50 years ago this week

  • By
  • | 12:00 p.m. January 4, 2010
  • | 5 Free Articles Remaining!
  • News
  • Share

Mayor announces gubernatorial campaign, Garden Club approves Downtown bus shelter design

Have you ever wondered what life was like in Jacksonville half a century 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 headlines then and today. As interesting as the similarities may be, so are the differences. These are some of the top stories from the week of Jan. 4-10, 1960. The items were compiled from the Jacksonville Public Library’s periodical archives by Staff Writer Max Marbut.

• Mayor-Commissioner Haydon Burns announced that he definitely would be a candidate for governor in the May Democratic primary campaigns.

The announcement came as no surprise to political observers since Burns had traveled extensively over the state during the previous several months appearing before various civic and business groups to tell the story of Jacksonville’s growth and downtown redevelopment program which he developed during his 11-year administration.

In his announcement the 47-year-old Burns pledged economy in government if he was elected. He also emphasized that he aimed to protect homestead exemption rights, create a cooperative atmosphere between the governor’s office and the Legislature in order to solve the reapportionment squabble, foster state assistance to municipalities and undeveloped small counties and institute reforms in administration of the State Road Department. Burns was credited with being the prime moving force behind Jacksonville’s $30 million municipal improvement program.

He said he decided to announce for governor after he and his wife, Mildred, and their two children “prayerfully considered all implications of the move and the further dedication to service that will be shared by each.”

Burns also said, “From all parts of the state, people have suggested that experience gained in the Jacksonville decade of progress story would be extremely valuable in building an all-Florida story of economic stability through payrolls, industry, public improvements and wholesome development.

“Owning its own utilities makes Jacksonville’s City budget the largest business operation in the entire state. The budget of $68 million annually is more than double the total state budget for the years 1939 or 1940.”

• It was reported permits for construction of facilities valued at nearly $30 million were issued by the City of Jacksonville Building Department during 1959. While the total was high it was a slump from the $36,161,855 recorded for 1958, which was the second-highest year in Jacksonville’s history.

Among the major permits was one for the pumping stations and treatment plant in the City’s sewer expansion program with a value of $3,042,800, the municipal coliseum ($2,859,635) and the $2 million, eight-story Jacobs Building.

The all-time record was set in 1954 when permits covering facilities valued at $41,206,690 were issued including the Prudential Insurance Company Building.

• Gator Bowl visitors from Arkansas and Georgia poured out of hotels after making perhaps the most favorable impression in the 15-year history of the game.

By nightfall after the game hotels which housed what was called the greatest influx of visitors since the game began getting telephone calls and telegrams from persons who left behind eyeglasses, car keys and briefcases.

Workers began cleaning the stadium of debris scattered by 45,104 fans, the largest crowd in Jacksonville football history.

Police said a number of Downtown Gator Bowl banners were torn down by rowdy youths. Several were apprehended, relieved of the banners and sent on their way with warnings.

However, hotel personnel agreed the Crystal Anniversary Gator Bowl guests “were the nicest ever.”

• The effectiveness of the Duval County Sheriff’s Posse was increased with the addition of tracking dogs. Two animals had been purchased and plans had been set in motion to purchase as many as three more, according to Elmer L. Rudd, who headed the volunteer mounted patrol with the rank of captain.

He said the overall plan was to have dogs trained in different tracking specialties and to have them located in various sections of the county so at least one dog could be transported to any area within minutes. The dogs would be trained for specific duties: one for tracking through residential areas, another through woods and another to work with posse members who were riding horses.

The 20-member mounted posse was formed in 1959 by Rudd. It was comprised entirely of volunteers who bought their own horses, transportation equipment and special uniforms. The posse received no County subsidies. The members raised operating funds with “horse frolics” and other projects.

• A disagreement among some members of the Jacksonville Beach City Council developed over a committee report recommending that the City not dispose of a piece of property near the Intracoastal Waterway.

Council member William Mabry’s objection to the report, which was made by Council member Moses B. Stormes, resulted in the body postponing action on the matter until all council members could personally investigate it.

Stormes’ committee report rejected the request of the Beach Marine Service to buy from the City land measuring about 100 by 100 feet on the east side of the McCormick Bridge for $4,000. The report said the City might need the property for its own use in the future. Mabry attacked the committee’s decision, stating that 98 percent of the land the firm wanted to buy was underwater and the remainder had a serious erosion problem.

The lively debate was cut off by Mayor I.D. Sams who said the entire council should go over the facts. The matter was carried over until the next meeting Jan. 18.

• County Engineer John H. Crosby was instructed by the Duval County Commission to draw up the details for the County’s application for rezoning of Blount Island for a proposed port and industrial development.

The action came in the wake of reported offers by industrial firms to buy plots on the 1,300-acre island. Two companies had made firm commitments to build projects on the island, County Commissioner Joseph B. Mallard Sr., Duval County Port and Industrial Authority chair, said.

A special closed meeting was called for the following week to discuss the two offers and several others.

• Jacksonville voters by a four-to-one margin approved issuance of revenue certificates totaling $30 million to finance improvement and expansion of the City Electric Department. Only 3,496 of the city’s 74,389 registered voters went to the polls, despite perfect weather.

City officials were confident of the outcome from the outset. City employees, spurned on by their supervisors, rallied to the support of the cause. The certificate issue was also sanctioned by the Executive Committee of the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Jacksonville Board of Realtors. The revenue certificate issue had a big selling point: holding down the level of ad valorem tax rate. Its disadvantage was paying interest running into many millions of dollars, possibly as much as the principal amount of $30 million.

• Statistics issued by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta verified a solid business boom in the Jacksonville area, where department store sales the week ending Dec. 26 were 44 percent greater than sales during the same week of 1958. The one-week climb in sales activity was the greatest ever recorded in the Sixth Federal Reserve District.

Jacksonville also led the South in sales increase during the four-week period ending Dec. 26 with a 23 percent gain.

• It was reported at a meeting of the Parking, Traffic and Public Transportation Committee of the Downtown Council that shoppers and merchants alike were more than pleased with the free shuttle bus service in the Downtown area.

Shopper acceptance and support of the shuttle bus service, which was sponsored by the Downtown Council, was emphasized when R. Frank Gay, chair for public transportation activities of the committee, read to members the results of a survey of 7,000 women.

“All of the women who were contacted on the telephone were high in their praise of the shuttle bus whether they knew of it by personal experience or by reputation,” he said.

Twenty-seven percent of the women contacted in the survey had personally availed themselves of the service and 89 percent either had ridden the bus or had a friend or relative who had. Seventy-four percent of the women surveyed favored faster service which would be made possible by the addition of a second bus. During the holiday shopping season a second bus was added as a temporary measure.

Gay also reported that since the shuttle bus went into service Sept. 14 there had been 128,400 passengers on it.

Ralph Griffin, general manager of the Jacksonville Coach Company, said the shuttle bus was having a good overall effect on the bus business.

“More people are learning to ride the bus and the shuttle bus and eliminate parking worries,” he said.

Merchants who were not on the immediate route of the bus appeared at the meeting to request a rerouting to include their stores. The merchants making the request were all located just west of Main Street on Forsyth Street.

• In other mass transit news, the City Commission authorized construction of four shelters for bus patrons in the municipal waterfront parking lot. The shelters had been requested by the Downtown Council to primarily serve passengers waiting for the Downtown shuttle bus.

City Engineer Bill Bryant told the commissioners that construction of the shelters would require all of the $3,000 the City had appropriated for the project.

The design of the shelters, as devised by Bryant’s office, had been approved by the Downtown Council and the Garden Club of Jacksonville.



Special Offer: $5 for 2 Months!

Your free article limit has been reached this month.
Subscribe now for unlimited digital access to our award-winning business news.