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- 2012 - September - 10th -

by Max Marbut, Staff Writer

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.

• County-owned property in West Jacksonville was to be surveyed as a possible permanent site for the Greater Jacksonville Agricultural and Industrial Fair.

At a meeting of directors of the Fair Association, County Commissioner Lem Merrett suggested a feasibility study concerning a large tract near the County prison farm and 4-H Club Park.

Fair Association President James Watson said the present quarters in the Gator Bowl athletic complex were “admittedly cramped.”

Watson said that in order for the fair to continue growing and improving in quality, a larger site with the potential for permanent fair buildings had to be found.

“Enthusiastic support” for moving the fair to the site near 1st Street and Melson Avenue had already been received from the West Jacksonville Council of the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce, said Merrett.

He and Watson agreed the fair would be an asset to the West Jacksonville community, but Merrett said residents in the area would be consulted as to their feelings about having the fair move to their neighborhood.

Watson said the proposed relocation would have no effect on the 1962 edition of the fair, which was scheduled to open Oct. 24. He said it would be the “finest and largest such event ever held in Jacksonville.”

Kay Armstrong, Fair Association administrative assistant, said one of the highlights of the upcoming fair would be a “Noah’s Ark.”

The display would feature the mother and young of as many animals as could be obtained. They would be housed in stalls inside a tent fronted by a boat fashioned after the Biblical ark, she said.

More traditional elements planned included four fireworks shows, four high school football games, a two-night fashion show, arts and crafts exhibits, military exhibits and a complete midway and concessions.

• A $600,000 fine arts and music building was being planned at Jacksonville University and was scheduled to open in late 1963 or early 1964.

University President Franklyn Johnson said the board of trustees had authorized that actions be taken for the specifications and design of the building.

"But this does not mean that we are ready to break ground, by any means. We will arrive at financial decisions when we study the matter in more detail. We have a lot of money to raise,” he said.

Preliminary plans called for the building to have two floors above ground, with a third at lower level with band and chorus rehearsal rooms and studios for JU’s closed circuit television system.

A music and fine arts building on the Arlington campus had been a “critical need since 1959,” said Frances B. Kinne, dean of the College of Music and Fine Arts.

• Halfway through their four-day visit to Jacksonville, the mayors of 24 cities relaxed along the St. Johns River with a barbecue at the home of Robert Kloeppel.

The group had spent the day in St. Augustine and at Marineland.

Mayor Charles Mobley of Flint, Mich. said he was born and raised in the South.

“I was taught hospitality, but you people here have demonstrated it to a tremendous degree,” he said.

Mobley commented on the recreational activities experienced by the visiting municipal executives.

“The Jacksonville area has a tremendous amount to offer. In Michigan, we run out of exotic places to show people in a short time. You are so steeped in history that the excitement never seems to end. I say see America first, and if you want to start with Florida, that’s fine,” Mobley said.

Albert Losche, who had been mayor of Indianapolis, Ind. for only six weeks, was taking back home a set of plans for Jacksonville’s new Civic Auditorium. He said he hoped to “fire up interest in a similar plan” when he returned to Indianapolis.

“Then I hope to organize an investigation party of business and civic leaders to come here and see what I have seen,” he said.

• Miss Florida, Gloria Brody, returned home after competing in the Miss America Pageant.

“Jacksonville has never looked so good to me,” she said when she stepped off an Atlantic Coast Line Railroad car that brought her from Atlantic City, N.J.

Brody arrived with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Louis Brody, and her chaperone, Beatrice Owens.

On hand to welcome the party were Mayor Haydon Burns, chairman of the Jacksonville Miss America Committee; attorney Frank Stockton, a committee member; and several ACL officials.

Like the other non-finalists, Brody received a $200 check for her participation in the pageant. She said she planned to deposit the check in the bank to go toward the cost of modeling school. Brody hoped to enroll in the John Powers School in New York City after her reign as Miss Florida.

• A series of daytime house burglaries in the Riverside area that had plagued police for months was solved with the arrest of five teenagers, two of them age 16.

The pair of 16-year-old suspects was being held in the Juvenile Shelter while the other three, all age 17, were held in the County jail.

Detective Sgt. F.L. Cooey said all five youths admitted breaking into at least 25 homes since May and stealing money and personal items worth more than $750.

Cooey said the suspects also admitted vandalizing some of the homes in addition to committing theft. In some cases, the youths opened canned goods, poured soft drinks on the floors and stuck knives in the walls.

According to Cooey, the young bandits said money was their chief target, but they also stole transistor radios, cigarette lighters, hunting knives, two handguns and a rifle, whiskey and other items.

• Superintendent of Public Instruction Ish Brant announced that 110,854 students enrolled in public school for the 1962-63 school year. The figure was an increase of 6,409 compared to the previous school year.

In 1951-52, there were only 52,188 students enrolled.

• A family housing project at Mayport Naval Station was named “Bennett Shores” in honor of U.S. Rep. Charles E. Bennett of Jacksonville.

The name was chosen through a contest, with the winning entry submitted by A.J. Salmonti. He said he chose Bennett in recognition of the congressman’s staunch support of the U.S. Navy.

• An eight-week course, “Freedom vs. Communism,” was scheduled to begin Sept. 25, said William Lynch, chairman of the education division of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Lynch said the classes would be conducted as study groups, with no formal lectures planned. He said the purpose of the instruction was to “increase the knowledge of American businessmen on the free enterprise system as opposed to the communist economic system.”

• A double flame-colored bloom entered by Harvey Hartley of Mandarin took Best Bloom in Show honors at the 6th Annual contest hosted by the Jacksonville Chapter of the American Hibiscus Society. He said it had been growing in his garden for five of the 10 years he had been a hibiscus hobbyist.

Almost 1,000 blooms were entered in the competition and every woman who attended the event was given a bloom to wear.

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