Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Pablo Historical Park a Beaches Eye-Opener

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Pablo Historical Park a Beaches Eye-Opener

Article excerpt

I should be ashamed of myself. As a tourist I always seek out

historic places to visit, but it's taken me 13 years to get

around to visiting Pablo Historical Park in Jacksonville Beach.

Prior to taking our tour, which is given free by the Beaches

Area Historical Society, my knowledge of Beaches history was

very limited -- fragments about famous hotels, a railroad and

mining in what is now Ponte Vedra Beach. Consequently, I was

ready to learn, although I really didn't know what to expect

from the tour of the park, small as that place is.

But good things do come in small packages and the tour was a

little gem. It includes the Florida East Coast Railway House #93

(built in 1900 for less than $1,100 for the section foreman of

the Florida East Coast Railway), a 28-ton steam locomotive, the

old Mayport Railroad Depot, which was moved to the park in 1978,

and various outdoor markers.

We didn't spend much time in the house on my first visit (I

returned for another tour the following week) primarily because

our group of five was composed of me, two mothers and their

young daughters, who were quite eager to get to the train.

Attention spans of 4and 5year-olds being what they are, the

group eventually dwindled to just me, and docent Lauralee Till

gave me a personal tour.

I was especially interested in the many old photographs on

display in the train depot. Because so few buildings have been

preserved, these precious photos are the only physical records

of what life was like years ago. (Lauralee jokingly referred to

the Beaches' grand tradition of building wooden hotels and then

watching them burn.) Other invaluable records do exist -- in

people's memories.

When I excitedly mentioned the tour to my neighbor and longtime

Beaches resident, John Johnston, he began reeling off story

after story about moonshiners and revenuers, the railroad and

Mayport; the people, the places, the times. He seemed reluctant

when I suggested that he record his memories for posterity. But

when I mentioned it another day, emphasizing the importance of

what he knows, he promised to talk with two other area natives

about getting together over a tape recorder. …

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