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.
• The Navy celebrated the 20th anniversary of Jacksonville Naval Air Station, which was described as, “one of its lustiest offsprings,” with an “awesome display of air power and performance.”
An estimated 75,000 spectators jammed the base to see the Blue Angels flight demonstration team and examine displays of missiles and other weapons, aircraft and equipment.
Figures were released by the Navy concerning the history of the base and the economic impact of the service in North Florida.
According to the report, in the 20 years since the base opened, the combined payroll for Navy and Navy-connected civilian workers had grossed nearly $3.5 billion. Other approximate 20-year totals included $170 million for Navy-related purchases on the local market, $20 million to purchase electricity from the City, $10 million in local fuel oil purchases and $9.5 million toward operation of schools.
In 1939, $1.1 million in bonds were sold by citizens of Jacksonville to purchase necessary acreage for Navy use. Based on the Navy’s report, total investment by the Navy totaled more than $3.7 billion, a return of $3,375 for each dollar invested by citizens.
• Carnivals, which at one time “had put a donkey and a crate of chickens out front and called themselves agricultural fairs,” had been crowded from the local scene by a legitimate, wholesome community fair, said James Watson, county agricultural agent and president of the Greater Jacksonville Agricultural and Industrial Fair, at a meeting of the fair’s board of directors.
Watson said the law prohibited him, as county agent, from participating in or endorsing “cheap carnivals.” Watson also told members of the fair’s board that the Greater Jacksonville Fair “filled a vacuum” when the city lost the Florida State Fair to Tampa.
“We were subjected to a lot of mediocre carnival entertainment since then,” he said, until a group of local citizens organized Jacksonville’s fair, which would celebrate its sixth anniversary Nov. 9-19 at the Gator Bowl athletic complex.
Among the new attractions mentioned at the meeting were “The Atom and You,” an exhibit from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, a “greatly beefed up” military exhibit and free stadium entertainment each night of the fair. The nightly entertainment would include five high school football games, a square dance festival, fashion festival two large fireworks shows and another pyrotechnic display combined with an acrobatic act that would reach 60 feet in the air.
George Robinson, executive vice president of the fair association, said 1959’s record attendance might have gone much higher except for the cold, dank weather on more than half of the fair dates.
Watson said the Gator Bowl area was becoming “too cramped” for the fair, which had grown each year since it debuted in 1955.
“The rental is too high at the new coliseum ($500 a day) for us to consider improving our exhibits by moving them to a weatherproof area,” said Watson.
But he envisioned the purchase soon of a tract of land where permanent fair exhibit buildings could be constructed.
• The City Commission, under pressure from the Jacksonville Ministerial Alliance, abandoned plans to legalize the sale of alcoholic beverages in the municipal coliseum and auditorium.
In a compromise move, the commissioners proposed an ordinance which would permit private organizations renting the coliseum or auditorium to serve and consume intoxicants on the premises.
The commissioners had explained previously that they originally thought it might be desirable to permit the sale of beer at such coliseum events as prize fights and wrestling matches if such was desired by patrons, but not at functions predominantly attended by minors.
Mayor-Commissioner Haydon Burns made it clear that the commissioners never proposed to “put the City in the business of selling whisky,” but simply to allow private organizations to serve and consume liquor at their social functions.
• The Rotary International motto of “Service Above Self” was underscored at the Jacksonville club’s weekly luncheon when an appeal was made by leaders of the Community Chest-United Fund for active support of the 1960 CC-UF drive to raise more than $1.5 million.
Robert Feagin, CC-UF president and immediate past president of the Jacksonville Rotary Club, presided at the meeting and Luke Sadler, also a Rotarian and the 1960 CC-UF chair, delivered the principal address.
The meeting began “on a note of fun, frolic and barbershop quartet singing,” but Sadler quickly turned it toward a more serious vein.
“I feel very strongly about the serious business that is before us in this campaign,” he said. “Since last March, I have spent practically all my time preparing for this campaign, and it included visiting most of the 42 agencies that look to the CC-UF to finance their activities. I visited deplorable agencies, pathetic ones, ones with a distressing need for funds. I wish all of you could share these experiences with me. You should see them firsthand so you would know that every dime you give is urgently needed and helps the less fortunate of our community who need that help desperately.’’
• At the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Sheriff Dale Carson said he was trying to carry out a six-step program to prevent any more incidents or fights among juvenile prisoners at the Duval County Jail. However, he made it clear the jail was never intended to handle juveniles.
“The only real solution is to get the juveniles out of the jail, and to accomplish this, more money must be provided so the Juvenile Shelter can have the facilities to handle difficult juveniles,” he said.
Carson said there was only one cell to hold the juveniles at the jail and only 26 guards in the five-story facility, even though the building was designed for 100 guards.
Since a recent incident involving the beating of one juvenile in the cell, new procedures had been put in place, he said. Each juvenile was checked each morning by a visiting nurse and the matron on the mezzanine floor, where only women and juveniles were held, was to more frequently check the cell.
“And I’m trying to get a television set so there will be some form of recreation other than comic books in the windowless cell,” said carson. He also said the final step in improving the situation would be the piping in of music.
The juveniles remained in jail while awaiting trial or after conviction before they were sent to the Florida Industrial School in Marianna.
“Getting into Marianna seems to be harder than getting into Harvard, there is such a waiting list,” said Carson.
• A reluctant witness who invoked the Fifth Amendment in an effort to avoid testifying before a federal grand jury was ordered to answer the jury’s questions by U.S. District Court Judge Bryan Simpson.
Her subsequent testimony was followed with the return of an indictment against Joseph Thompson, 30, charging him with transporting the witness, 19-year-old Mary Ann Austin, from Savannah, Ga. to Jacksonville the previous May for the purposes of prostitution.
After the woman refused to answer any questions, the grand jury returned a special presentment to Simpson relating her refusal and asking for issuance of an order calling upon her to show cause why she had withheld her answers.
At a hearing on the order, Wayne Ripley, the woman’s attorney, declared she had invoked the Fifth Amendment on his advice, as he believed that if she admitted to having traveled to Jacksonville with Thompson, she could be indicted for conspiracy to violate the White Slave Traffic Act.
Assistant U.S. District Attorney John Briggs argued that the woman’s answers to the posed questions could not have tended to incriminate her in any federal charge, so she could not take refuge behind the Fifth Amendment. He declared federal courts had held that a woman cannot be charged with conspiracy in a white slave case where she had only acquiesced to the transportation and had not been active in arranging for the alleged violation or directing the activities that led to the white slave charge.
Briggs added that even if she had been a principal in the alleged law violation, her own testimony could not be used against her as the basis for a conspiracy charge. That would have to be established by another witness, he said.
Simpson did not hesitate in ruling that Austin had to answer the grand jury’s questions, but he quaified it to a degree by declaring that if the current grand jury or a subsequent one should indict her for conspiracy to violate the white slave act, based upon her testimony, she would have ground to move that the indictment be quashed.
Immediately following the hearing, the woman returned to the grand jury room and was questioned for 30 minutes. It was the last case for consideration by the jury during its session and the jury immediately returned the Thompson indictment and 23 others to Simpson.
Thompson was free under a $1,500 bond on the white slavery charge. The indictment involving him was the only one made public at the time.
• It was announced the new City Hall on Bay Street would be dedicated Oct. 23, followed by an open house.
City Commissioner Dallas Thomas said William S. Johnson, general manager of the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce, would be the principal speaker for the dedication. Thomas said ceremonies would include dedication of a holly tree donated to the City Hall grounds by the Duval County Council of the Camp Fire Girls, Inc. Music would be furnished by the Starlight Symphonette Orchestra under the direction of C. Carter Nice Jr.