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 “booming pyrotechnic howitzer” signaled the start of the 1961 Greater Jacksonville Agricultural and Industrial Fair and equestrienne Gloria Rudd broke the ribbon across the main gate to kick off the formal opening ceremony.
Rudd led a mounted color guard, seven candidates for rodeo queen and the Duval County Sheriff’s Posse onto the fairgrounds at the Gator Bowl Complex.
Between the beginning and the end of the 11-day fair, there was an on-the-house tour of the midway by the Nathan Bedford Forrest High School Band, which played at the opening ceremony; judging in the arts and crafts shows; and after dark, the beginning of the largest rodeo in Florida history.
• Criminal Court Judge A. Lloyd Layton set Nov. 17 as the date to hear arguments on a motion to throw out embezzlement charges against Kathleen Hartley, suspended clerk of the Civil and Criminal Courts of Record.
Hartley was scheduled to appear in Criminal Court to answer a charge that she and Woodrow “Woody” Richardson, her chief deputy clerk, embezzled nearly $36,000 in County funds in the clerk’s office from 1959-61.
However, under rules of legal procedure, the filing of motions by Hartley’s attorneys, Walter Arnold and Edward Mulcahy, automatically delayed the entry of a plea to the embezzlement charge.
Richardson also was scheduled to appear before Layton to enter a plea, but the case against him was continued until Nov. 17.
Richardson was represented by attorney Lacy Mahon Jr.
No motions had been filed on behalf of Richardson, who also was suspended.
• City workers at Jacksonville Beach were watching their job go up in smoke as the charred remains of the old pier continued to smolder.
On Oct. 13, the structure, at North Third Avenue, nearly was destroyed except for the walkway at the seawall, at the ocean ends and the pilings. Crews had demolished the seawall end of the walkway and removed many of the pilings.
City officials calculated that the taxpayers were saved more than $10,000 by the fire razing the old structure, which the City had acquired in May through a franchise agreement.
• County Solicitor Edward M. Booth secured a temporary order banning the possession, sale or distribution in Duval County of Henry Miller’s novel, “Tropic of Cancer.”
The temporary order was signed by Circuit Judge Bayard B. Shields after Booth filed a complaint that alleged the book was obscene under the obscenity law enacted by the 1961 Florida Legislature.
Representatives of the Duval News Co., which was named as a defendant in the suit, also appeared voluntarily before Shields and agreed to the temporary order.
Booth said he decided to investigate after receiving complaints from mothers and housewives about the book.
He said several copies of the paperback edition, selling for 95 cents each, were purchased at a Downtown newsstand and Booth concluded it was obscene under the law after reading the entire volume.
Before taking the legal action, Booth said, he conferred with Sheriff Dale Carson and G.H.W. Schmidt, chairman of the Governor’s Committee on Obscenity. He said they and other people consulted agreed the book was obscene and should be banned.
J.L. White Jr., president of Duval News Co., said he had received complaints about the book and had started recalling it from newsstands before he heard from Booth.
The temporary order applied to White’s firm, its employees and any others acting in concert with the wholesaler. Booth said the order was broad enough to apply to any people or agencies which might have copies of the novel.
Booth said the 1961 law set up a test for determining obscenity: “Whether to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to prurient interest.”
Booth said he would seek an early hearing on an order permanently banning the book and calling for all copies to be surrendered to Carson for destruction.
• Duval County Patrol Lt. Bill Hartley tried to help two motorists in distress, but ended up arresting them.
The officer said the two men stopped him at Normandy Boulevard and Memorial Park Road at about 2:15 a.m. One of them got out of their car and asked if Hartley knew where a leaking tire could be repaired.
Hartley said he tried to get out of his patrol car to give directions, but one of the men pushed against his car door in an attempt to keep Hartley inside. He ordered the man away from the door then walked over to the car, where he detected a strong odor of moonshine.
When he directed his flashlight into the back seat of the car, Hartley spotted three 5-gallon containers of illegal whisky.
The driver and his passenger were taken to jail and the moonshine was destroyed by Sheriff’s Deputy Claude West.
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