MATHESON HISTORICAL CENTER
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
Ruth C. Marston
November 1, 1995
Interview with: Paige Pinnell 2
November 1, 1995
Pepper: This is an interview with Paige Pinnell, former Postmaster of Gainesville, conducted
by W. Pepper (Bill Pepper III) on November 1, 1995, at The Village in N.W. 83rd
Street, in Gainesville, where Paige lives with his wife. Paige, when did you become
Postmaster at Gainesville?
Pinnell: April of 1960.
Pepper That is thirty-five years ago.
Pepper: Tell me about your tenure. How long were you the Postmaster, and when did you
Pinnell: I retired July 24, 1970, so I was in the office for practically ten years, and I
have enjoyed twenty-five years of retirement.
Pepper: Very good. We'll be concentrating primarily on things that you know about, due to
your background in Gainesville, that affected Alachua County and Gainesville in any
way. We're looking for things that have to do with the history of Gainesville, so if
you have knowledge of certain things that happened -- but first, tell me when you
came to Gainesville, where you were born, and when you went to work for the post
office, things like that.
Pinnell: Okay. Well, I was born on February 19, 1905, and reared in Eastman, Dodge
County, Georgia, and resided there until I came to Gainesville in 1932. September 1,
1932 I arrived in Gainesville. For three years I had a seed, feed and fertilizer
business in a partnership which I didn't enj oy fully toward the last, so I took the Civil
Service Examination and made a good enough grade to be called to work at the post
office. I made my partner a proposition that I would sell him my half or buy his half,
and he took me up on buying my half and then I went with the post office in 1936 --
Pepper: Tell me the significant dates and progress that you made in the Postal Service.
Pinnell: Well, that's a little difficult to remember the exact dates on this but anyway I
started out as a clerk/carrier. That meant that I performed duties in both those areas
at whatever time the work was available. I progressed then until I became a full
clerk, then a Money Order Clerk and later on, the position of Superintendent of the
University Station opened and I was accepted at the University Station, which at that
time was on the campus.
Interview with: Paige Pinnell 3
November 1, 1995
Pepper: About what year was that?
Pinnell: It was probably '54 '55, and then I became Postmaster in '60, so I was at the
Station for about five years.
Pepper: Did you serve in the Army or Navy Air Force?
Pinnell: I was in the Navy for three years.
Pepper: I see. What did you do in the Navy?
Pinnell: I was in postal work all the time. I went into the Navy on December 15,
1942, one year after Pearl Harbor. I was first in service in Norfolk, Virginia, for just
a short time and then in the early spring of 1943, they opened an amphibious training
base at Fort Pierce, Florida, and I made application to move there, to which I was
Pepper: Is that Little Creek?
Pinnell: Little Creek, Virginia. No, I was not in Little Creek. Fort Pierce was an
amphibious training base. It proved to be a big, big institution, but in 1944 I was
commissioned and sent to Panama Canal Zone to relieve an officer that had been in
service there for a long time, so for two years I served in the Panama Canal Zone,
mostly in charge of two of the stations there, one at Balboa and one at Cristobal.
Pepper: My uncle, Bill Tucker, was the Commanding Officer at Rodman down there --
Rodman Naval Base -- in the Canal Zone as an Admiral. But it was probably after
you were there.
Pinnell: I was there from 1942, or 1943 to 1945.
Pepper: Yes, I don't think he had arrived there yet. Okay, then you got out of the Navy and
came back to the Gainesville Post Office?
Pepper: When was that?
Pinnell: That was in early '46. I came back to the Post Office here in Gainesville as
Superintendent of Mail and served in that capacity until I went to the University
Interview with: Paige Pinnell 4
November 1, 1995
Station, as I mentioned before, as Superintendent of the station. Then in 1960 I was
commissioned Postmaster and came back to the main office.
Pepper: Oh, you succeeded Jess Davis?
Pinnell: Yes. Jess was Postmaster for twenty-one years and I imagine that that will
stand a long time.
Pepper: What do you remember about Jess that would be of interest to people?
Pinnell: Well, Jess was a very interesting personality. He was interested in a lot of
things, interested in a lot of people. Consequently, he prepared a little history of
Alachua County and another one of Gainesville, two volumes, but as he told me
many times he was Postmaster at a time when Gainesville was just remaining the
same, year after year, and he had time to get out and interview people all over the
county and get all the information he needed to compile his little histories. Jess was
quite an organizer. He organized the first ball teams sponsored by the American
Legion posts. Anyway, he organized and coached the ball clubs for many years.
Jess was a member of the board that looked after the Draft Board, the registration to
go in service, a long time.
Pepper: The Draft Board?
Pinnell: Yes, thank you.
Pepper: You mentioned that Jess talked about years in which Gainesville didn't change much.
Do you remember those years?
Pinnell: Yes, I remember the years all right. During his twenty years of being
Postmaster, 1940, I guess, to 1960, the city did not change much. There was not
much turnover. There were not many changes in the Post Office; we did not have
many extensions we had to give out and all of the growth really started just after the
war. It began to really grow.
Pepper: How big was Gainesville at the time we're talking about, when it was pretty stable,
Pinnell: I would say between 8,000 to 10,000 over a twenty-year period.
I remember as a kid when Gainesville hit 10,000 in the census and it was a big thing.
Interview with: Paige Pinnell 5
November 1, 1995
Pinnell: What year was it?
Pepper: I don't remember the year. But I remember as a kid when that happened, and we
thought, "Man, we've got 10,000 people." We'd never been 10,000 before.
Pinnell: We were about 10,000 in 1932, when I came to Gainesville. There were
more, of course, when I started working in the Post Office in 1936.
Pepper: What do you remember about the Gainesville then as a stable, that is a static thing,
rather than a changing thing. What about the people in the community and the
attitudes in the community, if anything?
Pinnell: Well, it was a very stable community and most everyone knew everybody
else in town, and one of the things I remember was on Saturday nights a lot of people
would go uptown and park their cars and just watch the people going and coming,
shopping and chatting, and things of that sort.
Pepper: Was that around the Square?
Pinnell: Yes, around the Square most all of this happened. During those years there
were two movies in town. One was the Lyric, which was down on what would be
now S.E. 1st St. and the other was the Florida, which was a very new movie at that
time on West University Avenue. They had different advertising things that they
called "Dish Night". They would give away dishes, give away different things like
that. They didn't have to attend the movie to get a dish or anything, but they were
lucky otherwise, but those advertising campaigns drew a lot of people. But I
remember, also, the baseball games, especially the leagues, and the ...
Pepper: Was that the Florida State League?
Pinnell: I was thinking about the World Series, when people would come down to the
Main Post Office and sit on the grass while somebody from the Sun came to the
window upstairs to announce the score. Well, we did have a good Florida State
League, and Gainesville had a good team in those years. Some players advanced to
Pepper: Back to announcing the athletic events. We didn't have a lot of interest in radio at
that time, so I guess that was a factor. So that was about up to what year where
people gathered and heard the thing coming from the Sun office?
Interview with: Paige Pinnell 6
November 1, 1995
Pinnell: I would guess until about 1934 when they did the announcement from the
Pepper: How would that take place? What would happen?
Pinnell: Well, people would come and sit on the lawn on the east side of the Post
Office, which faced the Gainesville Sun building, and they would just sit and
converse and chat, until the end of an inning when someone would come to the
window upstairs and call out the score.
Pepper: Did they call it out with a megaphone?
Pinnell: I don't think so. I don't remember that, because it was just across a very
Pinnell: The drug store would put up the scores, make a box score, and write on the
mirror right behind the soda fountain when the scores would come in. Some people
would just stay at the drug store and sip on their coke or ice cream.
Pepper: Were there other sports events that were done that way?
Pinnell: No, just the baseball. No, I don't think they ever did anything else.
Pepper: That was the World Series?
Pepper: You said the Florida State Theater was quite an attraction in those days, wasn't it?
Pinnell: Yes, it was a unique theater and it was very nice, too. I think the manager
was a man named Lee.
Pepper: I remember him. Claude Lee.
Pinnell: He was quite a one to carry on different advertising tricks to get people.
Pepper: He went on to greater things with movies, but he always kept his roots and contacts
back here. I remember that. And wasn't it Ed Roberts that replaced him?
Interview with: Paige Pinnell 7
November 1, 1995
Pinnell: Yes, Ed Roberts was his assistant at the time who later became full manager
of the theaters.
Pepper: Of the Florida and the Lyric?
Pepper: Oh he did?
Pinnell: Yes. Ed and I went into service the same day.
Pepper: Oh, did you know Ed? Ed was a nice fellow.
Pinnell: Yes. He lives at The Village.
Pepper: Ed does? Oh, my goodness, we ought to interview him. Is he in good spirits and
health and his faculties good?
Pinnell: Ed has had some health troubles, but he gets about well. He loves to talk and
chat. A happy sort of fellow in spite of his slowness in getting around.
Pepper: Tell us about some of the developments that came about as Gainesville began to
grow that you witnessed.
Pinnell: Well, about the first thing I remember uptown is the Seagle Building, which
had been started long before I came to Gainesville but was just a frame, a tall frame,
because of some difficulties with the contractors or otherwise, I don't know, that
stopped the progress of the building, but anyway, it remained just a concrete frame
for a long time and later it seems the University got into the picture with the owners
and they made it into a museum. The museum had been on the campus for a long
time and they changed it, finished the building and had the museum on the first and
second floors. The rest of it was offices from various activities at the University.
That was about the first thing that came along.
Then, of course, the town began to grow and developers began subdivisions and so
on. One of the main things that I recall that happened after the war was the extension
of West University Avenue. At one time it ended at about what is now N.W. 21st.
St. and curved around to what is now S.W. 2nd Avenue. It was called Newberry
Road from that point on. There were at least two subdivisions west of 21st St. One
was called Hibiscus Park; one was called Palm Terrace; and there might have been a
Interview with: Paige Pinnell 8
November 1, 1995
third. Just one street subdivisions. This road curved to miss those subdivisions and
later a larger subdivision was created on the south side of this street, called ...
Pinnell: Yes, Golfview, thank you. So those were the main subdivisions. Well, they
wanted to straighten out or continue West University Avenue and they went right
through the two subdivisions that were on the north side. A long time it took to get
all the negotiations finished that they could do that. It still is not a straight street; it
curves about two or three times to avoid certain main homes and property that were
there at the time.
Pepper: Who were some of the people active in that development or those subdivisions at that
time? Do you remember any of them?
Pinnell: Well, the names sort of halt there. I remember one person who was very
active in trying to keep them from coming. A man named DeBusk -- E.F. DeBusk.
He was very active in trying ... He had a home in there, of course.
Pepper: What was he trying to prevent?
Pinnell: The extension of University Avenue. He didn't want it to come through those
subdivisions. It seems that one person named Flowers -- I think he was one of the
instigators. Maybe he was a member of the State Road Board at the time. He had
considerable influence, and he was the main one in Gainesville that was pushing for
the opening of University Avenue on westward.
Pepper: Was DeBusk a University professor?
Pinnell: Yes. He was in the Agriculture College at the University.
Pepper: So you remember quite a campaign and a resistance and finally it was achieved.
Pepper: What about the quadrant system?
Pinnell: Well, I remember well the quadrant system. I was at the Post Office at the
Pepper: Were you the Postmaster?
Interview with: Paige Pinnell 9
November 1, 1995
Pinnell: No, I was the Superintendent of Mail. It was before my time as Postmaster. I
was Superintendent of Mail and worked real closely with the engineer for the city,
whose responsibility it was to name and number all of the streets in town and
numbering all the houses. Everything changed because uptown where it all began at
University Avenue and Main Street the numbers began with "0" instead of "1". In
other words, the first block with unit "0" and as it went on out into the other areas,
every block lost one block number, and this was real hard to overcome for a lot of
people. I remember quite well when all of the streets and avenues, avenues running
east and west and streets north and south, and all of the numbers of homes on the
west side of the north and south streets became the even numbers and all of the
numbers on the south side of University Avenue became odd numbers, on the north
side even numbers and so on. All this made it very simple. All the compli-cations
that came in and still exist were short streets in between Avenues and Streets. The
ones that ran north and south were called Terraces and the ones that ran east and west
at that time were called Lanes. Well, today they are still numbered this way, and
now there are so many subdivisions that have come in over the city they've had to
add to those, Courts.
Pepper: They have Courts and Places and Circles and Lanes. What provoked the quadrant
system into coming into being?
Pinnell: Well, I was a member at that time ofthe Junior Chamber of Commerce? We
had a leader at that time with some experience in cities that had the quadrant system
of naming the streets, etc. His name happened to be Bill Pepper!
Pinnell: He was the main one, as I recall, in being instrumental in finally getting it all
to come about. This happened July 1, 1950. All the old Oranges and streets of that
sort, trees, and so on, went out and we came in with the numerical.
Pepper: That's W.M. Pepper, Jr., my father. I'm the III, so he's the one you were talking
about. That was in 1950.
Pinnell: He was the main one that I recall, the main reason it ever came about.
Pepper: He was the editor of the paper and was pushing it editorially, etc. I believe that is
Interview with: Paige Pinnell 10
November 1, 1995
Pinnell: He was President of the Junior Chamber of Commerce and pushed it in that
Pepper: How long did that activity go on? That campaign. Was it a long campaign?
Pinnell: From the first of it to the finality of it was I suspect three years.
Pepper: What else can you remember about the Post Office itself and its development in
Gainesville that would be of interest?
Pinnell: Well, the Post Office in which I went to work was on S.E. 1st Street. It was
started in 1909 and completed in 1911. It had a full basement and was a very, very -
and is -- a substantial building. I think that if I had to go for the most safe building in
Gainesville for any reason, I think that the old Post Office -- they call it now the
Hippodrome Theatre. That building was one of the most impressive buildings
because it's all Grecian style with the columns out front, and so on. In 1936 it was
quite adequate for our needs, but later on after the war it was entirely too small. We
kept altering the floor and put the carrier cases in the basement, dropped the mail
down through the shute to the carriers and they would sort it and then they had to
bring it out but we did not have an elevator that went into the basement. They had to
bring it out one bundle at a time on their shoulders. It was very, very awkward and
an inconvenient way of doing business, but that was all we had. Well, later we had
what had been a laundry to work our parcel post. It was completely separated from
the other mail.
Pepper: Was it across the street?
Pinnell: No, it was on the south side of what is now S.W. 2nd Ave. and had been a
part of what was formerly the Ideal Laundry. Ideal had built a different building and
had this space that we could use for simply the work of parcel post. That was all that
was worked there. The incoming parcel post; none of the outgoing was there. But
anyway, that was the first expansion that we got into. Well, a little bit later the
University wanted their space that had been formerly the University Station Post
Office on the campus and the Post Office had to seek other space. So we went into
negotiations with the Department with a man named Smysor, who owned a vacant
Pinnell: Yes, Paul Smysor. He built the building and then leased it to the government
as a postal facility, and it's still there, still in operation.
Interview with: Paige Pinnell 11
November 1, 1995
Pepper: Where is it?
Pinnell: It's N.W. 1st Ave. in the 1600 block.
Pepper: Well, that's the one now that's right out by the University.
Pinnell: Yes, just off of University.
Pepper: Were you in on any other postal building?
Pinnell: Yes. Of course, it had been started before I became Postmaster -- the basic
work on getting a new federal building on S.E. 1st Ave. We entered that building
October 15, 1964 -- in '64 -- and that was one of the greatest things that we had ever
known while I was Postmaster, so far as facilities were concerned. We thought we
had one for many years to come. That has not been proved true because we have the
new tremendous facility on S.W. 34th Street now, but that came about for different
reasons other than Gainesville, because when zip codes came in, Gainesville was
developing the main office in zip code 326 and 326 denoted an area embracing
twenty-four other post offices and all the mail for those offices would come and go,
be received and dispatched through the Gainesville office, and of course, our facility
on S.E. 1st Ave., which we thought would be good for a long time became
inadequate and they had to build a new building, which has been in operation
probably six years now.
Pepper: Has the zip code been an enhancement generally for the Postal Service?
Pinnell: Yes, very much so. Before zip codes, dispatching clerks, of which I was one
for many years, had to memorize the service of all of the post offices in Florida and
we had a considerably larger number than we have today. For instance, just say,
Pinnell: Well, I don't know. Sopchoppy was probably served out of Tallahassee, but
until then the mail had to come to Gainesville first and then was distributed out there
and this was true of a lot of minor post offices in the state. They were served through
a bigger office. So, the clerks all had to learn the service of the offices, of every one
in the state and memorize them. They had to take a final examination on them. Had
little practice cases with every office named and on the back side it would show how
it was served. So we had to take those exams twice a year and had to pass with a 99
Interview with: Paige Pinnell 12
November 1, 1995
-- not much room for error. Well, when the zip codes came in, every town was
known by the first three numerals and if the clerk could read this, he could dispatch
the mail without any knowledge of where it was going to go. So, zip code, so far as
I'm concerned, through my career was the greatest thing that's ever happened to the
Pepper: Is there anything else that you can remember about the Post Office generally, that
would be of interest to the community?
Pinnell: Well, Bill, I don't know of anything to describe very well that would be of
real interest except that when I went in 1936 we had nine city routes, which were
walking routes. The postmen walked and they had two deliveries a day. So, every
postman had different routes. They were not all exactly the same length, but I
suppose that not any one was less than six miles walking. And the one uptown was
served by a postman for many, many years named Childs. It was a shorter route but
it was compact and had a lot of mail. Well, later, much later we began to be
mechanized a little -- had some little Cushman scooters, open deals that the carrier
drove along, three-wheeled vehicles, and we were glad when that era came along.
There was a lot of interest, but it soon worked out the Cushman scooter was not
adequate for the daily grind that they had to be put through so the larger vehicles
began to develop. Right-hand drive. They all were right-hand drives. The driver
could drive up and service the boxes right from the vehicle. All of them are one trip
service a day. I don't remember the date that two services a day went out.
Pepper: Are you saying that some of these routes were six miles and a man would do them
twice; in other words, he would walk twelve miles a day?
Pinnell: It didn't necessarily mean that because the afternoon route, the afternoon trip,
was very light. Most of the time it was very light and might include mail which had
to be left at the office in the morning, the second and third-class mail, and there was
a southbound train supposed to arrive in Gainesville about 11:30 and if it was on
time, which was very rare ---
Pepper: Are you talking about ACL?
Pinnell: Yes. We could receive some of the mail from the southbound train, but not
often. So, the afternoon trips were light and all of the postmen could route their mail
in such a way that they could reach the points of delivery much faster than they did
in the morning. They did not have to cover the whole thing. Each one learned the
tricks of where they could save time, and so on.
Interview with: Paige Pinnell 13
November 1, 1995
Pepper: Was that the time when ACL was coming right down Main Street?
Pinnell: Yes. I don't remember dates on that very well, but it was about 1950, the
same time that our quadrant system came in, that the railroad came right down Main
Street, north and south. The station was -- I guess it's the First Union Bank, the
names have changed a lot. At that time it was First National, but the station was
right in that lot and the train stopped there, right in the middle of the street.
Pepper: Yes, I can remember that myself. Are there any other things that you remember
about the community or the University of Florida that would be of interest in this
interview, to people in the future?
Pinnell: Well, of course, the President of the University -- for a long time -- was Dr.
Pepper: John J. Tigert.
Pinnell: John J. Tigert. He was President a long time. I don't remember when his
term ended but it was after I started working at the Post Office because I remember I
substituted for all of the carriers in the summertime when they took their vacations. I
was learning the route with the regular carrier and we got to Dr. Tigert's home. This
was, of course, always in the summertime when they took their vacations. The
carrier told me as we went up to put the mail in the box which was in a little
breezeway between the garage and the home, he said, "Now, on this little shelf you
will find a glass of cold water." He says, "You drink it." Mrs. Tigert put that water
out there every day. She worked a lot, so I followed his orders and drank the water
and welcomed it every time. It was there every time. A lot of the time she would be
out -- she liked to work in the garden -- and was outside a lot, and I became well
acquainted with Mrs. Tigert just in a minute or two conversations with her the time
that I was serving on the route.
Pepper: That was on The Boulevard, wasn't it?
Pepper: It runs into 10th Avenue, does it?
Pinnell: Yes. It curves around up to 10th Avenue.
The Sweetwater branch runs through there.
Interview with: Paige Pinnell 14
November 1, 1995
Pepper: That's interesting. Did you ever have any contact with Dr. Tigert himself?
Pinnell: Very rarely. Not in any business way or social way at all.
Pepper: When you were Supervisor at the University Station, did you have any contact with
the President of the University in any way?
Pinnell: Well, yes, with Steve O'Connell I did. He had an idea and I think maybe we
generated it together, that he would like to bring about a situation like the University
of Alabama where the University of Alabama has its own Post Office and
Postmaster. It's called the University of Alabama; doesn't have any town connected
with it at all. He was interested in seeing what might be done about that and had me
come in several times to just talk about it, but I don't know, I think that he got very
busy with other duties that he found more pressing and he didn't ever pursue that, so
it's never been done. That was the years when the students began to become so
restless and sat on the President's desk and things like that and Steve got very busy
with other activities and forgot about his ambition to make the University a separate
unit. I was interested because I thought it would be a lot better to have the mail come
directly to the institution without having to come through the Post Office.
Pepper: Do you think it still might be a good idea.
Pinnell: Well, I would seek to find out. It's grown a lot bigger than it was then with a
lot more mail, and if they could get it one step shorter, it would be helpful.
Pepper: That's interesting. Is there anything else you can think of that would be of interest.
We've covered a lot of ground here.
Pinnell: Yes. Well, I don't know, Bill. I've had to think back through the years. I've
been retired twenty-five years. These years were earlier than that. If I had a little
more time to think about it...
Pepper: Well, we will have this transcribed and provide you with a copy for editing and for
any additions you may wish to make. You will, of course, receive a copy for your
records upon completion. Thank you so much for your time in providing this