Top Navigation

This is a 1940s shot of the terminal building at Jacksonville Municipal Airport Number One. During the Fifties, the facility was renamed Imeson Airport for Thomas Cole Imeson (1880-1948), a Jacksonville city councilman who had spearheaded the creation of the airport during the Twenties. Imeson Airport was situated north of the Jacksonville Zoo. It served as the city's main air facility for 42 years, finally relinquishing this role when the present-day Jacksonville International Airport opened in 1968. The old Imeson location was then turned into a industrial/commercial area, with a large Sears discount outlet located in the vicinity of the old terminal.
This photo dates from the 1940s. It depicts the Imeson terminal after it underwent a makeover. Its earlier appearance is given in the picture that shows limousines in front of the building.
Did you know that many commercial airplanes didn't have refrigeration during the 1940s? On a warm summer day, this cute airport staff member rolled cold Cokes to an outgoing flight at Imeson airport. Personnel stocked planes with iced drinks at the beginning of a journey. The photo dates from September 7, 1947.

Security-Free Airports

COME RIGHT IN — Jacksonville’s main airport used to operate as security free as the city’s bus station. Personnel at Imeson Airport didn’t subject passengers any checks during the 1950s. Airplane hijacking wasn’t viewed as a criminal act in the US until 1961. And Americans could still carry their personal firearms on board aircraft up through the Sixties.

If you looked like you belonged somewhere, in fact, you used to be able to bypass security in a variety of places. This was what long-time reporter Bob Schieffer once said on “The Diane Rehm Show” (February 17, 2003). For example, Schieffer told how he was able to come close to Lee Harvey Oswald in a police station after his arrest for the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Schieffer also mentioned how nightclub owner Jack Ruby could get near enough to kill Oswald in a police headquarters a short while later. Metal detectors, as Schieffer indicated, just weren’t utilized in many situations.

As we all know, though, security has become tighter all over during the last few decades. Airports proved no exception. During the late Sixties, hijacking sparked a desire for tighter airport security. So many planes were diverted to communist Cuba, for instance, that these incidents became the fodder for TV comedies. Three motives for air piracy became apparent in America: extortion, political terrorism, and escape to other countries, especially Cuba.

Beginning in 1971, armed sky marshals have accompanied certain, unspecified flights. And since 1973, guards have electronically screened passengers & their carry-on luggage. Nothing really needs to be said about airport security following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Security has reached extraordinarily high levels of diligence — although there certainly remains room for improvement.

~written by Glenn Emery

Copyright © 2019 by Jacksonville Historical Society