50 years ago this week
Have you ever wondered what stories made headlines in Jacksonville 50 years ago? It may have been a different era of history, culture and politics, but there are often parallels between the kind of stories that made the news in 1958 and today. As interesting as the similarities may be, so are the differences. These are some of the top stories published in the Florida Times-Union 50 years ago this week. The items were compiled by Staff Writer Max Marbut from the Jacksonville Public Library’s periodical archives.
• The May Department Stores Company reached an agreement to take over operations of Cohen Brothers, creating the first May-Cohens Department Store. It was also reported that a seven-level parking garage would be built across the street from the store at 117 W. Duval St., the building that is now City Hall. May Company officials also announced plans for a 30-story office building they were planning to build at the northeast corner of Laura and Church streets based on Jacksonville’s “burgeoning development.”
• A vacant house on Johnson Street was burglarized and thieves removed everything including the kitchen sink. Charles Burkhalter, who had recently purchased the dwelling, said fixtures valued at $433.50 had been removed from the structure. He had driven by the house a few days before he reported the theft and noticed a van backed up to the door and people removing furniture. He later discovered the theft of two doors, six light fixtures, a floor furnace, a built-in bathtub, the water heater, five aluminum screens and a cabinet-style kitchen sink.
• In a one-day sweep, City police rounded up 29 people for violating vice laws. The charges ranged from loitering to possession of gambling paraphernalia, possession of non-tax-paid whisky, possession of tax-paid whisky with the intention of selling without a license and operating a gambling house. Some were also booked for loitering and one person was charged with carrying a concealed knife.
• City Council committees approved shifting $9,200 from several library department accounts to help purchase library books in 1959. Acting Chief Librarian W. R. Henderson said the transfer would compensate for a $10,000 reduction made by the Council in the appropriation for books in the next year’s budget.
• It was announced that eight U.S. Navy destroyers which were based in Newport, R. I. would be transferred to Mayport in the spring. U. S. Rep. Charles E. Bennett said moorings for the new ships would be constructed at the carrier basin with funds already allocated by Congress.
• When Linda the Snake Dancer performed at Jacksonville Beach night clubs, the crowd went wild. She was also very popular with the sailors who patronized the clubs until they began comparing notes. The servicemen discovered that when they had a date with Linda, they woke up with large bumps on their heads and no money in their pockets. Police were called and Linda and a male accomplice were arrested then admitted luring unsuspecting men to a dark spot where they were attacked and robbed. When the pair arrived at the jail, the accomplice confessed to the booking officers that “Linda belongs with the boys,” at which time it was discovered “she” was a female impersonator.
• A $3,600 diamond ring was reported stolen or lost from the home of Mrs. Bryan Simpson at 4157 Ortega Blvd. The ring was described as a four-karat diamond with platinum and ruby setting.
• A patrolman was shot in the foot during a “half-hour melee” in the City Jail after a prisoner went berserk. The man had just been convicted of loitering and vagrancy and sentenced to be held at the City Prison Farm until he worked off his $10 fine at 75 cents per day. While attempting to subdue the prisoner, jailer E. M. Holt’s .38 caliber service revolver accidentally discharged and the bullet struck Patrolman George Thomas. The Fire Department was then summoned and subdued the prisoner with a high-pressure hose.
• Barbara Ann Hartwick, an 18-year-old sophomore at the University of Florida, was chosen Gator Bowl Queen for 1958. She was selected from 24 contestants at the annual President’s Ball at the George Washington Hotel. It was reported the judges “looked for charm and poise as well as beauty of face and figure.” The panel included Conrad Gunti, Connie Hartley, Nelson Harris, Charles. R. Hilty and Richard Hutchinson. Dick Stratton was master of ceremonies and Van Fletcher was president of the Gator Bowl Association. The day before Hartwick was crowned, the contestants had been “informally judged” at the Woman’s Club of South Jacksonville where they were luncheon guests of the club.
• The Arlington Junior Chamber of Commerce presented a request to County Commissioner Joe Mallard to change the name of Chaseville Road to “University Blvd.” in recognition of Jacksonville University’s 25th anniversary. U. S. Rep. Charles Bennett had also suggested changing Chaseville Road to “Ft. Caroline Road” in recognition of the new monument and museum, the development of which he had supported.