Rabid Fun

John Cowart's Daily Journal: A befuddled ordinary Christian looks for spiritual realities in day to day living.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Out Of The Blue

I’m back working on my Jacksonville fire history book.


An automobile fell out of the sky and hit Army Private O.C. O'Conner as he stood guard on the roof of Jacksonville’s Educator Biscuit Co warehouse.

This happened shortly after midnight on December 12, 1941, just five days after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

The Educator Biscuit Warehouse stood at the north end of the Jacksonville-St Johns River Bridge. From that strategic vantage point an Army sentry could see down Broad Street into downtown Jacksonville; he could also see activities around the Monticello Pharmaceutical company.

The sentry post atop the building overlooked the car barn for the Jacksonville Streetcar Line, hub of the Jacksonville transportation system. A sentry could watch for saboteurs intent on evil amid the bridge pilings. He could also observe boat traffic in the river.

What he could not see was traffic on the bridge itself.

In 1921 the Jacksonville-St Johns River Bridge (later renamed the Acosta Bridge) opened to traffic. It ran parallel to an earlier train bridge but for 20 years, it was the only automobile bridge over the river. Within three days after it opened, the toll-taker had logged 5,000 cars crossing the river, an amazing amount of traffic for those days. Jacksonville gained a second bridge, the Main Street Bridge, in 1941.

The north foot of the Jacksonville-St Johns River Bridge ended in a T-bone on the Riverside Viaduct, 13 feet above the roof of the Educator Biscuit Warehouse.

The Army considered the warehouse a strategic vantage point.

An automobile approaching from the south could turn right on Broad Street into downtown Jacksonville. Or it could turn left toward a residential section.

A wire and concrete barrier prevented cars from going straight unless…

On that fateful, cold December night, a car sped across the bridge.

It did not turn left.

It did not turn right.

It crashed through the barrier, flew through the air, and landed directly on roof of the Educator Biscuit Warehouse, directly on top of Private O’Conner.

At the crash, Jacksonville police and military assumed another sneak Jap attack.

Troops called out.

Sirens and searchlights.

Newspaper reporters swarmed.

A great commotion ensued until authorities discovered that the car on top of the warehouse had not been dropped by enemy aircraft. It was a drunk driver, an insurance salesman from Marietta, Ga., who did not make the turn and flew his car off the bridge onto the roof.

Police charged him with driving while intoxicated, driving recklessly and carelessly, damaging city and private property and resisting arrest. He was jailed and fined $250.

Although the car falling from the sky landed on all four tires directly on top of Private O’Conner, he only suffered a broken ankle. He was considered Jacksonville’s first homefront casualty .of World War II.

The following night, the Army doubled the guard.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 6:15 AM


At 2:55 AM, Blogger jellyhead said...

Yet another fantastic tale from the pen of John Cowart! It is always so rewarding coming to your blog!


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