50 years ago this week: Proposed dinner theater controversy
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 1967. The items were compiled from the Jacksonville Public Library’s periodical archives by Associate Editor Max Marbut.
Proposed dinner theater controversy
Such a venture was planned on a two-acre parcel on the south side of Beach Boulevard east of Huffman Boulevard, near the proposed site of a campus for Florida Junior College at Jacksonville.
The plan ran into opposition from some residents in the area who felt the dinner theater would be a good idea, but objected to alcoholic beverages.
A number of homeowners attended the monthly meeting of the Duval County Zoning Board to protest a proposed rezoning that would be one step toward establishing the theater.
Manor Theatres Inc. wanted to purchase the tract to build the $200,000 venue. The company’s president, Ted Johnson, and his attorney, Barry Zisser, appeared before the board in quest of the rezoning and responded to the opponents.
Zisser said a special act permitting a liquor license for the dinner theater was pending before the Duval County Legislative Delegation. He said it ruled out any possible transfer of the license to an operation such as a cocktail lounge or a package store.
Zisser said customers would be charged $6 each for dinner and a “top-flight show by Broadway performers.” If a patron wanted “a drink or two with his dinner,” he added, the amount would be added to his tab and drinks would be served only with meals.
Plans called for a 350-seat dining room and theater with dinner served buffet style. After the dishes were cleared, a stage would come out of a wall and the show would begin.
Johnson said that would eliminate the necessity for theater-goers to make two stops, first at a restaurant and then at a theater.
Auditors question city practices
Observations of invoice splitting were included in an audit report completed for the city
The accounting firm Milligan and Burke toned down positive statements with negative statements.
“Our examination of the financial statements indicates that the accounting records comply with the city’s charter laws and ordinances. However, it is our opinion that the accounting records do not comply with generally accepted municipal accounting procedures in several categories,” the report stated.
“It is not intended to infer,” the accountants wrote, “that the accounting practices of every department are considered below an acceptable standard. To the contrary, the accountings of the utility departments, which have had independent audits for a number of years, are generally acceptable but subject to improvement. The accounting procedures and controls of certain departments — notably that of the city treasurer – indicate a high level of administrative competence.”
The report cited a number of instances of invoice splitting, apparently to circumvent laws that required purchases of more than $1,500 to be made only through competitive bids.
In addition, bid documentation could not be located for some purchases made during the first six months of 1966.
The report also said material had occasionally been invoiced by a vendor before written purchase orders had been issued, meaning arrangements were made to purchase before authority had been granted.
In one case, a purchase was invoiced before the funds transfer resolution was adopted and several weeks before a purchase order was issued.
Near the end of the report, the accountants said: “As may have been expected, the city has not been fully prepared to meet this independent review and appraisal of its records and procedures.”
It was noted it was the first outside audit of the city in many years. It came about as result of a direction by the 1965 Legislature that the city would provide annual audits by independent certified public accounts.
AT&T to add $1 million payroll
A $1 million payroll would be added to Jacksonville’s economy in 1968 when the American Telephone & Telegraph Co. opened an office that would handle most of the nation’s calls to the Caribbean and Central and South America.
The new facility, to be located on Beach Boulevard, would ensure “greater prominence and stature in world trade,” said L.E. Rast, vice president and general manager of Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Co. in Florida.
The announcement of AT&T’s fifth overseas operating center was made by Rast and Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce President W. Ashley Verlander at the chamber’s offices on Hogan Street.
Mayor orders illegal signs seized
Mayor Lou Ritter said a four-man detail of city employees had been assigned to remove illegally posted political signs and advertisements.
But, he added, they would work only in daylight hours.
“If anyone’s doing it at night, they’re not doing it for the city,” Ritter said.
Members of City Council had urged Ritter to enforce the city ordinance prohibiting campaign materials on public property such as utility poles, lamp posts, trees and buildings.
At the end of each day, signs that were confiscated would be taken to police headquarters, where candidates or their representatives could retrieve them.
Fire damages meat in warehouse
A smoldering fire in the cork lining of a frozen storage locker challenged efforts of fire fighters for more than two hours as meat, valued about $750,000, thawed.
They used electric saws and pry bars to rip a collapsed overhead quick-freezing unit and the wooden walls from the Jax Ice & Cold Storage Co. locker at 1429 W. 16th St.
Frank Ellison, company superintendent, said a watchman discovered the fire while making a check of the locker containing between $700,000 and $800,000 of frozen beef and pork.
Officials attributed the fire to an electrical short in one of the overhead fans, which burned until the freezing unit collapsed onto stacks of meat in cardboard boxes.