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Jax Daily Record Monday, Feb. 6, 201212:00 PM EST

50 years ago this week

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by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

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 1961. The items were compiled from the Jacksonville Public Library’s periodical archives by Staff Writer Max Marbut.

• The U.S. Navy’s newest vessel docked at Mayport Naval Station to take on supplies for a shakedown cruise in the Caribbean.

The USS Enterprise, the world’s largest ship and the only nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was on its way to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which would be its headquarters for about two months.

The 1,123-foot vessel was powered by eight nuclear reactors that generated more than 200,000 horsepower.

“We hope, after seeing her, you will feel as we do that the U.S. Navy certainly got its dollars’ worth in building the Enterprise,” said commanding officer Capt. V.P. de Poix at a news conference when the carrier arrived.

• Small Claims Judge W. Shannon Linning announced he would not seek re-election in 1962.

Linning, who had served as judge since 1957, said he was making an early announcement of his intentions so that others would have notice in time to qualify for the post.

Linning said his decision was prompted by the necessity of seeking reasonable security for his large family and himself. He and his wife had eight children.

Linning said the $10,000 annual salary of the Small Claims judge was the lowest of all the full-time elected officials in the Duval County Courthouse. He said the Small Claims judge “gets about half as much as the other 13 judges and less than the clerks of the other courts.”

He said the court, founded in 1949, had tripled in volume of cases handled since he assumed the office. The 937 caseload in January was about three times that of the civil caseload in all of the other courts, Linning said.

“The Small Claims Court is shackled with the evils of the fee system in spite of the efforts to have it put on a budget basis,” said Linning. Consequently, he said, the court “was forced to operate under a heavy burden” of what he termed “unnecessary paperwork.”

The court had jurisdiction of claims up to $300.

Linning, 50, received his law degree at the University of Florida. He was a former state assistant attorney general and assistant U.S. attorney.

• After Detective Capt. R.L. Starratt squeezed his cruiser into a tight parking space on Ashley Street and got out of the car, a polite motorist in the car behind him asked, “Want me to move a little bit?”

“No. Just come with me,” Starratt said.

The polite motorist was 40-year-old Joe Banks, who was taken to the City jail to await the arrival of deputies from Macon, Ga., where he was wanted for auto theft.

Banks was arrested Dec. 20 in Jacksonville for reckless driving and driving while intoxicated. He was sentenced to 10 days at the prison farm and his driver’s license was revoked for a year.

The car he was driving was stored at the Police Department lot.

While incarcerated, Banks signed a release for the car and police turned it over to a friend of the prisoner. Banks was discharged Jan. 8 and disappeared.

Shortly afterward, Georgia authorities notified Jacksonville police to be on the lookout for a car stolen in December in Macon. It was the same one Banks was driving when he was picked up in Jacksonville.

Starratt, who was head of the police auto theft squad, had his eye out for the car and Banks when both were spotted on Ashley near Lee Street.

• Earnings opportunities of public school custodians were curtailed by the Duval County Board of School Trustees.

The trustees changed the school system’s policy handbook so that custodians were no longer allowed to work more than eight hours in a 24-hour period.

The school system had 152 custodians who could be affected by the action.

It was said that long stints of service by custodians did occasionally arise, but some custodians were “becoming so well-heeled” that they were beginning to lay off sick during regular hours.

Trustee Hugh Wilcox raised the question by stating that “some of our custodians are getting rich” thanks to overtime work for after-hours school events.

“During some college placement tests taken on a Saturday at one of our schools, the custodian was paid for some 12 or 14 hours of work – all overtime since it was not on a school day,” Wilcox said.

“And all he did was come in and fire up the boiler and just sit around the rest of the day,” he said.

• Even a would-be cowboy’s first thoughts are for his horse.

That was proven when three teenagers riding stolen horses were caught in a rainstorm and sought shelter for their steeds in a church.

Duval County patrolmen apprehended the youths, ages 15 and 16, and their mounts in Mt. Zion Baptist Church on Nathan Hale Road after the officers received a call that someone had broken into the church.

Officers said the boys had stolen three horses, saddles, bridles and six blankets from a riding stable at Park City and Dunson roads. They then broke into two vending machines, took several packages of crackers and about $30 in coins, and then headed west.

The boys were believed to have spent the night in some woods before resuming their westward trek. When it began to rain, they took the animals into the only available shelter, the church, which was 10 miles from the original starting point.

The horses were taken back to the stables on trailers and the youths were taken to the juvenile shelter.

• Two veteran employees of the City Electric Department, including the superintendent of the electric meter department, were fired from their jobs by the City Commission on charges of misappropriating City property.

S.B. Mansell, the superintendent, and apprentice electrician W.B. Mills were specifically charged with taking an unspecified number of electric meters from Mansell’s department in 1960 and 1961.

Following the commission’s action, Utilities Commissioner J. Dillon Kennedy said the matter had been turned over to County Solicitor Edward M. Booth’s office.

Booth said the value of the property alleged to have been taken would not be known until an audit was concluded. He said a preliminary investigation revealed the value could be “several thousands of dollars” and that criminal charges would be filed.

The preliminary investigation disclosed “sufficient evidence that a black market had been found” for the meters, which cost the City $17.40 each, Kennedy said.

He indicated the meters had not been broken up and sold for scrap, but that they had been disposed of as units somewhere outside of the city.

• Mayor Haydon Burns cut the ribbon stretched across the entrance to the Municipal Coliseum to officially launch the 1962 Jacksonville Boat Show Boatarama.

Three hundred outboards, inboards, sailing craft, rowboats and canoes made up the fleet that would be displayed, said Charles Welles, chairman of the boat show committee of the Jacksonville Marine Association, sponsors of the event.

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