and forth.
SP: And in addition to your family, how many other people stayed here during the summertime, stayed at the Club?
RD: At the Clubhouse?
SP: Uh huh.
RD: Well, actually there was nobody right at the Clubhouse. Now we had people that worked on the golf course. All right—we had—there was colored people there—we had, uh, let’s see. There was Cochran, and Maybelle and Bozie, uh Bob, and there was one other one that I can’t think of his name. There was five of them. There was five colored people and they worked on the golf course and the grounds. And they would help, sometimes, they would help my mother cook. She would—very seldom—my mother usually did all the cooking—our cooking.
SP: For the family.
RD: Oh yeah, for the family. Once in a while we would have a lot of people come down and she would ask Maybelle to come help us cook.
SP: Now the black people that lived there and took care of the Club or took care of the Course, had they actually been associated with the island prior to that?
RD: No. Now there was some here.
SP: Uh huh.
RD: I was trying to think of that when I came down. I don’t know how long Jim Stowden and his wife—I don’t really know when Jim Stowden –now they’re the ones that stayed down—they stayed down at the Bassett House.
SP: Uh huh.
RD: Now I don’t know when Jim came here. Now on the back—what we call the back road—which is this road over here, there was one called Lawrence Benjamin and his wife Sarah and they had an older boy by the name of King and they had a younger boy and a girl. And I don’t really remember what their names – what they were at all. King was, in those days we called them a, uh, I guess you’d call him a simpleton. He didn’t, uh, well when I remember him he must have been 21 or 22 years old. But he wouldn’t hurt anybody, he was just as gentle as he could be, but strong as an ox.
RD: He’d just say a few words, that’s all. If you’d ask him something he might talk to you. Now that’s –now there was other ones down—uh—there was other ones down farther in Pilot Town. Now, I understand, now I don’t remember who was up here, uh, I know, as I told you, Mr. Bean was up here.
SP: Uh huh.
RD: Uh, the Morris family was up here—now they were white. Now they did have some colored people working for them. But I don’t know if any of the Christophers were still here at that time or not. Now as I understand it, during the First World War, there were Christophers living up here on the Plan—well, y’all call it the Plantation, I usually called it –uh—Kingsley’s place. That’s what we knew it as, Kingsley’s. There was no – to a child like myself, coming up—there was no significance.
RD: It was just another place, that’s all it was. But that’s now—uh—that is, now that—Admiral Bassett and Miss Terry and Mrs. Bassett, they would come down and stay ar times at the big house with Victor.
SP: At Nelmar.
RD: And they had a brother, too, who was lost in the Second World War.
RD: Yeah, he was an executive officer on the USS Juneau.
RD: I don’t know if you’ve ever read about Juneau. Have you?
SP: Uh huh.
RD: Yeah, he was—Stewart Blue was his name. He was a graduate of the academy, also. Stewart was a fine boy. Oh, Victor Blue was a fine man, too. Matter of fact all of them were.
SP: Sounds like it.
RD: When I went in the Aviation Cadets, I had to get recommendations from people and Admiral Bassett hand—had a handwritten letter about that long.
SP: That’s wonderful.
RD: Yeah, and so did Mr. Barnett and Kenneth Merrill and some of the rest of the people.
SP: When did Victor Blue die?
RD: You know, I don’t really remember what year it was. I don’t remember. I guess it was in the ‘60’s.
SP: Is that right?
RD: But that is all…now later on, Mrs. Bess Kemps had a place on what we called the back road. She built a place out there. But that was in—
SP: Back where the Knauers live now?
SP: Back there where the Knauers live?
RD: No, no. On this road.
SP: On this road here? Okay.
RD: We call this the back road over here. Not over where Jerry and them live. Oh no, no. That’s just a no-name road to me. (Laughs).
SP: This was the back road? Okay.
RD: Yeah, this is – don’t they call it Palmetto Avenue?
SP: Uh huh.
RD: Yeah, well, that’s been – we got uptown, I guess. That was always called the back road to us. Now she lived down—well, I could take you, I can’t exactly describe the piece of land she lived on but, she had a big place back there.
RD: Uh huh. You know she was the postmistress for a long time.
SP: Really? For the island?
RD: Oh yeah. Yeah, sure did.
SP: When you remember them putting the road in ---that was, did they basically use shell to pave the road?
RD: I don’t know anything about that. I don’t know anything about that.
SP: Okay. Obviously you were very young at the time.
RD: I do remember squatting down in the middle of the road. That’s the only thing I remember.
KT: You’re talking about Heckscher Drive?
RD: Heckscher Drive, yeah.
SP: That’s interesting. How about the inside of the Clubhouse? What did it look like?
RD: Beautiful. You’re talking about Ribault?
SP: About the Ribault Club.
RD: Oh yes. Magnificent place. Very. It had a lot of tapestry in it. It had, oh uh, gee—it had leather, I’m not talking about imitation leather, it had genuine leather couches in it. It had a piano up there. Uh, people always asked me why I didn’t put a fire place in my home. I said well, if you had to cut wood to feed a fireplace like I did, you wouldn’t want to either. I didn’t really do it, but they had a huge—well its still in the place—have you seen the fireplace that’s there? Well, I always thought it was big. I guess when you’re a kid a lot of things are different. But you could almost stand up inside of it.
RD: You’ve seen it?
SP: Yeah, it is a large fireplace.
RD: Alright. And…
SP: And then there were guest rooms upstairs?
RD: Oh yeah.
SP: Roughly, I think 12, 13, 14 upstairs?
RD: I don’t really remember how many were upstairs. I do remember from what I was told, that it was $1,000.00 to join and $1,000.00 a year dues and the rooms ran between $12.00 and $18.00 a day plus meals.
SP: Right. And the meals were all served in the dining room over there.
RD: Yes, right. They had a – in that place, in the dining area—they had a—up in the front of it they had a family dining room.
RD: And then the rest of it, it was right—you go down—you know where you go down the hall? Right at the very first it was a family dining room and then the rest of it was – uh—
SP: A more private dining area?
RD: Well, they had one big huge dining area. And then they had one out on the end out there, too, a smaller. And they had one up by the – I guess you could use it as a private place—right by—right by the kitchen where the servants would come in.
SP: And the Club was in operation from about December through April.
RD: Uh, sometimes. The earliest that I ever remember it opening one time they tried it in November.
RD: And it would usually—the latest I seen it was the first two weeks in May. They tried it a couple of times. It was never a paying proposition, because by the time it was built, the Depression came along, the banks failed and then the younger people, they discovered—uh—south of here. There wasn’t enough excitement, I guess, for them.
SP: So, it was never actually a flourishing club, you’d call it?
RD: No, they had quite a number of people, though.
SP: But it was mostly older folks? Middle-aged?
RD: I’d say middle-aged. There was some young people, course they came down with their mothers and daddies.
RD: And they had to come. But as I said, as they got older and they got out, then they went other places. No, it never really did flourish.
SP: But as far as the activities that went on there, do you remember those? Of course, obviously there was golf, because there was the 9-hole course.
RD: Oh yeah, they had golf and they had a beautiful tennis court, too. Oh, I meant to bring you also the picture of, uh, my cousin was an architect and he drew a pool and they were going to put in a pool out—you know where the huge oak tree is out front?
SP: Uh huh.
RD: They were going to – some of the members wanted to cut the oak tree down and build a pool out there, but the majority of them said uh-uh, you’re not cutting the oak tree down, no pool. So, but I still got his artist drawings—architectural drawings of the pool. I’ll tell you another incident, too, with the Club. You’ve heard of Mr. Millar Wilson?
SP: Hm? Oh yeah.
RD: Well, he was a grand old man. So was Mrs. Wilson. But uh—when he owned fairway number seven, it was, right off the tee, there was a huge oak tree and it hung over and every time that gentleman would hit that ball, he’d hit that oak tree. So one day, he told my daddy, he said, “Rhydon, I want the oak tree cut down.” Dad told him, he said “Mr. Wilson, I can’t cut that oak tree down, the rest of these people would kill me.” He said, “I don’t care what they want, I want the oak tree down.” He said, “No, I’m not going to do it.” So, anyway, he cut the oak tree down.
SP: Himself, huh?
RD: No, my dad. He—he went ahead and cut that oak tree down for the old gentleman. I’ll never forget that as long as I live, Dad come home just laughing about that. But some of these people out at the Clubhouse, they depended upon my daddy to do everything. They would get him up in the middle of the night. A toilet bowl would get stuck and they would call him—they’d come down and get him in the middle of the night to come out there and flush the toilet for them. Now that’s the type—they were all good people, but they had—I guess they had the money and they just figured, well why should we fool with it or they didn’t know how to do it. There were some very influential people that came to the Clubhouse at that time. Sure were.
SP: Yeah, Billy Arnold has given us one of the little…
SP: A booklet, yeah a roster, that was put out by the Club in 1930 and, uh, with members of the duPont families and the Mellon families and uh…
RD: Oh yeah, Mrs. uh, the Clark family that came down here, I believe it was their daughter that was married to –uh—o gee—they got a place down in—is it Daytona Beach? There’s a big home... I think the State owns it down there too.
SP: Okay, I think I know what you’re talking about.
RD: I can’t remember the peoples’ – oh yeah, yeah. But I went over there one day and talked to the man at Fairfield and he said, “Oh, the Rockefellers, they used to come and hold big meetings.” I said no. I never saw the Rockefellers in my life. They didn’t…The biggest, I guess, money people I ever saw come there was Henry Ford, Jr.
SP: Oh, he came out?
RD: He anchored the boat out there one afternoon. They called it a yacht, but I called it a ship!
SP: Ha! Can’t fool you, huh?
RD: And he came ashore and went out there for some social affair. That’s the biggest, I guess you would call the biggest money man that I ever saw there. Now, this fellow Whitney is no slouch.
SP: The Whitney family, yeah.
RD: Oh no. And neither was the Heckschers. Stephen Heckscher was the first—he was the one that started the Club and he was the first president. Now, Billy Arnold’s dad was secretary-treasurer of the Club.
RD: And uh, Dr. L’Engle here in Jacksonville. I don’t remember all of them. I knew ‘em all. I could go into their houses and I had access to all theses so-called rich people and you know just a kid—it didn’t bother me—they were just somebody else to me. I was, I was—I didn’t care about it.
SP: What about this place? Obviously, you said you came out here and it didn’t really faze you at the time.
SP: And it was the Army-Navy Club while you were—
RD: I can’t remember the exact date, but I came out here the morning that the Army-Navy Club over here burned down.
SP: Oh really? In the ‘30’s?
RD: Yeah. Well, ’36-37 somewhere along there?
SP: ’36, yeah.
RD: I thought so, yeah. Yeah, I came out here. That was, uh, that was another thing they came and got my dad for. Oh yeah.
SP: Was it basically the kitchen that burned or the whole thing?
RD: The whole thing.
SP: The whole thing burned down?
RD: It burned to the ground. If I remember correctly. As I said, now, I wasn’t too old.
RD: In ’36, I was ten years old. You don’t retain…
SP: But a fire’s a pretty neat thing to a ten year old.
RD: Didn’t bother me. Just another building. There was one thing that happened out here and I meant to bring you the letter from—uh—I believe it was Jack Daniel. Not the Jack Daniels’ here, but his dad. His dad wrote back down to my dad because he was a lawyer. Out here, Mr. Bean came down one day all upset because a fellow by the name of Myers was out here getting all the oysters off the oyster bank.
SP: Uh huh.
RD: And he had gone and got a deed. Not a – but a permit to get all the oysters and my dad told him to get off because my dad was a deputy sheriff out here also too. And they got off and, I don’t know, they fought back and forth, but finally they stopped. I do remember that cause I came out here with ‘em. I happened to go to school with the man that, uh, with Mr. Myers’ son. He and I were best of buddies. And my dad knew the Myer’s and all.
SP: So your dad did basically everything—he was a jack of all trades?
RD: He was, yeah. He did, he really did.
SP: Obviously, very busy.
RD: They tried to keep him busy.
SP: Yeah, I’m sure that they did. But, as far as the buildings that were here—I mean, obviously the house was here. The Carriage House…
RD: Lot of times we come over here and played.
SP: Really? Was this building open? Was the front house open?
RD: I don’t know if it was open or not, we just went in there.
SP: You just went in there?
RD: I mean, they didn’t care about us going in.
SP: Right, and the Club used that building?
RD: You mean the Army-Navy Club?
RD: I guess. I don’t know now. I can’t answer those questions.
RD: I don’t know about that. I guess they did. But I can’t basically say weather they—they had the whole thing, so I imagine they did.
SP: Oh sure, yeah.
RD: I do remember the sailboats over here and everything that they used to keep boats over here. And they had the hydro-electric plant over there. I know that ‘cause I’ve been over there many times.
SP: Uh huh. What about animals?
RD: Animals? I wish I’d brought you pictures of those, too.
SP: Uh huh? What was out there at the time?
RD: At the time? Alright, at one time—there was no big animals, there was no bears.
RD: There was, uh…I’ve never—the only wild cats that I ever saw was the cats that got away from people’s houses. (Laughs). I’ve never seen a bob cat or a wild cat, but right –right over here—(indicates area east of Plantation house), there used to be a tall tree and the eagles would nest there every year. And there was another one back over here on #5 golf course.
SP: Uh huh.
RD: They would nest there, too. There was two eagles here. Not—well, there was more than two, but I know those two. I’m talking about bald-headed eagles –not—we had the bald-headed and the golden eagles. Plenty of ‘coons, squirrels. I’ll never forget right out at this gate over here one time, I came up here to see Dolly Morris, that was one of the girls’ names.
RD: Uh, uh, her family lived up here and she and I went to school together. And I came over here to see her and their was a little squirrel laying in the road. ‘Bout that long. I picked that sucker up and he put his two teeth right through there.
SP: Right through your finger nails?
RD: Right through my finger. You talk about somebody slamming something against a tree. (Laughs). I’m against cruelty to animals, but I had to get him off. That’s the only time I ever killed a squirrel like that. I’ve shot ‘em, but…
SP: I think I would probably have too.
RD: Well, it hurt!
SP: Yeah, oh dear. And the ponies were gone by the time that you were born, right? Or were they still here?
RD: No, there was no ponies out here, no. No, the ponies—but my sister remembers the ponies. Those were called marsh tackies. Yeah, that’s it.
SP: I talked with Mrs. –uh—
KT: Mrs. Bliss.
SP: Thank you, Mrs. Bliss.
SP: Mrs. Bliss, whose grandmother was Mrs. Manning.
KT: Louise Manning.
SP: At the Chappelle’s house. And she told us all about the ponies.
RD: Yeah, my dad said that one time –see about the turn of the century, when he was a small boy coming up, there wasn’t too many steam boats.
SP: Uh huh.
RD: And, said one –I think one of the steam boats or one of the big boats coming through Sisters Creek back there and they turned the spotlight on ‘em and blew the whistle and said the marsh tackies just went crazy.
SP: Took off?
RD: They just took off running. Now, my sister – I don’t remember it—but she says she can remember standing at, uh, down at Pilot Town and looking straight through Fort George Island. It was all underbrush. They did have cows out there. They had marsh tackies and cows and I understand when they built the Clubhouse out there—see they used—in those days we used arsenic or lead to, uh, get rid of ground moles and things and cricket moles off the greens—and they had to take them off—
SP: For fear of them eating the arsenic.
RD: Oh yeah.
KT: They probably would have messed up the course, too. (Everyone laughs).
RD: Yeah, I hadn’t thought of that –they probably would have –yeah, they didn’t want to fence it in.
SP: Well, I understand they’re doing real well up on Cumberland—almost too well—that they’re overpopulating.
RD: Well, I think also that up off the Carolinas there’s some, uh, of the same breed of animals.
(KT gets up to leave)
SP: Okay. She’s going to go give our 11:00 tour and I’m going to keep talking to you.
KT: Excuse me.
SP: You mentioned a little bit about what was going on in Pilot Town at the time, but what about the other islands in the area? Did you have any idea what—
RD: Which other islands?
SP: Oh say, Big Talbot. Were there people living over there?
RD: No. Oh yeah, there was a man over there by the name of Grovenstein had some—
RD: Yeah. He lived over there—now this is in my day now—and …
RD: And, uh, he live there for awhile. And he had—uh—I want to say—hogs, swine.
SP: He had a hog farm?
RD: Naw, guess you’d – most of em’ were wild.
SP: Uh huh.
RD: I’ll tell you about those coming over here too.
SP: Of the wild pigs, uh huh?
RD: Yeah, alright. One—one time—the Club was open, those hogs swam the Ribault River and came over here.
SP: You’re kidding.
RD: No, I’m not. We had to kill them. We had a big old police dog and uh-- Russ was his name. And I saw that—back by the kitchen at the Clubhouse?
SP: Uh huh.
RD: He picked one of those things up by the ear and flipped him over into the coal shute down there. And I’m talking about a big hog.
SP: Uh huh.
RD: And they--actually they had and—they shot them down there. They couldn’t have ‘em running all over the place.
SP: I know.
RD: They were—they were wild!
SP: And ya’ll had a pig roast?
RD: Some of them had tusks. No, they had tusks. No, I didn’t eat any—we didn’t even eat any of them. No, I don’t know if they give them now—the other man, the man that was after Grovenstein, gosh—what in the world was his name? My dad used to look after him, because—this is after the road was put over there.
RD: He was over there before the road, but also afterwards, and they went over there one day and found him dead—been dead three or four days.
RD: No, the other one.
SP: The other guy.
RD: The other guy. And I cannot think of his …oh, gee, I should have wrote it down. I cannot think of it. Do you know where the cemetery is over there?
SP: Uh huh. The Houstons?
RD: Well, there’s a house right down—down below it.
RD: That’s where he lived.
SP: Oh, okay.
RD: That’s where my grandmother and grandfather are buried over there and a lot of my relatives.
SP: At the old cemetery?
RD: Oh yeah.
SP: That’s remarkably well kept.
RD: Well, we try to keep it up. We’re having trouble right now.
RD: Yeah. That’s a story in itself.
SP: Is it on private property today?
RD: We own it.
SP: You own it? Okay.
RD: No, there’s five of us that’s in a corporation that’s trying to keep—it was deeded—long years ago---two and a half acres was deeded to us—to a corporation. My dad, and Mr. Guy Sackett, and a fellow by the name of Hogan.
RD: Up until that time it was just kept up by my dad and some of the people around. See you used to have to go around in boats and clean it up.
RD: And, uh, but then they incorporated it and they both—they all died and the corporation lapsed. Now, there’s five of us that have got together and we’ve formed another corporation. We’ve gotten through the state, but now something about the federal government wants—they won’t take out quit claim deed somehow. We’ve got one of the other members that’s going to a lawyer with it. And it’s, uh, we don’t –we don’t have a lot of money, you know. Some of these things can get too—too much.
SP: Right. It has been dragging for some time.
SP: That’s too bad.
RD: That’s something else I got to look into. This –after my—is this all goin on tape?
SP: Do you want me to shut it off?
RD: No, no I don’t want to talk about this. This is something else. Alright. Okay, What else now? Uh, oh, you were talking about all the animals on here?
SP: Uh huh?
RD: Well, there’s a lot of ducks used to come here.
SP: Really? I really didn’t see – I haven’t seen all that many.
RD: Oh yes. Yes. Alligators.
RD: We had plenty of alligators here at one time. And of course we had plenty of rattlesnakes.
SP: Snakes, yeah.
RD: Uh. We had all types of egrets and…
RD: Herons. The – what we call the nockerell.
RD: Uh huh. I believe you’d know it as a painted bunting.
SP: Oh, okay. Yes, that’s what I know it as.
RD: Alright. Another bird that we used to call—he looked like a robin and I forget what the right –we called it—the “jureep.”
SP: Okay. Yeah.
RD: Now the robins used to stop here in the wintertime a lot more than they do now—because they would cover the whole island.
RD: And you’ve got to remember now—during the 30’s, a lot of people didn’t have jobs and they had to eat anything they could. I was fortunate. But I would help these other kids and take—these were the ones that lived in Pilot Town, there were some of ‘em down there—and they would—we would hunt robins and shoot ‘em and eat ‘em. Oh, people used to eat robins all the time. I never did. I used to love to go duck hunting, but I wouldn’t eat a duck. I’d kill ‘em and pluck ‘em and my mama would cook ‘em, but I wouldn’t eat one of those things. But up beyond—do you know where this uh—well, you call it the Betz House—back in there on the other end of Fort George Island—there used to be a huge pond in there. Very big pond. My dad’ll tell you about it on there, too.
(Points to a cassette tape lying on the desk).
RD: Uh, I don’t really remember it because they had almost pumped it in when I can remember it.
RD: But there was alligators and that’s where the ducks used to be.
SP: Back in there.
RD: But, uh, they did a lot of damage themselves, I guess they didn’t know it in those days. Anything, they didn’t know then about the ecology, you know, like they do now.
SP: Right. They filled it in because of the course basically?
RD: Yeah, well, yeah. What they did was they dredged the yacht basin out in there so they could get bigger yachts in there.
SP: Oh, I see.
RD: And they filled up the pond in there. I think Register’s house down in there. You know George Register?
SP: Uh huh. Well, as far as your life—you said you went to school, but where was school?
RD: School? We rode the school bus. The first year—the first several years was at Eastport. You know where the fill is at Eastport? Alright. Gee, long years ago there was a lumber—there was a huge lumber place there. And when they—Brooks Scanland was the name of it, they used to export lumber out of there. And they had buildings—they had a big administration building. So, that’s the first—they used that administration building and some of the smaller buildings around there as a school.
SP: As a school?
RD: My sister--alright I’ll continue on about it—then—let’s see I’d better get my dates straight—I think it was 1937 or ’38, they built a school in Oceanway, where the present-day Oceanway School is. You know where it is?
SP: Uh huh.
RD: Although they built it facing Main Street. We went there from September ‘till December when were supposed to get out for , uh…
RD: Holidays. Christmas holidays, it had burned down. I mean it really burned everything—it even collapsed inwards. And then we had to go back to Eastport and then we went back to Oceanway. Then I went to Kirby Smith and then to Jackson.
SP: Gee. But what was the travel time like for you to get to school?
RD: I caught the bus at seven o’clock in the morning.
SP: Uh huh.
RD: Well, at Eastport it wasn’t so bad. I guess maybe—‘course we had to go all the way down there to New Berlin and Dames Point, places like that. It wasn’t too bad. I don’t remember what the travel time was everywhere. We went to Jackson—we still went down and then went –sometimes we’d go by Oceanway, but another time we used to go up by Eastport. I’d catch the bus about seven o’clock or seven-fifteen and then get to school about eight-thirty or a couple of minutes of nine o’clock.
SP: And then you didn’t get home until…
RD: Well, school was out in those days, at five minutes ‘til three o’clock. And it was four-thirty or quarter ‘til five. Got home in time to listen to –what we used to call—I guess you’d call it a soap opera on television.
SP: The serials.
RD: Yeah. Little Orphan Annie and Buck Rogers and Tom Mix and …
SP: Terry and the Pirates.
RD: Terry and the Pirates! Yes, do you remember Terry and the Pirates?
SP: No, I don’t, my mother does. (Laughs).
RD: Does she? Well, I’ll …oh yeah, Terry and the Pirates.
SP: She told me all about those things.
RD: Oh, there was another one called Tim Tyler’s Luck.
SP: I don’t remember that one.
RD: Ask her if she remembers that.
SP: She probably does, ‘cause she remembers Little Orphan Annie and all those.
RD: Uh, who was the guy that was the..
SP: And, uh…
RD: There was one that was uh, over in Africa all the time—I can’t think. Oh yeah, the Phantom was on.
SP: The Phantom and the Shadow and Fibber McGee and Molly.
RD: Oh heavens to betsy. (Laughs). I must talk to your—I remember all those. We still have – my mother still has a radio down there at her house that we bought in 1932.
SP: Does it work?
RD: Well, it was battery-powered—they probably wouldn’t even make the batteries now.
SP: (Laughs). That’s right. Well, tell me about your house very quickly. You had electricity?
SP: Not in the house out on Heckscher?
RD: Not down there, no. It was built in 1904.
RD: Uh huh. We had, uh—we used kerosene lamps and we had, uh—they were as bright as electricity now, because they were called Aladdin lamps and they had a mantle on ‘em. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen one or not. You seen a Coleman light?
RD: Alright. They were like a Coleman light.
RD: They’d make a hissing noise but they were kerosene and they were very bright…
SP: How about plumbing? You didn’t have plumbing either?
RD: Oh yeah, sure we had plumbing indoors. Yeah.
SP: You did?
RD: Well now, the first year when I was a kid, no, we didn’t.
SP: Uh huh.
RD: And then my dad built a small bathroom on the back of the outside of the house and then we had indoor plumbing. (Laughs) We sure did.
SP: (Laughs) That was indoor?
RD: That’s right.
SP: And it had an indoor kitchen?
RD: Yeah, yeah, it sure did.
SP: Rather than outdoor? Well, you overall, have enjoyed growing up on the island or in the area? It was a good experience?
RD: Oh, of course, of course. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything in the world—we had good times here. I had a lot of –we used to have big get-togethers. People would come down from town, we’d play baseball and uh, on Saturday afternoons or Sunday afternoons we’d have big cookouts. That’s when you—my dad—we would catch shrimp, fish --we –one—say one Sunday we would furnish that and then somebody else would bring—one of the boys happened to work for, uh, one of the big packing houses and he could get all the steak he wanted –so they’d bring the steaks and we’d have those. Oh yeah, sure. Now, you talk about traveling time. The first year that Marineland was open—I believe in was 1939.
SP: Really? I didn’t realize it had been open that long.
RD: Yeah, yeah. We, uh, my mother and dad, my sister and I an another girl from Pilot Town—you may know her—she, uh, her name is Bolger—Essie May Bolger. Do you know Essie May?
SP: I think I know her.
RD: You know where Pat’s Sandwich Shop is?
SP: Uh huh.
RD: Alright, Essie May owns the house next down.
SP: Oh, okay.
RD: She and Pat together live there.
SP: Uh huh.
RD: Alright. She went with us. I think it was Essie May…and we left about 6:00 in the morning and you had to go through Jacksonville down Atlantic—or what we called Atlantic Blvd.—which was a brick road at the time.
SP: Oh gee.
RD: And then down to--they called it A1A—well, it was just a road to us and we got back about 6 or 7:00 that night. A picnic. They packed a picnic lunch and everything and they—after we’d been through and seen the Marineland—they went back.
SP: Uh huh. Definitely an all day affair.
RD: Now, you’re talking about going to other islands?
SP: Uh huh.
RD: Alright, uh,…I have walked this island, been over it, under it and every shape or form that you can think of—uh, I know I’m skippin’ around a lot, but…
SP: That’s okay.
RD: We would go over to Talbot Island and--Little Talbot and Big Talbot—and we’d either walk in and –but we’d usually carry bicycles and rode it.
SP: Oh really?
RD: Yeah, And (laughs) there again you’re probably won’t like what I’m going to tell you we went over there for. Lot of times, in the summertime, we went over to get turtle eggs.
RD: See people would eat turtle eggs in those days. I’ve done it.
SP: What did you do with them? Just cook them like an egg?
RD: No, no, no. We would boil them separately. I can’t say that I really liked em, but –I wouldn’t do it now, but—
SP: What does it taste like?
SP: Okay, you can compare it to…chicken egg.
RD: I mean, I don’t know what I can compare it with—I really – I don’t know. But we would. Now, the old people—I’m talking about before my time—they had to depend on things like that.
SP: Oh sure.
RD: And they saw nothing in it. I wouldn’t bother with—I do remember we brought ‘em back one year, and uh, put ‘em—I think we put 175 eggs in the –long by the tennis court?
SP: Uh huh.
RD: And underneath the sand in there, to see what they would do? And one day I looked out there and they were full of little turtles crawling everywhere.
SP: They hatched.
RD: They hatched. And we were gathering turtles up and taking them down to the yacht basin and—
SP: And throwing ‘em in?
RD: Throwing ‘em in!
RD: Goodness gracious!
SP: It was basically the sea turtle eggs—or loggerheads, or--?
RD: I don’t know what they were. Big old-- uh, uh—most of ‘em would be yellow looking turtles. But people would go from here—they’d even go up to Cumberland Island from Mayport and find ‘em. I know people –I’ve been up there a couple of times with ‘em hunting eggs.
RD: You can see the tracks from offshore. Where they come up and go back? All you got to do is go up there and stick a stick down there. There wouldn’t be any time that goes by. I forgot how many my dad—he got over 200 and something out of one one time.
SP: How about Amelia? Did you ever make it up that far—Fernandina?
RD: Oh sure. Well, uh, my aunt back in the 30’s, well, now, she stayed over there several times—she was married to a man from Fernandina.
SP: Uh huh.
RD: Frances Ferrera. They’re all related—uh, but they had a big restaurant and a fish camp out on the beach and we would go over there.
SP: Do you know anything about what’s called American beach today?
RD: Well, what do you want to know about it?
SP: Well, was it a black recreational area?
RD: Yes, it was to my knowledge.
RD: It sure was.
SP: That’s what I wanted to know, really.
RD: They had some beautiful homes over there.
SP: Oh, there’s some neat buildings over there.
RD: And I think it’s a crying shame that people—that people are encroaching upon what they wanted to establish there.
RD: I mean if they – if they want to you know maintain a beach—a private beach like that I think they ought to be allowed to stay there.
SP: Right. It’s an interesting area. I’d like to know more about the history of the area. I mean, I understand it was a happening place in the 20’s and 30’s. That sort of thing.
RD: Oh yeah, yeah.
SP: Very popular.
RD: We would also go over there—see along years ago, they had a lot of shipwrecks along this coast.
RD: And there was behind the sand dunes—I can’t – I believe it was down—you know where the condominiums are down in the—there’s a little restaurant right across that we do go over to once in a while. Back behind the sand dunes we’d go over there and dig coal.
RD: We didn’t have to, we had it in the Clubhouse all we wanted, but we just –yeah, we’d go over there and dig coal and load it in the back of the car and bring it back.
SP: Well, it helped. You didn’t have to do it, but it helped.
RD: In our house, down where we were, we had a big coal stove. Matter of fact, it’s still in the middle of the floor.
RD: It is, it sure is. Oh yeah, we went to Amelia Island lots of times. Now when my dad was a boy, they used to sail over. Matter of fact, I’ve got a picture of him—he and his mother, before she died, and three of my aunts cause, as I said, my other aunt was living over there.
SP: Uh huh.
RD: And they sailed through the Sisters Creek—take ‘em all day long to sail—and then they’d stay over there a couple of days and then they’d sail back.
SP: Uh huh.
SP: And of course it wasn’t as developed as it is now.
RD: And all those creeks up here—I’ve shrimped up one side and down the other side.
SP: So what do you think will happen with Fort George in particular? What would—
RD: What will happen to it?
SP: What would you like to see happen?
RD: I’d like to see it remain just like it is.
SP: Uh huh. What about the golf course?
RD: I think they should maintain the golf course. I think they—I think it’s a crying shame that they’re not maintaining that building over there.
SP: Right. It is in very poor shape.
RD: I think it’s a beautiful building—and it always..I’ll tell you something, if you go right as you go—I could take you there to it and show it to you unless they plugged it up or something and, now this is when I was a kid, one of my relatives died. And in those days, children didn’t really go to funerals.
RD: I didn’t want to go anyway. So, I had—we had a – I had a dog and I had a cat—the cat’s name was Topsy and my mother and dad and sister and them—they went to the funeral, and I don’t know, I guess I got frightened and I –see I learned how to shoot a rifle, shotguns, and row a boat when I was five years old. I had to – and swim.
SP: Living out here, yeah.
RD: I had to survive. Well, I don’t know, I picked up a .22 rifle and pulled the trigger in the Clubhouse and on that tapestry—it’s as you go—it’s in the main building and go out the other door –see that wasn’t glassed in at that time as you can see in these pictures. (Looking at pictures). Uh…
SP: Where the Pro Shop is now?
RD: No, no, no. It has nothing to do with the Pro Shop. I never…
RD: Alright, you go in through this main door right here—alright—see that building—see that’s the other side of—
RD: See it didn’t have any glass.
RD: Alright. Right in here, right in this corner there’s a bullet right through the tapestry.
SP: Oh gee.
RD: And I took some—uh—at that time—which I still do, I was heavy into model airplanes and ships and stuff and I got some airplane glue and I patched that sucker back together and I never told my daddy about it. Now, he went to the grave and he still didn’t know about it. I wouldn’t tell him then. So help me, goodness, it’s still there.
SP: Well, now it’s on tape.
RD: Well, I know it’s on tape. I don’t really worry about that, but I was just telling you about it.
SP: Well, that’s interesting.
RD: I’ll tell you another thing about the building too. In the summertime, we didn’t have to pilot the boilers—you know, to get hot water.
SP: Uh huh.
RD: Because the pipes ran over here and the heat from the sun beaming through the roof—
SP: Just heated the pipes.
RD: Would heat the water, so help me goodness.
SP: That’s incredible.
RD: Sure would.
SP: Are you planning on going to any of the meetings?
RD: Which meetings are them?
SP: And you’re more than welcome. There will be two meetings this month. Next week as a matter of fact.
RD: I don’t know if I could get to it next week, my sister’s going out of town and my mother…
SP: Okay. Well, they’re in the evening and you know, if your mom would like to come, she’s more than welcome, if she can.
RD: No, see she’ll soon be 93 and she was going to come this morning and she got too nervous.
SP: I understand.
RD: So. Now she can tell you a lot more than I can. She came in 1915.
SP: Oh. That’s incredible. I’m sure that she’s really seen some changes. But, there are two meetings. One will be at 7:00 on Wednesday the 13th over at the golf course over at the Clubhouse and it’s for residents of the island. But obviously your mother is on the island and she is a resident. And the 14th, the following evening, there will be another meeting at Florida Community College at the downtown campus at 7:00. And both of them are going to be with people that are on the planning board for DNR. And they want input from residents and the public on options for development on the island. Not development in the sense that buildings are going to be put up or that sort of thing, but just for the management plan that needs to be written.
RD: Well I don’t think that they –the island—we fought through this thing with Fairfield.
RD: The island is too fragile to have a lot of people on it.
RD: I think you agree with me on that. I don’t want to see ‘em—now so far as the Clubhouse—I think the Clubhouse should be restored.
RD: Now if they’re going to do something they oughta—I think it’s an eyesore—now-- tear the lodge down.
RD: Okay. Probably, uh, but I don’t want to see ‘em go down in these small creeks and make boat landings.
SP: No, I don’t think that’s an option. But, okay, yeah, obviously that’s a concern.
RD: I don’t want to see a lot of campsites out here. We never had—the whole time that I was a kid coming up—uh—we pretty well looked after this island.
RD: We never had the first fire. The only fire that I remember was in the church down there.
SP: Oh, in the church?
SP: I didn’t realize that burned.
RD: Sure did. It, uh…No, it didn’t burn, it just burned up to the building.
RD: That’s right. Turn the thing off for just a second.
RD: I didn’t think that needed to be on there. But, uh…
SP: Did you attend services at the church?
SP: Did you and your family?
RD: Yeah. I was baptized and confirmed in the family church.
SP: At that church?
RD: At that church.
SP: Oh, that’s neat.
RD: Uh, ’36 or ’38, I don’t know when it was. I don’t belong to it now.
SP: Have you been in it since it’s been restored?
RD: Oh yeah. Sure. My mother was—my mother worked in it for a long time til she got where she couldn’t take care of it.
RD: Uh. My sister’s working in it now.
SP: Oh really?
RD: Yeah. You see, our family is the oldest family on Fort George and Pilot Town proper. We’re one of the oldest families in this part of the woods. As I said, we go back through the Houstoun line and the Lattimer line.
RD: My great grandfather came over here in 1832—I think it was. And I meant to bring you the letter about the slave.
SP: Oh. Okay.
RD: Did I tell you about it?
SP: I think so, but refresh my memory—I’m sorry.
RD: Well, I have a—a—it’s a document—it’s a legal document—where for $1.00, my great grandfather, John Lattimer—
SP: Uh huh.
RD: And my great great grandfather William Houstoun had purchased a slave by the name of Cato from Kingsley Gibbs’ estate.
RD: Now I understand—I don’t know if this is all true or not—I understand that my great grandfather and my great great grandfather was one or were the administrators of the estate. Now, I’m not –I’m not positive—that was told to me. Long years ago.
SP: Of Zephaniah or Kingsley Beatty Gibbs? Kingsley Gibbs?
RD: Well, this was in 1843.
SP: That would mean Zephaniah ‘cause he died in 1843.
RD: All right. Uh, anyway, this document is dated in 1843 and is signed by Isiah D. Hart, who was clerk of the court for Jacksonville and –I guess it’s either the brother or some relation –another Hart, which was a deputy clerk.
RD: And the slave’s name was Cato. C-A-
SP: For a dollar?
RD: For one dollar. And it was—it was--and then it was stamped in 1844. It was done in 1843 and then I guess it was done around the first of the year and it lapsed about six months before it got to Jacksonville.
SP: Huh. That’s interesting.
RD: Oh, I have a whole bunch of things from my –uh—my great –my uh—my great –my grandmother’s side of the family. They’re the ones who were here. My grandfather was from Killery, Maine.
RD: See all my family’s been seafaring people.
SP: Uh huh.
RD: My dad even. He-he was also at this club out here for about thirty years, but he also had chief engineer’s license on ships. The old—you may know ‘em—they were Clyde Lines—they used to run between Jacksonville, Savannah, Charleston--on up to Boston—carried passengers for—
SP: I was going to say it was basically a passenger line, but also—
RD: Yeah, yeah. And he also sailed on the Grace Line a couple of times down to Cuba. And my grandfather was a ship’s master. I have all this—I have the license—the last license that he kept up was in 1897.
RD: Yeah. He died shortly thereafter.
SP: This was your grandfather.
RD: My grandfather. Then I had my dad’s, and my uncle. My uncle was a bar pilot.
RD: So, we go way back there.
SP: Do you sail?
RD: Do I sail?
RD: Love to sail.
RD: My dad taught Billy Arnold how to sail.
SP: Oh really?
RD: Sure. Ask him. Billy didn’t tell you that?
SP: He hasn’t. Let’s put it that way.
RD: Ask him about it.
SP: I’ll ask him about it. Yeah. He doesn’t own horses does he?
RD: Does he own horses?
RD: I don’t know what Billy owns. If he wanted to he could.
RD: He is one of the finest gentlemen that you’ll ever know.
SP: I’ve enjoyed talking with him.
RD: His dad, his whole family are the same way. Oh—Jerry Knaur and Donna are fine people.
SP: I have not met them yet.
RD: They are fine people. Uh, Mr. Barnett was one of the finest gentlemen that I have ever known in my life. He would come in and, well, he’d come up and they’d play cards. Couple of ‘em and my dad would come play cards with us kids.
SP: Uh huh. Now the Gay family, the gentleman that owns the house now—he’s a judge?
RD: Uh, he’s some kind of a judge. Some kind of a federal judge—a referee judge of –that’s Rhody Gay.
SP: Uh huh.
RD: Uh, I don’t know exactly what it is.
SP: Okay, ‘cause I couldn’t quite get it straight if his father was a judge or he was a judge.
RD: No, his dad was a lawyer.
SP: His dad was a lawyer. Okay.
RD: Sure was. Have you ever heard of Rogers, Tower and Gay?
SP: Uh huh. That’s them.
RD: That’s Gay. That’s Ed Gay.
RD: And Ed Gay married—uh—Dr. Davenport’s daughter.
RD: Oh yeah, they used to run around here barefoot and everything else, so my dad said. Come down here.
SP: This is just one big happy family around here.
RD: Oh yes, my goodness. And the Knauer was another fine family, too.
SP: What about the Reinhold situation out here.
RD: I’d rather not talk about him.
SP: Okay. (Laughs).
RD: I really wouldn’t.
SP: Let’s not then. That’s okay.
RD: Going back to the island. I’ll tell you some other things too. Uh, I seem to be talking more about my dad, I guess, and my mother than I am about myself. All this is in—but, uh, back in the 20’s and 30’s my dad used to run liquor boats in here too.
SP: Uh huh.
RD: He did. He, uh, what he would go out and bring the boats in –this was during Prohibition—
SP: I was going to say.
RD: Yeah, yeah, that’s right. One night, matter of fact they even had him up on—they couldn’t prove it—he had a good lawyer—he had—uh—the federal government had him—for supposedly running liquor, but they couldn’t prove it. And on Little Talbot Island—uh—there’s a, I guess it’s—well now, it’s probably all washed away by now, but there was liquor buried over there. Oh yeah, one of the boats, the last boat that came—my dad was in the hospital with appendicitis—and my cousin brought a boat in and ran it ashore and turned upside down and they took all the liquor and buried it.
SP: This was on Little Talbot Island?
RD: On Little Talbot, yeah. And us as kids, when we’d go over there—we’d always go over there and dig—see what we could find. And most of it was Puerto Rican rum.
SP: Oh really.
RD: Yeah, uh huh. But, now, getting back to Little Talbot, you know, during, uh, in 1942 when the Second World War started—
RD: There was nothing on Little Talbot. So after they had the scare down at Ponte Vedra with the saboteurs coming ashore, they put a horse patrol over here on Little Talbot Island.
RD: Yeah, that’s about where your, uh, entrance—your park—
SP: Is today?
RD: Yeah, uh huh, sure is.
SP: When it rains, it pours.
RD: I know one time, one of the—it just so happens—I’m wandering now.
SP: That’s okay.
RD: I know that during the first part of the war, it was either ’42 or ’43, the Club was—I was at school, that’s where—and one of the members’ sons—he was a Navy pilot and he was ferrying a plane from somewhere and he had to put down and put down on Little Talbot Island and came over on the –he knew my dad was there—and he came over on the other side and started, uh, yelling for help and my dad sent over and got him and knew the boy. As I said, he’d been down to the Club.
SP: Did the Club basically close down during the war?
RD: Yeah, yeah. I think it opened back up in –uh—’44.
SP: And when did it shut down through? When did it shut down?
RD: Right after 1944.
SP: Right after ’44?
SP: Oh, I didn’t realize that.
RD: They didn’t have enough people. I don’t think it was open in ’43. You just couldn’t –you couldn’t go anywhere—people couldn’t get around.
SP: Because of rationing—gas rationing and tires—
RD: Not only that, you couldn’t find a train because of troops and things like that. See, I left here in late ’43. I went into cadets and came back in ’46. So I don’t really—I was here a couple of times—I flew over here a couple of times over in Mariana, but we couldn’t stop.
SP: (Laughs) Let me out.
RD: No, but, uh, and now I was home on leave a couple of times, but as far as, uh, knowing what went on…
SP: So it never really re-opened after the war?
RD: No, uh uh, no. Sure didn’t.
SP: And then--
RD: Paul Reinhold’s not the one who bought it, now.
RD: A man by the name of Miller, owned Miller Electric Company, I believe Steve Freer, a man by the name of Walter McRae, Mr. Charlie Griner and there was another in there with ‘em, he was the Plymouth and Chrysler dealer here in town. And I can’t think of his name. There were five of them.
SP: When did they buy it? In the ‘60s?
RD: No-- heavens, no. They bought it right after—uh—about—uh—’46.
RD: Yeah, yeah, sure did. And uh, Mr. Miller—I told you about Steve Freer—he couldn’t keep it up and I think he bought out—he and Walter McRae—
SP: Uh huh.
RD: Uh, they own—that’s Duval Motors. Uh, I think they became the major stock holders and then Mr. Miller died. Seems like to me that’s when Paul Reinhold, I believe Paul Reinhold did buy into it later on and then he got control of it.
SP: And that’s when it became an eighteen hole course or…?
RD: Yeah, he made the eighteen hole golf course—it was nine hole golf course.
SP: Up until that time.
RD: That’s right. I’ve heard some people say that when it first started it was a five hole golf course, but that’s not true.
SP: That doesn’t make sense, does it?
RD: No. It was always a nine hole golf course. What would happen—a lot of the members would—the older people—they would cut through what we call Mt. Cornelia.
RD: They’d walk the road back after they finished hole number three.
SP: Oh okay.
RD: There was a road through there.
RD: And then some of them would go on to number five and walk the road back and some of them would cut through and hit up on—uh—
SP: Never played a complete nine.
RD: Hit up on Mt. Cornelia and come back. No, no, well, you got to remember, some of ‘em were getting up in age.
SP: Older folks, sure.
RD: They had other things to do. They didn’t all want to play golf anyway.
RD: They just came down here to relax and, uh, have a good time.
SP: Winter resort, yeah.
RD: But oh they had some beautiful furniture in that thing. All types of—I know they had a huge book—book case and things they had all types of old books.
SP: Now, do you remember when the furniture was sold?
RD: No, I didn’t even know it was gone till afterwards. Because there were some things in there that actually belonged to me if I’d known they were going to sell it I would have saw if I couldn’t get ‘em.
SP: Get ‘em back, yeah.
RD: Now there was a set of , uh, books there that Mrs. L’Engle gave to the Club and she told –now she had just told me this –that if anything happened I could have the books and they were old Shakespearean books. There was a volume about—I don’t know how many there was and it was about that big and that old type print and I would have given my eyeteeth to have kept those. But, uh, no, I didn’t even know that they had sold it, until, you know, it was too late.
RD: But I thought you’d like to know about, uh, the, uh, whiskey part of it. Rum.
SP: That’s a nice touch—it’s nice to know that things like that went on.
RD: Another thing they also—I had read stories where up at the Betz house—you know the tower that’s up there?
RD: They said that the revenuers put it up there to watch for ‘em—that’s not so. It wasn’t built til after that.
SP: When was that put up and why?
RD: Kenneth Merrill put it up there.
SP: And why--?
RD: So you could go up and look out over the ocean.
SP: Oh, okay.
RD: That’s all the thing. That’s the only reason why it was put up there.
SP: Was there an observatory on Mt. Cornelia as well or is that what they’re talking about?
RD: Not to my knowledge. There’s a national---there’s a geographic—
SP: The marker.
RD: Marker’s up there. Yeah, that’s the only thing I know up there. I remember when they put that thing up there. I was just a little kid.
SP: When they did the survey?
RD: Yeah, sure. There’s markers all over the island. Uh, down in front of the Clubhouse in the late ‘30s, you know it as the CAA now—but the FAA, or am I vice versa—they put an airplane—
SP: It’s the FAA today.
RD: --transmitter and everything out in front—the federal government—I guess it’s still the federal government—right out in front.
SP: Huh—I didn’t know that.
RD: It’s all been torn down, but I bet you a dollar it’s still on the land. It was in conjunction with the airport when they—
SP: On plats that we have it shows that such and such a section was mapped out for military use as a military reserve.
RD: Well, that was before the military ever got there.
RD: But I guess they do show the amount of land.
RD: Now on Big Talbot, during the war, they used that as a gunnery range.
SP: Uh huh.
RD: The one that’s called Bird Island over there.
RD: I think I told you about this before. My dad and I were over there one time getting clams.
SP: Uh huh.
RD: And all of a sudden something went “poof” and they were dropping these practice bombs—
SP: You didn’t tell me that.
KT: While you were over there?
RD: Yeah—you could have seen two guys getting’ off of there, too—because we knew what was coming—what they were doing. They would come down and they’d drop those practice bombs and then they’d come down and strafe it and see how close they could come to the smoke. (laughs) This island at one time, you could walk back through the woods and they would –uh—these tow targets? I don’t know if you—they are long nylon-looking—look like a parachute. They pull ‘em behind the plane and they would shot ‘em in the air, which I did, too, out in Nevada, and they would drop ‘em where they thought they would land, ‘cause they wouldn’t allow for the wind and the wind would blow ‘em in these trees—we used to get ‘em all the time.
RD: We asked ‘em if they wanted ‘em back; they said no.
SP: You had plenty of parachute material.
RD: I don’t know; the rope, the rope was good because we could use it—we would—what we called boat painters or boat—to put anchors on—
RD: --you know. The painter is the rope that you put the anchor on.
SP: So it had the length on it. You could—
RD: Oh yeah, yeah. Lot of length—they were 150 to 200 feet long, some of those tow ropes. They pulled ‘em way behind those planes which I don’t blame ‘em. I would too. (Laughs) The plane liable to get shot at. But there were a lot of ships sunk off of here during the Second World War. We—uh—we went over to Big Talbot—I mean Little Talbot—and got all types of material off ‘em.
RD: Yeah, sure did. Life rafts, life boats.
SP: They basically sunk due to bad weather or—
RD: No! It was torpedoed.
RD: During the Second World War. Sure. Certainly did.
RD: Yeah, submarines. By submarienes.
SP: I didn’t know that.
RD: Uh, all of Ford’s ships were just about destroyed. Uh, I think he had five and he lost all five of ‘em. United Fruit steamers—they lost just about all of theirs. And down here off of Ponte Vedra there’s a big old Gulf tanker down there and I remember the night she was hit just as plain as anything.
SP: I didn’t know that.
RD: Yeah, looking right at it. The SS—the last one we got off of Little Talbot was called the SS Espada. She was a United Fruit steamer—she brought bananas in here. And she was still painted white during the war and that was a—that was a sitting target for them. Yeah, they sent ‘em all along this coast. Sure did.
SP: That’s incredible—I had no idea.
RD: Sure did.
SP: Well, I tell you what I’m going to turn this off.
Did You Know?
Jacksonville, Florida was invaded by the Union Army four separate times during the Civil War and two battles of significance were fought within the boundary of Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. More...