Mary Frances Lowe Peterson was my great – grandmother. She lived on Blair Road, on the family farm. She was born and raised on the families land tract. She was there, when my mother woke up, as a five year old, smelling smoke and hearing a crackling noise.She alerted the family, saving their lives, from a fiery death. A night they never forgot! They lost everything, but themselves. The little, curly haired cherub, became an instant hero. Mary also lived with my Grandmother, Elizabeth Peterson McInarnay, on Phyllis St. The family had built a house there, following the farm house burning to the ground.
They rebuilt the farm house.
Mary Frances is buried next to, who I always heard called, J.D. Hysler; who married my good looking, Aunt Bertha, who also later owned, the Embassy Club on the Southside. My Aunt Lizzie was the coat check girl, in the old time, popular, speak easy. Bertha was known to have owned numerous places, in Duval and surrounding counties. And, she once pulled a woman’s eye out of her head, on Roosevelt Blvd. She had long fingernails. She drove a pale, blue Cadillac, when I was little. But, I doubt that’s what she was driving that day. She caught her two – timing husband (not JD) and rear ended the unsuspecting couple. And there you go, open the door, pull her out and I’m sure it was and accident , there goes the eye.
All of my family members, have been know to be enterprising; and a little bit dangerous. After all, it was the West Side. – you know, drinking whiskey and sleeping in a hollow log, with or without your diamonds.
I would ride between her and my Uncle Alfred, (she was elderly then) down to their river house, on the St John’s, and I would cough and cough. Uncle Alfred would say, “I think that smoke is choking her”. Aunt Bertha, with her white, permed hair and red lips would say, “her Mama smokes, she’s use to it”.
Uncle Alfred would take me to the Timiquan Indian Mounds, and out on the river, fishing with him. He put out long lines.
Aunt Bertha made the best carrot cake, and they had a paint by number, above the couch, that fascinated me. They told me I could never paint one of those, because it required patience.
She had a well, tended garden, and was a member of the local garden club.
My mother, Hilda McInarnay Eagerton, could look at a plant and kill it. However, she was pretty good with green backs; dollars that is. (her plant killing was historical on the Westside – haha – She tried.
Bertha had a son, who was sent to the electric chair.
I now know from Jacksonville Stories how J.D. and Bertha hooked up. The Hysler’s owned the land, on the other side of Chaffee Blvd.
My niece, has so much of our historical, family photos. One photo is of JD, with Mary Frances and my Aunt Maggie, out at the Blair Rd. farm, in the Roadster he was killed in, on the Main St. Bridge. I only know she is in possession of these photos, because she made the statement, in a news article, when her home burnt in Bryceville. She was quoted saying, all she saved, was “her grandmother’s family photos”.
I have been caring for my family’s section of Jax Historical Cemetery, Gravely Hill, which is in Riverside Memorial. I have to get permission, from Mrs. Edminster, who cannot figure out how my family got into their plantation cemetery.
I have a few educated guesses.
My Jacksonville Stories are endless. When a family stays on the same road for 200 years, it just gets thick.
Thick as the smell of creosote, August 19th, 1962, on the little Blair Rd. bridge, crossing McGirts Creek. I spent a lot of time there, perched as a moccasin hunter. We blew their heads off. I was only the lookout, but I was part of the killing team.
Everything was thick back then, rattle snakes, razor backs, cracker whips and fifths of liquor.
My Aunt Bertha bought me all of the classics; Black Beauty, Little Women, Tom Sawyer. I had read them all, by the third grade. They were my Christmas gifts, from her. What treasures! She also bought me a journal, and told me to write. She said, Cheri, write about your life.
I couldn’t – it was just too thick.
Now it’s like a half-empty can of Campbell’s soup, bought straight off the shelf of Publix’s. What are you going to do? Take the brand new deceitful can; they made the can big and the soup little, and say there’s something wrong here.