Skip to main content
Jax Daily Record Monday, Jun. 29, 201512:00 PM EST

50 years ago: Police confiscate illegal 'cracker ball' fireworks

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

In anticipation of the Independence Day holiday, detectives fanned out across Duval County and seized hundreds of packages of illegal fireworks from several stores.

Officers were particularly seeking to seize “cracker balls,” small, colorful firecrackers that exploded when thrown against a hard surface.

The dragnet was implemented after a 2-year-old Jacksonville girl suffered severe burns and cuts in her mouth when she bit into one of the balls — apparently thinking it was candy — and it exploded. It wasn’t just a local issue. It was reported that a child in New York City died after eating one of the balls.

After the sweep, vice squad detective Sgt. J.L. Pfeiffer said in at least one local store, cracker balls were openly displayed on a counter next to small packages of candy that looked almost identical. He said the spherical firecrackers were being sold for 5 cents for a package of 10 explosives.

A quantity of bottle rockets also was confiscated.

Vendors were issued only warnings by police, but Jacksonville Fire Marshal Charles Banks issued a stern warning after the seizures.

“All stores, shops, confectionary stands or other persons who may sell fireworks are violating the statutes of the State of Florida. City, county and state law enforcement officers are making an extended effort to eliminate the sale and distribution of fireworks,” he said.

In 1965, the only fireworks legal for use by the public were sparklers and caps for cap guns. The maximum penalty for selling illegal incendiaries was a $100 fine and 90 days in jail.

• Circuit Judge William Durden presided at the swearing-in ceremony for two new assistant public defenders.

Ralph Nimmons, 27, received his law degree in April 1963 at the University of Florida and was previously an associate in the firm of Ulmer, Murchison, Kent, Ashby and Ball.

Barry Zisser, 30, earned his law degree at UF in 1962 and then went into private practice in Jacksonville. He was legal counsel for the legislative delegation to the Florida House of Representatives during the 1965 sessions.

Public Defender Ed Austin appointed the new assistants the day before the ceremony, which was on the second anniversary of establishment of the Public Defender’s Office, created by the 1963 Legislature. Also, it was the first day for Durden as presiding judge of the 4th Judicial Circuit.

• Furnishings for the new Haydon Burns Library Downtown were worth their price in terms of durability, craftsmanship and harmony with the design of the building, said architect Taylor Hardwick.

The designer of the building (now the Jessie Ball duPont Center) defended the cost and the bidding procedure for the furnishings. The city could have furnished the library at a lower cost, Hardwick said, but not without sacrificing an integral part of the special concept of the structure.

The original library project budget set aside $440,000 for furnishings, equipment and books. Only $40,000 of the total was earmarked for books.

“We always hoped to allow more money for books,” Hardwick said.

Contracts already were awarded for $200,856 for technical furnishings and shelving. Another proposed contract award totaled $106,000, considerably less than the $150,000 estimated for occasional and office furniture, he said.

Hardwick defended the use of so-called “contract furniture,” built by only a few companies.

Most of the administrative and occasional furniture recommended by the Library Building Committee would be supplied by two New York firms, Herman Miller Co. and Knoll Associates Inc. Hardwick said the committee investigated the possibility of having similar furniture fabricated locally but found the cost would be much greater than purchasing it through dealers for the companies.

“We cannot put residential furniture in a building such as a public library, which gets probably the hardest use of any public building,” he said. “The furniture must be compatible with the design of the building, yet it must last 50 years.”

• Petitioners asked City Council to prohibit dumping of dredge spoilage in Talleyrand Township where a $3 million phosphate terminal was planned.

The terminal, if built, would be located at the mouth of Long Branch Creek, which emptied into the St. Johns River.

The petitioners objected to dumping creek and river dredging material on several acres of land near the proposed terminal. They claimed the 10-foot mounds of spoilage not only would decrease the value of some 250 homes in the area, but would present a health hazard.

The land in question was owned by Southern Railway System and was leased to Occidental Corp. of Florida, which recently opened new phosphate mines in Hamilton County.

Southern Railway was granted state and federal approval to dredge a 38-foot deep channel from the mouth of the creek into the river.

Although the railroad had not yet applied for a building permit, it planned to construct the terminal and lease it to Occidental. The terminal and deep channel would allow the company to move its phosphate to Jacksonville and then export it to Europe.

E.J. Salstad, executive vice president of the Talleyrand Township Civic League, said draglines already were scooping out a large hole and building a 10-foot dike to hold the spoilage.

He said residents in the area not only were complaining about the dike, but also about the prospect of stench from the dredged-up material.

• Attorney Ralph Elliott Jr., representing General Cablevision Inc., presented to the City Commission notice of intention to submit a formal proposal for a franchise for building and operating a community antenna television system in Duval County.

• A record-setting 1,201 students enrolled for summer classes at Jacksonville University. It was an increase of 16.8 percent compared to 1964’s summer enrollment.

Many who signed up for the summer session were teachers in Duval County public schools. More than 40 enrolled in JU’s Master of Arts in teaching program.

• Barbara Lynn Crosby, a 16-year-old senior at Ribault High School, was to receive a gift of heart surgery financed by heroism.

Her father, Darris Crosby, won a medal and $750 in cash from the Carnegie Foundation for dashing in front of a speeding train in 1964 to rescue a child who was playing on the tracks.

The operation was to correct a faulty heart valve. It was noted the condition had not curtailed the young woman’s activities, but doctors advised she should undergo the procedure before reaching adulthood.

• Some of Florida’s “flying physicians” headed south for the dedication of their pet project.

They were bound for Trujillo, an isolated city in the coast of Honduras, for the dedication of a new 50-bed hospital.

Spearheading the airlift was Dr. John Fisher of Jacksonville, chairman of the Florida Medical Association’s Subcommittee on Inter-American Relations.

Honduras President Oswaldo Lopez Arellano attended the hospital’s opening. In addition to Fisher, the Jacksonville delegation included Dr. William Clark and Dr. Emmett F. Ferguson Jr.

• Jacksonville Construction Co. Inc. was awarded a $600,000 contract for additions to the U.S. Coast Guard Navigational Aids base at Mayport.

The work included construction of barracks, administrative offices, a communications center, an emergency generator and a sewage treatment plant.

The contract was the second of three phases of the project. The first phase — a bulkhead, a facility for mooring vessels, a parking area and storage buildings — already was complete at a cost of $332,000.

The third phase, to include additional bulkhead work and other facilities, would be bid as soon as funds were available, said Henry Doumar, Coast Guard inspector for the project.

Related Stories