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.
• The Florida House of Representatives, over the objection of state Rep. John E. Mathews Jr., gave final legislative approval of a bill granting Duval County justices of the peace the power to try some misdemeanor cases.
“I regret that I must vote against this bill, but I do not believe that untrained men should have the power to impose sentence as is conferred in this bill. I believe that it is a step backward and would be a costly mistake as well as a hindrance to the administration of justice,” said Mathews.
The measure, previously approved by state Sen. Wayne Ripley, was expected to become law without the signature of Gov. Farris Bryant.
Ripley introduced and passed in the Senate a bill granting $1,200 annual salary increases to Jacksonville’s nine City Council members, the City treasurer and the City recorder. He also introduced and passed bills authorizing $2,500 annual raises for Criminal Judges William T. Harvey and A. Lloyd Layton and granting an additional assistant for State Attorney William A. Hallowes.
Ripley’s proposal would increase the council members’ salaries to $3,600 a year. He said he favored the increase due to the “long hours spent revising and reducing the municipal budget drafted each year by the City Commission.”
The bill would raise the judges’ annual salaries to $17,500.
• Drawings for a 400-car parking lot for the Duval County Courthouse were submitted to the County Commission by George Register of the engineering firm of Register and Cummings.
The plans called for building the lot over concrete pilings, thus eliminating a landfill and retaining wall.
Register said the use of concrete decking for the parking lot over specially designed pilings would be more economical both to build and maintain than filling the area with soil and constructing a bulkhead.
County Commission Vice Chair Lem Merrett said the design was a “pioneering venture in North Florida.” Register said the U.S. Corps of Engineers had recently approved a similar design for a project in South Florida.
No specific estimate of the cost was provided. “We’ll get twice as much space at 50 percent more cost,” said Register.
• Jacksonville University’s Distinguished Professor Award was shared for the first time by two members of the faculty when Ivan Parkins and Frances B. Kinne received a tie vote in the annual ballot of their colleagues.
Parkins was associate professor of government and former chair of the division of social sciences.
Kinne had recently been named dean of the newly formed College of Music and Fine Arts.
• Jacksonville Beach opened the 1961 “swimming season” with an hourlong parade, witnessed by crowds of people lining the streets of the “business section.”
A float with students from the Beaches Fine Arts Guild, clad in artists’ garb, won the trophy for the Most Novel Entry in the parade.
In the Best Commercial Entry from the Beaches category, a float entered by the Beach Bowl was awarded first prize and a large float-load of pretty girls sponsored by Atlantic Ice & Fuel Co. took second place.
Children dressed in clothes of the period of the Civil War and carrying Confederate flags took first prize in the Noncommercial category.
Waste Control of Florida Inc. won first place in the Non-Beaches Commercial Entry judging with its refuse truck carrying “Miss Garbage” and “The Garbagettes.” Second place in that category was won by Willis Neon Signs, which had two girls swinging from the boom of a sign installation truck.
The procession marked the 15th year the Jacksonville Beach Chamber of Commerce had sponsored the parade, designed to interest people in visiting the resort in the spring and summer.