- 2012 - October - 22nd -

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.

• When President John F. Kennedy announced to the nation he had ordered a blockade of Cuba by the U.S. Navy in response to the Soviet Union’s placement of missiles and nuclear warheads on the island, Jacksonville residents reacted and responded.

“It’s very clear,” said Rear Adm. Joseph M. Carson, commander of Fleet Air Jacksonville of Kennedy’s stand.

“I thought it was a courageous and fine statement and I think you’ll find all the people of this country right behind him,” said Prime F. Osborn III, vice president and general counsel of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad.

“I think he (Kennedy) is doing the right thing. The Russians bluff us a lot — push us as far as they can until we have to stop,” said Mrs. Donald Nelson of 1071 Talbot Ave.

“We’re in what might be called a condition of standby alert. While we do not anticipate any immediate emergency, we do want to be ready,” said W.A. Weatherford, director of the Jacksonville/Duval County Civil Defense Council.

“We operate by the key points of the National Alert Warning System and we would get an alert here within seconds after an aggressive move by the enemy,” he said.

Jacksonville was better prepared for an emergency than any other city in the state, Weatherford said.

Fourteen buildings had been stocked as radioactive fallout shelters and 100 structures were identified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as being suitable for shelters.

“Survival chances against the threat of thermonuclear attack have been improved substantially here in the past few weeks,” Weatherford said.

He said most Duval County residents would have to rely on individual initiative when it came to personal survival.

“We can only advise people, as we have in the past, to prepare a two-week supply of food, water and first-aid equipment and be prepared to seek the safest shelter available,” said Weatherford.

The 14 shelters stocked with supplies included the Duval County Courthouse along East Bay Street, the Federal Building along the 300 block of West Monroe Street, Haverty’s Furniture Co. at 407 N. Laura St., the Robert Meyer Hotel at 315 N. Julia St. and the Atlantic Coast Line Building along Water Street.

• Faculty, parents and pupils at Reynolds Lane Elementary School took on a project for their own safety in the event of a nuclear attack.

The plan was conceived by Principal Mary Shad Button and implemented by members of the Dad’s Club, the Parent-Teacher Association and upper-grade students.

A combination sandbag and plywood wall was constructed along one side of the cafetorium, which was the emergency fallout shelter for students enrolled at the school.

Already on hand was a three-week supply of food for the 610 pupils, who had brought to school sweaters and blankets for use as bedding if the shelter was needed.

Button said she thought the work had helped to eliminate possible panic and hysteria.

• The 8th Annual Greater Jacksonville Agricultural and Industrial Fair opened for an 11-day run at the Gator Bowl athletic complex.

With an average attendance of more than 150,000 people per year, the fair was the city’s “biggest civic event,” said James N. Watson, Duval County Extension Agent and president of the Fair Association.

• A woman who police said claimed she cashed a worthless check for $2,500 “to prove that as a woman she could hold that much money for a week and not spend it” was arrested and charged with forgery and grand larceny.

Mary Elizabeth Pybus, 36, was held in the Duval County jail under $5,000 bond.

County Detectives W.H. Bechem and J.H. Britts said Pybus admitted forging a check for $2,500 and cashing it herself while working as a cashier for Montgomery Ward & Co. on Philips Highway.

The officers said she took the money home and hid it in a freezer. Pybus said she planned to return the money, but was arrested when the check returned from a bank marked insufficient funds.

Bechem and Britts said the woman claimed she issued the bad check on a dare that she couldn’t get away with it and to prove, as a woman, she could not have $2,500 for a week and not spend it. Pybus refused to identify the person who dared her to commit the act.

The money was recovered, the officers said.

• Recording artist Anita Bryant was the featured vocalist at the 11th Annual Rotary Club Charity Ball. The event took place in the new Civic Auditorium on the Downtown Northbank.

Bryant was a beauty pageant winner whose titles included Miss Tulsa and Miss Oklahoma. She competed in the 1959 Miss America beauty pageant in Atlantic City, N.J., and was selected second runner-up in the contest.

In 1960, Bryant was named the No. 1 female recording artist and Best Vocalist of the Year by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Her recordings of “Till There Was You,” “Paper Roses” and “My Little Corner of the World” have sold more than 1 million copies.

• Construction plans were announced for a $2 million Western Auto Supply Co. distribution center. It was disclosed that Jacksonville was selected for the center after a five-year study of potential locations.

The center would serve retail stores in Florida and Georgia and parts of Alabama and South Carolina.

• Neptune Beach City Marshal James R. Jarboe said a 14-year-old Jacksonville Beach boy admitted to breaking and entering six houses over a period of several weeks.

The youth was arrested at school and taken to the Juvenile Shelter. He was released to his parents pending a hearing, Jarboe said. He said the boy was on probation for a similar offense.

Among the stolen property recovered was a coin collection valued at $800. It was taken from the home of C.L. NeSmith at 221 Pine St., said Jarboe.

• Employees of the Jacksonville Zoo were recognized for their kindness and courtesy by a visitor from Valdosta, Ga.

Zoo Commissioner Dallas Thomas received a letter from Mrs. J.W. Pember, who wrote that she and her husband and their four children had visited the zoo. During the visit, Pember lost her wristwatch.

Pember had ridden the miniature train. The train engineer rode Pember around the route she had previously taken in search of the missing timepiece, but to no avail. When another zoo employee found and returned the missing watch, the engineer refused an offered reward.

"I am enclosing a small check ($5) as a token of my appreciation for such helpfulness and honesty. Please use the money to give a needy child a happy time, or in any other way it can do a little good,” Pember wrote in the letter.

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