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.
• Members of the Duval County Commission were elated over the first conviction in the recently ramped-up drive against litterbugs, but joy soon turned to disappointment when they learned the case would cost the County $100 out-of-pocket with no fine being levied.
When a report came in from Justice of the Peace George Harris that a litterbug was convicted on a citizen’s warrant, the commissioners immediately moved for release of a $100 reward to meet the litterbug law provisions.
The law stipulated that anyone giving information that led to the arrest and conviction of a person for throwing trash onto a public highway was entitled to a $100 reward.
The commissioners viewed the case as a benchmark in their campaign to keep the county roadways free of trash.
However, a closer look at the case papers submitted by Harris revealed that payment of the $100 fine by the defendant was suspended by the justice of the peace.
That wasn’t the only news from the courts that upset the commissioners.
A bill from a psychiatrist for $150 came in, approved by Criminal Judge A. Lloyd Layton, involving the doctor’s expert testimony and his psychiatric examination of a defendant.
The invoice listed the case as being a petty gambling violation and additional information showed the defendant received a suspended sentence of a $15 fine or 15 days in jail.
Commissioners objected to the idea of the court ordering a psychiatric examination for a defendant in a petty gambling case.
However, further checking showed that a clerical error had been made and the mental evaluation was made in another case involving reckless driving in which the same defendant was accused.
• In another case, Layton sentenced a self-styled exterminator to one year in the County jail for eliminating more than pests from households in the Beaches area.
Warren Stump, 32, of 8262 Susie St., received two six-month consecutive terms after he entered a plea of guilty to “exterminating” a shotgun and a typewriter from two homes along with household pests.
Assistant County Solicitor R. Hudson Oliff said Stump confessed to contracting with residents for exterminating jobs, advising the customers to leave their homes unoccupied while the insect spray was being applied, and stealing the shotgun and typewriter while the homeowners were out.
In addition to the petty larceny convictions, Stump received deferred sentences on convictions on a charge of issuing a worthless check and of violating the state pest control law by using pesticides commercially without a license.
In another case before Layton, George Parrot, 37, of 1741 Liberty St., just out of state prison after serving 10 years of a 30-year sentence for robbery, was given another five years on a plea of guilty to breaking into a tavern at 344 E. Eighth St on July 16.
Oliff said Parrot was apprehended in the tavern by police while in possession of $22 taken from the establishment’s jukebox and a game machine.
Oliff said Parrot told him he had been “feeling depressed” and broke into the tavern to eliminate the monotony of contemplating 20 years of parole behavior.
• A new system of issuing Florida driver licenses went into effect.
It was designed to change the month of purchase to the birth month of the driver and extend the validity period of the certificates to two years.
The new law was enacted by the 1961 Legislature. Previously, all licenses expired Sept. 30 and were renewable for one year.
During the period of adjustment to the new program, some licenses would be issued for one year and some for two years, depending on the year in which the licensee was born.
Afterward, people born in odd-numbered years would obtain licenses during their month of birth in odd-numbered years, and persons born in even-numbered years would obtain licenses during their birth month in even-numbered years.
“The new system should be very simple to the point that everyone can understand it,” said Duval County Judge McKenney J. Davis. He and Duval County Judge Page Haddock were the license-issuing authorities in the county.
The Legislature also increased the cost of licenses from $1.25 a year to $1.50 a year by raising the driver’s education fee, which paid for training courses in the public schools, from 25 cents a year to 50 cents.
• An old hickory chopping block previously used at the Duval County jail at Liberty and Beaver streets was sold for $2 by the County Commission to the operator of a Pearl Street antique shop. The dealer said the block would be for display and not for resale.
“This will constitute a memorial to the bygone days of Duval County,” he said.
• The final day of operation for the free tuberculosis-detection X-ray unit stationed at Hemming Park brought 874 people and many more had to be turned away.
The unit was scheduled to close at 5 p.m., but stayed open to serve 30 people who were still in line at closing time.
The 874 total for the day boosted the week’s total to 3,321. The grand total for the 24 operating days hit an unexpected high of 16,240.
It had been predicted by Duval County Tuberculosis Association officials that the total would be 15,000 people X-rayed.
Ice packs had to be placed on the machine during the final day of operation since overheating caused a breakdown during the first few days of the public examination campaign.
“The response has been excellent to the survey – better than I could have hoped for,” said Bill Belisle, State Board of Health technician.
• Gerri Turbow and Harold Edris were cast in the lead roles of “The Matchmaker,” The Little Theatre of Jacksonville’s opener for the 1961-62 season. Both would be appearing in their first lead roles for the group.
Turbow would star as Mrs. Levi, the designing matchmaker in the Thornton Wilder comedy. Edris would play Horace Vandergelder, the wealthy shop owner.
Both formerly appeared in lead roles with the Jacksonville University Players.
The four-act play was scheduled to open Sept. 29 at the theater at 2032 San Marco Blvd.
According to George Ballis, who was beginning his first year as Little Theatre director, the play promised “exciting entertainment” to its audiences.
“The characters are colorful, the situations delightful and the members of the cast are ideal in their roles,” he said.
• Registration began for the adult education division of the Duval County Board of Public Instruction at 345 E. Church St.
High school subjects of English, Spanish, German, Russian, science, mathematics and social science would be offered, as well as industrial arts, oil painting watercolors and law for the layman.
The high school review course was expected to have the largest enrollment. By attending class four nights a week, the course could be finished in nine weeks.
• Nationally known news commentator Paul Harvey was scheduled to speak Sept. 9 at “Project Alert,” a program sponsored by the Jaycees to promote Americanism.
The project was “concerned more with advancing American patriotism and telling the story of America’s heritage rather than refuting communism,” according to the Jaycees.
Harvey was expected to arrive the day before and speak at a Jaycees meeting before headlining the rally at the Coliseum.
After his speech, he would be the guest of the Jacksonville News Club for a social hour at the club’s headquarters at the Roosevelt Hotel.