Riverside, 1976-1983

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 I 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. By the second half of the ’70s, disco, punk, glam, and funk were all in full swing at the same time, while rock remained popular.

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. 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.

The "5 Points" intersection in the Riverside neighborhood of Jacksonville, FL
The “5 Points” intersection in the Riverside neighborhood of Jacksonville, FL photo from Avondale Historic Homes

From nearby St. Vincent’s Hospital, people in scrubs or long white jackets walked to Edge City, Midnight Sun, Wendy’s, or Fans & Stoves Antique Mall, and you couldn’t always tell which were medical staff and which were patients.

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. 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 asked a Jacksonville girl to marry him and they got engaged, She 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 has described himself as “a liberal Christian who believes Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, and we are meant to love one another, not judge one another.”

Bill’s fiancé got hired as Youth Director of a Baptist church in Sarasota, FL. Bill later said, “I knew 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. “

  • Poster created by Bill Ectric.
  • The Ancient of days, 1794, by William Blake

The rest of Bill’s biography is being edited by The Astral Pages for future publication.