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- 2014 - January - 13th -

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 1964. The items were compiled from the Jacksonville Public Library's periodical archives by Staff Writer Max Marbut.

• The Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine announced that America's oldest city would soon have a new landmark: a 200-foot illuminated cross to be erected on a historic site where in 1565 Spanish priests and pioneers founded America's first Catholic parish and Indian mission.

"The material of the cross will be stainless steel. This steel has three special virtues. It will rise out of the earth in a strong, masculine way like a conquistador's sword wrought into cruciform; it will resist permanently the corroding effects of the surrounding salt air; and it will give brilliant reflection to the floodlights that will illuminate the cross that was planted in our land 400 years ago. It will remind us that the first act of our nation's first founding father, Don Pedro Menendez, was to kneel and kiss the cross," said the Rev. James Heslin, president of the St. Augustine Foundation.

The diocese, through the foundation, also would construct a library and archives building and a Votive Church at the Mission of Nombre de Dios.

The projects were part of St. Augustine's 400th anniversary celebration in 1965.

Architect for the project was Eugene F. Kennedy Jr. of the Boston firm of Maginnis, Walsh and Kennedy. He was architect for the Shrine of Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., and the Cathedral of Baltimore.

• The owner of a multifamily dwelling at 961-63 W. Union St. was reluctant to allow firefighters to enter the attic of his building.

When they finally gained entrance to the space, they found a fire – and an illegal distilling operation.

When the fire was extinguished, city police and state beverage agents took custody of a quantity of moonshine and the building's owner, Eugene Dennis Brown. He was booked into the city jail on a charge of possession of moonshine and released under $250 bond.

Fire Lt. Frank Carter of Engine Co. 7 said when he arrived on the scene, Brown told him the fire was out and no further help was needed. Carter insisted on inspecting the attic to make sure the fire was out and then found flames licking up the wall and moonshine cooking in the still. Carter called police.

Firefighters carried out of the attic three half-filled 55-gallon drums of working mash, another barrel containing a condenser coil, a cooker and at least 1 gallon of moonshine.

• Robert Willingham Perdue, who operated "the biggest little store in town" in the early 1900s and owner of Perdue Office Furniture Co., died in a local hospital.

Perdue, 86, had lived in Jacksonville since 1907. He was born in Pike County, Ga., son of Daniel Walton and Mary Addy Perdue. He joined the Navy in 1901 and served four years. After his discharge, he went to Savannah and was employed as a ticket agent by Ocean Steamship Co.

Perdue came to Jacksonville in 1907 and went to work as a ticket agent for the Seaboard Railroad, Georgia and Southern Florida. He later worked for the Clyde Steamship Line.

In 1912, Perdue opened a cigar stand in the Hurd Building. The venture became known as the "biggest little store in town."

Three years later, he entered the furniture business, opening Perdue Office Furniture Co., which he operated until his death.

• E.B. Canaday Jr., a former deputy sheriff, was convicted on three counts of tampering with a federal court jury trying him in August 1963 on a charge of participation in the hijacking of a $22,000 load of whiskey from an interstate shipment.

Another defendant in the jury-fixing case, Elwood Johns, was acquitted by the jury, which deliberated only one hour before returning both verdicts.

A third defendant, Paul Martoccia, charged with having made a telephone approach to a potential juror in the case, was freed on a judgment of acquittal ordered by U.S. District Judge Bryan Simpson.

• A seminar on Florida civil trial practice at the George Washington Hotel was scheduled for Feb. 14 by The Jacksonville Bar Association in cooperation with the Continuing Legal Education Committee of the Florida Bar.

The course would be a combination of demonstrations and lectures on the various aspects of a civil trial.

Nathan Wilson, president of The Jacksonville Bar Association, named Martin Sack Sr. chairman of the local Bar committee.

• Goodwill Industries of Jacksonville Inc. was preparing to distribute on Feb. 8 more than 100,000 paper bags as the first step in the annual Good Turn Day program.

The bags were to be delivered to homes in Duval County and in Gainesville, Lake City and Palatka, where they would be filled with used or discarded clothing to be picked up Feb. 15.

Boy Scouts would distribute and then collect the bags in cooperation with the U.S. Navy.

• Data released by Jacksonville Fire Chief G.R. Cromartie showed that 1963 was a bad year in Jacksonville for fire fatalities.

Cromartie said 31 people died in fires in 1963, including 22 who lost their lives on Dec. 29 in the Roosevelt Hotel disaster.

Estimated property loss in 1963 fires was $3,997,733, compared with $952,573 in 1962. The considerable increase in the 1963 loss was the Laney-Duke warehouse fire, which brought a loss in excess of $2.5 million. The Roosevelt Hotel fire loss was estimated at $250,000 in damage to the structure and its contents.

The Duval County medical examiner's office determined that 20 of the victims of the hotel fire died from asphyxiation by carbon monoxide.

Another victim, a woman from Greensboro, N.C., who fell from a window while trying to escape the fire using a rope fashioned from bed sheets, died of multiple fractures.

The 22nd victim, Assistant Fire Chief J.R. Romedy, died from a heart attack at the scene of the fire.

• Edward Ball, board chairman of the Florida East Coast Railway, denied reports that negotiations were underway for sale of the strike-plagued line to Southern Railway System.

Ball said there had been some "offhand mention" of such a possibility, but a report that talks began in fall 1963 was absolutely false.

"There was not any serious talk, nothing that I would call active discussion, and we have not received an offer," Ball said.

The Miami Daily News quoted Southern President D.W. Brosnan as saying his line was "very much interested in the FEC." The Daily News said negotiations opened in the fall and had intensified in the preceding three weeks.

The Atlantic Coast Line and Seaboard Coast Line railroads had talked much more than Southern about the possibility of acquiring the Miami-Jacksonville railroad, "but that was some time ago," said Ball.

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