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Saturday, October 6, 2018

Growing Up In A Magical Place: Fernandina Beach

Growing Up In A Magical Place:
Fernandina Beach 

ONCE UPON A TIME, longer ago than I like to admit, (actually, over fifty years ago), and not so very far away, there existed a magical place in which to live and grow up, called Fernandina Beach. Fernandina to the locals.

Fernandina is on Amelia Island, which is Florida's northernmost, east coast barrier island. The sun rises over the Atlantic Ocean and sets over the St. Mary's River. You can look across the river, from the docks downtown, and see GEORGIA! (This was amazing to me as a child, since Georgia was a different state and seemed far away!)
View looking down Centre Street in Fernandina
Photo by
Fifty plus years ago, Fernandina was a sleepy, small town. Doctors made house calls. Dry cleaning was delivered to your home. The Fuller Brush Man visited regularly with free samples. Doors were left unlocked. 

With drug stores, barber shops, clothing stores, a shoe store, office supplies, bakeries, hardware stores, a movie theater, jewelers, a bowling alley, grocery stores, gas stations, and a hospital, we had pretty much everything we needed without ever having to leave the island! 

Lots of children knew each other almost from birth since many of our parents also grew up together. Some families had lots of relatives in the area. New girls and boys moved to town. Over time they became "old friends," as well, through interactions in our neighborhoods, churches, scout troops, clubs, sports, and schools. 

As children, we could ramble and explore for hours, because our parents knew everyone we were with and their parents. My mother knew exactly where I'd been before I even got home to tell her!

We played in the park across from the junior high. We played tennis on the public courts. We walked or rode our bikes to buy penny candy from E-Z Pic, GW's, and Hall's Store. We rode our bikes to swimming lessons and "public swims" at the pool at the Recreation Center. When we got tired of swimming, we put peanuts in a bottle of Coke for a snack. We also had ceramics classes and "Sub-Teen" Club at the Rec Center.

We spent Saturdays, and lazy summer days, walking downtown for comic books and 5¢ Cokes, or 6¢ Cherry or Vanilla Cokes, from Gene's, or 10¢ ice cream cones from Waas' Drug Store. (Ice Cream cones were free from Waas' if you had a prescription for an ice cream cone from Dr. Stewart, our dentist, for having a good dental check up.)

We went to Becker's after school for Cokes with half-orders of french fries, or, when they had a promotion, we popped a balloon to try to get a banana split for a penny! (Prices ranged from 1-39 cents.)

We played outside till after dark, and our two favorite outdoor events were: (1) the Ice Cream Man and (2) the Mosquito Control truck's spraying so we could get lost in the fog.

Fernandina Beach
Photo by
We walked to the beach with friends, where we jumped waves, rode rented rafts, balanced on skim boards, and surfed on longboards. When we were thoroughly parched, we sought hydration from public water fountains, where the water was HOT, or at the Golden Sands, Moore's, or the Blue Seas which had a walk-up service window on the beach!

We gathered sand dollars, conchs, whelks, angel wings, fingernails, and other shells by the hundreds. We ran through the head high foam on the beach. We tumbled head over heels, not knowing up from down when rogue waves surprised us, knocked us down, and washed us to shore. We got up sputtering and coughing and ran right back into the ocean!

We harvested sea oats for dried flower arrangements. We trudged up and raced down the multiple layers of sand dunes that lined North and South Fletcher, and the Fort Clinch Road, before Hurricanes Donna and Dora took most of them out.

We played Putt-Putt, jumped on the trampolines, ate snow cones, went skating, and played pinball at Main Beach. When we got our driver's licenses, we endlessly circled town and the beach.

Starting in junior high, we had beach parties with bonfires. (Of course, that was before there were turtle patrols, condos, The Amelia Island Plantation, The Ritz Carlton, the park at Peter's Point, or the multiple public beach accesses.)

The PTA had Halloween Carnivals under the bleachers at the city football field and there were Friday night high school football games at the same location. On the 4th of July, the Kiwanis Club hosted their annual fireworks and charity auction at the football field. (My Daddy served as auctioneer!)

After the Quonset hut movie theater by the water tower downtown closed, our only movie options were the Reef drive-in theater at Five Points or occasional movies at church youth group events. We also had hayrides, Shrine parades, and Shrimp Boat races for additional entertainment.

When our Girl Scout troop camped at Fort Clinch, we chopped trees for firewood, with hatchets, and used our Girl Scout knives to cut palmetto fronds for roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. No tree-hugging rules to worry about back then! We had great and scary adventures searching for alligators at Willow Pond.

"Gator Shining" on Egan's Creek--i.e. searching for the red reflection of alligators' eyes as we shined flashlights back and forth across the creek--was always a "must do" with out of town friends. I remember shrieks of fear and laughter as we fed the gators marshmallows from the dock, or from a boat when we were able to sidle up alongside them! Fiddlers scurrying around our feet and a myriad of waterbirds swooping out from under the boathouse unexpectedly kept our adrenaline pumping!

We went "sand surfing" and "dune buggy" riding on the huge dunes at the Fort. We could still get down into the entrance of a tunnel, and into the ovens, when we played "hide and seek" and "Sardines" at Fort Clinch! We also played Sardines at First Baptist Church, and enjoyed breathtaking views of town and the river from the third story roof!

We grew up doing a lot of things that are no longer considered safe, politically or socially correct, or environmentally sound. All those things were a LOT of fun, though! Fernandina was truly magical in "the olden days." It still is magical; just different now.

For the last 10 years, a core group of nine "girls" have gotten together at a rented beach house to enjoy the beach and reminisce about "the good old days." Other friends join us periodically at the beach and about town.

In addition to this being our tenth year at the beach, it was also our 40th Fernandina Beach High School Class Reunion weekend, and I wanted to memorialize our beach weekend with some professional photos.

My new friend, Libby Wilkes, of Elizabeth Wilkes Photography, came out to the beach to capture some memories for us. The photo below is my favorite. I was already a fan of Libby's work, after receiving one of her photo books as a gift, and seeing her studio's beautiful video of the island.

Beach Chicks--Ten Years at the Beach & 40th High School Reunion
Photo by
If you have even one good, "old friend," you are rich, indeed! My Fernandina friends and I are fortunate to have so many long-term friendships. We're finding, as time goes on, it takes a group effort to remember the details of our joint history! It takes a long time to grow "old friends!" I am blessed!

Love to all my friends, OLD and NEW! (As we used to sing in Girl Scouts:
"Make new friends, but keep the old; One is silver and the other gold!")

**UPDATED 2019 (Originally published in 2011)

Sadly, we lost "Little Lucy" Mierzejewski, far right in the above photo, in 2014. 2014 was our 13th Annual "Beach Chicks Reunion."

A number of us still gather for our annual Beach Chick's weekend! 2019 will be our 18th year!

Monday, May 28, 2018

Welcome to Your Island Paradise!

My sister and I are Selling our Family Home-Place. 

It is difficult to sell your childhood home. It is full of priceless memories and there are no provisions in MLS listings for all the intangible assets! 

(Update: We sold our home. The buyer turned out to be the daughter of our neighbor, who was also my beloved childhood babysitter! I love how everything turned out. God is good!) 

Here are our Top 10 Reasons Why This Property Is Perfect for YOUR Family!

1. Location!

First and foremost, 1840 Highland Drive is located in a wonderful town, Fernandina Beach, Florida, on Amelia Island. Historic Amelia Island is the only place in the United States that has been under the flags of 8 Different Countries!  (CLICK HERE for a prior blog post I wrote in honor of my hometown and childhood friends.) 

Marsh View from the Backyard.

2. Large 1.4+ Acre Lot On One of The Island's Highest Lots in an Established Neighborhood!

This is one of the Islands most beautiful lots! The property is filled with stately oaks and is the perfect place for you to build your dream home with marsh views and upper level glimpses of the ocean! You can put down deep roots in Fernandina! Enjoy an established neighborhood, without neighborhood association fees or restrictive covenants. People in Fernandina still know their neighbors! 

Front Yard with Stately Moss-Covered Oaks

3. Waterfront Property!

124 Feet of Deepwater Frontage on Egans Creek is just a short stroll from the back door. We have always shared a dock with wonderful neighbors, but if you prefer your own dock, we have secured a permit for you! You can drive your vehicle down to the dock! We spent many hours on the dock fishing, sunning, and boating while growing up, and later fished and boated with our own children. Alligators, manatees, otters, birds and other wildlife are frequent visitors along the creek. While growing up, walking to the dock at night with flashlights was a great adventure with friends and dates. It was romantic sitting on a dock, under the stars, close to nature. Marsh and water sounds blend with nocturnal animal calls. Capture this vision in person as you mosey down to the creek. Imagine a moonlit stroll to your new dock, while beams from the Historic Amelia Lighthouse, just a few lots down, circle overhead. You can wake up every morning to these beautiful marsh views! 
Son had a good day fishing!

4. Boater's Paradise!

You have quick access, by boat, to both the Intracoastal Waterway and the Ocean. Cumberland Island, now a National Seashore, is across the Sound. Many people enjoy paddle boards, kayaks or Jet Skis in the creek. During the late 70's and early 80's, our parents owned the "World's Largest Johnson and Yamaha Outboard Dealership." That gave our family the opportunity for lots of boats at home for picnics, water-skiing, and moonlight cruises. We often "boat caravanned" with other families to Crandall, Rose's Bluff, and Crooked River, for water-skiing and picnicking, or to Jacksonville for dinner. 
My sister, age 12 (front) and me, age 14. 

5. Great Location to Entertain Family and Friends!

My sister and I grew up in Fernandina. She has bought a home and retired there. My family and I return a couple of times a year to visit and enjoy the island with family and friends. For my sister and me, our home was the hub for all manner of school functions, meetings, and slumber parties. My parents hosted holiday gatherings, birthday parties, cookouts, pool parties, club meetings, and countless baby and bridal showers. Our pool was always available for friends to drop by and swim. After my mother became unable to care for the pool, she had it filled in. My sister and I rescued the slide, and moved it to my Georgia home! You can always build a new pool to make precious memories with your family, too!
25 years after pool photo below. 6 People from original photo with our families. 
Slide repainted and in place at our Georgia home ! 

6. Centrally Located!

The property is located off of 18th Street, just blocks from Atlantic Avenue, which is the main road connecting Historic Downtown with the Main Beach. It is close to schools, shopping, dining, the Historic District, and the beach. It’s just a short drive to the South End of the island with the world class Ritz Carlton and Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resorts and Spas. 

7. Family, Faith, and Festivals!

I once brought 13 friends home from college for the "Shrimp Boat Races" weekend. That event is now known as the "Isle of 8 Flags Shrimp Festival" and it draws over 100,000 people! Church is an important part of our family life. Fernandina has a strong and varied Faith Community. Culturally, Amelia Island boasts a Book Festival, Film Festival, Chamber Music Festival, Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance Car Show at the Ritz Carlton, and a host of other special events. There are also active community theater and choral groups.
1974: My College Friends in Town for The Shrimp Boat Races 
(My sister, far left 2nd from front, white shirt.)

8. Outdoor Recreation!

There are thirteen miles of sandy beaches on the Atlantic Ocean. The beach, Amelia River and creeks offer opportunities for boating, swimming, surfing, paddle boarding, windsurfing, jet skiing, fishing, and horseback riding. The island is also perfect for biking, hiking, tennis, golf and LOTS MORE! This is the perfect outdoor playground for families. The weather is enjoyable year round, with average highs in the 70’s. Our view across the marsh takes in the maritime forests of Fort Clinch State Park, which features a Civil War era fort and a ½ mile long fishing pier. 
Daughter with a small fish! This photo is looking South down Egans Creek toward Atlantic Avenue. 

9. Proximity to Jacksonville!

You’re 45 minutes from the Jacksonville airport, which makes it easy to travel for business or pleasure. With excellent interstate access, you are within an hour’s drive of Jacksonville’s many attractions, including The River Walk, shopping, dining, museums, professional sports, the Jacksonville Zoo, and many historical sites. There are a number of excellent private schools, as well as public and private colleges for higher education. Medical treatment options include the renowned Mayo Clinic and a division of the University of Florida’s Shands Teaching Hospital.
View of High Ground from Dock.. Lighthouse visible over trees far left. 


There is something for everyone! This one-of-a-kind property, with water frontage, sweeping marsh views, and your own driveway access directly to the creek can be all you've dreamed of and more! Great for families or as a retirement sanctuary. Our family shared life here for over 45 years. We're looking for someone who will enjoy this property as much as we have. Come see for yourself. This is THE PERFECT PLACE for YOUR FAMILY to make lifetime memories!