May 2018:  Kathy Stark, The Wilderness of North Florida’s Parks

Jacksonville artist Kathy Stark offers a unique and family-friendly exploration of the extensive system of natural parks in North Florida. Her book The Wilderness of North Florida’s Parks combines Stark’s lush and expansive watercolor paintings with sketches, notes, historical facts and maps to create a work that is a both a guide and handbook, as well as a tribute, to the great unspoiled stretches of the region. The Wilderness of North Florida’s Parks was published in partnership with the Timucuan Parks Foundation, with a portion of the proceeds supporting that nonprofit, which advocates for North Florida’s parks.

Kathy will give a very visual presentation using her park paintings and photos from her adventures in our parks, highlighting information most people don’t know about the various parks. She will touch on the history contained within them and will offer tidbits about how she as an artist goes about painting the large scale watercolors. She will bring a print of her large project map to show and a few original park sketchbook pages and watercolors. Kathy’s book will be for sale at the event, and she offers a chance to win a small print when you buy a book. She will be happy to sign books purchased at the event or elsewhere.


February 2018:  Rita Reagan, Norman Studios

In honor of Black History Month, our February program will feature Norman Studios, one of the nation’s first film studios to produce films starring African-American characters in positive, non-stereotypical roles. Rita Reagan, Norman Studios Chair and Pro-Bono Executive Director, will show a documentary and discuss Jacksonville’s silent film history and its unique contribution to African-American cinema. Hollywood East: Florida’s Silent Film Legacy explores how the top motion picture producers of the day came to reside in Northeast Florida and why they left for the West Coast. Here in Jacksonville, it boils down to a bar scene-gone-wild, a mayoral candidate with an agenda, and a fiercely protective patent owner whose name you definitely know!

Hollywood East was produced by Nadia Ramoutar and Steph Borklund in collaboration with the Norman Studios, a nonprofit organization working to restore and reopen Jacksonville’s sole surviving silent film studio complex, which is still standing in the historic Old Arlington neighborhood. There, late filmmaker Richard Norman produced some of the nation’s earliest all-black-cast films during the 1910s and ’20s. Its unique place in cinema and civil rights history helped land the site a National Historic Landmark designation in 2016. Preservationists ultimately plan to give the site a big comeback as a world-class film, learning, research and tourism center.


November 2017: Paul Ghiotto, A Soldier’s Story

One hundred years ago, in 1917, Marion Joseph Losco presented himself to Postmaster Walter Jones, at the Mandarin Store and Post Office, to register for the draft of World War I. He continued to work on his father’s farm in the Mandarin area, having no idea how the war in Europe would impact him and his family. Like other healthy young men in Jacksonville and across the country, he met his duty and reported to the U.S. Army at Camp Jackson, S.C. He could not know that five months later he would be killed in action in France and would buried there for all time, never to see his beloved family and home again.

Marion’s mother, Dometilla, kept all of his letters and postcards as well as the notices and personal items she received from the Army after his death. She also kept his half smoked cigar and the Rosary beads including among his personal effects. These items were all placed in a trunk and eventually stored in the attic of the Losco homestead. Over 95 years later these objects were donated to the Mandarin Museum & Historical Society by David Losco, hoping that the community could learn about the experiences of his uncle.

One thing led to another and in 2016 Marion’s grandnephew, Paul Ghiotto, transcribed all of these letters and wrote a book based on the letters and other extensive research. A new exhibit was also opened at the Mandarin Museum, displaying these objects and a complete WWI uniform. This exhibit will be up until November 2018. At this lecture Paul will give a presentation about this amazing story of the only local resident who died in WWI. This event is being held a few days after Veterans Day in honor of Pvt. Marion Joseph Losco and all who have ever served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Paul’s book will be available this evening and he will sign them.


August 2017: Scott Grant, SS Gulfamerica

Local speaker Scott Grant has become an expert on this very historic event. He will give a fascinating account of the sinking of the SS Gulfamerica tanker by the German U-Boat 123 right off the coast of Jacksonville Beach in 1942 while people on shore watched. This was the ship’s maiden and last voyage. He will have slides to show and accounts of the incidents from both the American and German perspectives, as the U-boat captain gave a thorough account and actually visited Jacksonville in his later years.


May 2017: Mark Woods, Lassoing the Sun

Mark is Metro columnist for the Florida TimesUnion. In 2011, he won the Eugene C.Pulliam Fellowship, an award given to one writer in the country each year. The fellowship allowed him to take a sabbatical and spend one year working on a project about the future of the national parks. During that year, Mark lost his mother, turning the project and a subsequent book into something much more personal. Lassoing the Sun: A Year in America’s National Parks came out in June 2016, shortly before the National Park Service centennial. It was awarded the Gold Medal for general non-fiction in the 2016 Florida Book Awards. His book will be the focus of the lecture and it will be available at this event.


February 2017: Readers Theater, Stetson Kennedy

February’s Third Thursday Lecture is a very unique and informative presentation which is in honor of Black History Month. Sponsored by the Stetson Kennedy Foundation, talented actors from the Young Minds Building Success Readers Theater will bring individuals to life through dramatic and powerful storytelling. Those who will be portrayed were enslaved men and women who lived to tell their stories in their elderly age. These actors have listened to the tapes of these narratives and read them just as they were spoken.

The Readers Theater cast members will give life to the histories recorded in Stetson Kennedy’s books, The Florida Slave and Palmetto Country. Kennedy, a folklorist and Jacksonville author, served as director of Ethnic Studies for the Florida division of the Federal Writers’ Project. His book The Florida Slave is a collection of the oral histories of ex-slaves living in Florida, gathered by the Federal Writers Project during the 1930s. The collection relates the ex-slaves’ hardships under the system of slavery, the abuses of their civil and human rights in the aftermath of Reconstruction, and their strength to survive and make contributions to American culture. Palmetto Country relates African-American lore gathered by Kennedy, anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, and folklorist Alan Lomax.


November 2016: Emily Lisska, Notable North Florida Women

Emily Lisska has put together some fascinating stories related to women who had a Mandarin connection. Emily will tell us that “Harriet Beecher Stowe was not the only notable North Florida female face who moved between Jacksonville and Mandarin with impact. Other women, if not physically, were emotionally tied to the two St. Johns River villages. Stowe, along with Jacksonville Founding Mother Nancy Hart, Commodore Rose, Eleanor Pritchard and Hester James McClendon are other names of interest in the early North Florida story.”

Emily Lisska, a Mandarin resident and Jacksonville native, is Executive Director of the Jacksonville Historical Society. She is a Past-President of the Mandarin Community Club and a member of the Mandarin Museum and Historical Society. Emily is also President-Elect of the Florida Historical Society.


May 2016: Joe Anderson, Mandarin Trees

There is no doubt that Mandarin residents LOVE their trees! Thanks to the Scenic and Historic Corridor ordinance introduced by former Council Member Mary Ann Southwell, the tree canopies along Mandarin, County Dock and Loretto Roads were protected in the heart of Mandarin. We are proud of the stately live oaks and dripping Spanish moss that define our community.

For this reason, May’s Third Thursday Lecture will be of great interest to everybody who desires to maintain this appearance. The lecture will be presented by Joe Anderson, a utility forester for JEA. Anderson’s primary responsibility is to ensure that the power of Jacksonville can be found in the canopy of trees. In this talk, Anderson will be branching out from the discussion of electrical, water, and sewer services to talk about trees.


February 2016: Sandra Parks, The Legacy of Stetson Kennedy

Stetson Kennedy is known world-wide as an author, human rights activist and folklorist. His first book, Palmetto Country, appeared in 1942 as a volume in the American Folkways Series edited by Erskine Caldwell. Of it, folklorist Alan Lomax has said, “I very much doubt that a better book about Florida folklife will ever be written.” Other books written by Kennedy include: The Klan Unmasked and Southern Exposure. According to the foundation’s website, “During the 1950s, Kennedy’s books, considered too incendiary to be published in the USA, were published in France by the existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre and subsequently translated into other languages.” The Klan Unmasked chronicles Kennedy’s infiltration and exposure of the Ku Klux Klan at a time when it was experiencing a resurgence in America.
Stetson Kennedy was born in Jacksonville in 1916 and passed away in 2011.

For many years he lived in the Billard House, which was located at the site of the Billard Commemorative Park on Brady Road, and also at Beluthahatchee, his home in St. Johns County which is now a county park and is on the National Register of Literary Sites. The mission of the Stetson Kennedy Foundation is “to do all that it can to help carry forward mankind’s unending struggle for human rights in a free, peaceful, harmonious, democratic, just, humane, bounteous and joyful world, to nurture our cultural heritages, and to faithfully discharge our commitment of stewardship over Mother Earth and all her progeny.”


November 2015: Andrea Conover and Gus Bianchi, St. Johns River Alliance

The St. Johns River Alliance’s (SJRA) mission is to “preserve, protect, promote, restore and celebrate the St. Johns River as an American Heritage River.” One activity that helps fulfill that mission is that SJRA is responsible for promoting the St. Johns River as an official state paddling trail.

Speakers Andrea Conover, SJRA Program Manager, and Gus Bianchi, retired Navy and teacher, recently completed kayaking the entire river. Their presentation shows how the 310-mile north-flowing river changes from its headwaters in the marshes west of Vero Beach through the lakes and springs of the middle basin to the wide, developed and busy lower basin. Along the way, one finds old Florida fish camps, towns, restaurants, parks and springs. Their presentation includes photographs, maps and a list of access points to enjoy the river. It will open your eyes to all of the wonderful parks, interesting points and  activities along the length of the  St. Johns River, our most important natural resource.


August 2015: Mary Atwood, Historic Homes of Florida’s First Coast

Mary Atwood will discuss her new book Historic Homes of Florida’s First Coast and will display some of the stunning photos that were taken for the book, including two from the Webb Farmhouse located in Walter Jones Historical Park. This book is an essential read for anyone interested in visiting the wide variety of fascinating early residential structures which are open to the public in the North Florida area. With five geographic sections containing short chapters about each of the chronologically listed homes, this book provides readers with an easy to use guide for planning entertaining and educational day trips throughout the region. Mary brings to life the rich histories of these homes, sharing stories of the courage displayed by those who made significant contributions to the area now known as Florida’s First Coast. Books will be available for purchase and Mary will be happy to autograph them for you.

Mary Atwood’s fine art photography is included in numerous public, private and corporate collections in the United States and France. Her photographs have been exhibited in galleries, museums and public art venues, with a total of sixteen solo shows in the last two years alone. To date, her works have won more than fifty awards in local, regional and national juried exhibitions.


May 2015: Bob Nay, Major William Wirt Webb’s Life in Mandarin

Long-time Mandarin resident and new Mandarin Museum & Historical Society Board member Bob Nay will enlighten us with some very interesting information about Major Webb, an important figure in Mandarin’s history. Already passionate about Civil War history, Nay participated in a MMHS event with the Sons of Union Veterans last year. From that point on, he wanted to know more about this retired Union soldier who became a successful farmer in Mandarin. He began intensive research on Major Webb, his family, and his time in Mandarin. His research will eventually become a book which will be available at the museum’s gift shop. This lecture and the photos shared during this program will be a “sneak preview.”


November 2014: Ed Gamble, Jacksonville Politics Through the Eyes of  a Cartoonist

Mandarin resident Ed Gamble will be telling stories about some politicians he has met, including President Reagan, Governor Graham and Governor Crist and showing some of his cartoons related to local politics and political figures. Gamble was an editorial cartoonist for The Florida Times-Union from 1980 until 2010. An award-winning cartoonist, he has been nationally syndicated and his cartoons have been published in newspapers and exhibits all over the United States and the world, including overseas in China and at the American Center in Karachi, Pakistan. They are permanently displayed at the Texas Depository in Dallas, Texas and at the Ford, Carter, Nixon, Reagan and Bush Presidential Libraries. He has won more than 50 national, regional and state awards for his cartoons, including four Wilbur Awards from the National Religion Communicators Council. The images that will be shown at this lecture are from the Special Collections at the Thomas G. Carpenter Library at University of North Florida, which houses over 2000 of Gamble’s cartoons on local and state events.

Ed Gamble is the author of “You Get Two For the Price of One” (Pelican 1996) with forwards written by Presidents Ford and Bush and a co-author of “A Cartoon History of the Reagan Years” (Regnery, 1988). Born and raised in Morristown, Tennessee, a small Appalachian town near the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, Ed graduated with a B.A. degree from The University of South Florida and attended post-graduate school at the University of Tennessee. He and his wife, Saundra have lived in Mandarin since 1981.


August 2014: George Winterling, Remembering Hurricane Dora

George Winterling is one of Mandarin’s most beloved and respected citizens. He made history in September 1964 when he was the only meteorologist to accurately predict that Hurricane Dora would come ashore in northeast Florida! Working at Channel 4 WJXT, he got it right and told the people in the area to get ready. Because of that forecast he became the person everyone depended on for their weather information.

Fifty years have passed and George is retired from WJXT and public speaking, but he was so kind as to allow us to come to his home and interview him about this event and how he knew where that storm was headed – way before the  high tech tracking systems we depend on today. Following a screening of George’s video interview, we will hear remembrances  from a few Mandarin residents who were here when the lights went out for two weeks: Sam Folds, Joe Walsh and others.