50 years ago: Episcopal High construction begins near giant oak tree
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 can be the similarities. These are some of the top stories from this week in 1967. The items were compiled from the Jacksonville Public Library’s periodical archives by Staff Writer Max Marbut.
Standing in the middle of an empty meadow along the St. Johns River and near a giant oak tree, the Rt. Rev. Hamilton West, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Florida, turned the first shovel of earth for the $2 million Jacksonville Episcopal High School.
“For the purpose of building a school of excellence in which young men and women may attain Christian character, I break ground for the Jacksonville Episcopal High School in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen,” West said.
The Auchter Co. started work immediately.
The ceremony was presided over by the Very Rev. Robert Parks, dean of St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral and chairman of the school’s board of trustees, who helped organize the school.
Trustees in attendance included Lucius Buck, executive vice president and chairman of the initial planning committee; Horton Reid, headmaster; and Luke Sadler, chairman of the school’s development committee.
Mayor Lou Ritter said in his two years as the city’s chief executive, he had learned the Episcopal Church leadership in the area was “vitally concerned with the social and economic problems of our urban area whether it be housing for the elderly or education for the young.”
• A comprehensive safety program for municipal employees, both on duty and off duty, was proposed to the City Commission by H.W. Donovan, the city’s insurance consultant.
One page of his 40-page report was an accident rate chart compiled by the National Safety Council.
It showed the average frequency rate of accidents in 1965 for 30 municipalities of various sizes was 20.65 accidents per 1 million man-hours of labor.
The average frequency in Charlotte, N.C. — similar in size to Jacksonville — was 40 accidents per 1 million man-hours.
Donovan said the accident frequency in Jacksonville, based on data from the city, was 62 accidents for the same number of man-hours.
In his letter to the commission, Donovan said a well-organized and managed safety program would only mean one thing: “Further reduction of insurance rates by improved loss experience. This means savings in taxes in the long run to the taxpayer.”
Referring to the off-duty component of the program, Donovan said, “A man killed on his way to work is just as dead as if he were killed in the line of duty.”
• The bizarre story of a woman who robbed a savings and loan at knifepoint and then invited capture puzzled police and FBI agents.
“My mother had an account there and I thought I was entitled to the money,” said Harriet Boggs of 4168 Shirley Ave.
She took $1,200 from a teller at the Duval Federal Savings & Loan Association at 4343 Roosevelt Blvd.
As Boggs scooped up the cash, she reportedly said to the teller, “This ought to be enough to get me in trouble.”
She surrendered the money when city Patrolman J. McVeigh found her in The Still, a tavern on San Juan Avenue near the scene of the robbery.
He said she was drinking a “zombie,” a concoction of light rum, dark rum, 151-proof rum, apricot brandy, sugar and fruit juices (according to drinksmixer.com).
While being escorted out of the bar, she hit McVeigh in the face. He handcuffed her and put her in his police cruiser, where she banged her manacled hands against the rear window.
Described as “a tall brunette with bobbed hair” who wore a large pair of trousers and a “conspicuous red-and-black checked lumberman’s jacket,” Boggs refused the services of a court-appointed attorney at an identity hearing shortly after the robbery.
“I’m fully aware of what I’m charged with and I don’t want an attorney,” Boggs said to U.S. Commissioner P. Donald DeHoff.
She also waived a preliminary hearing on a federal robbery charge involving assault, threats and jeopardizing lives.
U.S. Attorney William Hamilton said he would recommend Boggs receive a psychiatric evaluation before trial.
• If the early settlers of Jacksonville and Native Americans actually conducted peace talks under the massive oak tree on the Southbank, they probably got closer to an agreement than the settlers’ descendants did this week in 1967.
The Treaty Oak was the subject of discussion, but anything resembling a treaty was in name only.
The Jacksonville Children’s Museum wanted to use the Treaty Oak park site as a location for its proposed museum.
The Garden Club of Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Woman’s Club opposed the idea because they felt the city’s public parks should be free of buildings. They also feared possible damage to the historic tree.
Caught in the middle — but siding with the museum — was City Commissioner George Carrison, who was responsible for administration of parks.
In an effort to resolve the dispute, he sponsored a meeting of the parties at City Hall.
After nearly two hours, the meeting adjourned with Carrison asking the women’s organizations to “weigh this very heavily.”
The Treaty Oak property was purchased by Mrs. Alfred I. duPont and deeded to the city for use as a public park.
When Carrison learned of the museum’s proposal, he wrote to duPont to ask if she would remove a stipulation in the deed that there would be no buildings on the site.
DuPont replied she would agree, provided she could approve the plans for the museum and its location in the park.
That’s when the garden club went to work and made Carrison aware of their opposition on the issue.
Unable to get the club to appoint a committee to help iron out objections, Carrison called the public meeting.
• J.E. Harrison made one of the shortest calls of his career as a Jacksonville firefighter.
When the alarm at Fire Station No. 1 sounded at 4:49 p.m. Monday, Harrison jumped behind the wheel of his truck and headed out of the station onto Adams Street. He went about 25 feet and stopped beside a smoking automobile.
The fire in the carburetor was quickly extinguished.
“We’ve had shorter calls,” said Harrison. “People have actually driven burning cars to the station.”
• W. Ashley Verlander was sworn in as president of the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce.
He was in-stalled at the trade body’s 82nd annual meeting at the George Washington Hotel. Featured speaker was Gov. Claude Kirk, who preceded Verlander as president of the American Heritage Life Insurance Co. in Jacksonville.
The meeting drew a record attendance of 1,020 people.
“I must emphasize that the 1967 chamber team is going to be a team of positive thinking, a team of enthusiasm and a team that, while it will see the problems that exist today and in the future, its feeling will be that the greatness of this community and the opportunities that exist for us far exceed the problems,” said Verlander.
He said the chamber’s commitments for 1967 included the development of an industrial training program, work toward accreditation of public schools, a dynamic community advertising program, seeking excellent prospects for new economic development and a new “Goals for Jacksonville” project.
• High-flying kites were a hazard to air navigation, according to Imeson Airport officials who called police after an airline pilot reported seeing two kites during a landing approach.
One of them was at least 250 feet high, said a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Agency.
“I don’t think they would do any real damage, but you never know,” he said.
City police were sent to the Norwood area to warn the kite flyers, but the kites were down by the time they arrived.
• Three teenage boys were placed in the Juvenile Court Facility after police officers apprehended the youths sniffing glue in a parked car.
Patrolmen E.D. Hack and B.A. Thomas said they found the 16-year-olds in a wooded area on Holiday Road West in the Grove Park subdivision off Beach Boulevard.
They said all three were “obviously intoxicated” by the glue.
In addition, one of those apprehended had been previously arrested on a shoplifting charge involving a tube of glue.