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.
Motions to throw out 40 counts of grand larceny against former City Commissioner Dallas Thomas were denied by Criminal Court Judge Hans Tanzler Jr.
He denied the motions after a hearing at which they were argued by defense attorney Chester Bedell and State Attorney William Hallowes.
Several other defense motions, mainly seeking the right to examine or obtain copies of documents to be used as evidence against Thomas, were granted by Tanzler as a matter of form without objection from the prosecution.
After the hearing, Tanzler set Feb. 3 to hear additional preliminary motions Bedell might want to file after he examined the evidence.
Tanzler said he doubted a trial could be scheduled before March or April, due to the crowded calendar that contained motions in cases against several other officials who also had been indicted by the Duval County grand jury.
• City Council rejected the nomination of Charles Simmons Jr. to the Civil Service Board.
The scene in the chamber was one of interrupted speeches and gavel tapping when several people rose to speak following the refusal to confirm the nomination.
Even before the vote that barred the black insurance executive from the board, a slip of the tongue of council’s acting president, Elbert Hendricks, foretold the action to come.
The nomination of Simmons, a vice president and assistant secretary of Afro-American Insurance Co., had been buried in the Officers and Police Committee.
Following a roll call vote to bring the matter before the council as a whole, Hendricks declared, “Gentlemen, by your vote, you have rejected this nomination.”
But Hendricks had played Act II before Act I.
Floor leader Robert Roberts corrected him and said the vote was only on whether to bring the matter to the floor.
Then came the roll call vote and only council member Lavern Reynolds supported Simmons.
Casting votes against the nomination were Hendricks, Roberts, Barney Cobb, Cecil Lowe, Oscar Mattox and council President Lemuel Sharp.
Reynolds immediately moved that the vote be reconsidered, but Roberts pointed out council rules only permitted a move to reconsider from someone on the prevailing side of the vote.
Roberts also explained his vote against Simmons.
“This nominee is probably a good man, but the city already has a member of that company serving on a board,” he said.
The Rev. Robert Blackburn, past president of the Jacksonville Ministerial Alliance, told council “further dishonor has been brought to the community” by its action.
“I don’t know how much more Jacksonville can stand,” he said.
The Jacksonville chapter of the NAACP set a deadline for council to reverse its position on Simmons’ nomination.
By a unanimous vote, the organization said council had one week to reconsider and confirm Simmons.
If Simmons was not confirmed, blacks in Duval County would be urged to buy nothing but food and medicine from stores Downtown and in suburban areas, said Rutledge Pearson, local and state president of the NAACP.
He said the group had stayed out of the situation until it was clear Simmons had no chance of overcoming council’s objection to the nomination.
Pearson said another action could be picketing stores owned by white businessmen in the black community.
• Morrison’s cafeterias Downtown, at Roosevelt Mall and Southgate Plaza had a Wednesday lunch and dinner special.
All the fried chicken a customer could eat was 69 cents, a discount off the regular price of 79 cents.
Thursday night dinner was an even better bargain at Morrison’s. The usual price of $1 for a broiled bacon-wrapped filet mignon steak — with choice of potato — was only 79 cents.
• A renewed plea for higher police salaries, particularly for officers at seniority service levels, was voiced before council’s Budget and Finance Committee.
By Dec. 31, force strength would be down to 387 officers while the recommended complement was 431, said Assistant Chief R.C. Blanton.
He added only 10 percent of applicants were meeting the department’s qualifications.
“It’s the only department in city government that never has a waiting list to get a job,” said Mayor Lou Ritter.
Fraternal Order of Police President Gene Sikes, a patrolman, said it was almost impossible to fill vacancies.
A survey of police salaries in 65 cities similar in population to Jacksonville showed it ranked 61st .
The starting annual base pay for a Jacksonville patrolman was $5,242 compared to the $6,000 starting salary in Miami, Sikes said.
At the 10-year level in Miami, a patrolman earned $7,236, compared to $6,125 in Jacksonville. After 15 years, an officer in Miami made $7,584, while his counterpart in Jacksonville received $6,366.
• The City Commission directed the Greater Jacksonville Fair Association Inc. to vacate office space it was using on city property.
It was noted that no formal agreement existed between the association and the city over offices the group occupied in the old Recreation Department Building in the Gator Bowl Complex.
The offices were to be vacated by Dec. 20.
• A seven-inch bloom of Tomorrow Variegated won top honors at the fifth annual Fall Camellia Show at the Barnett First National Bank.
Sponsored by the Camellia Society of Northeast Florida, the show drew blooms from out of state as well.
W.J. McCoach of Atlanta, who grew camellias and orchids as a retirement hobby, showed the winning bloom.
He said he planned to exhibit at three or four shows in 1966 and it was the first time he brought his blooms to Jacksonville.
• A doctor who had dedicated his career to the care of children helped dedicate a new wing at Hope Haven Children’s Hospital.
Dr. Willis Potts, former chief of surgery at Chicago Children’s Hospital, told Hope Haven officials and guests that ideally, all personnel in the hospital must love children and learn to think as children.
“Children love to be dealt with honestly,” he said. “Sneak up on a child to give him a shot and you’ll have a sworn enemy.”
The addition of the new wing and new equipment at Hope Haven provided the transition from a convalescent home to a general hospital for children.
“I doubt that you folks realize how progressive you are. Children’s hospitals in this country are far too few. Most children are cared for in children’s units in general hospitals and medical care in such units is only as good as the skill of the attending doctors,” said Potts, who was retired and lived in Sarasota.
• Garbage collection and disposal in Jacksonville and Duval County was criticized by the Local Government Study Commission because it was expensive in the city and not mandatory in the county.
The report recommended garbage service be made mandatory, not throughout the county, but in the densely populated areas.
While residents the three Beaches communities and the unincorporated areas of the county paid for garbage service, the report kept a neutral position on whether to implement a universal charge.
It did, however, offer suggestions to reduce the cost of services.
“While I haven’t had very much time to really get into the workings of the department, I do plan to study Jacksonville’s high cost of garbage service,” said City Commissioner Richard Burroughs Jr., who had served only three days as the commissioner in charge of street cleaning, garbage collection and disposal.
“I do believe that vehicle maintenance has been costly and this may be due to equipment not being assigned regularly to a particular crew. Some crews may be hot-rodding with the truck,” he added.