Have you ever wondered what life was like in Jacksonville half a century ago? It was 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 1963. The items were compiled from the Jacksonville Public Library’s periodical archives by Staff Writer Max Marbut.
• State Sen. John E. Mathews of Jacksonville was chosen by his peers to be the “Most Valuable Member of the 1963 Legislature.” He also was selected by his colleagues as the “Most Outstanding First-timer” in that body.
Jacksonville’s elected officials on the other side of state government, Reps. Lynwood Arnold, Bill Basford, Tom Greene, Fred Schultz, Tom Slade, George Stallings Jr. and Harry Westberry, came away from the 1963 session with top honors as the most effective county delegation with four or more members.
• All six assistants working under County Solicitor Edward M. Booth received pay raises and R. Hudson Oliff was promoted to chief assistant solicitor.
A new state law set the salary for the chief assistant at $10,200 annually; first assistants at $9,800; second assistants at $8,500; and third assistants were paid $6,600 per year.
Before the law took effect June 1, Booth was authorized to have two first assistants at $8,600 a year, two second assistants at $7,600 and three third assistants at $6,000 each.
• The first major product of Jacksonville’s developing aerospace industry was completed by Gibbs Shipyards Inc.
The device, called a steam ejector, would be shipped by barge to Tullahoma, Tenn., the site of the U.S. Air Force’s Arnold Engineering and Development Center.
A major component of a vertical rocket testing chamber, the steam ejector would be used to create a vacuum to simulate atmospheric conditions at high altitude. The chamber, 100 feet in diameter and 250 feet deep, was under construction at Tullahoma.
Edwin H. Fletcher, president and general manager of Gibbs, said completion of the ejector was “the first visible evidence of Jacksonville’s participation in the space program.”
• A U.S. Navy officer stationed at Cecil Field Naval Air Station, who already was charged with embezzling Navy funds to purchase supplies he was sending to a farm in Lake Butler, was named in a new indictment charging him with conspiring with the farm owner to further the embezzlement.
The farm owner, Charles L. McCullough of Jacksonville, and Lt. Cmdr. Joseph R. Stroupe were named as co-conspirators and co-defendants in the conspiracy indictment, returned in Miami.
Stroupe was a veteran of 28 years in the Navy and served as the base’s special services officer with jurisdiction over the recreation fund. He was first arrested Feb. 7 on a charge of theft of government property.
The new indictment charged the conspiracy began before Dec. 6, 1961, and continued until about Feb. 5, 1963.
The 13-page document listed 44 overt acts attributed to the two involving purchase of farm supplies and equipment, ostensibly for use in the base’s recreation program, but which actually were delivered to the McCullough farm.
Stroupe and McCullough both were charged with ordering the equipment, with Stroupe specifically charged with having paid for it out of the base’s recreation fund.
The 44 overt acts were followed with 21 counts of specific embezzlements charged to Stroupe, involving funds amounting to $4,000.
In addition to charges of purchasing equipment from business houses, which Stroupe allegedly diverted to the farm, he was charged with transporting quantities of equipment from Cecil Field to the farm, including a converted bomb carrier used on the air station’s golf course.
• It was noted that with Magic Fingers Inc. and Rest Ease involved in a patent infringement suit in federal court in Jacksonville, some uneasy nights might be in the future for restless sleepers in Florida.
Both firms manufactured and distributed vibrating devices which were attached to the springs of beds or chairs. They were widely used in Florida motels, and shook the furniture upon the deposit of 25 cents in a coin receptacle.
In a suit filed in the U.S. District Court, Magic Fingers Inc. alleged that the equipment sold by Rest Ease was an infringement of patent rights. Magic Fingers also charged Rest Ease with violation of a contract it executed for distribution of Magic Fingers.
Magic Fingers contended the other firm in the contract agreed to make specific purchases of its equipment and distribute it in a designated territory. However, the complaint said, Rest Ease did not fulfill its purchase agreement.
Magic Fingers complained the contract was terminated when Rest Ease failed to make the initial purchase of equipment and, instead, began manufacturing its own coin-operated bed vibrator and distributing it.
Magic Fingers asked the court to award it $50,000 in damages, to enjoin Rest Ease against the complained-of practices and for an assessment of court costs and attorney’s fees.
• Two Beach patrol lifeguards were surrounded by a school of sharks after they swam out into the ocean to investigate an abandoned boat. They had to be rescued by a U.S. Navy helicopter.
The two men were unharmed but Mannie Beach and Jim Burns said the experience was “unnerving.”
Beach, 20, and Burns, 19, were on duty at the Jacksonville Beach Patrol lifeguard station when they received a call to investigate what appeared to be a partially submerged boat about a mile offshore.
“We were paddling and kicking our feet when I saw this fin. It was a shark about 6 feet long and it circled around and came within about three yards of us. That’s when we stopped paddling,” said Burns.
The two men found themselves in the middle of a school of pogies and that’s when more sharks showed up, they said.
“There must have been 50 of them. They were feeding on the pogies and a big ray kept slapping at the little fish and stunning them. That kept the sharks moving around, too,” Burns said.
An hour after they went into the water, a Navy patrol plane spotted the lifeguards surrounded by sharks and dispatched a helicopter from Mayport Naval Station to pluck the pair from the ocean.
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