Monday, April 9, 2012

Labor of Love

When Maude Jackson learned the fire department planned to burn down her childhood school in a training exercise, she rallied others in the community to save it.

"That's our heritage," Ms. Jackson says.

Friendly, welcoming and strong to her core, you learn pretty quickly that Ms. Jackson is no stranger to rallying around a cause.

She speaks with pride about her relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whom she marched with in St. Augustine.

A young college student set on marrying her high school sweetheart in the early 1960s, Ms. Jackson participated in sit-ins and marches until the Civil Rights Act was signed in 1964.

"Our first date that we had set for getting married, I was locked up in jail," Ms. Jackson says. "What was so funny—my fiance had a top secret clearance in the Army, and here I was locked up in jail."

Ms. Jackson used that same determination to save the one-room schoolhouse from destruction and turn it into a museum celebrating the African-American hertiage of a small, rural community in the Hill Top area of Middleburg, Fl.

Museum visitors will find a host of artifacts, photos and newspaper articles chronicling the community's life from its birth in the late 1800s to present day.

The highlight of the museum, however, is the slight, lively curator who delights in passing down the history of this rural community from generation to generation.

Through Ms. Jackson, visitors will learn how the community grew up around Clay County's turpentine industry in the early 1900s, how women performed the day-to-day chores during the early years and, most importantly, how you can make old-fashioned ice cream with shaved ice, canned milk and vanilla flavoring.

Tours of the musuem are available by appointment only, but it is worth the effort to spend an hour of your time sampling a slice of the rural South through this charming lady's colorful tales.

Black Heritage Museum
Hunter-Douglas Park
4274 Longmire Ave., Middleburg

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sunset on the Marina

There are so many things to love about living in Northeast Florida—the sunshine, the crystal-clear water and the many parks and preserves that ensure our natural environment is available to all. But, nothing stirs my soul like the area marinas.

I may get seasick on the water, but seeing the sailboats resting in the sunlight conjures up whimsical memories of lives I've never even lived—sleepy, seaside villages and adventurous voyages on the high seas.

I happened to be in the Julington Creek area in early December and caught the Mandarin Holiday Marina at the most glorious time of day—sunset.

Owned by Charles Andreu and Lovie A. McEwen, the marina sells gas, ice and snacks to boaters on the St. Johns River.

The New Orleans Cafe, next door to the marina, is the perfect place for boaters to wait while their vessels are serviced or repaired. Crawfish Etoufee, Red Beans and Rice, and Muffelattas are just a few items on the Creole-style menu. A welcome respite from a day on the water, the cafe serves up hearty cuisine, live music and a breathtaking view of the marina.

Mandarin Holiday Marina
12796 San Jose Blvd. (SR 13)

The New Orleans Cafe
12760 San Jose Blvd.