March 3, 1967, was "Steve Spurrier Day" in Jacksonville. The public was invited to meet the new Heisman Trophy winner at the Florida Alumni Club luncheon at the Mayflower Hotel.

50 years ago: Regency Square Mall opens; city celebrates Steve Spurrier Day

By: 
Feb. 27, 2017

With shoppers backing up traffic for miles along Atlantic Boulevard and the Arlington Expressway, Regency Square Mall opened for business.

At 10 a.m. Thursday, Martin and Joanie Stein officially opened the $12 million, 50-store shopping center by removing a golden chain from the main entrance.

Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce President W. Ashley Verlander said Regency Square was “proof to everybody that Duval County is a wonderful investment.”

Mayor Lou Ritter praised the Steins’ vision and said the opening was “one of the brightest spots in the history of Jacksonville.”

County Commissioner Bob Harris drew a laugh when he told the Steins that “as of today, you become this area’s biggest taxpayers.”

One of the highlights at the opening was the Russell Stover Candy Store.

It was the second Russell Stover location in Jacksonville — the first opened in 1963 at the Roosevelt Mall shopping center.

The Singer Co. opened its fifth store in Jacksonville at Regency Square and introduced at the grand opening the company’s new color television, marking its entry into that market area.

In addition to sewing machines and televisions, the store also offered stereo phonographs, vacuum cleaners and fabrics.

The store was in the northwest corner of the mall, near Furchgott’s department store and Flair Fabrics.

Also, some telecommunications history was made when the first 14 coin-operated touch-tone telephones in Florida went into service at the mall.

Southern Bell District Manager John Montgomery said replacing the conventional rotary dial with 10 buttons cut the time needed to dial by about half.

He said the company hoped that someday, the new push button telephones would be connected to computers capable of transferring calls when no answer was received.

When the doors closed at 9 p.m., an estimated 25,000 people had toured the mall, one of the largest of its kind in the Southeast.

• Jacksonville’s experiment with the Fire Department operating emergency ambulance service after private companies pulled out would be closely examined by about 300 Florida municipal officials meeting in Jacksonville.

“Lots of Florida cities are on the verge of operating ambulances, out of necessity, and their officials will be monitoring Jacksonville’s experience closely,” said Gordon Butler, executive secretary of the Florida League of Municipalities.

It was noted that private ambulance service providers across the state, beset with higher minimum wage laws, greater training requirements and increased insurance costs, were leaving the business.

The void, affecting public welfare, was forcing municipalities to act, Butler said.

• An irate group of Gregory Drive Elementary School parents, armed with two dead rattlesnakes and strong demands for bus transportation and sidewalks for their children, were adjourned out of a Duval County School Board meeting.

Only one representative from the group was allowed to be heard on the issue that had been smoldering since the new school opened several weeks earlier.

As other parents shouted to be heard, board Chair M.C. Harden called for a five-minute recess. When the board returned, Harden asked for a motion to adjourn and the meeting quickly ended.

Many of the parents went to School Superintendent Ish Brant’s office before the board meeting.

One of them carried a 54-inch rattler in a jug and a 53-inch snake nailed to a board. The parents said the snakes had been killed that morning along the edge of a road leading to the school.

Children who lived less than 1.5 miles from school by law were not permitted free bus transportation to and from school.

There were no sidewalks along the road leading to the school in the Jacksonville Heights area.

Brant had arranged for the children to ride buses, but at the rate of 70 cents a week each, many parents said they could not afford to pay for school bus service.

• Charges of police brutality resulted in an investigation by city attorneys.

The allegations were reported to the City Pardon Board, which met each Monday to hear petitions for release from inmates at the prison farm.

The wife of prisoner Manuel Kennedy told the board her husband had been beaten up by police officers at headquarters. The arresting officers said in their report the prisoner had struck them several times and they had to use their clubs to subdue him.

City Council member Lemuel Sharp, a member of the board, asked the woman to bring her husband to the meeting. She did, accompanied by an attorney.

During his testimony, Kennedy didn’t go into much detail about his treatment by police, except that he didn’t remember much about it other than “of course, I was cussing them.”

He did say, however, that after he was struck by officers, he was handcuffed and taken to Duval Medical Center, where eight stitches were required to close a gash in his forehead.

What seemed to make the most impression on the board was Kennedy’s statement that he could receive no follow-up treatment at the prison farm, except for some aspirin.

He said he had to use a razor blade to remove the stitches from his forehead himself.

Two days later, following his investigation, city Claim Attorney Fred Simpson said he believed the charges were unfounded.

Simpson was primarily concerned with obtaining information in the event the city was sued as a result of the allegations.

Police Chief R.C. Blanton Jr. said his department’s internal security division also was conducting an investigation and would make a report to Simpson.

• Three teenagers living in the Five Points area broke into more than 140 homes and residences in Murray Hill and Riverside, said police Lt. W.O. Williamson, head of the Juvenile Division

The loot, stolen over a five-month period, was valued to be at least $11,000.

The three boys, two of them brothers, sold radios and television sets on the street, usually at a fraction of their real value, Williamson added.

It was the second band of juvenile burglars police had broken up since January.

Two youths already had been taken into custody and charged with breaking into homes in Springfield and Brentwood. Police were looking for two other boys who were suspected to be part of the ring.

• It was announced that J. Bruce Wilson, founding president of Florida Junior College at Jacksonville, would be inaugurated March 14 at the Civic Auditorium.

Representatives of state junior colleges and universities, as well as colleges around the U.S. were expected to participate in the academic procession and program, said Donald Tolle, event chairman.

The invocation would be delivered by the Rev. Harvey Duke, pastor of the St. Johns Park Baptist Church and president of the Jacksonville Ministerial Alliance.