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Published: January 10th 2020
The one mostly about catching up with an NJ theatre old friend
Friend Joanne arrived 1/7. She left her home on the eastern shore of MD on Saturday and travelled quickly so she could spend some time with us before getting into the ‘meat’ of her snowbird trip. I have known Joanne for approximately 10 years and have camped and travelled with her many times. We did Disney World in her timeshare and camping, and also spent a week at Mardi Gras, and most recently a week in the woods of NC.
The day was lovely. Before she arrived we spent some time sitting on the beach. I was all set to pick shells and was very disappointed as the only shells were what I call ‘chopped salad, very small pieces crushed by the pounding surf. I depleted my shell collection at home making Christmas crafts, and badly need to replenish. Not much here, just a few but did get some sea glass, albeit brown, green, white, but this is something that is not found at home
Joanne arrived, settled in and I made dinner for the four of us so the others could get to know her.
We decided to take a day trip to St. Augustine the next day.
About 30 miles south, St Augustine claims to be the oldest city in the US. We hopped on the Red Train hop on hop off open air tram and took in all the sites the driver gave us. I had to go to the Castillo San Marco and get my National Park passport book stamped. Our senior (Golden Age) pass saved us $15 each. We all have them, but only Diane had hers in her wallet, the rest had ours in our RVs. Dumb.
Next stop lunch at a New Orleans style restaurant with She Crab Soup, shrimp tacos, etc. A wonderful waiter and great food. Mary met up with a childhood friend who lives in the area and spent a few hours catching up with him. We finished our train our then went to the lighthouse and returned to St. Augustine in time to see the last night of their Holiday light display. Very impressive. On the way home we stopped at Hobby Lobby so I could get yarn for the baby blanket for my newest and upcoming grandchild. Then we discovered a new
store to us, 2nd and Charles, which ended up being like Books-A-Million. Lots of new and used books, board games puzzles, etc.
Wednesday morning we bid goodbye to Joanne who was off to Blue Spring State Park, one of my favorites, to spend some time with the manatees. The rest of us had a very lazy day, anticipating our evening.
When I knew I would be in Jacksonville for a few weeks, I looked for performances at The Florida Theatre, where my old boss from The Count Basie Theatre, Numa Saisselin is President. As luck would have it, a great show, Elvis Birthday Bash, was happening, AND on Elvis’ 85th birthday. I wrote to Numa and his wife, Laurie, and asked her to buy me tickets, and wonderful Numa comp’d the 3 of us. Here’s the history lessen courtesy of Wikipedia. Blog continues 4 paragraphs below.
The Florida Theatre began construction in summer of. The theatre was established as a seven-story concrete fireproof building with a roof garden and with an emphasis on showing movies and live performances. It was designed in the Mediterranean Revival architecture style. The site of the Florida Theatre was previously occupied by
a police station and jail which were demolished. Construction of the theatre took only one year and was opened to the public on April 8, 1927. At the time of the opening the Florida Theatre was the largest theatre in Florida. The opening night had several programs featuring fanfare of the American Legion Bugle Corps, a live stage show, and the film Let It Rain. The Florida Theatre was open from 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM showing a variety of films, news reels, or a stage presentation. In 1938 the roof garden was closed and replaced with offices to be rented out.
On August 10–11, 1956 Elvis Presley played two shows at the Florida Theatre to the dislikes of Jacksonville's city leadership. A committee was formed, and Judge Marion Gooding prepared arrest warrants due to Presley's bodily movements and influence on the local youth. Gooding and Elvis had a private meeting where Gooding threatened to execute the warrants if Elvis disobeyed his orders. Elvis performed the show with no action from the police or Gooding.
By the 1970s, the Florida Theatre was in decline and on May 8, 1980 it was forced to close. The historical significance of
the Florida Theatre and its architecture led to a $500,000 grant from the State of Florida and a $350,000 grant from the City of Jacksonville HUD Community Development Block Grant with an additional $150,000 from fundraising. On October 31, 1981 the Florida Theatre was purchased by the Arts Assembly of Jacksonville for $1 million. The Arts Assembly immediately began restoring the dilapidated building with $5 million. The Florida Theatre was also at the time placed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 28, 1982. One year later the newly renovated Florida Theatre was reopened to the public. On October 1, 1987 the Florida Theatre separated from the Arts Assembly as an independent entity governed by its own board of directors. The Florida Theatre today is the permanent home of the Florida Ballet, Theatreworks, and the annual Community Nutcracker.
Elvis Birthday Bash happens in 2 parts. Part 1, Scot Bruce, sings the songs of the younger Elvis and Mike Albert sings the songs of the more mature Elvis in Part 2. I do not consider either of them to be true Elvis impersonators. Rather they sing in the style of Elvis and tell stories. If you read the
history lesson, you saw that Elvis actually performed on this stage in 1956 and both Scot and Mike were over the top enthusiastic about performing on the same Elvis did so many years ago and on his birthday. The voices of both were great. They told good stories and interacted well with the audience. Mike bought a man up from the audience who used to be an Elvis impersonator and they did a duet which was great.
Numa is happy at The Florida Theatre. He is $7.5M funds raised towards a $10M renovation, seats, etc, something he knows how to do well. Laurie now has 3 grand babies and spends time travelling back to NJ to enjoy them. Numa talks proudly of his grandkids. He has acclimated to living in the south, and has found a home. (Numa, since I posted on facebook that I was at your theatre, lots of folks have chirped in with a hello.....Mary, Gina, Marion, etc.)
Diane picked up a volunteer application and hopes to be working there soon.
This is now 3 historic theatres in my life. Count Basie in Red Bank, NJ, Thalian Hall in Wilmington and now The Florida
Theatre. All are very similar in age, size and feel. Thalian installed an elevator in one renovation, CBT and Florida do not have (yet). Numa gave us a pass to the donor lounge, and I walked up the 3 flights to check it out. Just as my CBT friends would expect…..nice bar, nicely decorated, friendly staff, TVs. The proscenium looks the same in all three, as does the ceiling and side walls. Different colors, but very similar.
Thank you, Numa. Next time I will get to see you, Laurie.
Today, Thursday, was a day for me to be a slug. I did NOTHING except crochet and watch TV. We spent an hour on the beach, again no shells. Then out to dinner, and I mostly managed to stay lo-carb, until dessert and beautiful campfire at Diane’s.Tomorrow should be warm enough for me to take a bike ride in the morning. Then off to the store for some supplies. Tomorrow night Diane scored us Symphony tickets at the theatre she volunteers at. No time for rest and relaxation on this trip, yet.
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