Post-War Wedding

Bill and Tot

Bill and Tot

On April 15, 1950, William Henry Barrett, Jr. (1919-1991) and Marjorie Barker Killebrew (1920-1981) were married at Trinity Church in St. Augustine, Florida.  Marjorie (“Tot” to her friends and family) was a widow, having lost her first husband during the war.  Bill was a widower. His first wife had died of cancer.  Their marriage would end in divorce in 1959.

Cedar Key Sunset

Cedar Key Sunset

The Orange Blossom Special

Ponce de Leon discovered Florida at Easter time and Easter has always been a special celebration here in St. Augustine. Beginning with the Arts & Crafts festival and Blessing of the Fleet on Palm Sunday on through Good Friday to sunrise service on the beach and winding up with the Easter parade. Just as important – especially as we got older – Palm Sunday weekend was usually the unofficial beginning of beach season. The water was still too cold for swimming, but it was warm enough to show off our new bikinis.

Easter Bonnets and ParasolsSome of my favorite Easter memories include:

  • Each child brought a flower posey to Easter Sunday service at our church. It was placed into one of the many holes drilled in a wooden cross. The result was a beautiful sight – and smell – as this cross led the family service’s processional march.
  • Getting new black patten leather Mary Janes from Grandma to wear with the new Easter dresses Mom made us.
  • The horse and buggies decorated as floats for the Easter parade. Each horse wore an Easter bonnet donated by some famous lady. The buggies carried members of the “royal family” dressed in period Spanish dress.
  • Anchoring off Quarry Creek to wait for the Blessing of the Fleet to begin. It was quite a collection of watercraft – from shrimp boats to sport fishermen to yachts and sailboats.
  • Wandering through the Plaza enjoying the paintings, photographs, jewelry and pottery on exhibit. I was sorry to see this event moved from the Plaza to the “special event field”.

Mom turned our Easter baskets into a works of art. In addition to the chocolate bunnies and jelly beans, there were presents too – including new bathing suits. Even after I left home to join the Air Force, the Easter baskets kept coming. My most memorable basket came while I was stationed in Nebraska. It may be beach weather in Florida, but Easter in Nebraska is still a bit icy. My first Easter there was cold and wet – until the package from Florida arrived. I was on my way to work when I stopped at the mailroom so I didn’t get a chance to open it until I got to the office.

I was in the break room when I opened the box. As soon as I broke through the tape and opened the lid, the room was flooded with the smell of orange blossoms. As an afterthought, Mom had cut a branch off our orange tree and tossed it in the box. For a few delightful moments the sun was shining and warm breezes blew off the ocean – not just for me but for everyone in that room. The blooms didn’t survive the trip north, but it didn’t matter. They had still performed their magic. Don’t ask me what else was in the box. All the delicious goodies paled in comparison to that smell of spring in Florida.

I spent two more Easters in Nebraska – and received an orange blossom special each time. To this day, the smell of orange blossoms reminds me of Mom’s Easter touch.

Dawn on Matanzas Bay

Dawn at the moorings on Matanzas Bay

Dawn at the moorings on Matanzas Bay

Savannah’s Vietnam Memorial

A while back, we enjoyed a brief visit in Savannah – an opportunity to do a bit of research and visit the cemetery where most of my Savannah Barrett ancestors are buried.  I also wanted to visit the Vietnam Memorial in Emmet Park – not only because it’s a beautiful memorial but also because it was created by Oglethorpe Marble and Granite.  It just so happens that they are part of my Savannah family.

Savannah Vietnam Memorial

A huge piece of Georgia marble sits in the middle of a reflecting pool.  It has a map of Vietnam carved on its face and a pedestal at the top with an upturned rifle, empty boots, helmet and dog tags.  A five-pointed star of marble embedded in the cement fans out from the pool with the insignia of each of the branches of service carved at the points.  A large block of marble (shown here on the right) lists the names of the 105 area residents  who were killed or declared missing in the war. To the east, American and POW/MIA flags fly perpetually at half-mast.

Savannah Vietnam Memorial

Like many military memorials, the funds to create it are donated by citizens, civic and fraternal groups and businesses.  Rings of engraved bricks were sold to raise funds and they are also embedded in the cement to show who helped make this memorial possible.  A spirit must have been guiding my feet as I walked over to get a closer look at the bricks, for when I stopped and looked down, I was surprised to find myself standing directly over a brick with my father’s name, W H Barrett, engraved on it.  Actually, it should not have been so surprising.  My father was born in Savannah, served in the U.S. Merchant Marine and during the Vietnam War he shuttled fuel from the Persian Gulf to Cam Rahn Bay. So, now I have an even closer attachment to this beautiful memorial.

Savannah Vietnam Memorial

Details:  The map was carved in place from three pieces of Georgia marble with a total weight of 91 tons.  An overhead photo at the Oglethorpe Marble and Granite site shows a better perspective of the carved map.

Cool Down at Blue Springs

Blue Springs near Deland, Florida

Blue Springs near Deland, Florida

Blue Springs is the largest of the springs feeding the St. Johns River and, with a year-round water temperature of 73°, it provides a winter home for a number of manatees. If you would like to get away from the hustle and bustle of Florida’s commercial attractions and enjoy a bit of Florida’s natural beauty, pay a visit to Blue Springs State Park.

St. George Street

The intersection of St. George Street and Cathedral Place.

The intersection of St. George Street and Cathedral Place.

A view of the intersection of St. George Street and Cathedral Place taken sometime in the mid to late 1950s. The building with the balcony on the left is Government House and has been there since colonial times. At the time of this photograph it served as St. Augustine’s post office. The balcony overlooks the plaza.

The two buildings just across Cathedral Place are gone. Now there is a parking lot on the left and a garden adjoining the Cathedral on the right.

Today, from this intersection north to the old city gates, St. George Street is closed to vehicular traffic. What was once the main business district for the town is now a mall full of gift shops, galleries and restaurants along with a few historic sites.

Marine Studios 1949

Marine Studios buildings

Marine Studios 1949. Photo courtesy of the Florida Photographic Collection

Marine Studios, later known as Marineland of Florida, opened in 1938 and was billed as the world’s first “oceanarium”. It is located on the Atlantic Ocean at the south end of St. Johns County. The road you see here is part of scenic A1A. The circular structure on the right was the dolphin tank. You could watch the dolphins from the top or from two levels of portholes surrounding the sides of the tank. You can see one through the door on the bottom right. To the left of the mast is the rectangular tank that showcased an assortment of sea creatures ranging from sharks to sea turtles to grouper.

Images of MarinelandThese buildings are gone now. A modern facility offering dolphin adventures has taken its place. The facility was recently purchased by the Georgia Aquarium.

If you would like to learn more, Images of America’s Marineland is available in both print and Kindle editions.