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.
• At a meeting at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., the question of expanding Imeson Airport by lengthening the runway or replacing it with a new facility was left undecided by representatives of the Federal Aviation Agency, the Air National Guard and the City, pending the results of an air space study by the FAA.
The agency said its study of air traffic problems around Jacksonville would be complete by May 15.
FAA airport engineers had already recommended the City build a new airport, claiming Imeson could not be economically expanded. The study was made at the request of the City. The Florida Air National Guard and a number of airline officials had previously gone on record as favoring expansion.
City Commissioner Louis Ritter and City Council members Ralph Walter and John Lanahan led the delegation of 20 City officials who met at the Pentagon with representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the FAA and ranking officers of the Air National Guard. The closed meeting lasted two hours.
“Our position in view of the mission of the Air National Guard, assigned to it by the Air Defense Command, is that this extension will certainly provide for safer operation of military and commercial aircraft using Imeson,” said Ritter.
“The big question now is what decision the FAA will render on the air space situation. They control the air space and we must await their OK before going ahead with the extension of the runway 1,000 feet to a total of 8,000 feet,” he said.
Ritter and the other City officials reiterated their agreement to purchase the land for the runway extension, which he estimated would not cost more than $200,000. The Department of Defense had already appropriated $1 million in its budget to finance the 1,000-foot runway extension.
In a letter to Ritter, David Kelley, FAA district airport engineer, said Imeson Airport presented “an air space and noise problem that may be expected to increase.”
• Trustees of the Cummer Gallery of Art announced the gift of a portrait of Henry Home Drummond, seventh laird of Blair Drummond, by the Scottish painter Sir Henry Raeburn.
The name of the donor was not revealed. Board Chair John Donahoo said the gift was from a friend of the late Mr. and Mrs. Arthur G. Cummer who wished to remain anonymous.
It was the first gift to the Cummer Gallery of a work of art from a Jacksonville donor since the late Ninah M.H. Cummer established the Cummer Museum Foundation for the benefit of the citizens of Jacksonville.
Work on the new gallery, under construction at 829 Riverside Ave., was progressing according to schedule and would be opened in November, said Donahoo.
• Seven bills affecting Duval County were given final legislative approval in Tallahassee, including one increasing the Juvenile judge’s salary from $8,500 to $13,000 annually. The bill, however, provided that the judge would be prohibited from engaging in the private practice of law or any other profession or business.
Sheriff Dale Carson also was granted a raise from $14,600 to $15,800 annually. The salaries of Criminal Court reporters were raised by $500 to $5,700 a year and Circuit Court reporters in the Fourth Circuit were authorized to charge 65 cents per original page of a transcript of proceedings and 35 cents per carbon copy, up from the 50-cent and 25-cent schedule.
Duval County officials were empowered to pay $1.40 hourly, an increase of 60 cents, to guards of prisoners under treatment at hospitals.
• The City Council approved the appropriation of $15,000 toward construction of a new Tourist & Convention Bureau building in Hemming Park.
City Commissioner Dallas Thomas, who spearheaded the move with the approval of the council’s Budget and Finance Committee, said the bureau would raise an additional $5,000 toward the construction.
According to City engineers and fire inspectors, the bureau’s existing frame building facing Hogan Street was unsuitable, structurally or financially, for renovation.
The new building would be constructed of wood, masonry and glass and would face Monroe Street.
Thomas said several tentative designs had been submitted, but none had been approved. Each of the plans, he said, included three ticket windows to facilitate sales of tickets for events at the Coliseum, Gator Bowl and the Municipal Auditorium, which was under construction on the Downtown riverfront.
• Two applicants before the City Pardon Board found out that crime doesn’t pay, especially when you’re already in jail.
One of the prisoners had been sentenced April 15 to 30 days for being drunk and disorderly. He was working as a trusty at police headquarters when he made the mistake of asking Municipal Judge John Santora for a handout.
Santora handed out an additional 15 days for panhandling.
The other prisoner, who was serving a 90-day sentence for being drunk and disorderly, wrote a threatening letter to Santora. He was promptly rearrested and given another 90 days for contempt of court.
The prisoner, who had more than 11 pages on his local criminal record and more than four pages on the FBI’s record, pleaded by letter that he would leave town if freed.
“With a record like that, I would deem it advisable that he leave town anyway since he’s bound to come in contact with Judge Santora again,” said City Council and pardon board member John Lanahan.
Both requests for pardon were denied.
The board also denied the request for pardon from a 70-year-old female drug addict at the request of Sgt. Ralph K. Rand, the police department’s narcotics sleuth. He said the woman had a long record of arrests for addiction and sale of narcotics.
• County Engineer John Crosby told the County Commission that State Road department work on the improvement of Jammes Road between 103rd Street and Wilson Boulevard was delayed because of a controversy over moving water and sewer lines.
Crosby said representatives of the Cedar Hills Utility Co. had stated they would hold the department or the contractor responsible if any lines were damaged as result of the improvements.
The state had awarded the contract for the job to San Marco Contracting Co. of St. Augustine in the amount of $344,434 for the job.
In accordance with the state law, said Crosby, the department had notified the utility to move its pipelines where they would not interfere with the road-building project. Commissioner Julian Warren said the County had no funds to move the lines and that according to law, no Road Department funds earmarked for the County could be used to move the lines.
• A survey of laws on the books in Jacksonville and Duval County revealed that:
Cuspidors were required to be provided and maintained in beauty parlors and barber shops.
Throwing bottles at umpires in Jacksonville baseball parks was against the law.
Dogs honorably discharged from the armed forces between 1939 and 1945 could retire in Jacksonville without having to have a dog license so long as the canine veteran had discharge papers.
Habitual drunks were prohibited from owning a gun, but the law made no mention of homicidal maniacs, hired assassins or narcotics addicts.
It was against the law to display dead bodies, live bodies or bodies purported to have been buried alive.
Hypnotized or unconscious persons could be exhibited for only one hour per day.
Every tattoo artist was required to own a nail file.