MATHESON MUSEUM, INC.
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
Laura Thompson Carmichael
Mary Ann Cofrin
Ruth C. Marston
January 14, 2000
Alachua County Historic Trust: Matheson Museum, Inc.
Interview with Laura Thompson Carmichael 1
January 14, 2000
Q: My name is Mary Ann Cofrin, and I am interviewing Laura Thompson Carmichael on
January 14, 2000, at her home, 2284 N.W. 19th Lane, Gainesville, Florida, 32605, for the
Matheson Museum, Inc. Would you please give your full name and birthdate for the tape,
A: Laura Thompson Carmichael. I was born November 20, 1905.
Q: Can you tell me about your parents? You were born in Gainesville, but they were not?
A: No, I was born in Altoona, Alabama. My father's name was Wilson Cobb Thompson. He
was born September 24, 1845, and he died January 10, 1952. My mother was Maggie
Whitley Thompson. She was born June 13, 1870 and died January 18, 1952.
Q: They both lived in Alabama?
A: In Alabama. They came to Gainesville, Florida in 1915.
Q: So that's when you first came to Gainesville, and that would have made you nine years old.
Where did you live in Gainesville?
A: My father bought a five-acre plot on the lake road and we lived there for about five years,
and then we moved to East University Avenue across from the Coca Cola Bottling
Q: East University Avenue would be out towards Waldo Road but not that far.
A: Not to the Waldo Road.
Q: I don't remember exactly where the Coca Cola Bottling Company was.
A: It's still there. It was just beyond the Burnett's, the Evans, the Bob Davises, and the
Q: When you say lake road, what lake road do you mean?
A: Newnan's Lake Road.
Q: So you went to what school?
Q: Which is now Kirby-Smith. So you went there from about the third grade?
Interview with Laura Thompson Carmichael 2
January 14, 2000
A: I was nine years old and was in the third grade. Pearl Futch was my teacher. My sisters, of
course, went to the same school.
Q: How many sisters did you have?
A: Just two. Do you want me to tell about them?
A: My oldest sister was Jessie, and she was born February 17, 1901, and she died July 2, 1994.
Aubrey was bor April 28, 1903 and died June 9, 1995. None of us had children so I don't
have any nieces or nephews.
Q: You were close enough in age to be very good companions. You stayed at Eastside through
A: Jessie graduated in the class of 1919 and Aubrey graduated three years later and then I
graduated when the school was where the 720 Building is now.
Q: So by the time you were in high school, you were in the Westside. It was called Eastside and
Westside, I believe, or was it Gainesville High School?
Q: Gainesville High School, and you moved over there probably in about the ninth or tenth
grade, do you remember?
A: I think it was in about the 11h grade.
Q: So you were one of the first students over there. That's when it was built and opened, so that
was interesting. So you lived there on East University Avenue most of your high school?
Who were your friends at that time?
A: Helen Cubberly, Molly Greenberg, Dempsey Creary, Averill McMillan, and Mary Shaw,
and the boys were Webster Merritt, Albert Schwartz, Bob Black, Jim McClamroch, and
Q: What kind of activities do you remember in your teenage years?
A: We played basketball but never was on the team, and we were coached by Edna Earle
Chestnut. I remember one of my favorite teachers was Mrs. Hannon.
Interview with Laura Thompson Carmichael 3
January 14, 2000
Q: What grade was that?
A: I had Miss Bena Shannon in the 8h grade, and I think Mrs. Hannon was about the 9 grade.
Q: Activities in town were pretty much of your own making in those days, don't you think?
A: Yes. Going to town in the car and parking on the north side of University Avenue, across
from the courthouse, to watch the Saturday people walk up and down and to walk up and
down yourself. That was everybody gathering on a Saturday.
Q: There were movie houses at that time, too. You went to the movies, I assume.
A: There was only one, the Lyric Theater.
Q: They had bank night, didn't they?
A: Oh yes. Billy Matthews was a student from Hawthorne, and he usually conducted Bank
Q: What is your very earliest memory as a youngster?
A: I remember very well my mother in Alabama, in Altoona, making ice cream out of the fresh
snow with milk and sugar.
Q: That's a good memory, not something you ever did in Florida.
Q: Gainesville was a wonderful place to grow up, don't you think?
Q: After high school, what did you do then?
A: In the summer I worked for the business office at the telephone company, to make some
money, and I enjoyed working there very much. Then I went to Stetson University but only
for one semester, and I thought I would die of homesickness. I was just so homesick. Mrs.
Norman (Lucille) wrote me a letter to tell me that no one had ever been known to die of
homesickness, and I would be the very first one if I did die, so this cheered me up.
Q: Mrs. Norman would have been your friend or your mother's friend?
A: My mother's friend.
Interview with Laura Thompson Carmichael 4
January 14, 2000
Q: But you didn't want to stay anyway.
A: No, you had just one semester. I came home and persuaded my mother that I didn't want to
go back. I wanted to go to work.
Q: Was that at Christmas time?
A: Yes. She said I had to go to school somewhere so I went to Madison, Florida. I was very
much in love with J.B. at that time. He had gone to Florida Normal Institute and had gotten
a business degree. I persuaded my mother to let me go there, so I went and took a teacher's
examination after I had been there for about six months and got a third-grade certificate. I
came home and thought I was going to teach school but I decided to get married instead.
Q: We'd better hear about what year you met J.B. and what his full name is.
A: I don't remember what year I met him, but he was J.B. Carmichael -- James Bunyan
Carmichael -- and I could have been on the $64 question because I married a man without
knowing his name. He told me that the B stood for Benjamin, so my wedding announcement
said James Benjamin Carmichael, and when I met his mother -- I had never met his mother
and father -- after we were married and went to Orlando.... J.B. had just one weekend off,
not even a weekend because the bank stayed open on Saturdays then. So we went to the
football game in Jacksonville and then went to Orlando to see his mother and father. We
spent Saturday night in Jacksonville and drove down, and when I got there, I heard his
mother calling his father Bunyan, and so I called him off to one side and said, "Why does
your mother call your father Bunyan?" He said, "Well, that's really my name, but I don't
like it." So I married a man without knowing his full name.
Q: You were married, I believe, in 1924 and you then went to Jacksonville the next day?
A: The same day, to the football game, and stayed at a hotel and then drove down to Orlando
the next day.
Q: They did not come to the wedding then?
A: We were just married at the parsonage in Waldo.
Q: Where was J.B. living at that time?
A: In Gainesville.
Q: So he was living in Gainesville and was working at the Phifer State Bank, correct?
Interview with Laura Thompson Carmichael 5
January 14, 2000
Q: After you were married, you lived in Gainesville. Where did you live with J.B.?
A: We had an apartment on South Virginia Avenue, rented from Mr. Scarrett, Olive Brigg's
father. It was right next door to the Bullard's, I believe, and then the Boltin's lived on the
next block. Directly across the street was the Dickinson family and Carlos Zetrouer's
Q: You said Virginia Avenue? Now it's 2nd Street, right by the side of the Thomas Hotel?
A: No, it was South Virginia. Right near the post office.
Q: So not in that area. I see. You didn't work after you were married?
A: Yes, I worked as a bookkeeper at the Singer Sewing Machine Company.
Q: How long did you do that?
A: I started substituting at the bank for J.B. when he had to have a hernia operation and I
worked because they kept him in the hospital for three weeks, I think it was, flat on his back.
So he had taught me how to write up the cash letter, which was one of the jobs he did, so I
went down every day and did it for the three weeks that he was out. At Christmas when he
came back to work, Mr. Phifer gave me a dollar for the work I had done. They didn't hire
me at that time, but later in the years, I wasn't working, and the Citizens Bank was started
with Oscar Thomas, Charles Brooking, Mr. McIntosh, and Ben Franklin. They asked me to
be a teller and I started out as a teller. First Officers were Wilson Boozer, John C. Jennings,
Richard Stearns, B.W. Webb, Fred Cone, and Charles P. Thomas.
Q: And the Citizens Bank was just a new bank that formed in 1947, I believe, and that's when
J.B. left the Phifer Bank after it was bought by Florida National?
A: I must tell you something interesting. The Phifer Bank, you know, was on the corer of First
Avenue and East Main Street, South, across from the courthouse, and when the Thomas
Funeral Home had a funeral, the funeral procession always came down West Main Street and
turned and went by the Phifer Bank, to get to Virginia Street. The bank was closed and
everybody was working balancing up, and a funeral procession passed. J.B. looked up and
said, "I wonder who died?" One of the men in the bank, just busily balancing up his work,
and without even looking up said, "Well, there are people dying today that never died
before." We used it as an expression many times.
Q: So that was after you left Singers, you worked at the bank and how long did you work at the
Interview with Laura Thompson Carmichael 6
January 14, 2000
A: I worked at the bank until the Florida Bank bought out the Phifer Bank, they didn't permit a
husband and wife to work together so J.B. was on the board of the Gainesville Mutual
Building & Loan, so Mrs. Howard asked him if I would be interested in working for them.
So I went to work for them.
Q: Of Gainesville Mutual, because you couldn't work at the new Florida Bank.
A: That was after Florida Bank bought the Phifer Bank, so that was before he went to Citizens
Q: Yes, so then he didn't work very long at the Florida Bank because they found out that he was
helping to organize the Citizens Bank, so he lost his job. Well, that was a good reason. He
knew what he wanted to do. What were your social activities as a couple? Did you have a
lot of friends that you did things with?
A: We both played bridge and we had friends in Williston. We used to get together either here
Q: Were you active in University functions as far as football games?
A: Oh, avid football fans, and every day when we would get away from work, J.B. headed right
for the stadium and we would go see how much progress was being made because they
would use mules to dig the holes for the stadium.
Q: You mean when they were building the stadium? I see.
A: We couldn't wait until they would finish.
Q: You don't remember what year they finished that, do you?
Q: Gainesville was still a pretty small town.
A: In the meantime, we lived in this apartment for about a year, I guess. This was when I was
working at the Singer Sewing Machine Company, before I started working at the bank. I
never had learned to cook very much. We didn't have frozen vegetables, so we used quite a
bit of dried lima beans, dried peas, and dried vegetables. I would put them all to soak and
when I got out from work, I would go home and cook them. One day I wanted to cook some
macaroni and put it to soak. When I got home to cook it, there wasn't anything but milky
water. I called my mother on the phone and I said, "Do you know someone came in the
Interview with Laura Thompson Carmichael 7
January 14, 2000
apartment today and took my macaroni." She said, "Child, don't you know you don't soak
Q: And you said, "No, mother." Well, you had to learn somehow. Somewhere along the line,
you must have gotten interested in doing civic activities, because you have done so many
things in Gainesville. Did you continue to work or was this after you quit work that you got
A: Let's see. I guess it was after I quit working. My father died in 1952, and I was still
working when he died. Someone sent us a clipping about his death in the paper, and I think
his picture was probably in the paper, but anyway I thought it was such a nice thing to do
that I started sending clippings from the paper and I've continued.
We had built a house about two years after we were married, just a frame house which is still
standing at 605 S.W. 9th Street near the hospital. The F.H.A. had come into existence. We
were working at the Phifer Bank, and Mr. Gus Phifer said, "Why don't you and Laura
borrow the money to build a house? You've always wanted a brick house. Why don't you
build a brick house?" So we borrowed $5,000, which was an enormous amount. Roscoe
McLane drew up the plans. We wanted to be sure to have a living room that would hold
three tables of bridge and it had to have a fireplace. I was set on a fireplace, and the
fireplace cost $50 extra! It was called a split-level house, with a step downjust about six or
eight inches. Now they have split-level with eight and ten steps. We moved from our
original frame house next door. We built on the lot next to us. It was a 2-story brick, and
it's on the historical list because it was the first F.H.A. mortgaged home built in Alachua
County. The first night we were going to spend in the house, we were tired and I sat down
on the sofa and all of a sudden I began just crying. J.B. said, "What on earth is wrong now?"
I said, "Just think. We'll be 50 years old when we get this house paid for!" That was a 20-
year mortgage. J.B. said, "There's nothing in it that doesn't say we can pay it off ahead of
time." So in ten years we had it paid for.
Q: Long before you were fifty.
A: We had lived in the little frame house about twelve years and when we built next door, we
didn't throw a thing away. We just took out drawers and moved them over to the new house.
So that's why when I moved here, I thought I was going to be the first patient at Hospice.
That many years of accumulated items.
Q: So when you were young, one of your big activities was bridge playing with the different
couples in town. Any special couples you want to name?
A: Judge and Ms. Harry MacDonald, and Carlos Zetrouer was an avid bridge player. The
Coleen's who worked in the bank and lived at Mrs. Richard's house, who was Mrs. Ed
Interview with Laura Thompson Carmichael 8
January 14, 2000
Roberts' grandmother. The Coleen's lived in Fort Pierce and came here to work in the bank.
We played a lot of poker with John and Rebecca Powell and Eloise and Spaulding Smith
and Dr. and Mrs. Chester Ahman. We occasionally went to the dog races, but after Mr.
Benton, who was a teller at the Phifer Bank, committed suicide because he was short --
probably around $3,000 -- that put a damper on our gambling.
Q: You were so close to the hospital. Is that one reason you got interested in it?
A: I got interested after I quit work. I would volunteer there. I was nominated for the
Community Service Award.
Q: Right. You did a lot for the Alachua General Hospital Auxiliary. You were President in
1967 and there were a lot of innovations that came about the years you were President.
A: Just one year. Then I was elected to the Board of the hospital and served for nine years.
Q: Yes, that came in 1978 for a three-year term. Were you the first woman to be on the
Alachua General Hospital Board of Directors, do you think?
A: No, I think there had been another woman.
Q: The hospital Auxiliary was certainly one of your big, big donations. I know you gave
flowers to the lobby. I don't think everybody even knew who did it. You did that on the
side, didn't you?
A: I started of my own accord. When Dr. Thomas's portrait was hung, it needed something
Q: That's what got you started on that! You were also a member of the Eastern Star, a Worthy
A: Yes. I'm not active in that now, but I am a life member.
Q: You also got active in the Friends of the Library.
A: I enjoyed that so much.
Q: You were President of that in 1972, and before that you were Treasurer. Do you remember
doing all those wonderful things that you did? You did a lot of things. You also belonged to
the Gainesville Women's Club.
A: I'm a life member in that.
Interview with Laura Thompson Carmichael 9
January 14, 2000
Q: You were on the building committee and you were Finance Chairman. You've been a very,
very active lady.
A: We didn't mention about awards, but this is one I'm very proud of.
Q: We didn't talk about the Four H Council.
A: It was the first award like that, that they presented.
Q: I'm going to read it: "Award of Appreciation -- Presented to Laura Carmichael in
appreciation for your support and dedication to the youth of Alachua County and Alachua
County Four H Council, 1998". Well, we didn't talk about the fact that you had been in that.
And here's another. This is the "Women of Achievement Award, presented to Laura
Carmichael for excellence and leadership, commitment and service. Women's Leadership
Conference, University of Florida, February 1, 1997."
And here's another one: "Book of Golden Deeds -- In recognition of the many hours spent
quietly and anonymously uplifting the hearts of her fellow man and her many selfless good
deeds. The Exchange Club of Gainesville honors Laura T. Carmichael as an unsung hero of
our community and awards her the Book of Golden Deeds this 26 day of June, 1997."
A: About my clipping service.
Q: Yes, I want to talk some more about that. It's a wonderful thing.
A: I remember J.B. played duplicate bridge and I didn't care for that. I thought it was too sort-
of cut throat, so I would stay home and do my clippings, cut out the brides and any other
interesting things, but I have cut it down to nothing but pictures and have for years because I
just couldn't keep up. I remember J.B. coming from playing duplicate bridge one night and I
was still working on my clippings and he said, "When are you going to quit doing this
clipping?" and I said, "When postage gets to ten cents, I'm not going to send another one."
So now I've moved it up to fifty cents.
Q: Yes, you pay a lot more than ten cents now, that's for sure. I didn't mention when we talked
about the Garden Club, you were in the Dogwood Circle, and I've read that you've served all
the offices in that circle. You've also volunteered for the March of Dimes, the Heart Fund,
and you're a life member of the Alachua County Mental Health Association, Alachua
County Humane Society, and of course the Alachua General Hospital Auxiliary. You got
interested in Hospice House. Were you one of the real starters of that project?
Interview with Laura Thompson Carmichael 10
January 14, 2000
A: I was serving on the board at Alachua General, and Dr. Ray Fitzpatrick was very interested
in Hospice and I think he talked to the Auxiliary one time, which got me very interested.
Alice Sharp was President of the Auxiliary at that time and she brought it before the Board,
asking that the Board consider starting Hospice here in the hospital. Mr. Peddie looked
around the Board and said, "I think it would be a wonderful idea, and somebody on the
Board will have to serve on the Hospice Board." This was at the Hospital Board. So Mr.
Peddie looked around and said, "Would anybody like to volunteer for it?" There was dead
silence, and I said, "Well, I've always been interested." He said, "You're elected," so for
opening my mouth, I've been on the Board for over twenty years.
Q: That's a long time.
A: When I went to India, I made it a point to ...
Q: We haven't talked about your going to India. When did you do that? We can add the date in
later, but when you went to India, was this before J.B. died?
A: Shortly after I was appointed to the Hospital Board.
Q: Well, that was 1978, after you'd lost your husband.
A: Yes. I didn't travel any before he died. He didn't like to travel except to North Carolina, to
Waynesville. We only had two weeks vacation -- that's all he could get, so we went to
North Carolina every summer and we always stayed at the big red brick hotel in
Waynesville, the Monte Vista. They had a big porch with the rockers on it and the first week
we would do nothing but sit in the rockers out on the front porch and the second week we
Q: So you had what you call a real restful vacation. But it was after he died and after you were
elected to the Board, sometime after 1978, you took a trip to India. Now tell me about that.
A: I was real interested in Hospice and wanted to see one or two Hospice houses.
Q: How did you know about it?
A: I had heard that it really originated in India.
Q: I didn't know that.
A: The place where I went was on the Ganges River and it was a 2-story, looked like a barn, and
they would bring terminally ill people there. No rooms. It was just upstairs and downstairs
with people lying on cots or pallets. It happened that day that there was a beautiful young
Interview with Laura Thompson Carmichael 11
January 14, 2000
lady on one of the pyres that they had built and the family all came to see her put on the big
Q: Was this a funeral?
A: Yes, a funeral pyre that's on a flat barge, and before they set the fire, all the family leaves
except the men. The women leave with the children, and after they had gone back home --
and they were crying, of course -- they set fire to the pyre and it drifts down the river.
Q: That was a moving experience.
A. It was. I traveled quite a bit after my husband died -- to China and Japan, Australia, India,
Turkey, Spain, and Morocco.
Q: Now, on your trip to India, did you go alone?
A: No, it was a tour.
Q: So this was not a Hospice tour. You just did that as sort of a sideline while you were there.
A: Yes. One of the most beautiful places that I stayed was in Darjeeling. When we landed to
go to a very rustic place, the plane was small -- only about 15 passengers, I think -- and we
landed just on a field of grass, and they met us with elephants and we had to ride a couple or
three miles on an elephant. It was very rustic but very enjoyable. We stayed about two
nights there. Rode the elephants. That was the only way to get around. I was on the trip
with Alma Waters and Clem Donovan. They were the only people I knew on the trip.
Q: So you did get in a lot of traveling over the years. Along with all your civic activities, you
didn't have much time for anything else.
A: I had them save the papers so I could go back over them to clip the pictures.
Q: Did you really? That was a wonderful thing. That was a very nice letter in your scrapbook
from Dr. Wayne Reitz talking about how much he appreciated that and how much he thought
of you and J.B., too. By the way, I do have a copy of the article and I will include that when
you received the Service Award because it goes into some detail about all your activities.
You were nominated by Ruth and Ray Weimer.
A: I had been on several trips with them.
Q: Another thing we haven't mentioned is that you were a 50 year member of First Baptist
Church. That was back then, so it's longer.
Interview with Laura Thompson Carmichael 12
January 14, 2000
A: I'm thinking 77. I was 17 when I joined the church.
Q: That's a long time. This is sort of a surprise question so you can answer it or not. Is there
any special person who you think most influenced your life?
A: I can't think of anyone except my mother.
Q: Well, shall we talk a little bit about James Bunyan Carmichael, who was born in 1901 and he
lived until 1969. We do have his obituary, which we will also include. He came to
Gainesville when he was 15, and he first worked for the Maddox Factory and Machine
Works in Archer?
A: Yes. Then he saw an ad for a teller, I guess, and he applied for the job and they accepted
him. That was the Phifer Bank.
Q: And that was 1920, and he worked there until 1947. Then he went, like you said earlier, to
the Citizens Bank and stayed there until March, 1960, and he was Vice President at that time.
A: He had always wanted to be Clerk of the Court. He just admired that office and thought it
would be a wonderful job. His work had gotten very pressing at the bank. He was working
too long hours, and I encouraged him. I said, "Let's just go for it. Go ahead and run for it."
Mr. Evans had been Clerk, I think it was for 26 years.
Q: Which Evans was that?
A: George Evans. His wife was Elizabeth. So when J.B. announced, Elizabeth didn't speakto
us for at least six months. She wouldn't speak to J.B. or to me. Mr. Evans spent most of his
time fishing, and really was not being a very good Clerk. He was never in the office. I said I
believed J.B. could be elected as long as he had been with the bank and people knew he was
honest, so he ran and there were three people running. Pierce Smith was one of the ones
who ran against him. After my sister, Jessie, would get off from the University at five
o'clock -- she was secretary for Mr. Guy Fulton in the College of Architecture -- we would
get in the car and go to High Springs, Alachua, and Hawthorne and pass out cards. I went to
one of the houses and there was an elderly man sitting on the porch. I walked up and spoke
very nicely to him. I handed him a card and said, "My husband is running for Clerk of the
Circuit Court, and we certainly would appreciate your vote." He said, "Well, I'm glad to
know somebody is running against George Evans. Somebody ought to have run against him
a long time ago, but everybody was scared to, but I sure am glad your husband is going to
run against him. Now I'm going to vote for George Evans because I always have, but I sure
am glad your husband's going to run against him." I felt like saying, "Give the card back."
Interview with Laura Thompson Carmichael 13
January 14, 2000
Q: What a strange reply! I guess you never know what you're going to run into. That was
about 1960, and he was elected, right?
A: There was a runoff for Pierce Smith and J.B. Mr. Evans was out.
Q: How did they take it?
A: Pierce was in the courthouse and he got another ob and it didn't require having to run for it,
but J.B. never had opposition from anyone else, and he carried every town except High
Springs. He had no opposition the three times he ran.
Q: To skip back, before he ever ran for Circuit Court Clerk, he also served on the City
Commission. I think he was elected in 1937. He had been in Gainesville a good while by
then. But he served five years there, and then he was the mayor for two terms, starting in
A: And they weren't paid. When you were elected to the City Commission, the only freebee
was from the Florida Theater. They gave them a pass and their wife a pass, and Mr.
Livingston gave his back because he thought that would be like accepting a bribe. I told
J.B., "Don't you dare give it back. I love to go to the movies."
Q: Who was Mr. Livingston?
A: Oh, Mr. Livingston had the ice plant.
Q: What was he doing with the pass?
A: He was on the Commission.
Q: Oh, they gave passes to all the Commissioners, not just the Mayor. That was nice.
A: I thought I would never get enough of going to the movies, but I got to where I'd let movies
come and go.
Q: You didn't really need to go to all of them! Tell me what he had to do with the University
City Bank? After the Citizens Bank, I have something down here that he was involved with
the University City Bank.
A: It is the bank that is now the Barnett Bank.
Q: Was it on University Avenue out towards the college?
Interview with Laura Thompson Carmichael 14
January 14, 2000
A: Greer Kirkpatrick and John Pierson had a bank that was between 10th Street and 12th Street.
Q: On University?
A: When the Florida Bank bought out the Phifer Bank, they found out shortly after he had been
there that he was helping to organize the Citizens Bank, so they let him go. It wasn't
supposed to have been told at that time, but they found out, so they fired him. This bank
said, "Come and work for us. We'd love to have you even if we do know you're going to be
Q: So he worked there until Citizens Bank got organized.
A: Johnny Pierson asked him, "What kind of a salary do you want?" J.B. said, "I'm not in any
position to ask for any salary, just whatever you'll pay me will be fine." So Johnny said,
"We'll pay you at the end of the pay period. If you're not satisfied, don't leave us. Tell us
what you want." So nothing was ever said about salary. I think before he even took that,
there was some time that he was out of work. He worked at the bank in Williston for a
while. He took whatever he could get.
Q: When the Citizens Bank got organized, he started out as Vice President, and he stayed there
until he resigned. He was a member of the First Methodist Church, right? And you were
not, so you each had your own separate churches.
A: No, we went to the Baptist Sunday School and to the Methodist Church.
Q: That was a good compromise. And he was a member of the Kiwanis Club? He was active in
that. There's also a memorial we will copy that was written after he passed away. He was
also a member of the Knights of Pithias.
A: Not very active.
Q: And the Elks Club.
A: He loved the Clerk's work. He just loved it.
Q: That's wonderful. He was active in other civic affairs. I know he was a member of the
Alachua County Tuberculosis Association, and probably some other things I don't know
about. Are there any other things you would like to add?
A: He was Treasurer, I think for 35 years.
Q: So all in all, you had a pretty exciting, wonderful married life.
Interview with Laura Thompson Carmichael 15
January 14, 2000
A: Yes. As I told you, when he was Mayor Commissioner and we were to lead the Grand
March down at the Legion Hall, your father and your mother, Mr. and Mrs. Sam Ham, told
us how to lead the march because we were not dancers. J.B. didn't care very much for
Q: Well, my mother never leased to dance, but Methodists weren't allowed to dance. Probably
J.B. wasn't allowed to dance. My father was a dancer, however. He taught us kids how to
A: I don't know that you would want to know this, but I gave my house -- the 2-story brick
house -- to Hospice.
Q: No, I did not know that. On S.W. 9t.
A: We had an acre there. That part of town is just overrun with students, and I only had one
neighbor who was not a student. All the rest were students. I kept telling them -- the Sharps
-- I said, "I don't think I want to live in a place where there's no neighbors except you all.
We don't even know the people living across the street. There's boys and girls living in the
same apartment. I'm going to look for a place." They said, "If you ever move, we are, too.
We're not going to stay." We had lived beside each other for nearly fifty years. When I
finally decided to move, Mrs. John Mott called me one morning and said, "The house just
catty-comer from us is for sale. I want you to come out here and look at it." I said, "Okay."
I think that was a Monday. I kept putting it off, but Wednesday morning I thought, "I'll go
look at it anyway," so I got Marge Green to come. I said, "Do you want to go look at a
house I'm going to look at?" She said she would love to see it, so I picked her up, and we
came, and the minute I walked into the foyer, it was so open and somehow Ijust liked it and
the next day I came back out to look at it one more time and said, "I'll take it." So I talked
with Patty Moore, who was head of Hospice at that time, and gave my house to Hospice with
no strings attached. They were very thankful for it.
Q: Of course.
A: At a Board meeting, Patty Moore brought up about a Hospice house and I was so interested
in it, and that was when I said to her after the meeting, "You know, Patty, I"ll give you my
house and you can do whatever you want to with it, and that would be a start of the money."
Well, the house didn't bring but about $150,000, and I was disappointed. Anyway, I told
Patty one time, "You know, I have quite a bit of Sun Trust Bank stock, and I could give you
a nice little hunk of that and that's going to help Hospice." I gave them the stock when it
was valued at $25.00 a share and it's $65.00 now.
Q: Did they sell it as soon as they got it? I guess they had to. Now when you gave your red-
brick house to Hospice, what year was that? Was that before the Hospice House was built?
Interview with Laura Thompson Carmichael 16
January 14, 2000
A: Oh yes.
Q: Did they use it for some patients in the beginning?
A: No, but before it was sold, they moved some of the beautiful shrubbery -- just gorgeous --
camellias and azaleas -- to take out to the new house, so that's why they named it Laura's
Q: Well, that was such a wonderful thing for you to do, to help them get started.
A: It was wonderful of them to have named the garden for me. It was a complete surprise.
Q: You deserved it.
A: I didn't even think about them doing such a thing.
Q: You've been an avid gardener, and I'm sure it was a beautiful garden you had in your home.
A: We had a little guest house there, just one room with a walk-in closet and a bath with just a
shower. No kitchen. Just a room to rent to students. We rented it to students for $50.00 a
month. We thought that was a good price. I was talking to the man who owns the house
now. They have three men in together. They rented it for $350.00 a month. I went by last
week. They had torn it down, and the man said to me, "Let me tell you what we found when
we tore that little house down. We found the walls were filled with bees, and we got out
nearly 50 pounds of honey."
Q: I never knew they did such a thing. Now what are they building there now?
A: He said they almost named it Carmichael Hall. They started to and then we changed it to
Windsor Hall. It's for lady students only.
Q: It's going to be behind your old house?
A: No, to the side. They bought the house below us and moved it to another lot.
Q: So it's going to be a rental property for University women.
A: He said it's going to be beautiful because it's going to be Mediterranean style.
Q: And will there just be rooms for rent, or is it going to be a house with a living room area?
Interview with Laura Thompson Carmichael 17
January 14, 2000
A: Have you ever been in Ivy Hall at the end of 10th Street? I've never been in, but that's for
women only, too.
Q: So it's an alternative to staying in a dorm or renting an apartment.
A: Yes, and there are four girls living in my house now.
Q: I see. So these people bought it from Hospice House when they sold it. You've been really
very instrumental in getting Hospice House going. What other projects are you in right
now? Have you about given up with all you've done? I don't think you have.
A: Clipping. Clipping really takes up time.
Q: Clipping and your peanut brittle. She makes peanut brittle for friends. I need to add that to
A: This clipping has almost gotten to be a full-time job. I send about 250 a month.
Q: And these are all to people you know.
A: I don't know any of them. Most of the time.
Q: They're pictures.
A: I used to do it under the hospital A.G.H. but when Shands bought them, it's not A.G.H.
anymore. I still work there. I still volunteer in the Surgical Waiting Room two days a
Q: What do you mean that it was under the hospital? Do you mean Alachua General would let
you do it while you were there?
A: No, I just used their letterhead and A.G.H. used to pay the postage but when Shands bought
it, that was too much.
Q: So you do it at home with your own stamps.
A: I use my own stamps. I use Hospice letterhead. They furnish my paper. Have you seen my
A: I won't use their envelopes. I buy the cheapest envelopes.
Interview with Laura Thompson Carmichael 18
January 14, 2000
Q: So it has the Hospice letterhead, and it says, "Sending picture clippings has been a hobby of
mine for more than forty years. Hope you can use an extra to tuck in a letter. Sincerely,
A: All I have to do is just write, "Dear
Q: And they print this out for you.
A: And they give me boxes of them. Really, that's the only thing that I sort of take credit for is
helping to build that Hospice House. I'm afraid it never would have gotten off without Patty
Moore. She was sold on Hospice. Of course, she isn't there now. She resigned and is in
Q: Does she live in Gainesville still?
A: Yes, and her husband is with the University in the Registrar's Office. He is going to be the
administrator of my estate. My two cents!
Q: Well, you've given so much away already.
A: But I think Hospice is a wonderful thing, and having no children and no relatives -- you
might say no relatives -- I don't want to go to a nursing home if I am incapacitated, so
Hospice has assured me I'll have a place.
Q: Even if you don't need it. Are they going to take you in anytime?
A: No, they said they would see that I never had to go into a nursing home.
Q: Have you any other pet projects of yours?
A: No. Hospice and clippings.
Q: And peanut brittle that you give to friends. And still you are very active playing bridge.
A: Three times a week. Anytime.
Q: Anytime anybody gets up a game. That's wonderful. You've certainly had a full,
interesting, interesting life. We appreciate your sharing all this with us, and the Matheson
Museum will have it down. We'll give you a copy. As I told you earlier, it can be edited
and we'll add anything that you think ought to be added or cross out anything you're sorry
Interview with Laura Thompson Carmichael 19
January 14, 2000
A: Oh, the post office presented this to me -- the first Hospice stamps. Imagine the post office
giving away anything!
Q: Twenty Hospice Care stamps! I've never seen a Hospice Care stamp.
A: I used those entirely while they had them. They printed five million and they didn't last here
over two months, but I still have a few. Mark Walker, President of one of the banks, and he
was President of the First Union, knows me and he said, "We will make you bring this back
to every Hospice Board meeting to see if you've stolen any of the stamps out of it."
Q: Well, Laura, you've got a lot to be proud of.
A: What am I going to do with these things?
Q: Give them to the Matheson Museum. Actually, our curator, Burnham Cooper, has said they
would just copy what they want of these articles. So you now have found a place to put all
this stuff. We'll have a big fat Laura Carmichael folder. Not only the folder, we'll have to
have a wall hanging to hang all of your awards. It's absolutely wonderful. You must be a
very proud lady.
A: I don't deserve all of this.
Q: Yes, you do. You don't feel like you do because you enjoy doing it, but you know there are
a lot of people who have time and still don't do for others, but you've always taken the time
to do that.
A: I feel like I could have done more somehow.
Q: I don't know. It seems to me your life must have been very, very full. I don't know how
you could have found time to do much more. Anyway, it is wonderful that you've done so
much and we do thank you. Like I say, it will all be edited and we'll give you a chance to
read it over. We appreciate it very much. Thank you.