50 years ago this week

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  • | 12:00 p.m. September 27, 2010
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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 differences may be, so are the similarities. These are some of the top stories from this week in 1960. The items were compiled from the Jacksonville Public Library’s periodical archives by Staff Writer Max Marbut.

• Plans for the new main library building designed by the architectural firm of Hardwick and Lee were shown to the public for the first time. Mayor Haydon Burns called the proposed library “one of the most needed City services” and said residents would have the opportunity to vote the library into reality early in 1961.

“The building that you see in this sketch was designed to be airy, inviting and cheerful,” said architect Taylor Hardwick. “It will be constructed with durable, low-maintenance materials. We have designed a flexible building that can adapt to future needs.”

In March 1960, the City administration approved the site of the old City Hall at Ocean and Adams streets for the proposed library.

“We still have an area of community responsibility which must be met in providing the City of Jacksonville with an adequate library, and the sound state of the City’s finances at this time makes approval of the library a sound business proposal,” Burns said at a luncheon attended by more than 400 people at the Mayflower Hotel.

Burns said the estimated cost of the new facility, including construction and books, would be about $5 million and could go as high as $5.25 million. He also said the total bonded indebtedness of the City was only $2,321,000 in general revenue bonds at the time and noted that the City of Miami had a bonded indebtedness of more than $32 million.

“We live in one of the most progressive cities in the country and have a notable list of accomplishments without having resorted to ad valorem taxes for municipal improvements, but we have done all we can do without money. I recommend that with our City finances in such excellent condition, you can now undertake improvements,” said Burns.

“Great strides and great progress have been made under our current City administration. I truly do not believe there ever has been a comparable period of progress in the history of Jacksonville. This library will be second to none in the Southeast and may be second to none in the entire United States,” said Cecil Bailey, president of the Board of Library Trustees.

The library would be financed by the sale of general obligation bonds payable through ad valorem taxes.

• Vice President Richard Nixon announced the appointment of Jacksonville insurance executive Claude Kirk Jr. as head of the statewide organization, Florida Volunteers for Nixon-Lodge.

The group had been formed to work among Democratic and independent voters in an attempt to win their support for the Republican ticket of Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge.

“The Nixon-Lodge ticket reflects what Southerners stand for,” said Kirk. “Strong and experienced international leadership and democratic policies oriented toward a noncentral federal government.”

Kirk, who would later be elected governor of Florida, was president of the American Heritage Life Insurance Co. and lived at 2127 River Road.

Co-chairs for North Florida were Jacob F. Bryan III and William Catlin.

• An ordinance that would lift the ban on the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages in the new municipal coliseum and auditorium and at the City’s airports was introduced to the City Commission. The legislation was referred to the Laws and Rules committee and the Officers, Police and Prison Farm committee.

City law in effect at the time banned the sale of any alcoholic beverage containing more than 1 percent of alcohol by weight on any municipal property except the Jacksonville Baseball Park, where beer was allowed.

When the proposed ordinance was introduced, City Commissioner Claude Smith said that a number of private organizations desiring to rent the coliseum and auditorium had inquired whether consumption of alcoholic beverages would be allowed in the new facilities during private functions.

Also on the commission’s agenda was a bill calling for bids to be submitted by Oct. 18 on an interim improvement program for the undeveloped land on the Southbank between the Acosta and Main Street bridges.

The work, estimated to cost $55,000, would include grading 12 acres, extending storm and sanitary sewers, constructing boat launching ramps, paving, planting grass and installing a sprinkler system.

Parks Commissioner Dallas Thomas said the project’s hoped-for second stage, slated for 1961, would include bulkheading, construction of permanent walkways and promenades, building an illuminated fountain and possibly a small amphitheater.

• Duval County’s $35 million school construction bond election was given a knockout blow by the Florida Supreme Court. The high court affirmed a decision by Circuit Judge John McNatt, who refused to validate the bond issue earlier in the year after local voters had approved it in December 1959.

In a unanimous opinion written by Justice E. Harris Drew, the tribunal agreed with McNatt that three points of law were violated in the special referendum. However, one portion of McNatt’s decree was reversed.

The points concurred were: That the voter registration books were not open the 30 days prior to the election, that the books were not closed 14 days prior to the election and that the legal advertising notifying the public of the election was made only once instead of four consecutive weeks as required.

The justices discarded the school board’s argument that the books were open the 30-day period if Sundays and holidays were included. The court said it was the intent of the Legislature that electors have the full 30 days to register under the statute and that Sundays and holidays should not be counted for the 14-day period prior to the referendum.

It was noted that in a county the size of Duval, the requirement “that over 84,000 persons otherwise qualified should reregister in one office, in one building, in 30 days may not even satisfy that requirement.”

The opinion also discarded the school board’s argument that the widespread publicity appearing in the press, on television and radio constituted substantial notice of the election

The court said that a special election, particularly one which might require additional taxation, must be conducted in substantial compliance with the statutes, which required notice by publication four consecutive weeks.

“Newspaper articles or comments cannot lawfully substitute for the mandatory requirements of the law,” the court said.

The justices pointed out that the 6,190 persons who did not appear on the list of reregistered voters and who were allowed to cast ballots were not in violation of the statutes as ruled in McNatt’s decree. It said the court did not interpret the law to be violated when a voter appeared at the polls on election day to establish his freeholder status.

A total of 18,723 voted in favor of the bonds and 8,741 against.

The school board instructed its attorney to prepare legal advertising of its intent to place on the Nov. 8 general election ballot the question of a new, similar bond issue.