Dear Call Box: I’m a 74-year-old senior on a fixed income, and I’ve got a lot of back problems. I’m looking for somebody to put up a handrail for the one step leading to my porch. I’ve called quite a few businesses, but they want $800 to $1,000 just to put up one rail. I’m willing to pay a reasonable price.
Dear B.D.: Hart Felt Ministries, a faith-based nonprofit, can help you out. Hart Felt enlists volunteers to help area seniors preserve their independence by providing free non-medical services, such as visits, errands, respite, light housekeeping, yardwork, minor home repairs, wheelchair ramps, transportation to medical appointments and advocacy.
Call the office at (904) 861-2799, and you will be sent the necessary paperwork, said Julie Hart Peoples, assistant executive director. To qualify, you have to be at least 70, live independently and have a chronic illness or disability.
Hart Felt tries to find volunteers who live within 5 to 7 miles of a client to participate, she said. The projects are overseen by licensed contractors. Because it is a safety issue, the nonprofit doesn’t ask about income when putting up rails or ramps, Peoples said.
Kelly Moorman Coggins is executive director of the nonprofit, which was founded by Jane Hart about a dozen years ago. For more information, go to hartfelt.org.
Update: Readers came through for a man who wanted to know if anyone remembered Webb’s North Jetty Fish Camp where Huguenot Memorial Park is now at 10980 Heckscher Drive. The park, also referred to as the big jetties or north jetties, offers access to the jetty rocks used to guide ships into the mouth of the St. Johns River.
Two relatives were among those who called to share information on the bait and tackle shop that Marvin Webb owned and operated from 1945-55. His son, Joe Webb, said his father leased the property from the government after he got out of the Army. From the small tin building, the family sold bait and tackle, cold drinks, ice and egg salad sandwiches made by his mother, Ella Mae Webb.
His father maintained the oyster shell road to the store and charged 25 cents for parking, said Joe Webb, a St. Augustine resident who is general manager of Atlantic Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram.
The family lived in a house near the store. In those days, there were no power lines to the area, and the family used a diesel-powered generator, he said. Both the house and the store had to be moved at least once because of erosion. When his father’s lease ran out in 1955, the government did not renew it, saying it interfered with air traffic going into Mayport Naval Station, Joe Webb said. After his father lost the lease, Joe Webb said he bought seven acres of land at another Heckscher location and moved the house onto that property.
“One of my earliest memories is standing up on my father’s Jeep pickup truck to watch the house coming down the road to its current location,” he said.
Joe Webb said he lived in the house from 1953 to 1969. As for the “tin” store, its materials were used to build the family’s garage.
For a while, Marvin Webb drove his truck to the area and operated a concession stand on weekends, much like modern-day food trucks. Then he worked as a bridge toll collector on Heckscher and then postmaster at Fort George Island. His father died in 1970 and his mother in 2007.
Alice Tuten said Marvin Webb was her mother’s first cousin. She recalled that Heckscher was named after August Heckscher, a German-born immigrant and New York millionaire who made a fortune in zinc, iron, coal, steel and real estate. Heckscher bought property and built his own toll road in 1926. The state bought the road in 1944.
Oma Bishop also remembers hearing about Heckscher and his “big fancy town car” when he came down for visits, but he died in 1941 before she was born. He built the road, she said, because he didn’t like his car getting messed up on the oyster shells and put a couple of toll booths on it. Before being named for Heckscher, it was known as Bay Shore Road, spelled interchangeably as Bayshore.
Her grandfather and uncle worked for the toll company and, for a short while, her father helped maintain the road, Bishop said. Fishing from the jetty rocks in the 1940s was a favorite pastime for her family and others.
“Not a lot of people went to the jetties then,” Bishop said. “That was our beach until I was a teenager.”
For 90-year-old Melvin Thompson, it was his and his wife’s favorite place to go swimming. And fishing. He got to know Marvin Webb because he would see him fishing there, too.
“The jetties had a wall, and it kept getting higher and higher,” Thompson said. “It was good at half tide out, and then you had three hours after that to get off the wall. If you didn’t, you’d have to wait or swim to get off the wall.”
The fishing was good, he said, recalling that he caught speckled trout from the ocean and flounder from the river.
“I have so many fond memories of that park,” Thompson said.
Submit questions by calling (904) 359-4622 or mailing to Call Box, P.O. Box 1949, Jacksonville, FL 32231. Please include contact information. If you have a picture to offer with your question, feel free to send it.
Sandy Strickland: (904) 359-4128