Title Page

Title: Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/MH00001745/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin
Physical Description: Book
Creator: Jess, Virginia ( Interviewer )
Publication Date: 2004
Spatial Coverage: North America -- United States of America -- Florida -- Alachua
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: MH00001745
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Alachua County Historic Trust: Matheson Museum, Inc.
Holding Location: Alachua County Historic Trust: Matheson Museum, Inc.
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

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Full Text






Mary Johnson, nee Davitt
Louise Summerlin, nee Davitt

Virginia Jess

Ruth C. Marston

April 1, 2004


Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 1
April 1, 2004

VJ: This is Virginia Jess, a volunteer for the Matheson Historical Museum, and the
date is April 1, 2004. I am doing an oral history interview today with the Davitt
girls. They are now known as Mrs. Gordon (Mary) Johnson and Mrs. Winston
(Louise) Summerlin. Girls, can we start by asking who your mother and father

LS: Mother was Florence May Maloney, born in Chicago. Daddy was Harold Hugh
Davitt, and he was raised in Saginaw, Michigan. Where did they meet?

MJ: Down here in Jacksonville.

LS: Mother was raised in hotels in Chicago. Her father had a haberdashery in
Chicago. Daddy's father was a judge in Saginaw. Mother went to postgraduate
high school in Wisconsin, and Daddy graduated from Notre Dame Law School in
1903. He practiced for three months but really didn't like practicing law. That
was the end of the law for him.

VJ: Oh really? In his obituary, it mentioned that he was a prominent attorney when he
died in Gainesville.

LS: He was a prominent golfer.

VJ: What brought your parents here?

MJ: We came in 1933 because my brother, who was 16 years old and had already had
one year of college up in Michigan, decided he wanted to come back to Florida
and continue at the University. We arrived in August of '33 and lived at the
White House Hotel.

LS: There were no rental houses in Gainesville at that time.

VJ: So you really didn't have much option.

LS: That's right.

VJ: Did you have a series of rooms?

MJ: We had a series of rooms. Mother finally met Sophie BOit 0 W f 7T and she
took it upon herself to find us a place to live.

VJ: Was she in real estate or did she do it as a friend?

You know, I don't know.

She was the society editor or whatever for the Gainesville Sun, but whether that
was before or after or during her looking for a place, I don't know.


Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 2
April 1, 2004

She found a nice little house. It was the Glass house, down almost on The

Flossie Cox's mother and father had gotten a divorce, so the house was available.

VJ: Where was it?

SNear the Duck Pond. 5t Avenue. Was it 5th then?

S No, it was Seminary.

:L_ Seminary, that's right. Near The Boulevard.

: P< There was nothing then but that house and a vacant lot on The Boulevard.

. In the Duck Pond. On the other side were the Thomas's and Betty Jackson and
then the Williamson's lived across the street. The one with that beautiful old oak
tree on Seminary.

V / Has that house been rebuilt?

:*--' Oh yes. It was a wonderful old house. It just kind of went on.

VJ: And the L house is just down the street, isn't it?

:a Yes. They turned that into a-bzeaag house.

V--lie nhe window- in my living
: r ad a quarter meter. If you ran out of quarters, you couldn't cook an
you didn't have heat.

/ 3 So you finally got your house, but at some point you lived in the Thomas Hotel.

:LC-) That was much later.

VJ: Okay, let's don't skip up there just yet. Let's go back to the White House Hotel
and what it was like there.

:*C It was wonderful. Right there by the railroad tracks, of course. The itinerant
traveler would stop there, and there were porches all the way around, two stories
of them. They had a dining room. They were year-round, too, weren't they?

3L I think so. The Thomas was not year-round, but the White House was. They
were serving in the summer when we arrived.


Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 3
April 1, 2004

They had chairs all the way around, and you would sit out on the veranda and
rock and watch the .0 P t GP 66

: < It was right in the center of Gainesville.

: That's when 1" Street had the island with the huge oak trees over it. The street
was so dark it was almost like a tunnel.

i-' I don't remember the oak trees. It was palm trees that I remember.

T ^ Oak trees were on the side, but I didn't know they were in the center.

L: U/ I don't know who ran the White House then, do you remember?

T Yes. One of the Thomas boys. Omera and Billy were his son and daughter, not
Phillip, not John Henry. Was it Ralph?

S Ralph ran the White House.

A? i He was the manager and lived across Main Street. I think that house is still
standing. I'll tell you, Omera -- we called Billy and sister they were younger
than we were. She lived here, down in Micanopy. I forget what road it is, but the
same one Jim Clayton lives on. I don't know her name and haven't seen her in
years, but I remember them well.

n't think she was still alive.

Oh yes.

My goodness, she mu e really old.

You said was younger than you were.

s but l iaven't-thought t^T her in years. She d hffrnigff
ew runs into her name. __

VJ: Do you know how to spell her name?

f/iY Omera. She was Omera Thomas, and her mother's name was Omera, too.

That was her maiden name. I do not know her married name, but anybody in
Micanopy can tell you that.

VJ: Tell me about the Thomas's.

: There were four boys. Clarence. You remember him, don't you?

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 4
April 1, 2004

-ember Clarence, and daughters.

Phillip and W.R. or Ralph, I think his name was, and then there was John Henry.
He became a doctor.

VJ: Is W.R. the one who established the Thomas home that became the Thomas

A'9 That was Senior.

VJ: So W.R. was a Junior.

I say he was a Junior, but I'm not sure about that, but Major Thomas established

VJ: That was a private home, wasn't it?

:f0 He did not build it. Somebody else built it and it was half finished when he
bought it. He didn't start out building the Thomas Hotel or the Thomas home.

VJ: But he acquired it and completed it and it was a home before it became a hotel.

C) There was one daughter there, too, with the Thomas children. Margaret Hawkins.
She has a son here in town. She died just a few years ago and had quite a write-
up. She was well known.

VJ: Let's get back to the White House. We were talking about the son that helped
manage it with Omera. Do you remember what kind of food you had then?

: / I remember mostly the dinners. I don't remember much about breakfast, but, of
course, we ate there because there was no place else to eat. The dinners were very
good. Soup always. Salad.

7 Wonderful help.

A Good desserts.

:' I don't think they had a tremendous menu, but three or four selections.

VJ: So it wasn't one of these where you just went and had family dinner without
ordering. You did order.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 5
April 1, 2004

S Yes. We ordered, and there were separate tables. Many, many people from town
'jf came and ate there. I know Bill en 3 and his father ate there quite
often. John Hintermister was running it,

V.* Not then, though, was he?

: y No, that was much later.

: When John ran it, we ate there a lot.

: /. Is that right?

yrA Now, his parents were there, though, and they might have run it.

Sp7 His father did run it. Anyway, John Hintermister, Sr., ran the dining room.

: ~v And his wife. She helped, too, didn't she?

VJ: They lived very close by, didn't they, in a big old 2-story house?
:.5 Johnand gALy I Uf lived there, I think.

j l They might have lived there, too, because, of course, Mr. and Mrs. lived with
them all their lives just about.

VJ: So we don't know whether that was the original family home or not, but we know
that for a while they lived there. Do you know much about the history of the
White House? I've heard things like the fact that at one point it was a dormitory
for the University of Florida. I've heard that at one point it served as a barracks
for the training.

SI've heard that and also right across the street was the East Florida Seminary, and
I've heard that it was used as a dormitory.

VJ: Perhaps that's what it was instead of the University.

L6 I think so.

VJ: What was the East Florida Seminary.?

a:t was ee ar f nivsity of Florida

VJ: 'It was there before the University was established?

Oh yes.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 6
April 1, 2004

VJ: So it was just sort of a school that perhaps went above the high school level, or do
you think it was just a high school?

I don't think it was a high school or anything. I think it was an after high school.

VJ: Like a junior college would be now.

yvUL Yes. Somebody else could tell you about that. That brings me to Maggie
Tebeau's School. I think it was in the neighborhood at one time.

: Was it? I just remember it being south, about where Wise's live now, back in that

VJ: That's where I thought it was, too.

[jV No. Before that she had a big house where the courthouse is, the new courthouse.

:1_ That's what I meant. That's kind of by Wise's, in that section.

VJ: So that's where your memory of it is. Let's get a fix on where we are. How old
were you girls when you moved here?

MJ: I was 13.

LS: I was 10.

VJ: Did either of you girls go to Maggie Tebeau's school?

MJ: No, we didn't. Louise did go for a year or two to Kirby-Smith.

LS: One year. 6w grade.

MJ: I went to G.H.S. for one year, the 8th grade.

LS: Then we transferred to P.K. Yonge when they opened it.

VJ: That's where I went, too.

LS: We walked to school when we rented the Glass house by the Duck Pond. I could
walk to Kirby-Smith.

MJ: Sure, just down The Boulevard.

LS: Dr. Jackson lived next door to the Thomas's.

VJ: Oh, that was Betty Jackson that was so pretty. Then there was the Geiger house.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 7
April 1, 2004

It wasn't Miss Geiger's then, was it?

VJ: Mrs. Bryant lived there.

MJ: Mimi Bryant's mother. Mrs. Bryant and Peggy Reynolds, who was in Louise's
class. They built next to Mrs. Glass's house. There was a vacant lot and then
Peggy Reynolds and then Miss Geiger's house. They faced the Duck Pond.

LS: And just down the block was the Matherly house.

MJ: And Clara Floyd Gehan built a cute little house there.

LS: Right. That was across the Duck Pond. In fact, it's next door to where the Stock
house is.

MJ: That's right.

LS: Then the Cooker's and then the Jackson's and then the Thomas's, only they faced

VJ: The Thomas's was a relatively new house, wasn't it? Wasn't it built around the

MJ: No. It was built when we got here. They had been in for a year, I think, so it was
'32 or '31.

LS: Should we tell that story about Dr. Thomas?

MJ: Absolutely.

LS: They were building the house and the kitchen area he came home one day and
he said, "We have to cut so many thousand off the house." By then the only place
they could cut was the kitchen area. I don't know what really was the end of that,
but that's why that section of the house is less spacious than the rest of the house.
Collections weren't good, or something like that. Of course, in those days they
gave you chickens instead of paying their bills or candy. It was almost a barter

VJ: I know it. Dr. Thomas delivered everyone anso left outb

LS: Well, you know, there was Dr. Merchant, Dr. Tillman, and Dr. Thomas.

Ahman. Washe __________

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 8
April 1, 2004

<^r^- 3e ^ obstetrician he

LS: Those were the doctors we had. There was Dr. Manchester, but he was not a
chiropractor but an osteopath?

MJ: I think so. Our Jenny was a real good friend of Helen Ahman, and I remember
when her daddy was finishing his education. She used to spend the night with
her, and they lived where McDonald's is now on 13th Street. That was way out in
the country across from the cemetery. And the cemetery is still there.

LA ): Helen Ahman, of course, was a doctor.

V:B4: She died.

)#J: Oh, I didn't know that.

L0 0J: Did she have any children?

V) : Yes, she had two girls, I believe. I know that there were at least two girls. I went
to her daddy's funeral. She had grandchildren. One daughter was a little bit
chubby and looked exactly like Helen used to.

VJ: We're back to the White House Hotel.

MJ: It was hot because there was no air-conditioning. There were just ceiling fans.
We were there in August, and I know when we first moved there. See, we wer
born in Jacksonville and lived there for about four years. Then we to
Michigan and lived there for about seven years. By the as m college ek oLp
and we moved back to Gainesville. I remember I was so mesmerized by the
moths. Of course, we don't have moths in Michigan. I slept almost solid for two
weeks. I remember I would wake up and eat and then go back to sleep. Well, it
was hot and just lovely. You would watch the palm trees and the moths and it
would just lull you to sleep.

LS: I don't remember hearing the trains very much, but of course we must have.

MJ: You know, I don't either.

LS: Maybe they didn't run very much? I don't know.

VJ: I remember that one came through town around noon. One time, when I was in
the third grade or so, one came through with snow on it and they let school out so
we could all see it.

MJ: That's why we went up to Michigan, so we could see snow. We didn't know
what it was.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 9
April 1, 2004

LS: That's right.

MJ: I remember when we were at Mrs. Glass's house we went to the library often.

LS: A wonderful old library. Ms. Schneider was the librarian.

MJ: No, she was at P.K. Yonge.

LS: Okay, what was her name then?

MJ: There were two ladies there, and I don't remember their names, but they were
very, very kind.

LS: And they let you take out anything you wanted and as often as you wanted.

VJ: That was just across the creek from the Matheson Museum, right?

LS: Right. It was not very big, but they always had what we wanted.

(J: That's right. It was Carnegie Library. You went up steps. I remember it. Now,
of course, it wouldn't do at all to have steps like that.

LS: Dell's Grocery was across the street from it, wasn't it?

MJ: Yes, it was.

LS: They used to have the little tiny chickens, those real tender little ones.

VJ: The most exclusive grocery in town. You could pick up your phone and order
your groceries. I'll bet you all ordered from them quite often.

MJ: Actually, it was pretty expensive, and I think Mother shopped at Mr. Duke's
down on First Street. It was closer to our house. But that might have been much

LS: Well, mother didn't shop there because she didn't believe in charging groceries.
She said they would send you their worst because you're not there to pick it out.
Mother wanted to pick out her own groceries. I can remember Mrs. Thomas
always got a box every day from Dell's. They would deliver hers. I can
remember going to the store with Mother, and she would get two or three big bags
of groceries for $5.00.

MJ: Absolutely, and they would shop T /ff- S~/ P5 too. I can remember
Mother going from one store to another ~ p, p 4 A-/ That was
part of their routine. Of course, there were downtown groceries. There was the

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 10
April 1, 2004

Piggly Wiggly and Jimmy Gable's and then Dellin the middle of
the block.

VJ: Next to the Piggly Wiggly, wasn't there a dime store and then the bank?

MJ: McCrory's and then the Phifer Bank.

VJ: The Phifer Bank. That's where Laura Carmichael worked, and her husband, J.B.
It's important what you remember of the square. If you'd like, go around it.

MJ: Baird's Hardware was on the corner. Now, there could have been other things
before we came to Gainesville.

VJ: And the people of note who worked there?

MJ: Cecil Gracy.

VJ: Did Cecil Gracy manage it or just work there? Addison Pound managed it, didn't
he? Addison, Sr.

LS: Gracy just worked there, I think.

VJ: Do you remember anything else about Baird's Hardware?

LS: Yes. Jamie Lang's father worked there. I've forgotten his name. Mrs. Lang was
a teacher. His father worked at Baird Hardware.

VJ: It was about the biggest business in town, wasn't it?

MJ: I think so. And on down the block

LS: Piggly Wiggly was right next to it. Who ran that?

MJ: Mr. and Mrs. Borland.

VJ: Is that Betty Borland's parents?

LS: No, they didn't have any children. They were from Canada.

MJ: They moved to the penthouse here. When they sold their house out on University
Avenue, they moved in here.

VJ: I remember her from here, I think.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 11
April 1, 2004

LS: I'm sure you do. When McCrory's wasn't next to it, there was something in
between them.

MJ: That was the grocery store in between and then McCrory's and then the bank.

LS: Across the street Myrtle had her shop. Pollyanna's Beauty Shop. What's there

VJ: How about on the comer where Cox Furniture is? There was something there.

MJ: McCollum's was there when we first came here.

VJ: No, on the back of the square.

LS: Where Cox Furniture is.

MJ: McCollum's was there.

LS: What was next to the drugstore? Was it Ruddy's?

VJ: Ruddy's was new, wasn't it? Wasn't there something before Ruddy's? I thought
Wilson's was "the" department store for a while and then finally Ruddy's came
along to compete with them.

LS: They were in the ti g g early but I don't know what was in there

VJ: Chitty's was on the comer. That was men's suits and hats.

LS: Strictly a man's store. Then coming around the corer there was something
before the Tench store. What was that?

MJ: It was the Diana shop but before that, I don't know what it was.

LS: On the corer?

MJ: Yes.

LS: Then the Tench Shoe Store.

VJ: That was Benmont Tench and his wife that owned it.

LS: Benmont, Sr.

VJ: Yes. Samuel Spaulding Smith, Sr. worked there, right?

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 12
April 1, 2004

MJ: Yes.

VJ: Do you remember anything else about it?

LS: No. They both worked in there a lot both Mr. and Mrs. Tench were there
tending to business.

MJ: In that same block was Thomas's Hardware Store.

VJ: That's the one that caught on fire, wasn't it?

MJ: Yes. It was much smaller than Baird's.

LS: Then the Stock's was next to that?

VJ: Stock's was over on the same block as Wilson's.

MJ: They moved over there.

VJ: He was originally there. She's right. Let's identify Stock's. That was a men's
dry cleaner and clothing store. The dry cleaning plant was somewhere else, down
on old Virginia, right across from Louis' Lunch.

LS: Right, by the ice cream place there. Perry Ice Cream. In the corer was a
drugstore. Which drugstore was it?

MJ: Canova's.

LS: Then we cross over to perhaps a restaurant, and then the Personality Shop.

VJ: They sold wedding presents, didn't they? And evening dresses?

MJ: D&y5n? Then, of course, d e and McCollum's
moved over there, and Mr. Stock was there.

VJ: Was McCollum the same one that became City Drug?

MJ: No, that was Vidal's.

VJ: Vidal's. That's the one that became City Drug. We all used to go there after
school and order vanilla floats.

MJ: Cherry cokes.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 13
April 1, 2004

LS: Then Ms. Geiger's shop and then Wilson's.

MJ: The jewelry store was in there. Cole's Jewelry.

LS: Was she next to Wilson's.

MJ: No, they were in the middle of the block.

VJ: And if you cross the street and go down the block by the side of Baird Hardware,
that's where Mrs. Bessie Rutherford started her jewelry store with a knitting shop.

MJ: That's right.

LS: I don't remember her until she was behind Wilson's.

MJ: That's what she's saying. That's behind Wilson's.

VJ: I think it was down the street across from Baird's in the middle of the block. She
was there at one point.

MJ: I don't remember that. j/L' rCTTeY & j P ift that's
going down toward the Episcopal Church.

VJ: Yes. That started with a knitting shop and turned out to be one of the biggest
stores in town.

MJ: Yes, and it was a nice store, very nice. Across the street from Miss Bessie's there
was Parrish's Radio Shop and there was a barbershop in there.

VJ: M.M. Parrish's Real Estate shop was in there somewhere.

MJ: Yes, it was.

LS: Nancy and Elizabeth's shop M Then there was Sinclair. He had his offices
right in there, too. Bailey F. Wiliamson had his store in there. They were little
sort of cubicles in there.

MJ: One room wide.

VJ: Kind of an office section.

LS: Then there was the corer drugstore.

MJ: That was Vidal's, as opposed to the City Drugstore.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 14
April 1, 2004

LS: They were different Vidal's, weren't they?

MJ: It was the same family.

bCf. Do you remember Martha Vidal?

V Not real well.

$ You're younger. She was older than I. They lived on North Main.

MJ: It's called First Avenue now, but it was East Main.

VJ: There was East Main and West Main.

LS: Saturday afternoon used to be come to town literally. Just like
you picture in the movies. I can remember Saturday afternoon. Every Saturday
we would come to the drugstores. It was just slanted parking solid all along the
square because people would come to town.

VJ: I can also remember when it was so hot and we would ride down into town, just
ride in the car and walk around trying to cool off.

MJ: Let me tell you air-conditioning is wonderful! It has made the South bearable for

LS: That's why we've prospered down here, with the air-conditioning.

VJ: That and finding out how to eradicate mosquitoes and malaria. I think those are
the two things that allowed Florida to develop.

LS: But air-conditioning got rid of the mold. Everything all summer long would smell
of mold. Your shoes would be moldy. And rust! You had metal wastebaskets
and they would rust.

VJ: And cooking pans. You'd have to throw them out from time to time.

LS: And your pillow would smell like it was mildew from the moisture and humidity.

MJ: Air-conditioning made life bearable for everybody.

VJ: We had a 2-story house, and I can remember mother had to have the maid go over
the leather furniture every day with vinegar to prevent the mildew.

LS: Did it work?

VJ: No.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 15
April 1, 2004

LS Vinegar is good for so many things. Also, they used to shellac the furniture every
year to keep the mold and mildew down and the drawers from sticking. Drawers
were just a real headache. And ants. I can remember them.

VJ: The drawers would swell because it was so humid.

LS: That's right. I can remember people would put a glass of water and then put the
legs of the table in it.

VJ: That's right.

MJ: I had forgotten that, too. To keep the ants away.

LS: The little tiny sugar or grease ants. Then there was a string kind of thing they
would tie around it that was supposed to keep the ants from coming up.

MJ: I remember that, but I had forgotten all about it.

LS: And the salt. We would put rice in salt because it would absorb the moisture. It
never worked! It kept the salt from coming out, as a matter of fact, because you
would get all this rice.


VJ: We're talking about Tuesday evenings.

LS: You would go downtown and the theater would have a drawing for something. I
don't remember what it was, but the theater would have some sort of a big thing
so we would all go downtown and listen to the drawing. It was a family thing.
Everybody went.

MJ: The University would always come.

VJ: You'd put your theater stubs in the big basket, and they would turn it and draw.

LS: No, they had a drawing and it seems to me it was dishes.

VJ: I know, but didn't they use your theater ticket stubs?

LS: It could be.

MJ: That's how they got you to go to the movies.

VJ: They would put them in this big wire drum, and every Tuesday they drew.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 16
April 1, 2004

LS: They would close the street off down there. This was at the Florida Theater. Ed
Roberts always had a white suit on with a starched shirt. He married Jill
S tV t.L- He would preside over the theater, and he was always so

MJ: Oh, he was.

LS: They never had any children. Anyway, that drawing was a big thing. You
wouldn't study or do anything on Tuesday because you were going downtown to
the drawing.

VJ: I remember they did have shows from time to time. I remember being with all the
grownups because I was allowed to go see Sally Rand and her balloons.

LS: And her fans!

VJ: And her incredible dance with these great big balloons and very little on. You
know, I got to thinking the Primrose was there. The Primrose Grill was a big
factor in Gainesville. They had wonderful food. Who ran that?

hi TheWynn's.

LS: They would have fresh baked rolls every day from Dorsey's Bakery, was it?
They would come in a wagon.

VJ: I remember Dorsey's Bakery.

LS: Well, this was around the corner from the Primrose. The Wynn's son would go
over with a wagon and get the rolls and walk them down the street and into the
Primrose. They were just wonderful. That was good home cooking.

VJ: Yes, it was. That was family style, wasn't it? You just got what they served?

MJ: Yes.

LS: You sometimes could get fried chicken or something else. The entr6e might be a
little different.

MJ: It was good food. Then Mrs. Alford started an eatery, also. She had the best
black bottom pie. That was good. When we first came to Gainesville, the Elks
Club was across from the.. y.( f/rk q -t/-q A/ lV utC 4

VJ: I remember. I think it was the Masonic Lodge that was near the railroad tracks?

LS: Yes, that's still there.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 17
April 1, 2004

VJ: The Elks Club, when I got married, Sam JegariM) had a party there and it was
near h. u& w-)6 eLV C Rsomehow, I think.

MJ: It was, but this was before that. The Florida National Bank building you know
where that is now? It has changed hands quite a number of times.

VJ: You mean near the old Stringfellow home?

LS: Across from the White House?

MJ: No, I'm talking about where iLX r Jewelry was on the corer there.

LS: That's up from the Florida Theater?

MJ: Across the street.

LS: Oh, next to the Primrose.

MJ: Yes.

VJ: The Presbyterian Church was there.

MJ: Right. That was the church and on that corer there was the Florida National
Bank for years. Right across from that, when we first came, was the Elks Club.

LS: Beside what eventually became Wilson's again, didn't it?

MJ: Oh no, you're way off Louise.

LS: No, I'm talking about where Penney's was before it became the LA bU- HA l- 4,
Then what was on the corer? 5T--v,

VJ: Actually, he didn't have a jewelry store. That's when he was selling alligator

MJ: Yes, he had a novelty shop.

VJ: He came up from south Florida, and his wife's daddy, I think, had something to
do with alligators.

MJ: Ms. McCormick was next door to that. She had a shop there.

LS: /)P 01 1S-',-5 and then it was her sister, and she and Mrs.
McCormick had a shop there.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 18
April 1, 2004

MJ: It was a millinery shop. Above those, going down toward what is now Wise's,
was Dr. Morrison and Boring-Baird.

VJ: And the welfare office was down there.

MJ: But that was much later.

VJ: This was in the 40's when I started working.

MJ: Well, we're talking way back in the 30's. Who were the dentists that were
upstairs there? Schwalbe was there. Then Dr. Boring, Betty's father. Wasn't he
the dentist? And Dr. Thomas was across the street from the Primrose.

VJ: He was upstairs. There was a drugstore below him. I think Dr. Tillman was up
there, too.

MJ: Yes, he was.

VJ: Where Franklin's was, I think he was.

MJ: That's in the next block.

VJ: That's right.

MJ: Then the Ford agency was across.

LS: Myrtle Winston's stepmother lived on the corer there. The old Ludwig home,
where there's a welfare office now, a public building or whatever. Then across
the street from that was the Ford place.

VJ: Speaking of old g/p -, I think the worst thing that happened is that the
Stringfellow house and the Baird house, especially the Baird house.

LS: The tragedy is Louise Kincaid's house because that was really an historic house
as far as there were some treaties and all sorts of things in that house.

VJ: Where was that?

LS: That was across from the Baird's, wasn't it?

MJ: Coming toward town. The Baird house was here, then there was Marian Morris'

LS: No, that was across on the other side of the white house. Hers was there. This
was the one right next to it.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 19
April 1, 2004

MJ: Yes, but it was on this corner. I thought that Marian Morris was next to the

LS: No, that was the one that the Episcopal Church person, Dell, or whatever her
name was had.

MJ: Oh yes. uCU

LS: Itwasthe 'sk1~6 m F ?3 1 rtonr } rT in that house.

VJ: Relating to what, like the state of Florida? The Civil War?

LS: No, the Presidential election was decided. I thought there were some treaties
signed there, too.

VJ: Well, tell me about this election. I never heard of it.

MJ: There are lots of people who know more about it than I do, but it was decided and
that was the house it was decided in.

VJ: You don't know who was running?

MJ: No, I don't.

LS: Edith t -,I-T justified their taking the Baird home down because
she said it was full of termites. I'm sure that she probably
because she didn't move here until she was late in high school. Georgia only had
eleven grades, so they came down here ( ;and Edith to finish their
schooling down here. -

MJ: That's right. I had forgotten that Georgia used to have eleven grades.

LS: Yes, and that's why they came down here. I think isa finished her senior year
here, and Edith was say in the 10th grade and then 11h and 12".

VJ: And she lived with Ida Baker and Laura Hopkins in the old Baird house?
JSF~p~PW^ ^t^-lA ^ W ^ I (7/9
LS: No, it was Zesila Hopkins and Laura Baker. Zeneid is the one who married
Elmer Hawkins, who was golf pro at the country club.

MJ: He was the brother to Mrs. F-' //) in Alachua.

LS: That's right. I had forgotten that.

MJ: She used to have good food over there. Oh boy! We used to eat well.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 20
April 1, 2004

LS: It was too hot to do anything else.

MJ: I can think of lots of things to touch on, but they don't come in order. To go back
to when we first came here, I went to G.H.S. for one year. Then P.K. Yonge
opened in '34, so we continued on at P.K. Yonge until we graduated. We enjoyed
P.K. Yonge. We really had a good time there. Now G.H.S. was from
kindergarten through high school. That and Kirby-Smith Elementary were the
two schools in town. I don't know what East Gainesville had.

LS: I don't either, but I do know when Winston and I were in high school no, he was
in junior high school, he would ride his horse from what is now Palm Terrace
across from Golf View. That's where they kept their horse. He and
C-"~gAIJl each had a horse. They would ride their horses to G.H.S. and go
to school and they would keep their horses behind the Women's Club. Wastre
S_ .- "v .- Anyway, there was a loop around
the Women's Club and they used to keep their horses back there while they were
in school. Of course, at that time the University had stables and horses for the

MJ: Then, of course, there was the drill field before it was anything else. It was for
the military.

VJ: Yes, the drill field is where the O Dome is now.

LS: Or the parking lot for the O Dome. It's all part of that.

VJ: I remember those drills in the morning. The pajama parades with the freshmen.

LS: All the freshmen had to have their beanies or rat caps.

VJ: And parade downtown in their pajamas.

MJ: Of course, it was a boys' school then.

LS: When they moved here, there were how many students? 3000?

MJ: 3000, I think.

LS: And Gainesville was about 12,000.

MJ: So it has grown!

LS: That made the 15,000 that we always considered. It was just a wonderful place to
grow up. I just can't imagine a nicer place to grow up.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 21
April 1, 2004

MJ: I'm sure many people feel that way still. It's close to the beaches. It's close to
the Gulf.

LS: Of course, the University was nothing but boys then, so every weekend there
would be an exodus to Tallahassee to the girls' school.

VJ: I remember the high school girls would ride up and down the drag and the boys
would hitchhike, and that's how they would meet each other.

LS: We'd ride up and down the drag and toot at each other. I don't know how the
town put up with all this honking that we did.

VJ: I was thinking about that the other day. Were you part of the sorority scene?

LS: Yes.

MJ: Yes.

VJ: When you saw your sorority sisters you had to toot the Lambda Sigma Sigma or
the Delta Gamma Delta on the horn. I remember the parents yelling, "You kids
stop that!"

MJ: I had forgotten about that.

VJ: Yes, we always tooted.

MJ: I know that Rudolph Weaver, Ann Crago lived a couple blocks away and most of
the University lived around the University. They had one car in those days.

VJ: Student housing wasn't a problem.

MJ: No, not at all. Everybody was housed in the dorm. All the men walked to the
University to their jobs. When we lived on 2nd Avenue, everybody was there.
Preacher Gordon was there. Dr. Hume was there. Mr. Watson was across the
street. He was in entomology at the University. Charlotte Campbell lived on the
corer. Charlotte what was her maiden name? Can't think of it. The Crow's
lived on University Avenue. All the faculty lived right around.

VJ: Then they would just walk to school. It was no problem. But the Crago's you
were going to talk about Rudolph.

MJ: Well, they were living two or three blocks from The Boulevard. The house is still
standing, of course, but the Crago's and the Rudolph Weaver's this was
approaching the Egq-r gy p F -T) L ./1og4S -- and the Murphree's lived on
the corer, and Dr. DePass lived there. MOTEl-.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 22
April 1, 2004

VJ: Now, I forgot about Dr. DePass.

MJ: He was at the same time that Dr. Thomas practiced.

LS: But Dr. Rudolph had his bed. He believed in the magnetic field, and his
headboard was absolutely due north. He had it anchored so that no one could
move it. This was because he believed that there was this magnetic field and it
would help you. I don't know what. They had a beautiful old car and they had
two dogs. They would ride around town in it. Elegant car with the two stately
dogs. They were mastiffs of some kind, but they were very elegant.

VJ: Would they be like those dogs at the Thomas Center the statues?

LS: They weren't greyhounds, but they were very fleet. They had an old Hudson. It
was a two-seater, and the dogs would be in the back. He was quite a man, but he
was the one who had his bed anchored. I always thought that was funny.

VJ: Okay, so let's talk about when you lived in the Thomas Hotel.

MJ: We were living on the corer of Roper and something.

LS: Ruth Dobbins the old Dobbins house.

MJ: We rented it.

LS: We went to boarding school in Jacksonville, which was Glenn Lee, and mother
and daddy promptly closed the house up and moved to the Thomas Hotel.

VJ: At what age did you go to boarding school?

MJ: I was in the 11th grade.

LS: I was in the 9th grade.

VJ: Oh, only one year. Is that when they moved?

MJ: The minute we got out of the house.

LS: There were just the two of them, so they just moved to the Thomas Hotel.

MJ: The house they were in was a big house.

LS: Yes, it was the old Dobbins' house and they had how many children? I don't
know how many. Ruth Dobbins was the pianist here in town, and it was her
f 1 that ita.We lived in what was the master suite. It was a big room and
then a bath and I guess a Mr. and Mrs. with the bath in between.


Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 23
April 1, 2004

VJ: I remember being in there once. I must have gone with someone to see you.

LS: At that time we could name you the people all the way around the center of the
Spanish Court. We were in the master suite. Then Col. Browning was next door.

MJ: Then Parmalee Gordy's mother and father, Savage.

LS: He was an engraver. He did engravings. It was fascinating to watch him. This
was for bonds and stocks. He actually did the engraving on that. They lived
there. I've forgotten who was on the corner. Then the Thomas's daughter Mary
Elizabeth's mother and then the Hornmc- 's.

MJ: The Horn. 's lived there.

LS: He was an auctioneer for cattle, the livestock. He would go around this whole

MJ: Then there were the ladies. Charles Stringer. She left him a good bit of money,
but I can't remember who the lady was, but there are people in town who can tell

LS: All these were permanent residents. They lived there for years and years.

MJ: We lived in the old part of the hotel.

LS: What was then the breakfast parlor and then the dining room with the skylight for
evening food. The other was just for meetings sometimes. There were three

VJ: They had a miniature golf course out front, didn't they?

MJ: At some point.

LS: There used to be a fountain. Is that still there? Gardenias. I can remember I
would go out before a date and pick a gardenia. They had beautiful gardenias in
the yard. I would always wear a gardenia on a date.

MJ: We lived there for three or four years. Meanwhile, I had gone to Europe so I
wasn't there.

VJ: At that point, were they year-round?

MJ: No, the dining room closed. The whole hotel, except for us, mostly closed.

VJ: Okay, so while you were living there, a certain part of it operated.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 24
April 1, 2004

LS: Six months every year. Then there would be northerners that would come down,
but they didn't stay in that section. They stayed in the other section. Remember,
there were lots of people. One married the Gracy. Peggy Gracy's mother. She
married a very, very well-to-do man. Nichols. They were here for just six
months out of the year. There were lots of people like that. Then the poet. What
was his name?

MJ: Robert Frost.

LS: Robert Frost would come for a certain number of months every year. He would
have readings on the porch of the hotel.

VJ: Wonderful.

LS: That's going back a long way.

VJ: Can you remember anything about the decor? Was it really elegant?

MJ: Well, it was the nicest in the area. That's for sure.

VJ: It was the old velour furniture, was it?

MJ: Yes, it was, or horsehair or whatever. Typical of the parlor. They always had a
grand piano and '!5 tR P- 4 Gray used to come every winter. She started
Purvis, Gray & Powers. Mr. Henry Gray. They came every year for six months.
Mrs. Gray was just a beautiful pianist, and she would play every evening just for
the pleasure of playing.

VJ: That's wonderful. What a gracious life.

LS: We had to stay dressed up. You dressed at night. The dining room was dressy.
The white tablecloth and the crystal and this, that and the other. We always over-
ordered because as a child you couldn't begin to eat what you ordered. Then they
would have University dances on the weekends at the courtyard, and we would
stand out on the balcony or I would and be very, very envious. You were in
Europe at that time, so you didn't remember that.

MJ: No, I didn't.

LS: But they would have dances, and we would look over. Tell her about your
experience coming back on the ship.

MJ: That doesn't have anything to do with Europe.

VJ: Let's get her to Europe and then come back. When did you go to Europe, Mary?

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 25
April 1, 2004

MJ: Well, I had originally planned to go in the fall and then war clouds were on the
horizon so they cancelled my trip. That was in the late 30's, so that would be
World War II. So I went up to Michigan State to college. I stayed for one
semester and came back and things had calmed down, so the first of the year, in
1939, I went to live in Europe for a year. I would have stayed longer, I'm sure,
but the war broke out so then I had to come back.

VJ: Where did you live in Europe?

MJ: Well, we lived primarily in the countryside, but it was in Hungary. We had an
apartment in Budapest. We traveled a good deal. We spent several weeks in the
Isle of Capri, and I remember the villa was called 13L-AZ 5 I k een

XM s).- V&>-C-I 9L$'A( LA?/UDI
VJ: When you say "we", who was it?

MJ: Pat I~_gan D

VJ: She was from Hungary, wasn't she?

MJ: No, she wasn't. Her mother married.

LS: They were from Virginia originally. Pat's mother was brought up in Virginia,
wasn't she?

VJ: No, she was from Memphis. I remember that she lived on The Boulevard, and he
was in tung oil. How beautiful the tung oil trees were.

MJ: Oh, they were just lovely.

VJ: I think they're poisonous.

LS: They are. I guess tung oil is not used as much now.

MJ: Not at all. Williamson was in with that. Ruth and Perry's father was in with
I /.j) Jgn on this tung oil business.

VJ: Anyway, you were with Pat.

MJ: Yes. We spent a lot of time in North Africa, in Tunis, so we were not home very

LS: I remember Mary writing home and saying, "We went through Germany and
there were soldiers along the road all day long." We were not aware of how bad
things were, but you were.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 26
April 1, 2004

MJ: Well, the world was so different then. We didn't have the instant communication
and we didn't have this, that, and the other. Then I had t come home because the
war started in September and the first booking I could get on a ship was in
December. I came home on an Italian vessel.

LS: I thought it was the Ile de France.

MJ: That was what I went over on. It was the Saturnia, an Italian vessel. I left Trieste.
That was the port that I went to. I think I was down in the bowels of the ship
somewhere because I guess I got the only place left. You're very aware of ship's
noises, and suddenly it was silent. We were stopped by a U-boat, a German U-
boat, and I think several of the passengers were taken off.

LS: They read a list of who they wanted off the ship and one young boy came
forward. His father had not come on. They wanted the father but they didn't take
the boy, is that right?

MJ: Yes. Then we cranked up and continued our course and got home all right.

VJ: That must have been frightening.

MJ: I got home just before Christmas, a day or two before, and that was in 1939.

LS: The people she stayed with, the VEs7 f L' XI , became pilots for people
escaping Germany, didn't they?

MJ: The Jewish people.

VJ: Do you mean they actually flew them?

MJ: ww6 afepila'(so he flew numerous Jews out of that area
to safety. I'm not sure exactly where he flew them to, but it seems to me it was
south of there.

LS: It couldn't have been Italy. That was just as bad. It wouldn't have been
Yugoslavia, would it?

MJ: I don't remember.

LS: He saved many lives because that was their only way of getting out. Then they
were overrun, too, by the Germans that whole area.

MJ: Yes, of course. From then on, they were Communist countries for years and
years. I think they were executed. Pat came back and she had a younger sister

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 27
April 1, 2004

and brother in Hungary. The sister died during the war and her mother died
during the war, but the brother survived and he eventually came over here.

VJ: When you say they died, do you mean they were casualties?

MJ: No, I think they had pneumonia or that sort of thing.

LS: I think that the pilot and Virginia, one of those was not.

MJ: No, I'm talking about the children.

LS: The next generation.

VJ: Let's have some vital statistics here. Mary.

MJ: I was born in Jacksonville March 25, 1920. My brother, Harold, who is now
deceased, was born in 1916. Then there were two boys, who didn't survive to
adulthood and then Louise. So Mother and Daddy had five children.

LS: I was born Louise pAu/T' on October 23, 1922. We were born in
Jacksonville and lived there for four years. You lived there seven years. We
needed to see snow, so we moved to Michigan.

VJ: Your father was an attorney, but you say he didn't practice law. Did he inherit
money or did he work at other things?

LS: The reason he came south was that he came with Germaine Lumber Co. after he
quit practicing in Saginaw. Germaine Lumber Co. then became part of Foley
Lumber. Foley Lumber is still in existence, I think. That's how Daddy came to
Florida. We lived in Michigan for seven years. We would come back in the cold
months, really cold. But we enjoyed Michigan very much.

VJ: You still go back every once in a while.

MJ: No, I go to Wisconsin, which is right next-door across Lake Michigan. The
climate is the same and that sort of thing. I really enjoy getting out of Florida
while I can, but I think maybe this will be my last year to go up.

VJ: Never say never.

MJ: Well, I have to have a car when I get up there. I can't drive up myself any more,
and I can't fly because I need so much stuff. When you're there all summer, you
need a whole bunch of stuff.

LS: Anyway, then we moved back to Gainesville because of Harold.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 28
April 1, 2004

VJ: And we know how you went to school, and we know something about your
friends and something about your travels. Did you have any exceptional
experiences, Louise?

LS: I fell in love with Winston. That was in the 8h grade. He was in the 9h grade,

VJ: One summer, while I was gone, you all swapped houses with Mrs. Phelps.

MJ: We used to come to the Thomas Hotel for the winter.

L5 : She had a house in New Hampshire, didn't she?

MJ: Yes, so Mother and Daddy and Louise went up and spent the summer in Nashua,
New Hampshire. Now, of course, it's very common for people to swap houses
but I don't think it was very common in those days.

LS: No, it wasn't.

VJ: That's interesting. You were in boarding school.

LS: In Jacksonville, for just one year. We had been to a boarding school in Michigan,
so it was not a new experience for us. We enjoyed that, too. It was a convent in
Michigan, the Dominican Order.

VJ: So then you came back to P.K. Yonge and graduated. Do you want to tell us
anything about your high school experiences?

LS: No, except that was a very close-knit, very wonderful place to go to school. I'm
not sure we learned as much as we had a good time.

VJ: Well Sam Martin told me that we didn't score better intellectually on the
evaluations they did much later but that we were the best people at taking tests.
We were tested so much that a test didn't faze anyone who graduated from P.K.

MJ: That's right. And everybody went on to college and that sort of thing and they
did well.

LS: Our class did very well. I can remember my class had 40 in it, and that was so big
they split us up, so we had 20 in each class. In boarding school, we had 12 and I
was in the largest class and there were 12!

VJ: That was pretty ideal to have 20 students in a class.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 29
April 1, 2004

LS: Oh it was. And wonderful teachers. We had the best teachers. Mrs. Bawtell,
,otA -Cleav~ J. Carson, Mrs. Olson and Mrs. Laird. They were wonderful teachers.
We gave them a hard time.

MJ: I had Latin with Mrs. Laird.

LS: Mrs. Olson was related to the Mesons's. She lived with them, I think.

VJ: That's right.

LS: Brilliant mind. Mrs. BQa1el was Literature, and she introduced us to a lot of
good things. We were talking the other day about Mrs. Carson pf9er J. I
think she was going through menopause. We could dissolve her into teis.//-

MJ: And we knew it.

LS: And we knew it, and we were so hard on her. It was so sad.

VJ: We would make her cry just for fun.

LS: Yet, she introduced us to all the songs that my children don't know. She really
introduced us to good things.

VJ: She introduced us to wonderful little operettas, to Gilbert & Sullivan, and I
remember she cultivated the voices. I remember Betty ~ g J-1- She
had such an outstanding voice. I can't think of the other one. Betty used to stand
at one side and the other would stand at the other and then Roy Wilmot was a
child soprano. I think he's got a tire shop now in Ocala.

LS: But Cleaver J. did us all a real favor. She was wonderful.

VJ: She really was. She was ning The Messiah with a bunch a high school kids.
She did a beautiful job.

MJ: The thing about it is you remember her. Everybody who went to P.K. Yonge
remembers her.

LS: And they remember our other teachers. Dr. Crago was the psychologist and he
did the testing, and every time we turned around we were taking a test. I've never
been so f kt ( aLCn I got so I wouldn't try any more.

VJ: Who was it that married Rosetta Carver? Gene fiU/L y or something
like that. He was a student teacher then, and we knew how'to pull his chain, too.

MJ: Oh, is that right? That was after I was through there.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 30
April 1, 2004

LS: And wasn't there a Mr. Lockwood that taught typing?

VJ: Dr. taught science.

MJ: It was spelled Geety, and her name was Nanny, and the children's names.

LS: Was there just one child?

But we laughed because when they were written, it was Nanny and Billy Goetrf.

VJ: I reme ber thi man v uch, ecausa GladysI went egher on

sad t as lie wok t w dn it and don't.
P litt Ga took t licks r that as well.

LS: You know Meg McGinnis went to Agnes Scott and never made anything but
straight A's, and she went to the University of Florida for summer school. I've
forgotten who the teacher was, but he told her she made an A but he didn't give
girls A's so that was the only B that she made. That was the time. Can you
imagine that? He didn't give girls A's.

VJ: Mary, I know you got married. When did you meet Gordon?

MJ: In high school at P.K. Yonge. We started going together when we were seniors in
high school. Then I went on the next year to Europe and Gordon went to the
University of Florida. In those days there were four or five Bill Chandler, Lee
Graham, Jack McGriff, Gordon, Lamar tr /-TT" -- all went 4- .-,.
They really made a clean sweep of it that year. Gordon did not live in the dorm.
He lived at home. Then I came back and I went to Katherine Gibbs to school,
which was a secretarial school. I didn't want to be a teacher ,
There was nothing I wanted a college degree for, so I went to Boston to Katherine
Gibbs. Then I came back and worked at the Ai4 eauCfT ( K l--Experiment
Station for Ruby Newhall, and then we were married when the war broke out.
We moved every six weeks for the first year and a half

VJ: What branch of the service was he in?

MJ: He was in the field artillery. Then he went overseas and was there for two years.
He came back and started again.

LS: Tell her about Mr. Johnson buying the property.

MJ: For the University. Gordon's father was a professor out here. He and a number
of other men were active in the YMCA. Mr. Johnson was the only religion
department there was in those days. They bough Lake Wauburg for the YMCA
and then they turned it over to the University.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 31
April 1, 2004

LS: That's how the University got Wauburg.

VJ: I also understand that Gordon was later an architect and that he introduced the
concept of parking garages to the University through the health center where I
was working at the time.

MJ: That's right.

VJ: So he was the first one to build a parking garage.

MJ: And taking advantage of the levels.

LS: I still think it's the best looking parking garage there, that original one next to the
med center.

MJ: Gordon would never have been a good architect in private practice because he
was a worrier and he would worry about securing the business and being
responsible for the employees.

VJ: So what did he do?

MJ: He worked for the University and for the state of Florida. He was with the Board
of Regents Architects. You know, at that time the Florida Regents did all the
University buildings alike, and they did it.

VJ: So Gordon had a great deal to do with the way the campus looked for a long time.

MJ: That's right, and he was then sent, when they established the University of North
Florida, in Jacksonville, he was there for about two years laying the groundwork
for that university. Then things began to change, and they moved the office to
Tallahassee and he went to Tallahassee for a couple of years, but then came back
as architect for the med center. That's about all.

VJ: Well, that's quite a bit.

LS: He was telling us about the University of Florida as supposed to be

MJ: Caverns and campus.

LS: It's almost on a floating slab because there are so many lime rock caves under the
medical facility.

VJ: I didn't know that.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 32
April 1, 2004

LS: They've explored under there Gordon was telling us and they never have
found where they all go or what they do. There is so much. Gordon always told
us it's on a floating slab.

VJ: And they keep adding on to it. That's kind of scary, isn't it?

MJ: Maybe they finally found some good solid ground.

LS: You know, this whole area is lime rock.

VJ: Oh yes, I know, and there's a big aquifer that goes right under Gainesville, which
is why they had to move the well fields. They had them on the wrong side of
town and they would get all the germs before they would draw the water.

LS: That's right.

VJ: So they moved them.

LS: I remember when we lived at Bivens Arms after we moved back to Gainesville
and we built out there, J.C. Dickinson, who was then the curator of the museum,
they were dynamiting over at the University and he raised cain because he said if
they cracked this lime rock dome, this environment is going to disappear on us.

VJ: It would be just like the prairie. Somebody opens the plug, and there it goes.

LS: This is a porous area.

VJ: Louise, before we met today, you were telling me a little bit about the Johnson's
and the Summerlin's living next to each other in the old, old days, and Winston
sitting on the doorstep and killing rats.

LS: Oh no, this was when he had his horse and they lived out at Palm Terrace. The
stable was right next to the house. It was the Sinclair's that lived across the street.
Williamson Sinclair. He said that he and Glenn would get up in their pajamas
every morning and go out and shoot the rats that were around the horse feed.
That was their morning activity. Before they had even gotten dressed, they would
go out and kill the rats. Then, of course, they would get dressed and eat
breakfast. into town to school.

VJ: Can you remember any other stories about Winston?

LS: Oh, he could tell you lots of them. On the 7l_ I- L- EC.- they used to have
races, I think. Of course, they used to have a place out in Melrose and they named
it Sayah because his father was Ear, Nose & Throat and "Say ah." Dr 4(4 ;
built a house there and he named his house Open Wide, because he was a dentist.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 33
April 1, 2004

Winston was telling me that they used to call Melrose and I don't know whether
the Melrose people would probably dispute this Drop a rag. They would have
horse races. Sure enough, when we were growing up, there were trees and I think
that they would race around ~asrond between the lake and what is now
YA)4 : i-/AJ) 'i They would have races.

VJ: I know there was a hanging tree on the way to Newberry. It's about probably six
miles out of town and the branch goes way over the road, a LU- old
oak tree. That's where they used to hang people. A great big old thing. There's a
house behind it.

LS: Speaking of Trenton, I remember Sigsby Scruggs once told us that he and
someone had a fight at the courthouse. This was planned because they were mad
at each other and they had a fight on the courthouse lawn, and the whole
community turned out to watch Sigsby fight somebody. That was typical. It was
a small area.

VJ: Another story Mother told me about Sigsby is that he had to send alimony to his
wife. One month he sent itn a box that, was tarred and feathered, and it ruined
her A r to. PEVpI

I would not be surprised. He was a character.

MJ: When did you all come to Gainesville?

VJ: Oh, I was born here. My parents came in 1919, I think.

MJ: Was Charles born here?

(New tape)

:. y[ I was thinking when we moved to the Glass house, Flossie Cox lived in Mary
McKenzie's house, the second floor, but next door, and there was a camphor tree
between the two houses and we would play together in the morning and have a
fight and then we would both eat lunch and take a nap and then we would go out
in the afternoon and play until we had another fight. We would climb the tree
right there between the two.

.- $ Mrs. Glass had a tennis court and she had the only tennis court around.

4 ~ We were more popular than we would have been if we hadn't had that

LS: Who had that house before the Shands bought it?

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 34
April 1, 2004

j The Van Fleet's. He was with the Engineering Department. I remember hewas a
retired officer of some sort. He was a General.

MJ: The daughter became an engineer, which was unusual for those days. Then Joe
Wise bought that house.

LS: After the Shands built their other one.

VJ: Well, Louise, you and Winston got married. Was there anything you wanted to
tell us about leading up to that?

LS: No, we were married in 1943 during Lent so we were married in the parish house
and didn't have a large wedding at all because you didn't during Lent.

VJ: So that was in the wartime.

MJ: That was '43 because we were married in '42.

LS: You were married in September of '42?

MJ: August. We were married up at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. This was during
the war, so you didn't have the festivities, especially in the Catholic Church. I
don't know about the other churches. All my friends had big weddings, but I
didn't even want one.

LS: It never occurred to us to have a big wedding, and Winston didn't care because he
was at medical school by then.

VJ: Where did he go to school?

LS: University of Maryland.

VJ: Did he stay in Maryland in medical school, or did he have to go to war?

LS: No, he was 4F. He had a heart arrhythmia. W_,_a. 1Tachycardia was what
it was, so he was beginning his sophomore year in medical school. He went year
round, so he graduated in three years instead of four years. Then we went to New
York Hospital where he was at Cornell Medical Center for a couple of years and
came back to Women's Hospital in Baltimore and then back to Gainesville. He
went in with Dr. Thomas. He wanted to get out of OB and just do GYN, so we
went to New Orleans so he could get another year& &L IIA and then he et
board certified and then he sold the practice to Carl Herbert. He hired him for a
year and when we came, he just gave him the rest of the practice and started over
in GYN.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 35
April 1, 2004

VJ: Did you enjoy New Orleans?

LS: Loved it for a year. We had a good time there.

VJ: Hot, wasn't it?

LS: No, because we were at the Claiborne Towers and it was air-conditioned. Then,
of course, we were there for two Mardi Gras.

MJ: I was there for just one. It's a wonderful city.

LS: Oh, it was and in those days it was fun. We would go practically every night to
the French Quarter. Why Paul is not stunted I don't know. We walked his old
legs off. He was about two. We walked him and walked him. But you could
wander in and out of the shops.

MJ: It's so different now.

LS: It's so different now. There were no guards anywhere. Nobody was doing

VJ: My Scott was born in Baton Rouge.

MJ: Is that right?

VJ: I lived in that area for five years.

LS: Did you like Baton Rouge?

VJ: Yes, I loved Louisiana. It's a whole different world. Not d-htyn-vFerrpt
Corruption is so colorful. The food I learned to eat
beans. I loved beans. Anyway, this isn't about me. It's about you. We want to
find out if you liked New Orleans or did anything special there.

LS: We ate our way through New Orleans. He was at a charity hospital there. Our
daughter had her tonsils out there.

VJ: So you had two children?

MJ: We came out a couple times to visit you. I think once we came at Christmastime
and then the next two or three months later we went to Mardi Gras.

LS: Back in those days families would literally dress up. The whole family would all
be clowns or they would all be in costume.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 36
April 1, 2004

VJ: I saw somebody once dress their children as monkeys and pull them in a wagon in
a cage, and I thought that was the cleverest thing!

MJ: A way to keep them busy.

LS: You know, during Mardi Gras you could walk the street then. They- didn't have
the dancers assaulting you like they do now, and the acts and all. Somebody
would break into a dance, but as I remember it, it was not aggressive. It just
wasn't there all the time. It was just when anybody felt like it. Of course, the old
bands that they had

MJ: Back in the 40's.

LS: No, that would have been in 1950.)

LSs yes. And those nightclubs were fun.

VJ: You were young then, too. That made a difference.

LS: Lisa was born in '49, so it had to be early 50's.

MJ: It was early 50's because it was right after Ellen was born and she was born in

VJ: You know, girls, we've got a big hole here. We need to know how many children
you had and where they are and what their names are, so Mary, tell me about your

MJ: All right. I have three children. Mary Ellen is the oldest. She works for the
Millican Co., which is the largest, privately owned, textile company in the world.

VJ: Was she born in Gainesville?

MJ: She was born in Gainesville. All three of my children were born here. The next
one is Gordie. He lives in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Then I have Matthew, who
lives outside of Gainesville. He is a firefighter. He has been with the Alachua
County Fire Department for twenty years now.

VJ: Sounds like a wonderful family. Do you get to see them much?

MJ: Yes, I see Gordie in the summer when I'm up in Wisconsin. Of course, Matt is
here, and we see Ellen several times.

LS: Coming and going and at Christmas and Thanksgiving.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 37
April 1, 2004

MJ: Her company sent her to England, and she was there for three years. Of course, I
got some nice trips out of that. All in all, they've done well and I have been the
benefactor of it all.

VJ: And Louise?

LS: Let's see. I had three children. My daughter was 50 when she died of lung
cancer. She was a heavy smoker. She was very talented and she was a special ed
teacher in Virginia and very well thought of Paul lived with his girl friend for 17
years and then she died of lung cancer, so Paul moved in with me.

MJ: She was a smoker, also.

LS: Yes, she was a heavy smoker, also. That's right. Bruce is 44 and he works for a
private paper company that was bought out by International Paper, so he's
working for them, but it's still a company within International Paper. They still
maintain that company but I don't know how long they'll do that.

VJ: And he's in New York?

LS: New York and Connecticut. He lives in Connecticut and works in New York on
Park Avenue.

VJ: Sounds like a glamorous life.

LS: It is, but the commuting ruins it. It just takes all the life, and he's had to end up
living in New York. He has to pay rent on an apartment because the commuting
got so bad. It isn't that it's so far; it's just so dreadful.

VJ: I know. I've been there.

LS: Well, it's gotten worse. He is married and has three children, and they live in
Connecticut. So, that's it.


VJ: This is Session 2 with the Davitt girls, Mary and Louise.

VJ: Hi girls, it's Thursday, April 8th, and we're here for a second session. We have
gotten back together because we realize that we entirely skipped the high school
years in Gainesville. Gainesville probably was one of the most wonderful towns
to grow up in, and we've got to talk about it.

LS: Absolutely.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 38
April 1, 2004

MJ: All right now. We didn't touch on swimming, and that was very important in
those days because we had no air-conditioning and no way to keep cool. There
were two places to swim besides the lakes and private homes. Glen Springs,
which is right next door to us now -Fth F-LK, healc club, and Magnesia

VJ: Those were 11 miles out of town.

MJ: Yes, and those were the only two places.

VJ: _

VJ: Old Mr. K^^LUjiM^ j L- (P

MJ: And then Magnesia Springs water. Everybody used that bottled water for
drinking and that sort of thing.

VJ: There were plenty of springs around but they were farther away. There was Poe
Springs and all the others.

LS: They were beautiful, but nobody commercialized them.

MJ: Nobody developed them, that's right.

LS: But there was swimming there. And Juniper, of course, was developed and was a
lovely spring, but this was local and in the afternoon your parents would take you
to the two parks. You usually got a group together. You didn't just go alone in a

VJ: And you had to go on a dirt road to get to it.

MJ: To Magnesia Springs. That's right.

VJ: Got stuck in some places.

MJ: That's very possible. That was a very important part of our high school years
because we spent a lot of time at the two springs. And everybody spent the
summers at the lake if they had a lake place or would invite you to go to their lake
places, and that was always fun.

VJ: And there were a lot of slumber parties there.

LS: Of course, the Daytona house parties. When you finished high school, the
mothers would chaperone and we'd get a big old house and they'd bring a cook or

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 39
April 1, 2004

two and away we would go to Daytona. The girls would stay in a house and the
boys would stay in a house, and that was a lot of fun. That was the end of school
each year.

MJ: Miss Bessie Cole was our chaperone two or three years and she was just
wonderful. Cole's Jewelry. She had a daughter Bessie, and how she did it I'll
never know, but she was wonderful. She took care of all of us.

LS: Now we would alwaysjMrs. Alma Burnett for the most part. She was wonderful.
She had a daughter, Betty Burnett ( p~i01 TM AJ; now) and she was just
marvelous. Other mothers would come. They weren't necessarily the only ones,
but they would be the main one that would make arrangements for us all. We
pretty much behaved.

MJ: No, we didn't have the problems then that we have now.

LS: No, we really didn't. The worst thing was the jellyfish and that kind of thing. We
would send somebody to the hospital because they had been stung. Nowadays I
think they know what to do about it, but in those days they didn't.

tft When P.K. Yonge opened, it was just a nice thing for Gainesville, because other
schools were pretty old.

VJ: And P.K. Yonge was an extension of the University of Florida. It was very

MJ: And the student teachers taught there, and that kind of thing.

VJ: It was an experimental school.

MJ: And still is.

LS: Only we didn't use the word "developmental." It was just...

MJ: Laboratory school.

LS: Yes, and I still think that's an easier name to say than all the others. Anyway, in
high school we had a wonderful time. We would dance every weekend. We got
rid of all our energy. There would either be informal parties for people's
birthdays and the Little Women of the Women's Club always had chaperoned,
very nice dances, and we would dress up. We always had on a long dress, and the
boys always had coats and ties.

VJ: The girls were allowed to invite three boys.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 40
April 1, 2004

LS: Yes, each girl had a chance to invite three boys, and sometimes there would be
some University students there. It was from all the schools around.

VJ: Angus Merritt would always sit in the balcony and play the music. [(-ao-- P S

MJ: Yes, and he was wonderful, too.

LS: They were always chaperoned and nobody thought anything about it. We would
have been unhappy if they hadn't been chaperoned.

VJ: The thing I remember is that we weren't allowed to sit down between dances. We
would hold hands and walk in a circle.

LS: We'd go that whole evening without sitting down. I don't know whether that was
a question of being allowed.

MJ: There weren't any chairs except in that other room where they had some punch. I
suppose you could sit in there, but nobody did. It was much easier to just walk
around and talk to people. We walked in big circles between dances. If
somebody wanted to dance, they would come join you and your partner, and your
partner would excuse himself.

LS: Then we had punch and cookies because it would get very hot because there was
no air-conditioning and we danced solid. What were the dances?

VJ: Lindy? The Big Apple? The Bunny Hop.

LS: I don't remember doing the Bunny Hop, do you?

MJ: No, I don't.

LS: We did the Big Apple. That's when break dancing came in along about then, in
the middle of my senior year.

MJ: You mean you would break in?

LS: No, no. Break away from your partner in a circle.

VJ: Oh yes, that's what I'm talking about as the Lindy.

LS: I guess that's true. We all became very good followers because we would dance
with so many different boys and no two boys had the same dance. The Little
Women ran their own organization. We also had high school sororities that were
an essential part of our growing up in Gainesville. There were friends of mine
who joined a sorority in Ocala. Winifred Boyd and others. They went down to
Ocala and joined a sorority down there. There was just the LSS, was there?

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 41
April 1, 2004

MJ: No, there was the Delta Gamma Delta.

LS: Delta Gamma Delta, that's right. There were two sororities, which are more like
the equivalent of the Key Club and all that. You went through this initiation and
the rituals, just like a college sorority.

: ti fF 7 tW WCU V ', which was probably good for us. It kept us in line.

VJ: I remember we used to have to curtsy to every member and say, "Hello, Miss So-

LS: I don't remember doing that. I didn't curtsy to anybody. I think they tried to
keep it as much after school as they could.

MJ: Oh yes, it was strictly after school.

LS: It gave you an identity with a group and if you had a good group, you behaved
like the group more or less.

VJ: It also gave you a lot of social experience because there were teas and bridge

LS: Then the churches were nice, especially the Episcopal Church. Sunday night
when there was not a dance or a party, like on Friday and Saturday, they would let
you come to the Episcopal activities room and we'd put on our own records and
dance just like we did on Friday and Saturday night, and that was very nice.
Without that, Sunday nights wouldn't have been as much fun as they were. Then,
a lot of times, we'd have a dance when a fraternity would be off on vacation. One
of the housemothers we would dance there.

MJ: You'd think we didn't do anything but dance our way through high school.

LS: We didn't, really.

VJ: We were very fortunate to grow up during the Big Band Era.

MJ: That's true.

VJ: We had never experienced that kind of music before or after.

LS: It was so danceable. Then when the University would have a big band come on
campus, they would often play at the Florida Theater.

MJ: Or the Auditorium.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 42
April 1, 2004

LS: Uhhuh, and you go listen to the big bands there. They would always give a
concert somewhere for you. We got rid of our energy and associated with the
sexes in a dance-chaperoned atmosphere and we were very lucky. I can also
remember after school at P.K. Yonge, we'd go up in the gym and somebody
would have a recorder and we'd dance up there. Anybody could come that
wanted to come.

MJ: That's right. I had forgotten about that.

LS: So dancing really was our exercise and believe me, we got plenty of exercise!

VJ: Before we even knew we were supposed to.

MJ: Right.

LS: Absolutely, and that's why I feel for the children nowadays because they don't
have that wonderful, wonderful outlet that got rid of all that energy and you met
so many more people than you would have met if you hadn't had that.

MJ: Also, we had a physical education program in high school. I can remember that
we played hockey.

VJ: We had to learn folk dances.

LS: That's right.

MJ: I don't think they do that now.

LS: There was the competition. There was some baseball for the girls, but not much.
It was more for the boys. When I went through, they didn't have a football team
at P.K. Yonge.

MJ: No.

Sy basketball because I always se et chosen for t team
Sbed e I was tall.


I could not make et. only get chosen the first time of the r.

Yes, expect you were tall.

But my feet did not know where my hands were.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 43
April 1, 2004

LS: We were allowed to play in all the gyms. There weren't any restrictions on where
you could play or what you could do around the school because it was a fairly
small school and kind of open. All the doors were always open. We used to have
protests. We would protest this and protest that in high school. If they would
discharge a teacher and we were unhappy, we'd go to the principal and have
LOn 4 y RG(vt 14($ De- l0)-51/0

MJ: That's right. And they looked on us very benignly and thought, "Well, the kids
will get it out of their system one of these days."

VJ: The principal was G. Ballard Simmons, wasn't he?

LS: Wise was principal part of the time when I was there.

MJ: Oh, J. Hooper Wise.

LS: Yes, J. Hooper Wise. Then G. Ballard Simmons.

MJ: Of course, we had Dean Norman, whose son William was in our class.

LS: He was the Dean of College of Education, wasn't he?

MJ: Yes, and he was also the first P.K. Yonge. I don't remember, but he was always
there. All the Norman children went to P.K. Yonge.

LS: And all the Crago children.
0764M P(
VJ: Sara and Bill. Were there any others?

MJ: There was another girl, an older girl. Frances, I think her name was.

VJ: That was the mother's name I know.

MJ: Is that right?

VJ: D/L Norman made a grandfather's clock by hand.

LS: Yes.

VJ: It was the pride of their family. I wonder what ever happened to it.

MJ: I do wonder. I remember that. I had forgotten about it, but I remember it now.

LS: I had heard what happened to it, and I think Diana might have told me. I'm sure
one of the children must have it.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 44
April 1, 2004

VJ: Anyway, who's living in that house now? Are the Delaney's still there?

MJ: No, I don't know who's in it.

LS: I think it changed hands several times since they were there, like the Garrett's
house across the side street there. It has changed hands many times.

In high school, it was a very easy time. Families all lived together I mean in an
area and you were free to ride your bike.

VJ: You could walk to the movie on your date. Nobody had a car.

MJ: Nobody had a car. Now, P.K. Yonge didn't have any busses, so you had to get
there on your own.

VJ: Car pools.

LS: Now, the Micanopy children were bussed in.

MJ: Yes, they were bussed in.

LS: Maybe McIntosh, too.

MJ: I think any out-of-towners.

LS: They tried to diversify. They tried to get a wide range of socioeconomic
diversity. But diversity then was different from diversity now.

MJ: Yes, they came from all areas of town. The old Dixie Highway, which is now 6t
Street, went out just as it goes today, and that was quite a residential area there. I
know that the county agent, when we first came here, was Mr. Kraft. They lived
out on the Dixie Highway, as we always called it.

VJ: Where are we talking about now, Mary?

MJ: 6t Street.

VJ: Here on this side of town?

MJ: Yes. Of course, it's 441 now. That was quite a residential area. There was the
Means house and the next-door neighbor = -_. g-ag , that
lived there aq~*ny had a grocery store and gristmill there.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 45
April 1, 2004

MJ: She went to P:CYo7i-ge. I want to get back to one thing that I always thought
was so strange. On the courthouse square, there were two small buildings. One
of them was the County Agent, and I guess maybe the other one was the Home
Demonstration Agent or something. Do you remember that?

By the courthouse?

MJ: On the grounds.

_______________ o e /courthouse. Ire e that.
:- t

MJ: Two little buildings stuck there.

LS: There used to be a little band shell there.

MJ: No, this was before that. They faced Mr. Burnett's store and City Drug and Mrs.
Geiger's. They faced that side of the courthouse.

Vf I don't remember that.

MJ: I thought it was so strange that there were just the two little buildings there. None
of the present-day pictures has those in it.

V I can't remember even seeing a picture of those.

MJ: No, they don't show those. Well, they were out of place, architecturally and so

VJ: ell, you know, in the south on the plantations the always built separate litt
ildi for the sonto take slaves when ey wer o
che lopad\and it as al as se at om e u e eeite ep t
Id'gs I uess, wer arc te ra a cep in the sut bu tha m eo
a t tyle I har think od be compatible with that.

MJ: I just happened to think of that, but they were there when we arrived. Caroline
Kraft was the County Agent's daughter and they lived out on the Dixie Highway.

LS: Which is now 6th.

MJ: Yes, and nobody refers to it as the Dixie Highway any more.

- 1 'L s f-~Itu .am-oj


Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 46
April 1, 2004

LS: We can tell you some funny tales about Mrs. Thomas.

VJ: Well, I want to hear them because Dr. Thomas was very much an institution in

LS: Oh he was. He really was.

VJ: Well, tell me about your mother and Mrs. Thomas.

LS: Mrs. Thomas grew up in Georgia and didn't play bridge, so they didn't play
bridge but they would get together in the afternoon and do this, that and the other
or have lunch together, and then they would have to take their afternoon naps.
They would go into Dr. and Mrs. Thomas's bedroom and Mrs. Thomas would lie
on her side and mother would lie on the other side with a box of candy in
between. They would have some candy until it was time to take the nap and then
they both dozed off.

MJ: And they would also read the "Cross Creek Cookbook. They got great pleasure
out of that.

VJ: And your mother didn't even have a kitchen, did she?

MJ: Well, she didn't cook. This was when we lived over at the Glass's house. Dr.
Thomas would always put his pants on the chair by the window. One time Mrs.
Thomas saw a man put his hand through the window to grab Dr. Thomas's
pockets to get some money out of them. I've forgotten what she did but she said
something like, "You just get out of here." It had to do with the (/j o
at that time, too. They threatened him with one or something.

You see, in those days you left the windows open all the time.

The whole house was opened.

LS: ) h E/1 _______ the summer showers which we seemed to
have all the time in those days.

VJ: If we hadn't had showers, we wouldn't have survived.

MJ: No, we wouldn't have.

VJ: It cooled things off.

LS: Especially if they came in the mid or later afternoons, because if they came in the
morning, then it would heat right back up and be just pure steam. One time
Mother and Mrs. Thomas were downtown during the war, and Mother stopped
this man in uniform and she said, "We're so proud of you and we thank you for

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 47
April 1, 2004

all you're doing." He said, "Well thank you, ma'am," and walked on. Mrs.
Thomas turned to Mother and said, "Mrs. Davitt, that was a bus driver."

MJ: But you know, Mother and Mrs. Thomas were the dearest of friends for I don't
know how many years, but they were always Mrs. Thomas and Mrs. Davitt. They
never called each other by their first names.

VJ: Well, times were so different.

MJ: They were different, but you know I find it difficult to call people by their first
names. Mrs. G &pSd/ kept trying to get me to call her Josephine.

LS: Yes, but of course that's when we were younger.

MJ: I mean even in later years, but she was another generation and I just could not do

VJ: That's true, and I've been criticized many times for saying, "Yes, sir," and "No,

LS: Have you really?

VJ: Yes. I. A U AeA LtL- used to say, "Gini, don't say that. It
sounds servile." I said, "It's not servile. It's Southern."

LS: It's a matter of courtesy.

VJ: He was from Connecticut.

MJ: It made things softer than saying yes or no. If you just put this behind it, "No,
sir," or "Yes, ma'am," it made it a softer answer, I think.

LS: There was a nice Southern custom though. The parents of all our friends were
called "Aunt." Daisy McGinnis to this day still calls me Aunt Louise because I'm
a friend of her mother's.

That was a nice way of doing it without using the formal term and then you
couldn't call them by their first names, so they were Aunt So-and-so.

MJ: In our generation, Aunt Louise was Mother's best friend and she was Aunt
Louise. Well, we couldn't call her Louise, and we certainly didn't want to call
her Mrs. Clark.

LS: It was a nice solution.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 48
April 1, 2004

VJ: We did the same thing with Marian Scott. She was always "Aunt Marian." She
was Scott's godmother.

LS: I think that was a lovely custom. Of course, the black people called it "Aunt" but
we always called it "Ant" and I kind of liked their pronunciation better than ours.

Oh, Mother and Mrs. Thomas used to do such funny things.

VJ: They used to dress us with the gloves and the shoes and the hat. I don't know
how they could afford to dress us.

MJ: I don't either. And the heat.

LS: Of course, it was so hot that I guess our hats didn't make any difference, but it did
shade your face from the sun.

VJ: But we used to wear wool suits to football games in September.

LS: I know it.

MJ: That's right. All winter it would be fall clothes up north and it was our dressy
clothes down south. It was just awful.

VJ: And the stockings with the seam.

LS: I still like them.

MJ: Harry Clark was the Fuller Brush man for years, and he had a sister and brother.
They lived behind the Primrose Grill on the next street there. Dorinda Clark was
his sister, and she was a very, very pretty girl and very popular. One of the
queens. Then we had peanuts. The Davis boys sold peanuts, boiled peanuts.

LS: On the street covers.

MJ: On the square. They were young boys, 12 years old or so. Then they went on to
being very successful here in town.

VJ: You're not talking about the Chevrolet Davis's.

MJ: No, they're different.

LS: They went into real estate and building.

MJ: They had a sister who was also very pretty, but there were two or three boys.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 49
April 1, 2004

LS: You know in those days a lot of children didn't wear shoes. It was dusty, dirty,
sandy. There weren't many paved streets. I remember coming back to
Gainesville from Baltimore and New York when Winston was in training and
being struck with how many dirt roads we had still. Just the main arteries. 13th
Street was 9th in those days, and that was paved, but then the offshoots from that
were not.

MJ: When we first came here, the road to Jacksonville was not paved. It was a graded
road, but it was still gravel road really, so I guess we've seen a lot of changes.

VJ: Yes, that was rough Wuv7 -tv i9 to go to Jacksonville to
buy clothes. There wasn't much in Gainesville.

MJ: No, we went to Jacksonville quite often, but it was very familiar to us because
Mother and Daddy had lived there for years and we were all born there.

LS: I remember the Thomas's would go twice a year and would get their spring and
summer wardrobe and then they would go back in the fall and get their back-to-
school outfits. I don't remember we did that, but they did.

VJ: e t the ecafit en ca -o"

MJ4 res, yu woyd betswadbr Gaieiee sqecftwoub

VJ: Cif

LS: I have a small foot and I can remember going to New York and trying to buy
shoes. They would see me walk in and they would say, "You don't need to come
in. We don't have your size." I would turn around and would have to come back
to Florida to get the small sizes.

VJ: -" 4 irg 4 u t/-f A- # when you can find them. They say the
sample shoes were all size 4.

LS: No, that was smaller than mine. Sunny Phillips had that small size.

LS: S__he had the tiniest foot with a
high arch, and she could wear the sample shoes. She always wore a heel.

VJ: Mother used to order the saddle shoes for me. I hated those saddle shoes, but you
had to wear them. That's what everybody wore.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 50
April 1, 2004


VJ: And it was too bad if they came in and they didn't fit. You'd ordered them and
you had to take them.

MJ: ad th ta atbu uect

LS: I/hink e n me o b people sm

S I used to have to bu Dan's clothes when we werE in Bostp e wou0 buy

MJ: I remember that your parents were from Texas and I believe that Yvonne Cody's
parents were from Texas, too.

VJ: Yes, they were, but a different part of Texas.

MJ: Yes, most everybody came from away.

VJ: That's right. You know, I don't know how many original families there were.
The Pepper's and Stringfellow's, the Haile's. I'm not too familiar with the
Gainesville history. Dad's mother came in 1919 and I've always felt like we were
relative newcomers.

MJ: The Chestnut's (Billy Chestnut's) parents and all had an old place here, and they
were like the Haile's.

VJ: The Graham's. Who else can you think of? Tell me all you know because I don't
think any of the Graham's have been interviewed and I don't know how we could
get to them. They're all out of town.

MJ: Oh really. You really should. Unfortunately, Betty Thomas (Dr. Thomas's
daughter) and Lee Graham, who married, live in Tallahassee. Betty Thomas
come -y I k CLS t L--.KE every summer in May and if anybody wants to
interview them, we have their telephone number. You can call and they should
really be interviewed. They have a brother here Billy Thomas who was a
doctor here, but Billy doesn't remember the same thing that Betty and Ginger do.

LS/2- ety----------

VJ: Until we can get to them, tell me about the Graham's. Henry Graham, Sr., was
President of the First National Bank.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 51
April 1, 2004

MJ: No, it wasn't Henry, Sr. It was Pat Graham and Lee Graham.

VJ: Oh, Lee was the daddy?

MJ: There are two sets of Graham's. They came from brothers originally. Now Mary
Stringfellow surely you have the Stringfellow's and the Graham's. Somebody's
got them.

.(Hart Stringfellow has been interviewed. rcm)

VJ: So the two brothers had the bank, right?

MJ: Yes.

VJ: Do you know anything about their parents?

MJ: No, I don't. Which ones married sisters? Mr. Pat Graham and then another
brother, who lived away from here, married sisters.

VJ: I understood that maybe Mrs. Lee Graham's sister was Mrs. Graham Haile.

MJ: No, Mrs. Haile was a sister to Mr. Pat Graham and Mr. Lee Graham.

VJ: Oh, I see. So there were two boys and a girl.

MJ: That I know of.

VJ: And she married one of the Haile Plantation family. Then she had the son,
Graham Haile.

MJ: She had Graham and _)0 ~ ( A. There were two sons, anyway, but
one lived away from here down in Orlando. He's still alive.

VJ: Graham married Eloise and they had Evans, who is a very talented
__ _7_____a__gaty. LW /T-U- /) ] w-) 4' Id V-f9rh CFp Urt-{ drJ

MJ: Tjh.iTOfIUvorly w dftuerg^ ^ / iy u^ ,

VJ: So I guess they were named Graham because of the connection with the Graham
family. That was the sister of Lee and Pat Graham, right? Then Pat's children?
What about them?

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 52
April 1, 2004

MJ: Bill Graham, who was a lawyer here, and Mary Graham, who married E ,i

VJ: Oh, okay. I never knew that. I know about the Lee Graham family. There's

MJ: Henry and Marian and Lee. Henry was a well-known doctor
#ifiao f-__t bad accident that eventually led to his death. Lee is an
Episcopal minister. He is still living. Marian is living, but she's not well. She
has osteoporosis and that sort of thing. She is down in Orlando.

VJ: Their home is now the Spring Arts Festival house and that's on 1s Street.

MJ: That's right. The Lee Graham house.

(L. Wiliam Graham has been interviewed by Mari Cofrin rem)

LS: Then there was the Douglas's. Wasn't Mrs. Smith a Douglas?

MJ: Yes.

LS: There was Zack Douglas.

VJ: Oh yes. I used to know him.

LS: Eloise's mother was a Douglas. Then she married Graham Haile. They lived
right around there together.

VJ: Yes, she was the girl next door. They had actually the only authentic Cracker
house, I think, inside the city limits that's still in good shape.

LS: Then the Hampton's.

MJ: I was going to say the Hampton family has been here for lots and lots of years.

VJ: Oh yes. Wade Hampton was here for a while because I remember I used to study
the southern mansions and they had a mansion in South Carolina an old
plantation. I guess he would spend part of the time here or else he moved here
from there. I don't know exactly how it went. Wde ha s-bee-inteso
w ade-nt-need to pursue-that.

LS: Then Dr. Smith. Do you remember the girls? He had two daughters.

MJ: Yes, Sarah and Margaret. They're old-timers here.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 53
April 1, 2004

VJ: Oh yes. Sarah married Beo and Margaret married Storm.

MJ: That's right. Margaret has moved to Jacksonville. I don't know whether she is
still living or not.

VJ: Let's talk about the Purvis Gray firm.

LS: Every year, when the income tax was due, which is April 15h, they had a fish fry.
You would come by and pick up your form and mail it off and have a fish fry. It
was out in the back block, and it was the most fun. Good food. They had a
Brunswick stew and they had typical fish and hush puppies and the whole thing.
One day one of the burners blew out and did some damage to somebody standing
by, so they discontinued that. But that was such a nice thing. It was getting out
of hand, also. Street people were beginning to come in and attend.

VJ: Even back then we had street people?

LS: Well, this wasn't that long ago. Ten years ago. It was such a thoughtful thing for
the firm to do and then they didn't have to do much at Christmas or anything else.
This was their thank-you for coming to our firm. Then it got so that anybody in
the neighborhood would drop in. That was a good fish fry, though.

MJ: And it was before fish fries were commercialized. They were honest-to-goodness
fish fries, and they had the cooks out there.

LS: Probably some of them came from Cedar Key.

MJ: They had wonderful food, but it became so diluted in later years.

LS: You know we haven't spoken about the Angle Inn.

VJ: I don't remember the Angle Inn. Tell me about it.

LS: This was Diana Smith's father. They ran a boarding house across the street,
which was the fAl(AI4 // JA

VJ: You mean near the University?

LS: No. I can't even think what's in there now. Anyway, it was a drive-in. You
would drive in and you would get a shortie, which was vanilla ice cream with
chocolate sauce on it and pecans on top. That was called a shortie. It was in a
little small cup. You had to have a shortie just about every day. It is now located
in the middle of the block.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 54
April 1, 2004

MJ: Well, there was /yo- '4i Court, which they ran, also. It was across
the street. There was nson's Service Station and it's a bank now. Therff e's

LS: There were vacant lots along University Avenue in those days.

VJ: You know Sam Ham had the College Inn right across from there. I guess he later
became head of the Chamber of Commerce.

MJ: Right. There were lots of vacant lots, but now it's kind of hard to remember what
it was like because there isn't a vacant lot anywhere now. The Bicycle Shop was

LS: And the shoe store. What was his name?

LS: o. around the corner rnthat.

re the

LS: The Shop was rig t ere. There was a man that had a shoe store

MJ: Oglebee. It was shoe repair.

LS: That's right. Eventually Miss Bessie had her gift shop.

MJ: There was a grocery store next to it. There's still some horse shoes, or used to be,
on that sidewalk. There was a livery stable somewhere in there. The horseshoes
showed you where it was.

VJ: That was down from VO 0 g / Bakery, around the corner?

MJ: I don't know. The horseshoes were on that street over from the bakery.

LS: Bob Ross Shoes were on the corer and Miss Bessie's was on the other corer.
Then there were second-hand stores down there. There were shoe repairs, but
there were livery stables all over town. There were several of them, but that was
before my time.

VJ: Let's get back to the old families that we think ought to be covered.

MJ: I bet they're on the list.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 55
April 1, 2004

VJ: No, the list is quite short. They may have been interviewed, but right now we
have a fairly short list. They are interested in a diverse A~RturJ2I hT .
They are not just looking for old families, but I do think it would be nice to make
sure that the old families have been covered.

LS: Iwo b ut s hin

MJ: Of course, Miss Swearingen and Dr. Bishop and all those were of an old family.
VJ: The Swearingen's included the Bishop's, didn't they?

MJ: Yes.

VJ: And Connie Bishop married Sa didn't she?

MJ: Yes, Judge g- j/t)6 P &) i z5 &.z r gp /h1 A)U1EMV Tk'( f LtU 5

VJ: A Supreme Court judge. Was that state or federal?

MJ: State. Jimmie Adkins was on the State Supreme Court, too.

VJ: That's right, and the Adkins were an old family, I guess.

MJ: Yes, they were.

VJ: There was another Adkins, or is the same one Red Adkins, who had that great
big house on The Boulevard? Is that a different Adkins?

LS: Yes, it is. They had a ( AI mill here, and they had property down on
St. L,___ Hammock, too.

MJ: And the Parrish's were here. Two different Parrish's, but they were related
someway. There was Walter Parrish.

VJ: Yes, and he had a radio store, didn't he? And the M.M. Parrish's were realtors for
two or three generations. And the other Adkins were attorneys. J.C. Adkins had
his son, J.C. Jr., and Margaret, and Margaret married a Parrish, so that kind of ties
it in.

MJ: Shemarried Then she later m ed rt o a essefl

VJ: Jimdied He had a heart attack. It nearly killed lim because he was like a son to

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 56
April 1, 2004

MJ: I see. I'm trying to think. There were people who lived down on the cemetery
street way out here. They had several children and they lived down by what was
the sheriffs office then. Miss Sally Walker had her playground down there. She
was the colonel's wife in R.O.T.C. here. She was the first social worker that I
knew of in Gainesville, but she had programs for the underprivileged.
4i mAoved downthe w ll

VJ: Pvvessc the nicest neighborhood in East Gainesville until the late 30's.

LS: I think some of East Gainesville has the most beautiful area as far as rolling hills
and that sort of thing. I think it's perfectly beautiful.

VJ: My mother used to think that if you lived on the other side of Main Street you
were on the wrong side of the tracks.

LS: That's right. There are some pretty parts of Gainesville that never were
developed. I think a lot of it was that there were big tracts owned. Baird
Hardware owned some, and some others, and they wanted to hold out for top
dollar and the town kind of came and left them. Around Newnan's Lake area and

VJ: Yes, and there are wetlands there, too.

LS: These weren't wetlands, but you couldn't develop because there was
___-_______ on a lot of property from Newnan's Lake on or the other
- little towns there had vast pinelands there. I'm talking about why I think East
Gainesville didn't develop more; that people owned big tracts and they would not

VJ: How about the turpentine mills? Do you remember that?

LS: I can remember the little turpentine pots on all the pine trees because they would
collect the sap. I have a couple of those.

MJ: I do, too. I should pass them on. They probably have plenty of them at the
historic center.

VJ: I don't know whether they do or not. I'll ask them.

MJ: Ask them. They were clay.

LS: They would put a nail in a tree and bend it and then you would put this clay pot
that had a hole in the top in the rim around it and they would hook it on there.
They would make a cat face. They called them cat faces. They would score the
tree and this cat face would go toward the center and lead into the pot.

Interview with Mary Davitt Johnson and Louise Davitt Summerlin 57
April 1, 2004

MJ: And the pot didn't have a hole in the bottom of it, as our flowerpots do, but they
looked like flowerpots.

VJ: They were sort of elongated. I'm sure I saw them. I remember the trees with
pots. I'll ask them and see if they'd like to have one.

MJ: I would be glad to donate it.

VJ: I just took my old postcard of the White House Hotel down there.

2 ej^6/2^iV'

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