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.
• Kathleen Hartley, veteran clerk of the Civil and Criminal Courts of Record, was charged with embezzling nearly $36,000 of County funds from her office over a two-year period.
Gov. Farris Bryant suspended Hartley and appointed Jacksonville attorney and former U.S. Rep Emory Hilliard Price to replace Hartley from the $11,200-a-year clerk’s post.
Chief Deputy Clerk Woodrow (Woody) Richardson was named as a co-defendant in the embezzlement charges.
Following a weeklong investigation, the charges were filed in the clerk’s office by County Solicitor Edward M. Booth. Criminal Court Judge A. Lloyd Layton ordered the arrest of Hartley and Richardson and set bond for each at $5,000.
The charges stated that the two had embezzled $35,896.30 in County funds on various dates in the period from Oct. 3, 1959, to Oct. 3, 1961.
Booth said the investigation indicated that about $14,000 was embezzled through a scheme using payments to a nonexistent printing company for supplies that were never received by the clerk’s office.
He said the remainder of the $35,896.30 covered funds that should have been, but were not, in the bank accounts.
The investigation also determined that $7,282.67 in cash was missing from the clerk’s custody. Booth said that money, not included in the $35,896.30 total, was evidence in the trial of a case in Criminal Court that was being appealed.
He said bank officials became alarmed when they discovered two checks for $10,000 and $10,800 in the Barnett Bank that were drawn on the clerk’s account and deposited in two personal accounts belonging to Richardson in other banks.
Booth said that a number of checks signed by the clerk were made out to a bogus firm under the name of The Urso Press. He said that R.V. Urso Sr., a printer employed by an actual firm, had endorsed the checks.
Hartley was arrested at her home, where she posted bond. Booth said she reportedly had a heart condition and was confined to bed under doctor’s orders. Richardson surrendered at the sheriff’s office and immediately posted bond to gain his release.
• Julia Blattner celebrated her 100th birthday and said her secret to longevity was “hard work and keeping good hours.”
Despite the fact she was confined to a wheelchair most of the time, Blattner was anything but inactive.
“Can’t stand to sit with my hands in my lap,” she said and picked up her knitting.
“Right now I’m doing bandages for the lepers in Africa. Do at least two a week. I used to knit a lock of socks, too, for soldiers during the war, but I haven’t worked at that in some time,” Blattner said.
Born in County Monahan in Ireland, she came to Jacksonville via Chicago, where she met and married John Blattner and reared three children.
In 1933, when her daughter, Ann, and her husband, William Johnston, moved to Jacksonville, “Grandma” came along, too. Every summer after that until 1960, Blattner went back to Chicago to visit and do some shopping.
At age 97, she hopped on a plane and flew to El Paso, Texas, to attend the wedding of her grandson and take part in the prenuptial courtesies for his bride-to-be.
“I hope the others get married in Jacksonville,” Blattner said when she returned.
Well-wishers flocked to Blattner’s home at 6300 San Jose Blvd. to celebrate her centennial. The home was filled with her favorite flowers, including a pyramid of 100 pink roses.
• Events were really jumping at Imeson Airport when a kangaroo en route to the Jacksonville Zoo almost escaped from her escort and went bounding through the terminal with the man dragged along behind.
The man assigned to pick up the new addition, E.M. Bozeman, said all he could think of to do while hanging on to the animal’s tail was to yell, “Whoa, there.”
Bozeman said he had not mistaken the marsupial for a horse, but that was the only appropriate phrase he could think of to keep the rambunctious kangaroo from taking off through the airport.
The kangaroo had been shipped from the Catskill Wild Animal Farm in New York to be a companion for the male kangaroo in the zoo.
After a ceremonial uncrating, the new ‘roo took Bozeman for what was described as a “hopscotch doubles match” through the terminal.
Women gasped and children yelled, “Momma, look at that big rabbit with a man hanging on his tail.”
It was reported that several passengers who were dozing while waiting for their flights woke up during the melee and thought they had perhaps overshot their destination and landed in Australia.
The kangaroo was finally wrestled into a truck and taken to its new home at the zoo.
• U.S. Rep. Charles Bennett announced plans to invite President John F. Kennedy and French President Charles de Gaulle to the Jacksonville premier of the Ribault symphonic drama which was scheduled for 1962.
Bennett, who was honorary chairman of the Ribault Quadricentennial Corp., announced the plans at a meeting to complete details for the play, which was expected to be the highlight of Jacksonville’s observance of the 400th anniversary of French Huguenot landing at the mouth of the St. Johns River.
French adventurer-captain Jean Ribault led a party to the mouth of the river on May 1, 1562, where he established the Fort Caroline colony that predated other European settlements in what would later become the United States.
The first colony was reinforced in 1564, but later was overrun by Spanish forces from St. Augustine.
The colonization and clash of interests in France, Spain and England of the 16th century would be the theme of the drama, which would be performed in the Jacksonville Municipal Coliseum in conjunction with the quadricenntenial celebration.
• William Wilson defeated three opponents, including incumbent I.D. Sams, to win the first four-year term as mayor in the history of Jacksonville Beach.
Incumbent Harry Dickinson won election to the City clerk’s post over Don Griffin, one of his employees.
Ballots cast totaled 3,059, including 24 absentee ballots. There were 4,738 people registered to vote in 1961 in Jacksonville Beach.
In Neptune Beach, H.E. Lightly was elected to an 8th two-year term as mayor and four incumbent City Council members were returned to office.
Lighty was unopposed and polled 396 of 519 ballots cast. A total of 661 residents had registered to vote.
Returned to council seats for two-year terms were Harry Burns Jr., James Goodloe, W.G. Noe and Stanley Smith.
John Futch, a petroleum dealer and political newcomer, rolled up the largest vote total, 454, to take one of the vacated seats on the council. Robert Gordon, an insurance agent, polled 338 votes to win the sixth seat. All seats were elected at large.
• Alfred C. Ulmer Sr., 74, a leader in the development of Jacksonville since 1908, died after suffering a heart attack during a civic club meeting at the Mayflower Hotel.
Ulmer, chairman of the board of directors of Buckman, Ulmer and Mitchell, had just introduced a new member at the weekly luncheon of the Rotary Club of Jacksonville when he was stricken. He died about an hour later after being admitted to a hospital.
• It was reported that September was the driest of the first nine months of 1961 and the driest month in Jacksonville since 1931.
A total of 1.02 inches of rain was recorded, substantially below the September average of 6.96 inches.
Nineteen days during the month saw no rainfall or not enough to measure and the wettest day, the 13th, accumulated only .35 of an inch at the weather bureau at Imeson Airport.
Be the first to know the latest breaking news and information that business leaders rely on in this fast-paced changing Northeast Florida economy. Regional business news, trends and statistics needed to grow your business. Key upcoming events you won’t want to miss and much more. Click Here to Grow your Business NOW!