aka tootin’ my horn but y’all, life is good
Weekly comments by Dale Martin – ” . . . the people [Peck Center] served deserve to be more appropriately heralded.”
By Dale Martin
March 25, 2021
The March, 2021, edition of the Amelia Islander magazine features a cover photograph of several community residents on the steps to the entrance to the Peck Center. That photograph is tied to an article inside the magazine about those and other residents and their association with the Peck center. The article was written by Ms. Mandy Haynes.
A general overview of the building is provided by the editors, Philip and Deana Basile Kelly. Peck School was the successor to Colored School No. 1. The Peck School was a Rosenwald School, part of a nationwide early twentieth century program inspired by Booker T. Washington (Principal; Tuskegee Institute) and Julius Rosenwald (President; Sears, Roebuck & Company). Their leadership and funding contributed to the construction of over five thousand schools and auxiliary buildings for African American children in the South.
Dr. William Peck, the principal of Colored School No. 1, led the local effort to raise the necessary matching funds for the new school. For his efforts, Colored School No. 1 was renamed Peck School in 1911 and, when the new building was completed in 1927, the name was transferred. The school was closed in 1976, and ownership was transferred from the Nassau County School Board to the City of Fernandina Beach in 1989.
The building, now known as the Peck Center, has received numerous State grants and significant City funding, received the prominent historic marker at its front entrance in 2016. The facility currently houses the offices of several local nonprofit organizations as well as some City departments- Code Enforcement, Finance, Fire Administration, Information Technology, and Legal. The auditorium and gymnasium are used for various community events.
The Peck School/Center is more than a grand structure, and Ms. Haynes article shares the stories of the children and young adults that studied in that building. Her story brings the Peck School to life through the eyes of people, several of which remain an integral part of the Peck Center community and the City.
Last week, at their request, I welcomed Ms. Haynes and Mr. Neil Frink to City Hall to discuss how to move onward from the enhanced awareness of the Peck Center generated by Ms. Haynes article. The City has invested tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars to restore and renovate the building, including hundreds of windows, new doors, and is currently seeking additional State funding to support a $1.5 million brick/mortar repointing effort. That building is an incredible asset to this community. Unfortunately, many area residents are unfamiliar with its role in the history and fabric of the Fernandina community.
Ms. Haynes and Mr. Frink expressed a desire to once again bring people back to the Peck Center. The people would be represented by photographs (similar to the many that accompany Ms. Haynes article) and plaques to reflect and reinvigorate the spirit of the golden age of the Peck School. Somewhat related to the current funding request to support the repointing effort is another request to enhance historic displays at the Peck Center.
Other people who played a prominent role should be recognized such as Mr. Washington and Mr. Rosenwald. Dr. Peck should have a place of high honor. Mr. Frink shared his enthusiasm for this renewed effort, again, inspired by the work of Ms. Haynes. I offered my strong support to their efforts.
I will work with Mr. Frink and others similarly interested to develop an appropriate style to bring some of that life back to the halls and classrooms of Peck School. We will gather photographs and stories to add to the memoirs collected by Ms. Haynes and others. The goal is to begin this effort immediately and unveil the fruits of the project next February- only ten months away. It should be a busy and exciting effort.
I encourage you to read Ms. Haynes article. If you cannot find a copy of the magazine, it is available online at www.ameliaislander.com. If you wish to be a part of this reinvigoration effort, please contact me via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will share your interest with Mr. Frink and other leaders of this effort.
The Peck Center is an overlooked treasure among many of other Fernandina treasures. I believe that its role in this community and the people it served deserve to be more appropriately heralded.
Remembering Peck High School
Mandy Haynes has spent hours on barstools and riding in vans listening to outrageous tales from some of the best songwriters and storytellers in Nashville, Tennessee. She traded a stressful career as a pediatric cardiac sonographer for a happy one and now lives in Fernandina Beach, Florida with her three dogs, one turtle, and a grateful liver. She is a contributing writer for Amelia Islander Magazine and author of Walking the Wrong Way Home which was a finalist for the Tartt Fiction Award, and Sharp as a Serpent’s Tooth Eva and Other Stories.
Episode 30 Part 1: Mandy Haynes Interview – Coming soon!
Episode 30 Part 2: Mandy Haynes Reading – Coming soon!
This episode will be filmed remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mandy Haynes – “The Wrong Way Home” / Sonny Brewer’s Birthday
- Tuesday, January 28, 2020
- 6:00 PM 7:00 PM
Sonny Brewer will be introducing Mandy Haynes and celebrating his birthday!
A quote from Sonny Brewer, author of The Poet of Tolstoy Park and The Widow and the Tree :
“Almost three years ago, in the early spring of 2017, I got an email from someone named Mandy Haynes. She told me she’d been in a writers’ workshop that Rick Bragg and I put on for the Atlanta Writers Club, that august body of authors founded more than a hundred years ago. ‘You won’t remember me,’ she allowed, ‘but, you signed one of your books for me.’ There were a whole bunch of people in the auditorium, so she was right. But she sent sent me a picture of the page I’d signed. She said I’d encouraged her to write her book. And a lot of people tell me they’re thinking about writing a book. Problem is, thinking about writing a book doesn’t get you a book. You have to sit for hours at a keyboard, hoping some good words will come to fill up the blank page you’re staring at. But Mandy did just that. She wrote a collection of fine short stories. Leigh at Page & Palette caught me as I came in the store last week and told me she’d been reading WALKING THE WRONG WAY HOME, Mandy’s collection, and that she loved it. Said it made her both laugh and cry. And Leigh even quoted a line from ‘The Red Shoes’, which is also my own favorite of the stories. So it’s a special treat for me to get to introduce her to readers in Fairhope on Tuesday night, the 28th. Some people have already met her when she came for a visit a while back. Everybody should meet this new author. I mean, she actually gave up her career and sold her home in Tennessee and moved to the Florida coast so she could write full time. Well, and work at a bookstore for even more inspiration. She’s on the staff at Story & Song Bookstore Bistro in Fernandina Beach where she lives. She’ll be right at home here, too, telling her stories to us. Best of all, her book will find a great good place in your heart. I promise.”
-Sonny Brewer, author of The Poet of Tolstoy Park and The Widow and the Tree
Live Ink Theatre presents “Hope for the Holidays”
Live Ink Theatre
Submitted by Sinda Nichols
November 17, 2018 8:00 a.m.
Live Ink Theatre presents “Hope For The Holidays” Eight Storytellers. Eight Gifts. Directed by Sinda Nichols. Stories told by Arlene Filkoff, Buffy Wells, Cynthia Riegler, Doug McDowell, Jennifer Webber, Mandy Haynes, Rachel Tyler, Wilma Allen with MC Ron Kurtz.
Performances at Story & Song Bookstore Bistro, 1430 Park Avenue on Saturday, December 15, 7:30 pm, Sunday, December 16, 4:00 pm. Tickets $15 at Story & Song Bookstore, 904-601-2118 or online at www.liveinktheatre.com
Live Ink Theatre presents “Ready to go”
May 24, 2019 11:00 a.m.
Live Ink Theatre is proud to present “Ready To Go” Stories of Journeys told by eight extraordinary storytellers from Jacksonville and Fernandina Beach. Please join Master of Ceremonies Sinda Nichols along with storytellers Arlene Filkoff, Christopher Collinsworth, Diana Herman, JaMario Stills, Jason Woods, Mandy Haynes, Nanette Autry and Rachel Tyler on Saturday, June 1st at 7:30 and Sunday, June 2nd at 4:00 pm.
Performances will be at Story & Song Bookstore Bistro, located at 1430 Park Avenue, Fernandina Beach. Tickets are $15 and available online at www.liveinktheatre.com or in person at Story & Song Bookstore or by calling 904-601-2118