MATHESON HISTORICAL MUSEUM
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
Earl M. Reames
Louise Scales Brown
Ruth C. Marston
July 22, 2002
Interview with Earl M. Reames 1
July 22, 2002
B: My name is Louise Scales Brown, and I am interviewing Earl Reames at 3400 N.W.
10th Street at Gainesville, Florida, on July 22, 2002. Mr. Reames, will you please
state your full name for the tape.
R: I am Earl Mitchell Reames.
B: The goal of the Matheson Center's Oral History Program is to collect and preserve
the histories of Alachua County by interviewing longtime residents of the area. You
and Mrs. Reames have been longtime residents of the Gainesville community, and it
is indeed a pleasure to interview you at your home. Please begin by talking about
your early childhood, where you were bor, your parents' names and other family
members. Just tell us about your family background.
R: I was bom on April 11, 1917, in West Plains, Missouri, a birthplace I share with
Porter Wagner. My mother's name was Frances Lee Pool Reames, and she was bom
in West Plains. My father's name was Earl Sidney Reames, and he was bom in
Sikeston, Missouri. They met in West Plains. We lived in South Fork, Missouri,
which is southwest of West Plains.
I had five sisters and two brothers. Two sisters are deceased and one brother. We
came to Jacksonville on two weeks' vacation in 1923. We came over here to
Gainesville and didn't have enough money to leave, so we stayed in Gainesville. I'm
glad because I love it here and have lived here ever since.
B: That's a wonderful story. Where were you in the eight children?
R: I'm the oldest. It was a burden as I had to be an example to the rest of them.
B: I'm sure you were a good one. Where did you attend school? Tell us about your
elementary and middle and high school years.
R: I started in the first grade here in Gainesville in the building, which is now the school
administration center. It was a school then. The building on this side was the
elementary school; the building on the east side was the high school.
B: Was it named Kirby-Smith then?
R: No. It was Gainesville Elementary School and Gainesville High School. Ruth Peeler
was my first grade teacher. She taught for many, many years. I started the first grade
over in the room on the southwest comer of the building.
B: Did you graduate from that high school?
R: No. When I got to the 6th grade, they built the high school down on West University
Avenue, so when I got to the 7t grade, which started high school, I went to the West
University Avenue building and that's where I graduated in 1935.
Interview with Earl M. Reames 2
July 22, 2002
B: When and where did you meet Mrs. Reames?
R: Well, I started at the University of Florida in the fall of 1935. In the fall of 1936, I
had taken the Railway Mail Service examination and the Clerk Carrier examination,
to work in the Post Office. My father was a mail carrier for the Post Office, so he
encouraged me to take these exams. I'm glad I did because I worked for the Post
Office for 45 years.
In December 1936, they called me to Jacksonville to work during Christmas. Back
then, all the mail business happened about a week prior to Christmas, so they needed
extra help. They called me to work in the Railway Mail Service terminal there on
West Main Street during the Christmas rush. I had a friend, Henry Chubb, who was
also on the list. They called him and he went a day or two before I did. He rented a
room in a rooming house, so I just stayed with him while we were working there.
Henry and I had a room on the second floor. It was a great big room and it had a
porch that they had made into a kitchen with a stove. It was really an apartment, but
we didn't do any cooking.
When I walked in, this good-looking young gal came walking down the stairs to use
the telephone, which was downstairs. She said, "I know who you are." I said, "Who
am I?" She said, "You're Henry's friend." I said, "That's right." Anyway, her folks
had an apartment on the third floor. We used to sit on the stairs and she would talk
about her boyfriend and I would talk about my girlfriend. It was just a platonic
relationship, and she was good company. I needed somebody to talk with I guess she
did, too. So that's where we met. Of course, I only worked there two weeks and then
came back to Gainesville.
B: Were you still a student at the University of Florida?
R: Not then. The next time I went over there to work when the Christmas rush was over,
the Nashville, Tennessee, terminal had been flooded out and they needed extra help.
I was up high on the list and they said I could stay longer. They were paying 750 an
hour, which back then was very good money. So I stayed. By then, Walter Winslow
was working there and he and I were good friends, so he moved in with me. We kept
that place for five months or so. I saw her quite a bit and we talked a lot nothing
serious, but we enjoyed each other's company.
Then I came back here and I didn't go back to school. It just didn't work out. I
hadn't saved the rest of the money for my education, so I dropped out of school. I
went back to Missouri because my folks lived there, and I didn't have the money to
stay here. I came back in the fall to work again for the mail service.
B: Was that 1937 by then?
Interview with Earl M. Reames 3
July 22, 2002
R: Yes. Anyway, on March 1, 1939, I got a temporary appointment in the Gainesville
Post Office. You always start out as a temporary and move on up. So I moved back
to Gainesville. I kept going back to Jacksonville to see her, and on September 30,
1939, we got married and she moved over here.
B: Where was your wedding?
R: In the First Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville. That church still stands. It's
isolated. It's right downtown but it's so well endowed that they still have services
B: That's wonderful.
R: We haven't been there in a while, but we have been back several times.
B: After your marriage, you have always lived in Gainesville?
R: Yes. The only time I didn't live here was when I was in the service, but she stayed
here. I served in the Pacific.
B: What branch of the service were you in?
R: I was in the 98th Infantry Division. I served most of my time in the Hawaiian Islands.
Everybody grins when I say that because the weather's perfect and the scenery is
beautiful, and all that, but if you have ever been to Hawaii, there are more Japanese
living there than any other race and, of course, somebody was getting information
from somebody there. Our primary mission was security of the Hawaiian Islands.
B: Were you there when Pearl Harbor was struck?
R: No. I got there in March 1944, not too long after but not right after. You could still
see the effects of it.
B: Do you and Mrs. Reames have children?
R: Yes. We have two fine sons. The oldest is Johnny. He's a librarian out at Santa Fe
Community College. He was born November 9, 1943, which is the same day that I
was inducted into the service. Joe was born on December 21, 1946.
B: What is his career?
R: He is an analyst and works at Fort Rucker, which is the aviation center for the Army.
He started out in the service as a helicopter pilot. When he retired from the service,
he got a job in research and development and stayed at Fort Rucker. He has a
Masters in Aerospace Engineering.
Interview with Earl M. Reames 4
July 22, 2002
B: Wonderful. Did he attend the University of Florida?
R: He graduated from the University of Florida, but his degree in Aerospace Engineering
is through Embry Riddle. They have a satellite university in Fort Rucker, so that's
where he got his Masters.
B: Where is Fort Rucker?
R: Enterprise, Alabama.
B: I thought that's where it is. That's my home state.
R: Is that right! You know where Dothan is.
R: It's kind of that way.
B: I was thinking it might be in South Alabama, but I was not sure. Do you have
R: Yes. We've got two grandsons, both of them in Atlanta. One of them is Joseph
Mitchell, Jr., and the other one is Richard Travis. We're about to have a great-
grandchild. Joseph's wife is pregnant and on the 13t of August she is supposed to
deliver a boy.
B: Well, that will be a great celebration! Would you like to talk about the changes that
have occurred in Gainesville and Alachua County since you have lived here?
R: Of course, they have really been dramatic. When we first came to Gainesville, we
lived on Masonic Street. You know where the First Presbyterian Church is now.
B: On S.W. 2nd Avenue.
R: Okay. They had two big rooming houses in the block just this side of the church. At
that time, where the church property is, there was a fence. That was a farmhouse and
it belonged to the sheriff, whose name was Pinkoson, and he had a farmhouse where
the First Presbyterian Church is now. We lived up this way in one of those rooming
You know where the old Commercial Hotel was, on the comer of West Main Street
South and Masonic Avenue, where the new courthouse administration building is
being built, there was the Maggie Tebeau school for young ladies, which was a big
deal back in those days.
Interview with Earl M. Reames 5
July 22, 2002
B: It was a very interesting looking building. Had that been the Tebeau residence before
it became a school?
R: I don't know, but I suspect so. It was a pretty good-sized building and it would be
rather large for a home. Just south of that in the next block was a great big 2-story
rooming house that Ms McCormick ran. She was a teacher and she taught me in the
I can also remember sitting on the courthouse square and watching them put bricks
down around the courthouse. The only paving in Gainesville at that time was about
an 8-foot strip on what is now 6th Street and University Avenue, and it went to what is
now 13th Street, which then was 9th Street. University was where it is now, but they
didn't have the buildings that they have now.
B: The brick pavement didn't go very far east then, is that right?
R: The only brick pavement was around the courthouse. I don't know when they paved
East University Avenue or bricked it, whatever. I suspect that they bricked it first.
The bricks were long, probably 12" long and 6" wide.
B: You mentioned that what is now 13th was 9th Street. Was that still the entrance to the
University of Florida?
R: Yes. An interesting thing is that 9th Streeet only went as far as 4t Avenue, old
B: Which is now N.W. 4th Avenue, is that correct?
R: 5t Avenue, where the Florida Pharmacy used to be. That was the end of it. It was
kind of downhill into a valley. You couldn't go through that area. You could walk
but couldn't drive a car down it.
B: Actually, at that point in time, there were not many paved streets around the
University of Florida campus, right?
R: That's right. I started at the University in the fall of 1935 and was in the first class to
have 1000 men in it. Of course, back then they didn't have women. There were 3000
students at the University at that point.
B: That's interesting. So 1000 of the 3000 were in your Freshman class.
R: That's right.
B: You mentioned earlier how you happened to become a postal carrier. Would you like
to share some interesting stories with us. You said you were there for over forty
Interview with Earl M. Reames 6
July 22, 2002
R: Yes. I worked for the Post Office in Gainesville for 45 years and 2 months, and from
all the research I have done, nobody has come close to that. My father was a rural
carrier, but he died when he was 47 so he worked only a short time. When he got his
rural carrier appointment, it was a political payoff. My dad was a Republican, one of
the few Republicans in Gainesville at that time. We're talking about 1925. They had
a rural route come open. It was a political plum and he was a Republican and Mr.
Lynch, who was the Postmaster at the time, was a Republican, so my dad got the job.
It was during the Depression and he needed that job. He was keeping books for the
First National Bank, and before that was working six days a week in a grocery store
from before daylight to after dark for $10 a week, so he was glad to get that job as a
B: Do you know what his salary was as a rural carrier?
R: It seems to me that it was $1,200 a year. He was happy to get it. I do know that his
equipment allowance for that route was 40 a mile, so he bought a new Model T Ford
to drive that route in. His route was Route 3. He took over from a man who
delivered it with a horse and buggy. This route was 30 miles long, and this man had a
horse staked out somewhere about half way through the route. He would drive there
and swap horses and finish the route. When dad got the route, he bought a Model T
Ford and delivered in that.
B: I am sure none of those roads were paved. They probably were more like sandy lanes
at that time.
R: Yes. Route 3 goes out toward LaCrosse, out over 6h Street and where the Highway
Patrol station is now.
B: Did he go all the way into LaCrosse on his route?
R: Yes. He took a locked pouch, all the Gainesville mail, to LaCrosse on that route.
They didn't have other connections.
B: They must have had a Post Office in LaCrosse.
B: So they depended on him for bringing the mail from Gainesville to their Post Office.
R: Yes. He got extra money for carrying that pouch. I don't know how much -
probably $5 or $6 a year.
B: Was all your work at the Post Office or were you also a mail carrier?
Interview with Earl M. Reames 7
July 22, 2002
R: I started out in the Railway Mail Service in Jacksonville but that was temporary.
When you start at the Post Office, it is as a temporary. Then you go to a substitute.
Then you get to be a regular substitute, then a regular. All my work in Jacksonville
was as a temporary, but the 1st of March in 1939 I got a temporary appointment in
Gainesville, so I came back to Gainesville. The examination was for a clerk carrier.
That meant you were just a flunky. Anyplace they needed you in the Post Office is
where you worked. I started out as a distribution clerk, working with what they call
"flats." Then I moved to where you sorted letters. Everything was, of course, done
by hand then. Then the way it worked, you took the clerk carrier exam and the first
job that came up, if you wanted it, you got it. The first one that came up was for a
substitute appointment as a city carrier. At that time, they had an agreement that the
blacks got all the walking jobs and the white people got the jobs distributing the mail
in the Post Office. So the first job was for a city carrier, and I took it. Everybody
looked at me, but I said, "It's a job and I'm going to do it." So I had it. I was the
second white carrier in the Gainesville Post Office.
B: What route did you have?
R: As a substitute you just relieve other carriers. When I finally got a regular
appointment, it was on Route 10, which was the University of Florida campus plus
the residential area around where Norman Hall is now. I delivered the campus mail
in a little two-wheeled pushcart. I delivered all of it, including all the books and
everything for the library, so I thought I had died and gone to heaven when they
started sending all the books out there on the parcel post truck. I don't know how
many years, but for a long time, the only truck they had was a Model A Ford and
when he started hauling my packages to the library at the University, I thought I
really had it made.
B: That really lightened your load.
R: As I said, it was down around Norman Hall, which was P.K. Yonge School then.
There was a street called Margaret Street. I had one place where I went around
behind the home to deliver mail to a garage apartment at the back. Mr. Wilson was
driving the parcel post truck and he pulled up in front and I went around in back to
deliver mail to that apartment. When I came back out front, he said, "What did you
do to that truck?" I said, "What do you mean? I didn't touch it, believe me." He had
left the brake off and that truck had rolled down a hill into a ditch. I guess it didn't
get down in the water but it was down there where you couldn't even see it with the
bushes and stuff.
B: Is that the little stream that crosses S.W. 13t Street that runs through that
neighborhood in that area?
R: No. You know where 6th Street crosses 4th Avenue, where Dr. Hazouri's office is.
Interview with Earl M. Reames 8
July 22, 2002
R: It's the next little street over to the south. That was an experience all right.
B: That's interesting. So the truck ended up in the little stream.
B: Tell me about organizations in Gainesville that you have belonged to.
R: Well, I was a volunteer with the Boy Scouts for 21 years. I think they have a
wonderful program, and I still contribute money once in a while to them. I belonged
to the Order there. I got the Silver Beaver for work I did in the Boy Scouts. I am a
Vigil Honor member of the Order of the Arrow, which is a leadership group.
B: Membership in the Order of the Arrow is indeed an honor.
R: I was lay advisor for the Order of the Arrow for the North Florida Council.
B: Now, you were married in the Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville. Did you continue
your membership in the Presbyterian Church? Are you active in a church here?
R: When we first came here, we went to the First Presbyterian Church. Preacher Gordon
was here. If you were a member of the Presbyterian Church, that's the one to belong
to. After a few years, we started going to Grace Presbyterian Church. I don't know
how, but then we started going to the Highlands and we have been there for some 40
B: Well, Reverend Shea was a longtime pastor of Highlands, and many people left other
churches to attend Highlands.
R: He was a real, special individual.
B: Mr. Reames, this is so interesting. I wonder if you would like to talk about special
people or places or events that had a special influence on your life in Gainesville, or
any stories that you would like to tell.
R: When I first went to work for the Post Office, it was in what is now the Hippodrome.
Just north on the right-hand side back then, Shaw & Keeter had a Ford dealership,
right there on the comer in front of the Post Office. It didn't take them long to move
down on University Avenue two or three years and when they moved, Chevrolet
took over that same place.
One person I would like to mention is Louis Pennisi. When we first came to
Gainesville, he was making ice cream in a little shed behind the old Commercial
Hotel. He had a little pushcart, and he drove all around Gainesville, which at that
time was not a big deal, and sold ice cream cones. Of course, it was about 1928 when
Interview with Earl M. Reames 9
July 22, 2002
he moved down where he is now and started making hamburgers. His hamburgers
were made off of his mother's meatloaf recipe. That was the first hamburger joint in
Another interesting thing about the town was that it had two main streets. I
mentioned West Main Street, which is now Main Street. That had a North and a
South on it. University Avenue runs east and west. East Main was a block east of
there and it had East Main North and East Main South.
B: That is the street that now runs on the east side of the County Administration
R: Yes, where the Episcopal Church is now.
B: And there's a clock there now, isn't there, where City Hall is?
R: The story of that clock is that it used to be in the old courthouse before they tore it
down. When they tore the courthouse down, the clock was moved over there and it
still keeps time!
B: That's right.
R: The street that Louis' hamburger is on used to be Virginia Avenue, I think.
B: I've heard of that. It's so interesting that Gainesville went to the quadrant system in
the late 1940's, which lost all the beautiful names of the streets.
R: I was a walking city postman when they did that. Talk about trauma! It was a mess
trying to get those names straight when they changed the street names to numbers.
B: I'm sure there are a lot of people who still refer to the streets by their names rather
than the numbers.
R: You look on the signs and you'll see that a lot of them have the old names, too.
B: Yes, that's good that they have done that.
R: I remember when we first came to Gainesville, the First Baptist Church was where
that clock is now, in front of City Hall on East University.
B: I remember when we talked at your initial interview that you mentioned that your
father was out delivering mail and there was an incident that he had and that you have
a picture of. I am glad that you are sharing that picture with us. Maybe we can get a
copy and put it in your file at the Matheson Center. Please tell us about the incident.
Interview with Earl M. Reames 10
July 22, 2002
R: Of course. My father was a rural carrier. Part of his route was the extension of N.W.
16th Avenue, which was then Michigan Avenue.
B: So Michigan became 16th Avenue.
R: Yes. He pulled up to a mailbox. It was one of those old flat-top mailboxes. I don't
know if you have ever seen them or not, but they had a lid and you just lifted it up.
B: I've seen those. I grew up in a rural community in Alabama.
R: You did? Well, he stopped and lifted that thing to put the mail in, and he heard
something crack. He was driving an old Ford roadster, a one-seat car with a cloth
top. He looked back and when he did a tree fell between him and the steering wheel.
On the side that the steering wheel was on, it had a big knot that went through the
spokes, so he was real lucky that the Lord was looking out for him.
B: He was not injured at all?
R: Well, he was kind of scared but he was not injured at all.
B: That was fortunate.
R: He pushed back against the seat and slid out under the tree. He was very fortunate.
B: In looking at the picture, it certainly proves that he was very fortunate to come out of
that okay. I do hope we can get a copy of that picture. It would be very interesting to
have that in your file.
R: I've got one I can give to you.
B: Are there any other recollections that you would like to share with us?
R: Jess Davis was the Postmaster when I went to work there. He and my father were
real good friends because he lived on my father's route. My dad encouraged me to
take the examinations when I was in high school and I made good grades on both of
them. Eventually, I could have gotten a job from both of them, but I preferred to be
here in Gainesville so I took that job when I got a permanent appointment. He and
my dad were real good friends, so he kind of monitored me in the Post Office.
B: Do you recall the year he became the Postmaster?
R: I don't know for sure. When I first worked here, when I sold money orders, I had to
turn them in to him, so he was in the Register Division. I can't tell you exactly when.
B: He was a longtime Postmaster.
Interview with Earl M. Reames 11
July 22, 2002
R: He sure was. I would think he got to be Postmaster in 1939, but I can't tell you what
B: He did a history of Gainesville and Alachua County. Did he do that after he retired
from the Post Office?
R: No, he did that all along. He and his wife, Ruth, were school teachers before he went
to the Post Office, so he was very interested in history and he did that over a period of
many years. He might have published it after he got done.
B: I remember his being Postmaster, but I don't remember when he retired, but I am sure
we could look that up very easily.
R: Yes. I can't tell you when he retired, but it was before I did.
B: What year did you retire?
R: February 1982. I worked for 45 years and 2 months.
B: I know you have done some very interesting things in your years of retirement.
Please tell us about those.
R: I do a lot of church work. I used to do more than I do now. I am an elder in the
Highlands Presbyterian Church. I drive cars for a dealership, mostly Gatorland.
They have Acura, Toyota, and Kia dealerships, and they keep me fairly busy. Two or
three times a week I am doing trips for them.
B: Where do you go on those trips?
R: No telling! All over the state of Florida and I've been to Atlanta several times for
them. I've been to Fort Walton Beach, but usually it's Tampa, Jacksonville, and the
B: What are you doing? Are you driving a new car that somebody has purchased?
R: Sometimes I am taking a car from here to there because they want a particular one.
B: The dealerships?
R: Yes, but most of the time I am going down there and swapping a car for one that
somebody wants here. They have sold a car or may have a potential buyer for a car,
so they send me. They may not have the right color or something like that.
B: How interesting. Do you ever get to take Mrs. Reames on those trips?
R: She has a bad back, so she doesn't like to ride, not very comfortable for her.
Interview with Earl M. Reames 12
July 22, 2002
B: Are you ever overnight on those trips or is it usually a day trip?
R: It's usually a day trip. The only exception is when I go to Atlanta. When I go there, I
sometimes spend the night, but most of the time I just go get it and get it back as
quickly as I can.
B: I'm sure that keeps you very active. That's wonderful. It's like a second career.
R: I appreciate being able to do it.
B: Are there any particular hopes or wishes that you have for the Gainesville
community? Do you have anything that you would like to tell the tape that you
would like to see happen in Gainesville?
R: Well, I don't know. It's a fine place to live. I have been here since 1923 and I
wouldn't think of living anywhere else. The only thing is I wish it would stay small.
It's getting so big.
B: I can appreciate your saying that. I came here in 1948, and I thought it was a good-
sized town then, and it certainly has grown rapidly. But most of the changes that
have taken place have been for the better, don't you think?
R: I think so, but it bothers us that everything has moved to the west. They don't think
that people over here need anything.
B: I think that's true. There was more open space west of Gainesville and it continues
toward Newberry, but eventually it will get back and reclaim the older areas of
Gainesville. Some progress has been made in that, particularly downtown.
R: Yes. Another man that I need to mention here is Pat Keeter, who owned the Shaw-
Keeter Ford dealership. He started it. He bought Mr. Shaw out. For many, many
years he was the Ford dealer.
B: He kept the name of Shaw & Keeter, didn't he?
R: He kept the name, yes. They eventually moved down on North Main Street. He was
one of a kind. When he got cars in, he paid for them. When he sold them, he
financed them, so he made a lot of money. He was good with that money. You
would see Dr. W.C. Thomas in a Ford car, and I am sure he donated it to him,
because he was the main physician here. The same with Preacher Gordon. He
always drove a Ford car, and I'm sure that Pat Keeter made it worth his while.
B: They both were illustrious citizens and there are many, many people in Gainesville
that Dr. Thomas delivered.
Interview with Earl M. Reames 13
July 22, 2002
R: Let me back up and tell you about Pat Keeter and Jess Davis. They were good friends
and they were the ones that got the V.A. Hospital in Gainesville. They made many
trips to Washington to lobby for getting that Veterans Hospital here and selling those
people on Gainesville being the correct place to have it.
B: It's great that we have the V.A. Hospital here. Do you take advantage of that as a
R: I certainly do. Another man I need to mention is Bill Shands. He was in advertising.
When I first met him, he was in the Boy Scouts. The man had a lot of money and a
lot of power and all that. I said something to him and said, "Mr. Shands," and he
said, "Call me Bill." I tell you that's why the hospital was named after him.
B: He was certainly a wonderful state senator. Do you know how many years he served
as our senator?
R: No, I don't but it was a long time and he did a lot of good for Gainesville.
B: He certainly had a lot of foresight when he brought the medical center here. That
made such a difference in the growth of the University of Florida and of Gainesville.
Do you have any other people you would like to mention?
R: Well, I mentioned Dr. W.C. Thomas.
B: Was he your family doctor?
R: Yes. Another one was our longtime preacher, Bill Shea. I guess he was minister at
the Highlands Presbyterian Church for 33 years.
B: He's still living, isn't he?
R: Yes. He's down in Orlando at a Presbyterian home.
B: Is his wife still living?
R: Yes, but she has Alzheimer's.
B: I'm sorry to hear that.
R: He preached in Crescent City after he left here. You know a preacher never retires!
When he got to be 70 years old, he had to retire. They sent him to Crescent City as an
interim minister for six months, but he was there about sixteen years, so he was an old
man. He's now completely retired and lives in the Presbyterian home in Orlando.
His wife needed the care that they could give her.
Interview with Earl M. Reames 14
July 22, 2002
B: Do they have a son in Orlando?
B: Well, that's nice that they are near their son.
R: He's not in too good health either. Well, when Bill Shea got to be 70 years old and
had to retire, he had been with us for 33 years. That was an awesome deal to get
somebody to take his place. What happened and I think this is the first time in the
Presbyterian Church we had co-pastors for a year and Bill Shea and Cliff Lyda
worked together. Actually, it was longer than a year, so the transition wasn't as bad
as it could have been. Cliff Lyda is still there some 13 or 14 years later, and we love
him just like we did Bill Shea.
B: Are there any other people you would like to mention or any other recollections about
Gainesville to tell the tape?
R: One thing I would like to mention about Gainesville when we first came here were
the trees. On University Avenue, where the school administration building is, the
trees were so big they went right across the street. The same thing on East Main
Street. We lived on Alabama Street, which is just off of 6th Street, and they had trees
all over, so we used to have a lot of beautiful trees here in Gainesville, and I miss
B: Well, we're still known as the Tree City.
R: Yes, but it's not like it used to be.
B: Progress does take away some of the beauty, but the City of Gainesville has done a
lot about replanting trees on streets that have been built, and I think it's nice that they
are doing that.
R: Oh yes.
B: If you are up in some of the taller buildings in the city and look out over the city, you
still see the beautiful treetops. It's gorgeous.
R: Something else I need to mention is that back then Main Street stopped at Boundary
Street, which is 8th Avenue now. If you go north on Main Street, you would have to
go down Boundary Street and go out on what is now 6th Street.
Something else in that area, just south of Boundary Street, is a street called Pistol
Alley. I don't know whether it's now S.W. 1st Terrace, or something like that now. It
was Pistol Alley because they had so many fights and everything down there.
Interview with Earl M. Reames 15
July 22, 2002
B: I came to Gainesville in 1948 and if someone said, "Let's go look at the new homes
being built," the houses were on N.W. 10th Avenue between 6th and 13th Streets.
R: When I first started carrying Route 3, it started at the comer of what's now 6th Street
and 8h Avenue and went north, all that area in there, and ended up at 13t Street and
8th Avenue, so there have been a lot of changes.
B: Did you say earlier that was a 30 mile route?
R: It is smaller than that now, but it started out as a 30 mile route. When I had it, it was
68 miles long. It went out west toward Brooker and all that. I can't think what they
call that road, but it's at the end of 39h Avenue.
B: It used to be called the Farnsworth Road.
R: Yes. I went down the Farnsworth Road and came in where 23rd is.
B: You had a very large area. How many hours did it take you to cover that route each
R: To begin with, it wasn't so bad, but it built up so much that I have delivered mail at
eleven o'clock at night, over here on 13th Street just north of the Presbyterian Church.
That was during Christmas. When they finally cut the route down, it was a lot better.
They cut that part off of it.
B: When you worked those long hours, did you get paid extra?
R: No. Back then, that was the reason they left it like that. You got paid per mile. How
many hours I had to work didn't enter into it.
B: During what period of time did they make the changes?
R: I can't tell you that.
B: Was it in the 40's or 50's?
R: I think it would have been in the late 1940's when I got back from service. They
changed it to where they would evaluate the route and count the number of stops and
how much mail you had and put it in a computer and then they would pay you
according to the evaluation.
B: Were you still a carrier at the time you retired?
Interview with Earl M. Reames 16
July 22, 2002
B: So you retired in 1982 as a carrier. I am sure you made many friends along your mail
R: Well, I did. I loved them and they loved me. I took over from a guy who never had
time for anybody. All he was worried about was getting through. He never said,
"Good morning," or anything like that, so they didn't care much for him. I figured
when I went out there, those people were paying my salary and it would be better to
have friends than just patrons, so I tried to make friends with them, and it worked.
They kept us in vegetables and everything. I had to buy a second freezer to take care
of all the fresh vegetables!
B: How nice. I know they appreciated you.
R: One night one guy said, "Earl, do you like corn?" I said, "I sure do." He said, "I'll
leave some out here by the box tomorrow." When I got there, there were two bushel
hampers of roasting ears.
B: That's wonderful. Do you have any other thoughts you would like to tell the tape or
have you covered all the items you would like to share?
R: One thing is the Opera House.
B: Please tell us about Gainesville's Opera House.
R: It never was an opera house when we got here, but it had been. It's on the southwest
corner where Cox Furniture used to be.
B: Harry's Restaurant is there now.
R: Yes. It was kind of in the back. You came into it from the front because it had a
sloping floor and the stage and everything. The only thing I ever saw in that Opera
House was boxing matches.
B: How often did they have boxing matches?
R: I don't know. I would think once a week or something like that. Something else I
need to tell you about was in that same area, the Hippodrome. On the west side of the
street was the Lyric Theater, and for a long time that was the only theater in
Gainesville. I can remember my folks going there and it cost 250 for them and 100
for the kids up to age 5 or something like that. When we got old enough so they had
to pay 250, they cut back on it.
B: That was still in the late 40's or probably into the 50's, wasn't it, that the Lyric
Theater was there?
Interview with Earl M. Reames 17
July 22, 2002
B: They had a newer theater on West University Avenue called the Florida Theater. I
guess most of the University of Florida students went to the Florida Theater, but a lot
of the old residents of Gainesville went to the Lyric.
B: Are there any other areas you would like to talk about?
R: On 6h Street at University Avenue, where they have that narrow place, the building is
still there. It was called the T&J Railroad Station. The Tampa & Jacksonville
Railroad. I don't ever remember seeing a train on those tracks. The train used to run
all the way down Main Street. I can remember working at the Post Office during the
night and listening to the train trying to get up that hill going north on Main Street. It
doesn't look like much of an elevation, but a train, especially a heavily loaded train,
would have a time getting up there.
B: It was probably more of an elevation then than it is today. Is that correct?
R: I don't think so. You know it's kind of a gradual elevation, but I don't think it's any
worse now than it was then.
B: They took a lot of passengers up to what was then the White House Hotel.
R: Yes. When the train came in from the north, it would stop at the White House Hotel
and let off any passengers who wanted to get out there before it would go on to the
station, which was where the First Union Bank is now.
B: The White House Hotel had a wonderful dining room, didn't it?
R: It sure did. We used to save up money to go for a Sunday dinner sometimes, not
every Sunday because it cost $1.00. The hotel went all the way through and covered
that whole half block.
B: Do you know what building is located now where the White House Hotel used to be?
Is it Sun Bank?
R: I think so. Do you know where the Williams-Thomas Funeral Home is? It was right
across from there.
B: I think it used to be Sun Bank but is now called Sun Trust.
R: Okay, that's where it was.
Interview with Earl M. Reames 18
July 22, 2002
B: That's interesting. Everybody in that period of time knew about the White House
Hotel. Do you have any other knowledge about the Thomas Hotel. Was that about
the same period of time?
R: I can remember when the Thomas Hotel was a private residence. I think it was Major
Thomas that lived there. He built it for a home and I don't know what made him
decide to turn it into a hotel, but he did.
B: It certainly made a beautiful hotel and now it's used by the City of Gainesville for
meetings and I guess offices are there too.
R: Yes. I don't know whether the city inherited it or bought it, but they use it.
B: They have done a beautiful job restoring it. The Duck Pond area is an interesting area
in Gainesville. Did you ever work as a mail carrier in that area?
R: No. The guy that had that route had it the whole time that I was a city carrier. But I
played there as a kid in the Sweetwater Branch.
B: Were ducks there then?
R: Yes. I don't know how they got there, but they were there. We did catch tadpoles
and all that kind of stuff.
B: That was a beautiful spot for young boys to go play.
R: Yes. When we were first in Gainesville, we moved frequently and one of the places
we lived was actually on Sweetwater Branch, not Main Street but the next street over.
B: I think that would be N.W. 1st Street, wouldn't it?
R: Yes, but there was a house on the northwest corer. It backed up to Sweetwater
Branch and we lived in that house for a while. That's when I would play in the creek.
B: It must have been a great place to play.
R: It sure was. They offered to sell that land to my dad for $500. That lot went from the
street by the Sweetwater Branch to the street this side of it, but he couldn't get up the
money to buy it.
B: $500 was a lot of money in those days.
R: It sure was. Now it would probably be $25,000.
B: If not more. Mr. Reames, do you have anything else on your list that you would like
to tell the tape?
Interview with Earl M. Reames 19
July 22, 2002
R: No, I've covered them all.
B: Mr. Reames, it has been very interesting to talk with you, and I want to thank you
very much for giving me this opportunity. You will be given a copy of the interview
for your records, and, of course, the original will be kept at the Matheson Center.
R: Thank you very much, and I will get you a copy of that picture.
B: Thank you.