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.
• The City Commission, on the motion of Parks Commissioner Dallas L. Thomas, rejected all bids for completion of the Southside waterfront park and marina.
Also on the motion, the Register and Cummings engineering firm was directed to submit to the commission within two weeks new specifications that would reduce the project's cost.
The bids were rejected as being more than the city could afford in view of the availability of funds from the bond program approved by city voters in 1962.
Lowest base bid was $300,000 over the $1.2 million the city had earmarked for finishing the project.
Thomas said the only major change in the specifications would be reducing the number of boat slips in the marina to about half of the 60 that were planned.
Preliminary work on the park, which was named Dallas L. Thomas Park, was complete, including a $440,000 bulkhead and grading to prepare for construction of a fountain, pavilion, the marina and other facilities.
On another motion by Thomas, the commission approved a proposal by the Building Trades Council to place a plaque in Hemming Park commemorating the visit to the park by the late President John F. Kennedy.
The agreement was subject to further approval by the commission of the plaque, its location and a provision that the installation would be at no cost to the city.
• Members of the Jacksonville Port Authority expressed concern over the need for additional docking and storage capacity to handle a record number of vessels using the port.
Chairman Dave Watts said many ships had been forced to lie at anchor several days before they could be unloaded.
"If anything will give a port a black eye, it's having to tell a shipper he can't dock his ship or store his cargo because we don't have the facilities," Watts said.
He and other authority members said Jacksonville could not wait much longer to expand the port's docking and warehouse operations.
In other business, the authority:
• Approved a resolution proposing that the Florida Ports and Foreign Trade Council select a committee representing the ports of Florida to negotiate for a trade mission to Puerto Rico in 1964.
• Accepted an invitation to join the Mississippi Valley Association, which was an active supporter of the Cross Florida Barge Canal.
• Referred for study seven bids submitted for several pieces of office equipment. The apparent low bid of $1,305.57 was submitted by Perdue Office Furniture Co.
• More than 150 pilot whales were beached Monday morning along a three-mile stretch of Ponte Vedra Beach.
St. Johns County Deputy Sheriff Roy Landrum said the animals began beaching themselves Sunday afternoon and were still coming ashore at sunset.
"We counted 150 of them and then stopped counting. There probably are many more than that out there, but it was too dark to tell," he said.
The whales were spotted heading for shore at about 3 p.m. and then rough waves washed them ashore.
"We tried to save them by hauling them back into the surf, but as soon as we let them go they would swim back to shore," Landrum said.
Soon after the whale grounding was reported, Marineland officials arrived and rescued five of the mammals.
The whales were loaded into trucks and transported to Marineland, where they were in shock and exhausted.
By Tuesday, most of the dead whales had been taken back out to sea by the tide.
Landrum said the remaining whales would be buried along the beach in pits dug by a bulldozer.
• The City Pardon Board gave the gift of freedom to 145 inmates serving sentences in jail or at the city prison farm.
Pardon Board Chairman and City Council President Clyde "Red" Cannon and council
members W.O. Mattox and Cecil Lowe spent nearly two hours evaluating the arrest records of 167 city prisoners who were eligible for the annual Christmas pardon. Twenty-two were rejected.
There were 197 other prisoners in the two facilities that were not eligible for the holiday freedom. Those were convicted of drunken driving, shoplifting, petty larceny, bootlegging, resisting arrest or were recaptured escapees.
Cannon said anyone convicted in Municipal Court and given jail sentences after the holiday pardons were granted would remain in custody over the Christmas holiday.
The Pardon Board was not scheduled to meet again until Dec. 30.
• Police made a renewed effort to locate a dog that bit a young boy on the nose after the child had such a violent reaction to the first dose of rabies vaccine it was feared he could not withstand more treatment.
The victim was 5-year-old Charles Chambliss, who lived at 1605 Berwick Road.
Chambliss was bitten by a small dog when he walked up to a car with the window down to look at the animal at a shopping center along Hendricks Avenue at San Jose Boulevard.
Police Lt. J.L. Montgomery, a relative of Chambliss, said no action was planned against the dog's owner.
"We just want to know whether the dog has been vaccinated and keep it under observation for a short period," he said.
Witnesses said the dog was in a late model blue automobile driven by a well-dressed middle-aged man who was apparently unaware of the incident.
The child's mother, Ann Chambliss, said when a physician gave her son the first injection, the child broke out almost immediately in a rash, started turning blue and went into shock.
She said the doctor advised against further treatment and gave the child an injection to counteract the first.
• A homing pigeon that could not find its way home and was wandering around Jacksonville was traced to its owner in Knoxville, Tenn.
The owner decided to present the bird to its Jacksonville custodian because, he said, a homing pigeon that can't home is no good for racing.
The pigeon's new owner was Louis Celoria, vice president and president-elect of the Jacksonville Racing Pigeon Club.
He had used identification bands on the bird's legs to track its previous owner, A.J. Smith, secretary of the Knoxville Racing Pigeon Club.
Robert Newman found the pigeon under his home at 6857 Lenox Ave.
It was hungry and in poor condition.
Celoria theorized the pigeon was blown off course by crosswinds during a race or followed another flock of pigeons.
He said identification bands on the lost pigeon's legs indicated someone in North Florida or South Georgia had temporarily kept the bird.