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.
• A $500,000, three-story “ultramodern” wing, the A.E. and J.D. Davis Clinic building, was dedicated at St. Luke’s Hospital.
The new wing provided space for an additional 27 beds and increased emergency room capacity. It included an intensive care ward with a central nurse’s station.
Mayor Haydon Burns, who recounted the hospital’s history in his dedicatory address, called the wing, “a new ‘plaque’ for these men and others who have expressed their love for this community and faith in future medical accomplishments.”
Roger L. Main, president of the St. Luke’s Hospital Association, said, “Hospitals cannot stand still. They move forward or regress. St. Luke’s will meet its responsibilities and reap the reward of the strength and progress of the city of Jacksonville.”
• The Duval County Justices of the Peace and Constables Association filed three proposed laws aimed at settling controversial questions on laws dealing with the operation of members’ offices.
One of the bills called for an annual salary of $10,000 for each justice of the peace and constable. Another called for the hiring of five deputy constables for each of the nine constables.
The third bill would give the peace justices power to hold trials in misdemeanor cases except cases involving driving while intoxicated or under the influence of narcotic drugs.
The law also would set a limit on cases to be tried by eliminating those involving fines of more than $500 or jail terms of more than 90 days, or both.
In 1959 the Legislature approved a pay raise bill for the fee officers that was ruled unconstitutional by Circuit Judge Edwin L. Jones. As a result, the fee officers were set back to a $7,500 salary.
The proposed trial law also spelled out that peace justices would be required to keep detailed docket books and trial records on cases they handled. Most had already adopted the system as a result of a critical report by state auditors who complained records of the JP courts were not complete.
• At a luncheon hosted by the Cecil Field Officers’ Wives Club, a top Navy official said he was convinced that Cuba’s Prime Minister, Fidel Castro, would not attack the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Vice Adm. John T. Hayward, who was deputy chief of naval operations, said, “It’s part of our treaty that we keep Guantanamo and we are going to keep it.”
He also said Americans “should not be unnerved by the threats of Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev” to stand behind Castro and, “We can destroy Russia. We have many ways to do it and Mr. Krushchev knows this.”
While stationed in Jacksonville in 1957, Hayward and his wife, the former Leila Marion Hyer of Pensacola, bought a house at Atlantic Beach.
“I plan to retire here. I like it and I like the people. Jacksonville can’t help but boom,” said Hayward.
• At a news conference prior to his crusade at the new Municipal Coliseum, evangelist Billy Graham told reporters that John F. Kennedy would “be the most prayed-for president in history.”
Graham said Kennedy was facing “an awesome responsibility” and that the president-elect both needed and deserved the support of the people. Graham said he had written to Kennedy, pledging his own personal daily prayer.
On another subject, Graham criticized the type of motion pictures being exported abroad, especially to underdeveloped countries.
In Africa, he said, the Communist Party placed advertisements urging people to see the film, “Blackboard Jungle,” saying that the events portrayed by the picture, a vehicle of social protest, were typical of American schools.
“No matter where you go, even into the deepest jungle, you can find some kind of a screen that can be pulled down for showing movies. And the things the people see on the screen, they believe are happening right now in America,” said Graham.
• City Manager Walter F. Johnson reported that Jacksonville Beach planned to spend more than $500,000 for municipal improvements, professional services and other nonoperational items during 1961.
Projects included street resurfacing, a new acoustical ceiling and lighting for the community center auditorium, a new roof for the recreation center and renovation of the North Second Avenue public restrooms.
• A female U.S. Marine whose profile was pictured with a male Marine against the background of a church window on a recruiting poster that was displayed on posters at the Post Office Building, wasn’t a Marine.
She was Mrs. John Samuel Levy, a professional model in New York City. She was also the former Dorothy Anne Felson, daughter of Jacksonville attorney Edgar Felson and Mrs. Felson, who lived at 1535 Alexandria Place.
A 1953 graduate of Landon High School and a magna cum laude graduate of Duke University where she majored in languages, Levy was a cheerleader and made Phi Beta Kappa. She had been a model for about two years and was also named Azalea Queen at the annual Azalea Festival in Charleston, S.C., while attending Duke.
• One of the oldest of confidence games was being played in Jacksonville by a young man who “blessed people and blessed their money.”
A.W. Lee, manager of the better business division of the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce, warned potential victims of the con man that they should “count their blessings” before the perpetrator had a chance to get out of their sight.
“It’s hard to believe people could be so gullible, but I have proof of it,” he said.
Lee said procedure was the man would knock on a homeowner’s door, then through “persuasive conversation,” gain entry. He would then build up to a blessing for the host or hostess, assuring them he had such power, and then say he would bless their money as well and make it multiply.
The man would take the money and place it in a Bible or an envelope and say words over it, then hand it back to the host and urge that the money be left undisturbed for a while, perhaps overnight.
In the meantime, the man would leave and so would the money.
The con man was described by Lee as about 5 feet tall, clean shaven, between 25 and 29 years of age and with a foreign accent.
• A 3-year-old daschund became the second local dog to take “Best in Show” honors in the 29-year history of the Jacksonville Dog Fanciers Association annual all-breed show and obedience trial.
Champion Daschland’s Dynamo, owned by W.P. Harris and W.D. Smith of Jacksonville, walked off with the top honors in competition with about 400 canines of all varieties and breeds from all over the United States.
Film and television star Robert Montgomery and Ralph Walter, president of the Jacksonville City Council, presented the trophy to Harris and Smith at the conclusion of the show in the Municipal Coliseum.