Title: Charles Jackson Helseth
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Title: Charles Jackson Helseth
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This Oral History is copyrighted by the Interviewee
and the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of

Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
All rights, reserved.

This oral history may be used for research,
instruction, and private study under the provisions
of Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of United States
Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section
107) which allows limited use of copyrighted
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Fair use limts the amount of material that may be

For all other permissions and requests, contact the
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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

you think?

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

of thing.

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?

H:Comsi comsa.

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

amplified music.

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

items anymore.

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,

full retirement.

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

in here?

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

originally envisioned.

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?


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