Ockâ€¦ do I remember Cooperâ€™s? When we moved from Baltimore to Jax in â€™49, I was seven and Cooperâ€™s Hardware was renting a space on the west side of Wesconnett Blvd about 150â€™ north of 103rd. It was the closest thing we had to a Home Depot back then. Western Auto was to some degree the neighborhood hardware. For us tinkerers and builders, Sears downtown was a help. I sensed that the Cooper fellows loved their work.
There were no malls and no convenience stores until the mid to late fifties. There were the occasional country stores, small but having good variety. They all smelled the same, an interesting mix of clothes, hardware, snacks, sodas, tobacco, and damp wood floors. To buy something substantial, one had to go downtown.
Apparently Cooper sold to Gunning sometime in the sixties, and Gunning built a new spot, and moved across the street. I recall that upon selling to Gunning, one or two of the Cooper fellows bought land in Brazil, to farm or something. But something happened in Brazil, perhaps the government at the time took what the Coopers had so they fled the chaos, moving to Middleburg.
Many of the people moving into the area in the forties and fifies were building houses themselves, as we did on the south end of Firestone Road. Our first winter in Jax was in a partially completed house my father built. I donâ€™t recall any building inspections back then. Everybody used the black four volume Audel builders set for carpentry and other building help. My fatherâ€™s co-workers at the shipyards would help with the electrical work. Apparently my father got no help on plumbing because in the eighties I found a sink where he used a 1/2" iron pipe for the drain. It always clogged. Everything was iron pipe. There was no PVC, copper, plywood, or sheetrock. The 4â€™ x 8â€™ wall panels were a kind of brown fiber material, which one could easily tear with hands, of about Â½â€ thick, with a thin white painting surface. All lumber was cut and drilled by hand. No electric saws or drills.
For about a year, we had a roof, but no walls. On the outside we had the occasional wood cross member to strengthen the entire structure. For wind and blowing rain protection we had surplus military canvas on the outside walls, which flapped in the wind. We had a small potbelly wood stove which would glow red. We huddled around the potbelly that first winter. After about a year of canvas, we had siding in the way of tar paper or felt covering the outside 1 x 6 lumber. We were somewhat poor, but we kids didnâ€™t really feel it. We had plenty to eat, having a good garden and chickens and other animals. Most others on Firestone were like us, although some seemed to approach rich persons, having the occasional new auto, and a brick house. Our first TV was about 1953. It was of course black and white, and always rolled and fluttered just when you were watching something interesting. We didnâ€™t have Internet.
Ricker Road was dirt south of Morse Ave until the early sixties. Morse Ave was dirt from Firestone to Jammes until the early sixties. Seems like Ricker was dirt from 103rd north to Old Middleburg until the late fifties. What am I saying. At some point they were all dirt.