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- 2012 - April - 23rd -

by Max Marbut

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.

• The City Council Budget & Finance Committee approved transfer of $55,000 to help reduce an anticipated shortage in funds needed for completion of the new municipal auditorium on the Northbank between the Main Street and Acosta bridges.

The proposed transfer was from the Electric Department’s fuel oil account to the special auditorium construction and equipment fund.

City Commissioner Claude Smith Jr. said the commission was aware two years earlier there would be a $250,000 shortage in the auditorium construction account. He said that when the contract for the building was awarded, a number of items had to be left out because there weren’t funds to cover their cost.

Smith had asked the council to include the $250,000 in the 1962 capital improvement account, but the council earmarked only $125,000.

He said the auditorium was expected to be completed by Sept. 1, but the staff would need several weeks to familiarize themselves with its operation before it could be opened for public use.

• A group of local horsemen from Surf Side Stables, dressed in authentic 16th-century costumes, rode up the strand from Jacksonville Beach to Mayport to open Jacksonville’s Ribault Quadricentennial celebration.

The riders, under the direction of Bonnie I. Smith, began their journey south of the Beaches and rested at Huguenot Park before setting out for Mayport Naval Station, near the site of the May 1, 1562, landing of French explorer Jean Ribault.

At Mayport, the group was met by U.S. Rep. Charles Bennett, honorary chairman of the Ribault celebration; Fred Kent, president of the Ribault Corp., the private nonprofit organization that produced the citywide celebration; Capt. Richard Kibbe, commanding officer of Mayport Naval Station; and other officials of the Ribault celebration.

The ride promoted the dramatic spectacle, “Next Day in the Morning,” a pageant about Ribault’s expedition that was to be presented at the municipal coliseum May 1-17.

Kent said the production would be held over for one performance May 18 for more than 4,000 delegates who were attending the 38th annual Florida Lions Clubs Convention.

“This is a great opportunity for the Lions Clubs of Florida to see a professional production relating to the rich historical background of our area,” said Guy Alvarez, president of the Greater Jacksonville Lions Club Association, host of the state convention.

• Thomas R. McGehee, president of the Jacksonville Paper Co., received the Gov. Farris Bryant Award for outstanding industrial and civic contributions to Jacksonville in 1961.

The award was presented on behalf of the governor by Franklin G. Russell, chairman of the Committee of 100 of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce, at a dinner at the Roosevelt Hotel.

McGehee said he was humbled by the award and hoped that in the years to come, he would be able to justify the honor.

• A motorist struck two bears on Southside Boulevard, killing one and injuring the other. Two other bears escaped injury.

The driver of the vehicle was not injured. Damage to the car was estimated at $200.

County Patrolman Joe Frigo said the bears, a 300-pound female and three cubs, wandered onto the roadway about 9 p.m.

A southbound vehicle swerved to avoid the animals but struck the large bear and one of the cubs. The cub was killed.

The mother bear and her two other cubs fled, Frigo said.

H.K. Stalls, district director of the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, said the dead cub would be skinned, dressed and turned over to a charitable institution, in accordance with Florida law.

• The Board of County Commissioners applied $1,683.17 of pension refunds for Woodrow “Woody” Richardson to help make up for the more than $100,000 cash deficit in the office of clerk of the Civil and Criminal Courts of Record.

Richardson, who was suspended as deputy chief clerk, had been sentenced to five years in prison on a charge of embezzling $8,668 from the clerk’s office over a two-year period. He was also fined $8,668 as required by law.

The suspended clerk, Kathleen Hartley, also was sentenced to serve from six months to five years for embezzling $8,668 and was fined $8,668.

While the defendants pleaded no contest and were each convicted of embezzling $8,668, a report by the state auditor’s office said there was a cash deficit of $104,819.45 in Hartley’s office accounts.

The commission considered a letter in which Richardson said he was entitled to a refund of $2,482.47 from his contributions to the County pension fund since he was no longer a member of the fund. The refund represented half of his contributions to the fund.

Richardson requested that $799.30 be applied to pay off a debt to the County credit union and the remaining amount be applied as restitution for the shortages in the clerk’s office. The board approved the request.

County Attorney J. Henry Blount said the pension refund would not be applied toward Richardson’s fine but directly to reduce the deficit. Blount said the only other restitution to date was $10,000 collected on Hartley’s official performance bonds.

• On another issue, the Board of County Commissioners voted to ask the Jacksonville Expressway Authority to build an Expressway link between Downtown and Mayport.

The proposal, by Commission Chairman Bob Harris, received unanimous support. Harris said he also would ask that a service road be constructed from the proposed Expressway to connect with Atlantic Beach.

The proposed project would begin with an interchange at the Expressway and Atlantic Boulevard. It would then proceed to St. Johns Bluff Road near Craig Airport, then to McCormick Road and from there to Mayport over an old railroad right of way that the County owned.

Harris presented his proposal to the authority the next day and asked its engineers to study the feasibility of the route.

His motion failed to receive a second.

“The need for a direct route has been apparent for some time and this has been voiced by leaders at Mayport Naval Station,” said Harris.

Harris said the proposed roadway was an Expressway Authority and not a County project. He estimated the cost at $6 million.

“The County would never have the funds to build such a road,” he said.

• The Criminal Court conviction of a suspended Duval County Patrol lieutenant on charges of receiving and concealing stolen goods was upheld by Circuit Judge A.W. Graessle Jr.

It was a setback for Jay Gould Rogers, 36, who was sentenced in October 1960 by Criminal Court Judge William T. Harvey to serve 12 months in the County jail after a jury found him guilty.

The case was appealed to Circuit Court because the charge was a misdemeanor. Rogers, who was free on $1,000 appeal bond, did not immediately report to jail because his attorney, Neal D. Evans Jr., had 15 days to file a petition for a rehearing before the order would go in effect.

A jury deliberated only 14 minutes before it found Rogers guilty of concealing a 12-gauge shotgun, valued at $99, which had been taken in the December 1959 burglary of a hardware store in the Arlington Plaza Shopping Center.

Graessle found in his order that Rogers, on more than one occasion, would take possession of stolen articles and take them to his home.

Graessle said Sheriff Dale Carson found a number of the items during a visit to Rogers’ home on March 21, 1960, after being invited to the home by Rogers’ wife, who pointed out some of the items.

Graessle said when Rogers came home, he also cooperated with Carson in pointing out the items and later made a confession at the courthouse.

Graessle found no merit to the defense attorney’s claim that the confession was obtained illegally and that the search of the Rogers home was unlawful. He also said the trial record contained “overwhelming evidence of guilt.”

Assistant State Attorney Nathan Schevitz represented the prosecution at the hearing. Rogers was prosecuted at the trial by then-County Solicitor Lacy Mahon Jr.

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