Orange Park pulled out all the stops to welcome electricity to town

Mary Jo McTammany
Posted 1/30/19

It officially all started back in November of 1922 and didn’t end until dusk Feb. 28, 1928, when the town’s longest resident, Mrs. Anna R. Marson, 82, flipped the switch in the community center …

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Orange Park pulled out all the stops to welcome electricity to town

Posted

It officially all started back in November of 1922 and didn’t end until dusk Feb. 28, 1928, when the town’s longest resident, Mrs. Anna R. Marson, 82, flipped the switch in the community center to allow power to rush from the Jacksonville power plant on Tallyrand.

That night in 1922, town commissioners accepted Jacksonville Electric Co.’s proposal to bring service south and into the city limits if the town enlisted sufficient subscribers to guarantee production of a monthly income of $150. Moosehaven representatives stepped up to the plate and pledged to assume one third of that amount. The Woman’s Club canvased residents to produce the remainder.

In return the electric company provided and erected main lines and poles ready for connections to homes and businesses and installed streetlights on River Blvd. and part of Kingsley Ave.

After a little over five years, the grand plan neared completion and locals began planning a celebration. The ladies of the Woman’s Club appointed a trio of Mrs. Anna Allen, Mrs. Carrie Clarke and Mrs. Carnes to organize the event. This triumvirate pretty much guaranteed a successful event because they had already nursed, cajoled and dragged the town through the depression years of near disaster.

As it turned out, guests arrived from Illinois and almost every state in the Union because that weekend coincided with a Loyal Order of Moose Regents gathering at Moosehaven.

When the big day arrived, on the 28th of Feb., 1928, Orange Park’s population swelled from almost 700 to a little over 2,000 to attend the opening program at 3 p.m.

The speakers were impressive and included the father of state representative Arthur M. Milam. Jacksonville was represented by Frank Owen commissioner of public utilities and the chairman of Duval County board of commissioners, R.H. Carswell. The Green Cove board of trade was represented by Rev. G.R. Wilson. Rounding out the movers and shakers were U.S. Secretary of Labor E.J. Hennings and Rodney H. Brandon supreme secretary of the Loyal Order of Moose.

The parade was a major success and included bands, Boy Scouts and Camp Fire Girls and a special marching routine by a Loyal Order of Moose women’s drill team.

Then, at 5 p.m., the Times Union reporter was impressed by an “oyster roast de luxe with all the fixings on the main street” As the light was leaving the western sky, Mrs. Marson threw the switch. When the streetlights came on enthusiastic cheers erupted and Orange Park was officially “lit”.

The party began with the dancing of the Virginia Reel by Moosehaven couples and continued into the wee hours with music by a popular Jacksonville band, The Aggravators. At 1 a.m., exhausted parents gathered up children sleeping to strains of Home Sweet Home on quilts and coats in the corners.

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