The “Haunted House” of Jacksonville

Located in the Springfield neighborhood of Jacksonville is a rather unique home which can best be described as a castle, notable for its three-story tower and constructed of concrete blocks. It’s known locally as the the Drew Mansion, the former home of Dr. Horace Drew, a businessman and owner of downtown’s H. & W.B. Drew Company.

Between 1967 and 1973, the mansion was abandoned and became known as the “haunted house”. Places such as these attract the youth and is a practice referred to by folklorists and anthropologists as legend tripping; going out at night to a site which is allegedly the scene of a tragic, horrific, or even supernatural event or haunting. Legend tripping is usually harmless, but on this particular night, these kids would experience what would later be described as a ‘night of terror’.

In March 1970, eleven students from Ribault High School, including eight girls, ventured into the decrepit mansion on the evening of Friday the 13th. Two black men followed them and barged into the home wielding a sawed-off shotgun and a knife. They wanted to know if the teenagers had any “reefers”. When they were told no, the two men passed a hat around demanding the teens put their money in it.

They picked out two girls out of the group and took the keys from one of the boys before herding the other teens into a bathroom. Using the boy’s car, the two men drove the girls to another abandoned home where they were joined by three others.  The girls’ sweaters and blouses were pulled over their heads and would be raped multiple times that night before being driven a short distance away and released. The car was taken back to the “haunted house”. 

Unbeknownst to most people at the time, there was a human head buried in the backyard of the mansion around this time. The head was discovered by two young kids who ran out to the street and notified two teenagers, who then called the police. The head was buried in a hole 18-inches deep. It belonged to a man, around 50 years old, and packed in a germicidal bag which prevented decomposition.

It was reported that the head belonged to a body stolen from Duval Medical Center back in November. An informant told detectives that the head was taken by an orderly who worked there and would occasionally take their friends back behind the house to go see it. 

On July 12th, 18-year-old Michael Tiliakus was arrested just before clocking in for his hospital shift and was charged with “dealing in parts of dead bodies.” Tiliakus had apparently known the man who had given his body to become a teaching cadaver and wanted to keep a part of his friend as the body would be cremated. He apparently slept with the head the first night before burying it behind the Drew mansion out of fear of getting caught.

The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread: The History of the Memphis Wonder Bread Bakery

Once a Memphis icon, residents remember fondly of the years when the Wonder Bread bakery would send the scent of freshly baked bread down the streets of their neighborhood. 

The Taggart Baking Company launched the Wonder Bread brand on May 21, 1921. That same year, they constructed the 184,393-square-foot Memphis bakery on Monroe Avenue, sporting a colorful mix of hand painted and neon signs. Taggart would later be bought by Continental Baking in 1925, making Wonder Bread a national brand.

Wonder Bread was different than the other bread brands at the time. A loaf was half a pound larger than others, and beginning in the 1930s, Wonder Bread was shipped pre-sliced, was one of the first companies to do so, and considered a significant milestone for both the industry and American consumers. 

During the 1940s, vitamins and minerals were added to Wonder Bread as part of a government-sponsored program of enriching white bread, which was deficient in vitamin and mineral content, to combat certain diseases such as beriberi and pellegra. They were also the first national brand to feature shelf life as well as nutrition information on its packaging. Wonder Bread would continue to advertise its nutrient enrichments into the 1960s using the slogan, “Helps build strong bodies 12 ways.” 

In 1995, Continental Baking was bought by Interstate Bakeries Corporation. Interstate declared bankruptcy in 2004, but would emerge in 2009 as Hostess Brands. Less than two years later, Hostess would file for bankruptcy a second time.

Workers began striking in November 2012 at the bakeries and distribution centers nationwide over new contracts from Hostess which cut pay and benefits. Many of the workers believed the company was poorly managed and that even if they didn’t strike, the company was inevitably going to close anyway.

It wasn’t long before Hostess announced they would cease operations, temporarily ceasing production of Wonder Bread. Flower Foods, owner of Nature’s Own and Tastykake brands, signed an agreement to acquire Hostess’ bread brands, including Wonder Bread. By the end of the following year, Wonder Bread was back on store shelves. 

While the Wonder Brand brand continues on, the Memphis facility remained closed. It would remain vacant until 2018, when it was announced that a portion of the factory would be demolished to be replaced with two four-story apartment buildings and a 480-space parking garage, and the west end of the building would be renovated into retail and office space. 

The Cuban Town That Hershey Built

Between Havana and Matanzas are signs pointing to the town of Camilo Cienfuegos, but that name never really stuck and most people still refer to the town by its original name, Hershey.

Back in 1916, Milton S. Hershey decided to buy sugar plantation in Cuba to supply his growing chocolate empire back in states. He had a large sugar refinery built along with an adjoining village to house his workers and their families, a model town like he had done in Hershey, Pennsylvania. 

The village consisted of 160 homes, laid out in a grid with clean lawns and front porches in the style common in the growing suburbs of the United States. It also had a public school, a medical clinic, a movie theater, a golf course, shops, social clubs, and even a baseball stadium where a Hershey-sponsored team would played their home games at. 

Along with the town, Mr. Hershey also built the country’s electric railway between Havana and Matanzas, making transportation of goods much easier. 

The factory became one of the most productive sugar refineries in the country and those living in the village were envied by those who lived in the neighboring towns. Even though the company owned all the properties, they paid relatively high salaries, subsidized housing, maintained public utilities, and were quick to make home repairs. Just like in the United States unfortunately, class and racial segregation was in play here as well as supervisors lived in the largest houses, workers in the smallest, and black workers were given homes on the edge of town.

Milton Hershey died in 1945, leaving no heirs and giving most of his fortune to charity. The company sold the village and the plant in 1948, along with any other Cuban holdings. 

When Fidel Castro took over in 1959, the town’s mill and thousands of acres of sugar cane fields were owned by Cuban sugar magnate Julio Lobo. Castro had the homes redistributed, the mill and railway were nationalized, and he had the name of the town changed to Camilo Cienfuegos, named after his friend who died in October 1959 when his plane disappeared traveling from Camaguey to Havana.  Sugar which was used in Hershey chocolate bars was now being used to sweeten Soviet tea. 

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the Cuban economy fell with it. The sugar industry declined and in the early-2000s, the government would shutdown sugar plants throughout the country, including the one in Hershey. Kept running by resourceful engineers, the railway is still used today, though breakdowns are frequent and trains are regularly late. 

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