Ever wonder what stories made headlines in Jacksonville 50 years ago? It may have been a different era of history, culture and politics, but there are often parallels between the kind of stories that made the news in 1958 and today. As interesting as the similarities may be, so are the vast differences. The following are some of the top headlines from the Florida-Times Union printed 50 years ago this week. These items were compiled from the Jacksonville Public Library’s periodical archives.
• Airliners still had propellers, but you could fly from Jacksonville to New York City non-stop for $31 or to Atlanta for $13.60 on Eastern Airlines.
• U.S. Rep. Charles Bennett was the keynote speaker at the dedication of the Florida National Guard Armory on Wilson Boulevard. The building was constructed at a cost of $156,252 including the one-acre site.
• In Orange Park construction began on the building that would house radio station WAPE. At 25,000 watts of broadcast power at AM-690 “The Big Ape” as it would come to be known was five times stronger than any other local station. The signal covered the southeast coast from Charleston, S.C. to Vero Beach.
• County Commissioner Joseph B. Mallard called for the State Road Department to install a traffic signal light at the corner of Atlantic Boulevard and Mayport Road. The intersection had been the scene of several fatal accidents. The cost to install the signal was estimated at $2,500.
• The County Commission approved the purchase of a two-block area near Georgia and Adams streets to create a “Sports Center.” The site was chosen so when construction of the new $3 million Municipal Coliseum was complete the building would share a parking lot with the Gator Bowl and Wolfson Park.
• Duval County Deputies raided a bolita game at a railroad yard in Baldwin, siezing “a complete set of balls and $362 in cash” and arresting two men who were charged with operating a lottery. The raid was part of a statewide campaign to “stamp out bolita,” a game of chance that was imported from Cuba to Florida in the late 19th century. A bag filled with 100 numbered balls was tossed around to mix up the balls then one was pulled out to determine the winner. Sometimes, bets were placed days in advance. The state wanted to eradicate the game because it was linked to organized crime in Tampa.
• The Defense Department announced there would be 280 military personnel and 32 civilian workers on the payroll when the Yellow Water U.S. Naval magazine opened that summer. The facility (now the north section of Cecil Commerce Center) supplied bombs and ammunition to Cecil Field Naval Air Station and the ships stationed at Mayport Naval Station.
• Construction was about to begin on the new Sears, Roebuck & Co. store on Bay Street (near where the Omni Hotel now stands). The building had three sales floors, one floor of executive offices and a basement.
• Former Mayor John T. Alsop died. He was in office from 1923-1937 and from 1941-45, a total of 18 years, more than any other mayor in Jacksonville’s history.