Have you ever wondered what life was like in Jacksonville half a century ago? It was a different era of history, culture and politics but there are often parallels between the kind of stories that made headlines then and today. As interesting as the differences may be, so are the similarities. These are some of the top stories from this week in 1964. The items were compiled from the Jacksonville Public Library’s periodical archives by Staff Writer Max Marbut.
The Jacksonville Port Authority pledged to continue to seek a 38-foot deep St. Johns River channel from the Atlantic Ocean to Commodores Point, even though immediate prospects for the project seemed dim.
The dim hopes were made apparent during a hearing held by the authority to obtain support of property owners in the effort to deepen the channel to 38 feet from the vicinity of the Talleyrand Docks and Terminals to Commodores Point.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers already had recommended the 38-foot channel to be dredged from the river’s mouth to the Talleyrand Docks area.
According to authority Managing Director Dave Rawls, one of the factors in the deepening project extended to Commodores Point involved providing a cheaper spoil disposal plan. Property owners in the reach of the river downstream of the Mathews Bridge were asked if they would permit the deposit of dredgings on their property. The property owners would have to guarantee to cover whatever costs would be incurred.
Possible costs would be construction of a dike or bulkhead to retain the spoil once it was dredged. If no bulkhead line was established as part of the project’s budget, property owners would then have to have one established, and then purchase the submerged land behind it from the State Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Fund.
Representatives of several property owners with extensive river frontage, including Jacksonville University and Baptist Boys Home, said they would gladly provide the spoil area.
Other private developers also offered to undertake the costs in order to get the spoil placed on their marshy or submerged waterfront property.
The corps reported that, in its estimation, the deepening of the channel to 38 feet the additional 4 miles upstream from the Talleyrand Docks could not be economically justified.
“I want to make clear the position of the Jacksonville Port Authority. Unfortunately, some citizens believe the port authority has not diligently worked for a 38-foot channel upstream from the Talleyrand Docks and Terminals. We feel this impression is a result of overzealousness on the part of a few people overstating what can be done. The port authority has and is diligently working for the deepest channel we can get as far upstream as possible,” said Edwin H. Fletcher, vice chairman of the authority, who presided at the hearing.
The corps already had advised the authority that they would have to submit their recommendations to Washington officials early in September if the project were to have a chance of getting in the congressional authorization bill in 1964. If the project was not included in the 1964 federal legislation, it might be two or three more years before it could be included.
• Twenty-four mixed-up baby sea turtles paid a daylong visit to Jacksonville Beach, but finally made it to their natural habitat, thanks to a conservation officer.
The babies hatched from a nest near 34th Avenue South 41 days before they were returned to the sea. Usually, newly hatched sea turtles head directly for the surf, but the group instead headed inland.
They were found crawling in the roadway at 5 a.m. Saturday at Ocean Drive and 34th Avenue South by Marlee Hamilton, 12, and Kurt Shonks, 10, who were helping Marlee’s brother, Kirby, 14, on his newspaper route.
Several of the babies had been run over and killed by automobiles, so the youngsters picked up all they could find and took them to the Hamilton home at 2123 Second St. S. They placed the turtles in a box with sand and salt water.
After many telephone calls to county and state agencies, all of which were closed Saturday, Mrs. Leon Hamilton reached Florida Conservation Officer Robert Lowe at his home in Neptune Beach.
Lowe picked up the turtles and kept them at his home until dark when he returned them to the surf.
Lowe said the babies were loggerheads and that it was very unusual for them to head away from the ocean after hatching.
• County Assessor Ralph N. Walter reported the value of taxable property in Duval County for 1964 was in excess of $517 million. He also said the value of all real and tangible property, taxable and nontaxable, was more than $1 billion.
The total amount of taxable property was $517,844,466, including $361,673,700 in nonexempt real estate; tangible personal property in the amount of $137,410,540; and railroad and telegraph tax of $18,760,226. The railroad and telegraph assessment was fixed by the Railroad Assessment Board in Tallahassee and not by the county assessor.
Homestead-exempt real estate in the county amounted to $348,296,048, an increase from the 1963 figure of $338,465,200.
It was expected, following the assessor’s report, that the general tax rate for 1964 would be below $50 per $1,000 of taxable value.
• The bribery trial of suspended Southside Justice of the Peace J.W. “Joby” Jones was set for Sept. 8 by Criminal Court Judge Hans Tanzler Jr.
Jones’ attorneys entered a motion to suppress evidence but Tanzler held the motion in abeyance. Jones appeared in court with his lawyer, Lacy Mahon Jr., but Tanzler ruled out taking testimony and arguments on the motion.
Tanzler said the matters involved in the motion would be the same as the testimony in the trial and he would rule on the matter when the case came to trial.
County Solicitor Edward Booth had charged Jones with accepting bribes from Aug. 3, 1963-Feb. 20, 1964, in the amount of $300 a month to protect a Southside gambling operation.
• Jacksonville attorney Edgar Felson was sworn in as a U.S. commissioner for the U.S. District Court.
Felson, 58, was appointed by U.S. District Judge Bryan Simpson following the death a week earlier of Thomas Casbert Jr., who served as a commissioner for 40 years.
The appointment was for a four-year term within the Jacksonville Division of the Middle District of Florida.
Felson took the oath from his friend and colleague, F. Donald DeHoff, the other commissioner for the District Court.
Felson had been an attorney since 1930 and was chairman of the city recreation board. He was president and a charter member of Beauclerc Country Club and a member of the Duval Dads Club, University of Florida Alumni Club of Jacksonville, B’nai B’rith, Jesters Club and the American Bar Association.
• A teenage hold-up man was sentenced to 20 years in state prison by Criminal Court Judge A. Lloyd Layton for the robbery March 31 of a Kings Road service station attendant.
Given the term was Arthur Leroy Johnson, 17, of 1618 W. 15th St. A co-defendant, 18-year-old Robert Graves of 2068 Calhoun St., was awaiting sentence in the case and in another robbery case.
Assistant County Solicitor John Helms said Graves pleaded guilty and testified for the state in Johnson’s trial.
According to testimony, the two youths entered the service station at 7623 New Kings Road about 12:45 a.m. March 31 and demanded the station’s receipts from attendant Juan Luis Viruet. When Viruet was slow in surrendering the coins, after having turned over the currency, Johnson reportedly said, “I’ll kill you.”
Johnson fired a .32-caliber handgun he was holding, but Viruet sidestepped, police reported.
The bandits fled with more than $59 but practically ran into the arms of County Patrolmen J.E. Hinds and J.C. Tomlinson, who were cruising by as Graves and Johnson ran out of the service station. The officers saw Johnson throw away the gun and they recovered it.
• Members of the Main Street Committee of the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce Downtown Council expressed general satisfaction with progress being made in clearing old buildings along the street in the central business area.
A number of abandoned structures already had been demolished and committee members agreed that more structures probably should be removed. It was noted that a lack of parking along Main Street Downtown was a problem and the group was hoping for relief after an investigation by the State Road Department.
The clearing was being done in an effort to stimulate new construction.
The committee noted the project was undertaken without the use of any federal funds.
Warren Hendry, Craig Lindelow and Howard Hill were named by committee Chairman Harold Martin to study possible options for economic development of Main Street.