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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewer: Emily Ring
Interviewee: Lotte Graeffe
February 24, 1992
R: This is Ms. Emily Ring. I am sitting in my home, and I am going to interview Mrs.
Lotte Graeffe, who lives down near Micanopy. She will be talking about her life and
about the life of her late husband, Dr. [Arnold] Didier Graeffe [professor of
humanities, 1948-1978]. Today is February 24, 1992.
Lotte, where were you born?
G: I was born in Dortmund, in the province of Westphalia, Germany, on August 21,
1906. My father was a government official, and I had three older brothers. We all
went to school in Dortmund and lived there during World War I. At the end of the
war and the revolution, my father was pensioned prematurely, and my parents
moved to the city of Goslar [in the province of Lower Saxony].
I had finished high school in 1923, and during the inflation and after the revolution,
my parents, like so many other people, lost their money. My three older brothers
were sent for training to the universities first, and I had to attend a commercial high
school for a year. Afterwards I became a secretary and accountant in a factory in
the city of Goslar. After I had worked there for a few years my brothers were
through, and I got my turn to go to the university in Berlin. I had to take certain
exams first before I was admitted at the so-called Handelshochschule in Berlin. This
is where I met my late husband, A. D. Graeffe, as a student.
After I had finished my studies in 1929 or 1930, I became a teacher at a commercial
high school in the city of Berlin. After Hitler came to power there was a sudden
order that all Jewish teachers were being fired--I am not Jewish--and that all non-
Jewish teachers had to become members of the Nazi Party. Upon refusal they
would be fired within twenty-four hours. I refused and was fired. I was unemployed
for a little while. Then I became a secretary again in a big chemical and medical
firm, Scheaing-Kahlbaum, in Berlin, where I worked for several years. Then I shifted
positions and worked in the heavy-machine industry cartels in Berlin until 1938,
when I had a chance to come to the United States.
Now, let me drop this and start catching up with Didier Graeffe. A. Didier Graeffe
was born as the youngest of five children in Brussels, Belgium, on February 27,
1908. His father originally was a German, and at the end of World War I the father,
who had been very interested in a German high school in Brussels and had been
the head of the German Red Cross in Brussels, declared himself for Germany, and
the whole family had to leave Belgium and, so to speak, flee to Germany. The
family had been quite wealthy, but they became poor because the father, in the
hurry of leaving, did not take enough money with him, so things were tight.
Didier and I met as students on May 5, 1928, at the island ofWerder, near Potsdam,
Berlin, where a student group had taken an outing in May to celebrate the cherry
G: We started dancing together, and from the first dance on we stayed together.
R: He was very handsome, was he not?
G: He was good-looking. He analyzed my handwriting and told me which type of
literature I liked, and he sort of overwhelmed me. Not long afterwards we became
lovers, but unlike [what is common practice] today we never moved together. We
had our separate student quarters, always a few blocks apart. But we had
telephones. I introduced him to my family, and he introduced me to his family. Both
families accepted our relationship, but Didier Graeffe declared from the beginning he
was never going to marry. If he would marry he would marry me, but he was not
going to marry.
R: Oh, boy.
G: That was tough for the families, because my father died and my mother worried
about me. Finally, in 1936, on the 31st of December, Didier Graeffe left Germany.
He had meanwhile gotten his doctor's degree in Berlin, and he left because he
would have had to enter the German army under Hitler, and he did not want to. He
went to France.
R: Lotte, in what field did he get his doctor's degree?
G: [Econimics.] He wrote his dissertation on the history of thought [Das Schlagwort
vom allgemeinen Wohl im liberalen Staat]. He had trouble getting it published
because under Hitler everything had changed. He was asked at one point to put
everything in the past tense instead of the present in his dissertation. He refused to
do that, and he waited a few years.
Eventually people had forgotten about it. You had to have it printed in Germany and
have so many copies to be distributed. A copy is in the library in New York City. I
looked at it once. But he eventually got it published, and then he could leave the
country. There was more chance for him to get into an academic career [in a place
other than Germany] because he would never become a Nazi. We both were
So he went to Paris first and then later to England. His mother was British, and he
had relatives there. From there he suddenly went to America in 1937 because an
older brother of his had ended up earlier already in Detroit; he was a professor at a
small engineering college. His wife had lost a baby, and he wanted to take a trip
around the world. In 1937 American professors could not [easliy] get a whole year's
leave of absence. Edwin Graeffe thought that his little brother would not cheat him
out of a job and would pinch-hit for a year and then let him get his job back, which is
exactly what happened. But at that time, during that year in Detroit, Didier fell in
love with America on the occasion where a friend of his permitted him to drive his
car. Driving a car in the Midwest gave Didier a feeling of [the] vastness and freedom
of this country, and he said: "I want to stay here. I have to get another job. I want
Lotte to come."
G: Then he enlisted with an agency in Detroit and got a job as a professor of
economics at Olivet College in Olivet, Michigan. He sent a telegram to me in Berlin:
if I would come, he would accept the job and we would get married at once.
G: So I, of course, accepted. I gave up my job. I had trouble leaving the country
because it was in the fall of 1938. Women like myself were not permitted to leave
the country. We were scheduled already in preparation for the war. I, for instance,
owned a motorcycle, a two-seater, and I had orders to put my motorcycle on the
second day of mobilization at a certain street corner in Berlin, Charlottenburg. The
motorcycle was to be painted battleship gray and filled with gas and handed over to
the army. Also I was slated to take over the management of the heavy-machine
industry office. So I had to sneak out of the country. I had to buy a round-trip ticket
on a German ship. I had to pretend that I had a leave of absence for half a year; I
got a letter from my future sister-in-law inviting me for half a year. I had to pay my
rent for my apartment ahead of time, including my basictelephone fee. And I had to
leave my money in the bank and prove that my mother lived there. Under Hitler we
could take out only ten Mark, which at that time was four dollars. There was capital
punishment for people who tried to take out money.
I left Germany very early in the morning because people who were in charge of the
big apartment houses were also Nazis and had to watch [that] their people did not
get away. But I did get away and traveled on a German ship. I said I needed
money to show to get into America, so I had written a letter to Didier and told him to
send me a letter aboard the ship. When we arrived in New York I waited for the mail
to be distributed. I opened my letter, took out the hundred dollars that Didier had
sent me, and then went through the American line, after having first gone through
the German line.
R: I see.
G: I cleared that and then went through the American line, where I could show my
hundred dollars to an official. I came the day after Thanksgiving in 1938, and that
was the November where on the thirteenth there had been the famous, terrible
Kristallnacht in Berlin, which I will never forget because I heard it all. My apartment
was close to the KurfUrstendamm where the center of that riot took place. The
American officials were angry at all the Germans for the Kristallnacht, so everybody
who had traveled second class was taken to Ellis Island.
I was taken to Ellis Island and spent three days there, which were frustrating but
also highly interesting and unforgettable. At the end I had a hearing. I received the
advice of a very nice American social worker who had said: "Your English is good
enough. Try to dismiss the German/Nazi interpreter when you have a hearing." I
thanked her, and I started reading the Bible--that was the only literature you could
get at Ellis Island--simply to read English. On the morning of my hearing I asked
that the German interpreter be dismissed. He got furious and slammed the door,
and the Americans and I burst into laughter. The ice was broken, and within ten
minutes a door was opened and Didier came in and said he would take
responsibility for my visit. I was free without having to pay the then-customary $500
that all the Jewish people had to pay before they were let free.
R: I never knew that.
G: The ship on which I came was filled with Jewish emigrants. Hitler at that time, in
1938, still let them go out, and there were only two non-Jewish women aboard the
ship: a young American woman who had visited in Germany, and I. We had to sit at
the captain's table and dance with the officers. We were not even permitted to talk
to the Jews aboard the ship, which was terribly frustrating.
So we got to Michigan where Didier and I stayed for five years at Olivet College. He
shifted from teaching economics to teaching the history of art. It was a marvelous,
very good college where they had writers' conferences every summer. This is
where I met W. H. Auden, [Katherine Ann Porter,] John Peale Bishop, Carl
Sandburg, [Sherwood Anderson,] Mary and Padraic Colum from England [Ireland]--
all sorts of very interesting people. The Thomas Mann family came there. I thought
all little liberal arts colleges should be like that.
R: So you were at the small college.
G: Yes, and we were there from 1938 to 1943. When the war broke out in 1939 we
happened to be on a vacation in Mexico. Later Didier got a draft number. We had
applied for admission to American citizenship right after we had both arrived in this
country, but Didier did not want to go into the army and fight his European cousins.
R: Of course not.
G: He had a lot of family there. Thanks to a colleague who had been at Olivet and who
had gone to Crete, Nebraska, we in 1943 went for two years to Doane College in
Crete, Nebraska. There was a V-12 navy unit there, and they needed math
teachers and language teachers for the young navy officers in training. So we left
Michigan and went to Nebraska, and Didier taught mathematics to navy boys. He
also became the head of the art and classics department at that college, and I
taught French and German and Spanish to the navy boys full time. We did this for
Then there was some trouble. There was a new dean who did not like foreign-born
people and did not like us--we were too liberal. We had open house for students
[weekly] from the beginning. Didier and I from the Michigan days have had open
house every Sunday night for any student who wanted to come. We were very
poor, and they got tea and homemade cookies, and that was it. But there was
conversation, music, whatever. Everybody could bring friends--male or female, it
did not matter. The dean did not like that. He felt that we fraternized too much with
the young officers. Some of them were intellectually inclined and did not like the
navy. So Didier got a job at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri.
R: Which was a liberal school.
G: This was a girls' school and a junior college at that time. There were several people
at that school [Stephens College] who later came here [the University of Florida],
[including] Bob [Robert Emmett] Carson [professor of humanities]; [Kenneth
Christiansen, professor of journalism and communications; and Robert Davidson,
professor of humanities and head of the department], and somebody got us to
Columbia, Missouri. There Didier taught humanities, and I taught Spanish at
Christian College and German courses to doctoral candidates fortheir reading exam
at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
At that time, after two years there, we got in the family of my next brother in age who
had been stranded with a family for seven years in an internment camp in Jamaica.
They had been picked up by the British in west Africa where he was working, so we
brought a family of five into this country, which made us penniless. We decided we
needed more money, so I took over Didier's job at Stephens College and taught his
humanities courses fifteen hours a week, and he went to California to take a college
job. So we had a double income. But that did not work out very well. My brother,
however, became quite successful [as a horticulturist] very soon in this country in
spite of not knowing much English. After a year Didier came back.
R: What was your brother's vocation?
G: He was a horticulturist. He is now a famous man in [Lincoln] Nebraska; but that is
another story. But there was Bob Davidson and Bob Carson at Stephens College,
and Kenneth Christiansen. Those are three names connected with the University of
R: Yes, indeed.
G: Bob Carson already had his throat trouble, and Kenneth Christiansen had a very
young wife and a tiny baby. But it was Bob Davidson who left and went to Florida.
He first got Bob Carson to follow him. I do not know when Kenneth Christiansen
followed, but it was Bob Davidson who had been impressed by Didier at Stephens
College and who got us to Florida. So in 1948, after three years at Columbia,
Missouri, we came to Florida. Here Didier started teaching summer school in the
summer of 1948.
R: I remember quite well when all three of you came. We were here; we came in 1938.
And it was wonderful having you here, because we all belonged to the same clubs--
the Philharmonic Society, the Art Association, and so on.
G: Right. And your [first] husband [John Maclaclan] was very prominent; you were very
prominent in the Art Association.
G: Oh, yes. We knew each other very early. And of course there was Bob Carson with
whom Didier first roomed. Then after a year the promise came through that Didier
could give the big humanities lectures and play piano in the lectures and give the art
lectures. From then on, for the next twenty-nine years, with the exception [of the
year] when we had a Fulbright in Japan, Didier always gave the big lectures. That
was the greatest joy for Didier at this campus, giving these big humanities lectures.
He really loved his life here at this University.
R: And the students loved Didier.
G: Later he also had the humanities sections for the bright kids, advanced humanities.
It had a different title. He had those also. Then he wrote a book, Creative
Education in the Humanities, which was published by Harper Brothers in 1951. After
eight years in a town apartment on 4th Avenue, we moved to the little farm on
Hawthorne Road where we had bought five acres and a cow. Didier became known
as the "cow-milking professor," because Didier and our adopted daughter Eibe and I
all learned how to milk the cow. We also had chickens and our first peacocks.
I had always been annoyed that I got such small salaries because I did not have an
American degree and had no doctor's degree like Didier's. When there was a rule
here at the University that husband and wife could not teach at the same school, I
was frankly afraid to try anything with high schools because I felt I was not American
born and would not understand American children. But I could get along with
American [college] students, who were more mature, eighteen years old and up. So
I decided to get a degree here, since I could not teach. That is when I began
studies in the English department [in 1951].
To make it difficult for myself I did not try to get an advanced degree in German,
which would have been a cinch. I chose English. Because I could not prove that I
had been at the university in Berlin, because everything was destroyed after World
War II, I was taken on probation. I had to take three courses and make A's and B's
or they would not take me. I took [English] courses with Harry Warfel; with the
Shakespeare man, [Thomas] Walter Herbert; and Tom Pyles. I made two A's and
one B and was accepted in the program.
R: Who was chairman of English then?
G: [Charles Archibald] Robertson, "Woody Woodpecker." Archie Robertson was head
of the department, and Tom Pyles became my major professor.
R: Was Dr. Starr in the department then?
G: Oh, yes, Nathan Starr was there. [Starr joined the faculty in 1953. Ed.] He was a
wonderful person. Nathan Starr in 1961, together with your son, played a part in
[Didier's play] Lot's Wife. You see, from the beginning Didier had composed music.
[He composed] in Michigan. Not in Nebraska; there was no time. He had written
music while we were in Columbia, Missouri, and at this University he wrote music all
the time. Then he got it performed.
R: Lotte, say a few words about Lot's Wife. Who played in Lot's Wife, and where was it
G: Lot's Wife was given, I believe, in 1961. There was Nathan Starr as Lot, there was
Mimi Marr as Lot's wife, there was Joanna Helming as an angel, and there was a
singer. Willis Bodine [professor of music] played the organ, [and Jim Hale, another
music professor, played percussion]. John Schiffermuller was the narrator. One of
the evil citizens of Sodom was Morgan Maclachlan, and I have forgotten who the
other two were.
It was a very good performance. Lot's Wife turned out later to be the most popular
of all the productions of Didier. Lot's Wife, thanks to the initiative of Mimi Marr for a
while, was performed in Minot, North Dakota, [and] in Columbia, Missouri, at
Stephens College with our old connections. Several years in a row it was performed
in Texas, thanks to Mimi Marr, and in Louisiana. Finally two years before Didier died
[it was performed] at Sarah Lawrence College in [Bronxville] New York. So it was
the most successful of Didier's plays. All the other plays that he wrote for his
students were performed here in the Religion in Life Week annually and also in the
humanities lectures that Didier was in charge of. He wrote a play for his students,
and they performed it. The last one was when Didier retired in 1978 at the age of
seventy; that was a play called The Wandering Jew, which was performed here right
before he retired. Of course, that was a high point of that year for Didier.
R: His health was good throughout, was it not?
G: His health was always good. His health was so good that in thirty years of teaching
at this University he missed one day on account of a severe nose bleed where I had
to take him to a doctor. As a result, when he retired he got a big amount of money
back for all the unused sick leave of those thirty years. We have to deduct the one
year when we were in Japan when he had a Fulbright.
Also, during about the first ten years here, from 1948 to about 1958, he had taken
out two weeks every spring and traveled for the Association of American Colleges in
New York. He had permission from Bob Davidson to do that, because he gave
three-day stands at different colleges in different states teaching humanities, playing
piano, and doing all sorts of things, which he enjoyed very much. During those two
weeks I always taught in his stead.
I had another stroke of luck. Salaries here were never high, but in 1951 I had saved
some money and had been in Europe again for the first time after thirteen years
absence. When I came back I was ready to type again for a theater magazine here
at the University for fifty cents an hour. Then a humanities teacher, Dr. [Bryant
Syms] Cooper, became very sick and soon died. [Cooper died July 12, 1952. Ed.]
In the middle of January, I was called in to pinch hit for "Papa" Cooper, whose voice
gave out and the students could not hear him anymore. They loved him, but they
could not hear what he was trying to say. So in a few weeks I got the money that I
had gone in debt for for my trip to Europe back by teaching humanities.
R: Well, we were lucky to have you here.
G: Then I got my master's degree in English with Tom Pyles in 1956 and my doctor's
degree in 1965. On the evening that I got my doctorate Jimmy Hodges [chairman of
comprehensive English and professor of English] came to a celebration party at our
little farm on the Hawthorne Road and said: "Lotte, I have straightened it with the
authorities. I can offer you a job in the English department." That made me very,
very happy. Soon afterwards [in 1965] Lalia Boone [associate professor of English]
for some reason left, or somebody else, and I was asked on one Friday to take over
children's literature the next Monday. Children's Literature became my favorite
R: I loved it, too. I took it under Freddy Gehan.
G: Yes, Freddy Gehan was the other one. But he specialized more on the older
juvenile; he concentrated on juvenile literature. Yes, Freddy Gehan and I taught at
the same time: I taught the children's lit., and he taught the juvenile children's lit.
That was subdivided that way. Oh, yes, I have very fond memories of [those
R: Are they still teaching that course in the English department?
G: Oh, yes, they are teaching it. Oh, yes. I think it has stayed quite popular. I just
loved that course. I taught for six years at the University. I had to stop then
because I could not get tenure, and you could not stay at the University if you could
not get tenure after six years. I could not get tenure because Didier had it. So after
six years I had to stop. That happened in 1971. But I also managed to be a little
sick at that time, so it was not so difficult for me to stop teaching, though after, when
I had recovered, I was very sorry, and I missed it very much. I still sometimes am
kidded by my friends [who say that] I act like a bored teacher. In other words, when
someone uses a word that I do not know, I admit that I do not know it and I want it to
be looked up in the dictionary or the Encyclopedia Britannica right away. [laughter]
R: Well, it was very hard on faculty wives not to be allowed to teach. It was the
legislature that made that law. It had to be lifted when the medical school came in
because they could not get doctors to come here and teach medicine without
allowing their wives to come and teach, too. We came along at a time when it was
very difficult for any kind of any intellectual activity on the part of University wives.
G: Yes. But the whole tenor at the University during the thirty years that Didier taught
here has changed so much. See, in 1948 the fellows were still a little resentful that
the school had been made coeducational just before [in 1947], because they had to
dress better and behave differently toward the young women. In the beginning
things from our point of view were very provincial here. The campus was much
smaller. I recall that when Ted Shawn [and Ruth St. Dennis] came with a dance
company and put on a program, the student audience, which was mostly male at
that time, hooted the male dancers off the stage. Ted Shawn interrupted the
program and came in front and made a little pep talk that people should be more
But there were strong feelings against modern things. I remember once [Russian
composer Sergei] Prokofiev played in a concert, and it was Tom Hart, a humanities
teacher, who said he liked it but that the students would not accept Prokofiev. There
was always a little bit of tension between Didier and Tom Hart because Didier was
going ahead with modern music and the like, and Tom Hart was old fashioned. I do
not know whether you recall that Didier once almost caused a scandal when he
inaugurated "Happenings" at his lectures. This was during the 1960s.
R: Describe a Happening for us.
G: There was a wave of Happenings. During the last week in the spring Didier gave
the big lectures four times a week to about 600 students each. He inaugurated a
Happening during the last ten minutes of the last lecture. Those were the years of
panty raids and of streaking nude in town at night. Didier did not like the idea of
panty raids, and he said, "I will inaugurate some Happenings to release the tension."
Victor Ramey, who is still a friend and neighbor of ours and had been a student of
mine and of Didier's, helped inaugurate the first Happening.
They were harmless, little things. At one point Victor Ramey dressed up like a
laborer and came in with a ladder and a hose and fiddle-faddled with some electric
equipment. In the end he let loose water on the audience. [laughter] At another
Happening Didier had a Chinese student jump up on the bench and recite
something from the Christian Bible in Chinese. At one Happening a motorcycle
Then somebody went to [U.F. President Stephen C.] O'Connell and said: "Graeffe
does terrible things. He is ruining the University Auditorium," where the lectures
took place. We came home after a successful Happening, but Didier always saw to
it that everything was cleaned up and that nothing was destroyed. The head of the
department, Clarence Derrick, called, and Didier had to go to O'Connell with
Clarence Derrick. When they got to O'Connell's office, where he was supposed to
be reprimanded or something, O'Connell had to leave for Tallahassee and was not
there. The dean was very much in favor of Didier, and so was Clarence Derrick,
and they all had a good laugh about it. But Didier said, "If there is ever any trouble, I
will stop the Happenings." He never had another Happening.
R: I bet the students missed it.
G: So this must have been in the late 1960s, because in 1970 Didier went to Africa at
his own expense in order to inaugurate African humanities. Before he went he
needed a letter of recommendation from President O'Connell for the different
consulates in the different countries where he was going to go. He met O'Connell at
a lunch counter somewhere, and Didier sidled up to him and introduced himself and
said, "Am I still under a cloud on account of my Happenings, which I have stopped?"
O'Connell had to laugh a little, and then Didier told him he needed a letter of
recommendation for a trip to Africa, and he got the letter. [laughter]
G: So that was all right.
R: Did he have a good time while he was over there? How long did he stay in Africa?
G: Seven weeks, in 1970.
R: Now, you had stopped teaching by that time?
G: No. I stopped in 1971; I was still teaching. He came back early in September
, and I taught the first semester still. Then I stopped early in 1971.
R: At what point did you build your house down near Micanopy?
G: We moved to Micanopy twenty-six or twenty-seven years ago, after I had gotten my
doctorate in 1965. I got the job with Jimmy Hodges, but then there was some
problem that I did not know about at first. Somebody said that two Graeffes should
not teach in the University College, that that was not right. They let me teach on
probation the first year, and then dear darling Jimmy Hodges went to bat for me. I
had taken my first salary and bought for myself, for the first time in my life, a brand
new car. The car at that time was only about $6,000 or so, or not even that much
for a brand new one; I have forgotten. But for the rest I invited Didier for a trip to
Europe. We blew my whole first year's salary on a car and a trip to Europe.
While we were on my sixtieth birthday in Rekjavik, Iceland, Didier suddenly said to
me: "Lottekin, sit down. I want to talk to you." I said, "What about?" and he said:
"What do we do with all the money if they hire you again? We are not the people
who take huge trips every year. I would think that we should sell the farm and have
a house built while we are both still teaching. Then we will have a place for our old
age." He thought I would burst into tears and reject it, but I said, "That is a
marvelous idea." So we made a deal: we lived as always on his salary, and all my
salary from then on, after the first year, went for savings for the land and the
We saved for a year, and then we bought three and a half acres for less than $4,000
cash. Then we started [our building plans]. We got Dan Branch, a former student of
Didier's, to design the house for us, and "Morrie" [J. Morris] Trimmer, who is still a
professor here now, as a builder and who was a Quaker friend of mine. I said: "A
Quaker would not cheat us. We will not overpay at all." Then all of my salaries went
into the house, and we have never had a mortgage on that house and not a penny
R: I remember so well that when the house was built it was a very unusual house, and
everybody in Gainesville wanted to see it. They put a picture of the house in the
paper and wrote an article about it, so you had everybody coming down there to see
the strange house. Describe it for us.
G: Well, it is Bauhaus inspired. People who know about German art and the Bauhaus
of the early 1930s and artists like Paul Klee know that this house is Bauhaus.
"Building house" is Bauhaus translated. Well, I love the house. Didier and I spent
eighteen years there together, and we had never spent--either one of us--eighteen
years in the same house in all our lives.
We were born before World War I, which disrupted everything. The revolution,
study years, the Second World War, emigration to America, five years at Michigan,
two at Nebraska, three at Columbia (Missouri), and then, hurray! from 1948 until
now, Florida. So Florida is really my home, and in spite of my accent I feel
absolutely at home in America, and especially in Florida and the Micanopy area,
even though everybody realizes that I am not American-born and that I am also--I
cannot help it--quite European.
R: And you had peacocks all that time.
G: Yes, I still have the peacocks, and I have a dog. I have learned to live alone since
Didier died just six years ago.
R: Tell us about the circular stairway and the swimming pool.
G: Well, Didier always wanted a high house with a good view. We did not have much
money; you would hardly believe it. The building of this house cost us only $22,000.
R: You don't mean it!
G: Yes, because we paid cash for everything, and the house is very simple. It is
cement block, and it is a cube.
R: Three stories.
G: Yes, but really actually two closed stories. Then the roof and lower part are open.
But it is a cube with a straight staircase and a round deck, an over-deck attic, and
the round silo-like tower added on. It is a very simple house, and everything, like
the plumbing, is in a straight line. So it has no protrusions. For tax purposes--we
did not know this when we built it, but we found out later--they measure the outline
at the bottom, [which is] twenty-eight by twenty-eight feet. They do not figure the
height for property taxes.
R: I did not know that.
G: Not in Florida. But with houses like yours here they take every roundness, every
patio, every porch. With this house they take twenty-eight by twenty-eight. When
we got our first tax bill I called up, convinced there was a mistake. I said to the
young woman who answered and pulled my file: "Was there a mistake? A year ago
we paid tax only for the land, and now it is more." She said, "Did you put a house on
it? I have a photo of a house." I said yes, and she said, "Well, that is the
R: Lotte, let us shift for a moment to remembering the social atmosphere on campus as
regards social life and the way the students dressed and the way the faculty dressed
and moral questions like abortion and divorce. If you care to talk about any of that,
G: The atmosphere when we first came in 1948 was very, very different. For instance,
I remember concerts. The whole music department went to every concert of every
member of the faculty, and there were parties afterwards. Didier and I were
included because we were so interested in music. But we always dressed up to the
hilt for those parties.
R: Right. They were lots of fun.
G: I still remember that years later when Reid Poole was music department head we
were in a concert, and there was a male student who came in wearing a funny T-
shirt and shorts and sat in the front row. Reid Poole got up and asked him to sit
somewhere else in the back and [to] come properly dressed to a concert. [laughter]
I do not remember the year, but I do remember Reid doing that; I have never
The moral standards were so different. I remember that one young member of the
humanities department was dismissed and his contract was not renewed because
he had gotten a divorce. People did not get a divorce. When I think about it, now
there is racial mixture and mixed marriages among the faculty of this University.
That is a long step forward.
I remember Cauncille Blye--that must have been before 1953. Cauncille Blye was a
high school student here trying to get into the University, and he was refused
admission. Some student friends of ours called us and asked whether we would sit
down with a Negro at the dinner table. Didier and I said, "Yes, of course." That was
Cauncille Blye. That is how our personal friendship with Cauncille Blye started that
continued forever. Cauncille got his degrees somewhere else--I think in Alabama.
He later came back here as a faculty member [in the Department of English]. Then,
aswe all know, he was murdered. There was the terrible [incident in the summer of
1971 in which a group of black students forced their way into President O'Connell's
office, demanding that the University hire more black professors] that we call the
"Cauncille Blye Summer." Didier and I had become close friends with Cauncille
Blye. He was a very unhappy human being with a big chip on his shoulders.
Because we felt sorry for this rich Negro with a very fancy house and all that, we
invited him for lunch at least once a month for soup, sandwiches, and fruit at our
house, just he alone. And we would talk. He could talk about things that had hurt
him, personal troubles.
We had him for lunch at our house before we flew to New York for the last
performance of Lot's Wife at Sarah Lawrence College on a Friday. On that Saturday
he was murdered. When we came back he was missing, and the police never
believed us. For some reason it was established that the Graeffes were stupid, old
fuddy-duddies who did not get their memories right. [They wanted everybody to
believe that] Cauncille Blye was murdered a week earlier. We had been asked by
some authoritative people three times in the course of the two years before the trial
came [to] court about his murder to change our story. Didier and I both said, "No
way!" I had written in my calendar when he came for lunch. He was going to go to
New York, too. We were meeting in New York for the performance of Lot's Wife.
He stood us up, as we thought, but he never got to New York.
R: He was murdered.
G: That is a bad chapter. We were very resentful of the local authorities who denied
our sanity. We were witnesses in the trial.
R: What purpose would they have to deny the date?
G: I do not think I should go into it.
To come back to Lalia Boone, she was the first woman to get a doctor's degree
here, and I think I was the first foreign-born woman who got a doctor's degree [in
English], but I have not followed up on it.
Things on campus have changed very much. When I was a teacher I always taught
wearing stockings and dresses and earrings and a little bit of lipstick, when privately
I wore blue jeans. As you mentioned, it was Bertha Bloodworth who was the first
one who went here with pink, long slacks. Bertha could be quite a character.
Bertha and I were graduate students together. We had a Shakespeare course
together with Walter Herbert, and we had some other course together with one
teacher who wanted to teach us how to teach English. (I have forgotten the name.)
Bertha and I, when we were both teachers, shared an office. We had a little
"gentleman's agreement," so to speak, that if she ever wanted to be alone with a
student to discuss something, or I, we would signal in a certain way to each other,
and the other person would leave. It happened once that a young student wanted to
talk to me. I signalled to Bertha, and Bertha promptly got up and left us alone until
we were through with our conference.
R: Was Winifred Dusenbury Frazer also a student?
G: I knew Win Dusenbury first as the wife of [Delwin B.] Dusenbury, the drama
department head [until he resigned in 1955], and as the mother of David and
Richard. David Dusenbury and his wife and children still visit me once in a while
when they come to Micanopy to visit my neighbor, Victor Ramey. Win Dusenbury
became a doctoral candidate, and then she got her doctorate.
R: I believe the older boy was David Dusenbury.
G: Yes. I did not know Richard as well as David. Then Win Dusenbury became an
English teacher. At some point we were colleagues together, so I remember her as
a teacher and a colleague in the department, just as I remember Ray Beirne and all
the department heads. They were lovely old men.
I remember, for instance, once when things were loosening up. Once I was in a
writing lab, and freshman students had to write papers. One student who happened
to be a professor's son from here, wrote me a very nasty, indecent, pornographic
paper. When I read it I called him and said: "Listen. I do not accept this paper." He
said, "Why not?" I said: "It is pornography. You are insulting me. I will not have it."
He said, "But it is an English paper." I said, "Yes, but in the first three sentences
you have already three or five spelling mistakes." Then I had a flash of insight. I
said: "Listen carefully. Go back to your seat and think. I will give you five minutes to
consider whether you should take this paper back and write me another one or
come with me to the department head, Jake [Jacob H.] Wise, and read this paper
out loud to him and me."
R: Good for you. [laughter]
G: He went back to his seat and came back after three minutes and said, "Mrs. G., I will
write you another paper." Then we became good friends. It is funny how
sometimes a cloud or negative encounter can lead to friendship. He later worked in
the library where Mrs. [Margaret] Duer. Do you remember her?
G: I remember her, frankly, as a sourpuss. He was working there, and at that time we
always had to pay fines when we gave books back late. This young man was there,
and when he saw me come with books he said, "Come over here, Mrs. G." I never
had to pay a fine. But by the same token, when I worked for my doctorate and
wanted to take out certain volumes home with permission of Dr. Pyles, it was Mrs.
Duer who said she could not let me take them out. I was a brat. I knew I had the
letter from Pyles and could take them out, but Mrs. Duer would not let me have
them. I said, "Mrs. Duer, how long are you on duty today?" She said until five. I
said, "OK. I will come back at six and get the books."
R: Oh, you naughty girl. [laughter]
G: At one point, she--this is what Tom Pyles told me--refused Tom Pyles certain books.
He wanted to take out, in her opinion, too many, and she said, "Dr. Pyles, I do not
think I can let you take out that many books." Tom Pyles said: "Mrs. Duer, I am in
charge of the medieval English department. I must be able to take out all the books
I want to." She said, "I am not so sure." Then Tom Pyles, who told me this himself,
slammed the books on the counter and said: "Keep your books. But you will hear
about this." She called after him and said, "Dr. Pyles, please take them." He said,
"No way!" He wrote a letter to the president with a carbon copy to the head of all the
libraries and to the head of the English department complaining about Mrs. Duer.
[laughter] So there are funny incidents, too, that happened.
R: Yes, indeed. The University was small enough then that everybody knew everybody
G: In the faculty in the beginning, yes. I do not think that I knew the people in the
R: But I mean in the liberal arts.
G: Yes, in the liberal arts everybody knew everybody. That is correct.
R: Lotte, I want to thank you for coming this morning and for giving us such a
wonderfully interesting account of your life and the life of your husband, Dr. Didier
Graeffe, at this University. I want to tell you that we will put the typed copy of this,
after you have corrected it, into the files at the Oral History Project archives in the
Florida Museum of Natural History so that it will be available for future generations of
historians and friends of the University. Thank you so much.
G: Well, thank you. It was a pleasure for me. I fully agree that it should go in the