|By: Paul S. Cilwa
|Page Views: 629
|Topics: #CoquinaGables #St.Augustine #Autobiography
|My very first move into a brand-new home.
Our next move was to be the last for several years. But it was into a brand-new, just-built, development home within easy walking distance of the beach. Plus, it was on an island, sort of. (And I've always liked islands, for some reason.)
The house, which I hadn't seen previously, was located in a brand-new housing development called Coquina Gables. But there was an interesting history to the place. Back in the late 1920s, someone decided to develop the area, and put in paved streets, given alphabetical names A, B, C and on through F. But that was St. Augustine's boom period, with the Florida East Coast railway having been built by (or for) Henry Flagler, to carry winter tourists from the Northeast down to warmer climes.
But, before any actual houses could be built, the stock market crash of 1929 put an end to the plan. The paved streets remained but were quickly grown over with Florida jungle. The pavement itself cracked and aged.
But then in 1962 someone new bought the area and built a few model homes on A and B Streets. A Street was well-paved, as it was used as a main road to the beach from a state road to the west. So it had already had a few homes built that were not in the "Coquina Gables style". There were probably 8 or 9 completed models, with a few floor-plan duplicates but reversed or in different colors.
However, our house was not a model: It had been built to my mom's specifications. The original homes had no four-bedroom models, but that's what we needed. So Mom had them add on a room behind the utility room for me. Because the floor plan did not air condition the utility room, there was no way to air condition my room. It had two windows and a door that opened onto the screened-in back porch but it still got pretty hot in the summer. (I did have a space heater for winter.)
From Mom's point of view, I had the "special" room, since she'd had to pay for it additionally and I imagine it wasn't cheap. But from my point of view, I had been isolated from the rest of the house and family and, in the worst of the summer, I wound up spending as much time as I could in the living room where the temperature and humidity were a little more bearable.
That said, I did make the most of it. And, looking back, it was good for me to be apart from everyone else since the walls weren't really soundproof and I was just getting into playing the radio or my record changer all night. Plus, I think Mom was, at the time, thinking we'd remain here into my college years, when I would surely want my own entrance after being late on a date.
But, at eleven years old, that wasn't something I could even imagine; and, in any case, we moved out before I graduated high school.
Meanwhile, my grandfather's health was continuing to erode. He was in his mid 70s and by this time could no longer walk and had to use a wheelchair. I became quite efficient in folding the wheelchair to be put into the car, and taking it out and unfolding it.
The back yard was generously sized, but we didn't do anything with it. We and the three neighbors who shared our northern and eastern boundaries went in together on a water pump for our lawns, so we wouldn't have to use the more expensive city water on grass. (Not that we had to do a lot of watering, anyway; at that time, Florida still got steady rain throughout the year.)
Although shag carpet was the style in those days, Mom left the terrazzo floors uncovered. Given the amount of sand we must have traipsed into the place, this was probably a good idea.
Oddly, I don't seem to have ever taken an actual photograph of my own room. I have a home movie clip taken in the utility room, and and another at the dining table (both intended to be part of a full-length movie, if I ever had actually completed it, or even written a script).
One more thing about my room: Mom didn't really think of it as "mine". I base this on the fact that, every now and then. without warning or apparent frustration, Mom would simply rearrange my furniture without telling me. It wasn't that big a room, but there were three walls against which my bed could be placed; and Mom used all three of them at one time or another. As near as I could tell, none of the arrangements had any advantage over the others. But I had to ask her to stop, when one night I staggered into my bedroom, exhausted, without turning on the lights, and threw myself, not on my bed, but onto the floor where my bed had been that morning.
She didn't stop. And to this day, I will not throw myself onto any furniture if I can't see for sure where it is.
Probably not the worst habit to have.
Although we could physically walk to the beach, we were still a little too young to be allowed to do that on our own. And, if we were going to take the car, we generally went to the St. Johns County Ocean and Fishing Pier. To start with, it was fun to walk to the end of it and back. Secondly, in 1962 there was a small amusement park at the north side of the parking lot. This park had a small set of waterslides, a Ferris wheel, and some kind of trampoline thing, as well as one of those photo booths that, for a quarter, would take four photos of you and anyone else you could fit into the booth. Louise and I tried it.
Looking at the above photos, I begin to see why my mom wasn't so very surprised when she finally learned I was gay.