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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Interviewee: Josephine McSwine
Interviewer: Emily Ring
January 30, 1988
R: Today is January 30. My name is Emily Ring. I am sitting here in the home of
Josephine McSwine, whose home is at 3221 [Northwest] Fourteenth Street. Josephine is
going to tell me the story of her life. Josephine, what was it you did for the University of
Florida system in agriculture? Was it [with] the College of Agriculture?
M: No, it was in IFAS [Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences], and I was in the
extension home economist.
R: Extension home economist.
M: In IFAS.
R: What year did you come here?
M: January 1,1945.
R: You came, as I understand it, from Mississippi?
M: Well, a long way around. I was born in Mississippi.
R: You tell me that you were born on a plantation up in the delta in Mississippi.
M: That is right.
R: So we are going to start off by going back to your home there. Would you tell us where
your folks came from to get to Mississippi?
M: All the way from Virginia. I think my father's immediate family came through Kentucky
down through Tennessee and into the delta.
R: I see. And you were born on a plantation?
M: Over in the home. They were great big homes, and the family doctor came to the
house and delivered you.
R: What year was that?
M: Thatwas 1906.
R: I see. Were you the only child?
M: [I was] my mother's only child; my father had been married twice before.
he was married and had three children, and his wife died, I think, with the flu.
call it flu then; they called it something else. Then with his second wife he had
a boy and a girl.
The first time
They did not
R: I see.
M: This wife died, I think, giving birth, or right after. Then my mother was the third wife,
and she had one [child]. He had three the first time, two, and then one. I was the last one.
He died when I was eleven months old.
R: What was his name?
M: His name was Everett Martin Hemphill
R: Everett Martin Hemphill
R: We had a Everett Maybury too, you see.
And his father was a Mr. Hemphill from
M: Yes, originally he came down. His name was James Simpson Hemphill.
R: I see.
M: His wife was Ann Elizabeth Maybury Hemphill.
R: Did you grow up in the home with stepbrothers?
M: Well, now, I will tell you how it was on the plantations. There were a number of
plantations all around. They ran around 5,000 each in acreage. The plantation owners had
a schoolhouse built, a darling little schoolhouse with even a stable for the horses to be put
in. Back then people did not have automobiles; they rode horses. My mother came there
as a teacher. These two children, the boy and the girl, were seven, I believe. The
stepchildren were about eleven to twelve. She was the school teacher living with .... The
plantation owners had to take care of the teacher and music teacher. We had one of the
biggest houses. We had five bedrooms downstairs and two upstairs.
R: So she lived at your house.
M: My mother lived at my father's house.
R: Your father's house.
M: With his unmarried daughter and his two small children.
R: What was her name when she came to teach school?
M: Francis Essler Gordon.
R: Francis Essler Gordon. She was much younger than your father?
M: Yes. Let us see, now. He was born in 1849, he married my mother in 1899, so that
would make him fifty.
R: He was born in 1849.
M: And he married her in 1899.
M: 41 years.
R: Yes, I see.
M: 51 years.
R: 51 years, right; we are not very good at arithmetic. Well, now, did he do anything else
except run that plantation?
M: The plantation owners really did not run it, in a way.
R: I know.
M: He was the government statistician, and he was the arbitrator for people who could not
afford lawyers. I think that is what you called it back then.
R: Well, I did not know they had those then.
M: That is what I understand. He always settled up arguments and things like that. His
brother was a senator for many years and urged him to run for governor, but he said he
had to go home and run his plantation. Everybody laughed about that because he did not
run it: he had a son who ran it. You see, they had a manager and they had an overseer.
The overseers were usually black.
R: I see.
M: They could handle them better, so the managers kind of overlooked the overseers.
R: I would like to know exactly how it went, because I grew up in Mississippi, but I did not
grow up in the plantation country, so I am not quite sure how they did it.
M: Well, I will tell you what is funny about it. My daughter, Diane, married a young man
from Boston. He kidded me about Mississippi being kind of backward. So when he started
to go see my family, he said, "Now, Mother, do I have to get shots before I go into
Mississippi?" I said, "Well, being you, you had better get them." That is all I said. He went,
and when he came back he said, "Mother, how do they make a living? We played golf all
afternoon and bridge all night. When do they work?" I said, "Come to tell you the truth,
they do not work."
R: The black people do the work.
M: Yes, and the overseer sees that they do. He was just amazed that they did not go to a
job every morning. Coming from Boston, he knew nothing about it. I wanted to tell him that
when hard times come, when the boll weevil hits, oh! The year before they had a good
cotton crop, and they bought a new car, bought furs and had gone to Memphis to the
opera. The next year they had boll weevils, and they were crying all year long, "How are
we going to make it?" They had to feed everybody.
R: Wasthat 1921?
M: I do not know when it came, but it seems like I heard of it, the boll weevils, all my life.
R: Did it come up from Texas and Mexico?
M: I really do not know, Emily. See, I was not at home after the age of eleven because I
was in Greenwood going to school at junior high, and then I left for high school at thirteen
and went to Episcopal Girls School in Oliver, Tennessee. I only went there a year because
mother wanted me to have a career and not a finishing school. She moved me to the
Presbyterian school in Holly Springs, which was a junior college and a high school. I was
there five years, so I really was raised by Dr. Cooper.
R: I see.
M: But he asked me to please not send my children to him; he could not raise another
R: Well, you had a lot of unusual schooling.
M: My daughter thinks it was wonderful, but it was really lonely on the plantation. I was
the only child, and by the time I got large enough, those two were grown.
R: You and your mother were the only people in the house?
M: No, [there was] a housekeeper--she was the white housekeeper--and my unmarried
half-sister. Mother was a career woman, and when I was four, she went back to teaching.
R: She went to teaching what subject?
M: She still taught the plantation school.
M: See, they still had this plantation school.
R: That is right. She taught everything.
M: Through the six grade.
R: I thought you told me once that she was also an extension [home economist].
M: She was; she was one of the first extension home economists in Mississippi. She went
to [the George] Peabody [College for Teachers in Nashville, Tennessee] in her later years.
She went to college to begin with, but when she was going to be an extension agent she
went to Peabody College.
R: In Nashville?
M: Yes. I do not know what kind of degree [she worked on] or what happened, but she
was gone a while.
R: Now, were the extension agents paid by the state or by the county?
M: I do not know about that. When I was paid, I was paid by the government, the state,
and the county.
M: I do not know how it was when she had it. It is interesting that I can remember the
names of the three agents. The top agents over the state were Miss Mae Cresswell of
Arkansas, Miss Farnslagle from Louisiana, and Miss Susie B. Powell from Mississippi.
Alice Claire Brown is Miss Susie B. Powell's niece.
R: I remember that name, Miss Susie B. Powell.
M: I remember she had a weekend house party, and she had those three there.
R: As I remember it, Mississippi was so rural and the population was spread so thinly that
they had agricultural high schools that were boarding schools. Is that true?
R: And you went to one of those?
R: You went to a church school?
M: I went to Episcopal Girls School. It was kind of what they call a finishing school; we
were taught all about the finer things of life and so forth.
R: What subjects did you take there? Piano? You played the violin, did you not?
M: I did not start violin until I got to Mississippi Synodical College when I was a
sophomore, and there I studied violin and piano and ballet. I had studied piano as a girl
when I was growing up on the plantation. They would take me down to ... You see, on
the plantation, the railroad ran through them sometimes, but they always stopped at the
plantations. Somebody would take me down and put me on a train--this is why I do not like
trains now--and I would ride eight miles up to Calico and someone would meet me and take
me to the music teacher's house. She would give me a lesson, put me back on another
train, and I would come home. That was not much fun.
R: Those big steam engines were somewhat terrifying when I was a little girl. They made
such a terrific noise, did they not?
M: Oh, yes, they did.
R: I used to be terrified of them.
M: Soot came in the windows.
R: Oh, yes, they were very dirty.
M: And there was always a fruit man on there that sold candy, fruit, and drinks.
R: Oh, yes.
M: The conductor took care of me on the train up there and back.
R: Yes. They had a melodious whistle in the night, and I think when they put the diesel
engines on everybody complained that they could not hear those wonderful whistles in the
night, so they made a whistle that sounded like an old steam whistle. People had nostalgic
memories of those trains.
M: I still like to hear one. I heard one not too long ago coming.
R: Yes, we have one that comes through Gainesville during the night sometimes. Well,
Josephine, what was your full name when you were baptized? Were you baptized
M: No. Ida Hemphill, and I will tell you a story about that, too.
R: Now give me the full name first.
M: Ida Hemphill. That was it; Josephine was not in it then.
R: Your name was not Josephine, then?
M: No. My godmother was named Ida.
M: Every black couple on the plantation had one [child] named Ida, and everyone on my
godmother's side had an Ida--I never heard of so many Ida's in my life! I did not like it in
the first place, so when I went off to school, I changed it. I just put Josephine right behind
R: Well, you have always had a mind of your own, have you not?
M: Yes, I am afraid so. As it is. [laughter]
R: Josephine, did you ride horses on the plantation? Did you have a little pony?
M: I had a plain field horse.
R: You had a big horse.
M: He was half mustang.
R: Oh, boy!
M: Oh, boy is right!
R: Well, describe to us what the plantation raised and how it looked. It was flat as a
pancake, was it not?
M: Well, Emily...
R: We have forgotten to tell where it was.
M: Valley Hill, that was the name of the area. The delta came up and all at once the hill
started right there. My uncle and my father bought some land up on the hill. We had
creeks [up there] that looked like rivers down here in Florida, and the water would come
rushing down from the hill section and overflow the delta. So, they bought some land just
on top of the hill where the hill started, and they built their houses up there.
R: I see. Well, the plantation that I used to ...
M: They were flat.
R: Yes, the actual fields were in the flat part?
M: Yes. It was good, black dirt.
R: All that dirt had washed down from the hill.
M: I assume.
R: If you got far enough up into the hills, it was very clay-like, as I remember it.
M: Yes, [there was] red clay on further up.
R: It was not as rich.
R: And that red clay was very subject to erosion, and you would get all sorts of gullies
then, would you not?
M: Yes, way on up.
R: So the plantation itself was up on the hill where the house was built.
M: The land up there was just kind of grown up with trees and things. They did not farm
all of the plantation. This land was so valuable that tenants would plant the cotton right up
almost to the houses that they lived in.
R: I remember that.
M: They would sweep the yard and would not let the grass grow. They would sweep it
with what they called a broombrush.
R: A brushbroom.
M: A brushbroom, yes. They would sweep those yards clean with that so they used every
inch of that [soil].
R: And the cotton plants would grow right up to the doorstep.
M: Well, almost.
R: They did have little patches for turnip greens and corn, did they not?
M: I think so; I cannot remember. See, that was down from where I lived up on the hill.
R: Yes. Do you remember about how many black tenants your plantation had?
M: No, it was 5,000 acres. I do not know how many [black tenants there were]; a number,
I would say.
R: Was there a commissary store on the plantation?
M: There was a commissary store and there was a cotton gin. I guess that is all. And a
schoolhouse. Well, that was for many of the plantations. The schoolhouse was up on our
hill, too, and the plantation owners sent their children there.
R: Your father's plantation had about 5,000 acres?
M: I guess. My uncle's had 5,000, and so my father's was divided up when my mother
remarried when I was thirteen.
R: What was your uncle's name?
M: Louis Simpson.
R: He lived near you?
M: Across the highway.
R: So there were two plantations owned and run by two brothers.
M: Yes. One thing we had back then was telephones. My uncle had a telephone with a
private line that went to Greenwood. That was the county seat of Leflore County. My
father had one to Carrollton, which was the county seat of Carroll County, so they had
access to both county seats.
R: Well, let us remember that the Mississippi plantation delta was situated between the
two rivers, the Yazoo River and the Mississippi River.
M: Well, it went east passing the Yazoo to where these hills started, which was about
eight or nine or ten miles.
R: How far were you from the Yazoo River?
M: Well, it was in Greenwood, on the west side, which made it about seven, eight, or nine
miles from where we lived.
R: Now, can you describe to us how the tenants who raised cotton financed themselves or
were financed by the system?
M: The owners financed them. They went to the commissaries and bought their food.
Then in the fall when they sold their cotton they would pay that back. Now, if they had to
have a doctor, had to be buried, or anything like, the owner took care of them. They were
well treated. I will tell you one thing: the children, as I was, had to be very respectful. We
said "yes, ma'am" and "no, ma'am."
R: To the house servants.
M: That is right. We were taught respect.
R: You did not have much contact with the actual people who planted the cotton and
picked it, did you?
M: No, not a whole lot. Each plantation had to have about three houses. The cook
usually lived with her family in one, the wash woman (they called her the laundress) would
get one, and wage hands (they called them wage hands) had one. There might be a yard
boy who took care of the garden. Everything: mowing, horses, [etc.].
R: Now, the wage hands who worked for the family, the white family, did they not have to
wait for their wages until the end of the year?
M: Oh, no, they were paid monthly.
R: They were paid monthly?
M: Yes, I think so, as I remember it.
R: I remember my favorite story that your daughter, Welty, wrote was called "Delta
Wedding"; do you remember that story? Well, anyway, it describes a wedding on a
Mississippi plantation in the delta, and the grandmother was the one who paid the wage
hands. I believe she paid them every week.
M: It might have been every week; I do not know.
R: And she washed and ironed the money because she had dirty money. That is in that
novel. It is a wonderful book. If you would like to read it, I will lend it to you. So you had a
rather unusual girlhood, I would say, because it was isolated to some degree from other
children, was it not? You were by yourself in this great big house.
M: Yes, [there was] an older half sister, a housekeeper, a mother, and me. [There was
also] a little girl, Bessie Lee, who was assigned to play with me. She was a little older. So,
she was my constant playmate. Then I had my horse and my dog and my cats. I had a big
house to play all over in.
R: You had a telephone. Did you have electric lights?
M: Not at first, not until later. That is the sort of story that would blow some people's
minds. We had what they called a lally light plant, and you only had lights when the motor
R: Was that a Delco motor?
M: No, that was later. This was a lally.
R: A lally?
R: How do you spell lally?
M: I do not know. I just heard them say lally. I was quite young.
R: What ran it? Was it a kerosene motor?
M: I was too young to know about that. We will have to look that up.
R: All right.
M: Then we got a Delco, and that was a storage battery, so you could have lights. I will
show you a hanging light that is an antique, and I can remember as a child that some of
them hung from the ceiling and some were portable. One of the house boys or yard boys
or whatever came in and would pull that thing down, light it, and then put it back up. I used
to like to watch him light it.
R: Yes, we had one of those, you put kerosene in them.
M: Yes. That is the kind of light we had.
R: Was one over the dining room table?
M: I guess there was; it has been a long time.
R: Before they had kerosene, they probably just used candles, because they had no gas
M: Oh, I do not remember candles. I remember the lights.
R: The homes in the town got gas before they got electricity, but out on the plantation you
would not have had gas, I guess.
M: Every bedroom, every room had a fireplace.
R: Oh, yes.
M: In the morning--this is the thing I remember most pleasantly--this little black boy would
come in, and he would build a big, roaring fire. Oh, it would be the biggest roaring fire, and
you would lie there in bed and look at it; it was so warm. There are some things I
remember better than others.
R: I remember that, too.
M: Is that right?
R: In Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I lived there until I was six, and then I moved to Jackson.
M: Well, I will tell you about the horse barn and the big warehouse where they stored the
bales of cotton. Now, I have not told you that I was a little on the daredevil side--it is a
wonder I am living today. In that great big tin warehouse they would store the cotton. Do
you know what a cotton bale looks like?
R: Oh, yes.
M: All right. You know when they put four together there is a hole in the middle?
M: My friends, when they would come over, and I would go over there and play hide and
seek. One time one of them got hung down in that hole, and we thought we would never
get him out! That is one of the things we played. Then we had a big horse barn where
they kept the horses. They rode the foxes down on the plantation. They had foxes, fox
hounds, and they had these horses. One night we were awakened and that barn was on
fire. Not the cotton [barn], the horse barn.
R: Horse barn?
M: It had a fence around it and they locked the gate. The horses were in there, and I just
learned recently that a horse will not come out of a fire; he will stay with it.
R: I did not know that.
M: Well, I just heard it over TV or somewhere just recently. One night we were awakened,
and all of the blacks and all of the whites ran in there. The boy who was the horse boy,
who took care of them and fed them and everything, was nowhere around with the keys.
They figured that he had lighted a cigarette and thrown the match down, and the hay
R: Oh, dear.
M: The sound of those horses I can still hear. I remember my mother putting me in one of
the black's lap, and she went where the fire was with the rest of everybody, but we sat off at
a distance. I can still hear those horses.
R: That was a horrifying situation, was it not?
M: They finally got some of them out, but one or two they had to kill, I think.
R: Oh, that was dreadful.
M: It really was. That is one of the bad things I remember, quite bad. But I guess looking
back it was a nice life if you were accustomed to it. Of course, I was only there Christmas
and summertime from the time I was eleven on.
R: I see. Now, of course, you had no plumbing; you did not have bathrooms.
M: Oh, we had a little outhouse. It was so pretty. It had a brick walk to it and roses all
along the side. I can just see it now. It was not very long after we got the Delco. It had a
big tank to pump water in there, and then we had bathrooms.
R: As I remember, the first bathrooms were built on the back of the house so you had to
go out on the porch to get to it.
M: Well, this house, yes, you did. When they added them, they cut off part of a hall,
because the halls were wide. They had one of those little round kerosene heaters to heat it
M: Do you remember that?
R: Oh, yes.
M: How did you remember that? You lived in town!
R: The town people had them, too. I would visit my relatives. My aunts and uncles lived
down in south Mississippi near Hattiesburg and [New] Augusta in Forrest County and Perry
County. I remember the kerosene lamps, I remember the situation of the first bathroom,
and I remember the outhouses, too.
M: Yes, they were real fancy, some of them.
R: Yes. We had the Sears and Roebuck catalog sitting there.
M: That is right! Sears and Roebuck ought to get a lot of advertising from that, because I
hear that every now and then on TV.
R: I remember those huge breakfasts that you could smell cooking in the kitchen on the
big iron stoves.
M: That is right.
R: Bacon, ham, fried eggs, and fried cakes. We did not call them pancakes; we called
them fried cakes.
M: Patty cakes, yes.
R: A big tremendous breakfast.
M: Yes, they did that, and you could smell them. Do you know what I remember as a
child? Lucy would roast the coffee beans in the oven.
R: Oh, my father did that.
M: Then she would grind them.
R: My father ordered his coffee beans from New Orleans, and he would put them in the
oven and give them a dark roast. He had a big coffee grinder with two big wheels on either
side, and he would grind that coffee. He also had a french drip pot, and he would make the
coffee himself. He would come down before all the people; before the cook came in to
cook the breakfast, he would come down and make his own morning coffee. If you came
down with him, he would give you some hot milk just flavored with coffee. He called that
M: Blue coffee. I never had that, but I can remember hearing that thing grinding coffee
and smelling it. It smelled so good. Now, did your father want a cup of tea at 4:00 in the
R: No, he wanted another cup of coffee.
M: A cup of coffee. I think my father--of course, I do not remember; this is
hearsay--always wanted a cup of tea around 4:00 in the afternoon.
R: Well, my father was a lawyer and a judge, and he came home from his office [at
midday]. After the midday meal, which was the big meal of the day, about 1:00, he would
lie down and take a little nap. Then he would drink a cup of coffee again and walk back to
M: He needed a cup of coffee.
R: Right. Did you all take naps after the midday meal?
M: I cannot say. I was home so little after I was eleven years old, and I do not remember
a lot of those things. They may have; I just cannot remember.
R: In Spain, southern Germany, and in lots of places in Europe everything shuts down
after the midday meal. Everybody goes home and takes a rest because it is so hot.
M: They may have; I just do not remember. Now, we also had electric fans after we got
the electricity, but the houses were built so that they had good cross ventilation. You did
not have to lock a door or close a window or anything. They had sleeping porches, too.
R: You had shades that you could pull down when the sun came up, and then [you could]
open everything up about 4:00 in the afternoon and let things cool off.
M: Do you remember the outdoors shutters?
R: Oh, yes.
M: You pulled them to and lock them on the inside, and then you could open the shutters.
R: Those ceiling fans were wonderful.
R: Now, you went off to this girls' church school. How old were you when you finished
M: Do you mean the second one, the Presbyterian?
M: See, my mother was Presbyterian, and all of my father's people were Episcopalian.
She joined the Episcopal church.
R: I see. Do you remember the name of the Episcopal church near your home?
M: Oh, no, not in Greenwood. We had to drive into Greenwood to go to church.
R: I see.
M: No, I do not rememberthat because I was small when I went. I was confirmed in Holly
Springs by Bishop Green. Bishop Bratton was a relative, a relation of the family. Lathan
Parks, who was the minister of the little church around the corner in New York, was a
relative. Now I have another Episcopal minister in my family: my great niece's husband has
just been ordained in Lexington, Kentucky.
R: So you were brought up in the Episcopal church and you joined the Episcopal church
here, Holy Trinity, when you came here?
M: Oh, yes, and both children were ...
R: Well, now, Josephine, what did you do after you finished college?
M: Oh, that is a new story.
R: All right, we have got to hear that one.
M: Well, you know in the delta they control the children very carefully.
M: If you have a date, they run down his history, and they just do not let you out of their
M: It is terrible. So when I finished junior college, I joined a group that got you jobs, that
was in Chattanooga, I believe. You sent in your resume, orthe college did. So, they sent it
in and I got an offer to guess where? Gravette, Arkansas.
R: To teach school?
M: After I finished junior college. You know, they would do that then.
R: Oh, yes.
M: I got on the train when it came time [and went to] Gravette, Arkansas, over in apple
country not far from the Oklahoma line, Missouri line, and Kansas is right up there. It was a
darling little town. So I went to Joplin [Missouri], and somebody met me there. I went on
the train, changed in Memphis, and went across all by myself.
I was there two years, and then my mother thought it was time I was finishing college. I
thought so, too, by then! I lived with a Presbyterian family there. It was quite an
experience. I saw my first wrestling match over in Oklahoma.
R: How old were you when you started teaching?
R: That was pretty young.
M: Well, I was nineteen in April and I started in the fall, so I was nineteen and a half.
R: How long did you teach there?
M: Two years.
get my degree.
Then I came home and went to [the University of] Mississippi Southern to
I went one semester to Peabody so mother could say I went there.
R: Now, Mississippi Southern is in Hattiesburg.
M: Yes, and it had one of the best home economics [programs] in the South.
R: And you majored in home economics?
M: Yes. Do you want to know where I taught after that?
M: After all that time in dormitories, I went to an agricultural high school in Buena Vista,
Mississippi, and taught three years.
R: Oh. Where is Buena Vista, Mississippi?
M: Well, it is over in the northeast. I cannot remember the towns it is near.
R: Up in the hills?
M: Well, it was prairie land. They called it prairie land.
R: Near Columbus?
M: Yes, probably northwest from Columbus. The way I got the job was the home
economics department had a demonstration home, and it was located in a brand new
housing development. They did not have any developed; it was in a nice place where they
had private homes. We lived there for a semester with Miss Kline. We had a car there, an
old Ford, and I could drive because I had learned to drive on the plantation. I could drive
R: Was Miss Kline the demonstration agent?
M: They were regular teachers.
R: Oh, she was a professor in the college?
M: Yes. She lived with us in the demonstration school and taught. I always drove. We
had a car of our own because they would take us after school and practice teaching.
When they had the state teachers meeting in Jackson, she decided she would take
three of the seniors with her. One was a straight A student from over here in Pensacola. I
was on a trip with some of her relatives not too long ago. The other one (I cannot
remember where she was from) was the beauty of the class; she was perfectly beautiful. I
could drive the car, so I got to go, and they all related that I was Miss Kline's pet because I
could drive the car.
We went, and this man from this coed private agricultural school decided he would
interview us. So, Miss Kline probably made appointments for us. The first morning he had
us each in one at a time to interview. He was a very dashing man, beautifully dressed.
You will remember why I said that.
The second morning he had us all three come in, but a different one went first this time.
I was always last, so I was beginning to get dejected. The third morning it was my turn to
go first, so I thought I would just fix this booger. "I will tell him he can have that
you-know-what and let me out of it, and he will not have but two to decide on."
Well, I went in and he said, "Have a seat," and I said, "No, I would rather not. I just
wanted to tell you that you will not have to interview this morning. I have decided to drop
out, so you will just have two to make a decision between." I knew one of them would get
it, a straight A student or a beauty. He said, "Oh, do sit down. I have news for you. I have
decided to hire you."
M: I almost fell out of my chair. At the end of the year I got up enough nerve to go in and
ask him why he gave me the job over those other two lovely gals. "Well," he said, "you
were the best-dressed one of all." That is the reason I told you he was a terrific dresser.
R: That is what impressed him.
M: He wanted his faculty to look like "they stepped out of band boxes," as the saying
R: He was a school principal?
R: From where?
M: Buena Vista, but I do not know where he was from originally. He was there, and he
was a fantastic man, and his wife, too. That is the way I got the job.
R: Now, do you know how much he paid you?
M: I think it was around $100 a month.
R: To teach home economics?
M: Yes, and I had something in biology, I believe, because I had minored in biology.
R: When you taught, did all girls take home economics?
R: It was an elective.
M: Well, I do not know; I do believe they did have to take it. I am not sure.
R: Was it the town high school?
M: It was out at Buena Vista. They boated there, but they could drive in, too.
R: I see. How big a place was Buena Vista?
M: A wide place in the road.
R: Not much.
M: No, they had one or two churches there and two or three schools. A good many
people lived around.
R: Were you paid by the county?
M: I assume we were. I never thought of it. I roomed with this girl from Blue Mountain,
Mississippi, who taught English. She is still teaching at Blue Mountain College [in Blue
Mountain, MS], and she teaches Shakespeare every fall. She will be eighty-one next
R: Good for her!
M: They will not turn her loose.
R: Wonderful! What is her name?
M: Sadie Lee Wells. She married a lawyer in Jackson.
R: Oh, I know a lot of Wells who are lawyers in Jackson.
M: She comes down to visit me and I used to go up and visit her.
R: Do you remember Mr. Wells' name?
M: Not right off. He was a lawyer and a heavy-set man, as I remember. It may be James,
because her son is named James Madison.
R: Well, that is interesting. How long did you teach at the university?
M: Three years.
R: Then what did you do?
M: Then I got married.
R: Tell me how you came to marry and who you married.
M: You sound like my family, now, that is how they do. The run down through the
ancestors. Well, we would go to Gulfport in the summers to vacation. A friend, her brother,
and I went down to Gulfport for a couple of weeks just before fall, and we met him. He was
Thomas Lawrence McSwine, and I have got another good story to tell you about where that
originated. He came to visit my family after we went home and they checked out and found
.. Do you remember James K. Vardaman [U.S. Senate, Mississippi, 1913-1919]?
R: Oh, yes!
M: Well, he was one of my uncle's best friends. He was related to the Vardaman family.
R: Describe him for us, Josephine.
M: My husband?
R: No, Vardaman, the big politician.
M: I do not know.
R: I heard him speak once. He had on a white linen suit and a narrow black string tie. He
had long hair in the back [that was] kind of curly.
M: I have seen pictures of him, but I never knew him personally.
R: He was a card!
M: Yes, I know.
R: And he was a great demagogue. He was a friend of your family's?
M: Oh, yes, he and my uncle were both senators at the same time, I
like he was our lawyer--I am not sure--my uncle's lawyer. Do
[Theodore Gilmore, U.S. Senator, 1935-1947]?
believe, and it seems
you remember Bilbo
R: Oh, yes.
M: Well, they all three were buddies.
R: Well, Bilbo was a little short man.
M: He did not deliver my diploma; I cannot remember who
Vardaman was from Greenwood, you know.
Yes, James K.
M: Yes, I have seen pictures of that hair.
M: ... which was unusual then. What else were you asking me? I have forgotten.
R: Well, we were on your husband, Mr. McSwine.
M: Oh, he was from Little Rock. About a year or two ago, one of his sons by the first wife
who lives in Houston, Sterling McSwine. He ran into a well-educated black man who is in
business there. Since their names were both McSwine, they started talking about it. He
found out that this young man's great, great, great grandfather, I think, lived on the
McSwine Plantation over in the Mississippi delta.
R: I am a little mixed up. Did your husband have another wife before you married him?
R: So you were the second wife.
R: Did he have children by his first wife?
M: Yes, they were just like mine almost. I loved them.
R: Oh, I see.
M: His daughter lives in Panama City and is married to Dr. Harry Alfred.
R: Is he your daughter Diane's father?
R: Was she born to him before you? She was not your child?
R: You had stepchildren and then you had Diane.
M: And Will.
R: And Will. How many stepchildren did you have?
R: Three. I see.
M: Two boys and a girl.
R: You brought them up?
M: No, they lived with their mother in Memphis.
R: I see. So you married Thomas McSwine, who was in business?
M: He was with the government. It was right after the depression in 1933, I believe.
R: That you married?
M: Diane was born in 1940 and I was married seven years.
R: Where were you married?
M: In Memphis. He worked for the government and had to check out all the lumber that
came out of this country in that area, the Northeast. He traveled for the government.
R: It came up from New Orleans by boat, I suppose?
M: I do not know. It came by ship, too, from overseas.
R: A lot of the ships came up the river.
M: Oh, that is right. I just really do not know.
R: Maybe they came down the river instead of up the river. How much older was he than
M: Eight years.
R: Was he also an Episcopalian?
M: Oh, yes.
R: And you married in the Episcopal church?
R: You were about what age when you married? M: Twenty-seven, I guess.
R: You had had regular teaching experience by then.
M: Yes, five years.
R: Did you continue teaching after you married?
M: No, not for a while. He was traveling all the time, and I got so tired of that. I was
offered a job in Bowling Green or Hopkinsville, Kentucky, one of those government jobs
that they had back then, like the WPA [Work Projects Administration], but it home
economics. From there I got a better job over in Paintsville, Kentucky, way over near the
West Virginia line. I went there. He was traveling, and I just wanted to do something.
R: So you were a real career woman way back then?
M: Well, I guess I got it from my mother. I wanted freedom. I could not stand to be
R: That was all right with him for you to teach while he traveled?
M: Yes, because he would be traveling back and forth. Well, I just said that is it or else.
R: I see.
M: So I
went there, and it was one of those government things. Then from there,
came to see me and offered me three jobs, either it would be in Owensboro,
or two other places in Kentucky along the river. I chose Owensboro.
M: Yes, and I was there five, six, or seven years.
R: On what river, now?
M: On the Ohio. I loved every minute of it. A funny thing happened. They began to cut
down on the employees. I just found a letter in that book from my supervisor. I had three
counties and she had seven. When I went home on my vacation that summer to
Mississippi, she wrote me and told me I might better look for another job while I was down
there because they were cutting the desk down.
R: Demonstration agents?
M: No, they were not demonstration agents. They were with ...
R: Home economics?
M: Yes, but it was in that government .. .; I cannot think of it now. R: You taught in a
M: No, no, no. We loaned money. You know what it was. We made loans to farm people
and helped them with their budgets.
R: I called them home demonstration agents.
M: No, that is altogether different. They are not with the extension at all.
R: They were run by the county.
M: It was federal. It was not run by the county; it was federal.
R: Where did you have your office? In the town?
M: Yes, we had an office in Owensboro and we went out from there. We had to go to
meetings in Lexington, Kentucky.
M: I will think of the name of the other. ...
R: Home administration.
M: Right, Farmer's Home Administration, which had nothing to do with the extension
R: It was run by the federal government?
R: Not by the state and county.
M: Not that I know of; [it was the] federal government.
R: All right. That has always been a little confusing to me. Alma Warren was not in that
part of it, was she? She was in the extension work.
M: Yes, that is right.
R: Which was run out of Tallahassee. So this was the same kind of job that Pete Vickers
in our church has now?
R: Farmer's Home Administration. You decided who would get loans?
M: We had to go out to visit them, interview them, and decide who got them.
decide how much they needed, and we would help them with their budgets so
handle the money. There was a lot entailed in it.
We had to
R: So it was really more to do with economics than home economics?
M: Well, both. We would give demonstrations sometimes, I remember, but that was over
in Paintsville, Kentucky. I remember that the people were putting salcidic acid in their
vegetables when they canned them to preserve them, and they were not about to stop until
I told them that was what they used to embalm the dead. That is the only way I got them to
stop using salcidic acid in their canned goods.
R: Oh, my goodness!
M: They stopped after that.
R: Was that part of the New Deal? This Farmer's Home Administration was put into the
New Deal, was it not?
R: Well, that was a fascinating ....
M: We did a lot of traveling, but I was going to tell you about this lady that was my
supervisor. When I went on vacation, she wrote me a letter and said I had better look for a
job while I was down there because they were cutting down and I probably would not have
one when I got back.
Well, Owensboro was the place I was living, so I just went on back and said nothing.
She was fired, and I was given her job of [supervising] seven counties, so I started traveling
seven counties. Later on I met her at a convention in Salt Lake City, or San Francisco.
She needed a corsage, and I had gotten three orchids sent to me, so I was able to give her
an orchid--for trying to get rid of me!
R: Oh, my goodness.
M: The same woman!
R: Josephine, I can imagine that you were a very good politician in those days.
M: Well, I did not know I was.
R: Of course, that was a very, very responsible job.
M: Yes, it was.
R: I suppose sometimes you would visit a farmer that just did not qualify for a loan.
M: Sometimes. It was interesting. Someone asked me once if I had a hobby and I said,
"not that I know of." Someone else spoke up and said, "Yes, you do. Your hobby is
people." The more I think about it, the more it is true. You have never heard about my
fantasy pedestals, have you?
R: Your fantasy pedestals?
M: Fantasy pedestals.
R: Tell us about it.
M: I put people on them.
R: Well, tell me some of the people.
M: No! I better not! [laughter]
R: Now, wait a minute. You do not put them on a pedestal to knock them off, do you?
M: No, I put them on there and watch to see if they are going to fall off, but I watch them
for a long time before I put them on there.
R: Are these people that you admire?
M: Yes. About three years ago I decided to start telling these people this.
R: I see.
M: I just think I should.
R: Well, is it a secret? Could you tell me the name of a couple of people you put on a
M: Yes, one of my son's fraternity brothers. I have known Nick since before he married.
He was Nicky at the University, Nick Cox. He is the manager of the entire Sears Home
Improvement Department. He manages everything meant for your home. He is a lovely
R: In the Gainesville Sears store?
M: Yes. Last year when the temperature was about 29 degrees the carburetor broke on
my heater. I called him, and because his technicians were busy, he came out. He took his
tie and coat off and got down and took the carburetor out, got the number, and ordered it
from Wisconsin. In the meantime, he came out with a brand new electric heater from
Sears, and I went down and bought one. That kept me warm for a week until he got the
R: His technicians were still busy?
M: He came out one morning, disrobed again, and put that thing in. He checked it, and it
was better than it ever was. I thought it was high time I let him know that I thought he was
one of the loveliest young men I have ever known.
R: Now, why do you put him on a pedestal?
M: I called him and told him yesterday--I decided I would tell him now--and he sounded
like he was going to cry. He said, "You have made my day."
R: Well, good.
M: He said that so few people ever think to thank you for things. So I enjoyed it.
R: Now, Josephine, you need to go back and tell us when your children were born and
M: Diana was born July 4,1940 in Owensboro, Kentucky. Griffwas born, and you will not
believe this, when we were traveling, living in hotels. We were at the Ervin Cobb Hotel, and
just about at midnight I went through the Ervin Cobb lobby to the hospital. He was born in
Paducah, Kentucky in 1942. [They are] two years apart: Diana McSwine and Griffith Ross
R: What year did you come to Gainesville?
M: January, 1945.
R: So Diana was five years old.
M: No, she was not yet. He was two and a half and she was four and a half.
R: When you came here?
M: Yes. They told me I had the job and asked when I could come down. As I told you, I
said I would have to check with the nursemaid. They laughed at me; Mr. A. P. Spencer
[Director Emeritus of the Agricultural Extension Service]--do you remember him?
M: He and about four or five others laughed at me. I said I was dead serious. "She is
trained well and she is my nursemaid, and I do not come if she does not come. I will let
you know." I went home and talked to her. She said she would come and stay with me
about six months and then she would go home. She is still here.
R: Oh, aren't you are a lucky one.
M: She knew all the people from Tallahassee and they knew her. She knew people
R: What is her name?
M: Marie. She married after she got here. She was Marie Ingram.
R: She stayed with you until the children got bigger?
M: Yes, that is right.
R: Otherwise you would not have been able to work?
R: They did not have nursery schools in Gainesville then.
M: No. I grew up in the era when you had a nursemaid, and that nursemaid was like your
R: Oh, yes.
M: So I had to have somebody like that, I really did. That is it. Then, as I said, they went
on to college.
R: Well, let us get them through elementary school. Tell us where you first lived when you
came to Gainesville.
M: Did you know that was the time when we had the Camp Blanding people here?
M: They had an old fraternity house right across from the law library there on University
Avenue. It had been a fraternity house, and they changed it. We had a room, we shared
the kitchen, and they had two or three baths. There were Camp Blanding wives there with
children. I lived there almost a year.
R: On West University Avenue?
M: Yes. There was a grocery store there, but I cannot remember the name of it now.
R: There is still a little grocery store over near the law school.
M: Yes, but that is a different one. This was right across from the law school, and she had
a boarding house right next to it. It was not far from the Episcopal Center. I wanted a
place alone, and I found a little garage apartment on the corner of Twelfth Street and First
M: Southwest. A. P. Spencer and the McGriffs lived right down the street from me. Do
R: Oh, yes, near Guss McGriff, and his twin brother.
M: Yes. His parents lived down there. There were two two-story houses on corners
across from each other, big two-story homes. Behind each house was a garage apartment.
I got one until I could get a larger one. In about a year I got the big one on the front
entrance. I lived there until it was time for my children to ...
R: They went to Kirby Smith [Elementary School], then.
M: No. I moved over so they could to J. J. Finley.
R: I see.
M: Miss, I cannot think of her name, but she owned a big house over on the other corner.
She had this house she rented to one of the presidents from one of the banks. It was on
Southwest Fifteenth Terrace. Do you know where Ida Crescent lived?
M: Well, right near her. Phyllis Durel and I lived back to back. Elizabeth Simpson lived
right there, too.
R: I did the life history of Phyllis Durel.
M: You did?
R: So you lived right back of them?
M: Yes, we lived back to back. After we moved over there, the children started Finley
School, and they finished there.
R: Diane must have been in the same class as Marvin McGlaughin because they were
born the same year.
M: They were. I wanted mine to go straight through high school, I mean Ganiesville High
School. They were eligible to go to P. K. Yonge when they became old enough.
R: They were on the waiting list?
M: Yes. If you were with the University, you could automatically get in.
R: No, you had to be on the waiting list.
M: Oh, did you? Well, somebody put me on it, because I did not apply. I had been in this
boarding school, and when you came home, you wanted to get into the swing of everything.
The doctors and lawyers, the people with money, sent there children to these boarding
schools. Some of them went where I went. When we came home, we wanted to get into
the swing of everything. Do you think they would have anything to do with us? They took
for granted that we were, as we used to say, stuck-up.
R: Are you talking about when you grew up, now, or when or the children grew up? M:
When I grew up. That is the reason I did not want to send them to P. K. Yonge.
R: You did not want them to be stuck-up? It was a little bit like an exclusive group, I
M: Yes, just like when we came home from the boarding school where we went when I
was a child.
R: Well, I was always very happy with J. J. Finley. I think it has always been a very good
M: Yes, it has.
R: Of course, we lived so near it.
M: Mine could ride their bikes.
R: My boys could be eating breakfast when the first bell rang and
second bell rang. So it was very convenient, was it not?
M: Yes, and I just wanted mine to go right straight through and
rather than in seclusion. It was seclusion and exclusion, both.
still get there when the
be with regular people
R: Well, the P. K. Yonge School had a reputation among some University people as not
being really thorough enough.
M: I got that, too.
R: [It was] too permissive, as they said.
M: I heard that.
R: The tale was that the students decided what they were going to study. I do not know
whether it was true or not, but a great many University people objected to that idea. But we
had these other good schools. Of course, Buchholz High School used to be down on
University Avenue, and it was an excellent school.
M: Yes, they went there in the beginning, and then they moved out here. We moved out
here, so this was very convenient.
M: No, Gainesville High.
R: Oh, Gainesville High, I remember. Of course, this was long before the days when the
schools were integrated. Tell me where your children are now?
M: Well, Diane lives in Palm Harbor; that is the bedroom, I call it, of Clearwater. Her son
is now eighteen and will be nineteen in March.
R: Who did she marry?
M: She married this lovely man from Boston I was telling you about earlier that made fun
of Mississippi. He went all the way through the University down here. He went from the
beginning to pre-law school.
R: She married him here?
M: Yes, and he graduated from law school. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa with straight
M: A brilliant young man.
R: What is his name?
M: LeRoy Allen.
R: They have an eighteen year old son?
M: No, Diane has by her first husband.
M: Lee is now a corporate lawyer. He is just a lovely man. I thought I had better start
telling people what I thought of them, and I wrote him a long letter last week. He called me
yesterday morning to thank me for the letter.
R: So he is another one on a pedestal.
M: Well, I have not put him on yet. I am really careful.
R: I see. Now, tell me about your son.
M: Well, he is in St. Petersburg with Caldwell Banker. He was with them in Georgia.
R: Does he have a wife and children?
M: No. He never wanted children. He got a degree in economics, and Clem Donlin was
R: Oh, I see.
M: He went to law school for one year, but he did not like it, so he quit.
R: He is in banking?
M: Caldwell Banker--that is real estate.
R: Oh, that is right. Well, he must have taken real estate from Dr. Alfred Raine?
M: No, I think he just got in it. He was in another business over in Jacksonville. Two of
his fraternity brothers were in Caldwell Banker in Atlanta, and they kept asking him to come
up. He went up for a week; they interrogated him for a week. They even took him out
dining to see what his etiquette and manners and social graces were. They really took him
through there line. He found out later that the head of the Caldwell Banker out in Los
Angeles, California--that is where the headquarters are--was a fraternity brother of my
brother's son. Is it not weird how small the world is?
R: Josephine, how long were you employed by the Farmer's Home Administration?
M: About five and a half years. When I got my civil service out here, see IFAS was with
civil service. Mrs. Fleming was my guardian angel. She said, "If you pay up debts, you get
on the civil service, you will have a good retirement".
M: This is really funny. There were hard times then; they did not pay you much money. I
had run through my inheritance by then; this was about 1947. One day Mrs. Fleming said,
"Now, Mrs. McSwine, if you will pay up that $1,000, pay up those back debts, you will five
and a half years with the civil service." Well, $1,000 then looked like $100,000 now or
maybe $10,000. When I was a little girl, my mother had taken out an annuity policy, and
that thing came due in about a month.
R: That was lucky.
M: Things just blow my mind the way they happen. It was $1,000, and I walked over and
handed it to her.
R: It paid up your civil service.
M: Yes, and I surely am glad.
R: That was in 1947?
M: 1948, I believe.
R: So you retired at that point?
M: No. Do you mean with the University?
R: I am all mixed up.
M: I retired in 1968.
M: But that was 1948. I had just come about three years before. Mrs. Fleming was
getting me straightened out.
R: In other words, you then had the civil service paid up, but you did not get the pension
yet, did you?
M: Oh, no, not until you retire, but that put five and a half years on my civil service I
R: All right. So then you joined IFAS.
M: When I came here I was in IFAS automatically.
R: I see.
M: They had been with civil service. They may not be now.
R: But you came here to be with the Farmer's Home Administration?
M: No, with the extension service.
R: Well, I never knew that you had been in Farmer's Home Administration. I just had
always assumed that you had been in the extension service.
M: There was home economics in that. No, I was with Farm Home up until then.
R: We have already talked about what you did in the Farmer's Home Administration. Tell
us about the extension service. You taught classes out in the county for farm women?
M: In the city, too. I had as many city clubs almost, and I had women who were college
graduates in it.
R: Going down the list of classes you had ...
M: No, you had clubs. I had about eighteen to twenty-one clubs. In Gainesville we had
four, five, or six. They met once a month. They got together and we planned the years
program. It might be about landscaping, or what you should know about law if your
husband should die, and things like that. We covered the whole gamut of living.
R: That was adult education.
M: Adult education. Now, see, I had assisted with 4-H.
R: Was Alma Warren [Assistant Communications Specialist, Agricultural Extension
Service, Tallahassee] in the same?
M: When she went out there, she was in the journalism department, but it was IFAS. Not
until then. She worked at the post office when I first came.
R: At the downtown Gainesville post office?
M: Yes. She got with IFAS I guess when she went with Mr. Cooper. Do you remember J.
Francis Cooper [Editor and Head of Editorial Department, Agricultural Extension Service,
R: Oh, yes, he was head of it.
M: He was head of the journalism part of it.
R: Publicity for articles.
M: Yes. A. P. Spencer was here when I came. I had clubs. I found that I was doing
programs at night for these like, PEO [(Philanthropic Educational Organization) Sisterhood],
business women. I belonged to every organization here except for PEO and they never
invited me, and I was so thankful. Pilot Club, and I was made an honorary Dame
[University of Florida Dames] because I went to the Dames a lot. You name it!
R: You must have gone to meetings every night.
M: Day and night; I nearly killed myself. In 1965 I collapsed in the office, I was so
exhausted. They said it was complete exhaustion, and I had to stay here for three weeks
or in the hospital asleep. I was to see no one, not talk on the telephone, not get out of the
chair for three weeks. For a year I was under doctor's orders, and I had to cut down on
everything because people had just worn me out. I did not know how to say no.
R: Was that when you discovered that you had diabetes?
M: I never had it. I had just been fed too much cake, pie, candy, and all of that stuff.
R: I can imagine.
M: It was impaired glucose tolerance. It never got up over the line; I was never
R: You were just living on refreshments?
M: Well, yes. At Christmas they would make me all kinds of good things. Somebody
discovered that I love coconut cake, so I got one every Christmas from that one person.
They were wonderful people, though.
R: Well, now, when did you move into this house?
M: In April of 1960. It will be twenty-eight years in April.
R: It [Gainesville] was pretty sparsely populated?
M: No, it is just like it was. It was far from the University. I told Florna Theisan --she
looked for two years--that I wanted to get as far from the University as I could get, on a
corner, and with people not hanging on my hedge. It took her two years to find this place.
R: It is a lovely location.
M: It is safe and we have no crime here. It is convenient to everything. I had these
foreign students coming to my door morning, noon, and night. My mother said one time I
had the queerest looking friends she had ever seen.
R: You mean before you moved here?
M: Yes. I lived on Fifteenth Terrace.
R: Because it was so close to the University?
M: That is right. I worked with all these foreign people, and they told the students that I
did, so I had students there. I had one move in, Sala Penawaczi. He moved in one
summer because he was not ready to go home. He moved on after he lived with me.
Fortunately, I had a four bedroom house.
R: From what country was he? Was he Russian or Muslim?
M: No, he was in the Far East. Not Iran.
M: No, not in that area.
M: No. Go a little further.
M: You are in the wrong area. I will find it in
a minute. Here it is; this is a picture of him.
R: Oh, yes. Iraq.
M: No, Iran. He just moved in and lived with me. He called me mother; a lot of them
called me mother. They would come up on the street, the little slant-eyed boogers, and
say, "Hi, Mother! Hi, Mama!" People would look so funny, you know, because they looked
like they did not belong to me. It was just fantastic to look through that sometimes and
remember those young men.
R: So you just wanted to get away from the University and get a little rest.
R: Here is a picture taken on the campus. It is a picture of somebody from the
M: Yes, Manila. What is his name?
R: His name is Jose M. Trinidad.
M: No, that is another one. He is from the Chinese area.
R: My goodness, you had a lot of foreign students!
M: No, they were visiting officials.
R: Oh, they were visiting officials?
R: They were visiting with the College of Agriculture?
M: Yes, I think so. I had those to work with a lot. Sometimes with the Greeks I had to
have an interpreter. Do you know who interpreted for me sometimes? Georgia Vickers!
R: Oh, Pete Vickers.
M: She is an Episcopalian. She interpreted for me. Most of them could speak [English]. I
was very fond of the Egyptians. Houssin Douagal was one of my favorites.
R: You have a lovely scrapbook filled with all these pictures of the foreigners who came to
M: Do you see why I am worn out?
R: I certainly do.
M: This Trinidad came over with the idea that he could get an American wife and take her
home with him just like he could buy her. He wanted me to find him one.
R: Here is somebody from Turkey.
M: He asked me to find one. He said he talked it over with his children and would I please
find him a wife to take home with him.
R: Well, that is the way they did it in that country.
M: Yes, but I said that is not in my plan of work. "You will have to find your own wife."
R: He wanted you to be the matchmaker.
M: I have things around that have come from these countries. I had Chanel No. 5 until I
never wanted to smell another bottle of Chanel No. 5.
R: It is not particularly ...
M: They gave me Chanel No. 5, everyone of them.
R: I know. I have a big bottle of it that my husband bought for me in the Virgin Islands,
and I have never used it. It must have cost about sixty dollars.
M: You sure get tired of that scent.
R: You do get tired of it.
M: Absolutely. And orchids--I got so tired of orchids when I was working, I never want to
see another orchid corsage.
R: Here is somebody named Philippe Mendoza. He was from South America.
M: Now, I will just tell you the kind of life I lived. Someone from the University who was
dean with one of these South Americans, called me one afternoon and said, "Can you and
your secretary go out with me and my wife and these two men from South America? They
want to go dancing." That was close to 5:00. June Bolles went with me. She was my
secretary, she is still out there. We had to go out to dinner after working all day, and then
we danced at a nightclub on Archer Road that served meals and had dancing; it was a very
nice place. We went out and danced until maybe 12:00, went home and slept, and went
back to work the next morning.
R: That was too much.
M: That was my life, though, for a long time, and they would just literally wear you out. I
R: You were a kind of guardian or chaperone.
M: Well, I danced that night, too, but that was just an example. I had to take this Trinidad
to show him Silver Springs. That was just ridiculous.
R: I bet you enjoyed it, though. You enjoyed it, but it was just too much, too long hours.
M: It was awfully hard trying to understand what they were saying, too.
R: That is right. Well, you were very good-hearted to do all of that. It was very difficult to
refuse, I am sure.
M: Yes, it was. Now, this one from the Phillipines was the one that wrote Washington
and said, "Send her over."
R: Here is a picture of a great many Greek visitors.
M: Oh, yes, that is why I said I always had to have interpreters for the Greeks. Some of
them spoke English; Houssin Douagal spoke beautiful English. He had been educated in
Paris, France. He was a charming man.
R: Here is a letter from somebody named M. Q. Kahn. It says, "Dear Mrs. McSwine, Both
of us are very thankful to you for your kindness and hospitality. It gave us a great pleasure
M: Oh, he was from India, I believe.
R: ". .. to meet you and your sweet daughter. We will always remember you." Well, you
have got all the stuff: cards, letters, pictures.
M: Look at this. That is from Dr. Kahn.
R: Oh, this is a little iron shoe; that is darling? My goodness.
M: Is this on.
R: This tape recorder? It is very old.
M: I say is it on?
R: It is on. Well, we are getting all of this down.
M: Oh, my goodness, I did not know that.
R: This is an important part of your service to the University, Josephine. I consider this
R: Backbreaking, but very much a part of the history of this University.
M: Yes, I think we did some good things.
R: Was anybody having them to learn English? We finally did put in a course teaching
foreign students English and we put somebody as the head of it.
M: I did not know about that.
R: Yes, but you had to struggle with what little bit of English they already knew?
M: Yes, some of them spoke beautiful English.
R: I see.
M: But I was exhausted at the end of the day because I had tried to understand them.
R: Is there anything else you would like to tell us that is important to you since your
retirement? Your children are living here in Florida and they can come to visit you and you
can go to visit them?
R: You belong to St. Margaret's Circle of our church, Holy Trinity [Episcopal]
M: Let me tell you about that. I belonged, as I have said, to nearly every organization in
R: You got burned out on organizations?
M: Yes, and I dropped nearly everything, and now I belong to NARC --is the Civil Service
retirees organization--and St. Margaret's. I dropped the University's Woman's Club this
year, but I went back into the AEUW.
R: Yes, I noticed that you did. I that same thing.
I went back into it after I had been out
for many years.
M: I am still a member of the Gainesville Rose Society and one or two other things.
Things that you do not have to take a part in, if you do not want to.
R: Right. Did you ever belong to the Garden Circle?
M: Oh, yes.
R: Which circle?
R: The Begonia side. Well, you have a lovely yard.
M: My yard man was here the other day and I said, "Let us wait for warm weather. We
are going to redo this thing."
R: You are lucky to have a yard man.
M: He comes from Chiefland and is very good. That is where he comes from.
R: I think I better find out his name. Well, I am going to let you go now and wind this up.
Thank you so much.
M: Well, you are welcome. I forgot to tell you that I did receive an award in Chicago for
the distinguished service.
R: The distinguished service almost extinguished you! [laughter]
M: Yes! I went to Chicago in 1960 to receive this award. It was very nice.
R: So you were working for the extension service.
M: Yes, they called it the Distinguished Service of the Extension Service. Are we on? I
did not want to tell that when we were on.
R: Yes, we wanted to find that out, because I thinkthat is important. Now, we are going to
wind it up. Thank you so much.