Tag Archives: jaxpsychogeo

Wild Bill of Jax and His Leprosy

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“Will Bill of Jacksonville” had come back home, but outside a small circle of family and friends, he kept his diagnosis a secret. Not only did the disease frighten people, but in this Bible Belt town, it resonated as the plague of the Old Testament.

The Board of Health moved to quarantine his mother’s home on Rural Route 5 in the small western Duval County community of Hart Haven. “In closing,” he wrote, “let me give your readers, each and every one, a personal invitation. I assure you that when you leave, your outlook and perspective on life will be different.”

The Barnett National Bank Building, Its Deep Roots and Tendrils through Time

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It was “the Year of the Skyscraper.” The 10 story building next door began to tilt. Alfred duPont raised Florida from the Great Depression, merely from infusions of his personal wealth. When Barnett began the Bank of Jacksonville in 1877, he couldn’t have known it would grow into one of the largest banks in the South. After Herbert Hoover, Alfred’s wife, Jessie Ball duPont, changed direction. Her hair was graying, but her eyes still sparkled.

Barnett’s personification of its first Automatic Teller Machine frightened Southern working class families. Charles Rice said he’d never sell “Bion Barnett’s bank.” Then he checked into rehab. Then he sold. Then he drowned in his own swimming pool. Now UNF is making the Barnett “the front door to the startup community in Jacksonville.”

New Story: Old St. Johns River Lighthouse

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When I climbed the lighthouse in the year 2000, we found, in place of the light, the nest of a great night bird of prey. The Old St. Johns Lighthouse should stand for hundreds of years, perhaps a thousand, says Herschel Shepard, the architect who restored it. The door’s long buried in the risen ground. Wanton S. Webb called it a “pretty romance,” the story of a retired maritime sergeant who locked his daughter in the lighthouse a century and a half ago.

Curry-Thomas: A taxidermied specimen for every year of business

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70 years from the founding of Curry-Thomas Hardware and Gun Shop, two men in their 70s stare at each other. They’re both retired cops. Roger’s father Everett Curry worried about the death of the hardware trade, but Charles Thomas’s son Steve says gun sales have kept the store thriving. Big-game trophies of physicians and philanthropists take starring roles in the hardware store menagerie.

The Pickettville Serial Killer: Patrick Allen Herald’s Old Stomping Grounds

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In 1990, she was tired of living in a West Beaver Street trailer park. Her father had given Pat Herald permission to drive her, a minor, home to New Jersey.

He probably hadn’t yet murdered prostitutes. One victim who survived him said, “He was real nice.” His former sister-in-law says, “Pat had mommy issues,” but was “a hard worker.” When he murdered the women he picked up for sex, he also posed them. Samantha got to know them first. She was one of the few cops they trusted.

Ethiopian Timkat / Baptism / Resurrection in Jacksonville

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Today, all four of Jacksonville’s Eritrean and Ethiopian churches come together to celebrate Jesus’s baptism in the River Jordan, his destruction of Satan’s letters of possession of humans as slaves, and the reunion of Eritreans and Ethiopians.

Big Jim, Mouthpiece of the City’s Wild Soul

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Rexall Drugs sold the Americanitis Elixir to salve the nerves of anxious city dwellers suffering from noises like Big Jim. The State Board of Health condemned the old steam whistle, said it brought strong, rugged men to the breaking point. 

John Einig, the same inventor who built Jacksonville’s first automobile, had designed Big Jim. The whistle sounded the end of world wars, the dawn of electric lighting, the Great Fire of 1901, and the death of its inventor. The 140 year old whistle still sounds four times a day over Springfield and Downtown.

Two Writers Dead on Bay Street

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When “Poor Sam Russ, one of the best, most brilliant and widely known newspapermen in Florida” drank himself to death “in a cheap lodging house” on Bay Street, newspapers said, “Dying alone, unwept and unsung,

[he] reminds us also of the death of Hamilton Jay, who, like Sam Russ, occupied a position on the Times-Union, was a brilliant writer of prose and poetry.” Hamilton Jay, the poet laureate of Florida, drank cyanide, leaving a note that said the voices would not stop calling; “I can hold back no longer.”

Remembering When Lightning Knocked Out CSX’s Rail Service

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One strike from the sky touches 200 trains across the Southeast and Midwest, reaching into Ontario and Quebec.

Callie remembers Y2K, how often lightning struck, and how the river below seemed hers from her vantage point at 3 a.m.

2 New Year’s Stories: Remembering Kyle Marshall, DJ Chef Rocc, and New Life at Gator Lodge

Click below for either (why not both?) of the two full stories. Happy New Year’s! Here’s where we’ve been. Here’s where we’re going.

1. You shouldn’t die of congestive heart failure at 38 years old. Jacksonville loved F. Kyle Marshall. Some say he personified the city. I first met Kyle, where Rain Dogs is now, at Five Points Barber Shop, in 1931.

2. Lisa King learned to love people, coming and going, learned to love Jax when she first learned to walk at Gator Lodge. Never mind Haydon Burns and Aileen Wuornos. At her birthday party at this crossroads thrums the great untapped strength of the city’s diversity.