A Florida childhood

Circa 1955.

I WAS RAISED in north Florida, Jacksonville, where I lived throughout the 1950s and on into the 1960s. I graduated from high school in 1962, and left the state forever.

That’s me and my sister, Diane, sitting on the bentwood bench in the back yard of our home in the Jacksonville suburb of Arlington, across the St. John’s River.

I don’t know why we were dolled up like that. It likely was Easter Sunday, and my paternal grandparents must have come to town. Otherwise, we would have ignored Easter because my parents were socialist agnostics, usually.

But when my father’s parents were around, we were upstanding citizens, good churchgoers, teetotalers. My father hid his booze bottles. Paternal grandfather was a Baptist deacon, and grandma was a Methodist.

Around them, we were another family altogether.


Here’s my mother, Virginia. She died in 2009 at age 90, but she would have been about 38 here. I wonder if her Miltowns were in the purse or on the kitchen window ledge, which is where she usually kept them for easy access.

Our green 1950 Dodge is parked in the driveway. I have no idea who those rug-rats are who are opening the screen door. Probably kids of the Dawsons who lived next door.

My sister towered six-feet-tall in high school and had just one date the entire time. I wonder if that was when she began her spiral down the road where she ended up decades later as a militant, explosive, feminist, lesbian fanatic?

But she was very nice when she was young. She was smart and kind and reasonable. I miss that sister.

An American family of the 1950s. You never know what hides behind the Easter Sunday smiles and lies.

13 thoughts on “A Florida childhood

  1. Very interesting and in reading this I realize how different my own life was. Recently I am finding that urge to do some self reflection and finding how different life was in general for different areas of the country based on social/economic status during that era.

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  2. As we’ve discussed before, you lived in the high-rent district and I in West Jax. Well, southside and the beaches were the real high-rent districts. I graduated from Robert E. Lee high in ’59 and never lived there again. I wonder if there is a movement to can the Lee (and Jackson) names. I forget who Paxon was. The clothes in the pictures looks familiar. Thanks for the memories.

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    1. Steve: I don’t think our neighborhood would be classified as high rent, and I don’t remember West Jacksonville’s specifics. My parents bought that house around 1952. It was a spanking-new neighborhood. The houses were pretty small. Though small, it had three bedrooms. Being the youngest, I got the smallest, and I could almost stand in the middle and touch all four walls. I remember the house came with grass plugs in the (mostly) sand lot. With plenty of watering, the plugs spread and a lawn developed. Looks like it needs a mow in the picture of my mother. There was a oil furnace in the hallway, the sole source of heat for winter. I can’t imagine that would even be legal today. It was clearly a fire hazard. Once it did almost fly out of control, and the fire department was called.

      It would be interesting to know if the PC legions are trying to dump the high school names. Ours was Terry Parker, a local citizen of wealth and repute, so that name is safe today. Or perhaps not. He was a rich, old, white man.


    2. Here’s the house today, about 60 years later. My daughter passed by there not long ago and snapped this. My father worked evenings, so his days were free, and he liked to garden. He had the yard real snazzy. Obviously, later tenants were less attentive. It was a home of the new middle class after World War II. It appears more blue-collar now.

      An old car sitting on cement blocks in the yard would not be surprising.


  3. Ah yes, grass plugs. I’ve done quite a few of them. Most likely St Augustine, the grass of choice.

    I also remember that Pop lived for the Times Union paper in the morning and the Journal at night. BTW, you said North Florida. I always heard it called South Georgia. Probably more accurate culturally.

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    1. Steve: Yes, North Florida was then and likely still is more an extension of Georgia than it is of Florida. As for the Times-Union newspaper, it’s where my father worked. And, yes, the grass was St. Augustine.


    1. Connie: That’s funny. I’ve never heard that before, but looking at the photo I see where you get that. The truth, however, lies elsewhere. God smiled on me. On my sister, not so much. I got all the positive physical attributes of both my parents, and my sister got just the opposite, proving that the Goddess can be cruel or perhaps she just has a wicked sense of humor. Had my sister looked like Nicole Kidman or Uma Thurman, both of whom are also about six feet tall, her life would have been quite different. Her height did not go over well for her in high school. Though she turned out to be as I labeled her in the post, she was married for a couple of years in her mid-20s, but she dumped him. A pity. I liked the guy a lot. Her personality didn’t really start disintegrating till she was about 40, which is 35 years ago now.

      These days, she is a bona fide, textbook fanatic. She could have been a commandant at a Siberian work camp. Or perhaps at Treblinka. She is very involved with the issues of the day, and she absolutely loathes people with contrary opinions.


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