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.
• A City Pension advisory committee released a report recommending changes it said would put the municipal pension system on a “sound actuarial basis for the next 30 years.”
Included were recommendations to set a minimum retirement age of 55, increase pension contributions by employees and the City and a guarantee of all current benefits to all employees eligible to retire.
The recommendations were made by the actuarial division of Alexander & Alexander Inc., a New York firm retained by City employees to review provisions of the 1937 Employees Pension Fund. The fund covered 2,655 City employees, the majority of those eligible for pension programs.
Geoffrey Calvert, vice president of Alexander & Alexander, said the minimum retirement age should be subject to a “transition period” instead of allowing contributors to retire after 20 years of service, regardless of age.
Calvert said the retirement age issue was one of the “major problems” with the pension plan and that the practice had “no counterpart in other fields of employment.”
He also identified widows’ benefits as another area which should be addressed. The plan provided a benefit of 75 percent of the pension to a widow without minor children and 100 percent of the pension to a widow with minor children. Calvert said those benefits were at an “unusually liberal rate.”
Under Calvert’s plan for pension reform, each employee would contribute 7.5 percent of the individual’s salary to the pension plan with an equal amount contributed by the City, up from the existing 6 percent.
“If the present combined 12 percent contribution rate continues unchanged, the fund balance will continue to grow with decreasing momentum for approximately five to 10 years into the future and will then cease growing and begin to decline, gaining momentum as it falls. Once this deterioration sets in, the fund will become exhausted with increasing momentum so that remedial action would become most urgent once that point is reached,” said Calvert.
City employees authorized the study in 1959 after the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce attacked the pension setup as actuarially unsound.
J.T. Parker, chair of the Employees Pension Advisory Committee, said the committee would not take a stand on the recommendations until City employees had a chance to review the report, then a meeting of employees would be held, followed later by an opportunity “to express their opinions through a poll or ballot concerning the proposed changes.”
• Festivities prior to the 16th annual Gator Bowl Game to be played Dec. 31 would be highlighted by the presence of Miss America Nancy Anne Fleming. It was noted the title had come to symbolize “the beauty of this nation’s womanhood.”
In making the announcement, Gator Bowl Association President Henry Kramer said Fleming’s visit would mark the third consecutive year a Miss America had come to Jacksonville for the game. Mary Ann Mobley and Lynda Lee Mead previously attended.
• The City of Jacksonville abandoned its court fight to avoid integration of all municipally owned recreation facilities.
City commissioners received and filed as information a letter from City Attorney William Madison saying it would be “useless to attempt” an appeal of a federal court ruling which fixed Jan. 9 as the integration deadline.
U.S. District Judge Bryan Simpson’s order decreed that segregation was to cease at all City-owned facilities, including the Gator Bowl, Jacksonville Coliseum, the baseball park, the municipal zoo and all parks and playgrounds.
Under the terms of the order, the City was free to close and sell any of its facilities. No such action was indicated by any of the commissioners, but in a court appearance related to the ruling, City Solicitor Inman Crutchfield said the City would continue to enforce segregation at swimming pools and tennis courts “as long as they remain open for use.”
Referring to Simpson’s final decree, Madison told the commissioners he made a thorough research and found that it was “in accord with federal decisions respecting public recreation facilities which have been rendered by the United States Supreme Court and all other lower federal courts. Therefore, there is no basis for an effective appeal from this decree.”
Madison also issued a warning in his letter:
“I further advise you that failure on the part of the City of Jacksonville or any of its officers, employees, concessionaires, lessees or licensees to fully comply with the provisions of this decree in the operations of these facilities from and after Jan. 8, 1961, subject said parties to contempt proceedings, punishable by fines or imprisonment, by the judge of the federal court.”
The suit was filed by a group of African-Americans, including some who joined in earlier court action which led to an order to integrate the City-owned golf courses at Hyde Park and Brentwood. City officials reacted to that ruling by closing and then selling the two golf courses.
• Maj. DeWitt E. Hooker, superintendent of The Bolles School and a member of the school’s staff since 1939, announced he would retire at the end of the school year in June 1961.
Herman Ulmer, chair of the board of trustees, said Hooker would become superintendent emeritus and would be available as a consultant to the school.
Hooker served as commandant and professor of military science and tactics early in his career at Bolles. Following a tour of active duty in World War II, he was named superintendent in September 1946.
“The credit for the great advances made by Bolles in the field of college preparation in recent years is due to Maj. Hooker’s guidance with the help of a dedicated faculty,” said Ulmer.
• Judge L.A. Grayson, a jurist from Tampa who was assigned to the Duval County Criminal Court for a week, declared that the county was “the place to do your drunk driving if you get caught at it.”
Grayson made the remark after he heard a local man plead guilty to driving while intoxicated. The prosecutor noted it was the defendant’s first offense and recommended a $75 fine or 60 days in jail, which he told the judge was customary here.
Grayson reluctantly went along with the local custom but said, “I recommend that if anybody wants to do any drunk driving they come to Jacksonville and do it because it costs $300 down in Hillsborough County.”
• Despite efforts by numerous charity-minded organizations to ensure that thousands of needy children wouldn’t be forgotten at Christmas, it was looking like at least one chimney could be bypassed by Santa Claus.
That chimney was on top of the Duval County Juvenile Shelter.
Shelter Superintendent Harry Chilton said there were no prospects that gifts might be furnished for the youngsters, who included dependent as well as delinquent children.
One church group tentatively indicated interest in helping the children, Chilton said, but there had been no definite commitments.
“We didn’t have this problem last year,” he said. “All the kids were well taken care of. This year’s different. I guess some of our previous donors have forgotten about the need here.”
The shelter averaged about 40 children daily. Chilton said following a custom of awarding holiday freedom to the more deserving children, he expected the Christmas Eve shelter population to be between 25 and 30 boys and girls.