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.
• Mayor Haydon Burns predicted that Jacksonville would continue its pattern of growth in 1962. He said a referendum scheduled April 3 for a new library and riverfront improvements Downtown would set the pace.
“Progress, prosperity and pleasant living conditions are my predictions for Jacksonville and my hope for every citizen in 1962,” Burns said.
Burns said a color photograph of City Hall would be on the front cover of the January issue of American City Magazine, which also would feature the city in stories.
“The fact that Jacksonville is receiving such nationwide recognition can be taken as a good omen of greater things to come,” said Burns.
Lou Ritter, commissioner of highways, airports and sewers, echoed the prediction about the April bond referendum. He said he thought the most important decision to be made in the coming year would be the future of the airport program.
“We must make a decision as to what is best in the future for Jacksonville – a modern new jet airport facility or a modernization and expansion of our present facility, Imeson Airport. This decision should be made as early as possible in 1962 so that we may be able to fulfill the demands of the modern jet age,” he said.
Public Utilities Commissioner J. Dillon Kennedy predicted that the city’s use of electric power would increase by 10 percent compared to 1961 usage. He said the system would be ready for the demand since a new generator had recently been placed in operation.
“This new equipment should give adequate power to the entire downtown area and make additional power available to the new library and riverfront improvements, should the freeholders approve them in April,” he said.
Kennedy said he expected 1962 would mark the beginning of a new era when the peak power demand would be in the summer rather than the winter because of the increased use of air-conditioning equipment.
• A full-scale preliminary hearing for E.B. Canady Jr., suspended deputy sheriff who was charged with aiding and abetting in the concealment of $20,000 worth of whiskey stolen from an interstate shipment, ended when U.S. Commissioner T.V. Cashen found there was probable cause to hold Canady for trial on the charge.
The hearing lasted three hours and dealt almost exclusively with the testimony of Franklin Kight, 25, who also was charged with complicity in the theft.
Kight, who lived in Lyons, Ga., said he had been in Jacksonville for about a month and came here to act as a house servant for Floyd Charles Fallon, 39, an invalid whom Kight met in Lyons. Fallon was also named in the theft charge.
Kight’s testimony concerned a number of meetings between Canady and Fallon before and after the Dec. 24 theft of a trailer load of whiskey from the Jacksonville Transfer & Storage Co. on Willowbranch Avenue.
The waylaid whiskey was recovered Dec. 26 at T&R Auction House on Beach Boulevard and its operator, George Schweiger Jr., was taken into custody.
Others in custody in the case were Reuben Franklin Fosbenner, a 32-year-old Navy enlisted man, and Bryant Meeks, 68.
Kight said he first met Canady Dec. 23 at the farmer’s market on Beaver Street. He went to the market in Fallon’s car, he said, and Canady and Fallon had a conversation there.
Kight testified about another meeting Dec. 24 at a drive-in restaurant on Main Street where Canady and Fallon had another conversation. At that time, Kight said he was instructed by the two to telephone Schweiger and tell him “it is on the way.” Kight said he made that call.
The same night, Kight testified, he and Fallon drove to the vicinity of the shipping company, where they met a trailer truck. Kight said Fallon told him to instruct the driver to follow Fallon’s car and the truck was led to the auction house.
Then, Kight said, the truck driver and another man got into Fallon’s car and drove to a nearby shopping center, where they met Canady and Meeks.
Later, they all met at Meeks’ house, where three other men whom Kight said he could not identify, were waiting. Those waiting at the house were told by Fallon that he could not get any money that night but that he might get some the next morning.
Kight said he, Canady and Fallon then went to Fallon’s home where they had a midnight supper and Canady and Fallon discussed the prospects of selling the whiskey.
Kight said he and Fallon had Christmas dinner at Canady’s home, where there was more discussion of disposing of the whiskey.
After dinner, Kight said, he and Fallon went to Schweiger’s house, where Schweiger told them a plan for selling the hijacked hooch had fallen through.
After the whiskey was found by police and Schweiger taken into custody, Kight said he and Fallon again went to Canady’s house, where Fallon and Canady talked about raising money to post a bond for Schweiger.
Following the lengthy testimony, attorney Walter G. Arnold, who was representing Canady, moved for dismissal of the charge against his client on the ground that he had not been directly associated with either the theft or concealment of the whiskey, but Cashen denied the motion. He ordered Canady held for trial under the original $2,500 bond posted following his arrest.
Kight, who had not posted bond, was returned to the Duval County jail after the hearing.
• The Jacksonville Zoo received a new attraction when the first gnu arrived.
The long-maned, long-tailed, ox-headed and antlered animal took up residence in a large rocky pen with a family of wild sheep from North Africa.
“It’s something new. We’ve been wanting one for a long time,” said Zoo Superintendent Newton “Doc” Baldwin.
News of the gnu was revealed at a meeting of the City Commission when travel expenses for zoo aides to pick up the animal, a young female, were authorized.
The new gnu, a member of the antelope family, was purchased for $950 from the Miami Rare Bird Farm in Boca Raton.
• The City Commission also authorized preparation of an agreement for construction of a barracks at Imeson Airport by the Florida Air National Guard.
The action followed a report by Ellis Bentley, airport manager, that a tract at the airport was available for the project. His report said the land was not needed for commercial airport activities.
Also, Florida Towing Co. was awarded a contract to move fuel oil to the City’s floating power plant near Jacksonville Naval Air Station. The contract was awarded on the company’s low bid of 11.5 cents a gallon.
• Women jurors set a record in the U.S. District Court in Jacksonville.
When the trial of a man charged with violation of federal liquor laws began, seven of the 12 people in the jury box were female.
The first panel to enter the jury box for examination by Judge Bryan Simpson and the attorneys in the case included six women. The attorneys excused one of the six men on the panel and he was replaced by a woman who was accepted by both sides.
When the venire of 75 jurors reported for duty, almost one-third of the group was women. Simpson, after court was opened, expressed his pleasure at seeing so many women in the venire and asked that any who could, might volunteer to serve longer than the two weeks for which the venire was called.
Julian A. Blake, clerk of the court, said it was the first time he could remember that there had been more than two women on a jury in the court and that one reason for the large number of women on the venire was that state court restrictions did not apply in federal court.
A woman could not be called for jury duty in a state court unless she volunteered and could not serve unless she was registered to vote.
A woman was qualified to serve on a jury in the federal court if she was a citizen, more than 21 years of age and had lived in the judicial district for one year.
The defendant in the case, Johnnie Forrest Mills, was found guilty of possession Aug. 28, 1959, of 35 gallons of moonshine whiskey.
• A fire destroyed a Downtown building, causing damage estimated at $100,000. The three-alarm blaze gutted a three-story structure at 108-114 W. Bay St. that was owned by the Ritz Woller estate.
It was occupied by the Mock Furniture Co. and Haughton & Co., a real estate firm.
The cause of the fire was deemed to be an electrical short in a hot plate in the real estate office.
J.J. Daniel, president of Stockton, Whatley, Davin & Co., praised the efforts of the firefighters.
“You can’t say too much on behalf of this city’s fire department,” he said.
Only a fire wall, required under the City fire code, stood between the blaze and Daniel’s building, where damage was estimated at $1,000, all in smoke and water losses.
• The expectation for 1962 was that it would be one of the most progressive years in the history of the Beaches-Mayport area, with more than $9.5 million in improvement projects either under way or planned.
The work included a $7,787,500 Navy housing unit of 540 units and a $1.2 million municipal redevelopment program at Jacksonville Beach. There were also utilities expansion and other projects proposed in Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach that would total more than $500,000.
The cost of the housing being built at Mayport Naval Station was believed to be the largest sum ever spent on one project in the Beaches-Mayport area.
Jacksonville Beach was expected to accomplish the most progressive move with construction of a new municipal building, converting the Community Center into a convention hall. Property around the center was being purchased to make way for the new building, parking for the convention hall and an oceanfront park adjacent to the site.
The resort planned to go after the small convention business by remodeling the Community Center into a 400-seat convention which, it was said, would accommodate more than 75 percent of the conventions held in Duval County.