50 years ago: Jacksonville's mayor elected governor of Florida

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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 1964. The items were compiled from the Jacksonville Public Library’s periodical archives by Staff Writer Max Marbut.

• Jacksonville Mayor Haydon Burns was elected governor by a landslide over his Republican opponent, Charles Holley.

Burns’ margin of victory was nearly 220,000 votes after what was described as “a hard-fought campaign such as no other Democratic gubernatorial nominee has had to put on in Florida.”

After the results were known, Burns pledged to be “governor of the entire state” when he addressed his victory party in the Municipal Coliseum.

“After the election, we are no longer Democrats or Republicans until the next election. We are fellow Floridians who share and face the same problems. They will be solved in a manner complimentary to the great state in which we live,” said Burns.

• U.S. Rep. Charles E. Bennett was re-elected by a 2-1 margin, despite a strong campaign from attorney and Republican Charles Stockton.

“I am very deeply grateful for the tremendous kindness shown me by all the volunteers and voters who helped me in this election. It will inspire me to do everything I possibly can to justify this expression of faith,” Bennett said.

• Voters in suburban areas turned down an invitation to become part of Jacksonville, although their neighbors in the city limits welcomed them by a wide margin.

The annexation proposal failed in all six zones adjoining the municipality just as one did in four areas in 1962.

Rejection of the measure meant that Jacksonville would not become Florida’s largest city. The 196,724 people living in the areas would have boosted the population to 397,754. Miami remained the largest city in the state based on a population of 331,200 residents.

• The Health Facilities Planning Council voted 12-1 to withhold its approval of the proposed 200-bed Jacksonville General Hospital because of the anticipated excess of hospital beds by the time of the scheduled opening date in late 1967.

The council voted after hearing a report from Crawford Solomon, screening committee chairman. A study determined that when expansion plans at the existing hospitals, already approved by the council, were complete by 1970, there would be an adequate number of hospital beds in the area.

An association of 110 doctors led to the founding of three corporations to buy 14 acres at 3625 University Blvd. S., with plans to build a hospital and operate it as a nonprofit institution.

Financing of the $3.6 million facility would include a $1.5 million federal grant, a $1.3 million commercial mortgage loan and commitments from the doctors backing the hospital to purchase 20-year debentures.

Supporters of the hospital were invited to submit, within 30 days, any data they might have to demonstrate a need for more hospital facilities in the area.

• Reduced fees were set by the Duval County Board of School Trustees for those organizations using the auditorium of the old Annie Lytle Building along Gilmore Street.

The Friendly Frolics Square Dancing Association requested a reduced charge for use of the antiquated facilities. The trustees were charging the group $41 for a five-hour period, a rate the group said it no longer could afford.

Trustees Chairman Hugh Wilcox suggested special rates at Annie Lytle, “considering its age and the fact that no costs would be involved for the school system.”

It also was pointed out that several members of the square dancing group helped school officials create a physical fitness program.

Trustee Richard Barker recommended the rate be $15 for the first three hours and $5 per hour for each additional hour. The motion carried 2-0, with Trustee Homer Bailey absent.

• Jacksonville postal workers were getting ready to pepper the pooch population — at least the biting portion of it.

Local letter carriers suffered an average of more than 100 dog bites each year, according to Edgar Merrill, postal service safety officer.

But only nine recorded confrontations were “surprise bites,” he said. That was when the mutt got to the mailman before he knew what hit him.

Beginning this week in 1964, letter carriers who wanted them would be issued canisters of “Halt,” a mixture of 15 percent red pepper extract and 85 percent mineral oil. Carriers were instructed to spray the compound into the offending dog’s face.

It would cause the dog’s eyes to sting for about 10 minutes but would cause no permanent damage. That would be long enough to “teach him who’s boss,” according to the post office.

The spray was accurate up to about 12 feet and left a yellow stain which could be washed off, but would be used to identify the dog for rabies tests.

The carriers were instructed to use the spray only as a last resort and only when no children were nearby.

The spray was tested in Baltimore, Miami, Detroit and San Francisco. Dogs reportedly put their tail between their legs and retreated.

The American Kennel Club, American Humane Society, the Popular Dogs Publishing Co. and the Humane Society of the United States had no objection to the use of Halt when consulted by the post office.

• In Tallahassee, State Comptroller Ray Green reported receiving a letter bearing a Jacksonville stamp cancellation mark but no return address. Inside was another envelope, which contained $120 wrapped in two sheets of paper.

Written on one piece of paper was “conscience money,” and a note explained the $120 was payment on intangible taxes due. The sender did not identify himself.

Green said he would never know whether the amount covered the tax bill since the sender was anonymous. However, Green said it was the first time during his nearly 10 years as comptroller, and five years before that as assistant comptroller, that a taxpayer’s guilty conscience added to the state’s tax collections.

• The U.S. Navy Blue Angels flight demonstration team was grounded on the final day of an air show at Jacksonville Naval Air Station by torrential rain that soaked 10,000 spectators at the base’s 24th anniversary celebration.

Nearly 2 inches of rain fell on the field and activity was limited to viewing static displays in the Naval Air Reserve Training Unit hangar.

Some brave visitors made dashes across the taxi ramps to get a look inside a Super Constellation Hurricane Hunter aircraft parked near the


• A 150-voice choir comprising members from 14 Jacksonville Episcopal churches presented a festival of psalms, hymns and anthems during services at St. John’s Cathedral.

Jack Edwin Rogers, the cathedral’s organist and choirmaster, directed the choir. Rosalind McEnulty, the organist and choir director of the Church of the Good Shepherd, served as the festival organist.

• A group headed by Jacksonville insurance executive Gary Holmes purchased controlling interest in Hyde Park Golf and Country Club.

Holmes, a former stand-out basketball player at Jacksonville University, would be the club’s general manager and Fred Ghioto remained as club professional.

Ghioto purchased the course from the city in January 1960. One month after Hyde Park was sold to Ghioto, Roland Hurley purchased the Brentwood Golf Club from the city. Both courses were sold when efforts were made by African-American golfers to integrate the facilities.

The courses were integrated as of Jan. 18, 1963, in compliance with a federal court order.



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