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.
• A group of citizens at a special County Budget Commission meeting urged an investigation by the governor’s office of the circumstances surrounding the proposed purchase of 200 additional voting machines by the County Commission.
The County Commission had authorized the purchase of the machines without Budget Commission approval of a supplemental appropriation to make the down payment on what was estimated to be about a $450,000 purchase over a period of years.
The price quoted for each machine by Hodson Drew was $1,773, f.o.b. Jamestown, N.Y. Added to that figure would be freight, interest and finance charges.
Drew said he was state representative for the Automatic Voting Machine Division of the Rockwell Manufacturing Co. of Jamestown and was storing the machines here for the company. He said he had offered the machines to the County Commission but no contract had been signed.
The machines had been in a Jacksonville warehouse since April 28, Drew said.
The budget commissioners directed their attorney, O.O. McCollum, to request an opinion of Attorney General Richard Ervin of the legality of the County Commission’s actions to purchase the machines.
The suggestion that the governor’s office investigate the matter was made by Guy Dodd, who represented the Duval County Federation for Constitutional Government. He said he made the suggestion with all due respect to all officials involved, but said he felt the matter should be clarified.
In his comments, Dodd referred to the removal or suspension from office over the few previous years of several Duval County officials.
Another development at the meeting was the introduction of a letter dated April 12 and signed by Supervisor of Registration Fleming Bowden stating that the purchase of the 200 machines already had been completed.
The letter was written on behalf of Bowden by Robert A. Mallard, chief deputy registration supervisor, to a representative of a company that offered another type of machine at $1,500 per machine, plus $150 each for attachments for write-in voting on each machine.
• George Schweiger, co-owner of the T&R Auction House, who had been taken into custody on a charge of possessing and concealing 13 cases of candy stolen from an interstate shipment, was ordered to face the U.S. District Court on the charge.
U.S. Commissioner T.V. Cashen ruled that probable cause to hold Schweiger for trial had been shown during a lengthy preliminary hearing.
Cashen released Schweiger under a $5,000 bond already fixed for him under a charge of concealing a quantity of whiskey stolen from another interstate shipment, but stipulated that the earlier bond would be applicable to the candy case as well.
A truck, containing $48,000 worth of candy, meat and dairy products, was stolen about 2 a.m. Dec. 15 from the yards of Alterman Transport Lines at 5207 Doolittle Road. It was recovered later that morning, abandoned and with most of its contents missing.
• The City Commission, faced with identical bids for supplying electrical cable for the second time in as many months, reluctantly divided the $59,924.95 order among the six bidders.
The commission also directed that the duplicate bid information be turned over to the U.S. attorney general’s office for investigation and asked the City attorney to try to find some legal solution to the problem.
“These bids offered no competitive advantage wherein an award could be made that could be considered as being in the best interests of the City,” stated a letter by an awards committee to the commission recommending the division of the order.
The identical bids were submitted in the initial bidding Nov. 21. The bids were rejected and the information sent to the U.S. attorney general in line with a commission policy concerning identical bids.
Bids were opened again Dec. 21 and again the six firms offered exactly the same prices.
• A new home for Duncan U. Fletcher High School in Jacksonville Beach and a conversion of the old plant for use as a junior high school were recommended to the Duval County Board of Public Instruction.
School Superintendent Ish Brant made the proposal, which was a reversal of plans that called for Fletcher’s junior high school enrollment to move into new quarters but for the upperclassmen to remain in the old building.
Cy Anderson, director of administration for the school system, said a 1957 state survey of Duval County’s school needs recommended that a new high school be built at Jacksonville Beach.
“The present building can’t adequately and feasibly be converted into a sound senior high school, but with already anticipated renovations there, it would lend itself well to a junior high,” he said.
Anderson said the expansion of U.S. Navy facilities at Mayport and a rapid influx of families had changed the outlook for that area of the county served by Fletcher High School.
• A resolution commending Capt. Robert Farkas for his service as commanding officer of Mayport Naval Station was adopted by the Board of County Commissioners.
The board’s resolution cited Farkas for calling to the attention of the Navy Department and civilian community the need for adequate housing for personnel stationed at the Mayport base.
As a result, several private subdivisions and a 500-unit federal project had been or would be constructed in the area.
The resolution said Farkas also was instrumental in the conversion of Mayport from a facility devoted largely to the servicing of aircraft carriers to one which not only continued that function but also had a destroyer tender, numerous destroyers, oilers and other craft.
Farkas, who had commanded the base since Jan. 15, 1959, was headed to Naples, Italy, where he would be chief staff officer for naval activities in Italy.
Farkas was relieved by Capt. Richard Kibbe.
• Ervin H. Woods was installed as president of the Meninak Club of Jacksonville at a lunch meeting in the Mayflower Hotel.
Other officers seated were William Colmery, treasurer, and Alfred Miller Jr., secretary. Ten new members of the club also were inducted in a ceremony conducted by Colmery.
The Kiwanis Club of Jacksonville also installed a new president, Durwood E. Hawkins.
The induction ceremony took place during a banquet at the Mayflower Hotel. It was conducted by James W. Parrish, vice president of Stetson University and district governor of Kiwanis.
Others installed were Morrison Taylor, first vice president; Chester G. Whittaker, second vice president; William B. Ryan, treasurer; and Robert E. Falk, secretary.
• Joseph Scott, former owner of the Chuck Wagon Drive-in on Old Kings Road at Edgewood Avenue, was acquitted by a federal court jury of illegally selling diamphetamine sulphate tablets, known as “bennies,” to undercover agents of the Pure Food and Drug Administration.
Under federal law, the drug could not be sold without a doctor’s prescription.
A part-time employee of the drive-in, R.C. Kennard, who had been charged with Scott in the drug sales, changed his initial plea of innocent to one of guilty just before the trial began. Sentence was deferred pending an investigation by the court’s probation department.
Kennard pleaded guilty to all counts of the six-count indictment against the two defendants.
Scott went to trial on only one count of causing the sale of the drugs to William Logan, an agent of the Pure Food and Drug Administration, on Aug. 20, 1950.
Logan testified that Scott did not make the actual sale but was sent by Kennard to obtain some of the tablets.
Logan said Scott made a short automobile trip, returned to the drive-in, and handed Kennard a small white bottle in the parking lot of the drive-in.
Kennard actually delivered the tablets to him, Logan said.
U.S. District Judge Bryan Simpson told the jury he agreed with its decision.
“There might have been reason to be very suspicious of Scott and his action, but there was not sufficient proof to find him guilty,” Simpson said.
• When the institution’s annual report was released, it revealed that a record 649 school classes, representing 153 schools, took conducted tours of the Jacksonville Children’s Museum in
The classes, which ranged from kindergarten to senior high school, brought the total number of visitors to the museum for the year to 54,447, an increase of 2,280 over the previous year.
At an annual meeting of the museum’s board of directors, Eleanor King, museum president, complimented the board for its conduct in the face of budget cuts and also praised local civic organizations for their support of museum programs.
She particularly cited the Junior League of Jacksonville Inc., which in 1961 agreed to underwrite for three years museum extension programs at three schools, provided six members as museum guides and donated funds for creation of a traveling museum program.
The Rotary Club of South Jacksonville also was singled out for its adoption of a program to provide equipment for a natural science room and exhibit at the museum on Riverside Avenue.
• An “Arabian aura of decoration,” a host of door prizes and “top-flight” entertainment would be included in the 1962 Symphony Ball, scheduled Jan. 19 in the Coliseum.
Mrs. James C. Merrill Jr. and Mrs. W.E. Arnold Jr., co-chairs for the ball, said the Coliseum would be decorated extensively to carry out the theme “Arabian Nights,” complete with the presence of a troop of Arab horsemen patrolling the grounds.
The decorations, arranged by a committee under the leadership of Mrs. A. Lee Powell Jr. would be executed by brothers William, Harry and David Bellamy.
Dance music and entertainment would be provided by the Ted Weems Orchestra.
• A safe containing 1,822 blank 1962 Florida drivers licenses was stolen from an office at 1506 Blanding Blvd.
County Detectives J.L. Suber and R.W. Grant said the theft occurred in an office operated by the Junior Chamber of Commerce to sell drivers licenses.
Also in the 300-pound safe was $315 in cash from previous sales.
According to the detectives, although the stolen licenses had a value of $5,124, they would be worth many times that
amount if sold on the black market.
• Neptune Beach officials were trying to decide what to do about the City’s deserted islands.
They weren’t offshore, but instead were located down the center of Third Street to separate traffic lanes.
Keeping shrubbery growing in the islands was becoming a maintenance issue. One solution being considered was to remove the shrubbery and plant grass, which would require less work and expense in upkeep.
• It was noted that in 1961, the City of Jacksonville gave about 150 handguns to the State of Florida. Also delivered to the state were six blackjacks, a flare gun, a tear gas gun and a pair of brass knuckles.
The items were part of the inventory of weapons that had been taken from persons who were booked into the City or County jails.
State law required that pistols, blackjacks and brass knuckles be turned over to the adjutant general of the Military Department of the State of Florida, in this case the Florida National Guard headquarters in St. Augustine.
From there, with the exception of a few articles which were kept in an arsenal in St. Augustine, the weapons were sent to Camp Blanding, where they were reconditioned and stored in a
Confiscated weapons sold by police at public auction included knives, rifles and shotguns.