- 2014 - February - 10th -

50 years ago: Deepening the channel was on the table

From Staff

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 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers scheduled a March 2 public hearing at the Duval County Courthouse on $9 million in proposed improvements to the St. Johns River, including deepening the channel to 38 feet.

Col. H.R. Parfitt, director of the Jacksonville office, said the corps would recommend at the meeting that:

• The channel be deepened to 38 feet from the inner end of the Mayport jetties to the vicinity of the Municipal Docks and Terminals Downtown, a distance of about 20 miles.

• The channel be widened by 100 feet opposite Sisters Creek and by 200 feet opposite St. Johns Bluff.

• The existing ocean entrance would be maintained at a minimum 40-foot depth with civil works funds.

David Watts, chairman of the Jacksonville Port Authority, said the deepened channel would permit larger tankers and ships with more bulk cargo to come into the Port of Jacksonville.

Watts said many of the larger vessels were passing by Jacksonville for ports with deeper channels, and that the trend was toward more bulk cargo shipments and larger vessels.

He said the 38-foot channel would accommodate “just about any tanker in the world.”

• A Cuban refugee who said he was a member of an anti-Castro exile group was arrested after police found bazooka shells, knives and a quantity of medicine in his automobile.

Juan Miguel Rassi, 21, of New York City, was held in the county jail on a charge of illegal transportation of explosives. Bond was set at $2,500.

Rassi was arrested by Trooper J.M. Williams of the Florida Highway Patrol near the

expressway toll gate on the Trout River Bridge.

Rassi’s car had a flat tire and Williams stopped to offer assistance, but called in W.H. Finigan, state narcotics investigator, after he spotted several cases of medicines, bandage materials and other medical items under piles of clothing in the car.

A further search of the vehicle revealed 10 bazooka artillery shells and 24 hunting knives in the trunk. Williams said the trunk could be entered only by removing the rear seat.

Customs Agent W.B. Lankford said Rassi was a courier who carried supplies from New York to Miami for Alpha 66, an exile group which had been a leader in raids on Cuba.

• The Florida Inspection and Rating Bureau approved a reduction in the Atlantic Beach fire classification rating from Class 7 to Class 6.

The new rating would mean a reduction in fire insurance rates of between $1.50 and $4 annually on a $10,000 home.

The Atlantic Beach City Commission sought the reduction in the rating after the fire department and water systems were upgraded.

In other business, the commission denied a request from the Fletcher Band Parents Association that the city contribute to sending the high school’s band to the New York World’s Fair after the city attorney ruled that such an expenditure would violate the city charter.

• County Solicitor Edward M. Booth declared in Criminal Court he had sufficient evidence there had been intimidation of key witness in a grand larceny case involving two local building contractors.

Booth told Judge Hans Tanzler Jr. he was launching an investigation into why the witness, 76-year-old John Henry Johnson, had given defense attorneys a statement recanting his testimony at the trial of the contractors.

A jury on Feb. 5 found the two defendants guilty of grand larceny for fraudulently attempting to obtain $1,795 from Johnson on a home improvement loan. The defendants were Sam Silver and Harold Hilsenrad, officers of Silver Construction Co. at 2618 N. Myrtle Ave.

Booth charged in the courtroom that a person he described only as “the McNair woman” had coerced Johnson into a move to back down on his testimony.

Booth said the woman had worked for Silver for 15 years.

“That makes this smell to high heaven. I want to get to the bottom of it,” said Booth.

Sentencings, which could be a maximum of five years in prison, was deferred by Tanzler until Feb. 21, pending disposition of a motion for a new trial expected to be filed by defense attorneys Thomas Larkin and Harold Hamowitz.

• Jacksonville’s City Council unanimously approved an ordinance increasing wrecker service towing rates in the city and fixing a $1 per day storage fee for vehicles towed to garages.

The new wrecker service bill eliminated the flat $7.50 towing charge on all vehicles. The new charges were $10 if a vehicle was towed during the day and $15 if towed at night. A $20 charge would be levied at all times for towing trucks up to 5 tons and $30 for towing semitractors, trailers and other vehicles over five tons.

• More than 3,000 employees of the city police and fire departments, the county volunteer fire departments and employees of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad were assisting the Jacksonville-Duval County Civil Defense Council in a survey of home fallout shelters.

The council had received 10,000 survey request cards from the U.S. Department of Defense.

“Any homeowner interested in determining how much shelter his home would provide against radioactive fallout in the event of thermonuclear attack may obtain one of the cards as long as they last by calling or visiting our office at 111 Market St.,” said Civil Defense Director W.A. Weatherford.

• A new Florida law led U.S. Rep. Charles Bennett to change his mind about seeking the job of delegate to the Democratic Party national convention.

Bennett said he decided not to seek the post due to a state law enacted in 1963 that prohibited a candidate from running for two offices simultaneously.

Bennett was expected to seek re-election to Congress but had not formally announced his intentions.

• County Attorney J. Henry Blount advised the Board of County Commissioners it had the authority – but not the obligation – to build roads connecting public schools with existing highways.

Blount offered his opinion in response to a request by Commissioner Bob Harris, who cited the “considerable amount of road work done” by the board in the vicinity of several Duval County schools.

Harris submitted letters from principals of 10 public schools in District 1, which he represented, expressing appreciation to Harris and other board members for improvements authorized by the board in the vicinity of schools.

The improvements included playgrounds, parking lots, sidewalks, drainage facilities, an asphalt surface track, miscellaneous paving and a circular driveway.

• The new $800,000 Florida State Office Building along Market Street between Adams and Monroe streets was dedicated by State Attorney General James Kynes.

He said the building was made possible through the cooperation of state, county and city officials and representatives of both labor and industry in the area.

• Certificates and tags for pets owned by Duval County residents having their animals vaccinated for rabies would be available at veterinary clinics in about 30 days, said Theron Baldwyn, Duval County dog warden.

The documents and tags were being prepared under a new pet registration law that applied to dogs and cats in unincorporated areas of the county.

No longer was the owner of a pet required to go before a county judge in order to obtain a license for his animal, Baldwyn said.

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