Have you ever wondered what stories made headlines in Jacksonville 50 years 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 the news in 1958 and today. As interesting as the similarities may be, so are the differences. These are some of the top stories published in the Florida Times-Union 50 years ago this week. The items were compiled from the Jacksonville Public Library’s periodical archives by Staff Writer Max Marbut.
• An ex-policeman who was free on $1,000 bond pending a Criminal Court trial on charges of burglarizing outdoor telephones while he was on the force was identified as the driver of a car which fled the scene of a pay phone burglary. Fuller Warren Crews was named by Patrolmen A.R. James and L.C. Williams as one of three men who fled the scene of the burglary at 26th and Grunthal streets. Several police cars joined in a chase, but the fugitives eluded them. Crews was also accused of being the driver of a car which was observed on Oct. 9 and Oct. 14 at the scene of telephone burglaries.
• The City Commission called for bids to be submitted Jan. 27 on construction of the main line in the City’s $15 million sewer expansion program. Commissioner Louis H. Ritter said the cost of facilities on which bids would be submitted was $3.75 million. The work was described as “the first phase of a long-range program” to connect all homes in the city that were not served by sanitary sewers.
• County Solicitor Lacy Mahon Jr. announced the resignation of two of his assistants and the promotion of two other assistants to fill the positions. Vacating their $8,600-a-year first assistant posts were John L. Briggs and Norman P. Freedman. Edward M. Booth would step up from second assistant to first as would Hans G. Tanzler Jr., who was previously a third assistant. Mahon also announced that R. Hudson Oliff and Carlton P. Maddox would take over as second assistants at a salary of $7,600 per year.
• On Dec. 31, a 73-year-old pedestrian was struck by a car and killed at Main Street near 10th Street, less that a block from his home. It was the seventh traffic fatality in Duval County in the last seven days and the 99th of the year.
• The promoter of a “national championship rodeo” was arrested on charges of obtaining money under false pretenses and misleading advertising shortly before the show was scheduled to open at the Jacksonville baseball park. Lawrence Henry Sunbrock of Orlando was booked on the charges at the City jail then transferred to the County jail on a warrant issued by Justice of the Peace Dorcas B. Drake. Sunbrock’s arrest came after a “closed door conference” with Mayor Haydon Burns and County Solicitor Lacy Mahon Jr. Earlier, Dennis Weaver, the actor who played “Chester” on the television series “Gunsmoke,” notified police he would not appear at the show as billed. Weaver said he understood he was to appear at the “Gator Bowl Jamboree” which he said Sunbrock had described to him as “a big party at the George Washington Hotel” the night before the football game. Weaver said when he arrived at Imeson Airport, he learned the game had been played four days earlier and the Gator Bowl Association had no connection with the rodeo.
• Volunteer workers using borrowed earth-moving equipment began roughing out the first nine holes of Jacksonville Beach’s new 18-hole golf course. The course was laid out on a 167-acre tract of City-owned land on South Penman Road. Money to complete the first nine holes would be obtained from the sale of surplus land surrounding the links which was being subdivided into lots for sale to the public for $3,000 each.
• It was reported that Jacksonville had its second most prosperous construction year in history in 1958 with building permits issued to cover facilities valued at $36,161,855. The record at the time, $41,208,690, had been set in 1954 when permits were issued for the construction of the Prudential Insurance Company of America office building (now the Aetna Building) on the Southbank.
• The Junior League was the local sponsor for an event that made national music education history. It was announced that 26,000 Duval County school children would watch a music program on television, the first in a series of 13 programs that would be broadcast on WJCT, Jacksonville’s “educational television station.” The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Dr. James Christian Pfohl, was to provide the music. The program also included a puppet named “Mike Sharp” who was designed by Mrs. William E. Arnold Jr., who was identified as “chairman of puppets for the Junior League.”
• Lt. Col. Elvin Seth Ligon, 79, former head of the academic department at The Bolles School, died at his home in Gulfport after a long illness. He retired from the school in 1952.