JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As we mark the 200th anniversary of Jacksonville, we turn to a longtime resident to take us back in time to the Jacksonville he remembers. George Winterling moved to our area in 1941. He was just a boy; his father moved the family from New Jersey when Winterling was about 10 years old.
The family settled on the Westside, where Winterling ultimately met his high school sweetheart, Virginia, to whom he has been married ever since.
Among Winterling’s fondest childhood memories are his trips to downtown Jacksonville.
“It cost a nickel to ride the bus downtown,” he explained.
Downtown was the premier place to visit for entertainment and shopping in the 1940s.
“My brother and I would walk into Furchgott’s Department Store. I would run up the stairs and he would ride the elevator and meet at the fifth floor,” Winterling described.
For perspective, the building that was once Furchgott’s is located on the corner of Adams and Hogan streets. It is now an office building.
Winterling also remembers what Forsyth Street used to look like in the 40s.
“We’d walk down Forsyth Street looking in the store windows. There were so many theaters there too. Gosh, there were about 10 theaters on Forsyth Street,” he said. “I wound up getting my first job at one of the theaters, right next to the Barnett Bank.”
Winterling said he worked evenings as an usher when he was in high school.
Winterling also described what it was like seeing the first escalator installed in Jacksonville; it was inside Maycohen’s Department store.
“It was 1949, they installed them about the same time I graduated from high school,” Winterling said.
By the way, Maycohen’s is now the St. James building, where City Hall is located.
Another downtown building became a favorite spot during Winterling’s trips downtown.
“We didn’t have TV back then. I got the news at the Barnett bank, in the window. They had UPI or the AP news photographs, so I would read the news there,” he said.
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It would be several more years before Winterling became a mainstay on TV, WJXT, where he was hired as the meteorologist and spent nearly 50 years broadcasting the weather forecast to our viewers.
Winterling said it cost 50 cents to ride the bus to Jacksonville Beach when he was a child.
He remembers vividly riding the wooden rollercoaster that used to line the boardwalk.
“I rode the rollercoaster one time and that was enough for me!”
Winterling retired from WJXT in 2009. He spends his days at home in Jacksonville.
His daughter lives behind him. Winterling has a path that leads from his backyard to hers. He and his wife, Virginia, love spending time with their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
They have two sons who no longer live in the area but stay in close contact.
If you would like to send a message to Winterling, feel free to send it to me at email@example.com, and I will pass it along to George.