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Jax Daily Record Monday, Sep. 8, 201412:00 PM EST

50 years ago: Hurricane Dora and The Beatles arrive in Jacksonville

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

Jacksonville began preparing Monday for Hurricane Dora, a storm twice the size of the state of Georgia with winds exceeding 150 mph.

By the time the storm made landfall late Wednesday near the mouth of the St. Johns River, winds had diminished to 115 mph near the center of the storm. The storm surge was measured at almost 4 feet as far inland as Downtown. Duval County was crippled.

Most residents and businesses lost power and water, which was not fully restored for a week. Trees were uprooted, utility lines were damaged and roads and yards were littered by debris.

Waves crashing over the seawall along the beaches caused breaks in many places. There was at least 2 feet of water as far as Third Street.

Thirty-one schools were used as shelters, housing more than 6,000 people.

By Thursday morning, after the storm had passed over the city, there was no electricity or water service and the beaches had been devastated. More than 12,000 residences and businesses had no telephone service.

President Lyndon Johnson declared Northeast Florida a major disaster area. He and Gov. Farris Bryant visited the area Friday to see the destruction.

Damage in Duval County was estimated at $100 million: $40 million in damage to public property and $60 million to private property. Damage at the Beaches was estimated at $14 million, including the destruction of the Atlantic Beach and Jacksonville Beach piers and the loss of most of the real estate within two blocks of the Atlantic Ocean.

• County Engineer John Crosby said the hurricane caused more than $5 million in damage to roads in unincorporated areas of the county, which would take more than five years to repair.

He further estimated it would cost as much as $200,000 just to remove the debris from county roads.

• Mayor Haydon Burns flew home to Jacksonville from Fort Myers, suspending his 10-day campaign swing in the race for governor.

Before leaving South Florida, Burns said his fellow city commissioners were “on top of the situation” and that after he arrived, he would remain in Jacksonville as long as there were storm-connected problems to solve.

• One of the casualties of Hurricane Dora was the historic Church of Our Saviour in Mandarin when one of the trees described in the 1883 title for the church property was torn from the ground by high winds and crashed into the wood-frame structure.

The church was completed in the fall of 1883 as the culmination of a dream by Harriet Beecher Stowe for a place to house the growing Episcopal congregation her husband, Calvin Stowe, had started during their winter visits to Mandarin.

• Two days after Dora left town, The Beatles arrived and performed in front of 20,000 screaming fans at the Gator Bowl.

The show almost didn’t go on when the group threatened to refuse to go on stage until newsreel cameramen were forced to stop filming.

When Beatles’ press agent Derek Taylor stepped up to the microphone and issued an ultimatum over the public address system, police officers physically restrained eight camera operators, covering their lenses with hands and leading them by the arm away from the performance area.

“The Beatles are 100 feet away,” Taylor told the shrieking crowd. “They came thousands of miles to be here. The only thing preventing their appearance is the cameramen.”

Taylor said the film made as newsreels was ultimately sold and shown in movie theaters with no royalties paid to the Beatles.

• The Jacksonville Suns baseball team, Triple-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, finished the season in first place in the International Baseball League with 82 wins and 62 losses.

What happened on the field wasn’t as significant as how the Suns managed to play their third season.

In the winter of 1963, after a 10th-place finish at the bottom of the league, there was doubt the Suns would return for a third season. However, 4,500 fans bought $10 shares in the club and formed Community Baseball Inc. to assure the club’s return to the field in Jacksonville.

“I’m floating on air – just as proud as can be over the boys winning the pennant,” said Roy Baker, president of Community Baseball.

• Five young entrepreneurs representing the local Junior Achievement program won national recognition for their work.

They were recognized at the National Conference of Junior Achievement Executives in Bloomington, Ind.

One of the local companies, Pru-Lite, counseled by Prudential Insurance Co., went to the finals in judging and lost the first-place honor to a team from Columbus, Ga.

Tom Casey and Terry Johnson, both from duPont High School, and Powell Mock, a student at Lee High School, represented Pru-Lite.

Wayne Quigg, a student at Forrest High School, was named one of the best treasurers in the nation.

Bill Letizia, a student at Terry Parker High School, represented Fabco, sponsored by Owens-Illinois Glass Co. He was named best president in Jacksonville and one of the outstanding achievers in the national conference.

• A delegation of members of the Jacksonville Board of Realtors said “a blight existed on property values” and charged it was due to unfavorable publicity concerning Duval County’s education and taxation reputations.

“We deal every day with investors who will not come into Duval County because of publicity given to the school system and the tax assessor’s office,” said Ralph J. Lyle, Taxation Committee chairman for the board.

“Unfavorable publicity has created a chaotic atmosphere in the general public’s mind,” said Robert Thal, Legislative Committee chairman for the Realtors and the Duval County Property Managers Association.

The group appeared before a committee led by state Sen. John E. Mathews Jr. The committee was trying to find solutions to the county’s school challenges. During their presentation, Lyle and Thal called for a detailed prospectus of the school system’s needs.

The Realtors noted that foreclosures in Duval County were at the highest rate since World War II. Federal Housing Administration and Veterans Administration foreclosed homes were selling at 10 percent below original sales with $50 and $100 down payments on 30-year mortgages.

They said rental vacancies were at an all-time high in investment properties and that income properties had an average tax ratio of 30 to 50 percent of the annual income.

The real estate community was not alone in its concern about local education.

Speaking to the League of Women Voters, Jacksonville University professor Samuel Harris said Duval County residents should realize the school crisis, in particular the potential loss of accreditation in December, was real and it wasn’t going away.

“The children and youth of this county are culturally deprived in that they have been and are still being cheated of their right to at least a minimal education opportunity,” he said.

Harris said the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which had been examining the local school system, existed to improve education. Following inspections, an association committee placed Duval County’s public schools on probation in November 1963 based on unacceptable teacher qualifications, class sizes and even cleanliness of schools.

“The problem is real and isn’t going to be wished away. We are all going to have to work hard to alleviate the situations which the committee saw which not only threaten accreditation, but more important, the children of this county,” Harris said.

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