Clint Eastwood's motion picture debut, "A Fistful of Dollars" opened this week in 1967 at the Cedar Hills and Town & Country theaters.

50 year ago: $27 million expansion at Baptist Memorial Hospital

Mar. 6, 2017

Construction of the first portion of a $27 million expansion program at Baptist Memorial Hospital would transform the facility into a regional resource for medical treatment.

The project comprised renovation of the existing building and a new 16-story tower Downtown along the St. Johns River.

In the initial phase, the tower would be completed, but only the first 10 stories would be operational by 1970.

The remaining floors would be finished as needs warranted at a cost of about $7 million.

With the expansion, the hospital would have 778 beds and the entire facility would be valued at nearly $40 million, said Circuit Judge Marion Gooding, president of Baptist Hospital of Jacksonville Inc., the original development organization for the hospital.

“When this project is complete, Baptist Memorial Hospital will be transformed into a full medical center for metropolitan Jacksonville and the entire Southeast with the latest medical and surgical equipment,” he said.

Financing of the $20 million first phase would include a fundraising goal of $5.5 million with the balance from long-term financing and bequests.

• U.S. Rep Charles Bennett helped dedicate the 120-bed Eartha M.M. White Nursing Home.

Bennett said nursing homes were getting the same level of attention hospitals had been receiving for more than 10 years.

“There is a transition in the nursing home that is bound to help the elderly who are sick and in the past just didn’t have anywhere to go,” he said. “Nursing homes are now considered to be most important in the health care field.”

The facility at 5733 Moncrief Road was built with a $780,000 federal grant on a 2-acre tract donated by White.

Citing his long friendship with White, Bennett said, “She is a living legend in her time. I have never been prouder of her accomplishments than I am today.

“Who else in the world would have launched such a tremendous project at 90 years of age?” he added.

White’s previous philanthropic activities included the Clara White Mission, the Harriett Beecher Stowe Community Center and a soup kitchen she opened during the Great Depression.

• Tears were flowing at the City Pardon Board meeting, but they weren’t in sympathy for a prisoner.

The board had just voted to discharge an inmate from the remainder of his 30-day sentence and the members were signing the papers for his release.

Board member Lavern Reynolds reached into the coat pocket of board member Lemuel Sharp and took out what he thought was a blue marking pen. He squeezed it and thumbed the top of it, but he couldn’t get the point of the pen to come out.

Finally, Reynolds flipped a lever on the side.

A loud bang was followed by a cloud of tear gas that swept across the meeting table in the City Council Chamber.

The gas managed to catch almost everyone in the eyes and nose even though it was only a small charge.

The pen-like tear gas ejector was one of 50 that Sharp said he had bought to sell and he was carrying a demonstration model in his pocket, never thinking it would be used under such circumstances.

The ignition caught Reynolds in the left index finger, burning him and drawing blood. His injury was bandaged and he was given a tetanus shot by the City Hall nurse.

• John Montgomery, tournament chairman of the third annual Greater Jacksonville Open, said Arnold Palmer, whom Montgomery described as “professional golf’s all-time money maker,” would play in the $100,000 tournament March 16-19 at the Deerwood Club.

“We needed Palmer very badly to make it the best field in GJO history,” he said.

The news of Palmer’s appearance spread rapidly among local golf fans and it was noted his participation would bring “luster” to the event.

“I am happy to be playing Jacksonville after missing it last year. I remember it as a fine, well-organized tournament from my visit in 1965,” said Palmer, who had made more than $750,000 in his career.

Montgomery said the open also had “a fine shot” at getting Jack Nicklaus and Billy Casper to join the field for the tournament.

“That would give us every current big name on the pro tour,” he said.

• A concrete-breaking ceremony at the Gator Bowl marked the start of demolition of the south stands and construction of new seating that would give the stadium a true bowl shape.

Present, in addition to city officials, was Harold Brownett, 81, retired general manager of the O.P. Woodcock Co. In 1927, he supervised the construction of the stands at what then was Fairfield Stadium.

Brownett’s project cost $99,000. The 1967 upgrade was expected to cost about $620,000 and would add 7,000 seats.

• Award of a contract for an overpass at Atlantic Boulevard and Mayport Road was postponed so the Jacksonville Expressway Authority and its consulting engineers could meet with advocates of a ground-level intersection.

A large delegation of officials, business owners, residents of the area and representatives from Mayport Naval Station attended the authority’s meeting to express concern over the traffic situation they feared from an elevated interchange.

A low bid of $1.29 million was submitted by Houdaille-Duval-Wright Co. and engineers Reynolds, Smith and Hills, recommended it be accepted.

The discussion was opened by P.M. Huddleston of RS&H, who explained how the interchange would work.

The attitude of the Beaches residents was summed up by William Howell, mayor of Atlantic Beach

“We are of the opinion a very competent interchange can be built at ground level — one which not only would adequately handle the traffic there, but would result in a great savings of authority construction funds,” he said.

• During its first six days of operation, the city’s new telephone center for electric and water problems received 4,017 calls, or about 100 more a day than were anticipated.

The center was designed to be a one-stop answering service for utility billing inquiries and service calls.

When the center opened a week earlier, supervisor Bill Ellis said the eight women on the telephones were expected to receive 567 calls a day, but in five of the first six days of the operation, calls exceeded the prediction. On one day, there were 792.

The switchboard operated 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday. After closing hours and on weekends, a taped message instructed callers who to contact for emergencies involving water or electric service.

• The congregation of Riverside Presbyterian Church approved by a 4-to-1 margin the formation of a corporation to build and maintain a high-rise apartment building for retired people.

It would be financed by a federal grant under provisions of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Senior Citizens Housing Loan Program.

It would provide more than 200 rental units, said George Simons, a member of the congregation and a professional city planner.

Cathedral Towers, which was at the time being built Downtown by Cathedral Manor Inc., a corporation established by St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral, was financed under the same government program.

It would have a cost of nearly $3 million and the corporation would repay the low-interest loan over a 50-year period.