Aug 10, 2012

Jacksonville Beach, FL

Travel Info and Links are Below

Despite its proximity to St. Augustine, the nation's oldest city, Jacksonville Beach is not very old. This stretch of oceanfront was difficult to access as recently as the early 20th century. The train tracks came down here to work the sulfur pits, there was a turnstile here at the beach for the train to turn around and head back up to Jacksonville. In the late 19th century, there was a bit of beach activity as the train was used for beach travelers, a couple resorts were built, then burned in fires.

Around 1910 – 1912 Atlantic Blvd. was established (oyster shell road), followed by Beach Blvd. and beaches started opening up along the oceanfront.  A boardwalk was built soon after and filled with gambling, restaurants, shooting galleries, the usual boardwalk stuff.  By the 30's and 40's you could walk the beach and the boardwalk began attracting families for vacations.  Car racing was a big thing on the hard packed sand.  I've always wondered why we're allowed to drive cars on parts of FL beaches - it must have its roots in the car racing days.  You can't drive on Jacksonville Beach today, but you can drive on Amelia Beach just a short ways north and of course Daytona, to the south.

For a beachcomber with a metal detector like Max McCormick, a young beach means you won't find anything very old buried here. “The best place to hunt,” Max told me, “is when they redo a street. They dig up the concrete and I can take in my Garrett and find some pretty old stuff under the streets.”

Max told me about mementos the boardwalk used to offer to vacationers -- metallic coins with the buyer's name, date and where they were from printed on them. Max finds a lot of these old coins, “I must have three dozen of these from all over the United States.” He told me.

Mostly Max just finds old coins when he digs on the beach, but one time......
 he found a 1909 mercury dime. Another time he found an employee badge for “top salesman” from the Green River Distillery. He looked online and found that the distillery is located in Manhattan. His greatest beach find was a bracelet worth a couple thousand dollars. He searches either early morning or mid evening and the absolute best time to search is right after a big storm.

There is only one object he has found that he has not been able to identify yet, a solid silver medallion, something about the size of a half dollar.

Max finds a lot of earrings. His wife has complained,
“If you're gonna find earrings, at least find a whole pair.”
Of course I asked Max about his wife. Does she find his collection a bit too much?
“No,” Max assured me, “I keep it put up and tidy.”

Sure, Max. They all say that.
Read more about my visit with Max

Be sure to see the sunrise in Jacksonville at least once.

Travel Info:

NY Style Pizza at Milanos.  Great Italian food!
Skip Bagel World on the A1A.  Just. Skip. It.
Try to catch a show at Freebird Live.  You can't take a purse/bag larger than 5x7 in and you are subject to a pat down search upon entry.  But, hey, don't you want a little excitement?
Go into Jacksonville and spend some time at Jacksonville Landing.  Shops, Eateries, Music, River.
Eat at Dick's Wings at least once.  Fried pickles!  Go ahead... get your Dick fix.
Hampton Inn, 1220 Marsh Landing Rd.  Great place if you're visiting Mayo, 10 minute drive away.

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