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.
• The firm of Reynolds, Smith and Hills, architects and engineers, was awarded the contract to design a new federal building in Jacksonville. The announcement was made by U.S. Sens. Spessard Holland and George Smathers and U.S. Rep. Charles E. Bennett.
The amount of the contract was not announced, but it was let on a lump-sum bid rather than on a percentage of cost.
The Downtown site for the new building, already purchased by the federal government from the Seaboard Air Line Railroad Co., was a 136,000-square-foot block bordered by Bay Street, Pearl Street, Water Street and a planned extension of Clay Street.
“Although a number of highly qualified Florida firms with an imposing list of out-of-state organizations competed for this important job, I am greatly pleased that the contract was awarded to one of our state firms. This new federal building will be an important addition to the Jacksonville business community, undoubtedly bringing with it new people and increased payrolls,” said Holland.
• A U.S. District Court injunction prohibiting private owners of the Brentwood and Hyde Park golf courses, former municipal courses, from banning African-Americans became effective.
Fred Ghioto, owner of the Hyde Park course, reported that on the first day the order was in effect, 18 African-Americans played without incident after paying $5 nonmember greens fees.
At the Brentwood course, available only to members, owner Roland Hurley said several African-Americans asked for and were given membership applications.
Ghioto said a membership payment schedule went into effect Jan. 1 at Hyde Park. Full membership fees were raised from $210 to $300 per year, which covered all greens fees. Part-time membership was raised from $30 to $75 a year plus $2 greens fees. The nonmember greens fee was raised from $3.50 to $5.
Hurley said there also had been an increase in membership fees at Brentwood, but declined to offer details.
“We feel that this is a private club and that advertising our membership rates is just not the thing to do. I don’t know of any members-only golf club that does that. Anyone interested in becoming a member has only to ask and he will be given all the information we have,” Hurley said.
The injunctive decree signed Jan. 8 by U.S. District Judge Bryan Simpson prohibited any racial discrimination on the premises and directed that African-Americans be given equal privileges with white patrons. The decree was based on the theory that the new owners of the golf courses were made agents of the City of Jacksonville by a reverter clause in the sales contract. The clause provided that the courses would revert to the City if they were ever used for any purpose other than golf.
• Duval County won another round for full ownership of Blount Island.
County Attorney J. Henry Blount, for whom the island near Dames Point was named, informed the Board of County Commissioners that the District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee had turned down a petition to rehear a case in which three Jacksonville residents claimed they owned part of the island.
Blount told the board he knew of no valid ground the three might have to ask the Florida Supreme Court to review the case. He said it was his belief the “struggle for control of the island” was finished and the County could proceed with plans to develop the island as a port and industrial complex.
“I hope this finished it. I can’t tell for sure, but I can’t conceive of any ground they might have,” Blount said.
The District Court already had affirmed a ruling in which Circuit Judge Marion W. Gooding threw out a claim by Mr. and Mrs. Pembroke Huckins and Elizabeth Payne, who claimed ownership of Coon Point, a 600-acre section of the 1,500-acre island.
They claimed ownership of the section based on a series of conveyances that began in 1816, when mainland in the area was granted to Andrew Atkinson by royal title from the King of Spain.
Prior to Gooding’s ruling, the federal courts declined to consider the merits of the Huckins-Payne claims on the basis it was not a matter for the federal judiciary to decide.
• Louis H. Ritter said he would seek election as mayor in the spring elections but also would seek re-election as commissioner of highways, sewers and airports.
Ritter, 37, said he had been considering opposing Mayor Haydon Burns for the City’s top political office in the April primary election. He said a petition signed by more than 500 City employees in his departments asking that he seek re-election was a strong influence in his decision.
Burns said he would run for re-election, but that he would be a candidate for governor in 1964.
• The Municipal Zoo realized a profit in 1962 of more than $40,000, the largest in its history, said Finance Commissioner Dallas L. Thomas.
He said the profit came from City-owned concessions and from commissions on leased amusement rides.
Revenue generated by operation of the zoo was placed in a capital improvement revolving account and could only be used for improvements at the zoo and acquisition of animals, Thomas said.
• Mayor Haydon Burns, participating in the Silver Sailfish Derby in West Palm Beach, landed a 7-foot, 6.5-inch fish and won the daily derby prize.
Burns landed the fish on the opening day of the three-week offshore angling event. He also was on the scoreboard for having taken the heaviest fish on light tackle. Burns was using 30-pound test line.