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.
• Tuesday morning, 102,000 students were expected to answer the roll call at Duval County’s 114 public schools. A staff of 3,946 teachers and 1,450 non-instructional employees had been preparing for the first day of school for weeks.
The school year was expected to get off to its most congested start in local school history with approximately 20,000 of the students forced by crowded conditions to take turns studying in four-hour daily shifts.
Five secondary and 25 elementary schools would hold the split classes. Only one school had 100 percent enrollment in double sessions: the building shared temporarily by Hyde Grove and Hyde Park elementary schools. Others with more than 80 percent on double sessions included Darnell-Cookman and John E. Ford elementary schools.
The double sessions would pose the greatest challenge facing the school system in 1960, but some relief was anticipated in the fall when about 25 percent of the alternating students would transfer to new schools as their construction was completed.
It was noted that Duval County’s public schools represented 2.5 percent of all the nation’s double-session students.
“I knew we had more than our share, but I didn’t know we were that bad off,” said School Superintendent Ish Brant.
• Truman Power was sentenced to life imprisonment by Circuit Judge William H. Maness on Power’s plea of guilty to second-degree murder in the gun slaying of his wife.
Power, 49, was indicted for first-degree murder in the shooting of his wife, Patricia, 41, in the couple’s home at 9741 Tiffany Ave. on June 15. Power entered his plea to the lesser charge the day before he was sentenced.
Assistant State Attorney Richard Gordie placed Charlie I. Brown of 1422 Brandemeer Court on the stand as the only state witness to the shooting.
Brown testified he was called to the home by Mrs. Power and when Brown arrived, her husband met him at the door with two loaded and cocked Derringer pistols. Power escorted Brown to a table in the house and told him to sit. Then Mrs. Power came in and Power told her to get a large automatic pistol from another room.
When the woman returned with the pistol, which was holstered, she sat down at the table with Brown and began telling Brown that her husband had beaten her. Power stepped up to the table, Brown said, and shot his wife in the right side with one of the two single-shot guns. When Power reached for another pistol, Brown said he left and called police.
Power was represented at the hearing by Dan Stubbs Jr. and had no comment when Maness asked if he had anything to say before sentencing.
• The completely redesigned May-Cohens department store (now City Hall on Duval Street) was visited by officials of the nationally owned firm.
Most departments in the three-story St. James Building had been relocated, said Ralph Doughton, president and general manager. He also was a vice president of May Department Stores, owners and operators of May-Cohens.
The store had more than 80 departments and employed more than 800 people.
• The City Planning Advisory Board deferred adoption of a standard zoning policy that would be aimed at keeping the Expressway borders free of advertising billboards.
The board’s vice president, O.E. Harrell, made the motion to delay a decision until more members could be on hand and viewpoints on both sides of the question could be presented.
The question of allowing advertising billboards along the Expressway arose at the board’s Aug. 11 meeting, when the board voted to recommend to the City Commission that three rezoning applications be rejected. Each of the applications asked for business zoning of three small parcels of land in residential areas bordering the Expressway in the vicinity of Seventh Street and Mt. Herman Cemetery. Each of the parcels was residue of property taken by the Expressway Authority for right-of-way purposes. By taking its stand, the board apparently served notice that it would recommend against approval of similar applications in the future where a residential area was concerned.
• Three men trapped inside a closed supermarket surrendered to police under a barrage of tear gas. Several gas-masked officers flushed the trio from Setzer’s at 1950 San Marco Blvd. after a three-hour search of the building.
A resident who lived near the market touched off the search when she called police and reported hearing glass shatter in a rear door. Two officers arrived on the scene and guarded exits until Elmo Johnson, manager of the store, arrived.
Then four more officers arrived and aided in the search but failed to find the intruders until Patrolman H.M. Nelson saw a foot break through an acoustical ceiling when one of the burglars lost his balance while hiding in a loft.
When the intruders failed to heed warnings to come out, police fired five tear gas shells into the loft, which caused one of the men to surrender. Police donned gas masks and found his two accomplices in a compartment separated from the loft near the front of the building.
• Walter F. Johnson of Fort Pierce was named Jacksonville Beach city manager by a 6-1 vote of the City Council, with the dissenting vote cast by Council member William S. Mabry.
Johnson, 54, had been in the construction business since resigning as city manager of Fort Pierce in 1958. He had also been a city manager in Emporia, Atchison and Abilene, Kan. He would be paid $10,400 per year plus $600 in expenses and was the city’s third manager in less than a year.
Johnson succeeded Wilson Wingate, who died Aug. 21.
• The Jacksonville Civic Round Table adopted a resolution to request each of its 70 member organizations to ask the City Commission to appoint a citizens committee to study Jacksonville’s participation in the federal urban renewal program.
The resolution followed a similar action taken several months earlier by the Downtown Council of the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce.
Speaker at the meeting was Frederick H. Schultz, general chairman of the Downtown Council. He described the organization of the council and outlined some of its problems and projects and listed its achievements.
In a question period following his presentation, Schultz was asked about the possibility of Jacksonville’s participation in the federal program.
“One thing is certain,” he said. “This problem needs serious consideration and it needs it now. We can no longer afford to sit and wait. We must plan for the future.”
Schultz added that conservative estimates made on a national basis revealed that for every dollar spent by the federal government in the program, $8 were spent by private investment in the cleared areas.
• A designer’s fashion show was scheduled for Sept. 19 at the George Washington Hotel to benefit the Pine Castle School and the Women’s Guild of the Jacksonville Symphony Association.
Pine Castle would apply the benefit money toward the purchase of a school bus, film projector and paint sprayer and compressor. The guild said it would use its share of the proceeds to benefit the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.
• The Macclenny City Commission adopted a master plan of improvement which would establish the first zoning and building codes in the city’s history.
City Manager Frank Wells said the commission had planned to hold a series of hearings on the master plan before its adoption. He said after two meetings in which no queries or complaints were received, the commission decided to adopt the resolution setting the plan into action.