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 1966. The items were compiled from the Jacksonville Public Library’s periodical archives by Staff Writer Max Marbut.
• The next electric generating unit to be built for the city Electric Department might be an atomic power plant, said Utilities Commissioner J. Dillon Kennedy.
He made the statement in response to demands from City Council for a study of possible use of natural gas to generate electricity as a means of reducing air pollution.
“We may skip gas altogether and go to nuclear energy. We are seriously considering putting the second or third unit (at the new Northside Generating Station along Heckscher Drive) on it. We have had several conferences about it already,” Kennedy said. “Nuclear energy is really becoming competitive with other fuels.”
Council adopted a resolution calling on the City Commission to investigate the use of natural gas in the new generating station, which was scheduled to begin operation in June.
The resolution said use of natural gas might avoid having to include expensive antipollution equipment in the new plant and also might eliminate the necessity for dredging the St. Johns River channel near the power plant to allow oil tankers to dock and unload fuel to be used in the generators.
• A two-day boycott of Duval County public schools by black students cost the county more than $86,000 in the loss of state and federal funds.
Figures compiled by the school system showed 41.7 percent of black students were absent, compared with the normal 12 percent.
“We have figures that reflect 54 percent absenteeism. I’ll bet it’s higher than that, but 54 percent is extremely effective,” said Wendell Holmes, leader of one of the groups calling for the boycott.
The boycott was organized by several black groups to protest continued racial segregation of schools.
They went to Washington, D.C., the week before the boycott to request an investigation of the school system by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and a halt in federal aid payments if segregation was found to exist.
“One segment of the community has seen fit to use children in emphasizing its objections to our method of operation. Its right to take exception, whether justified or not, is not questioned,” said Schools Superintendent Ish Brant.
“However, its right to injure the educational lives of our children has no basis in fact, morality or legality,” he added.
Brant said the school system was operating under federal court jurisdiction and following all orders and directives to integrate schools.
• Mayor Lou Ritter said he planned to send to City Council in April a bill calling for the establishment of a community relations commission.
He made the announcement after a meeting with black and white community representatives and Irving Tranen from the federal Community Relations Service Office of Conciliation.
Ritter said the primary matters discussed were lack of job opportunities in city and county government, failure to appoint qualified blacks to local boards and advisory commissions, educational inequality and housing conditions.
Ritter said there had been a “potentially explosive” racial situation in Jacksonville for several weeks.
A commission with official sanction and backed by city ordinance could be an effective tool for improving community relations, he said.
Ritter cited figures that indicated the population within the city limits was 44.7 percent black. He admitted a factor behind possible trouble was the intragroup struggle for leadership of the black community between the NAACP and Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
• A Michigan man, whose masquerade as a woman fooled his employer and an arresting officer, was bound over to Criminal Court on charges of breaking and entering and grand larceny.
Booked into the county jail in lieu of $1,500 bail was Stanley Gould, 21, of Ann Arbor Mich., alias “Kitten Mason.”
He was given a preliminary hearing before Justice of the Peace William Gufford on charges filed by Gerald Hart of 315 N. 18th St. in Jacksonville Beach.
Hart told Gufford he hired Gould, whom he knew as Kitten Mason, in December as a housekeeper while his wife was in the hospital.
Just before Christmas, Hart said, he closed his home and dismissed his housekeeper so he could be near his wife, who later died.
When Hart returned home Dec. 27, he said he found the house had been entered and his wife’s $1,000 mink stole was missing. Also missing were a television, a transistor radio and some of his wife’s clothes, he said.
Hart called Jacksonville Beach police, who began watching the house.
Two nights later, Patrolman Paul Brown arrested Gould posing as Kitten Mason and booked him into the Jacksonville Beach jail in the women’s section.
“I had no reason to believe he wasn’t a woman. He had shoulder-length hair, his face was made up and he was dressed in a blouse and slacks,” Brown said.
“And besides, he talks like a girl,” he added.
But Betty Boone, police matron, became suspicious the next morning.
“First thing I noticed was that he was sitting on a top bunk when I came in the jail cell. He was alone in the cell and women always prefer the bottom bunk.
“Then I got a look at him from behind as he walked down the corridor for interrogation. Even with women’s clothes on, he had the frame and walk of a man,” she said.
Boone told investigating officers of her suspicion, but under questioning, Gould insisted he was a female.
Boone was ordered to make a determination and Gould’s masquerade was uncovered.
Meanwhile, a man who had been dating Kitten Mason had filed petty larceny charges, thinking Mason was a woman. He dropped the charges after the arrest and uncovering of the masquerade.
• The closing holes of the second annual Greater Jacksonville Open golf tournament at Selva Marina Country Club would be national televised March 27, said Wesley Paxson, tournament chairman.
Sports Network Inc. would provide the technical services with John Derr, joined by former professional golfers Jimmy Demaret and Bob Toski, providing the commentary.
Paxson said the tournament provided national publicity for Jacksonville and helped develop community spirit, much like another annual sports event.
“I like to think of the GJO in the same terms as the Gator Bowl,” he said. “I’m not taking anything away from the Gator Bowl, but this golf tournament has a similar importance to our city.”
Paxson said it would cost $120,000 to stage the event, of which $82,000 was prize money, including $13,500 for the champion.
“The touring pros love Jacksonville and the Selva Marina course. The course approximates Augusta’s,” Paxson said. “The pros like the friendship they find here and it’s very worthwhile winning the tournament.”
• Florida Junior College at Jacksonville hadn’t enrolled its first student or scheduled its first class. It didn’t even have a permanent home, but it was accredited by the State Department of Education this week in 1966.
The state based accreditation on the budget as submitted by the college, on what state law said junior colleges had to offer and that all faculty members would have master’s or doctor’s degrees, said J. Bruce Wilson, college president.
Proposed courses to be offered included business administration, pre-engineering, teaching music and art and general education.
Proposed special programs were electronics technology, drafting technology, secretarial science, accounting and nursing.