As a next-door neighbor to Ponte Vedra Recorder co-founder Gretchen Carpenter in 1969, Jacquelyn Bates witnessed the newspaper’s creation. Eleven years later, Carpenter’s co-founder, Peg Bradford, and her son, Tim, asked her to become its managing editor. Bates shares her memories of the early years, and her opinion of the paper today.
Q: What was your first experience with the Ponte Vedra Recorder?
A: In 1969, my husband and I moved to Ponte Vedra Beach, to a house on Duval Drive that my family had owned since the 1950s as a summer beach house. Next door to us lived Gretchen Carpenter. She and Peg Bradford started the Recorder that year, so we were exposed to it peripherally.
Q: And then, what impact did the new newspaper have on your life?
A: Then, in 1970, we had twins, a boy and a girl. That was news because there wasn’t much going on back then. I felt like every waking moment of every waking moment of those of us who lived there was covered by the Recorder.
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: In Jacksonville. I lived in Ortega; we were the second house in Ortega Terrace. Went to Ortega schools, then Bartram. Then I went to Mount Holyoke in Massachusetts, then went to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for a Masters in English Literature.
Q: What did you do next?
A: I went to work in downtown Jacksonville in my father’s real estate business as a receptionist. Later worked for the Florida Times-Union as a writer.
Q: How did you end up working for the Recorder?
A: In 1980, Tim and Peggy Bradford asked me to be the managing editor. I guess they thought I could write a story. I was managing Tim, because he was one of the most energetic, intelligent and fun people we’d ever run into around here.
Q: What was your job like?
A: I edited some, I wrote stories, I reported—and I went to a lot of parties. Tim did the photographs. Tim and I wrote the cut lines. We had a lot of people write columns. Ninety percent of the photographs were people at cocktail parties having drinks, and 10 percent were children’s sports activities.
Q: Did anything surprise you?
A: I had come to the Recorder with a New York Times-attitude that there should be no relationship between advertising and editorial. We did not think that way at the Recorder. If you advertised with us, we put as much editorial in about you as we could squeeze in.
Q: What else do you remember?
A: Madelyn Palmer was Peggy’s assistant. She was calm and that was very important. Every week, she would drive Peggy’s station wagon with Peggy and me to St. Augustine, where the paper was printed. Somehow that paper got glued together down there, which was always a miracle. Because putting it together was hectic. It’s the nature of the business.
Q: What was Peggy like?
A: She was a lovely lady. She was very proud, and money was very tight, and we never knew when we would get paid. The checkbook would get lost or the dog would eat the checks. We always got paid. It just wasn’t on a regular schedule.
Q: You worked at the Recorder through the early 1980s. Did you enjoy it?
A: It was one of the most fun jobs I ever had. High energy and a lot of fun.
Q: How was Ponte Vedra Beach different when the Recorder was founded and when you worked there?
A: In the 70s, I was a regular customer of Atkinson’s Shoe Repair in Jacksonville Beach. When I went in, I would leave the car running and the car door open because nobody was coming down Third Street. There was one grocery store, Winn-Dixie and the Ponte Vedra Post Office was in a little building across from the Surf Club at the Ponte Vedra Club. There was also a little store there that sold the essentials of Ponte Vedra, which was cheese, crackers, peanuts, candy and alcohol. Very different. So few people.
Q: Why did you leave the Recorder?
A: To become a Realtor. So, I moved from editorial to advertising. I’m still advertising. I’m in last week’s Recorder. It’s really delightful that it has continued to serve our community and broadened its content, in a good way.
Photo by Alex Quijano, taken at the Ponte Vedra Recorder 50th Anniversary Party Oct. 23.