- 2013 - March - 11th -

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 1963. The items were compiled from the Jacksonville Public Library's periodical archives by Staff Writer Max Marbut.

• Mayor Haydon Burns officially began his bid for a fifth term as Jacksonville's chief executive when he was among 9,000 guests at a birthday party in his honor at the Municipal Coliseum.

He lashed out at City Council member John Lanahan, who also was running for mayor, and revealed he was the subject of a federal investigation.

Burns said the FBI was investigating him as a possible representative of a foreign nation in violation of federal law requiring such representatives to be registered with the government. He said the investigation stemmed from his representation of the defunct Gibbs Corp. that had built a shipyard in the Dominican Republic.

Burns said the U.S. Department of the Treasury was conducting an audit of his personal net worth dating back to 1956. He said he was making the disclosure "before the rumor mongers began picking up the story."

He accused Lanahan of being backed by "outside money" that was seeking to hurt Burns' prospective gubernatorial aspirations.

"If there is anything wrong with your mayor, your FBI and (U.S.) Treasury Department would have let you know about it. This just shows to what depths this campaign will go and it has only just begun. I don't like to be smeared with mud from jealous and ambitious prospective opponents," he said.

"But I am Irish – Scotch-Irish – and I'm not going to back up from any of it. Mr. Lanahan and his supporters down the state are in for the whipping of their lives," Burns said.

Burns was introduced at the party by Brown Whatley, chairman of the board of Stockton, Whatley, Davin & Co., a locally based statewide mortgage firm.

The birthday party was Burns' 51st and included entertainment by recording artist Pat Boone; Joe. E. Ross, co-star of the television series "Car 54, Where Are You?"; and harmonica virtuoso Joey Fisher. Radio announcer Ed Bell was master of ceremonies and guests danced to the music of two orchestras.

• Riverton Tower, a new 12-story apartment building in Arlington at the foot of the Mathews Bridge, was unveiled to the public at an open house.

"The actual construction of the building has been completed about a month now but we have delayed our formal opening until we could have all the finishing touches and everything just right for our opening," said Jack Smith, property manager.

Many of the building's first residents already had moved in because they wanted to be "relieved of the responsibility and expense of owning and maintaining a home," he said.

The marketing campaign for the building stated that in addition to a private balcony in each apartment with a panoramic view of the city skyline, Riverton Tower offered "metropolitan living in a quiet, suburban atmosphere just 10 minutes from Downtown."

Rental rates for the studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments ranged from $98 to $203 monthly, which included heat, air conditioning and water.

• The public's response to the Jacksonville Beach Police Department's request for dogs to be used in law-enforcement training had been overwhelming, said Chief C.H. Franks.

"We already have five fine dogs, but we could use another one. I'd like to train with one myself," he said.

Franks said his office was "swamped with offers" after the call went out for donations of male German shepherds to be used in police work.

"We were offered every kind of dog imagined, but we can only use German shepherds, and they must be male dogs 1- or 2-years-old," said Franks.

• Gator Bowl Association President Conrad Gunti kicked off a membership drive at the group's meeting at the Roosevelt Hotel. The two-week operation would be conducted under the direction of association Vice President Ash Verlander and eight team captains.

Gunti said he hoped team members would proceed further than ever in reaching those who had never been contacted regarding a $5 annual membership.

"I am sure there are thousands of persons in this area who would be happy to make such a small contribution in such a well-known and highly regarded nonprofit civic organization as the Gator Bowl Association," he said.

Membership entitled the bearer to purchase up to four tickets to the football game and reserve the same seats, or better ones, each year upon renewal. Members received priority when buying basketball tournament tickets and were allowed to vote in the annual election and attend the association's annual meeting. Members also were given the option of receiving an invitation to the annual President's Ball and Queen Coronation.

"We have set a goal of 6,000 memberships, which would be a record-breaking mark. We need new seats in the stadium and more money to pay the teams. A record-size membership is the best indication of the interest of local people. Such an interest is needed to maintain the interest of the national television networks," said Verlander.

The 1963 Gator Bowl, the 19th edition of the college football classic, was scheduled to be played Dec. 28.

• Craig W. Lindelow, former director of the Valdosta-Lowndes County, Ga., Planning Commission, was named director of the new Jacksonville-Duval County Area Planning Board.

Lindelow was introduced by William K. Jackson, board chairman, at a joint meeting of the board and the board's advisory committee.

Jackson said the board's population study and several other data-gathering projects would have full-time direction now that a director had been hired for the area's first planning organization.

"Don't expect too much, too soon. We will have to see where some of the stitches have been dropped, so to speak, before we do any mending," said Lindelow.

• The Jacksonville Expressway Authority-Duval County cooperative road expansion program was scheduled to begin in the fall, said Roger Main, authority chairman.

He said bids for construction of the Commodores Point Bridge extension of the expressway system designed to divert Southside traffic pressure from other roadways would be received within six months.

The $25 million road improvement program was slated to begin at the same time as the feeder road projects under an agreement with the State Road Department.

Downtown streets connected to the new bridge, including Adams, Duval, Forsyth, Liberty, Monroe and Washington streets, were to be widened and resurfaced.

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