Rabid Fun

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

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Page From My Book

Yesterday I worked on my history of firefighting in Jacksonville. I don't know how to transfer footnotes, formatting, or textboxes over into Blogger but here’s the first draft of a page I wrote:

The 1920s brought two national phenomena into Jacksonville’s culture: Prohibition and the Great Depression.

On January 16, 1919, this amendment, Number 18, was ratified in the United States Constitution:

After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.

When the entire United States went dry, Demon Rum became illegal everywhere in the country… but Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas lay with in the range of bootlegger speedboats which operated out of Jacksonville.

In 1928, notorious underworld figure Al Capone bought a 32 foot powerboat, Flying Cloud, in Jacksonville. He used it for parties and to travel between Jacksonville and a home in Miami — and possibly for rum running. In 1933 Capone was put in prison for tax evasion and later his boat was put up for sale to satisfy his debts.

Local and federal revenue agents fought the illegal importation of liquor.

When smugglers saw revenue cutters approaching, they dashed for shallow water and threw cases of whiskey overboard attached to marker buoys. But if the revenuers saw the buoys, they’d confiscate the liquor. So, when they threw the liquor overboard, the bootleggers anchored their buoys underwater with heavy bags of salt.

In a few hours, after the revenuers left, water dissolved the salt, the buoy floated to the surface, and the smugglers would retrieve their cargo…

Until the sheriff learned that slick trick.

In spite of the Law’s best efforts Jacksonville remained soaking wet while legally dry.

Sam L. Varnes
March 1, 1927

Firefighter Sam L. Varnes was crushed to death under
Engine 2 after being thrown from the apparatus as it
skidded on the wet pavement and crashed into a pole
at Eighth Street and Tallyrand Avenue while rushing
to a fire.

The beginning of the Great Depression in the United States is associated with the stock market crash on October 29, 1929, known as Black Tuesday.

Thousands of companies went bankrupt and closed throwing millions of people out of work. Inflation soared. Work and money disappeared. Within a year, 24,000 people in Jacksonville faced starvation. Men turned to begging in the streets till city government banned all beggars except for “cripples who sell newspapers”.

The city tried public works projects to hire the unemployed. Pay for unmarried men was a dollar a day; married men earned a dollar and a half per day.

To keep hoards of job seekers from the north at bay, Jacksonville stipulated that only city residents could work for these wages.

To give as many people as possible a chance to earn a living, hours for all city employees were cut; first to 30 hours a week, then to 24 hours. One crew would work Monday to Wednesday; another from Thursday to Saturday. Firefighters held on to their jobs by the skin of their teeth.

By December, 1932, city government turned Camp J. Clifford R. Foster into “an unemployment, relief and concentration camp”. A thousand unmarried men were interned there. Jacksonville Mayor John T. Alsop said, “Jobless men who have been begging on the streets will be given an opportunity to enter the camp…If they do not want to… they will be sent to the city prison farm”.

Remember the opening scene of the movie King Kong when Fay Wray fainted in the soup line? That scene could have been filmed in Jacksonville.

But even though soup kitchens opened here to keep people from starvation, in August, 1931, ten thousand destitute people in need of immediate assistance marched on city hall demanding a chance to work.

Families were existing on bread and water alone for month after month and ...

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 @ 4:37 AM


At 10:27 AM, Blogger Amrita said...

the powerboat 's a beauty


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