The motion picture "Chamber of Horrors" was being shown at the Cedar Hills and Town and Country theaters. It was noted that before scenes some audience members might find shocking, a red "fear flasher' would appear on the screen. A few seconds later a...

50 years ago this week: Federal officials clamp down on Winn-Dixie Stores Inc.

By: 
Sep. 19, 2016

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 1966. The items were compiled from the Jacksonville Public Library’s periodical archives by Staff Writer Max Marbut.

• In Washington, D.C., the Federal Trade Commission clamped a virtual freeze on further acquisitions and mergers by two of the nation’s largest food firms.

In separate consent orders, the commission banned Jacksonville-based Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. and American Bakeries Co. of Chicago from acquiring more companies in the same line of business for 10 years without prior approval from the commission.

The orders were for settlement purposes only and did not constitute an admission by either firm of any wrongdoing, the commission said.

The FTC held that mergers and acquisitions were responsible in large part for the concentration in the grocery and wholesale bakery industries.

Both orders stemmed from commission complaints against two acquisitions by Winn-Dixie and one by the bakery.

In the Winn-Dixie complaint, the commission charged anti-trust violations in the 1962 acquisition of Hill Grocery Co. Inc., a 35-store chain with headquarters in Birmingham, Ala., and the 1964 acquisition of nine grocery stores operated in Birmingham by Colonial Stores Inc. of Atlanta.

In addition to lessening competition in local Alabama markets, the complaint said the two acquisitions contributed to the overall trend for concentration in the food and grocery store industries.

Winn-Dixie President Burt Thomas said the ruling would have no effect on the company’s operations, potential profits or growth.

He said since past mergers and acquisitions were not affected, the consent order had the “principal, practical effect” of clearing past acquisitions from future challenges.

“Winn-Dixie has completed the best year in its history from the standpoint of sales and earnings and we expect the trend to continue,” Thomas said.

The commission reported Winn-Dixie was seventh in sales among U.S. grocery chains in 1966, with receipts of $905 million, and as of July 27, operated 631 retail stores.

• Justice Davis of 1512 W. 35th St. said goodbye to Room 367 as a nurse prepared to roll him down the hall and through the front door of Brewster Methodist Hospital.

When the door closed, the final chapter was written in the hospital’s history, as Davis was the last patient to be released from the facility.

Marcus Drews, hospital administrator, said much of the staff already had left and more would leave after Davis departed, ending with a closing crew of about 25.

The decision to close the hospital, which served the African-American community before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 opened all hospitals to all patients, was made by the Methodist Board of Missions because of increasingly fewer patients and a rising monthly deficit.

• Mayor Lou Ritter promised he would make “every effort” to secure a $25 monthly clothing allowance for police officers, effective Oct. 1.

Ritter, however, refused to commit himself to a proposed $51.50 monthly pay raise for the officers, including those on the night watch.

Issuing a stern warning against a threatened police march on City Hall or adoption of a “no-see policy” toward minor violations of law, Ritter also revealed Assistant Chief R.R. Blanton would replace 36 men who were on the night watch, effective Nov. 1.

Ritter, Blanton, Police Chief L.A. Reynolds and representatives of the Fraternal Order of Police met with officers of the night watch, who demanded the clothing allowance and pay raise and that they be returned to shift rotations.

“Disciplinary action will be taken. I’m not worried about getting additional help to keep the situation in hand,” Ritter said as he warned the officers against taking overt action.

On another matter, Ritter, backed by his Airport Advisory Committee, asked City Council for $6,000 for the development of a plan to use Imeson Airport as an industrial park after Jacksonville International Airport opened.

The new airport was under construction and scheduled to open in 1968.

If council approved, the plan would be drawn up by Barbour & Cooper of Asheville, N.C. The firm was the consulting planner for the Jacksonville-Duval Area Planning Board.

“Development of a first-class industrial park would add greatly to the chamber of commerce sales package for the Jacksonville area,” said James Lumpkins, an advisory committee member.

• A City Council special committee began the process of searching for a new name for Dallas Thomas Park and Marina.

The committee was appointed after a group of veterans asked council to dedicate the park along the south bank of the St. Johns River Downtown as a memorial to the nation’s war dead.

A move to eliminate the names of living people from city facilities started after several city officials were indicted by the Duval County grand jury on charges of grand larceny and perjury.

Thomas resigned as city commissioner after he was indicted.

Also proposed was removing council member Lemuel Sharp’s name from a new public library in Northwest Jacksonville.

Sharp was at the meeting and said he would not oppose removal of his name from the facility.

Council member Laverne Reynolds said he would ask the Duval County Legislative Delegation to amend the City Charter to provide a simple means to remove from office any official indicted by a grand jury.

During its 1966 investigation of city affairs, the grand jury indicted, in addition to Thomas, council members Cecil Lowe and W.O. Mattox Jr.; George Robinson Sr., former director of the city Recreation Department; and former city Auditor John Hollister, who resigned after being indicted.

“I strongly feel that this will safeguard future generations and officials in the city from any delay of removal and close a legal loophole. This can only serve the best interest of our city government and community,” Reynolds said.

In a letter to council, Tom Slade, Republican candidate for state Senate, applauded Reynolds’ proposal.

He said if he was elected, he would introduce legislation calling for prompt removal from office of any public official who was indicted by a grand jury.

“I was exceedingly grateful for your forthright stand. Obviously, the community cannot prosper under the direction of public officials who do not enjoy public trust,” Slade wrote.

• The Jacksonville Beach City Council approved a proposal under which the Union News Co. of New York would complete and operate an oceanfront restaurant to be built by the city.

The firm offered the only bid to operate the restaurant and the council agreed to accept the offer as soon as Union News confirmed in writing it would assume a $128,500 share of the construction cost.

Once the contract was signed, council would approve another deal with O.P. Woodcock Co. of Jacksonville to build the restaurant at a cost of $303,300 with the city covering the balance after Union News’ contribution.

Woodcock submitted the low bid, but the city wanted to be sure it had an operator before awarding the construction contract.

Union News indicated it would spend about $400,000 to complete, furnish and equip the restaurant. It also would pay the city a percentage of gross sales from the operation.

• Jacksonville University’s golf course was dedicated with guests introduced by college President Robert Spiro and Guy Botts, chairman of the board of trustees.

Presentation of the nine-hole, par-3 course by Athletic Director Rollie Rourke was followed by a ribbon-cutting with Alexander Brest wielding the scissors.

The ceremony ended with a golf exhibition by the foursome of Maurice Walsh, Wes Paxson, John Montgomery and Gary Holmes.

• With backing from the Duval County Democratic Executive Committee, school board nominee Don Wells, who was facing an organized write-in opposition, protested a plan to put his name on a paper ballot for the Nov. 8 general election.

After hearing Wells’ protest that he was being discriminated against, the Board of County Commissioners asked Supervisor of Elections Robert Mallard and County Attorney J. Henry Blount to consult the Florida secretary of state and attorney general to determine if it would be legal to  use two voting machines so all candidates’ names could be listed on the machines.

Before Wells lodged his protest, Mallard advised the board there wasn’t enough room on one machine for all general election candidates.

Therefore, he said, the names of six unopposed Democrats — three school board candidates and three county civil service board candidates — would have to go on paper ballots.

Mallard said the precise order in which the names of candidates would appear on the official ballot was spelled out in a 1965 amendment to the election code adopted by the Legislature.

Under that law, the order was county commissioners, school board and civil service board.

• The 1966 NFL season opened with the Dallas Cowboys defeating the New York Giants 52-7.

It was noted that quarterback “Dandy” Don Meredith threw for 358 yards and five touchdowns.

Jacksonville’s own “Bullet” Bob Hayes, generally regarded as “the world’s fastest human,” was Meredith’s chief target. He caught six passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns.