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 1965. The items were compiled from the Jacksonville Public Library’s periodical archives by Staff Writer Max Marbut.
Dallas Thomas Park and Marina, along the Southbank between the Acosta and Main Street bridges, was formally dedicated in front of a crowd of about 2,000 spectators.
Park Commissioner Dallas Thomas, the park’s namesake, described it as “the finest and most spectacular in the Southeast … the most beautiful in the country.”
The $1.75 million project’s centerpiece, the “Fountain of Friendship,” was the main attraction, according to onlookers.
The crowd applauded as powerful jets of water began to push skyward, bathed by amber, red and turquoise floodlights. Despite a steady 10-knot wind blowing from the west, the fountain’s nine main nozzles spewed a tower of water 10 stories high. Fifty-four other nozzles shot lesser columns above the massive pool.
“This beats the one at the 1939 World’s Fair,” said Mrs. W.D. Gray of Lakewood. “This is much larger and more beautiful.”
Mrs. Don Winstead of 4532 Birchwood Ave. said she was flabbergasted.
Frank Streeter, a Jacksonville resident for only six weeks, said the fountain surely would have a great impression on visitors to Jacksonville. “I think it will be a definite benefit to the city,” he said.
Two people were injured during the ceremony when a speed boat attempting to set a world record for a 10,000-mile marathon run collided with a cabin cruiser in the St. Johns River.
Gribbon Shaw and Harriett Shemer, members of the Jacksonville Outboard Club, were almost at the end of their four-hour stint driving the speed boat when the accident occurred. They were released from St. Vincent’s Hospital following emergency treatment and X-rays.
Edward Sullivan, operator of the 27-foot cabin cruiser involved in the collision, and a companion were not injured. They were headed to the dedication ceremony when their vessel was struck by the smaller boat.
The crowd at the park was unaware of the crash that occurred 100 yards in front of the marina. The sound of the crash apparently was muffled by the music being played for the rites by the Starlight Symphonette.
Sullivan proceeded to the marina after the collision and docked. Shaw and Shemer, with the bow and side of the speed boat badly damaged, returned to Duval Marine along Riverside Avenue, the headquarters set up for the record attempt.
A Jacksonville Fire Patrol boat was summoned to the scene by one of the few witnesses, but both vessels involved in the collision were gone when it arrived.
• The new Myrtle Avenue Branch Library, scheduled to open in May, was toured by members of the library board of trustees and city officials.
The facility was built for nearly $300,000 with funds from the 1962 library bond issue, which also included money for the new Haydon Burns Public Library Downtown that was nearing completion along Ocean Street between Adams and Forsyth streets.
The Myrtle Avenue branch library, between 13th and 14th streets, was designed by architect Clyde E. Harris. The glass walls of the inner section of the building surrounded a garden designed by T.M. Baumgardner of Sea Island, Ga.
Harris said the facility was designed for “absolute minimum maintenance” and was so constructed that a mezzanine floor could be added in the future.
• State Sen. John Mathews Jr. addressed the Meninak Club at the Mayflower Hotel and outlined major issues facing the 1965 Legislature.
“Don’t look for the session to resolve all of our problems,” he said. “But I have high hopes we will make great strides toward doing it.”
Among Mathews’ concerns were balancing the state budget, higher education, protection of children, reorganization of government, judicial reform and funneling more state money into county school systems.
The biggest job would be balancing the budget.
“We will have before us the recommended appropriations for all agencies, approved by the State Budget Commission. But it has trimmed the requested appropriations of every agency and even eliminated some entirely. Those agencies will be before us complaining that the proposals will not meet their needs, and asking for more money,” Mathews said.
• The most valuable single acquisition in the three-year history of the Cummer Museum of Art went on display in the gallery.
The painting, an oil portrait by Italian Renaissance master Titian, was a personal gift of Mrs. Blair Burwell Jr. of Jacksonville as a memorial to her late husband.
“This gift marks a milestone in the history of the Cummer Gallery of Art as it is the first to be made by a citizen of Jacksonville in the category of benefactor,” said Cummer Director Joseph Dodge.
Benefactors were those who presented gifts of $25,000 or more to the gallery, he said.
• Arthur Sollee, executive director of the Jacksonville Expressway Authority, said a proposed tunnel, bridge and high-speed highway connecting southwestern Duval County and the Beaches could become reality within a decade.
He listed the project between the Venetia-Wesconnett area and the resort community as one of the major transit improvements that could be completed by the turn of the century.
The contemplated structure would start near the railroad tracks and Timuquana Road. It would push toward and then under the St. Johns River for about two miles before surfacing to a low-level bridge that would take the road about another mile and then onto the limited access highway.
The proposed tunnel would be about four miles north of the $11 million bridge planned to be built between just south of Jacksonville Naval Air Station and Mandarin.
Sollee said the toll-free bridge would not draw much traffic from the projected toll-taking tunnel.
He pointed out that the toll-free Acosta Bridge Downtown was a few blocks from the Fuller Warren Bridge, where tolls were collected, but more than 80,000 people a day took the toll bridge to save time.
• A nine-county conference on civil defense underlined that the state’s most pressing need was more fallout shelters.
The planning session, held in the Duval County Patrol auditorium at the courthouse, attracted representatives from Duval, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Marion, Putnam, St. Johns and Suwannee counties.
Col. George Robinson, deputy state director for civil defense, said for all state and local civil defense programs, providing shelter for residents in the event of nuclear attack was the most important issue. He said the state would need fallout shelters for 6 million people, but facilities were in place for only about 2 million.
The conference also was told that population dispersal from potential target areas such as Jacksonville would create special problems.
St. Johns County Civil Defense Director Fred Willis warned that anyone seeking safety in surrounding counties would be required to bring with them all necessary survival supplies, including food and water.
• The Duval County Taxpayers Association received the endorsement of the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce in the association’s effort to bring about revaluation of real property in Duval County.
The endorsement was voted at a meeting of the chamber’s board of governors conducted by Claude Yates, chamber president.
The taxpayers group led a campaign that resulted in a January Circuit Court order for the revaluation program to be completed by July.
The chamber also voted to endorse the Florida Inland Navigation District as a state agency “providing the vital service of maintaining and expanding the Intracoastal Waterway.”
• Heart disease continued to be the No. 1 killer in Duval County, according to the city Health Department.
During February, 42 people died of heart disease. Cancer was in second place with 40 deaths, followed by strokes that claimed 27 lives.
Other deaths included five each from pneumonia and all accidents, and four each from cirrhosis of the liver and congenital malformation.