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- 2014 - June - 23rd -

50 years ago: Storm keeps crowd small at dedication of Fort Caroline

Compiled by Max Marbut

After an intense thunderstorm Sunday that almost washed out the prepared program, the reconstructed Fort Caroline was formally dedicated.

The ceremony coincided with the 400th anniversary of the fortification along the St. Johns River in Arlington.

Only about 200 of the 1,000 people who arrived for the dedication remained after the storm. Officials had expected as many as 5,000 people to witness the ceremony.

Poor attendance aside, the dedication was a moment of personal pride for U.S. Rep. Charles Bennett of Jacksonville, who led the effort to reconstruct the old fort.

“This is a tremendous moment for me,” he said.

Bennett recounted the challenges faced by Jean Ribault and Rene de Laudonniere and said, “Our country has these challenges today, the challenges of Ribault. Sooner would we be dead than to abdicate the principles we live by.”

Vice Adm. John Thach, deputy chief of naval operations for air, gave the principal address of the afternoon.

Reviewing the history of the fort, founded under Laudonniere, Thach said Laudonniere “brought the concept of freedom of religion to our shores.”

Thach cited the heritage of those who built the fort.

“We Americans owe them our gratitude for the foundation upon which we have built a nation that leads the world toward the future and from which navigators of tomorrow will again push back the frontier of man’s knowledge,” said Thach.

Maj. Gen. Michel Dorance, air attaché of the French embassy in Washington, D.C., represented the French government.

“We are in a time when we all know relations between our two countries are not described as being as good as they need to be,” he said. “But be assured France will be at the side of the United States in any real crisis.”

• The Meninak Club of Jacksonville named the Salvation Army as the recipient of $10,000 from proceeds of the club’s annual charity football game played in December 1963.

The funds would be used to build a recreation hall at the army’s Camp Keystone on Lake Bedford in Keystone Heights, said Hubert Mehaffey, immediate past president of the Meninaks.

Mehaffey, under whose tenure the project was begun, made the award to Col. Harold Stout, Florida divisional commander of the Salvation Army.

The rectangular hall would be 100 feet long and 30 feet wide, built on a concrete slab with open sides. A sloped roof would provide protection from the weather.

It was “needed badly for recreation purposes during rainy periods,” Stout said.

• A colony of bees that took up residence at Jacksonville Naval Air Station was evicted by the Navy.

It wasn’t that the 30,000 insects were bothering anyone, but they were in the way of a construction project.

When the decision was made to expand the hobby shop facilities on the base, a two-story barracks was selected.

As the building was being remodeled, hobby shop Superintendent H.C. Osburn ordered a new electrical service installed to handle the extra load of power tools and equipment.

Then Osburn remembered the bees. They were living inside the second-story wall where the new electrical service was to be installed.

“They’ve been in there for at least four or five years,” he said.

Osburn said someone cut out a section of the wall and put in a piece of window glass so the bees could be observed at work.

Beekeeper Curtis McCormack, a naval station fireman, volunteered to take the bees off the Navy’s hands.

Armed with a crowbar, hammer and smoke pot, McCormack dismantled the wall, removed the bees and relocated them to hives.

• Wesley Manor, a retirement village designed for 300 residents on the south bank of Julington Creek in St. Johns County, was consecrated by Bishop James Henley of the Florida Conference of the Methodist Church.

The $6 million development, a 266-unit apartment community for seniors, was operated by Jacksonville Methodist Home Inc.

About 50 residents already lived at Wesley Manor, according to the Rev. Thomas D. Ryan Jr., executive director of the home.

Designed specifically for seniors, the manor was self-contained under one roof including a dining hall, lounges, a hospital, chapel, library, auditorium, movie theater, beauty salons, barber shops and a post office.

Julian Warren, chairman of the Duval County Commission, said the facility was “the finest retirement home in America.”

In his acceptance consecration, Henley described the village as “a center for individual well-being and personal dignity; a place with a peculiar ministry aimed at enhancing the image of God in His creation.”

• At least one person in Jacksonville had a clear conscience this week in 1964.

A letter addressed only to U.S. Post Office, Jacksonville, contained a $1 bill and a hand-printed note: “I owe you this conscience money for postage due.”

There was no signature or return address and post office officials said they had no record of any such payment being made before in Jacksonville.

Postmaster James Workman said he was unable to account for the payment.

“It could have been a letter, magazine or parcel,” he said. “The postage more than likely was collected from the addressee and the sender never found that out. Or it could have been mail received marked postage due and the postman for some reason failed to collect. In that instance, the postman would have been required to pay the amount out of his pocket.”

In any event, somebody had a clear conscience and the U.S. government was $1 richer, Workman said.

• The first cash deposited in the coffers of the new Greater Jacksonville Area Community Foundation Inc. would come from the $45,000 proceeds of the sale of the headquarters building of the Community Chest United Fund.

The announcement was made by Thomas McGehee, chairman of the foundation’s board.

He said the money would be earmarked to provide permanent housing for United Community Services offices.

McGehee was speaking at a Kiwanis Club meeting at the Seminole Hotel. He outlined the goals of the organization, the 77th community foundation in the country.

The purpose of the foundation was to administer funds donated to the foundation for charitable, educational or cultural uses. Donors could specify the purpose to which a gift could be applied or a distribution committee would decide how funds not earmarked would be used.

When he was elected chairman, McGehee said the foundation “provided the first opportunity here for the man in the street to participate in a trust fund.”

Any resident of Jacksonville could take the same tax break on donations as the large foundations, such as Rockefeller or Carnegie, by making the gift through the foundation, he

said.

“In my opinion, in the next 10 or 20 years, the foundation will become the greatest force in the community for securing, development and furtherance of trusts for charitable, educational and cultural purposes,” McGehee said. The organization later became

The Community Foundation of Northeast Florida.

Meanwhile, at United Community Services, there were challenges beyond office space to be addressed.

Laurence F. Lee Jr., president of the organization, warned its board of directors that immediate action was needed to strengthen the organization.

“The situation is critical,” said Lee. “Seven agencies are getting less money this year than they did five years ago. Two other agencies have not received an increase, either during the past five years or since they joined the UCS complex. This year, one organization has withdrawn from UCS. Two more are being pushed by their boards to withdraw unless they can get sufficient funds to meet their indebtedness. A fourth is making demands on the fund that in my estimation the fund cannot meet in good conscience.”

He said unless changes were made, “the united giving concept, which we are attempting to sponsor here in Jacksonville, will collapse by default.”

• R.J. Kelly, manager of the Roosevelt Hotel (now The Carling apartments Downtown along Adams Street), accepted 350 Bibles from members of the Jacksonville Camp of Gideons International.

The hotel had been closed since Dec. 29, 1963, when 22 people died in a fire at the hotel. The Roosevelt was in the final stages of renovation and was expected to open again to the public in about two weeks

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