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Fernandina Beach Long Ago

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Here are some old photos of Fernandina Beach, Florida, where my brother and I were born, and where we lived during the summers as kids. Our family’s farm is on the mainland, in Callahan, which is about 25 miles away. My grandmother lived there and there were always a few uncles, aunts and cousins around. These photos are from about 1958.

First we have a random street scene from the late 1950s. Most of these homes are now gleaming jewels, but in those days many Florida beach towns were more hardscrabble, rather down-at-the-heels compared to what they are now.

Here are some fishing boats at the Fernandina docks. These are probably shrimp boats, because about the only time my mom would take us to the docks was when she was buying shrimp.

Speaking of my mom, here she is walking to the car from the old Post Office, which isn’t shown in this photo. I’d love to have one of those old cars in the background!

Another dock scene. I don’t know what that building is at the end of the dock, but the electric sign says it’s open for business. Probably a seafood shack.

Last photo: Here’s the old Fernandina train depot, which I believe is now a visitor’s center. This photo isn’t as old as the others; probably from 1977 or so. By the time this was taken, the city fathers were snazzing up the place; especially the downtown area. They renamed the main drag Centre Street and the shops began trading to the increasingly large number of tourists.

Fernandina was a cool place to grow up, as it had an old pre-Civil War fort, Fort Clinch, on the north end of the island. It was closed to the public in those years, but my great-uncle was the curator and administrator for it and he’d let us in to play and explore as long as we were careful. Outside the walls of the fort was the best place to crab using chicken necks on a string. At night it was spooky sitting there waiting for the crabs to bite; the abandoned fort’s walls looming behind us creeped us out.

Bye-Bye Beach House!

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In this photo taken Saturday, September 12, 1964, my mom and I check out our destroyed duplex beach house in Fernandina (Amelia Island, Florida) after Hurricane Dora.

When Patty and I visited the scene a few years ago, we were able to find part of a concrete block from the house.

Unfortunately, flood/storm insurance was not available on ocean-front property in those days, and my dad even had to pay $600 to have the rubble bulldozed away. Of course, that house was WAY too close to the water!

The Beatles played the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville the next evening, having flown to Key West to avoid the storm. My Uncle Johnny’s girlfriend was ill, and he offered me the ticket he had purchased for her. I was bummed and decided to stay at the family farm on the mainland and play Scrabble with my cousins. BAD DECISION!!!