Title Page

Title: Interview with Ida Aaron Wells
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/MH00002568/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with Ida Aaron Wells
Physical Description: Archival
Language: English
Creator: Cofrin, Mary Ann ( Interviewer )
Marston, Ruth C.
Publisher: Matheson Historical Museum
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: April 2, 2002
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: MH00002568
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Alachua County Historic Trust: Matheson Museum, Inc.
Holding Location: Alachua County Historic Trust: Matheson Museum, Inc.
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.


This item has the following downloads:

Ida Wells - final ( PDF )

Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Title Page
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
Full Text






Ida Aaron Wells

Mary Ann Cofrin

Ruth C. Marston

April 2, 2002

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 1
April 2, 2002

C: My name is Mary Ann Cofrin, and I am interviewing Ida Aaron Wells at her
home at 1207 N.W. 7th Avenue in Gainesville, Florida, on April 2, 2002, for the
Matheson Historical Center. Would you please state your full name and birth date
for the tape.

W: Ida Aaron Wells. My birth date is October 24, 1913.

C: You were bom where?

W: Worthington Springs, Florida.

C: When did you move to Gainesville?

W: My parents moved to Gainesville when I had been to part of one school term. In
those days they had what they called primer, and I had been through primer. We
moved to Gainesville where I went through first grade, second grade. We were at
the old Union Academy.

C: That's the school you went to.

W: Yes, ma'am. Here in Gainesville it was the black school. I can remember that it
was two terms that I went there first grade and second grade. By that time, they
built Lincoln High School here, down near where the Police Department was.
That old Union Academy School.

C: I see, on 6h Street then, where the Police Department is today.

W: That vacant spot over there near Pleasant Street.

C: Then you went from those two grades to Lincoln High School. Why did you
move to Lincoln High School?

W: Because they built this school for all the black people. In those days we were not
integrated, you know. They built Gainesville High, down there where Alachua
General is now.

C: Right, the 720 Building now.

W: Yes.

C: Before that, they had Kirby-Smith School over on the east side of town.

W: Yes. That one was beyond my memory, but I remember when it was there. They
built one for the whites and one for the blacks. So far as a black girl growing up
here in Gainesville, we always got along fine. We never had any problems or

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 2
April 2, 2002

incidents. My family was a God-fearing family, and we were independent. We
believed in earning what you get. Back in those days, they didn't have welfare or
all that stuff. My father kept a garden growing out here, right out in that vacant
lot. He used to rent some land from the Childs family. We had sweet potatoes to
meet sweet potatoes. Do you know what I mean when I say that? Do you know
what a potato bank is? Where you make like an Indian tepees. They take straw
and sticks and make a little house and put the pine straw in there and put your
sweet potatoes in there. That's like a storage shed. They would not rot. They
would stay there just as nice and sweet. People used the term sweet potatoes to
meet sweet potatoes. That meant we still had potatoes from last year.

C: When it was time to fill it again. How wonderful! So you were never hungry.

W: No. We kept greens and onions and lettuce. At that time, he was cooking at the
White House Hotel. Then he went to the Thomas Hotel, and he cooked at two
fraternity houses.

C: Ida gave a little talk down at the Matheson Center in February of 2001, and she
told a little bit about her father, whom she called Papa Daddy.

W: Do you know how that name came?

C: No, I would like to know that.

W: I was married at an early age through some of the ladies dipping into my family
affairs. It caused me to elope with a young man that I found out was nothing.
The only thing I got out of that marriage was one child. Then he was about his
business gone but my parents let him stay here for a while. My father was a
man who believed in going to bed at 10 o'clock and you get up at the crack of
dawn and you get yourself some kind of work to do, to earn some food and some
money. So it didn't work out very well with us, and he deserted that child and

C: What was his name?

W: Norman Jackson. Back in those days, they didn't have welfare for mothers that
fathers had walked off and left the children, so my parents, right here in this same
house, said to me, "We allowed him to stay here." My father told him, "You
don't need to come back unless you're going to do better." So he didn't come
back. My parents got J.C. Adkins. Col. Adkins was a lawyer. Do you remember

C: Yes.

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 3
April 2, 2002

W: They were friends of our family. The old black lady that was their cook,
nursemaid, and everything else, raised their two children, Margaret and Jimmy.
Did you know them?

C: Sure. I knew Margaret.

W: How old were they when you knew them?

C: Well, Margaret's a few years older than I am. I never played with Margaret as a
teenager because she was maybe five or six years older than I was. I knew her
when she was grown and I was still in high school.

W: They lived where the 720 Building is, over in that area. Later, Col. Adkins built a
house out in the Duck Pond.

C: That's the one I remember.

W: This old black lady that was a godmother of mine, and lived in Starke, had a
husband. She would come and stay on the premises and do their work and then
they would take her home ever so often. Taxi drivers charged twenty-five cents
then. Joe Johnson and different guys drove taxi for the black people, and they
would bring her out here to visit with us, and once in a while she could spend the
night and go back there the next day. Miss Brown got too old to work, and they
called her Nanny. They loved her because she was dependable. Mrs. Adkins
wasn't home much, and Mrs. Brown raised the children, kept the house, and did
the washing. Col. Adkins was a lawyer and then later became Attorney General, I
believe. Anyway, after she got too old to work, they took her back to her place in
Starke. At one time we had lived there ourselves, right across the road from her,
and they would go over to see about taking care of Mrs. Brown until finally she
passed away. Margaret and Jimmy were grown by that time. I had left

C: Now we've got a little off track. Let's go back here. We got you married and
through school. Then you stayed here with your family. You were going to tell
me how your daddy got that name.

W: Oh yes. After I was married and had this little girl, Gloria Jackson, we were
sitting in this same dining room, which was arranged differently then. My baby
would sometimes call him Papa. Sometimes she would say Daddy and sometimes
Papa. One day he was sitting in his chair and got up to go to the kitchen and she
was sitting near him and she wanted to tell him something. She was confused and
she said, "Papa," and then she would say, "Daddy," so I said, "Well, baby, he's
your Papa and your Daddy. You call him Papa Daddy." That's how he got that

C: How long did you stay in Gainesville?

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 4
April 2, 2002

W: I stayed here until Gloria was about seven years old. I was doing domestic work,
which I'm not ashamed of. All my life I've made a nice, decent, honest living
and amounted to something, much more than some of them who had professional
jobs. It's not what you make; it's how you manage what you make. Anyway, my
mother said to me, "Ida, if you want to go somewhere and get you a better job,
we'll keep the baby." My father had a brother and his wife who lived in
Jacksonville, and I said, "Let me go to Aunt May." Now, my father was a cook
and a chef, and his brother was a baker. He ran on the Clyde and Mallory Lines
from Jacksonville to New York, and he was a baker. So I went over to stay with
Aunt May, and while I was there, I got me a good job. I was making $3 a week
here and I got $6 a week over there. You could do more with it than you do now,
couldn't you?

C: Absolutely. That was good. What year would that have been?

W: About 1935 or '36.

C: You said she was six years old. Was she only four years old? So you stayed in
Jacksonville with this job.

W: Yes. For a length of time.

C: What kind ofjob was it?

W: I was a maid in a dress shop, Marks Sample Shop. Exclusive back in those days.
They had a lady that worked there. She was a foreign lady, a white lady, that did
the alterations. I would help her unravel things, take out pins, like somebody
would buy a dress that they wanted altered and I would press it and I would
unpack stock and hang it. That's the kind of job I had.

C: That was a good job. So you stayed there for several years?

W: Yes, ma'am. Then I came back home and I met this young man that I grew up
with here in Gainesville, but I didn't know him too well. He was my brother's
classmate. My sister said to me, "Ida, this is Christmas, and I would like to have
a little get-together and call in some friends." There was a girl named Dorothy,
who was her close friend. She had a boy friend and my sister had a boy friend.
My sister said to me, "Who am I going to invite for you?" I said it didn't make
any difference. I was kind of out with men then, you know, after I had been
disappointed. It didn't make any difference to me. So she said to me, "Oh, I
know, do you remember Lorenzo Wells that used to go to school?" I said, "Yes.
What happened to him?" She said, "He's still around. I think I'll invite him to
come eat with you." Sure enough she did. She had three couples of us eating
dinner right here in this dining room, with Momma's furniture and what not.

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 5
April 2, 2002

After we had dinner that night, the six of us went in Lorenzo's car to Jacksonville,
so I could be there to go to work the next day. Then they came back. We began
dating and seeing each other. We hung on for a pretty good length of time, but I
found out some things, like men will do. I heard that he had some other girl
pregnant. He came over here to go to Ocala to a church meeting. I told him,
"I've got something I want to tell you. We've been good friends for a long time,
but I heard that you were going with this lady and she's pregnant. For that reason,
I am going on about my business. Good bye." That ended it for 49 years, but I
married the same guy 49 years later.

C: I want to know how did you get to Miami?

W: Oh, I had some friends that lived in Dania, and they had said to me, "If you ever
want to come down, you could make some more money."

C: So you were going to leave Jacksonville.

W: I had left Jacksonville and was here.

C: Oh, you had come back home. What were you doing here?

W: I had a little job with some people the Hammonds. He was a University of
Florida professor. I worked for them. After I had that little run-in and decided I
didn't want to marry Lorenzo because I had been bitten one time and said, "I ain't
going through that any more," I went down where these friends were. They got
me a job and three of us young ladies slept in one bed because they had a
bedroom, until we could find a little room for me. They got me a job and a room,
and that's where I stayed.

C: What was the job?

W: Oh, a maid job.

C: But you got better pay down there.

W: In Hollywood. $25 a week!

C: What year was that?

W: That would have been 1938 or 39, somewhere in there.

C: Well, you didn't stay in Jacksonville too long.

W: No. After I came back here and I found out that Lorenzo was having an affair, I
said I was not going through that again.

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 6
April 2, 2002

C: Now, your mother and father had three children and you were the oldest, and Carl
and Ruth were the others. We know all about what your Momma did, because
that's in this paper, which will be included with our interview. We're going to go
backwards a little bit. Tell me about your childhood. You said it was a wonderful
childhood and you had good friends. What did the kids do after school?

W: Well, we didn't do anything but go home because our mother did not allow us to
stay on the campus.

C: But you had some playmates in the neighborhood?

W: Well, I was different. My sister was the one that loved playmates. I was always a
house person.

C: So you came home to help mother maybe?

W: Yes, and I liked to sew and embroider. I learned to crochet.

C: Who taught you all this?

W: My momma taught me some about sewing. I think some of it was instilled in me,
because I could just work with things and stayed up all hours of the night alone.
Everybody had gone to bed, and I would stay up working with things until I
learned to crochet. I have several pieces that I made back then. I made this.

C: Oh, that's pretty. This is a tablecloth, and she sewed a beautiful edge on it. Did
you do the cross-stitching?

W: Yes.

C: Ida is very talented. Did you have outside activities?

W: No. Back in those days, the only thing we went to was Sunday School or BYPU.

C: What church did you go to?

W: That was Friendship Baptist Church, over here near downtown, 6t Street?

C: 6th Street is the one with the Police Station on it now.

W: Yes. It was the same street that Mt. Pleasant Church is on. It was down two or
three blocks further.

C: Okay. And they had some activities after school?

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 7
April 2, 2002

W: No. If they did, I don't remember. We came home after school and I had to wash
the lampshades.

C: Whatever your mother wanted you to do. Did you see a lot of prejudice against

W: No. We never did. My father was a man who always said, "Stay in your place
and do what's right." We never had any trouble. Back in those days you didn't
have all that kind of stuff. You respected white people. We had some nice white
friends. They would bring things to us, and we worked for them. They would
give us things. We didn't have problems like they had years after I left here.

C: You said your mother taught school?

W: Yes. She taught school before she married my father. That was in Providence.

C: But then she stayed home after her children were born?

W: Yes. Then her precious bundles came along. I was the first one to come. I was a
long time coming because they married in August, 1912, and I wasn't bor until
October, 1913. Some girls get pregnant and miss their first period, and that's all!

C: Anyway, your childhood was a happy one and your parents were good to you.

W: Yes, it was. We were accustomed to a regular schedule, get up in the morning,
not like some of the children today, you make up your bed, you hang up your
nightgown and like that. With some of the children today, you can't get into their

C: I know.

W: I couldn't with my grandchildren. You have to step over their clothing.

C: Was it hard on you to leave your daughter here with your parents?

W: No, because I knew my parents were going to take care of her. After she got to be
12 years old, I got her. She grew up in Miami.

C: So you brought her to Miami when she was 12. She was born in 1932, so by the
time she was 12, that would have been 1944, and she was down in Miami with

W: She finished elementary and high school there and then she got a scholarship for
FAMU. She went there. Of course, I had to pay some. She met this young man
there that was an instructor there in drama. That was the field she was in. She
liked to act.

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 8
April 2, 2002

C: Now FAMU is Florida A&M University, up in Tallahassee.

W: Back in those days. Then they later said University.

C: Now you weren't married all the time you were in Miami?

W: Oh yes. I had gotten married.

C: Well, you didn't tell us who you married. When did you get married? I thought
you went to Miami because those friends of yours told you to come down.

W: I did, but I met somebody.

C: What was his name?

W: Isaiah Matthews. I married him. We didn't stay together very long.

C: When you married Isaiah Matthews, was Gloria down there with you then?

W: No. I had married him before I got her down there.

C: And then you got her down there. Did you continue to work after you were

W: Yes. Gloria finished high school there.

C: And then you said she went to college. Where were you working down there?

W: Hotel work and things like that.

C: What did your husband do?

W: He was a truck driver for a furniture company.

C: Did you stay down there even after you were divorced?

W: Two or three years after divorcing Matthews, I married Percy Woodside in
Miami, and we stayed married until he died in 1985. I came back and forth here
to see my parents during that time. My father died first, in 1979, and when I was
here for the funeral, this young man that lived across town came to visit with us.
We had been friends. This is the same one I was telling you about before. He had
gotten married, and I had gotten married, but we were just friends. I didn't have
any other relations with him. He came and visited with us most of that day.

C: He was still married?

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 9
April 2, 2002

W: No. His wife was dead. Let me see, six years later my husband died and then my
mother died.

C: Your husband died?

W: Yes, this second husband that I was married to in Miami. Anyway, my mother
was here living with my brother across town. This house was closed up. Nobody
lived in it. My desire was when my father passed away that my mother would be
able to live in the house with one of us children, spending at least a month with
her, then another stay a month with her, so she could stay in her own house. But
it didn't work out that way.

C: She lived long after your dad?

W: Yes. I think about six years.

C: I see.

W: My father died first. For that reason, she was with my sister in Tallahassee for a
while, and all of a sudden, my sister's son called me one morning and said to me,
"Aunt Ida, Momma says she's tired and she can't take care of Granny any
longer." So I said, "What are we going to do, Rodney?" I called my daughter and
said, "Gloria, Rodney just called me and said my sister can't take care of Granny
any more. What are we going to do?" Rodney had told me he had gotten a place
in Gainesville a nursing home and that he was planning on taking her there. I
called Gloria back and she was crying. She said, "Some woman needs to be with
Granny while Rodney is taking her." She said, "If they can find a lady to ride
along with Rodney, I'll give them $100." Sure enough, Rodney said he had
somebody, but it was altogether different when I got it unraveled and found out
what really happened. He was on his way to North Carolina he and his wife -
and he was going to drop Momma off here. We sent the $100 and it never
reached the person that we thought it would. There was a lot behind this, you

Anyway, she was in a nursing home. I came up here twice from Miami to visit
with her and to see if she was all right. Momma had to have surgery and she died.

C: What year did she die?

W: 1985.

C: I didn't want to completely neglect your dad, although we know a lot about your
father, and you've told us what he did. He started carving when he was over

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 10
April 2, 2002

W: Eighty-six or eighty-seven.

C: Stewart Purser has written a book about your father. It is down at the Matheson
Center, and the name of it is "Jesse J. Aaron, Sculptor." If anybody reads this
interview and wants to know about Jesse, you should get the book off the shelf.
One of the things that I thought was interesting, when I read the book, was that
Stewart Purser said that his art developed through his attempt to relate as an
individual to the world in which he lived, that he never wasted time, energy, or
money, or anything else, for that matter, that he found the material first and then
the image developed. He sort of made the image after he found the material.
Maybe you can tell me a little more about this story but Stewart said, "What
could he do to help him?" and Jesse said something about business cards with a
picture and his name and profession and his address.

W: Do you have one of those?

C: No.

W: I've got one.

C: We'll get one and attach it to the interview. Anyway, that's a little bit about him.
When you were in Miami and he started carving, you came back and forth to
Gainesville a lot to help him.

W: I did not know that he was carving. I came up here on a regular basis to check on
them. I was the oldest, and after they began getting on in years, I'm going to tell
just because you're a lady, on one visit I made here I walked in the front door and
I could smell urine. Momma was not able to take care of herself. After I noticed
that she did not know she could buy pads and she was using just rags and would
rinse them out in the bathroom and spread them around in her bedroom, and when
they dried, you could still smell it. She wasn't able to sterilize them and rinse
them out that good. So I knew she needed somebody. I was working in a big
Baptist church, and I went to the pastor and told him that I had been to visit my
parents and could see that my mother needed me and asked his permission to go
up and spend two or three weeks out of a month with them and then come back
and do what I could, and he gave me permission to do that.

C: Wonderful!

W: God was in that, you know. I would come up here and stay two or three weeks
and keep house and clean up the house and get Momma straight and go back and
work for a week and see about my house and then come back.

C: That was quite a sacrifice for you.

W: I know, but I wanted to do it.

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 11
April 2, 2002

C: And you were driving back and forth?

W: Yes, ma'am. I drove every inch of the way. I couldn't tell you how many trips I
made from Miami to here. Some of them I drove alone. My father was getting on
in years and it was a little bit too much for him to cook. They didn't like Meals
on Wheels, you know. On top of smelling Momma's urine, I had been here many
times and had to put my Daddy in the bathtub and bathe him. I feel good about
the things that I've done in my lifetime.

C: You took good care of them. At the time, though, your Dad was still working

W: A little bit. I was telling you that I had a dream. In the dream his hair was jet
black and that was not true and his face was nice and round. That was not
true. I had that dream, and I told my husband, "I'm going to Gainesville."

We came up here on a Sunday afternoon, and when I drove in this yard, I got out
and came in the back door, and he was laying there on a chaise lounge in that first
little room that you come through, where the refrigerator and all that stuff is. I
walked in the door and he said to me, "We're getting along all right. Why did
you come back so soon?" He knew I had just left here. I said, "I just wanted to
see you all." I didn't tell him about the dream. That was a Sunday afternoon, and
it was Tuesday morning he was gone. I was up around with him at night. I
couldn't get him to eat anything. Not even coffee and coffee was his main
thing. I've got his coffee cup there in that china closet now!

C: When he started carving, he had quit work, hadn't he?

W: He never stopped working. What he was doing was growing flowers around here.
He wasn't cooking back in those days.

C: So you came back and forth to Gainesville and you helped your father. He started
carving when he was 87.

W: All I did was to go with him to the shows and cook and wash and do like that
around here.

C: Your mother was not able to take care of things and was getting quite elderly.
Your dad died in 1979?

W: Momma died in 1985, the same year my husband Percy died.

C: Then you married Lorenzo Wells. Do you know what year that was?

W: November 14, 1987. My parents were both gone.

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 12
April 2, 2002

C: Okay. We'll go back a little bit. When you grew up, when you first moved to
Gainesville, you didn't live in this house. You lived somewhere else.

W: No. A rented house.

C: It was later on that your dad built this house and moved your family into this

W: It wasn't finished, but enough for us to get in here.

C: You were about how old?

W: Nine years old.

C: So most of your life you've lived right here. So after your parents died, then you
came back to Gainesville to live after you married Lorenzo. You got together
again. You had been friends many, many years ago. Had you moved back to
Gainesville or were you just visiting when he came to call?

W: He came to visit when my father passed away. My brother and some other men
were here.

C: That's right.

W: I was still married and my husband talked with Lorenzo after my father's funeral.
Lorenzo and my brother and a lot of men were out there on the porch, and we
were just friends. My mother and I were in the house, and the men were out
there. I made a pitcher of lemonade and took it and some cookies out there for

C: Then your husband died in 1985.

W: July 4 My Momma died the same year.

C: So when did you move back to Gainesville?

W: Not until I got married to Lorenzo.

C: He knew you had lost your husband.

W: Yes. When I came up here for my Momma's funeral, then is when Lorenzo asked
me out to dinner two times and then asked if he could see me, and different
things, and that's how we got started again.

C: Did he come to see you in Miami?

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 13
April 2, 2002

W: Yes. He came down to Miami two times after we began dating again.

C: No one was living in this house then.

W: No. I didn't move back to Gainesville until after I married Lorenzo. We were
staying in his house across town. We were paying taxes on this house the three
of us and one day Lorenzo and I came over here to rake up the yard so it
wouldn't look deserted. I had not thought about it before because I had my house
in Miami to take care of and I was living in his house with him here, and when we
drove in this gate out here and got out of the car by that pecan tree, I had never
thought of it before, but I said, "Ren, would you mind staying in this old house?"
We had been looking for us a house here and had never found one that we wanted
or could afford. We paid down on one and I said we were too old to get into that
kind of debt, so we got our money back. So when we drove into this yard and I
asked him about staying in this old house if we paid Mary and Ruth for their
shares, he agreed. They sold us their shares, and that's how he and I became in
possession of this house. We got a lawyer and everything went through the right

C: Then you moved in here.

W: Not then. We had to do a lot of work on it first.

C: What year did you move in?

W: About 1990 or 1991.

C: How long were you and Lorenzo married?

W: Until he died in 1996.

C: Tell me a little bit about Lorenzo. You had a happy life.

W: Oh yes. He was a devout, decent, respectable man. Everybody who knew
Lorenzo gave him the same name. He worked for the Elletts for many, many

C: And before that, her aunts, Fanida and Laura Baker.

W: He also knew Mrs. Alvin Alsobrook. That's how I got that job with her. They
knew him many, many years. I think Lorenzo said he used to go and scrub
somebody's floor on a Saturday morning for a quarter. Back in those days, you
know. Somebody's kitchen floor. But he was a fine person. Anybody that knew
him or heard anything about him would give you the same answer about him.

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 14
April 2, 2002

Like I said, when I found out in those days that he had another girl friend, I went
on and he married this lady.

C: That was decent.

W: Then they had some children. She died and he was single a long, long time. Then
my brother was talking with him, and he told him that Ida's husband died and that
was all he needed.

C: He had a place for you in his heart all along.

W: That's what he said.

C: He was sorry about the way he had acted early on. Well, it sounds like you had a
good life with him. Did you continue to work when you came back to

W: Oh yes. He's the one that started me doing a little work for Mrs. John Ellett and
then later for Mrs. Alsobrook.

C: That's wonderful. Well, you seem to be in pretty good health.

W: I am grateful. I am blessed, more than blessed. There are a lot of people my age,
some even younger, who aren't. I am not walking with a cane. I'm not aching
and all bent over, but I know that I don't have the strength I once had. I'm 88
years old this year. I don't get around as fast as I once did, but I eat good. I eat
three meals a day and in between. I eat breakfast in the morning a ritual.

C: Ida has a nice home here on 7th Avenue. It's her parents' home that she lived in
as a young girl, but she's got a lot of things relating to her father. She has a lot of

W: Did you see in his shop?

C: I did last time, but I wanted to tell about the shop. Your idea is to restore it.

W: To some degree. I don't want it to look too modem.

C: You want it to look like ...

W: Kind of like him. I want you to look at it again before you go.

C: I will look again.

W: You can go right in that door.

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 15
April 2, 2002

C: I remember. I went in it the other day. The men were here doing some work for
you in the yard. Anyway, she has a nice home and a lot of nice pictures and a lot
of things about Jesse that maybe she will let us copy them to put down here with
the interview. Your father really was a remarkable man to start his carving at his
age. I understand that at age 88 he got a grant from the NEA that sent him to New
York City.

W: Mr. Purser took him. My mother was sick and he couldn't go and work. He
wanted to stay here and keep his yard and fix meals for her, and one morning a
voice woke him up and told him, "Jesse, go carve." Have you seen that

C: I think Mr. Purser maybe tells it in his book, but that's very interesting. So he
started carving.

W: That morning he went out there and started doing something. When I would
come up here to visit him, I am going to be frank with you, I didn't tell him but I
thought that was the ugliest stuff. But you know what? At first you can not reach
out and accept it, but the more you look at it, the more you're around it, the more
you can see in it.

C: Well, it's sort of primitive. Isn't that the word?

W: Yes.

C: It has been very popular, and a lot of people I know own pieces of it. I see that
you're a reader. You have a lot of books around here.

W: Yes. The day that President Kennedy was killed, I was reading that day. I was in
Miami, taking care of my grandchild, my little grandson, who was a baby. I was
going out to the line to hang up some diapers. My daughter was a teacher and so
was her husband. Just as I started out the door to the clothesline, a bulletin came
on the radio saying that Kennedy had been shot. I didn't hang up those diapers
until God knows when. I stopped right there and stayed inside to look at it.

These are my things here. I have a lot of stuff that I have not even unpacked and
put out here because I don't have space for them here in this house. I don't want
it to look too junky and too crowded. It has taken me a long time to get it
assembled, to make it look halfway passable.

C: It looks fine to me. Your daughter still lives in Gainesville?

W: My daughter died. My only child.

C: When did she die? I didn't know about that.

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 16
April 2, 2002

W: Gloria died about five years ago now. She lived in Miami.

C: Oh, she moved to Miami.

W: Oh yes. She grew up and finished high school in Miami, went to FAMU and met
this teacher there. They fell in love and wanted to marry, and he made a trip to
Miami to visit me, to meet me to ask me for her hand in marriage. I can show you
the wedding dress I made her. I made everything. She had her wedding right
there at my sister's.

They lived in Springfield, Missouri, when they first got married because he had a
job as a drama teacher there. She was in the field of drama, also. They went to
Missouri. She graduated from college in Tallahassee. He was an instructor there.
I went to Tallahassee, made the wedding gown, and they had the wedding right
there at my sister's house. They left that afternoon because he had the job in
Springfield, Missouri. When they left there, he got another job at Prairie View,
Texas, teaching drama. Then he got tired of that and they came to Miami and
they stayed there.

C: So you don't get to see your grandchildren very often if they still live in Miami.

W: Two of them. They're grown. My youngest grandchild is 45 years old.

C: Oh, I guess so, and they're all in Miami? I don't want to forget anything. Have
we skipped anything we need to talk about? Can you think of anything that we
have to talk about?

W: No, I began telling you about that dream about my father, when I dreamed that his
hair was jet black. I didn't finish it.

C: I thought you did finish it. You said you came home and found out he wasn't that
young man that you were dreaming about.

W: That was on a Sunday afternoon. Monday he didn't eat anything. I got him to eat
a little piece of cantaloupe Monday night. Tuesday morning I was up real bright
and early and that's the day he left us. He didn't make a sound. I thought he was
asleep because he slept with his mouth open anyway. I looked in there I don't
know how many times, thinking that he was asleep. Finally I took a closer look,
and he was gone.

C: Did your daughter have a serious illness when she died? She was very young.

W: My daughter was over 60 years old. She had diabetes real bad. She was on
dialysis. I have diabetes, too, but mine is controlled. My mother had diabetes.

C: Yes, it does run in families. It certainly does.

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 17
April 2, 2002

W: She had it real, real bad, so she was on dialysis. She has been gone more than two
years, and he has remarried. I know the lady that he married. We're all members
of the same church, and he needed somebody because he was a man that has had
hip replacements and has to walk with two sticks a lot of times. I gave him my
blessing and he seemed a little bit chilly. I guess Jim thought that I wouldn't
approve. But I knew the lady a long time.

C: You were glad for him to find somebody.

W: Yes. Then my grandson moved in the house with him because some mornings
somebody would have to help get him out of bed.

C: How many children did they have?

W: Three. Two girls and a boy. The oldest girl lives in Tampa. She has been
teaching school in Tampa 25 years. Never been married; has her own house. The
next girl lives in Miami, and she's a schoolteacher. She got married since her
mother passed on. The boy is a drama instructor, and he's never been married.
He's 45 years old.

C: So you've got a nice family. You have a wonderful heritage, and I think what
you're trying to do for your father, Jesse, is a fine thing and I hope someday that
works out. He will be well remembered.

W: I got it finished inside. I plan to go out there and take a damp cloth and wipe off
those dirty walls and spray just a little girlish pink. I want it to look old-fashioned

C: Ida is very industrious, as you can see. She still works for the Elletts and the
Alsobrooks. Anyway, we've very pleased that we've had this chance to talk with
you, and I thank you so much for giving us your time. I'll give you a copy of this.
We'll both edit it and make it readable. That's the main thing because nobody is
going to listen to this tape, but they will read it. They're all down at the Matheson
Center. We'll give as many copies as you want.

W: Thank you. Do you know Joel Buchanan?

C: Oh yes. He's the one that interviewed your mother.

W: Yes.

C: I don't know who interviewed your father, and I don't know why that interview is
not available, but they don't have it.

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 18
April 2, 2002

W: I don't know, but Mr. Purser died the same day that my Momma died. I had come
back here. Momma was in a nursing home and they put her in the hospital. Then
I went to see Mrs. Purser and she was dead. A little while after he died. It looked
like my world was falling apart. All those people that I knew. Mr. Purser has
been in this dining room and eaten many a day with us. He brought my father to
Miami he and Mrs. Purser and I had a nice meal fixed for them and they
enjoyed it so much. We went on Miami Beach and all over there. We were real
close friends.

C: That book will certainly tell you that he admired your father very much.

W: Did it tell how he met my father? A student was passing through here and noticed
those carvings out there. He had pieces outside the house. That's why he fenced
it in out there because he couldn't leave his pieces out there because somebody
might pick them up. So I had the fence open and was putting a few things out
there. This student went back and told Mr. Purser about the place where a man
had some carvings, so Mr. Purser came out here and they met, and they became
like father and son. They were so close. They really were. It was some blow to
me to find out that Mr. Purser had gone.

C: He really helped your father promote his work and helped him show it at different
places in the state.

W: And it all happened so suddenly. Mrs. Purser didn't go very far behind after him
either. Did you know her?

C: No, I didn't know either one of them. I knew the name. They were pretty young
when they died? They were younger than your father, of course, a lot younger.

W: They had a son and a daughter. I mentioned that to Joel one time to see if he
could get an address or something for his daughter and his son.

C: They don't live in Gainesville?

W: I don't think so. But time goes by, and you have so many blows in your own
family. I am telling you when I lost my parents, Momma was 97 or 98, but I
knew they had a long life, but when I lost my daughter and my husband, those
were the biggest blows that I had.

C: Right. Your husband was getting up in years, though, but you still miss him. I'm
sure you do.

W: He loved this place. Different people would come here to see him, and I can
remember one of the questions he would ask the people. He was so proud and I
changed this house right. He would ask the people, "Did you ever see a bedroom
with five doors to it?" It does have five doors. One to come into the dining room.

Interview with Ida Aaron Wells 19
April 2, 2002

This was the door here but it was further down. I had him move this door so my
furniture would fit in right.

C: Well, you've done a lot with this house.

W: I just haven't finished painting it. Why they put this closet door here is because it
saves space.

C: Sure it does. They are bifold doors that she is talking about, that slide out of the
way when you have the doors open.

W: They don't take up so much space. I had the kitchen done over after he was gone,
because he hadn't gotten to the kitchen. I have many, many memories here, and I
would not trade this place for five or ten like I had in Miami. I have memories
here from the time that I was nine years old up until now.

C: That's wonderful. We're delighted to have all this on tape. We'll get back with
you soon. Thank you so much.

W: You are welcome.

University of Florida Home Page
© 2004 - 2010 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.
All rights reserved.

Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement
Last updated October 10, 2010 - - mvs