Two weeks ago, the MobileBooth East headed south for the winter. Outrunning a weeklong Nor’easter on the Virginia coast, Mobile East pulled into Jacksonville, Florida to be greeted by snow cones, outdoor chess games, and 80-degree weather.
Geographically speaking, Jacksonville is the largest city in the U.S., boasting miles of open beaches and waterways. We kicked off opening day in the heart of downtown. Jacksonville’s Hemming Plaza-originally a village green-was the first park in the city, and is now the oldest.
Frances Kinne inaugurated the booth with the first conversation of the day, but Frances has been the first of many things. She was the first woman to become president of a Florida University when she took the position at Jacksonville University. She later became chancellor, and then chancellor emeritus. Frances shared stories of living in China, Japan, and occupied Germany while married to her husband Colonel Kinne, during World War II.
Alton Yates joined his daughter Toni Yates in the StoryBooth soon after. At the age of nineteen, Mr. Yates left his hometown of Jacksonville to serve in the Air Force. While stationed in New Mexico, he joined a research division studying the effects of g-forces on the human body. He did this by becoming the division’s “human guinea pig,” literally placing himself inside rocket sleds for testing. Mr. Yates remembered coming home from the relative egalitarianism of the military to return to a Jim-Crow era Jacksonville. He still has a scar on his head from an injury he incurred at a Civil Rights demonstration. The demonstration took place in front of a Woolworth’s department store that still stands downtown, not far from where MobileBooth East sits today.