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INTERVIEWEE: Minnie Mae Edwards
INTERVIEWER: Diana Edwards
Jule 20, 1990
D: [This is an] interview with Minnie Mae Edwards in her home
on DeSoto Street in St. Augustine. Today is July 20, 1990.
Please tell us [your name].
E: My name is.Minnie Mae Butler Edwards. I live at 21 DeSoto
Place [St. Augustine, Florida]. I was born August 10, 1902,
in DuPont, Georgia.
D: When did you come to St. Augustine?
E: I came to St. Augustine around 1911 or 1912, somewhere along
in that year.
D: You lived in Georgia until that time?
E: Yes, I lived with my grandmother.
D: What was her name?
E: Her name was Mary Butler.
D: You told me that she ran a restaurant.
E: She ran a restaurant right near the [Henry B.] Plant system
railroad. She fixed lunches, as I said. The Plant system
ran the railroad through there, and the trains would come
there--it was known as a junction--and they were wired to
fix so many lunches. She would have them already prepared,
sometimes thirty of forty or fifty.
D: For the passengers and the people working on the train?
E: Yes, the crew and all. As I said, trains from Georgia would
come and turn around and go to Florida, and then from from
Florida would go to Georgia.
D: Was that an exciting place to live as a kid, then, at a
E: Yes, because I loved trains, and that was mostly what I did.
D: There were plenty of trains there, right?
E: [There were plenty of] trains running to and fro, to Georgia
D: Now, you said that your grandmother raised you because your
mother died when you were a baby.
E: Yes, my mother died when I was a baby. She was young, and
my father was young.
D: What were your mother's and father's names?
E: My mother's name was Mimi Evans, and my dad's name was Frank
D: He was fairly young when you were born?
E: Yes, he was young, too. He was probably seventeen or
eighteen, from what I can get from what they told me.
D: So your grandmother looked after you until he got old enough
to look after you.
E: Yes. After my mother died, he was quite young. -He left for.
DuPont, it being a little country town, and he lived there.
He had some friends, younger boys, and my grandmother had a
sister that lived in Fernandina. So when he left DuPont, he
went to Fernandina. That was the first place in Florida he
D: What did he do there?
E: Well, he first started working for my aunt and her husband.
D: What did they do? What kind of work was that?
E: They had a pretty good size store, and he picked up cutting
meat and things like that. He was the butcher and the
D: So that is where he learned about running a store.
E: He had that in his mind, I guess. He inherited that
business from his mother by her having this restaurant. I
did not mention this before, but she had a little side place
where she sold fish and drinks and candy and stuff. So I
guess it was just instilled in him to try to be a business
D: Had he helped his mother in the store, then, you think?
E: Well, I guess he had to, because there was nothing but [them
to run it]. He had an older brother.... It is only about
the restaurant, I think.
D: This picture says she ran a restaurant in DuPont, Georgia.
The Plant system railroad, which changed to the Atlantic
Coastline, and [your mother] sold [meals] to all the train
crews. Her name was Mary Griffin Butler, now Montgomery
Gordon. Is that all of her name? Are those her names, too?
E: Well, yes. All of her husbands died, and she remarried.
D: Oh, so she was a widow, several times a widow.
E: Yes, she was.
D: And [she was the] mother of Shelly Butler, Frank, Jessie,
Corrine, and Alice. So your father had five [children] in
his family, I guess. So your grandmother brought you to St.-
Augustine when you came down here?
E: Yes, she brought me.
D: So your father had moved from Fernandina.
E: Yes, he had moved from Fernandina. They had a little
falling out or something. He stopped working with his uncle
and was working for this same regent of Salvador that ran
this fish market down [where ?].
D: Oh, the original Salvador? Was that the grandfather or
something of this Salvador?
E: It was the grandfather or great-grandfather. It has been so
long. [laughter] He had a bar, and he left them and
started working for him as a bartender.
D: Here in St. Augustine?
E: No, in Fernandina.
D: Oh, before Salvador came.
E: Before he came here. After working with him, Mr. Essie
Snyder, a Jew person, had a business here. He was a
cattleman, I think; he had a lot of cows and stuff. He had
a meat market and grocery store.
D: Here in Lincolnville?
E: Yes, down there in Lincolville. Somehow my daddy got a job
with Mr. Snyder cutting meat, and he cut meat for him for
quite a while. Then he decided he wanted to go into
business for himself.
D: Now, had he just saved enough money to do that, or how did
he get enough money together to start a business of his own?
E: Well, I think Mr. Snyder liked him so well. As he found out
he was so ambitious to try to do something for himself, he
just helped him.
D: Oh, well, that was good. So he learned more about having a
store, plus he got some help from Mr. Snyder.
E: That is right, he got help from Mr. Snyder.
D: At the time that you came'to St. Augustine to live with your
dad, was he still working [for Mr. Snyder]? Where was he
working at that point? That would have about 1913, you
said, when you came.
E: It was 1913. That was the place down on Washington Street.
D: So when you came, he already had a store on Washington
E: Yes, he had a store on Washington Street.
D: And that was mostly a meat store?
E: Meat market and grocery store.
D: Now, in this tintype of your grandfather, it says that he
was a fisherman/restauranteur in DuPont, Georgia, and you
say in this picture he has pails of lemonade? What was he
doing with those?
E: On the passenger trains that came through they gave him
permission to go up on the train and sell glasses of
D: Oh, that was probably very popular with the passengers,
especially in the summer.
E: Yes. [laughter]
D: So your father learned a lot of business even from his
E: That is right, I guess.
D: Now, I see this picture of your grandmother, Mary Griffin
E: This is her here. That was when she was thirty-five years
old. This is when she was eighty-three, I think, just
before she died.
D: She has such a strong face. You say she was part Indian?
E: Yes, she was part Indian. Her daddy was an Indian.
D: Do you know which group of Indians?
E: I really do not know, to tell you the truth. See, I do not
have any older people to help me out.
D: You have to do what you can on your own.
E: He would have to put me up in the chair. See my hand like
that? That is a silver dollar in my hand.
D: He knew how to keep you quiet. [laughter] On the label
here says Minni Butler Hadley Edwards. So you left out one
of your names when you told me your name. Frank Butler and
Mamie Butler. So he would come back and visit you pretty
frequently when he was working down here?
E: Yes. This happened in Fernandina.
D: Oh, this picture was taken in Fernandina. Do you know which
photographer might have taken that picture?
E: No. Lord, I do not know anything about that.
D: Can you describe his first store? What was the address?
E: Eighty-seven and a half Washington Street.
D: Now, that was the main business street of Lincolnville in
E: Yes, that was the main business street of Linconville at
D: He would have opened that store in 1912 or 1913?
E: He had the store open when I came down from Georgia.
D: So he probably had not had it very long at that time.
E: Well, he probably had it around 1910 or 1911.
D: So he was in business for himself fairly young.
E: Yes, he was in business for himself. Then he was married,
D: When did he remarry?
E: I really do not know the date, but he married in Fernandina
before he came to St. Augustine.
D: So by the time you came you had a stepmother.
E: Yes, I had a stepmother.
D: What was her name?
E: Her name was Minnie Elizabeth.
D: How did you both get the name Minnie?
E: Minnie Elizabeth Norris. She was a Norris.
D: So when you first came you said you started school at the
E: Yes, I started at the Excelsior.
D: You were going to describe your schooling in Georgia and
then how you started here.
E: I think I mentioned they had only three months for the year,
and that is why I guess was so far behind, being as old as I
D: Was the school for white kids open longer, or were all the
schools open for only three months?
E: All the schools at that time only had three months.
D: Probably because the kids worked in the fields and so on.
E: I imagine so. That is one thing about me--I never did know
nothing about no field work, because I came up in the
stores. [laughter] My grandmother had this restaurant, and
then after I came here my daddy was in business. So I,have
always been in a store, running from stores.
D: So probably going to school was a treat for you.
E: It was a treat for me. As I said, I started at Excelsior.
I guess this is too funny to tell.
D: I do not know. Tell me, and if it is too funny we will take
it out. Go ahead.
E: I was here about three months, and the older people at that
time were not like they are now. I guess they figured it
was the wrong thing to do for boys and girls to walk
together from school.
D: Not even just to talk? You could not be friends with a boy?
E: You could not talk or be friends with them at all, not too
close. This little boy played in the band, and we were
nothing but children.
D: Well, you were what? Twelve years old then?
E: Twelve or thirteen, somewhere along in there. I come home
and told my dad that I was walking home with a boy that
played in the band.
D: Oh, oh. What happened?
E: Well, then there was Martha Perry, a Presbyterian school. I
think I showed you the ploor.
D: You showed me your graduation certificate once from there.
E: That is right. So Papa moved me from Excelsior and started
me at this boarding school. I did not board there, but they
did have students that did. He started me off there.
D: He was not going to have you going to the public school if
you were going to talk to boys. [laughter] So parents were
E: Yes, they were. They were right up to you. When they said
one thing, they meant that.
D: I see. And he told you why he.moved you out of the school?
E: Yes, on account of the young man.
D: But were there boys in the Presbyterian school, too?
E: Well, there were not as many boys there. There were more
girls than boys, and they did not have any band. We had a
very strict professor. There was nobody but him and his
wife and one more teacher. At that time they probably did
not have but maybe a hundred students altogether. Some of
them would stay.
D: Some of them boarded and some were day students.
E: That is right.
D: So that was a private school? You had to pay for that?
E: Yes, you had to pay for that.
D: Do you remember what it cost to go to school?
E: I really do not, but it was quite reasonable. Maybe two
dollars a week, or a dollar and a half or something.
Students were going in and out. I did not know what it was
for the board.
D: Who were the people that you said--the professor and his
E: Her name was Mary, I believe, and his name was R. J.
D: So this is your diploma from the Presbyterian Parochial,
Industrial, and High School of St. Augustine, Florida. Mary
Cooper was superintendent of the home, and Rev. James Cooper
was the principal and the teacher. So you went to the
Presbyterian school until what grade?
E: Well, at that time they did not go any higher than tenth
D: So you finished tenth grade.
D: Then what did you do?
E: Well, it was in my mind that I wanted to be a home economics
teacher, but this was during the world war.
D: What year did you graduate?
E: 1921. That was in 1918.
D: World War I, yes.
E: See, they were short of help of menfolk that could get to
work, and my daddy said he needed me to help him in the
store. My stepmother did not like working in stores. So
for that reason I did not get any further in school.
Whatever I do know I picked up from experience, as far as
bookkeeping and all. I just learned that from him.
D: It must have been hard to learn some of that one your own,
though. Did your dad show you bookkeeping and so on?
E: Yes, he showed me that.
D: So you worked in the store from grade ten, in 1918. How old
were you then? You would have been only sixteen then. You
graduated in 1918, so you would have been just sixteen.
E: No, I graduated in 1921.
D: Oh, you are right. I am sorry. I remembered it wrong.
E: I graduated in 1921.
D: Now, when this picture you have that Richard Twine took of
you, [how old were you]?
E: I was around fifteen years old.
D: So that was not a graduation picture. That was just a
picture that you had taken.
D: So you just went to his studio and had a picture taken?
E: We had a picture taken.
D: Do you remember anything about his studio?
E: No, I really do not. I just know he took pictures. As I
said, my daddy had me working at the store, and I mean that
was working in the store.
D: Every day you worked in the store?
E: Every day I worked in the store.
D: What did you do for a social life?
E: I did not have any. Now, that is the truth.
D: Now, you told me once that you father fined you if you were
late to work. Is that right?
E: Oh, yes. That is true.
D: What did he do?
E: He charged me one cent for each minute that I was late to
D: And if you forgot your apron?
E: If I forgot my apron, [he fined me] twenty-five cents. We
kept chickens and turkeys and all that. We had a big coop
in the back where we kept all the poultry, and if I forgot
to lock that lock, that was twenty-five cents. I was only
getting three dollars and a half a week.
D: A week? And he would fine you twenty-five cents?
E: He did that.
D: I see. How did you ever meet your husband then?
E: Well, really the young man that my father did let come to
the house twice.
D: Now, this was Mr. Hedley?
E: No, this was a young man here named Frank Woods. They lived
out west. But I had to finish school. No little boys or
nobody did not come to see me while I was in school.
D: You were not allowed to have any visitors while you were in
E: No. Boys and books did not go together.
D: I see. Well, maybe so. [laughter]
E: So he said after I finished school that he would let me see
this young man. This is the same young that I walked home
D: Oh, really? That is funny! [laughter]
E: He came one Sunday afternoon. My stepmother had two of her
sisters here. One was named Leigh, and the girl was named
Wilamie. During the time that this young man came in and
sat down in the living room, they let the little boy come
sit in the living room with me. He stayed maybe about an
hour. The next week it was-on a Thursday, I believe, that
he came in the afternoon and sat a little while. My
stepmother said, "No. Once a week is enough." He could not
come back. [laughter]
D: So was that the only visit the entire time they stayed here?
E: That was the only visit.
D: And that was the end of your social life for a while?
E: That was the end of my social life for a while. Well, I
guess that was the end of it, because no one came to see me
because he would not let no one.
D: Were all the girls' fathers that strict?
E: No, they were not. I had lots of girl friends, and whenever
they had socials and stuff like that they would come by and
throw invitations up on the porch. "Minnie Mae, we are just
letting you know what is happening, because we know Frank
Butler is not going to let you go."
D: Oh. You must have felt very badly.
E: Well, I was just in a convent. It was worse than a convent.
D: Yes. And you had to work so hard besides.
E: I worked so hard. I was an A.M.E. Methodist, and we were
having Sunday school in the mornings. See, at that time
they used to run the business on Sunday, too.
D: Oh, they did? I thought the Sunday law [kept businesses
closed on Sundays].
E: Not along in there. Some of those pictures that we have of
the store were taken on a Sunday.
D: How did he have them take the pictures of the store? Did
your dad ask him to come?
E: I think he must have asked him to come and take the
D: So that was a regular job for him, to come and take pictures
of the various stores and so on?
E: Yes, I imagine it was. I think I went to the Catholic
Sunday school once or twice. I had a girl friend, and she
used to go to school. She said, "After Sunday school
is over, we will walk down to the fort." We walked down to
the fort that morning, and I did not come back home the
regular time Papa thought I should come. He came down to
the fort with a strap.
D: Oh, he was strict. Other people in the community have told
us that they would go Sunday school just so they would be
able to go to the fort, because that was a big social thing.
E: They would go to the fort. Some of these historic papers
that I have say that that used to be the place for the young
people to walk was down to the fort.
D: So that was how they could meet each'other and talk.
E: That is right. He did not hit me or anything, but he had
this strap, and I knew what to do.
D: Did you get angry with him?
E: Oh, I imagine I did. It has been so long.
D: Well, how did you ever meet your young man to get married?
E: I will tell you where I met him. I stayed with this lady
here, my aunt, a few months. After she moved from DuPont,
Georgia, she moved to Waycross. I stayed with her about
five or six months. That was previous to the time I came to
stay with my dad because she was sickly. I went to visit
her, and in visiting her, these children's daddy [what about
D: Your first husband?
E: Yes. That is where I met him.
D: What was his name?
E: His name-was Gerald Hadley. The people would just be
talking and walking around the streets, and more than likely
I was sitting on the porch or something like that. He
stopped to talk with me, and he asked my aunt if it would be
all right if we would walk down to the cafe or something
like that. So that is the way that courtship started.
D: That is how you met him.
E: Seeing how my daddy was so strict on me, I was glad to get
away from him.
D: I guess. So when did you get married then? How old were
you when you met Mr. Hedley?
E: I guess I must have been twenty-two or twenty-three.
D: That is pretty old to get married back then.
E: Yes, it was. But I did not have any contact.
D: I can see that. Unless somebody came in the store, you
would never have seen anyone. But he lived in Waycross,
E: Yes, he lived in Waycross.
D: But you had to come back here to work in the store.
E: Yes, I had to come back here and work in the store.
D: So how could you have a family life?
E: Well, not after I was married.
D: Oh, so you stayed up there then.
E: I stayed up there after I married, because that is where my
aunt was. See, she felt like a mother. She was younger
than my grandmother, and she felt more like my mother, I
guess. So that the way I met the children's daddy.
D: When was your first child born?
E: My first child was born on the 27th of February.
D: Was that your son?
E: That was my daughter.
D: What year?
E: I think it was 1927.
D: You had three children?
E: No, I just had the two children.
D: A son and a daughter.
E: Yes, a son and a daughter.
D: When was your son born?
E: There is just thirteen months' difference between the two.
D: Oh, so they are probably close.
E: Yes, they were really close, and my aunt. She helped me
with the children. She was sickly herself. I married and
never came back into her house. She had one baby and I
would have a baby, because there was not but thirteen
months' difference between the two.
D: So that house was full of babies.
E: Yes. That is my daughter.
D: She is a nurse?
E: She was a nurse. She died; this coming January will be
D: Oh, she was young.
E: Yes. She was staying here with me after she started getting
so sickly that she had to give up her home. She had a place
out there on [where ?]
D: How long did you live in Georgia?
E: Let me see. We did not stay together more than about three
years because he was so jealous. He did not want me to go
D: So you sort of went from the frying pan into the fire.
E: He worked in the railroad shops at that time, and he did not
get off till around three o'clock. If we had an afternoon
service, I had to wait until he came home. We did not have
a bathroom then, and I would have to have his water poured
up and his clothes laid out, the towels and everything.
When he came and started to get ready, I would already be
cooked. Then I could go to church. But by the time I got
to church, it was time for church to turn out.
D: It does not sound to me like being a woman was the best
thing for you. [laughter] I think you would have been
better off to be your father or your husband, but not you.
What was the most fun thing that you did? Did you have
anything you were allowed to do? You changed diapers, I
E: I guess so. I want to tell you something really
unreasonable. After marrying to the children' daddy he
lived in a place they called Pine Park, Georgia. That was
up there somewhere near Quitman or somewhere around up in
that area. I have a.picture of Gloria somewhere in there
where she was just about three months old, and we went to
visit his people. He loved collard greens, so his mother
got up [and got some for him]. The train must have arrived
around about two or three o'clock in the morning, and she
got up and the greens were sprouting out, and she went
outdoors and got the little tender leaves off of the greens
and cooked them the whole day in the morning. He loved them
so. When she got those greens fixed, he decided he did not
want them. It was five or six o'clock in the morning by
He said he loved greens so well, when we came back from
visiting his mother, the first or second meal, I imagine, we
had been back about three or four weeks, probably, I cooked
some collard greens, too, and maybe some other type of meat.
When he came in, I told him that his supper was ready. He
asked, "What do you have?" and I told him. He said, "I do
not want any food?
D: It sounds like he real nice.
E: So he walked on out the back door.
D: He did not eat dinner at all?
E: He did not eat dinner.
D: Was he an only child or something? How did he get so
E: He was the only boy. There were six girls and one boy, and
they had him spoiled.
D: So he could do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted.
E: Everything he wanted. Really, they were all nice to me.
They were very nice to me. They said I was a nice person,
but he was just spoiled. So I said, "Well, poor me. I just
have a hard time."
D: How did you decide [to break up]? Did you leave him, or did
he leave you?
E: Well, at that time it was another train, a railroad, they
called the Georgia Southern, or something, that came from
Waycross into Valdosta. It was a roundabout way. So while
he was at work I told myself I was going to get away. There
was a gentleman there named George, and he was a hackman. I
had packed my clothes and everything, and I told her that I
was just going to leave him.
D: So you just left.
E: I just left, and I came here. I was in Waycross, and I came
here. Gloria was near two years old.
D: What did your dad say about that?
E: Well, he welcomed me back and everything.
D: Did Hadley come after you, or did he just say, well, that's
E: Do you know what? Somehow or another he got a car or cab,
and when I was fixing to get on the train--I had to change
in Valdosta coming back here--[and he caught up to me].
D: So Gloria was two and your son was one.
E: No, I was pregnant with him, but I did not know it at that
time. I had a time! Anyway, I came on back, and I told the
conductor that he was threatening me with a knife, so the
conductor told him he was putting him off of the train.
D: Was he threatening you with a knife, or did you just say
E: No, he said he had a knife and that he was going to cut me
on the train.
D: So the conductor got him off and you got away?
E: Yes, he got him off and I got away. He did not try to come
D: That was the last you saw of him?
E: No, he came here when Gloria was near two. He got a cab and
came from Waycross here. That time, Papa had another store
further down on Grenada Street, and he went off and stayed
so long till I got kind of nervous. He said, "Doesn't the
baby need some milk or something?" He went and stayed so
long I went down to the corner to see if I could see him
with Gloria. The gentleman said, "I saw a gentleman pass by
here, but he did not go into Mr. Butler's store." There was
a little alleyway, and he went through this alleyway with
the baby. He took that child and had the man with a cab out
there on Cordoba Street, and put her in that cab. He took
her back to Waycross.
E: When I actually found out that the child was gone, I went
and told my .
D: Wait. Did your father have her?
E: No, he had her. He had hired a cab to come here to try to
steal her. I thought he was going to carry the child down
to my daddy's other place, see.
D: To the store.
E: To the store. I was up to the other store; he had two
stores at that time. He said, "No, he has not been down
there. Someone said they had seen him go through this
little alleyway." He had that cab driver [wait], and they
got in that cab. So Papa got into it with the old man. He
was named Boyst, and he was the sheriff. So they said after
he had crossed the Georgia/Florida line, there was nothing
he could do. Whatever would have to happen would have to
happen in Georgia, see. So as soon as he was in Georgia
D: So what did you do?
E: Well, he had his sister--I told you there were six girls--
and I got in touch with my aunt, the same one here, and she
got in touch with Daisy. Daisy said, "Yes, you will come
bring Avis (she called him) come bringing Gloria here. She
said, "You know good and well I have four or five children.
I cannot give Gloria the service that you all give." See,
she was a premature baby, and we had to do everything to try
to save her. She was born at home. The hospital was there,
but it was a railroad hospital, and they did not take any
pregnant cases or anything like that.
D: So she had a midwife?
E: We had a midwife and a doctor. There was a black doctor
there, Dr. Roberts. He was very good. We had him.
D: Dr. Roberts .?
E: In Georgia. There was a Roberts here, too. So I called my
aunt's sister and talked to her, and she said, "Daisy said
she cannot keep Gloria because she cannot give her the care
that we had given her." Then she said, "I am sickly" (she
suffered with asthma) "but you know I will do everything I
can to keep her until you can get yourself together to come
get her." She kept her about a year, before Rudolph was
born. Then I went.
D: So you did not see her for a year?
E: No, I did not see her for a year.
D: Oh, you must have been really upset. But your son was born
in the meantime.
E: Yes, he was born, but not here. After I went back to him.
D: So you did go back to him.
E: Yes, I went back to him. I thought that he was going to do
D: But he did not?
E: He got worse. Then I had the two babies, and that is how
come I tell you she would have one baby nursing it for me,
and I would have the other. Gloria had been walking three
weeks when Rudolph was born.
D: How long did you stay together that time?
E: Well, we stayed together maybe about four or five months.
D: And then you had it and came back home.
E: I came back here to my daddy, and I brought both of the
D: Then did they stay in contact with their father?
E: No. After he kept on writing and calling, and he found out
that I actually was not going back to him anymore, [he
stopped]. The first time you go back, if you do not make
it, the second time is worse. So he left and went to New
Jersey. So I never did go back to him anymore.
D: Have the kids had any contact with him?
E: Well, Gloria did, because after she finished high school and
everything she took up nurse training right there in
Jacksonville at Brewster's hospital. She got a job in
Brooklyn, New York, and he was in New Jersey. By him having
somemore aunts up there, that is the way she made contact
with him. But he never gave her anything. They tell me he
just turned out to just drink, drink, drink. He died after
I do not know exactly how many years it was. Anyway,
he died after Edwards died, my husband Edwards.
D: What was your second husband's name?
E: His name was Clyde Edwards. While I was up there tending to
my aunt being sick, that is where I met him. His wife was a
hair dresser, and she was taking care of her sister's
children. I just always said to myself that man is so nice
to his wife and children, not thinking that he was going to
be her husband or mine. So after she died and me going to
him to see about my aunt and all, he saw me one day and said
to me, "Young lady, why don't you let me come by and see you
some time and play with the children?" I said, "You can
just come by if you want to some time." That is the way I
met him, not knowing that we were going to get married or
anything, but I did know that he did like children. I had
the privilege to marry other people, but I did not want to
marry anybody that would dog my children, because I was not
going to stand that. See, they were five or six years old
before I married Edwards.
D: So Mr. Edwards was really more like their father.
E: Yes, he was more like their father. Especially Rudolph had
no contact at all with him. Rudolph saw.him I think when he
must have been around five or six years older or a little bit
older before he ever saw him to know who he was.
D: So you came back to St. Augustine after Mr. Edwards died?
D: So you spent a lot of your life in Georgia.
E: Yes, I spent a lot of time off and on. After Papa got tired
with the beach out here and had the stores, I would just
come back probably every six weeks or something like that to
D: Tell me how he got from stores into real estate? How did
E: Well, I think [Florida senator] Mr. Frank Upchurch, Sr.,
knew some people, he and Mr. [first name ?] Mickler. The
Mickler daughter works up there in the First Union Bank now.
It was some property, I think, that they had bought through
some tax sales, and they saw so much in Papa I guess they
could tell that he was a businessman. They always were in
politics, too, at that time. From one thing to the other,
they got involved in property. That is where he started off
in real estate, through Mr. Upchurch and Mr. Mickler.
D: You told me a story one time about the beach, but I cannot
remember exactly how it was. It was something about a white
woman from New York or somewhere came down.
E: She came down from New York, and she was staying at St.
Augustine Beach. The maid was black, and she just took the
white children out on the beach. Blacks were not allowed to
go on St. Augustine beaches.
D: So there were no beaches along here that black people could
E: There was no place that they could go to. They arrested
D: The maid.
E: This was rich white people. Somewhere or another they had a
suit or something, and I think they squashed it on
Anyway, that is what came into Papa's mind about having some
place for the black children and grown people to attend.
D: So how did he come by that property then? How was he able
to buy that property?
E: Well, Mr. Upchurch and Mr. [first name ?] Markman and
[Florida] Senator [Verle A.] Pope and all those were younger
people, and they just seemed to like Papa. They could just
see something in him, and they did everything they could in
order to help him. I think he borrowed his first money from
Mr. Frank Upchurch, Sr., to get the place from him.
D: So he could get loans through the banks and so on to buy the
E: That is right, so he bought one portion of the beach. After
buying that, he was able to sell lots and things off like
that. Then he bought the other portion.
D: Do you know what year it was when he bought the first beach
E: I am not positive, but I think it was in 1925 or 1926,
somewhere along in there.
D: And beach property was still affordable then.
E: Yes, along in then.
D: Do you have any idea how much he paid for the first piece
that he bought?
E: I surely do not. Those people next door are up from New
York, and they are very nice. They went out there yesterday
and had lunch with my son on the cottage that we have, and
he was just telling me about how they had read about St.
Augustine and everything. He said, "How did your daddy
acquire all of this?" The same question came about. Well,
that is the way he got by.
D: What made him decide to give it to the state? It is a state
park, right, and not a county park?
E: It is a state park. It was a state park. See, he owned
quite a bit of the riverfront. He used to have a big place
down there they called a pavilion, and that is where the
black people would go to have their recreation and
D: Did they have dances and things like that?
E: Yes, they had dances and all down there. Then after the
state said that they would like to have a piece of ground
that they could fix up for a park for the blacks, they got
together and he sold it to the state, so much of it. After
he sold it to the state, it was not large enough for the
children to have a little special part where they could have
a merry-go-round and all such as that. So he said, "Well, I
will show you what a good heart I have. I am going to give
you (I think it was) four or five acres of my land if you
will make a recreation place for the children."
D: So it was kind of an exchange. He gave them the land if
they would make a park.
E: That is right. That is where the park part came in.
D: Now, you said that people would bus in from Jacksonville and
Georgia because there were no beaches [for blacks].
E: That is right. We would have buses come in from
Mississippi, Georgia, .
D: Really? You mean all along the coast there were no beaches
for black people to use?
E: No, there were no places for them to come. Tennessee, all
along in there.
D: So this was a very popular [place for blacks for