Have you ever wondered what life was like in Jacksonville half a century ago? It may have been 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.
• “Jacksonville is growing steadily as a financial center,” said William S. Johnson, guest speaker at the Rotary Club of Jacksonville’s weekly luncheon meeting at the Mayflower Hotel.
Johnson was the executive vice president and general manager of the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce. He said the banking, insurance and real estate fields had shown “the most remarkable improvement” as sources of employment in the area in the previous decade.
“The rapid development of our local and regional home office operations, the increased banking which witnessed plans or construction of new buildings by three large Downtown banks and the establishment of new banks will continue,” he said.
Johnson also said Jacksonville was “in the best position ever” to handle important conventions. The new Municipal Coliseum, the new Civic Auditorium under construction and increased rooming facilities were making it possible for the Tourist and Convention Bureau to “sell a vastly improved package,” he said.
• The Duval County Commission went on the record as deploring the practice of throwing garbage on the public right of way and in open lots.
The commission called on Sheriff Dale Carson and the County Health Department to look into the matter.
Commissioner Bob Harris said that if people were aware that they could cause epidemics and possible deaths by throwing garbage in the open, he believed they would stop the practice.
Harris said the situation was “getting to be a real problem” and the County Commission might be forced into the garbage collection business.
If that were to happen, he said, it would then be compulsory for property owners to pay for the service.
Commissioner Lem Merrett said he had received complaints and ordered “no dumping” signs placed in sections of his district. He said he then received complaints to the effect that he had no authority to place the signs.
In one area, Merrett said, the sign was covered with garbage in apparent defiance.
Most of the populous sections of the county’s unincorporated areas were served by private garbage collection service, but the County government did not provide public garbage service.
• At 6:45 p.m. Wednesday, 308 lamps were lit on the Southside Expressway, the Riverside Interchange and the Riverside Expressway north to Ashley Street.
The automatic switch-on of the new system, which was controlled by a photoelectric cell that would turn the lights on at dusk and off at dawn, was the culmination of a yearlong cooperative effort between the Jacksonville Expressway Authority and the City to bring adequate lighting to at least part of the Expressway system.
The lighting was installed by the authority at a cost of $144,490, with the City taking over operation and maintenance of the lights, including furnishing the electricity.
Utilities Commissioner J. Dillon Kennedy said the City was glad to extend the cooperation to the authority to bring about the correction of a bad situation.
“The usefulness of the Expressway has been handicapped by a lack of proper lighting, badly needed on that maze of bridges and traffic separations. The Expressway has been a boon to Jacksonville motorists and this new lighting system will make it as useful at night as it is in the daytime,” said Kennedy.
• The Woodley Building at 4533 Lenox Ave. was officially opened and dedicated to Goodwill Industries of Jacksonville’s program of human service.
The 30,000-square-foot structure was inspected by a large turnout of friends and dignitaries following dedicatory remarks by Methodist Bishop James Henley of the Jacksonville District.
Named in honor of the late Jonathan M. and Pauline Manning Woodley, the building’s principal benefactor was M.J. Woodley Sr., a former president of Goodwill Industries and longtime member of its board of directors.
• Jacksonville artist Lee Adams left for New York City, where he was scheduled to have two exhibits totaling 55 of his paintings.
One exhibition of 25 watercolor studies of tropical plants and birds would be at the Audubon House, headquarters of the National Audubon Society at 1130 Fifth Ave.
The other one-man show would be at the Kennedy Galleries on East 58th Street. It was a collection of watercolor and oil studies of birds, tropical fruit and flowers. The exhibit was being staged concurrently with the International Flower Show in New York City, which would attract horticulturists from all over the world.
• The list of invited guests for Mayor Haydon Burns’ presentation of “The Jacksonville Story” March 9 in New York City read like the “Who’s Who” of American business.
It would be the mayor’s 190th presentation in which he narrated, with the help of slides, the program for the redevelopment of Downtown and the riverfront.
The host for the meeting would be Gardner Cowles, publisher of “Look” magazine. He had issued invitations to 140 executives, representing a cross section of the country’s “most prominent business tycoons.”
Among the invitees were Ralph Burger, chair of the board of the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co.; Charles Mortimer, board chair of General Foods Corp.; Augustus Long, board chair of Texaco Inc.; and Thomas Watson Jr., president of International Business Machines Corp.