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 1960. The items were compiled from the Jacksonville Public Library’s periodical archives by Staff Writer Max Marbut.
• Three Jacksonville attorneys, one of them the chief administrative aide to Gov. LeRoy Collins, were appointed by the governor to judgeships in the Fourth Judicial Circuit.
The new judges were William L. Durden, who had served as Collins’ aide for several years; Charles R. Scott, Duval County Civil Service Board attorney; and Frank E. Elmore, a former special assistant U.S. attorney general.
Their appointments were among 10 of the 20 circuit judgeships opened as a result of the 1960 federal census. The State Constitution provided that a judge should be appointed for each 50,000 of population or major fraction thereof in each circuit.
In making the announcement, Collins said he had offered one of the posts to State Attorney William Hallowes because the governor felt Hallowes “deserved a promotion” for his services as state attorney for the circuit since 1937. Collins said Hallowes declined the appointment, stating he would prefer to continue as state attorney.
The Budget Commission released $220 to provide temporary telephone service for the three judges, pending the building of additional offices for the new jurists in the unfinished section of the County Courthouse.
• The Budget Commission also approved spending up to $1,200 for a Duval County float in the inauguration parade for Gov.-elect Farris Bryant in Tallahassee Jan. 3.
• Winter arrived in Jacksonville, bringing the lowest temperatures to usher in the official season in almost six decades.
The weather bureau at Imeson Airport predicted low temperatures from 23 to 27 degrees and predicted breaking the record low of 27 degrees set on the first day of winter in 1901.
The cold snap was expected to last three or four days and followed seven days of freezing temperatures that had already been recorded in December.
• Floyd Cagle, president-elect of the Propeller Club, announced that Capt. G.R. DeGroote, master of the nuclear ship Savannah, the world’s first atomic-powered merchant vessel, would be the principal speaker at the club’s annual banquet Jan. 29 at the George Washington Hotel.
The NS Savannah was scheduled to make its first public showing at the 35th annual convention of the national Propeller Club and American Merchant Marine Conference, which was scheduled to take place in Jacksonville Oct. 11-13, 1961.
Cagle also said George W. Gibbs Sr. would serve as the local club’s chair of convention arrangements, assisted by Fred Hansen, who would serve as vice chair.
• Sheriff Dale Carson came up with a plan designed to reduce the number of injuries and deaths among inexperienced youngsters who were about to find rifles or pellet or BB guns under their Christmas trees.
Dubbed the “Sheriff’s Annual Gun Safety Clinic,” it would be held in two sessions at the Duval County Patrol Office Dec. 30 with weapons experts instructing in the care, handling and firing of weapons.
Various firing positions would be demonstrated by top-ranked marksmen, including Carson, who was described as, “no slouch on the firing range.”
Carson said his personal collection of weapons would be on display and the youngsters would be given the first official tour of the County’s new arsenal and emergency equipment room. He also cautioned participants that they should bring their new weapon, but no ammunition, to the class.
•Wednesday evening, St. George Episcopal Church had its 77th Christmas program, a pageant by 20 youngsters from the Fort George Island area. The group was organized by Mrs. Frank Wellner and Mrs. Allen Overall.
On Christmas Day, prayer services would be held by Archdeacon Frank Yerkes.
The church was founded in 1877 and originally drew many of its members from visitors who spent their vacations at a hotel near where the Ribault Golf and Yacht Club was located (in 1960). Visitors made their way from the hotel to St. George’s by boat.
The church building was constructed in 1883 on property donated by Archibald McIntyre. The church was endowed by a bequest of $10,000 from the will of Ellen Ward.
It was noted “the little chapel combines simplicity and elegance” and featured a large stained-glass window which depicts the slaying of the dragon by St. George and was valued at $7,500.
• Security measures at the Duval County Prison Farm were criticized in a report submitted to the County Commission.
Listed as “poor” by State Prison Inspector R.P. McLendon were “custody and security, inmate control and discipline, buildings and equipment and recreational activities.”
The overall rating for the prison was listed as “fair.” Categories listed as “fair” in the report were housekeeping and sanitation, work, health and medical facilities, bathing facilities, kitchen facilities, plumbing, screening, heating, lighting and ventilation.
A “good” rating was given to food, hot water for bathing, beds and mattresses and medical attention.
“In general, there is evidence of laxness in coordination of operations and authority, security and control over inmates,” McLendon stated in his report, dated Nov. 14.
“It appears this is brought about mainly because of the inexperienced personnel due to the promotional transfer after the required six-month probationary period is up, in most cases to equipment operator, which pays a higher salary.”
The last point had already been raised by County Engineer John Crosby a year earlier and by Garrie Curlee, a state warden who had conducted a study of the prison and submitted his own recommendations for improvement.
At the time, employees coming into the County’s Highway Department started as night guards, then truckdriver guards and worked their way to better jobs in the department as operators of heavy equipment.
Crosby and Curlee had recommended that the prison be separated from the department as far as personnel promotion was concerned. That would leave prison guards within the prison system for promotion, rather than moving them up in the highway department and then hiring inexperienced guards at the prison.
McLendon also released his report about the Duval County Jail, declaring conditions there as “excellent.” The jail was under the jurisdiction of the sheriff and was run by Chief Jail Warden Thomas Heaney Jr.
• Ernest Rowland Jr., chair of the board of the Jacksonville Astronomy Club, accepted from County Commission Vice Chair Julian Warren the deed to an 80-foot by 80-foot corner of Burnett Park. The club purchased the plot from the County to be a site for an observatory.
Rowland displayed a sketch of the planned observatory and said work would begin in the middle of January.
In the deed was a provision for the property to revert to the County if the club abandoned the project or failed to use it for the specific purpose cited.
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