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.
City commissioners approved plans for the nearly $6 million terminal building complex at Jacksonville International Airport and called for bids.
The bids, hoped by city officials to be close to the estimate of $5.7 million, would be opened June 6.
The blueprints comprised 165 pages of working drawings and were presented to the commission by airport manager James Howard and James Meehan Jr., architect with Reynolds, Smith and Hills.
Mayor Lou Ritter, who was in charge of the Airport Department, said the target date for completion of the terminal phase of the $26.2 million airport was April 1968.
Work began in December on $5 million of site grading and runway construction.
“We have made many studies of many airports in the major cities of the United States,” Ritter said. “Being a bit behind other cities, we feel has helped us in our planning and enabled us to avoid some of the errors other cities may have made.”
• The Board of County Commissioners signed a contract paving the way for distribution of surplus agricultural products to an estimated 20,000 local families.
The agreement was with Greater Jacksonville Economic Opportunity. The agency would administer distribution to the needy, with 90 percent of the financing coming from the federal Office of Economic Opportunity.
The remaining 10 percent was considered to be surplus office and other equipment being furnished by the county, which was not devoting funds to the program.
A warehouse at Church and Davis streets would be used to store the food.
Families and individuals qualified to receive the food would be certified by welfare caseworkers under federal poverty guidelines.
• U.S. District Judge Sarah Hughes, who was appointed to her post by President John F. Kennedy and later administered the oath of office to President Lyndon Johnson aboard Air Force One hours after Kennedy was assassinated, was assigned to the U.S. Court Of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Jacksonville.
While forever a part of American history, she said the most important phase of her work was presiding over criminal cases.
“A judge has two obligations,” Hughes said. “One is to protect society from the lawbreaker. The other is to impose a sentence on the lawbreaker, which will help to rehabilitate him. Sometimes it is difficult to fulfill both obligations.”
• Snake handling wasn’t on the curriculum at Ribault High School, but an 11-foot anaconda caused some extracurricular activity on the football field.
Student Wayne Collins claimed the snake was injured but alive when it was found.
Other witnesses said it smelled like it had been dead for some time and appeared to have been run over by a car.
Ownership of the anaconda was traced to J.C. Crumpton of 6944 Van Gundy Road, whose home was separated from the school property by a ditch.
Crumpton, a brick mason, was out of town, but his wife checked the cage in their open garage where the snake was kept.
She said the lid was open and the snake was gone.
Crumpton expressed no great love for the snake, but said she was sorry about its death because her husband was fond of it.
She said he bought the snake, whom he called Oscar, in March from a service station attendant who had it shipped in from South America.
The man sold the snake to her husband because people teased it in the cage at the station, Crumpton said.
• The American Red Cross Volunteer Lifesaving Corps at Jacksonville Beach began its 55th season, but the opening-day program was cut short because there was too much work to do.
So many people went to the beach early in the morning that corps Capt. Keith Reichmann had to put a full guard on duty before 2 p.m., when the ceremony was scheduled to begin.
He apologized to guests who were invited to review the life guards and observe a mock rescue.
Since the corps members were needed along the beach, the first aid and rescue demonstrations were cancelled.
However, the guests witnessed two real emergency runs.
A woman was injured when she fell from the bulkhead onto the rocks below. The other call was a minor incident.
A strong wind kept the temperature cool and motorists stayed on the beach until the rising tide forced them to remove their vehicles off the strand.
Several cars were caught in the surf when their drivers failed to remove them.
Reichmann said 23 lifeguard towers would be manned on weekends throughout the season by volunteers. Paid lifeguards would be on duty during the week.
• Mayor Lou Ritter returned from a 14-day trip to Israel.
He said he was “highly impressed” by the good will of the citizens toward the United States.
“It was probably the most interesting and exciting experience of my life. The measure of progress in many cities in Israel is tremendous,” Ritter said.
He reported about 70 percent of Israelis spoke English and Presidents Truman, Kennedy and Johnson were the American leaders for whom they had the most respect.
• Frances Hockett, a 17-year-old junior at Nathan B. Forrest High School, won third place in the national Junior Achievement competition in Boston.
She was one of five national finalists picked from more than 5,700 Junior Achievement companies in the U.S., Canada and 36 other foreign nations.
Hockett was selected the regional winner in Jackson, Miss., in March, competing against representatives from 12 Southern states.
She was the second consecutive winner from Jacksonville after Hal Rogers of Paxon High School won the regional competition in 1965.
It was noted that Hockett’s third-place finish was even more significant because an estimated 150,000 young people were in the original groups on local levels when the competition began.
The finalists had to demonstrate salesmanship in front of an audience of more than 1,000 people, including the judges.
Her product was a utility room space saver for hanging mops, brooms and other household equipment.
• The 70 best musicians in Duval County public high schools performed in the ninth annual spring concert of the Jacksonville Symphony Youth Orchestra in the Civic Auditorium.
Donald Allen, concertmaster, and Karen England, second violin section leader, were students at Englewood High School.
Special recognition was paid to 19 seniors in the orchestra. Ten had received college scholarships.
• The Jacksonville Beach Chamber of Commerce was planning sponsorship of a $5,000 open and pro-am golf tournament to become part of a Florida winter tour intended to keep professional golfers in the state.
The event was planned to debut in December, after local organizers conferred with state PGA President Bill Meyers, who would coordinate the tour, expected to make stops in 10-12 cities.
Two possible names were being considered: Florida Citrus Circuit or Florida Grapefruit Circuit.