As I stated in his first post, once weekly I plan to feature a guest writer, my husband. He has been painstakingly writing down the stories of his childhood to share them with his 9 year old niece. I wanted her to know what kind of childhood her beloved Uncle was able to enjoy. While enjoying them myself I thought these are so much fun to read, why not share them? So here are the short missives of his memories of growing up in wilds of Florida during the 1950's and 1960's. They're packed with misadventures, romance, and all the confusing things that can happen in our youth. Even though his hometown of Jacksonville is a big city with over a million residents now, during his childhood it was several small communities surrounded by countryside.
This is his story.
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11935 Cornelius Street
by Steven R. Hudson
Our house in Center Park, like most Florida homes then, was concrete block with three small bedrooms and one bath. Linoleum covered the floors throughout and the walls were rough textured plaster that "sweated" when the seasons changed. There were no trees in our yard which appeared barren except for the plugs of St. Augustine grass that gave a strange polka dot effect. It rained every afternoon in those times, or it seemed so, and the little plugs of grass sent out their "tentacles" and quickly produced a carpet of green, broken only by patches of white flowered clover. There was a large vacant lot behind the house with an ancient Long-leaf Pine on the lot's east side. We had no air conditioner to counter summer's heat but winter was made bearable by an oil fired space heater. I remember how happy we were to have our own home. Life was good.
I turned six that spring and started first grade at Southside Elementary, a school that is still part of the county school system. I caught school bus # 73 each school day, Mrs. Dent driving. My teacher, Mrs. Grady, told us that we needed to memorize our addresses and telephone numbers and to this day, I still remember them. 11935 Cornelius St. and 724-2426 or RAymond 42426 as the telephone numbers were always proceeded by the name of the exchange back then, R and A being 7 and 2 on the dial, no touchtone either. I enjoyed school, especially the days when we had art class. I loved to draw and my teacher recognized that I had some natural talent as even at that age I drew three dimensional figures and had an understanding of perspective. She told my mother that I should get training but we were poor and that would never happen. I was always given drawing supplies at home however, sometimes I would spend an entire evening drawing, mostly dinosaurs, my favorite.
That same year a family from Chattanooga, Tennessee, moved into the house directly behind ours and across from the vacant lot. Gene and Irma Mealer and their two sons, Ray and Jackie. Gene Mealer was a commercial artist and a good one. Ray and I were the same age and his brother Jackie only one year younger. We became fast friends and would remain so for many years. Our parents became friends also, especially our mothers who, to this day, are still in contact.
There was a Mexican family, the Lopez's that lived a few houses down. They had a son my age named Roberto but we all called him Robert. I was amazed that he and his siblings could speak another language as easily as they spoke English. Robert had three sisters and three brothers, his oldest sister was already married and his oldest brother was in high school which I thought really cool. I remember his mother being a very kindly woman who loved children and was always inviting the neighborhood kids in for homemade cake and a glass of cold milk.
There were other friends that came and went as families moved in and then moved elsewhere. Many of the names I still recollect, Rick Martin, Bobby Fann, Peanut (I never knew his real name), and Bret and others I can't remember.
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