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5: After WWII

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Winter storms sent waves crashing against the concrete bulkheads built in the 1930s, shooting spray thirty or more feet into the air. The water pounded against the reinforced concrete and eroded its support. Fierce winds swept towards shore. Battering. Battering. Building bulkheads to contain the sea and give the Beaches a more orderly appearance seemed a good idea. Although they varied in style (those in much of Atlantic Beach were curved), they stretched from south Jacksonville Beach to north Atlantic Beach. The Boardwalk  became concrete so people could walk on it or rest on the benches provided, watching sandpipers scurrying, gulls flying, girls and guys cavorting, and the ceaseless actions of the sea. Their very existence, however, caused waves to flow differently, undermining the cement slabs. Nature subverted human intentions. Over the years, after a particularly bad storm, the seawall would collapse and the sea would reclaim the sand for its own. Forces of nature,  not humanity, dominated the Beaches. 

Figure 5-1    Erosion Caused by Storms


Figure   5-2     Storm Damage, 1956

    One of those forces was the national economy. Between December, 1945 and December, 1947, prices in the United States rose about 33% or one-third as people bid up prices for the scarce available consumer goods. Rationing and the production of war goods meant consumer goods such as appliances and automobiles were almost impossible to buy; people saved. Wages rose and price controls prevented a cost explosion. Congress, over Truman's objections , ended them in the summer and fall of 1946. Whereas people assumed that there would be a post-war depression, there was a post-war boom. People bought and bought.
    The US had grown even richer. The Gross National Product (the value of all goods and services) in 1929 had been a little over $100 billion; it fell to $70 billion in the Great Depression but had risen above $174 billion in 1948. Prosperity was stimulated by pent-up demand and by massive federal spending. In 1945, the US government had spent $98 billion dollars as opposed to the normal $3 billion in the 1920s. Although the budget was cut to $33 billion by 1948, the explosion in consumer spending more than made up the slack. New Deal and wartime policies of high taxes and high wages had redistributed incomes, giving the average person the wherewithal to buy. All businesses had grown, contrary to the dire predictions of conservatives that the New Deal would destroy business. Competition was very much alive.
    The Beaches benefited because its economy was based on the pursuit of pleasure, on discretionary spending. When people begin spending, particularly after a long period of relative deprivation, part of the money is  spent to make them feel good. Advertisers figured this out long ago and concentrated on confusing people about need and desire. Going to the beach; playing in the ocean; drinking alcohol; playing games; getting thrills from rides; and other sensual pleasures was what the Beaches were about. Tourism ruled and many, if not most, of the people who lived at the Beaches in the immediate post-WWII period, lived off tourists, directly or indirectly.
    There were commuters to jobs in Jacksonville and the number had grown. Once a paved highway was completed, the trip took less than two hours (the time necessary before 1925) and more people had automobiles commuting became feasible. In the post-war period, the number of automobiles increased dramatically and, with that increase, the number of commuters. Atlantic Boulevard, a two-lane highway, became more and more crowded. The city bus which connected downtown Jacksonville with the Beaches via Atlantic became indispensable to those who worked downtown but could not afford a car. One could enjoy the pleasure of living on a  beach and be in the city half an hour later.
    The Cold War and then the Korean War (1950-53) changed the Beaches. The Mayport Navy base was reactivated in June 1948 as a Naval Outlying Landing Field, a satellite of Jacksonville NAS, then as an Auxiliary Field. In October,1952, the aircraft carrier USS Tarawa (CVS 40) used the new carrier basin which had been built at Ribault Bay. In 1955, Commander Carrier Division Two moved there. In 1956, the carrier, the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt was home ported there. Capital ships brought other ships with them and people and money and attitudes. Sailors and civilians working for the military—whether at Mayport or on of the three other Naval bases in the vicinity—not only spent money but also relocated permanently there. Because of the lengthy deployment os a carrier group, some married Navy personnel moved their families to the base or near it. Sailors—white hats—swarmed when on leave, looking for fun in the sun. Liquor stores and bars boomed as did the Boardwalk, restaurants, clothing stores, and the like. The female population of the beaches increased for a time. Navy police, the Shore Patrol, kept order and tried not to bother civilians. 
    Nationally, the number of babies being born boomed. Those born in the years 1946-1964 have been immortalized by the sobriquet "baby boomers."  The population boom meant new and bigger houses, new schools, more government workers such as teachers, firemen, policemen, garbage collectors, and clerks, more food and drink and dispensers thereof, more clothes, more repair shops, more entertainment, and so forth. Parents were so determined to give their children a better material life and to make sure that they did not suffer deprivation that they empowered children. Some would say they were spoiled; others rejoiced that the US economic system produced such abundance. The baby boomers moved through U.S. history like a tidal wave, sweeping long established traditions, morality, and patterns aside. The first of them turned 18 in 1964, portending student rebellion. This demographic phenomenon was not apparent, however, as women bore baby after baby and families moved to suburbs and to the shore, possible because of more and better highways.
    Getting onto the Beaches' island was critical for being a tourist destination and a bedroom community. The railroad which existed from 1886 until 1931 had been essential. The rise of the automobile age created Atlantic Boulevard in 1910; Atlantic then received massive improvements in 1925. When first built, the prestige of the Flagler interests, particularly the Continental Hotel, made it seem that Atlantic Beach was the future but Jacksonville Beach became the locus of power at the Beaches. As Pablo/ Jacksonville Beach became more powerful, its leaders began lobbying for a highway directly from South Jacksonville to Jacksonville Beach. In 1925, a group, which included contractor and developer B. B. McCormick, tried to get a new beach boulevard that would have come into the beach at 37th Avenue South. The county commission was finishing work on Atlantic Boulevard and not interested. The Jacksonville Beach group persisted and, in November and December,1929, had the county government to survey a route from San Nicholas in South Jacksonville through Hogan Avenue and then parallel to the FEC tracks to 12th Avenue South. Nothing came of this effort because the Great Depression and World War II intervened. Work began in 1941 by the State Highway Department as Works Progress Administration project but US entry into WWII on December 8th killed it after 6-8 months. But the seed that the FEC railroad right-of-way should be used was planted. 
    Serious road construction began after WWII. On December 7, 1945, four years after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, construction began from Atlantic Boulevard to Love Grove Road  with a 140-foot bridge across Little Pottsburg Creek. On June 24, 1946, a paved road was opened from Love Grove Road to one mile east. By September, 1947, the project had begun to go 9.15 miles east, bridging Big Pottsburg Creek, a creek the size of many rivers. Construction also went from east to west. In 1946, B. B. McCormick & Sons got a $335,189.56 contract to build Beach Boulevard from 3rd street west to the bridge over Pablo Creek/Intracoastal Waterway. The next year, construction of a concrete drawbridge was begun. This, the B. B. McCormick Bridge, opened in 1949. The McCormick Bridge, begun May 25, 1948 cost $652,523. On December 17,1949, Beach Boulevard was dedicated.1   Because the State and Duval County refused to extend Beach Boulevard from 3rd Street down Mundy Avenue to the ocean, B. B. McCormick did at his own expense.


Figure 5-3       McCormick Bridge on Pablo Creek/Intracoastal Waterway, 1972

    Benjamin B. McCormick, B. B. McCormick, shaped the Beaches as much or more than anyone else. Born near Fulton on the St. Johns River on April 13, 1877, his family struggled to earn a living.  McCormick had little formal education; he had to work instead of going to school. In 1894, he got the job as the U.S. Mail carrier between Fulton and Cosmos, both tiny settlements on the river but on the railroad line. He earned $15 a month or $180 a year; the average working man earned between $400-500 a year in 1900. In 1898, he was hired to survey and cut the right of way from Mayport to Pablo Beach, a distance of approximately nine miles, for the FEC route from Pablo to Mayport. He was paid $1.25 a day, a rate which would have meant $7.50 a week if he worked the normal 6 days a week or $390 for the year if he worked all 52 weeks. It is unlikely that he did but he had improved his economic status. Then he began building lumber mills for a living, learning valuable construction techniques and making contacts. This he did until 1916. 
    Creating his own family was delayed until June 1, 1904, when, at age 27, he married Dora Elizabeth Oesterreicher, the oldest of nine children. The Oesterreicher family lived in Palm Valley; his ties to that family and to the Beaches would remain strong even though, in 1911, he moved to Jacksonville and built a home with his own labor. To earn the extra money needed for building supplies, he gardened at night, straining his health. When the US joined WWI in 1917,  he worked in a shipyard which built wooden ships. In 1918, he began logging for some of the mills. He was doing well enough financially to buy a tract of timber just west of Pablo Beach.
    He moved to the Beaches under inauspicious circumstances. His children were sick too often, so he decided to take the four boys and three girls to the beach for a month, hoping to improve their health. Disaster struck. Their house burned down the night of the morning they would leave. Having nothing but a few articles they had managed to save, they moved to the Beaches, arriving about midnight at Atlantic Beach. The friend turned his wagon around to head back to Jacksonville. The family walked on the beach to south Pablo Beach, the adults carrying the children. Once they reached their destination at 12th Avenue South, they camped out until McCormick could obtain lodgings in a rooming house called The Owl. Dora McCormick had to wash clothes and cook in the yard and there was no plumbing. One of their granddaughters says that " All they had were the clothes on their backs and those had been donated after the fire by Mr. Mayerheim who owned Furchgott's, a major department store in Jacksonville.
    In 1919, McCormick created a development and construction company as a sideline to his timber business. In time, B. B. McCormick & Sons, as the company became, would make his fortune. He contracted with neighboring St. Johns County to clear its portion of state highway A1A to St Augustine, a road running a few yards from the ocean. This scenic coastal road opened up Mineral City/Ponte Vedra Beach to settlement and also funneled tourists through the Beaches to the nation's oldest city. Then he was  paid to grade A1A from the Duval County line to Jacksonville Beach. He often he bartered work for land. In 1922, he built the family home at 225 First Avenue South, a few blocks south of town center. From 1938 to 1946, he was a jury commissioner. During WWII, his company profited from US government wartime expenditures by building such military necessities as barracks and airfields in Florida. Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and northeast Brazil. To meet the demands of expanding population, he and his sons began constructing the McCormick Apartments in 1943 and would continue until there were forty-eight buildings containing 354 apartments stretched from south Jacksonville Beach to 17 blocks into north Jacksonville Beach. New Deal money helped finance the project and Ben McCormick had done a barter deal with the city of Jacksonville Beach to acquire vacant land. Some of it he had to fill because it was under water. And he built. After the war, in 1947-48, McCormick & Sons began developing the Beaches Homesites subdivision on ten acres bounded by 5th Street North, 9th Avenue North, 10th Street North, and 13th Avenue North. In 1951, the subdivision was turned over the Shad investment Company which managed to get houses built, sometimes through a third party.2
    Ben McCormick was a devoted family man who tried to improve the Beaches. In October, 1922, his wife died, leaving him with seven children to raise. Although he relied upon relatives and domestic help, the task was daunting. Finally, in March, 1926 ,he married Maude Oesterreicher, the youngest of his wife’s siblings. There were few eligible women available in such a small place and very little opportunity for a busy man to meet them. He sired a boy and a girl by Maude. 
    He had little education and was determined that his children would. The Beaches had only a three-room school building with forty-one students in 1920. The building sat with water around it, creating an unhealthy situation. McCormick drained and filled the site for free. Over and over, he would he would improve the grounds of schools at own expense. In March 7, 1923, he got the Duval County school board to seek a special tax district for the Beaches, a move that passed in the election of May 1, 1923. The school board was asked on June 2nd to issue bonds to build a new school; Jacksonville Beach Elementary School was the result. In 1925, he was elected a trustee and served until 1947, stopped by failing health. He was honored that year when he was made an honorary member of the Fletcher High School graduating class.
    He was worn out. The family, with the help of retainers, had to help. When he cut the ribbon to open the B. B. McCormick Bridge,  he was in a wheelchair. He died in October 15, 1953, having been sick for years. "Uncle Benny" had helped schools, civic organizations, youth groups, and the Beaches for decades.3

Figure 5-4     Advertisement for  McCormick Apartments

Figure 5-5 McCormick Apartments at 9th Avenue N.  

      African-Americans made progress in Atlantic Beach. In 1946, the Donner subdivision grew just off Mayport Road in Atlantic Beach. The subdivision was platted in 1921 and replatted in 1946 by E. H. Donner of Jacksonville Beach. He was a European-American real estate developer who saw the opportunity to earn a profit. The land sold for about $50 an acre but had no public utilities. Donner deeded a lot for a playground in 1948. The people who lived there created businesses. The Palmetto Garden was a restaurant, dance hall, and motel for "blacks." There was also the Bluebird Nightclub. Tony’s Seafood Shack served food but also had rooms on the second floor. Since motels and restaurants were segregated, these businesses provided a real service. There was the Negro Chamber of Commerce.4  
    Racial segregation damaged all peoples, of course, since it countered free enterprise as well as fairness but it hurt African-Americans more than other groups. Education made little difference. Of the 95 black teachers in Duval County in 1945-46, 91 of them “holding the Bachelor’s degree and having maximum experience” received $189 a month, the minimum. By contrast, 71 of 83 white teachers in the same category received $233 a month, 23.8% more. Black substitute teachers earned $4 a day whereas white substitute teachers only $5 a day, a 25% difference. The African-American schools in the county also got left-over textbooks.5
    No wonder that African-Americans began suing for equal treatment after the Second World War; after all they had sacrificed, bled, and died in a war against German and Japanese racism. There were many successful lawsuits but the one that shook the nation was Brown v. Topeka Board of Education in 1954 which ruled that segregation was inherently unequal and, therefore, unconstitutional. At Fletcher Junior-Senior High School, one heard mutterings that African-Americans would be killed and stuffed in lockers if they tried to integrate the school. The “perfect” world was threatened. It was not the case that the “whites” would not accept another race or a mixed-race person. After all, there were students of Asian ancestry as well as people who were part American Indian. Segregation was keeping "blacks," African Americans, in "their place," a place to which no Fletcher student aspired. Nothing happened for years in terms of school integration but the civil rights movement picked up momentum in the early 1960s.
    Tourism boomed after World War Two. Occupancy rates increased even as new motels were built. The post-WWII boom meant spending to meet pent-up demand, a desire to enjoy life after the Great Depression-World War II period of relative deprivation, more and better advertising by the “World’s Finest Beach,” and military personnel availing themselves of the “pleasure” of the Beaches. The amusements on the boardwalk enjoyed unusual prosperity; perhaps a 100,000 persons would enjoy it on major holiday weekends. The families who owned the concessions and rides would earn almost all of their annual income in six months; those who owned bars and motels had year round incomes for the bars closed at 4 AM and people used motels for a variety of reasons.
    Promotional efforts by the Beaches Chamber of Commerce helped. Fireworks displays at the tourist center of Jacksonville Beach on the Fourth of July and on Labor Day attracted many thousands. Bathing beauty contests did likewise. Tourism meant improving the infrastructure. In 1948, a new Red Cross Life Guard Station opened and soon became an local icon.

Figure 5-6 Life Guard Station


Figure 5-7   Bathing Beauties, 1946

   In the 1946-64 era, the Beaches attracted hundreds of thousands of tourists during the season, providing income for thousands of residents. People from Jacksonville and Duval County, from military bases, from neighboring counties and state, and from the East and Midwest came to enjoy the surf and the amusements and to darken their skin, at least temporarily. They ate, drank, gambled, fornicated, and chilled out. Hotels, motels, and rooming houses were locally owned. So, too, were the restaurants, be they Boardwalk hamburger stands on elegant ones such as Le Chateau, the Copper Kettle/Sea Turtle, and the Atlantic Beach Hotel Fisherman's Net dining room, all in Atlantic Beach. A  rating from the American Automobile Association was the closest to a national chain that these businesses came. The money stayed home or in Jacksonville. 
    The Boardwalk and downtown Jacksonville Beach were the heart of tourism.  The pier between 2nd Avenue North and 3rd Avenue North was a landmark in downtown beach. Although not meant to be so, it was a dividing line of the Boardwalk. The "action" occurred on the pier and the area south of it. The stretch between the pier and the Sandpiper Hotel with its very cold swimming pool was not as popular. Downtown included such things as  rides, shops, drugstores, a bakery, tourist traps, bars, and a community center with a tiny public library.

Figure 5-8   The Pier, Mid-1950s

        As tourism increased and the Mayport Naval Base expanded, the road into Mayport had to be relocated the new A1A highway. In September, 1950, the ferries Manadock and Reliance docked at pilot town.6 In 1951, Mayport NAS was expanded and the channel deepened. The next year, the first aircraft carrier berthed in Ribault Bay, the carrier basin that had been developed. The base became more important as the United States fought the Cold War and hot wars in Korea and Vietnam. It has become one of the major US naval bases. In the 1950s. thousands of sailors took liberty at the Beaches, primarily Jacksonville Beach. When the bus from Mayport discharged its passengers at the terminal on 1st Street North and 6th Avenue, it was a “sea of white hats,” as the sailors headed for hotels and bath houses to change into civvies or to bars or the boardwalk. One knew them even in civvies because $2 bills were included in the sailor’s pay and they wore black dress shoes.

Figure 5-9   Downtown Jacksonville Beach, mid-1950s

      Fishing was an important but risky source of income in Mayport. Party fishing boats took the affluent out in the river or the sea to try to catch big game fish. The shrimp industry boomed. Portuguese fishermen, such as the Perry and Roland families, brought a spark and experience when they arrived in the 1920s. They joined other ethnic groups in shrimping. African-Americans shrimped as well. It was a hard business which required strong, patient men. The boats ranged far and wide, often traveling hundreds of miles to catch enough. Sometimes disaster struck. The Donald Ray sank in March, 1957 off the coast of Ponte Vedra with Rhodes Wylie, Melvin “Sweet Pea” Singleton, and John Gavagan being lost.7

Figure 5-10     Mayport Shrimp Boats

    The Beaches were one, in fact, even though they comprised Atlantic, Neptune, and Jacksonville Beaches in Duval County and Ponte Vedra Beach and Palm Valley in St. Johns County. In many ways, it made little sense that there were so many governments at the Beaches. Mayport was not on the beach and had a very different history from the shore communities. In a report commissioned by the Beaches Chamber of Commerce, Simons strongly recommended, insisted, that the three beaches become one politically. In 1947, a consolidation vote was held and had a 1,252-699 result in favor of becoming one, but each beach had to agree. In Jacksonville Beach, it was 745-90 in favor but the Neptune Beach vote was 322 against, 309 for; in Atlantic Beach the vote was 287 votes against and 198 votes for. Ethnocentricity was alive and well. Neptune Beach had "escaped" from Jacksonville Beach only sixteen years before. Atlantic Beach saw itself as "different" from its southern brothers. 8
    Fletcher Junior-Senior High School created the unity needed by the Beaches for all the seventh through twelfth graders at the Beaches attended except for African Americans and the few "whites" who attended private schools. African-Americans children were bused over twenty miles to attend junior or senior high school. Not many "whites" attended Bishop Kenny, Bolles, or Bartram. Instead, they attended Fletcher where they were united by cheering for the Senators in athletic events, wars against other similar tribes in the region. School colors (purple and white), a school song, and traditions promoted the sense of belonging.  Students from two counties (Duval and St. Johns) six communities, various elementary schools, and even from the west side of Pablo Creek were given a common identity. As more and more people moved to the Beaches, transfer students were soon acclimated and indoctrinated in the Beaches mores. 
    Although the age spread of six years was considerable for the adolescent years, the mixture was beneficial. Younger students learned from older students. Older students took care of younger siblings or their friends without being intrusive. One's misdeeds were likely to be reported to one's parents by someone, thus curtailing the incidence rate. Smallness meant that students at least knew each other by sight, at least, and that teachers knew their charges, often several years before they taught them in class. Although the enrollment went from about 500 in 1946 to 1200 in 1960, the student population remained small enough to be manageable.
    Fletcher students succeeded. "Fletcher swim teams would go on to win 176 dual meets without a loss, 20 straight conference championships, fifteen county championships, and two state championships." 9 Students would win championships in track, basketball, and cross country. Although the football teams did not fare as well, they were competitive. In a small town, high school athletics are not only important for students but also for the adults as well. In an age when few athletic events, college or professional, were televised,  high school athletics filled a special need. In the Fall, the games provided entertainment for locals and a place to show off clothes. Students did well in other competitions as well such as forensics, journalism, art, and science. Its extracurricular activities were  an important part of its educational endeavors. A high percentage of graduates went to college, some to the most prestigious institutions. Successful careers in business, academia, the military, medicine, law, landscape architecture, architecture, the arts, and other professions were common. Its night school educated adults.  
    It was the only institution that almost all Beaches residents had in common. Located on the Jacksonville Beach-Neptune Beach border (see Figure 5-11), its large physical plant on many acres anchored the beach communities. The school focused people of different locales and social classes; it was democratic. Under the founding principal, Frank. E. Doggett, Fletcher absorbed new students effortlessly.10


Figure 5-11  1946, Looking South. The Building in the center is Fletcher Junior-Senior High School. 

    There was plenty of open space, even close to the shore as the photos show. The Neptune Beach boundary is the street below Fletcher in Figure 5-11.  For miles, houses hugged the shore. In this photo, Figure 5-12, looking south across Neptune Beach, the amount of vacant land is astounding. Figure 5-13 shows Atlantic Boulevard separating Neptune Beach at the bottom from Atlantic Beach at the top. The ocean is less than a block to the right. The photo also shows the city bus about to turn left to go to Jacksonville.  

Figure 5-12   Looking South in Neptune Beach Down 3rd Street, ca. 1950 N. 

Figure 5-13    Neptune and Atlantic Beaches Intersect

     At the north end of the island was the jetties, the huge boulders that channeled the St. Johns River as it entered the Atlantic Ocean. In daylight hours, people fished there, from the rocks or from shore. Or held picnics and swam or looked at the boats and ships in the river. Ribault Bay, the carrier basin, with its warships was a sight to behold.  At night, people used the sand dunes for parties, for weenie roasts or to dine on the cold fried chicken which was a staple for a "hayride." Lovers found the dunes convenient. The jetties provided isolation for those who could get there by car. 

Figure 5-14     Kelly's Fish Camp at the jetties   

    Life at the Beaches was seasonal but pleasant. In the late Spring until almost Fall, hundreds of thousands of visitors swelled the coastal communities. Many permanent residents had to earn their income in those few months, which kept incomes lower than the might have been. Most permanent residents ignored the Boardwalk and bars.  They went to the Beach Theater or the drive-in movie off Beach Boulevard.  They  listened to radio from the big Jacksonville stations or the local AM station, known as WJVB and then WZRO. In the late fifties, Bill Greenwood, Fletcher Class of 1960 and later ABC TV and Radio commentator, as the number one disk jockey in the Jacksonville market. People watched WMBR-TV, the CBS affiliate, and, beginning in 1957, WFGA-TV, the NBC affiliate. Few watched educational television, WJAX-TV. Teenagers frequented drive-in restaurants, first Bill’s Drive-In and then the iconic Surf Maid Drive-In on Beach Boulevard. Few teenagers listened to WKTX FM on Atlantic Boulevard; it a "a good music station."
    Whereas the beach, boardwalk, and bars were for the tourists, residents could enjoy minor league baseball for three seasons, 1952 to 1954. A group of local businessmen, led by H. A. Prather, H. M. Hatcher, and H. M. Shelley created the Jacksonville Beach Florida Sea Birds in 1952. Then Julian Jackson and T. F. Cowart owned the team in 1953. In 1954, it was a Cleveland Indians farm team. The Sea Birds were only a Class D team, just barely out of the amateur ranks, but still professional baseball. They played rival small towns--Daytona Beach, Palatka, St. Augustine, Cocoa Beach, Leesburg, Sanford, and Gainesville--in a 136 game season in a pleasant small ballpark a few blocks south of the new Beach Boulevard. Baseball was still important to Americans, especially in towns and the countryside. After all,  most boys and quite a few girls had played the game. So popular was baseball that leagues were classified as Major Leagues, AAA, AA, A, B, C, and D. College football had not become big business yet. Baseball was king for a few more year because the average person still could afford, in time or money, to attend a game. Seabirds games were a bonanza for the young boys who retrieved foul balls for a dime each. Sometimes, they were given an old ball; sometimes they "couldn't find" a new ball.
    The team was competitive. For the first two seasons, Red Treadway, who had a credible record with the New York Giants for two seasons, 1944-1945, coached the Seabirds. This Florida State League team finished second in 1952 with a 80-56 record. The team went 68-65 in the second season and finished fifth in the league. Treadway left for the Fitzgerald, Georgia team. Spuds Chandler, a former New York Yankees pitcher for eleven years, took over and the team became a farm club of the Cleveland Indians. Cleveland sent the Nixon twins, Roy and Russ, who were outstanding. "Russ Nixon, only 20, led the Three-I League in batting (.387-5-77), 36 points ahead of runner-up Gordy Coleman, and hit safely in 32 consecutive games ending July 11. It was his second consecutive batting title. In 1954, playing for Jacksonville Beach, he hit .387-6-96 to lead the Florida State League."  Russ became a major league player and manager of note. The Seabirds went 76-63, finished third, and was runner-up in the league finals.
    Attendance was a problem, however.  Players and others performed tricks and stunts before the game to draw crowds. The son of Bobby Trump, one of its stars, reminisced about this in 2006.

My father Bobby Trump played baseball for the Seabirds during the 1952-1953 seasons. His starting position for most of his time in Jacksonville was spent behind the plate. He was also called on to pitch on several occasions. On June 23, 1953, he pitched the Seabirds to a 6 to 5 victory for which he received the game ball. That was one of many game balls he would receive throughout his stay with the team. My most memorable story of those days to go along with the many game balls and newspaper clippings I still have telling of his early life heroics was one where, before many of the games started the organization would have the team members perform different promotional stunts. The particular stunt that I recall the most was one in which my father was ask to race a horse from home plate to first base. To this day he will still not tell me whether he won or not.

Bobby Trump, Sr. reported in 2008 through an intermediary that he won the race.

Approximately 68 games were played at home to a surprisingly sparse crowd, even considering the population of  the  beaches area. The following table shows the average attendance.

















Even concession stand sales, which were limited to small quantities of food and drink, could not have contributed to the team's finances. There was not enough revenue.
    There were too much competition for the entertainment dollar. People did not go to the beach to see minor league baseball. They played on the beach or on the boardwalk or in bars or in rooms. Many of the residents worked at night serving the tourist trade. Most stayed home at night, watching television which, by 1952, was well on its way to becoming the dominant entertainment in the country. Besides, one could watch the Jacksonville Tars/Braves Class A South Atlantic Team at its ballpark and, on occasion, on television. Hank Aaron along with Horace Garner and Felix Mantilla, integrated South Atlantic Leagues baseball in 1953 playing for the Jacksonville Braves. Aaron won Most Valuable Players honors for the SAL and was promoted to the Milwaukee Braves. His extraordinary talent helped him survive in racist Jacksonville as did the solicitude of his manager Ben Geraghty who visited him often in his segregated quarters.
    Professional baseball did not disappear entirely. The Pittsburgh Pirates ran a Spring training facility for its minor leagues teams at the Beaches for three years according to Bill Foley, "Spring Training Dream Endures in N. Florida," Florida Times-Union, July 30, 1997. The City of Jacksonville Beach built four baseball diamonds south of the city baseball park; these became Little League facilities and Wingate Park in time. African American ball players had to find their own accomodationds, this being the age of segregation. Strickland's Restaurant provided a room where they could eat
    Getting to and from Jacksonville became easier. For those who did not want to travel that far to see live baseball, there was the Fletcher High School team. Beach residents were insular. “Going to town,” i.e. Jacksonville, required dressing up, leaving shorts and pedal pushers behind. The city seemed far away because of open spaces between the Intracoastal Waterway and south Jacksonville. Beach culture was informal and friendly perhaps because so many people were not born there and there were so many transients. People were accepted as they were until they proved themselves different. Asking about a person's religious beliefs or on which side an ancestor fought in the U.S. Civil War was considered rude even though the Beaches were Southern and such behavior is common among Southerners. On the other hand, the Fletcher yearbook put whatever other high school(s) a student had attended underneath the senior picture!
    In the 1950s, the Beaches leaped in population. Jacksonville Beach had  6,430 people in 1950; in 1960, 12,053, an increase of 81%. Neptune Beach has 1,767 in 1950 but jumped to 2,868, an increase of over 62%. Atlantic Beach had the highest percentage increase because it had a small base, 1,004 in 1950 and 2,868 in 1960. Because Palm Valley and Ponte Vedra Beach were unincorporated areas of northern St. Johns County, population figures can be harder to find. The 1960 US Census said that there were 5,020 people in the northern St. Johns County division, a census area larger than these two communities. We can see the growth from the table below which shows the number of houses built. If apartments were included, the number of structures would be much greater. From 1950 to 1960, Florida's population increased 79%—the fastest rate of all the states—so the increases at the Beaches was par for the course. People had been moving into north Florida for decades but the war sped up the process because people came as part of the military or to build ships or any number of occupations necessary to have 16 million men in uniform. Many stayed. The baby boom starting in 1946 was populating the Beaches but so, too, was migration from other states and, most particularly, from Jacksonville. After WWII, living on the Beaches and commuting to Jacksonville became easier and easier because of better roads and more and better automobiles. Cheap air conditioning for home and stores changed places like the Beaches and the rest of the South, making them more tolerable. Air conditioning also made possible tract housing and houses that did not required high ceilings and good ventilation. It, along with television broadcasts, helped kill drive-in theatres for families no longer used them for entertainment.11

Place Before 1939 1940-49 1950-59 1960-69 TOTAL
Atlantic Beach 204 279 881 1412 2776
Jacksonville Beach 447 683 1808 1488 4426
Neptune Beach 316 247 367 718 1648
Palm Valley-Ponte Vedra 104 66 268 337 775
TOTAL 1071 1275 3324 3955 9625

Figure 5-15    Houses Built  Before 1970

    To accommodate the children born or migrating to the Beaches, the Duval Country school board built new schools or additions to existing ones. The African-American elementary school in Jacksonville Beach elementary school, constructed in 1946 (with an addition of a cafeteria and more classrooms in 1952) had 217 students served by 6 teachers plus an itinerant music teacher. The building did not compare favorably with Atlantic Beach and Jacksonville Beach. In 1952, the Duval County school board added to Beaches schools. For Fletcher, a new gymnasium was built. The "black" elementary school had four classrooms when it was built in 1946,  but two more classrooms and a cafeteria were added in 1952. It had six faculty plus an itinerant music teacher. Atlantic Beach Elementary got an cafeteria-auditorium and a class room building. San Pablo Elementary was begun behind Fletcher; it would open for classes in January, 1953. Two more classroom buildings were added to Fletcher in the 1950s and San Pablo received another classroom building in 1958.12


Figure 5-16    Elementary School Patrol, Jacksonville Beach    

    Better roads meant population and economic growth. The Matthews Bridge crossing the St. Johns River between Jacksonville and Arlington along with the Arlington Expressway in 1953 meant quicker access down Atlantic Boulevard to the Beaches; the Fuller Warren Bridge, opened in 1954, fed traffic from populous west Jacksonville to Beach Boulevard. The Jacksonville Expressway, parts of which opened in 1953, connected many parts of Jacksonville to both Atlantic and Beach Boulevards. Commuting to work or going to the Beaches became easier.  Because it was a State highway, A1A, in 1952, Jacksonville Beach had asked the State government to resurface, curb and gutter Third Street through the city. Then, in the late 1950s, Neptune and Jacksonville Beaches got the State to convert Third Street between Atlantic and Beach Boulevards to four lanes in the late 1950s, thus speeding traffic.
    In Jacksonville, the riverfront became more vibrant with the building of a development with Civic Auditorium, a City Hall, a coliseum, a new courthouse, and a massive, deluxe Sears store. The docks were cleaned up and the city got rid of rotten ones. A modern hotel was built downtown. The Prudential Insurance Company built its South Central home office on the river. Jacksonville historian James B. Crooks aptly summarizes the changes:

Figure 5-17    Prudential Building on the south bank

Economic growth came in part from the substantial expansion of the insurance industry following passage of the Regional Home Office Law by the Florida legislature in 1956. The Prudential Insurance Company of America established its Southeast (later to become South Central) regional home office in Jacksonville, and the State Farm Group substantially expanded its facilities there. Other insurance companies establishing home offices in the city included Independent Life, Peninsula Life, American Heritage Life, Gulf Life, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and the Afro-American Life Insurance Company. By the end of the decade, Jacksonville claimed the title of "Insurance Center of the Southeast" with seventeen locally headquartered insurance companies, five regional home offices, and twenty major general insurance agencies. The expansion of banking facilities, the arrival of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad home office (forerunner of CSX Transportation) from Wilmington, North Carolina, and later the expansion of the United States naval presence during the Vietnam War brought additional regional growth.13

Growth in Jacksonville meant growth at the Beaches which were becoming bedroom communities.
    One sees the growth of the Beaches from the aerial photographs taken in October, 1960. The left side of each photograph is the west. Pablo Creek, the west boundary of the island, is clearly visible except for the Mayport photo which shows Ribault Bay And on the upper left, the village of Mayport. Seminole Road runs near the shore from the St. Johns River jetties south to Atlantic Beach. The photographs are shown from north to south, that is, Mayport is the first one. Clicking on a photo will retrieve a larger one. 14


Figure 5-18 Mayport and Seminole Road

Figure 5-19    Atlantic Beach

Figure 5-20    Neptune Beach

Figure 5-21    From Neptune Beach Through Jacksonville Beach Almost to Ponte Vedra Beach

    Figure 5-22    South Jacksonville Beach and Ponte Vedra Beach

Figure 5-23    Ponte Vedra Beach

     The face of the Boardwalk and, thus, downtown Jacksonville Beach, changed in the early 1960s. This 1960 photo, looking west, shows downtown Jacksonville Beach from Beach Boulevard (the diagonal highway on the left) north to 10th Avenue N. and Pablo Creek in the background. First, the wooden Coaster Bath House block, the Coaster Block, came down. Gone were rides such as the Wild Mouse and the Bullet; gone was the Guess Your Age and Ring The Bell; gone were games of chance; and gone were places to eat and drink. It was never rebuilt, a clear sign that not enough profit was being earned. Then, on Friday, October 13, 1962, the pier with its dancing pavilion and fishing extension went up in flames. A new pier would be built but only as a fishing pier and farther south.  R. L. Williams built a fishing pier at 6th avenue South about ten blocks south and out of the tourist zone in 1963. It lost 192 feet  to Hurricane Dora in September, 1964.  A storm caused by Hurricane Floyd damaged it in 1999; it came down in 2001. A new pier opened at 5th Avenue North in 2005.

Figure 5-24    Downtown Jacksonville Beach, 1960

  Figure 5-25    Missing The Coaster Block and Pier, 1962

    Change would come more rapidly in the 1960s, more change than could have been imagined, even by the best prognosticators. Only the sea was constant and the shifting sands. And the wildlife. But even one pelican knew that all would be turned upside down.

Figure 5-26    Mayport Pelicans


1. Sollee, "Boulevard Required Years of Planning,"  Official Dedication Program for Beach Boulevard and B. B. McCormick Bridge, December 17, 1949.
2. Johnston, pp. 100-101.
3. Frank A. Doggett, Biography of B. B. McCormick Is History of the Beach, 1949. Suzanne McCormick Taylor, correspondence with the author. Bill Foley, "Jacksonville Beach goes future modern," Florida Times-Union, August 13, 1999.
4. Steve Piscitelli, “Donner Subdivision: The Rhythms of a Community,” Neighborhoods, Florida Times-Union, January/February, 2000, pp.33-35.
5. Council of Social Agencies, Jacksonville Looks at Its Negro Community. May, 1946, p. 40-53. The author personally observed many disparities in the summer of 1959.
6. Floyd, 50.
7. Floyd, pp. 47, 49-50.
8.  Simons, pp. 21-47; Bill Foley, "Millennium Moment: July 8, 1947, Two strikes knocked out Beaches consolidation," Florida Times-Union, July 8, 1999.
9. John W. Sutton, Papa's Memoirs. Jacksonville Beach, Privately Printed, 2005.
10. Doggett was unusual for a junior-senior high school principal. He was a scholar who served as Fletcher principal from 1937 until 1969 and then as a principal of a Jacksonville high school from 1969-71. University presses published his works on the poet Wallace Stevens. He helped students attend private colleges such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Kenyon, Emory, Sewanee, and Stetson as well as public universities, often helping them obtain jobs to pay for it. His students won national and international scholarships, including the Rhodes Scholarship.
11. Jackson owned a chain of convenience stores. The team was variously known as the Sea Birds and the Seabirds. Treadway's major league record can be found at as can that of Spuds Chandler. The teams record can be found at Bobby Trump's son and Red Treadway's daughter, Laura de Martino, comment on the team at Mike McCann of, in correspondence with the author, said "Treadway was manager of the Fitzgerald Red Legs of the Class D Georgia-Florida League in 1954, Duluth Dukes of the Class C Northern League in 1955 (beginning of season), Ogden Reds of the Class C Pioneer League in 1955 (end of season), and Fitzgerald A's of the Class D Georgia-Florida League in 1956. Chandler was manager of the Spartanburg Peaches of the Class B Tri-State League in 1955, and a coach for the Kansas City A's in 1957-1958." Bill Foley, "Spring Training Dream Endures in N. Florida, " Florida Times-Union, July 30, 1997. Bill Weiss & Marshall Wright, "TEAM #30 1955 KEOKUK KERNELS (92 - 34)," Minor League Baseball.
    “Stay Cool! Air Conditioning America;“ Susanna Robbins, “Keeping Things Cool: Air-Conditioning in the Modern World,” OAH Magazine of History, 18 (October, 2003); "Interview with Marsha Ackerman on Talking History; U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Census of Population: 1960, Vol. 1. Florida (Washington, US Government Printing Office), 1961.
12. Johnston, p. 106.; Negro Schools of Duval County, 1955-56, p. 37.
13. James B. Crooks, Jacksonville Before Consolidation,” Florida Historical Quarterly, 77:2 (Fall, 1998), p. 143.
14. Aerial Photography Florida, Aerial Tiles (Duval, 1960 ), Flight 1AA.

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