Since we all seem to have survived the Mayan Apocalypse, it’s time to climb out of our bomb shelters and live a little. Get on the road. See the sights. For those of you who are in the mood for a road trip, Jacksonville is that big city that you drive through on Interstate 95 on your way to Disney World. Very few people bother stopping here. It’s like we’re the world’s biggest small town.
In fact, the greater Jacksonville area is home to well over a million people, and yet it seems like no one has ever heard of it, unless they follow the Jacksonville Jaguars. Over 800 square miles, It’s also the largest city in land mass in the United States. When you land at the Jacksonville airport you don’t even SEE our skyscrapers, because the runways are so far north of downtown. That has to be disconcerting if you’re a first time visitor.
Some fun facts about Jacksonville:
- Elvis Presley did his first indoor performance here, at the Florida Theater. The show was monitored by a judge to make sure his hips didn’t get out of hand, so to speak.
- Florida Theater also used to show movies, and it was the first theater in the world to serve popcorn.
- Jacksonville used to have a huge movie industry. There were more than 30 studios here. The Creature from the Black Lagoon was filmed here. Which tells you all you need to know about the health of our waterways.
- We have contributed to the world of music in many ways. Pat Boone was from Jacksonville, as were the Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Molly Hatchet, .38 Special and Limp Bizkit (are you getting the impression that we have issues with spelling?) and the disk Jockey Rick Dees. We also host the second largest jazz festival in the country, and one of the oldest and largest blues festivals.
- In fact, Lynyrd Skynyrd took its name from a teacher who gave them a hard time, the late Leonard Skinner. He was a teacher at Lee High School, and was also, briefly, a bridgetender at one of the bridges that I work on.
- We were put on the map briefly in 1988 due to the Morning Glory Funeral Home scandal. 36 decomposing bodies were discovered in the funeral home, most of which were stuffed in a closet, and some had been there for over 10 years. Later they found multiple bodies buried in single caskets in the local paupers cemetery. The funeral director was convicted for taking money for funerals that were never performed, and the regulations on Florida funeral homes became much stricter after that.
- For 11 years, Jacksonville was the murder capital of Florida, but crime has gone down of late, probably due in part to the closing of one Navy base, and the fact that the other two are practically ghost towns now, due to wars overseas.
- The first Burger King was located in Jacksonville.
- The St. Johns River cuts through town and empties into the Atlantic Ocean here. The river runs north, just like the Nile.
- We are home to the largest concrete cable-supported bridge in the world.
- Professional golfers Mark McCumber, Fred Funk, Vijay Singh, and David Duval are from here.
- The list of NFL players from Jacksonville is so long that naming them here would be tedious.
There are plenty of things to see and do in Jacksonville, but if you’re reading this blog then I’m sure you know how to Google, too, so we won’t get into that here. Just know that if you drive through on the way to Disney, it might be worth stopping after all.