MATHESON MUSEUM, INC.
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM
Ruby Lucille Mitchell
Ann P. Smith
Ruth C. Marston
May 9, 2003
Alachua County Historic Trust: Matheson Museum, Inc.
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 1
May 9, 2003
(Note: The third person included in this interview is Ann Enck, of Waldo.)
S: This is May 9, 2003, and my name is Ann Smith. I am interviewing Ruby Lucille
Mitchell, of Waldo, Florida. We are in the Community Center in Waldo. First of
all, tell me when you were born.
M: I was bor April 26, 1917.
S: So that makes you how old?
M: I am 86 years old.
S: You sure don't look it. You look wonderful, and I am so delighted to do this.
Tell me where were you born?
M: I was bom about three blocks down Avenue in a little shack
that's tor down now, but it stayed there until last year.
S: And that's where your mother and dad lived. Were you the first child or down the
M: I was the fourth child. My mother had three other children that were bom dead.
S: Oh, so she had a little trouble to begin with, didn't she?
M: An old lady here named Williams told her when the last baby died to
bury it on its face and the next one would live, and that was me.
S: So she did that.
M: And I was the next one born. I was the first one that lived.
S: So you were the oldest living child in your family, is that right?
M: No, I had an older sister.
S: I see. How much older was she?
M: She must have been about six or seven years older than me. My dad's name was
S: What did he do for a living?
M: He moved here from Jacksonville, and he was a brick mason. He built the bank.
It was a bank then, but it's an antique shop now. It's a red brick building in
Waldo. He and James Sanders built that bank.
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 2
May 9, 2003
S: That's something to remember, isn't it?
M: Every time I pass that building, I think of that because I didn't know him.
S: How did he learn his craft?
M: I don't know. I didn't know anything about his background.
S: You didn't know him so he didn't live very long?
M: He died when I was two years old, so I really don't remember him. Somebody
told me that he died in Palatka because he and my mother moved from here to
Palatka, Florida. Then somebody asked me where was my dad and I told them,
"My Dad went to the Baptist Church and went to sleep."
S: That's a little girl's understanding, isn't it? How many other children did your
M: There were 17 of us altogether.
S: Now, when you were born and the children ...
M: I was born and my dad when I was two years old. There were two of us Corthran.
My mother gave me and my sister, Susie, to this man and his brother.
S: And his name is?
M: His name is Mansel Williams. His brother's name was Pete Williams. These two
men married my two aunties on my father's side, which would have been my
father's sisters, so my mother gave us to them. I stayed with him and his wife,
which was Leila Williams, my auntie. My other sister lived with Florence and
S: Did they live in Waldo?
M: No, they were in Deerfield Beach. After my father died, my mother sent us to
Deerfield Beach. Then she remarried and she had three children with that man.
Then she divorced him and she married again.
S: So she had three husbands.
M: Three husbands. It must be ten in the last set of children, the Bells. Her original
name was Ruth Molphurs and then she married my dad, who was a Corthran.
After he died, she married Joey Sipling, and after she divorced him, she married
Mr. Bell. That's all I know.
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 3
May 9, 2003
S: Then growing up, this man is Daddy.
M: That's the only Daddy I know. That was my adopted daddy because they adopted
me. My name was Williams. Instead of Corthran, it was Williams. When I got
grown, I dropped the Williams and I went back to my daddy's name because I
didn't have any brothers. I was a Corthran again.
S: What did this man do?
M: This man did everything. He was originally a farmer because Deerfield Beach
was a farming section, a seasonal section. I picked beans, peppers, tomatoes,
whatever vegetables there were. That was our job. He farmed, and he was a
carpenter, and he was a pianist. He was a mason. He did everything. I just
S: He sounds like a fine man.
M: He was wonderful. He was head deacon in the Baptist Church. He was
Superintendent of Sunday School, Bible teacher.
S: Where was he raised?
M: He came from Florence, South Carolina. He graduated from Benedict College.
M: You know it had to be way back there.
S: I was going to say that he was probably a very unusual person for that day and
M: He was wonderful. Anything you asked him, he could do it.
S: Isn't that a wonderful memory to have? Did they have other children?
M: No. He did. He had other children, but my aunt never had any children.
S: So when you were growing up, were you mostly with your sister or did you have
M: No. We were kind of raised alone.
S: Well, it was a rural area. You didn't live near a lot of people.
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 4
May 9, 2003
M: We had our entertainment at home. That's where we stayed. We weren't very far
apart from each other. My sister lived about as far as the church so we would see
each other every day. I went to school at Deerfield Beach and graduated from the
8 grade there. His wife was teaching at Deerfield Elementary School and as I
was promoted from 1st grade on to 5 grade, she was promoted right along with
me so she was my teacher from the 1st grade to 5t grade.
S: I'll be darned.
M: I graduated from Deerfield Beach and went two years to Pompano schools. I left
Pompano and went to Miami Booker T. Washington High, so I graduated from
there in 1937. I would go from Deerfield to Miami on Sunday afternoon and stay
the whole week. A bunch of us girls stayed in a boarding house. Our landlady
was named Miss Jones. There were about seven of us in this boarding house, and
she was our mother. Friday evening when school was out, I would catch the bus
and come back to Deerfield Beach. I spent the weekends at home. I was always
active in the church. I got converted when I was eight years old and was baptized.
S: That's an important part of your life all your life, isn't it?
M: All my life.
S: That's wonderful. When you were a little girl, do you remember anyone in the
family being sick or having serious illnesses? Were you a pretty healthy family?
S: What kinds of things did you do for fun?
M: We lived near the ocean, so we mostly would go to the beach. We could walk
from our house to the ocean.
S: Oh, my goodness.
M: I would get my fishing pole and my dog and go fishing. My sister didn't like to
fish so she wouldn't go with me, so I went by myself with my dog.
S: That sounds wonderful. When you graduated from high school, what did you do?
M: My adopted mother died June 18, 1937. My aunt said, "I am going to send you to
Waldo to visit your grandmother." My grandmother lived right down the road
there, so I came here to visit in July 1937. I met that handsome man in September
of '37. We courted one week. I met him on a Sunday morning going home from
Sunday School, right out there on that road. We courted Monday, Tuesday,
Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Friday night we were walking on 1475
because we had a friend who lived out there. We were going to her house. That's
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 5
May 9, 2003
when he proposed and I accepted. We got married that Saturday morning at the
S: One week! Why, you wild young ones!
M: Our judge was named Judge Hires. People in Gainesville will remember him.
S: Now tell me what your husband's name is.
M: Andrew Mitchell no middle name. He was 27 and he lived in Waldo.
S: All his life?
M: Yep. All his life. I was 20.
S: What did your grandmother think about all of this?
M: She was flabbergasted because we did it in secret. We didn't let anybody know it.
We just went on Saturday morning and got married.
S: Do you know what they call that these days? They call that "chemistry." It was
just meant to be. Isn't that something! That's a wonderful story.
Now, so you met him. Let me go back and ask about his parents. He was raised
here. Did he have brothers and sisters here?
M: Yes, his sister lives there.
S: Oh, right across from us right now.
M: No, she isn't living now. It was in the beige house. That was his sister's house.
His mother's place was out down from 1375, on what is now 160th Avenue. It
didn't have no name. It was just a country road. That's where he was born and
S: So he had one sister?
M: He had one sister and his brother lives before you get to the church on the corner
down here the pretty house you see sitting there. That's where his brother lives.
S: I'm assuming that he's no longer alive?
M: My husband?
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 6
May 9, 2003
M: Oh no, he died in 1990.
S: What did he do? When you met him and he was 27, was he working?
M: He was a farmer. He just loved farming.
S: He loved the land. What did he grow?
M: His biggest crop was silver cream corn. Of course, we marketed that. When we
first married, we moved to Gainesville. Across from where Alachua General is,
there used to be Dell That's where we lived. We didn't know
nothing about no Shands. All that was the University of Florida farming acreage,
out there where Shands Hospital is now.
S: Oh really!
M: That was all farmland, and he worked for the University of Florida, planting
vegetables and learning what the University of Florida does for agriculture. He
used to grow the loveliest corn and sweet potatoes and peas and beans, and he
would bring all that stuff home and we could give it to the neighbors.
S: What a feast!
M: That's what he did. He worked for the University of Florida.
S: For how long?
M: About three years. We left there and moved back here. We came back to Waldo
in the 40's.
S: Back in the 40's, and I was just born! Now he farmed what land? Was this land
M: No. We rented land. We rented acreage. Some of the acreage was out near us,
and he would just plant ten or twenty acres of sweet corn, silver cream corn.
Everybody called him the Silver Cream King.
S: Did they?
E: You didn't plant next to your house. You had cows next to your house.
M: Yes, we had cows and horses and chickens and ducks. We had .Dogs
and rabbits. Everything that had a mouth we had it! We just thought that we had
to have animals. That's when our children were coming up.
S: How wonderful. How many children did you have?
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 7
May 9, 2003
M: I have three. My baby boy lives in Atlanta, Georgia. He's 53. His name is
Bobby Joe Mitchell. Andrew is the oldest, and he lives in Orlando, Florida. He is
59. He has been in Orlando since he was 19 years old. He graduated in '61 and
has been in Orlando ever since. He has been in Orlando longer than he has been
here. He worked for Sears Roebuck, for the Police Department, and then he went
to the Fire Department. He worked 26 years with the Fire Department.
S: What a wonderful record!
M: He retired as a Lieutenant.
S: Aren't you proud?
M: In 1997 he retired. I'm proud of all three of them.
S: What a good mother you must have been.
M: My daughter was born in 1945. She was a "preemie".
S: Was she? How many pounds?
M: 5 pounds 2 ounces.
S: Was she born at home?
M: No, she was born in Alachua General. They kept her in the hospital because she
came at 6 months and 2 weeks, and they wouldn't let me see her. He would go to
the hospital every day and see her when he came home from work. They sent her
home to me when she was 4 months old. I hadn't even seen her.
S: How did she do?
M: He brought her home in one of his shoeboxes.
M: In the truck. When he brought her in the house, I got a pillow and put her on it. I
had her sleep on the pillow all the time. We didn't have nothing but the wood
stove. The house was wood, so to keep her warm, I put the door of the wood
stove down and the pillow in a box and I kept her on that door of the wood stove.
I had to give her milk with a medicine dropper. Her little mouth was so small.
S: Just like a baby bird.
M: She couldn't take the nipple. But you talk about growing!
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 8
May 9, 2003
S: She was ready to go when she left the hospital.
M: We had a cow named Babe that gave Jersey milk, and I started feeding her on that
Jersey milk. I would go out in the field and call Babe. She would come up to the
fence and I would milk a bottle full of milk and give it to her just as it came out of
the bag. That's how I kept her living. Then she started growing and gaining
weight and wasn't sick a day in her life.
S: She grew up to be a healthy child and a strong adult. I bet you look back on those
days and that little tiny thing on the pillow.
M: I didn't want but two children a boy and a girl so I had my girl and I was just
determined to save her. Then I finished as though I was through, and here came
S: An extra little surprise!
M: I began to get plump and looking nice and my hair began to grow and skin got
beautiful. I said, "Well, I believe I'll go to the doctor." I went to the doctor and
he said, "Mrs. Mitchell, did you know you're four months pregnant?" I said,
"What!" He said I was four months pregnant. I said, "It can't be because my
husband I we weren't going to have any
more kids." But we didn't know all about these controls. So here comes Bobby
S: What doctor did you go to?
M: Dr. W.C. Thomas in Gainesville. He was on Main Street. The Thomas house is
S: Let me ask you a question. I've been interviewing some people who remember
the medical community and remember when Shands was built and remember the
M: My husband was building Shands Hospital when our house got burned in '55.
S: Oh really.
M: He was working at Shands and the police called him and told him that the house
was on fire. They brought him home. I was working out here on 301 at a
restaurant called I was baking pies. They called me and told me
my house was burning. The lady brought me home and when I got there,
everything was in ashes. I just went out like a light.
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 9
May 9, 2003
E: Why don't you tell her about a doctor in Campville or something? Remember
you read about a doctor who used to charge a quarter or something.
M: Dr. Sharehouse.
S: Where was this doctor?
M: In Campville.
S: Is it part of Gainesville?
M: Like you're going to Hawthorne. We used to go to him and he would charge only
S: When you went to Dr. Thomas, was he waiting room segregated? Do you
remember if you had a different waiting room than the white people?
M: I can't remember. I remember we had to go around like the side, and there was a
big swing that we used to sit in and then we would go in the waiting room, but the
S: He was a fine physician. He treated a lot of people, didn't he?
M: Oh yes. W.C. Thomas. He was so nice.
S: He was. Everyone just thought he was so good to people. He went way out of his
way for all kinds of people.
M: And you went to him and you didn't pay but a dollar and a half for a visit!
S: Boy, aren't those days gone forever.
M: I remember when I worked for $5 a week.
S: What was thatjob?
M: Cleaning houses here in Gainesville. I would bum a ride from here to Gainesville.
S: Coming from Waldo?
M: I would bum a ride in and back home in the afternoon.
S: What years was that?
M: That had to be in the 30's.
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 10
May 9, 2003
S: But it was safe for somebody to pick you up?
M: Well, we didn't know nothing about all this crime. Different people would be
coming from Starke, just like they are now, and a lot of people knew me and
would pick me up.
S: And it was different houses every day?
S: And you would clean for them?
M: Yes. I washed and ironed for the University of Florida because you know when
they started out, the University didn't have nothing but males.
S: That's right. I did know that.
M: Well, I used to do the laundry for the boys. I'd walk out to the dorm and get the
laundry and bring it back to them.
S: Where did you wash them?
M: At home.
S: Oh, and she still has the washtub and the old In a tub with a
scrub board. And then you would take it back.
M: I starched and ironed them and would take them back the next day.
S: Now, did you work for the boys or for the University?
M: I just did the laundry for the different boys.
S: But they would pay you individually.
M: Yes. Ten cents a shirt washed, starched and ironed and delivered. I taught the
boys to wash, iron, scrub, cook, to do everything Gwen did. I had a week for each
one of them to do. Andrew's week to cook. Gwen's week to cook. Of course,
Bobby was behind them so he was out of it, but Gwen would get Andrew to swap
with her because she didn't know how to cook and she didn't want to learn to
cook. She wouldn't watch me cook, so Andrew did the cooking, and she did the
cleaning. When I came in from work, my food was ready, my clothes was ready,
my clothes was washed.
S: And they're better people for it.
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 11
May 9, 2003
M: Now today all of them can take over their house.
S: And doesn't that come in handy.
M: have a nice house.
E: A very outstanding Did you tell her what Gwen's doing?
M: You tell her. I can't.
E: She's a computer genius. She runs the computer equipment in archives for the
S: Where is she?
M: Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina.
E: She is one of very few women in the entire department. Takes
programs and has done everything.
S: That's wonderful. I know you must be proud of all your kids.
M: I am. Bobby Joe lives in Atlanta. He has been in Atlanta since he graduated in
'68. We sacrificed and got $900 to send him to DeVry Institute in Chicago. He
went after he graduated. He stayed eight months and called me at four o'clock in
the morning one morning and said, "Mom, how are you doing?" I said, "Fine."
"I just called to tell you that that school thing is not my bag. I got ajob with ."
I'm trying to think of the name, a big Wall Street company in Chicago.
S: In stocks and bonds.
M: He got him ajob there. He didn't finish school.
S: Oh dear, and all you could think of was how hard it was to get him there.
M: How many days I worked to get the money to send him. How many things we did
without to get that money. $900 was a lot of money.
S: Yes. Well, tell me about this picture of your family when there were four of you
before Bobby Joe was born. That was about what year?
M: Well, he was born in '43; so how old do you think he should have been?
E: About '47 or so. She doesn't look more than two or three.
M: She was about two.
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 12
May 9, 2003
S: That's on your land?
S: Is that the land that he was planting?
M: That's our steps.
S: Is that where you lived?
S: Is that the house that burned? After that fire, where did you go?
M: Where that blue house is now. His mother's home was moved from out there
over here. She never lived there. We stayed there during '55, '56, '57, '58, '59,
and '60. We moved into our new home in '61.
S: That was built by?
M: By him.
S: He did everything, didn't he?
M: We have five acres, and we bought it in '38. We gave $150 for five acres, and we
paid $5 a month.
S: To the bank?
M: No, to a private owner, Frank Irby (? Irving). We paid $5 a month until we had
paid the $150. What a rough time I had back then, but I'm enjoying life now.
S: Your good deeds paid off.
M: My children call me every day.
S: You think back on those struggling times.
M: Somebody asked me, "Oh, I wish I was such-and-such an age." I say, "I don't
because I don't want to go through what I went through."
S: That's right. When you think of the struggles.
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 13
May 9, 2003
M: I had a hard time coming up but I always had plenty to eat because my husband
believed in the land furnishing us food and having everything we wanted to eat.
We used to kill our own cows and kill our own hogs.
S: Do you remember when you first got indoor plumbing?
M: Yes, in '45.
S: And before that you had a privy?
M: Outdoors. The first electricity we had was in 1945, and we got a Frigidaire
refrigerator from Jim Boyle, and it had a money thing on it where you put a
quarter in every day for it to run.
S: Really? And then they came out and collected that.
M: No, you would collect it at the end of the month and take it in. That's the way we
paid for our refrigerator. There was a box on the side of the refrigerator.
S: Now, I've never heard that before.
M: We put a quarter in every day and it would run. If you didn't put your quarter in,
it didn't run. At the end of the month, you had a key and you would open your
box and take the money out and take it in to Jim Boyle. He was on 8h Avenue. It
wasn't 8th Avenue then. 13t Street now was Alabama Avenue.
S: I remember hearing that.
M: 8 Avenue was something else it must have been 6th Street. The streets were
different from what they are now. 5h Avenue now was Seminary Lane. That was
the big street in Gainesville Seminary Lane.
S: When you had your Frigidaire, how long had you had electricity? Did you have
electricity before you had indoor plumbing?
M: We got the electricity and we didn't have the indoor plumbing then. We still had
the outdoor toilet. We didn't get indoor plumbing until '61 when we built the
new house. Over here we didn't have indoor plumbing.
S: Do you remember what else you had besides the Frigidaire?
M: We had an electric stove. We got a second-hand electric stove.
S: Good for you. Did you like it?
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 14
May 9, 2003
M: Oh yes. It was new because Oil stove and a
wood stove. Then we went from the wood stove to the burner oil
S: Yes. Do you remember the first radio that you got?
M: Yes. The first radio we got had the battery like this. You plugged your radio into
S: How big was the radio?
M: Oh about that big.
S: And what do you remember hearing on it?
M: Amos and Andy.
S: I was going to say that. I remember listening to Amos and Andy. What else?
Did you listen to ball games?
M: Not much.
S: Your husband wasn't a sports person?
M: No, he wasn't interested in sports. He wasn't interested in nothing but farming -
growing something to eat, keeping his family fed, keeping them happy.
S: He was pretty focused on that, wasn't he?
M: That was his life.
S: What did his dad do?
M: His dad was a railroad fireman.
S: When you were talking about the streets in Gainesville and about hitching a ride
to go to the University to get the laundry of those boys, do you remember the first
transportation or car that you had? Did your husband have a truck for the farm?
M: He had a truck when we married. It had to have been a 30-something. After we
married, while we were living in Gainesville, he bought a '31 Volvo. Beautiful,
all shiny with silver hubcaps and a spotlight on the side. He washed it and
polished it every week. And "don't put your hands on it."
E: Is that the one that Bobby Joe has now?
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 15
May 9, 2003
M: Oh no. That's the truck. This was a car. While he was working at the University
of Florida, he bought this car. He bought it from
S: That's right. Now, what were the roads like between Waldo and Gainesville?
M: They were rock, little rocks.
S: How long did it take you to get from Waldo to Gainesville?
M: Not long. About like they do now, just better roads.
S: That's true and we don't kick up quite as much dust. When your children were
young, did they have any serious illnesses after your daughter got over her
M: No, they were always healthy.
S: If they did get sick, did you have homemade remedies?
M: home remedies.
S: What kinds of things did you use?
M: For colds we used hoghooftea. You'd take the hoofs off the hog and lay it on the
oven and brown it til it burned, take it out put in the and beat it up
and make a tea and give that to the children. That was for colds.
S: Did it work?
M: White cream for worms.
S: Is that something you made?
M: No, we bought that. Acid for cramps. Black
S: Where did you get that?
M: From the store. Sassafras tea to clean out your system.
S: Did you learn these from whom?
M: From my mother.
S: Well, you didn't have a doctor right around the comer, and even if you did ...
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 16
May 9, 2003
M: We didn't have no money, so we had to make do. And if we had a fever, we used
S: What did they look like? Do they still grow around here?
M: Yes, they still grow here in a little place next to the There is a
bunch of them growing right back there.
S: Maybe I should go take pictures of them. Are they big leaves?
M: Yes, just huge. If you have a fever, you take them and put them on your head,
dampen them and put them on your head, and if your fever is real high you take a
rag and bind your head and the leaves get cooked.
S: Another lady that I interviewed a few weeks ago mentioned those. She didn't
have any idea how to spell it but she told me that that's what they used for fever.
I had no idea what she was talking about. She said that they would wrap the little
children in them if they got feverish. She said the leaves would get all dry.
M: And the fever would be gone. We used sardine oil for mumps.
S: Did you rub it on the neck?
M: You let them eat the sardines. That was for mumps. You would put some of the
sardines in a rag and tie them up to the head and rub the oil, and it would take care
of the mumps.
S: Wonderful things to remember.
M: 13th Street, right over where Shands is and where the garage is and where the new
building is, all that was farmland. My husband farmed all that. He would drive
the tractor right on in there. That's where he learned so much about farming
because the University of Florida was teaching all that stuff.
S: About what years do you think he worked for the University of Florida?
M: We married in '37 and we moved from here to Gainesville and stayed about three
years. We moved back here in '40. We built our first home in '41 and have been
on that same place ever since. You know the house burned down. We were here
from '56 to '61. We moved in in '61.
S: Okay, now I've got some other questions. About church and religion. Was that
always an important part of your life and always a part of the family and part of
the social life? Those were all church activities?
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 17
May 9, 2003
M: The children would be baptized when they were around 12 or 13. The church
down here, but it was the old church. Our old church burned, but all of us
attended that church. He attended it all his life. I joined there in '38 and have
been there ever since. I was first BYPU teacher. That's Baptist Young People's
Union. I was teaching the young men's class. He came to BYPU that evening to
hear me teach it. He carried me home that night and came back to see me again
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Friday night we made our
final decision. teased me because I was teaching the class and
he hadn't even been coming to church, but he had been a member of that church
all his life.
S: He certainly was good looking.
M: Yes, and immaculate. When he was walking along the street or the road, he
would take a and brush his shoes off. You can see how they
M: He didn't want a speck of dust on his shoes.
S: And he felt that way about the car, and I'll bet he felt that way about the children
and the house, didn't he?
M: Yep. They used to call him "Spotless."
S: I think you got a special one, didn't you?
M: I got the pick of Waldo! Before I met him, a lady told me that he was the pick of
S: And no wonder!
M: When I saw his picture sitting on her table, I said, "Well, who is this?" She told
me and I said, "I'd like to meet him." I met him about three days later, and he
looked just like that.
S: That is just a handsome picture of your family. Who took the picture?
M: I have no idea.
S: Is that right?
M: I don't remember. It's lucky that we have it because all our pictures got burned.
Somebody else must have had it. If I made no mistake, I think their godmother,
Delores Wilson, gave us this picture.
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 18
May 9, 2003
S: You were a real beauty.
M: My hair was long. I had it in two big plaits brought up and
S: I know how to do that. I wore my hair that way when I was a little girl. What a
handsome family! That's what I call a family portrait. There's a large picture
You said he died in '90.
M: In '90. And we had our 50t wedding anniversary in '87 after this was taken.
E: And you had a celebration and church ceremony the whole thing, bridesmaids.
S: Really? How wonderful! I keep thinking what a good-looking couple you are
M: You see my hair was just beginning to turn gray, and after it started graying I
started coloring it and I wore it colored until about four years ago. I didn't even
know it was white because every time she would wash it she would put the color
in and I wouldn't see it. One day I had to go to the bathroom after she washed it
and before she put the color in. I looked in the mirror and it was white. When I
came back, I said, "Don't put no more color in." She said, "What?" I said, "I
know. Don't put no more color in it. I'm going to wear it like this." When I
came back to Waldo, everybody ." I said, "Yes, this is my
hair." I've been wearing it white ever since.
E: That's a beautiful white. If we all had that clear blue white, a lot of us would
wear it white.
M: You see I've got on my jewelry.
E: Always got her earrings on.
M: See my necklace.
S: I do.
M: That's a silver and gold chain.
S: It's beautiful. Tell me if you remember anything about Paynes Prairie when you
were growing up or when you lived in Gainesville. Do you remember what that
looked like or did you ever go out there?
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 19
May 9, 2003
M: We didn't have time to do nothing but work. On weekends we came to Waldo in
our pretty little black Ford car, and then we went to church on Sunday. Sunday
night we would go back to Gainesville. We came home every weekend.
S: This church was still your home church, wasn't it? When you were growing up,
did you live in the city?
M: I was in the country. My dad was a farmer, too.
S: When you were first married, did your husband have a tractor?
M: No. He plowed with a horse. He owned a horse when we married. His dad had
kept the horse. We got our first tractor in '53.
S: Your memory is about ten times better than mine. Do you know that?
M: It's still going strong. My adopted white son uses it. He kept all the equipment
that we had and he keeps it up and uses it. He works for me.
S: Tell me about an adopted white son. How did that happen?
M: There was four of them and I worked for their granddaddy
Their mother walked off and left them in the house alone, and the grandfather
went over that morning and found the children in the house. He brought them
back to my house. I had a 4-room house and two children we had just two then.
He said, "Ruby, I'm in a pickle." I said, "What, Mr. Drew?" He said, "You
know, that woman walked off and left these children in the house. I don't know
how long she's been gone." The little boy was along with my girl. He was on the
bottle. The sister, who was about ten years old, had been giving him sour milk
and his poor little stomach was all tore up. So he said, "What am I going to do?"
I said, "Mr. Drew, bring them here. I'll take care of them the best I can." He
brought those four children and I gave them baths and put clean clothes on them
and fed them. I had to give the baby flour and water mixed together to get his
bowels tight. I got his bowels tight within a day, and I kept those children for
about five months. Then they all got grown and moved away different places.
Their dad was in the service.
S: He didn't know anything about this?
M: No. The granddad was helping the woman and the children while the boy was in
S: It was just too much for her and she disappeared?
M: I don't know.
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 20
May 9, 2003
S: He never found out?
M: He never found out.
S: When you talk about how hard life was for you, you keep thinking that there
probably were people who didn't have as strong a constitution or just couldn't
E: back then.
S: Oh sure. She was brave.
M: They talked about me, but I didn't care. It
didn't matter to me because I don't look at color. I look at your heart.
S: Could anybody turn their back on this situation?
M: Well, that was the way it was.
S: Did the children remember?
M: They remember.
E: They all come back, and he comes over all the time and fixes the tractor for her.
M: He calls me Mom.
E: The tractor had all kinds of special equipment and designs on it. Her husband
invented all kinds of ways to do everything on one tractor. John Deere didn't
patent until the '70s, but he did it back in the '50s.
M: We bought the first tractor in '53 and we bought the second tractor, the big
tractor, in '59 or '60. Both of them are running and in perfect condition because
he keeps them all up. He's repainted them, and he just treasures them.
S: Does he farm?
M: Yes. He's brings us vegetables all the time. You see, my son can't come up and
do that, so he does it. They call each other brother.
S: That's just wonderful. That's how it ought to be, isn't it.
M: He calls my daughter .Any time we have gatherings at home,
they're right there with us.
S: But neighbors kind of looked over their ?
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 21
May 9, 2003
M: Well, they got over it because they knew I didn't care. I'll tell you another family
that I took care. You know Dr. Boyle in Gainesville?
S: I certainly do.
M: I took care of his two girls when they were one and four. Mrs. Boyle was
working at Shands at night, and he was working and going to school to be a
doctor, so I was connected with them and I kept their children. We'd go by and
pick them up and bring them home and keep them overnight and take them back
the next morning. I was working at Shands, and my boy was in school.
S: Do you still keep in touch with them?
M: Dr. Boyle remembers me, but I don't know where she is.
S: What about the children?
M: I don't know about the children. They might not have told them, but he
remembers when I see him occasionally. He grabs me and says, "How's my girl
doing?" I say, "She's doing fine."
S: Do you remember in Gainesville when they were building the Seagle building? It
was supposed to be the Dixie Hotel, wasn't it? Do I have it right?
M: Yes. Something went wrong.
S: That's right. They ran out of money, or something? Then it stopped for a while
and they didn't finish it.
M: Some company came in and completed it and they named it the Seagle Building.
I suppose we were proud of it because it was the tallest building in Gainesville.
S: That's right. A tall building and everybody pointed to it. Do you remember when
the train came down Main Street?
M: I sure do.
S: Did you ever get on that train?
M: No. I just knew it came down. Where Santa Fe Community College is on 6
Street, that was the train station. The track was right down the middle of Main
S: Your husband farmed that land where Shands is now. Do you remember when
they started to build Shands?
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 22
May 9, 2003
M: He was helping to build Shands when the house burned.
S: That's right, so you watched every stage of it, didn't you?
M: They were just laying the foundation in '55.
S: That's right.
M: The house burned July 1, 1955 and he was working then.
S: You were right in the history of all of that health center growing. Part of the
University from further back than that. Were you interested in politics? Did you
follow who was President or what they
M: I was never interested in none of that.
S: It didn't concern what you had to do from one day to another, to get the bills paid.
M: That's right. I had time enough to worry about
trying to keep some food on the table. The wages were so that you weren't
getting anything. Bread was five cents a loaf. Bacon was ten cents a pound.
Sugar five cents a pound.
S: Did you have a store in Waldo where you could shop?
M: Yes. We had Sparkman's Store. We had Donaldson's Store.
We had three grocery stores. We used to charge and pay at the end of the week.
S: They would keep a running list for you. Those were grocery stores, is that right?
I can remember my grandmother talking about a dry goods store.
M: Alexander's. That was on the main street .We had a fish
market Mr. Hall's fish market.
S: Where would the fish come from either coast?
M: I don't remember.
S: You just knew they were at the store.
E: You worked at the bakery, too. She ran a bakery.
M: Oh yes. I owned a bakery.
S: In Waldo?
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 23
May 9, 2003
M: Yes, right down where you turn off of 24 to come to the other 24.
S: How did that come about?
M: Well, there was a friend that had a little money and we had two or three extra
dollars. The friend said, "Let's open a bakery." I said, "Okay. I'll go in with
you." So, that building was there and we opened a bakery and we kept it about
S: What did you bake?
M: In the mornings we had hot doughnuts at six o'clock in the morning. All the
school children stopped in for their doughnuts. We carried doughnuts to
Gainesville and sold them at Tacachale, which was Sunland Training Center. I
baked potato pies, lemon pies, coconut pies, and cookies. The white children that
were going to school here the mayor of the town now, Davis,
Rodney Estes, and some realtors those two I really remember because they were
special. They used to stop in every morning and get doughnuts before they went
to school. They tell me about it now. They say, "Boy, those were good
doughnuts. We used to stop every morning and get those doughnuts before we'd
go to school."
S: Now how early did you have to start the baking?
M: We'd start baking between 3:30 and 4:00 o'clock in the morning.
S: How many pies would you bake in a given day?
M: About ten or twelve. People would stop going back and forth from Starke and get
S: Sure. I would. The word would get out. Do you still like to cook?
M: I like to cook, but I like to have somebody eat it. I love to cook, but I want
somebody to eat it. I have them over to the house a lot of times just to have
somebody to eat with. I enjoy cooking but I like to see people sit down and enjoy
it. In our family we always cooked a lot because somebody was always coming
S: That's kind of an act of love, and you want to give it to someone.
M: When we sit down to eat, we'd have a table full. Maybe somebody would come
by, and we'd ask if they would have something to eat with us and they would say
yes. Then I would fix a big plate for them. That was just me.
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 24
May 9, 2003
E: She makes the best egg custard lemon-lime pie. To die for! Once you eat hers,
you can't go to Piccadilly or anywhere else because it doesn't taste the same. Not
M: Tell her about the greens.
E: Oh, the greens. Of course, I'm from the north and I just had visions of greens and
thought I couldn't stomach these. I love northern greens, so I wouldn't eat them, I
wouldn't eat them, I wouldn't eat them. I was here for a year and I met Ruby and
she cooked some and I said, "This isn't greens." I was back for second and third
S: I'm the same way. I was raised in the north and
I fell in love with it. I wanted to try everything.
E: Here in Waldo she is known for her greens. The Police Chief comes by if he gets
whiff that she's cooking some greens. You'll see the police car driving up here
because he wants some greens.
S: When you get a whiff that she's going to do it, why don't you call me in
Gainesville. How's that? I tell you. I like to cook and I have tried to cook some
of the Southern dishes, and I can't. Maybe you learn that over the years of either
cooking with your family or your mother or refining the recipe yourself. Since I
wasn't raised down here, that's an acquired taste for me, but I'll eat somebody
else's many times.
M: I also worked at Kappa Delta for four years. I was cooking there.
S: Oh, lucky them!
M: I used to cook for 134 girls.
S: Did you like that job?
M: Oh, I loved it. They loved me, and I still get letters from some of the girls.
S: That's so important. Here those girls are away from home.
M: And they call me Mom.
S: I bet they do.
M: They'd come down and sit down and tell me their problems, and I'd stop cooking
and sit down and talk to them and tell them the best thing to do. They'd say, "Oh,
I feel so much better, Mom."
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 25
May 9, 2003
S: Bless their hearts. That's wonderful.
M: I worked there four years.
S: Well, you've done one of everything, haven't you?
M: You name it and I've done it.
S: And two of lots of others.
E: Citizen of Waldo. She's got the honorary plaque for Waldo Citizen of the Year
and Volunteer of the Year with Hospice, and all that.
M: I just got my plaque last month for the Lion's Club.
E: She was a member of the University City Lion's Club -the Gainesville Club.
M: I'm the chaplain.
E: She's the chaplain for that.
E: Tell her about when you used to walk through the woods to get to Waldo.
M: There was a path that used to come from our house right straight uptown. I'd
walk that path to come into town. I'd have my baby on my hip. You can imagine
me dragging with the groceries and toting the baby on my hip.
S: That was life then.
M: I'd go a little while and then stop and rest, and go on, and get home and cook. I
had to go to town to get something to cook.
S: It makes me wonder why they ever call women the weaker sex.
M: No way!
S: Not in my experience.
M: I held two jobs from the time I was 55 until I was 62.
S: What were the two jobs?
M: I worked at Shands in the cleaning department and I worked at the daycare center,
the Kennedy Homes Daycare Center. I was the cook for breakfast and lunch.
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 26
May 9, 2003
Some of the children who were going to kindergarten there remember me now
and they still call me Mom.
S: What a wonderful legacy.
M: There are so many who call me Mom.
S: That's right, but you wouldn't change it, would you?
M: No. Some of the things I remember I wouldn't change for anything, such as
Kappa Delta Sorority, Kennedy Homes Daycare.
S: Those are all good memories.
M: I worked 26 years at Tacachale. I retired there.
S: What did you do there? Were you a houseparent?
M: A houseparent.
S: How wonderful, Ruby. I bet you were excellent.
M: I've gotten a stack of awards for work like that. I had one supervisor for 13 years
on the night shift. Before then I worked the day shift, afternoon shift. Then I
finally got a chance to go on the night shift. I wouldn't have traded that for
nothing in the world. I was there 26 years.
S: Why did you like the night shift?
M: Because it was easier. There was nobody standing over you telling you what to
do. The clients were asleep, and all you had to do was do the laundry and keep
checking on them. I had one supervisor for 13 years -- Grant. We
were just like that.
S: Do you still see her?
M: No, she's dead. She died of emphysema.
S: There are a lot of people who say they can't work nights. I worked a lot of nights.
M: I loved it. It was cool. There wasn't nobody standing over you. In the daytime
you had to take them to this place, to that place, to the doctor, to the hospital, and
you had to report to this person or that person. At night there wasn't nobody to
report to. The night shift would come around and you would do your thing and
that was it. We did the laundry. I enjoyed it. I worked there until I was 73 years
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 27
May 9, 2003
S: How wonderful. You know, I think that sometimes it's not good for people to
M: I wouldn't have retired then if my husband hadn't been sick. He had cancer and I
had to come over and take care of him.
S: How long was he sick?
M: About sixteen months.
S: Oh, he had kind of a long haul, didn't he? What kind of cancer?
M: Melanoma. I don't know what I would have done if it hadn't been for Hospice.
S: Isn't that a wonderful organization.
M: Hospice was so good to me.
S: I don't hear anybody negative about them.
M: He took sick in September of '87 and I retired December '89. Hospice started
with him in January of '89 and they stayed with him until '90.
S: It was a big help, a big support.
M: I don't know what I would have done. After he died, I went down to Orlando and
stayed about seven months with my son. I didn't like it, but they didn't want me
to stay by myself. Then I got tired of Orlando and I went to Columbia, South
Carolina, with my daughter. One night I was sitting
in the living room and said, "What am I doing here?" I said, "My husband
worked hard all his life and built a nice home for me and the children. Here I'm
staying in somebody else's house and my nice home is there. Why don't I go
home and stay in it?" The next morning they carried me to the train station and I
came home and have been home ever since.
S: That worked fine for you.
M: When I first got there, it was hard. I shut all the doors. He died in our bedroom
so I kept that door shut for about five years. I just couldn't stand to go in that
room. But the other part of the house was fine. One day I was thinking, "What
am I keeping the door shut for? I know he's not there." I opened the door and
thought I was going to keep that door open and it's been open ever since.
S: It was time then.
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 28
May 9, 2003
M: I couldn't do it until it was time.
S: That's right. You were very smart to say, "It's not time yet." I agree with you.
M: The only time it kind of gets to me now is between 5:30 and 6:00 o'clock because
that's when we had supper just the two of us. I had a supper ready every night
at the same time. When I get those funny feelings like that, I get in my car and go
to just ride until I get over it and then I go home and
I'm all right. I'll go to a neighbor's house or I call her and tell her to come over
and we'll have supper.
S: It sure sounds like Waldo is your home though. It's in your blood. Your roots are
M: And I enjoy it. I'm active all the time, so I don't have time to get lonesome.
S: That's what I meant about retiring. When people say, "Okay, I'm going to quit,"
my next question is, "And do what?" Just sitting on your front porch rocking is
not good for your head, is it?
M: After I came back and got myself settled, I worked at Hospice. I worked with
them as a volunteer for four years. I would drive every morning to Gainesville
when they were in the 720 Building. I worked with them until they moved out on
13th Street. That's where I left them. It just got to be too much to pay for gas
when I'm on a low income.
S: That's right.
M: I asked them if they could just help me with my gas, it would be all right. They
said, "We don't want you to quit." I said, "I just can't afford the gas."
S: You just have to kind of measure things. I'm thinking of volunteering like that
and giving in things like Hospice, it's so good for your own soul.
M: Yes, and they helped me out a lot. I used to enjoy volunteering with them. Now I
stay in touch with all of them. My husband's nurse, Beth Williams, do you know
S: I don't think I do. The name sounds familiar.
M: She works with Hospice, but she was my husband's nurse for seven months.
When she died, she continued to come and see about me. Now she comes by
every other week to see about me. She calls me on the telephone. She checks my
blood. She checks my sugar. So I'm her patient now.
S: It sounds like you're as important to her as she was to you.
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 29
May 9, 2003
E: Did you talk about your green dogs?
M: I used to raise Doberman pinschers.
S: In Waldo?
M: Yes. My yard is still out there at the house. I had a male dog that stood that high.
S: How did you get started with that?
M: His name was Ringo. I had a female that was about that high, and her name was
Beauty. I got each one of them when they were six weeks old and raised them.
When Beauty got grown, I mated her with Ringo and had eight puppies.
M: I just like Dobermans.
S: They're beautiful.
M: It cost me $3,000 to build their pen and their houses and I had half of the yard
concrete. The other part is sand. I carried them to the doctor for all of their shots,
gave them worm pills.
S: Did you sell them?
M: Everybody wanted me to give the puppies to them. Both of them were registered.
They told me they would give me $40 for them, so I might just as well give them
away. I said, "I ain't going to do this no more." I didn't have but that one set of
S: I think that's a real problem.
M: After that I had Beauty spayed. The people didn't want to pay me for them.
S: Just think of what you put in just in shots and food. That wouldn't have even
M: This was every month. They have both their names over here at the Gainesville
Animal Hospital Ringo Mitchell and Beauty Mitchell. They were beautiful,
black and tan. It cost a lot of money to
S: Yes, that's surgery. What other things haven't we talked about? I'm glad you're
here, Ann, to kind of prime the pump.
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 30
May 9, 2003
E: I'm sure that while she was coming through the 30's or 40's and 50's there were a
lot of segregation problems in the town, being a small town. I'm sure that was a
real strong goings-on in town.
S: What do you remember about that?
M: Well, I remember that when we had to go through the back door.
S: In Waldo?
M: to go to the back
door. I wasn't used to that because at Deerfield Beach, we didn't know no
different. I went to one lady's house here. When she told me to come around to
the back door, I told her I wasn't going to the back door.
E: Good for you!
M: I left her clothes on the front porch and I didn't go to the back door because I
wasn't raised that way.
S: What about the grocery stores? Could you go in the front?
S: How about schools? Were they integrated?
M: The black school was right across there. This was the cafeteria. This was the
black school. All my children attended this school.
S: So the building we're in used to be a school.
M: No, this was the cafeteria. That's the school over there. Jim Hooten bought the
school building. It was sitting in the field over there. See how all those trees are
burned? The '98 fire went through and came as close to the summit as those
trees. The building was sitting over in his field and it burned. That was the only
building we lost in Waldo in the '98 fire.
S: That had to be a scary time.
M: Oh, it was worse than scary. They were going around and getting us all out.
S: Yes, I remember that.
M: Me and some of my friends went to our friend out on 301 and stayed with her.
They got everybody out of here.
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 31
May 9, 2003
E: Was the police force here in town black and white or all white in the early days?
M: They were all white. We haven't had but one black chief of police here. That
was in the 90's, modern times.
S: Do you think there was any Ku Klux Klan here?
M: Not that I know of.
S: I had heard some stories that there was in Gainesville.
M: I haven't heard about it.
S: What other memories do you have about segregation times? When you went into
Gainesville, were there problems?
M: There was segregation there because they had black and white water fountains
and Gwen was in the breaking up of that.
S: Was she?
M: She was in the march. She and Charles Chestnut and that group. The first place
they integrated was the Five & Ten Cents Store out on University Avenue.
S: Was that a Woolworth?
M: Yes. They were the first place integrated. You talk about a woman. She's a
woman. She stands her ground.
S: I wonder where she learned that!
M: She always did. I gave her a debutante party when she was sixteen years old. I
got accused around here. "Well, I give her two or three months and she'll be
pregnant." She knew better. I told her if she did I'd kill her! She believed it!
She didn't have her first child until she was he was bor in '71. She was
married in '69 and her first child was bor in '71.
E: Where was her debutante party held?
M: In Gainesville at Mama Lo's.
S: Oh really? It was a big party then.
E: I wonder if Bones took any pictures of that.
S: Wouldn't that be wonderful.
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 32
May 9, 2003
E: I'll have to look.
S: The more you collect, the more these things kind of dovetail with somebody
M: She graduated from Lincoln in '63 and she worked at
which used to be She worked at Ruddy's
Department Store that used to be there on 2nd Street. It was a woman's store.
Then she worked at Wilson's on University Avenue. She worked these places
while she was in school while she was going to high school. She would get off
from school and go right to work in the afternoon.
S: She was cut out of your mold, it sounds like.
M: He went to work when he was twelve years old right down here at the restaurant
called the Conroy's washing dishes where I was cooking.
S: That's a great experience.
M: I started them off working.
S: Well, they certainly saw it in their home, didn't they, with their daddy and their
mom? If I was a young person in Waldo growing up and I wanted to live a good
life and aspire to be a happy, good person, what advice would you give me?
M: That's a hard one. Know yourself, set your goals, and work toward your goals,
and your goals will come but you have to have a goal in mind.
S: I think the first one you said might be the hardest. How does somebody know
himself or herself? It seems like an awful lot of young people flounder for a long
M: I don't know whether that's in the bringing up, but I was brought up just like I
brought up my children, so it was in me.
S: You had a strong sense of self early, I'll bet you.
M: I did always.
E: Did you tell her how many brothers and sisters you had?
M: There were thirteen of them.
S: You have to find your own identity in that crowd, don't you?
Interview with Ruby Lucille Mitchell 33
May 9, 2003
M: You see I wasn't raised with them, but I knew I had them. Even though I wasn't
raised with them, they all know me and I know them. One of my sisters and her
husband are coming to spend tonight with me, from Orlando. He's a member of
the Gainesville Hunt Club, and they have their picnic every year about this time.
The picnic is tomorrow and I am going to the picnic with them.
S: Sounds good.
E: Social event of the year.
S: What stories have I neglected to stir your memory of?
M: I think we've got them all.
S: No, I don't have them all, but let me extract a promise from you. One of the
things that's going to happen when I send this back to you is it will remind you of
other stories. Why don't you jot yourself a note and if we say that this deserves a
second interview, we'll make another appointment and we'll get back together
and add these stories. Do you want to do that?
S: If there are some things that we still need to get on tape, I'd love to do that. In the
meantime, I thank you very, very much.
M: Thank you.
S: On behalf of the Matheson Center, but mostly just personal, I'm so glad I got a
chance to do this.