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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
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S: This is an interview with Sally L. Miller in the study at 3938 NW 20th Terrace in
Gainesville, Florida. Could you tell me your full name? What does the L stand for?
S: So it is Sally L. Miller, basically.
S: OK. When were you born?
M: July 25, 1946.
S: Where were you born?
M: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
S: How long did you live there?
M: Until I was eighteen.
S: When did you come to Florida?
M: January 1, 1966.
S: That is a pretty specific date. How old were you then?
M: I was about eighteen.
S: So you came to Florida on New Year's Day in 1966.
S: What brought you to Florida?
M: The climate.
S: Was it cold in Pennsylvania?
S: So where did you come to when you came to Florida?
M: Miami International Airport.
S: [laughter] So you moved to Miami?
S: Did you go to school here in Florida?
M: Yes. I went to Miami-Dade Junior College North, and I went to Florida Atlantic
University in Boca Raton, and I went to Florida International University in Miami.
Then I went to Barry College [now Barry University] in Miami Shores.
S: That is a lot. Why did you go to so many schools?
M: I am interested in a lot of things.
S: [laughter] What did you study while you were in college?
M: I started off in psychology. I ended up in secondary education, in English. Then I
was going to pursue graduate studies in English education, and I started doing that
at Florida International. Then, since I had been employed as a social worker, I went
on to Barry to get a degree in social work.
S: So you were employed as a social worker while you were going to the university?
M: While I was going to school.
S: Who did you work for?
M: HRS, State of Florida.
S: What do the initials HRS mean?
M: Health and Rehabilitative Services.
S: OK. As a social worker for HRS in Florida, what did you do? What is the job of the
M: I worked in food stamps. [In] 1971 we started the first food stamp program that
Dade County had, other than the commodities program. Then I worked in
payments, which isAFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children). Then I worked
in protective services, which deals with abuse and neglect. Then I went into single
intake, which deals with the delinquent as well as the dependent aspect.
S: Single intake of what?
M: Single intake is just a term meaning dependency and delinquency. There is one
S: So it is still part of that Aid to Dependent Children thing?
M: No. It is a totally separate component.
S: But it is still dealing with children?
M: Yes. Children, youth, and families.
S: What did you do as a single intake [worker]? What does that mean? What did you
M: I basically made the determination [of] who got to stay in Youth Hall. We gave
accommodations overnight. At the same time, I determined who was picked up and
removed from the home for abuse and neglect, what cases simply needed a little
work, what [cases] were life-threatening, that type of thing.
S: You mentioned [that] in 1971 you were part of the first food stamp program in Dade
M: That is right.
S: Is that when the Great Society [program of the Johnson Administration began]?
M: The infusion of money from the Great Society came through, yes.
S: That is when it first came through?
M: Yes. They had a commodities program. People would come into a warehouse and
pick up supplies. Then they did away with that because the stamps came along.
What I did in that area, other than handing out food stamps and taking applications
and so forth, [was administer] the only homebound program Dade County ever had
with the elderly. Actually, I went out, took them their stamps, [and] brought the
money back, that type of a thing, which is probably unheard of today. [There] would
not be enough accountability. In those days, when things were new and untried,
they were more experimental. [They were not] ingrained in old habits.
S: When you were working with the children, with single intake, was that with children
who were in trouble?
M: Yes. That was with kids that committed crimes, misdemeanors, felonies.
S: Do you have any experiences or vivid memories from that time, working with these
children who were committing crimes?
M: I worked out of the Northwest 27th Avenue office, which was the Youth Hall building.
We had moved several times, but then the state put up money, and they built this
big complex. It was a central receiving area for everybody. I worked, basically,
second shift there. We had a kid who was brought in, and he had been picked up
for petty theft [or] some kind of a thing. But he had so many priors [prior convictions]
that he was detainable. We brought him in, and that night the group of us there on
that shift were going to order pizza. I recall that we put the ten dollars out for the
pizza, and the ten dollars disappeared. It was shortly after he had come in, so we
checked him out, and by golly, he had taken the ten dollars.
S: How did you know he had taken it?
M: There was no one else who could possibly have taken it but him because he had
been to the front of the desk. It was my sixth sense that told me. After you work
with these kids a long time, you get to know who is doing what. And he had it. We
S: [Are there] any other things while you were working with HRS in Miami that stand
out in your memory?
M: We handled about 130 cases a week of dependency. That is involving abuse and
neglect. Abuse and neglect are two different categories, although related. We had
a pretty heavy caseload at that time. I had many memorable occasions that I was
involved in. I used to do on-call work on Wednesday nights. At that occasion, I
would run from 5:00 p.m. until 8:00 a.m. the next day. I wasthe [only] on-call worker
for all of Dade County at that time.
S: You were the only on-call person for the entire Dade County?
S: Is that not like the entire city of Miami?
M: That is not only Miami, but it is all the surrounding entire Catchman area there,
which encompasses .
S: Catchman area? Is that a local term? What does that mean?
M: The Catchman area would be Opa Locka, Hialeah, Miami, Miami Beach,
Homestead, [and] the entire area, not just downtown Miami. This would encompass
the entire section.
S: What year was this that you were on call for the entire Dade County-Catchman
M: Around 1978.
S: 1978. So were there millions of people in this location at that time?
S: How many phone calls did you get a night?
M: I would sometimes get ten or fifteen a night. Then you had to prioritize--[decide]
which were the most important ones from those you were going to act on. The rest
you would wait until the next day and turn them into the office, and they would send
S: What were your priority criteria?
M: Life and death situations.
S: Did you encounter any of those? Did you have to go out and stop criminal action?
M: No. Well, yes, it could have been criminal action. I do not think we had a real
punitive approach at that point.
S: Excuse me. You are not dealing with the juveniles here; you are dealing with the
M: Abuse cases, right. We did both, but on that particular night I dealt strictly with the
dependency [or] the abuse-type of cases.
S: [Do] any cases stand out that you remember?
M: There was one case in particular that was kind of interesting. I was on call; it was a
Wednesday night. I went out on the case at 3:00 in the afternoon. It was customary
that if cases started before 5:00 and you were the on-call worker, you kind of got
into it early hours, before 5:00. I went out on this case at 3:00, and I did not
complete the case until 9:30 that night. It was an interesting case because this
woman was extremely intoxicated. This was a chronic situation. Her kids had
driven her car into a canal by her condominium. The neighbors said that this was a
repeat problem with the kids being unsupervised. Of course, then they drove the
car into the canal, so they called us up to come out and see the situation. I had to
go out there and deal with her. Not only was she drunk, but we learned later she
had a psychosis on top of her alcohol problem. She was pretty out of it, so I had to
escape her wrath. She picked up a knife. It was a very unpleasant situation. I had
to contact the authorities to come out. She had been at detox[ification] at Jackson
Memorial [Hospital] earlier that day, and they had brought her back. She had
immediately started in again.
S: Detox for what?
S: So, anyhow, I had to deal with her, get the police there, and pick up the boys (who
had disappeared in the ensuing conflict there). I took them and placed them in a
home that night, and then I had to appear in court the next day.
M: How many boys?
S: Two boys.
S: No girls?
M: No girls. [Their ages were] about ten and eight. Apparently they had been taking
care of her for weeks. She was a binge drinker. They had been taking care of her
[and] had not been going to school very regularly. Also, the school had made a
complaint. There were several complaints. It was not an abuse case, per se. It
was neglect because of her alcohol problems. But the case pretty much worked out.
The father of the children was a Hawaiian, which is interesting. He flew in from
Hawaii and took the boys back with him. It was a nerve-wracking case. [I] spent a
lot of hours on it.
S: When you were working with the abused and neglected children, this [was in] what
time period? You said 1978.
M: I did it for eight years total.
S: So you first started with HRS [when]?
M: In 1971.
S: That was with the food stamp [program].
S: When did you decide to leave Miami?
M: In May of 1980.
S: So you moved from Miami to Gainesville?
M: No. I just moved then.
Did you move anywhere else in the
I graduated in May of 1980 from Barry, and that August I
finally decided that I was going to move.
S: When you graduated from Barry, that was master's in social work?
S: So you moved to Gainesville. Did you get an academic position here in Gainesville?
S: What factors figured into you choosing Alachua County?
M: I knew people here, and I had liked the surrounding environment. There were a lot
of schools in this area.
I thought maybe at some point I might go on [with my
S: You mean go on for a doctorate?
M: Yes. Something like that.
So those were my main factors that led to my coming
S: What do you do? Do you do social work here in Gainesville?
S: Who do you work for here?
S: HRS. The state again. What facility of HRS do you work for?
M: Now I work with developmental services, which was formerly retardation.
S: So it is not as exciting?
Is that when you moved to Gainesville?
M: Oh, no. This is my pre-retirement job.
S: I want to let you know that I appreciate you helping me out on this class project. Is
there anything else you would like to add about your history, coming to Gainesville
or what you do at HRS?
M: No. I think we have covered it all.
S: Well, I just want to let you know that I really appreciate it. Thank you for your time,
and thank you for your cooperation.
M: Thank you.