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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewer: Lawrence Newcomb
Interviewee: Charles Helseth
N:I was saying, when I first came to Gainesville in 1979, 1980,
the Halloween Ball was taking place at the bandshell at that
time. I never went, I heard it got pretty outrageous at
times. I did not make the opportunity to go and since, I
guess it has just fizzled out.
H:I think they have a program or something, but as an entity I
think the ball/festival is done with.
N:Dr. Proctor has mentioned, the first few years of the ball he
took his grandchildren, or maybe one year, I guess it was
just once he did it. Oh, come on, I will take you to the
Halloween Ball. When he saw what was going on here and some
of the costumes and some of the behaviors, he realized that
was not the greatest idea.
H:Definitely not "G" rated. Definitely somewhere hovering
between "R" and "X" usually, I think.
N:Even so when they moved to Lake Alice Field or the bandshell do
H:I do not know. That was kind of an attempt to clean up their
act a little bit so to speak. But since it was moved out in
that direction, I no longer had anything to do with it.
Back then there was what was called a public functions
committee of which the public functions manager was like a
secretary and then there was the chairman of the committee
and so forth. That body is what gave permission for the
Ball and for various other things. That committee was
disbanded officially, I guess it was actually after I came
under the president's office, somewhere there in the 1980s.
That was the sanctioning body that used to govern that sort
N:You mentioned also the, is it called the "loop" over there in
Turlington, that plaza in front of it?
H:Well various groups I think have their own name for it. I
think technically it is called the Courtyard, the Turlington
Courtyard. Some of the groups call it the "set."
N:That is what I have heard, the "set." And your official
activities sometimes include the Courtyard?
H:Yes, supposedly my office has, I do not know if you call it
authority, but has something to do with outdoor academic
areas, which strangely enough are the areas around
classrooms and things like that, as opposed to areas around
the Union or open areas around the dorm residence halls and
so forth like that. So as far as I am concerned, that
primarily means the Plaza and the Turlington Courtyard.
N:Have you had to provide people come for the podium to bring it
over there to use?
H:Amplified sound is not allowed over there. That is simply too
close to offices and classrooms.
N:Have you had anything to do with scheduling over there?
H:No. Since the amplified sound is not allowed, then you would
basically have no formal events. Normally what you have
over there, just various student groups with tables set up
to display and or distribute literature or something like
that. Occasionally we have things that would require a
permit, like the Gator Ski Club or Lake Wahburg sometimes
display a watercraft out there which needs to be parked up
there, so that would require permission.
N:And we are getting toward my list of activities that go on in
the Plaza of the Americas and perhaps there are some that
you will think of that I have not mentioned. Sporting and
other physical activities, you mentioned hacky-sacers, I
have seen people throwing frisbees. Is that the extent of
sports there or are there organized sports?
H:Pretty much because it does not lend itself to a team sport
like trying to lay out a softball diamond or something like
that. It is primarily just the individual or two-person
things like the hacky sac or throwing the frisbee.
Sometimes you see somebody out there with those sticks, I
forget what they are called where they bounce one stick
around with two or something like that. But mostly
individual things like that.
N:Throwing a baseball, that kind of thing?
H:Not even that so much. I do not even know if I have ever seen
anybody throwing a football or a baseball out there. They
do that on the front yards of some of the fraternities on
13th Street but I do not think I have seen that on the Plaza
N:Have we forgotten anything as far as the activities? We have
talked about the preachers, the Krishnas, the musicians.
Well, I would like to talk about that just a little more.
What have you noticed for music that goes on? We certainly
have a very formalized music program here in the auditorium
but as far as music on the Plaza, what have you noticed?
H:Well thankfully not so much since we put in the prohibition
against the amplified instruments. As I say, we used to
have something out there it seems like a couple of times a
week I would be getting phone calls from people in the
library or people in the Plaza or from the classroom
buildings saying, we cannot hear ourselves think in here.
So since then, it has just been the occasional acoustic
guitar or something like that, either played in conjunction
with some kind of presentation or just as an individual
N:Somebody leaning up against a tree playing guitar?
N:When you would get these calls from say a library official
complaining about the noise, did you have to personally do
something about it?
H:Upon occasion I did go out and tell them, you have to turn that
down or unplug it.
N:Did they comply pretty readily?
N:What was your recourse? Did you call UPD if they did not
H:Yes, they could do that.
N:I had to learn how to do that myself in an apartment that I
lived in in Gainesville. I learned how to dial the
sheriff's office and frequently call the sheriff out and the
sheriff, they would turn it down for the sheriff but they
would not turn it down for me Did it ever get pretty nasty
out there for you?
H:Not really. I mean there were a lot of times when they saw the
suit coming over and then, oh well, he is over thirty, he
does not know what the score is anyway kind of thing.
N:Just trying to spoil our fun.
H:Yes. And like I try to tell them, look, you have fifty people
listening to you and you are annoying 200 people or
something like that, where is the fairness in that? It
probably fell on deaf ears, I do not know.
H:So they did away with that problem, they just abolished
H:That was the only way, there just was not any reasonable hope
for middle ground.
N:Yes, I see that. So we have talked about the Plaza. Now
focusing on the auditorium, it was built in the 1920s. Do
you recall that Atlanta architect?
H:I do not know the name. I have it on that blueprint copy down
in my office.
N:So if anyone wants to know it would be pretty easy to find out.
At the time that it was built, what were the main purposes?
H:Well as far as I know and I hope that this is right because
this is what I have been telling people for twenty years, as
far as I know it was overall used just as it is now, I mean
the overall purpose. Now the main distinction, and this is
where a little bit of misinformation is about, a lot of
people think that it was originally a chapel, church,
whatever. That is not the case. It was built at a time
when chapel services were a part of university life, so
naturally they were held here, as were debates, as were the
men's glee club presentations, as were lectures. This was
the auditorium; this is where everything took place and so
yes, they had chapel services here. President Murphree
[Albert A. Murphree, president, University of Florida, 1909-
1927], he was quite a religious man, I believe. So he
looked upon this as the appropriate location for chapel
services and so forth. But basically it has always been
what it is today. It is a place for musical concerts, a
place for lectures, things like that.
N:I am aware of concert usage because I am handed a list of
events every semester, I teach MUL 2010, so I tell those
people and of course they have to report on six of them so
they are frequently here. Other than concerts, you say
there are still ongoing lectures and debates and--
H:Yes. We do not have classes in here anymore. They used to
teach humanities class in here. Wild Bill Carlton, for whom
Carlton Hall is named, used to hold fort. Now having said
that we do not have classes here, I will have to retract
that slightly. The physics department puts on a series
called Frontiers of Science. It is nine or ten lectures a
semester, which is technically a class but it is lectures
which are open to the public. They are in here.
Occasionally one of the ROTCs will use the facility for some
kind of either orientation ceremony or whatever. Sometimes
they have a visiting admiral or general or whatever and the
will have an ado here. The usage is fairly varied. We do
not have a lot of daytime use, but a lot of evening use by
student organizations, pageants, that is probably the most
common of the non-musical events. I may have wandered
astray here a little bit, I am not sure.
N:No I think we are still basically on track. This is
interesting to me because like I said, I know of the concert
usage but a lot of times during the evening and I did not
know about some of these other usages. In all these cases,
these various organizations or departments, physics
departments, humanities, do they have to go through you and
clear a time?
H:Oh yes. Any use of the auditorium is supposed to come through
me, the scheduling of it.
N:Do you have a great big schedule and you sort of find out when
is available and when it is not.
H:I got dragged, kicking and screaming, into the twentieth
century now that the twenty-first is approaching, so I keep
a calendar on the computer, so I do not have my hand-written
N:Is it sometimes quite a formidable task to accommodate everyone
who wants to use it?
H:Not for me. Sometimes it seems that way to a potential user,
but we have it so that I do not schedule say student
organization use more than six months in advance. This is
to give the departments a chance to get their required
events in because all the major ensembles have to get things
in so we do not want to clutter up the calendar so far ahead
that those departmental things are kind of left out in the
cold. Basically it works o.k. Sometimes for instance, here
again, we are going back to the music department, sometimes
faculty recitels which may not have been scheduled very far
in advance run into difficulty finding open dates if they
are trying to schedule maybe three or four months in
advance. But by and large, considering the number of events
happening, it has gone reasonably well.
N:Before I forget, we talked about Bill Carleton briefly, would
you spell that for me?
N:That is what I would have said, that is what I had.
H:I believe that it is the same as Carleton Auditorium.
N:There is that "e" in there. Who was Bill Carleton that he got
an auditorium named after him?
H:He was very well known around here anyway. [He was a]
humanities professor. He was I guess particularly known for
his bombastic oratory in his classes. Actually, I never had
him for humanities, I had somebody else, I do not remember
off hand. He had been here for a long time; he simply made
a reputation for himself among the students. I am sure
professionally he was also well thought of.
N:Maybe that will happen--
H:He was called "Wild Bill" because of his bombastic oratory.
N:Sam Proctor's reputation proceeded him, that is how I became
aware of this whole activity and then I wound up
in his, thisis very last time he is doing this,
H:Oh yes, he told me he was. It made me jealous.
N:He says he is looking forward to a lot of cruises.
H:He has even been here longer than I have.
N:He has been here a long time, thiry-eight or something? What
about this Friends of Music room that we are sitting in
right now? What is the purpose and usage of this space?
H:Alright, as I understand it, here again, my association with the
auditorium did not begin until it was almost built, almost
completed. But, as I understand it, this space was designed
into the addition. Of course as you know, there was no
lobby space or anything like that in the original building.
Everything from the original north wall of the building was
added on. So this space was added into the plans as a,
well, kind of as a green room but of course not being
connected at all with the stage, technically it could not be
a real green room. It would be for receptions and so forth.
Francis Reitz, who was one of the founders and active in
the group known as Friends of Music, I am assuming this was
her idea. Anyway, the Friends of Music organization took
upon themselves the furnishing of this space by soliciting
donations from their membership or perhaps from vendors,
whatever. Anyway, they undertook the furnishing of the room
and so it was named after that group. It is used for small
luncheons and sometimes breakfasts, receptions following
performances or just receptions for retirement, for superior
accomplishment awards presentation, things like that.
N:Is it sometimes used for recitels, do you have small recitels
H:That was considered to be one of the uses initially although it
has not really happened that much. Once in a while,
sometimes for the Friends of Music, one of the what is
called Friends of Music scholars will perform for them in
here, small setting. That has not happened as much as
N:Who are some of the Friends of Music scholars? Are we talking
about people like David Cushner, Bud Eudell?
H:No, no. Friends of Music scholars are students. The main
purpose of the organization was to raise funds for
scholarships for music students.
N:One thing that immediately strikes me whenever I enter this
building is how neat and clean it is always kept, this room
being a case of point. Is that largely due to your efforts
to keep it such, is it because the doors are locked
sometimes? How do you keep it so beautiful over here?