Friday, July 01, 2011


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Neighbors: Pilau, Pies and Pews is an artsy good cause

Downtown News
Publication Date: 07/15/09

The occasion was the annual ACCORD luncheon celebrating the 45th anniversary of the signing of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. And people filled the downtown hotel Casa Monica, where police dogs had been kept in the lobby of the then-vacant building in 1964 during the civil rights demonstrations that brought Martin Luther King to St. Augustine.

Jeanette Berk was there with son Lamar and daughter Marissa, and they were thrilled to be seated at the same table as Audrey Nell Edwards, one of the St. Augustine Four, who spent six months in jail and reform school in 1963 and 1964 for asking to be served at the local Woolworth's lunch counter. As a rising freshman at St. Augustine High School, Lamar was shocked: "It is hard to believe that people our age were put in jail for ordering a hamburger from a lunch counter," he said. And Marissa added, "I'm really inspired to be here among so many influential people in one room."

This annual occasion is always joyous, celebratory and quite moving -- and we get to sing "Lift Every Voice and Sing" really loud.

Historian David Nolan's short remarks deserve to be repeated in this column, because as novelist Pearl Buck once commented, "The truth is always exciting. Life is dull without it. Speak it then."

Never-dull Nolan commented sarcastically:

"We have heard much lately about the upcoming two-year historic celebration from 2013 to 2015 -- 2013 marks the 500th anniversary of Ponce de Leon NOT landing in St. Augustine. I don't think you'll find any reputable historian who will tell you that Ponce de Leon ever set foot here.

"2015 marks the 450th anniversary of the founding of our city by Pedro Menendez, after which he executed a number of people, 'not because they were Frenchmen, but because they were Lutherans.' Nowadays when I drive down U.S. 1 South and pass by the (Memorial) Lutheran Church, I think how nice it is that we no longer execute Lutherans here, and even let them practice their religion openly. It represents a maturity on the part of St. Augustine.

"And between these two anniversaries -- one historically dubious and the other morally reprehensible -- comes in 2014 the 50th anniversary of the one morally unambiguous event in our past: the civil rights movement of the 1960s, which changed America and inspired the world.

"If we don't make that the main focus of our public celebration in 2014, we will have missed the boat, and I hope that future generations will not find us guilty of that."


Do you want to spend time laughing and talking to neighbors at Opus Restaurant, sipping a light summer wine, eating beautiful hors d'oeuvres and hearing the neighborhood news? Then mark your calendars and plan to attend the Flagler Model Land Neighborhood Association meeting at 7 p.m. Aug. 2 at Opus 39 Restaurant on Cordova Street.

We welcome new members who live downtown and love seeing old friends. A $2 donation is requested. There will be a cash wine bar. See you there!


When Flagler College bought a small, unused church building on Ovieda Street, they needed to do something with all those pews. So when Kathy Drake, director of Communities in Schools, offered the pews to Hastings OUR Center, artist Kathy Marsh and community activist Malea Guiriba loaded them up in their truck and came up with a great idea: sell the pews at a "Pilau, Pies and Pews" fundraiser at Simple Gestures on Anastasia Boulevard from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Local artists, including Deane Kellogg, Eleanor Hughes, Mike Mitchell, Steve Marrazzo, Kathryn Marsh, Steve Ryder, Dexter McDaniel and Dale Whaley, have painted 14 of the pews, and they're just wonderful. If you have a long, empty hall like I do, you'll get there early to buy sit-able art.

Of course, there's also the fun of being with the outlandish folks at Simple Gestures, bringing and buying pies to buy and sell, and eating Johnny's Kitchen's best-in-the-state pilau and Kathy Drake's grilled pork kabobs.

All money collected from the sale will be donated to the OUR Center and the newly formed Pie in the Sky, an organization with the mission to "create connections within the Hastings community in order to provide services and support to individuals who are underserved."

Pump up those bike tires and ride over the bridge to Simple Gestures for a deliciously artsy day.


Finally, regarding a recent column mentioning Fish Island, Maurine Boles says she is concerned "with the dock on Fish Island.

"When we moved here 40 years ago," says Maurine, "we explored the island and at that time the ruins of Jesse Fish's home was there, The coquina walls were still standing and the outline was clear. At the same time there was a structure made of very large coquina blocks. It was on the outer edge near the northeastern side of the property. It had rifle slits on all sides and we were told that the facility was used to protect the property from Indians and to keep the slaves from escaping. Jesse Fish's grave was also clearly there though it had been desecrated by digging, Capt. Usina said there were rumors that money had been buried with the body. Today I understand very little is left of any of the sites.

"When plans first came out concerning construction of the 312 bridge the original plans had the road and bridge going directly across the Fish homesite. Louis Arana who was the historian at the Castillo (de San Marcos) at the time and I got in touch with Tallahassee and with some help from I think Hamilton Upchurch the route was changed so as to miss the homesite. It turned out to be a hollow victory since the curve created to miss the historic sites gave much more opportunity for commercial development, but we tried. Fish Island as you know was the very first commercial orange grove in Florida ... oranges individually wrapped in paper were shipped in barrels from a coquina dock which "I think is still part of the Fish Island Marina. Unless the PUD that the city commission approved in the l990's specifically included the historic sites then I was told that condo and anything could be built directly over these historic sites which would be lost forever.

"I have also heard rumors that if the dock is approved for residents of the development that these same owners could turn around and sublease their slips to other people and make a profit. It is such a shame to think about Florida's first commercial orange grove becoming just another condo development."

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