- 2013 - December - 2nd -

50 years ago this week

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.

• Another 10,000 people were fed doses of the polio vaccine at Duval County elementary schools as the first phase of a mass immunization drive came to a close.

Campaign officials said the total number of people who had received the Type I Sabin oral vaccine was 425,796 during the eight-day program.

The final figure represented 90 percent of the county's population.

"As far as I'm concerned, it has been completely successful. We hope we do as well on the next feedings," said Dr. John Fisher of the Duval County Medical Society.

The campaign was sponsored by the society and the Jaycees.

Mass immunization drives were scheduled Jan. 19 for the Type III vaccine and March 1 for the Type II vaccine.

• Jaycee Leo Adams got a letter from the IRS wanting to know what he was planning to do with 2.5 tons of sugar he had purchased.

"I guess they figured I might be going into the moonshine business," said Adams.

There were more than 425,000 witnesses to the fact the sugar was gone. It was used in the mass polio vaccination drive.

• Base bids received by the City Commission for construction of Dallas L. Thomas Park, on the Southbank along the St. Johns River, were all over the amount the city had set aside for the project.

City Parks Commissioner Dallas L. Thomas, for whom the park was named by the City Council, said he did not believe the city could pay for the work without negotiating the contract downward.

The William E. Arnold Co. was the apparent low bidder at $1,398,600.

The Auchter Co. bid $1,467,000; Batson-Cook Co. submitted a $1,519,800 bid; and Wood-Hopkins Construction Co. turned in a $1,489, 963 bid.

Thomas said it might be possible to negotiate with the chosen contractor so that some of the work could be done by city park employees, thus keeping the overall cost within the $1.2 million budget.

• Wernher von Braun, director of the Marshall Space Flight Center at Huntsville, Ala., was announced as the seminar speaker at the Ponte Vedra Forum on National Affairs at the Ponte Vedra Inn.

The seminar was the first in a series planned to focus on national and international issues, said J.J. Daniel, forum chairman and president of Stockton, Whatley, Davin & Co.

Allen W. Dulles, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, also was scheduled to speak during the forum.

Attendance at the seminars, which were intended to provide an opportunity for discussion and exchange of views on current events, was limited to members of the Ponte Vedra Club and their guests.

While a guest at the inn, the 70-year-old Dulles won what was described as a "hard-fought" doubles tennis match, but he would not divulge the names of the losers.

"That's classified information. Just so I have the best partner, I always arrange it that way," he said.

Dulles was asked to comment on his appointment to a commission to investigate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

"When President Johnson called me last Friday night to ask if I would serve on the commission to be chaired by Chief Justice Earl Warren, I told him if he thought I could be of any service I would be happy to serve," Dulles said.

• Convict James Edgar Wiggins, 21, carefully made his plans for escape and used ruses that might have worked had it not been for the Jacksonville Beach Police Department's German shepherd dogs.

Wiggins was serving a sentence for robbery at the Duval County prison farm. He had planned his escape for weeks, first bleaching a pair of prison trousers so the long white stripe down the side no longer showed. He put them on and then slipped his regular prison trousers over them.

With other prisoners, Wiggins was part of a work detail that was taken to a spot near University Boulevard and Brooks Circle in Arlington, where he and the other inmates began clearing brush along a creek bank.

Forty-five minutes after the work began, Wiggins was seen fleeing by guards, who called police.

Patrolman R.E. Deck said he followed the escapee's path down to the edge of the St. Johns River near Safer Lane.

There, Wiggins had removed his shirt and jacket, leaving only his T-shirt on the top part of his body. He then doubled back along his route.

Along the way, Wiggins slipped out of his striped trousers and again started out in the bleached pair.

He headed toward University Boulevard and once again backtracked making his way to a patch of woods near 234 University Blvd., about a block from where he escaped.

Wiggins hid in the high brush behind a tool shed and planned to stay there until dark, when he intended to go by his home along East Fourth Street to pick up some money and then leave Florida.

Meanwhile, Deck and other searchers had lost the trail and radioed for Jacksonville Beach police and their German shepherds.

Detective R.C. Patterson and Patrolman Leroy Bowley soon arrived with their dogs. Minutes later, the dogs had flushed Wiggins, who quickly surrendered.

"I would face a gun, but not those dogs," he told Deck.

• Two fires destroyed one building and damaged another.

A fire was reported at an empty warehouse at 1780 W. Beaver St. By the time firefighters led by Deputy Chief W.A. Jackson arrived, the building, valued at $4,000, had burned to the ground and was a total loss.

An hour later, an A&P produce warehouse near the Farmers Market was reported burning. Jackson said the fire caused $750 damage to the building and $350 damage to the contents.

Although the two fires were within a block of each other, they were not believed to be related.

• Jacksonville University's seventh annual homecoming began with an assembly at Swisher Gymnasium. The five-day celebration had the theme, "JU Takes Pride in Its Alumni."

The schedule included the "Dolphin Deluge," a program of skits by students; a bonfire and pep rally on the Alexander Brest athletic field; the dedication of the Lonnie Wurn swimming pool; a basketball game against Mercer College; and a soccer game vs. the University of Florida.

State Sen. John E. Mathews, who was a candidate for governor, was to be the speaker at the Green Key breakfast in the student center.

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