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 1962. The items were compiled from the Jacksonville Public Library’s periodical archives by Staff Writer Max Marbut.
• D.C. Dawkins Jr., chairman of the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce Airport Study Committee, charged that a $28.5 million cost figure for revamping Imeson Airport was excessive.
Dawkins said if it truly would take $28.5 million to bring Jacksonville’s existing airport up to standards, then there was no alternative to moving to a new site and building a new airport for $30 million-$50 million.
A plan prepared by the engineering firm Reynolds, Smith and Hills called for plowing up the existing main runway, which was at the time being extended to 8,000 feet in length, and moving it 1,000 feet to the east to make room for a new terminal. In addition, another runway was proposed to be constructed parallel to and south of the existing runway.
“It would be a stupid mistake to spend $28 million on Imeson,” Dawkins said.
He said he believed the cost estimate was too high based on the work proposed.
“I think that figure is loaded. There, I’ve said it right out loud,” said Dawkins.
• The Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce opened a four-day membership drive over breakfast at the Robert Meyer Hotel.
Heading the membership committees were Bill Greene, Arlington; Frank Gay, Downtown; Eric Sundstrom, North Jacksonville, Tom Stang, South Jacksonville; Frank Wood, Southwest Jacksonville; and William C. Mick Jr., West Jacksonville.
The drive ended with the addition of 262 new membership units.
• Parts of the wreckage of two aircraft were recovered from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean off Ponte Vedra Beach.
Some of the parts were identified as those from a twin-engine Beechcraft that crashed while en route from Syracuse, N.Y., to Daytona Beach.
The other parts were determined to have come from an F3H Demon U.S. Navy jet fighter. A Demon had crashed in the area the same day, killing the pilot, whose body was recovered.
There were four people aboard the Beechcraft, including a General Electric Co, executive and his wife. None of the bodies from the civilian aircraft were recovered.
The parts from the two different aircraft were in close proximity, no more than 50 yards apart on the ocean floor.
• An apparent low bid of $17,175 for the erection of a new post office building was submitted to the Neptune Beach City Council by Demetree Construction Co.
The contractor said central heating and air conditioning could be provided for an additional $1,620. Plans were to build the 1,500-square-foot postal facility on Third Street near North Street.
Neptune Beach had been without a post office since the one there and in Atlantic Beach were merged with Jacksonville Beach in 1961.
The Council proposed to borrow the money to build the structure, and then lease it to the federal government for enough to amortize the loan.
• Johnny Melton, 33, was sentenced to one year in the County jail for the theft of $4,000 worth of liquor from a Jacksonville Beach package store where he was employed for two years as a porter.
He was charged with stealing the liquor from the Georgia Package Store at Third Street and Third Avenue North on numerous occasions.
Melton, who had pleaded guilty to the charges Aug. 17, was sentenced by Criminal Court Judge A. Lloyd Layton.
In a statement read to the court by the prosecutor, Assistant County Solicitor R. Hudson Oliff, Melton related that he started taking four or five fifths of whiskey at a time and selling them to acquaintances for $3 per fifth.
Melton’s statement said he would remove the bottles from the stock room and would put the whiskey in his car.
Among the purchasers, he said, were people in Ponte Vedra Beach and a confectionary operator at Mayport.
Oliff said Melton became a suspect when an audit showed the package store was losing money and inventory at the same time.
Melton explained the thefts by saying he had become involved in a few gambling debts and needed money to pay them off.
• State Rep. George Stallings Jr., who sponsored legislation requiring that a course in Americanism versus Communism be taught in all public high schools in Florida, said that in America’s cold war with communism, neutrality was not his intent.
“Neutralism is the best friend communism ever had,” Stallings said. He was speaking to the Florida Association of County Tax Collectors at their meeting at the Robert Meyer Hotel.
Stallings said the immediate danger was not a nuclear holocaust, but it was a long-range possibility. He said the Soviet plan was to collapse the free enterprise system and bring America into the Communist camp without an all-out war.
• A church that had once been a night club was destroyed by fire. A church official said the blaze would mean a loss of $68,000.
The structure, located near Moncrief Road and 45th Street, had been the home of Trinity Church of Our God in Christ of Western Florida. It had previously housed the Two Spot Night Club.
Black smoke and an alarm turned in 30 minutes after the fire started drew firefighting units from three volunteer departments and the City.
One firefighter was overcome by smoke and taken to a hospital. There were no other casualties, except minor victims of a fight that broke out near the blaze.
Leroy Mobley, chairman of the church’s board of trustees, said the two-story frame building was valued at $56,000 and contents, including an $8,000 organ, were valued at $12,000.
• A warning of the erosion of America’s liberties through compromise of principles and apathy was delivered at a meeting of the Associated Industries of Florida.
Prime F. Osborn III, vice president and general counsel of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, told the group of the state’s top industrial leaders that it was imperative for Americans to rise from their lethargy concerning government affairs.
He cited the dissolution of some of history’s greatest societies and declared America was “heading down the same road toward national slavery.”