On Aviles Street

The wall on the left is part of the Convent of the Sisters of St. Joseph. The house on the right is now a bed and breakfast, but in the late 1940s it was the home for Mary and Lin Barker, my mother’s sisters. They had a flat on the second floor overlooking the nuns’ swimming pool. Across the hall from them was the artist, Carl Austin. They became good friends.
Not long after the war, my mother came down to St. Augustine to visit them and wound up staying. Her husband was a B-29 pilot flying out of China who had died when his aircraft was shot down over Japan. His parents never accepted that he was dead, making it difficult to stay in Tennessee. She took advantage of the G.I. Bill to buy a small house on Palmetto Street in the Lighthouse area of Anastasia Island. Mary and Lin joined Marjorie and her daughter, Link.
Carl Austin painted portraits of Mom, Maura and I. When cleaning out the Barker house in Georgia after all the Barkers had passed away, we also found a number of watercolor sketches of the Barker girls and Link. They are very special treasures.
Carl returned to Illinois to take care of his mother. He returned to St. Augustine in the early 1990s. His health was not good and it would not be long before he also passed away.

Before Conch Island?

My mother’s two sisters moved to St. Augustine during World War II. After the war my mother, a war widow, and my older sister also moved here. All of them lived in a small house on Palmetto Avenue (it runs behind Gypsy Cab). I remember my Aunt Lin complaining about living in that “beach house” because the sand got into everything. I thought she was crazy thinking Salt Run was the beach. It was many years later before I learned that Conch Island didn’t always exist across from the lighthouse.

Now I wonder if some of the old photos I’ve inherited are actually pictures of that beach. If anyone is familiar with the Ocean Way, Palmetto Avenue, Magnolia Drive neighborhood just north of the lighthouse and remembers this period, do you recognize any of these photos as that beach?

old beach photos

Is this “the beach” before the jetties were built?

Playing at the beach

Playing at the beach

If you have memories about this area, please share them in the comments. I would love to learn more about this beach neighborhood.


It All Began Here

The Great Cross
On September 8, 1565, a party of approximately 800 Spanish soldiers and settlers landed at this spot to create what would become the oldest continuously-occupied European settlement in the United States. Today, St. Augustine celebrates its 450th anniversary with a reenactment of that landing.

Photo: The Great Cross at the Mission of Nombre de Dios. From the author’s collection at Flickr.