Here is a long quote from Bill:
“In 1976 there were still what I thought of as ‘hippies’ in Riverside, some of them bragging about seeing Pink Floyd in 1967 or getting tear-gassed by the National Guard, while most of them had grown into the golden mellow moment of today with families and jobs. 1976 was America’s bicentennial. People showed the military more respect than when Bill was in high school, and just because someone had long hair and a Grateful Dead t-shirt, that didn’t mean they were a pacifist. President Carter was inviting rock musicians to the White House, including the Allman Brothers Band out of Jacksonville’s Riverside neighborhood. “Southern Rock” was the way Mo Slotin described the Allman Brothers in a 1972 review in Atlanta’s Great Speckled Bird newspaper. In the second half of the ’70s, southern rock bands like Jacksonville’s Lynyrd Skynyrd and others remained popular while disco, punk, glam, and funk were all in full swing at the same time.
The Riverside neighborhood was – and still is – hip as in the early jazz slang, meaning you know about the latest ideas and styles. I saw punk rockers with spikey hair and wearing safety pins, smartly dressed preppies and entrepreneurs, produce vendors with aprons and paper hats, and several variations of the Afro haircut, from serious freedom fighter to starburst halo on the Disco floor.
From nearby St. Vincent’s Hospital, people in scrubs or long white jackets walked to Wendy’s, Midnight Sun, or Edge City, and you couldn’t always tell which were medical staff and which were patients. Jacksonville’s first Gay Pride Festival happened in 1978 at Willow Branch Park, around the time Queen’s Bicycle Song was heard blasting from many a car and balcony.
I was walking in Memorial Park and saw some girls throwing a Frisbee. The frisbee flew past a tall shapely girl wearing a bikini and alligator boots. The frisbee would have landed in the river but I caught it and threw it back. I walked closer to the girl and she wasn’t as tall as she seemed. A sudden rainstorm sent everyone running for cover except me. I just kept walking, and the cooling raindrops seemed bejeweled and multicolored on my face and in the air.”
End of Quote
While still in the Navy, Bill met a Bible study group called the Navigators that held classes in the Base Chapel on Tuesday nights. He developed a life-long interest in hermeneutics and briefly considered becoming a Navy Chaplain. He became engaged to a Jacksonville girl who had a degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. But Bill’s understanding of the Bible began to differ from the conservative fundamentalist views of his teachers. He acknowledges a debt of gratitude to The Navigators for introducing him to Jesus. Bill’s fiancé got hired as Youth Director of a Baptist church in Sarasota, FL. Bill later said that he “knew I wasn’t mature enough to start having kids or for living anything close to a practical life. Her church frowned on weed, which I had developed a taste for in Spain. I visited her in Sarasota, we went to the Salvador Dali Museum in Saint Petersburg, and we broke up.”
The Witch of Endor in the Old Testament fascinated Bill and rekindled a childhood interest in the paranormal. His first term paper in an English class at Florida Junior College (now FSCJ ) was on the occult. For part of his essay, Bill interviewed Ethel Tunks at the WHVH Bookstore in Riverside, which specialized in psychic phenomena, astrology, witchcraft, and New Age. Bill says, “My main interest in these astral visions is not the veracity of the subject; it’s in the way people write about them, whether it’s Pliny the Younger, M. R. James, or a floating mummy novelty in a Johnson Smith Catalog. “