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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Interviewee: Arthur Schwecke
Interviewer: Diana Edwards
July 30, 1990
E: [This is an interview with Arthur] Schwecke at the St.
Augustine Historical Society. Today is July 30, 1990, and I
am Diana Edwards. Mr. Schwecke, you have talked to me
before a bit about your family, but if we could start from
the beginning again, tell me where you were born and in what
year, and describe your family a bit. Who were your parents
S: Arthur Schwecke, born St. Augustine, Florida, February 13,
1928, at Flagler Hospital. My mother was the daughter of
Alex [and Georgia] McGirt. My father was born in
Charleston, South Carolina, and came to St. Augustine and
E: When did your father come to St. Augustine?
S: My father came to St. Augustine around 1913. I remember
that because he said that St. Benedict was just finished
when he arrived, and St. Benedict was built in 1913. He was
born in Charleston, South Carolina, October 5, 1896. He
came to St. Augustine when he was in his early twenties and
married Mother. They had six children.
E: Do you want to list your brothers and sisters?
S: The oldest was Herman Alexander Schwecke. Then there was
Theodora Loretta Schwecke, Sadie-Belle Georgiana Schwecke,
Sally Naomi Schwecke, Elaine Carmena Schwecke, and Arthur
Schwecke, of course. [There is a family photo in the St.
Augustine Historical Society collection. D. E.]
E: You said earlier that two of your sisters are still living.
S: Three of my sisters are still living: Elaine, Sally, and
Sadie are still living. The rest are deceased.
E: Are they in St. Augustine, too?
S: Sadie lives in Miami now, Sally resides in New York City,
and Elaine is in St. Augustine, and also myself.
E: Now,what kind of work did your father do?
S: My father was a domestic, a butler/chauffeur. He worked for
Louise Wise Louis here in St. Augustine for a good twenty
years. Louise Wise Louis was the heir to the Flagler
estate. After that he went with Fred Francis.
E: Who was Fred Francis?
S: Fred Francis was the ex-husband of Louise Wise Louis.
E: So he worked for the both of them when they were married and
then he went over to work with him?
S: Then he went over to him. Then in later years he went to
work with Frank Hunter, president of Twenty-One Brands,
Inc., and he stayed there until he died. That was in New
E: So he moved to New York.
S: The whole family moved to New York.
E: Is that why you left?
S: No, I left St. Augustine to go to high school. I finished
elementary at St. Benedict School, the Moor school.
E: Wait a minute. We had better back up before we get to your
school. In what year were you born?
E: And where did you start school?
S: St. Benedict, the Moor, here in St. Augustine. I went there
through eighth grade. After finishing eighth grade I went
to Jamaica, Long Island, and attended high school there.
E: Could you tell me a bit about the St. Benedict School? Do
you remember any of the teachers or your first day at
S: Yes, I can remember the first day and lots of days at
E: Tell me what the school was like.
S: Well, actually we had more Protestants in the school than we
E: How did that happen?
S: Because the nuns took in younger [children]. You could
start school younger than the public schools would take you.
So once they started they just remained.
E: How old would you have to be to go to school?
S: You had to be four. I think it was six years old in the
public school but four or five in the parochial school. Of
course, we had nuns and priests [for teachers].
E: What were the nuns like?
S: The nuns were beautiful.
E: Did you have the same teachers all eight grades?
S: No. We had three teachers. Three teachers taught about
three grades from kindergarten through eighth. I remember
my first teacher, in first grade, was Sister St. Matthew.
Then there was Sister Mary Bernadette, Sister Louise
Gonzega, and Sister Sylvester. Those are the most important
ones; I can go on and on. Most of them are deceased now
except Sister Louise Gonzega.
E: She is here. Did the nuns stay for a long time in the
school, or did they sort of work for a few years and then
transfer to another [school]?
S: They worked for a few years and transferred to another. I
think Sister St. Matthew stayed about the longest. When she
left she went to St. Pious in Jacksonville, and she stayed
there until she died.
Then I left St. Augustine and went to New York. I continued
high school [for a while but then] dropped out of high
school and went into the army.
E: So high school was on Long Island, though.
S: Yes, Jamaica, Long Island.
E: Was that a public school?
S: It was public. Woodrow Wilson [was the name of the school].
Then from Woodrow Wilson I went to Jamaica High. I left
Jamaica High in eleventh grade and went into the service.
E: I am going to back you up again for a second. Did the rest
of your family go to New York, too, or did you go up [to New
York] and go to high school by yourself?
S: No, I was up alone then. This was during the war. That was
in the early 1940s.
E: Did you have relatives or any friends up there?
S: I had an aunt; my father's sister was there, and I went up
to be with her. She had two sons that went into the
service. That was one of the reasons why I really did not
want to go to school.
E: Right. You could go to school, and she had somebody to stay
S: Exactly. I did not complete eleventh grade. Then I went
into the service.
E: And you were how old then?
S: I was seventeen. As a matter of fact, my mother and father
had to sign for me to go in. This was in 1945, right after
the war was over.
E: What made you decide to go into the army instead of
S: Although I was living with my aunt, my father was still
taking care of me--feeding me, clothing me.
E: So he would send money up to your aunt?
S: Exactly. He had four girls down here to take care of, so I
figured it was a hardship on him. He would not let me just
stop school and get a job. I asked them to put me in the
service, and they signed for me to go into the service.
E: So your father thought it was important to get an education?
S: He thought it was important, and I promised him that I would
continue my education, which I did after I left the service.
E: So how long did you stay in the service?
S: I was in three years.
E: Did you stay here in the U.S.?
S: No, I went to the islands of the Philippines first and from
the Philippines to Guam. I was on Guam for eighteen months
and almost a year in the Philippines.
E: What did you think about other countries?
S: Beautiful. I really enjoyed it--except Guam.
E: Why except Guam?
S: Guam is an island [about] thirteen by fifteen [miles. It is
one of the Marianna Islands, west of the Philippines.] When
I arrived on Guam I went from one island to the other in one
day. And to stay there for nine months .
E: You thought it was confining, is that it?
S: Oh, yes, it was very confining.
E: But you must have known everybody on the island.
S: Exactly. There were not very many natives there. Maybe we
did not come in contact with them as much as we did in the
E: My kids' grandfather was from Guam, and I think they
probably tried to keep the [native] families away from the
S: That is probably what they do. But it was a wonderful
experience. I really enjoyed the service. I traveled
places where I have not been able to travel to since. I
would love to go back to the Philippines, but the way things
are over there now, no. I would just like to go back and
see how it looks in comparison with the way it looked [at
the end of the war]. Of course, when I was over there it
was all torn up, and we had begun to build it back up again.
E: But you have not made it back?
E: So when you got out of the service did you go back to New
S: I came out of the service back into New York. After a few
months in New York I came back to Florida. I lived in
Florida two years.
E: So you would have been about twenty then?
S: That is right. I married in Florida.
E: What was you wife's name, the lady you married then?
S: The wife that I married then was Irene Welters. We were
together five years, and while we were together we lived St.
Augustine, Miami, Chicago, and Connecticut.
E: Now, what made you travel so much when you were younger?
S: It was me. I just could not get situated. Everywhere I
went it just was not the right place.
E: You could not find work you liked?
S: No. I was in the post office in Chicago, and I thought that
was it. But I could not stand the cold weather there,
number one. The winter we were there was one of the worst
winters they had had. That must have been 1950 or 1951.
The doctors told me, "Get out of here. You cannot stand
it." After being born and raised in Florida and spending
three years in the tropics, I found myself in [one of]
Chicago's worst winters.
E: What made you think you would like Chicago? How did you end
up there in the first place? Did you have relatives there?
S: I had an aunt out there, Katurah.
E: These aunts might not have been the best thing for you.
S: Exactly. That is another reason I was in New York, because
of an aunt.
E: Was Katurah still a musician then, teaching music, or what
was she doing?
S: No, she was retired by then. In 1950 she was retired. I
think Chicago was all right, but I just could not stand the
weather. In Miami I could not find the right work that I
wanted. The job in Connecticut was seasonal.
E: Did a lot of people from St. Augustine do seasonal work?
They would go up North for the summer and then come back
down here for the winter.
S: That is right. That was the thing around here. The only
way they could make a living was to follow the seasons.
E: Did most of the men your age do seasonal kind of work or
E: Even then, in the 1950s?
S: In the 1950s, no. I would say before that they used to do
the seasonal work, and some did, but the men that I am
speaking of are men my father's age. The fellows that I
knew either left here and stayed away or left and came back.
And some never left! In fact, after I left I came back and
found them still here.
E: But many of the men your age did leave St. Augustine for
S: Oh, yes, they left St. Augustine. They reached the age of
E: So they could find a better job somewhere else?
S: Yes, so they could find a better job.
E: What about education? Did most of them get more education
somewhere else, or did they just leave, period? Would you
say your pattern was typical?
S: I would say that the majority of them stayed here for their
education and then left after that.
E: So yours was not a normal pattern, to go to high school up
S: No, no, it was not normal. To be honest, I went through the
parochial [elementary] school with the nuns, and we did not
have a parochial/Catholic high [school] where I could have
gone to school. I left with the intention of going North
and going to a parochial school. It did not turn out that
way, but it was all right. I could have stayed here.
E: Was the public school here not as good, you think, as the
S: I would not like to make that statement, but I do know that
when the children that came out of the parochial school went
to the public school, most of them came out as valedictorian
of the high school class.
E: So they had a good start.
E: Well, that is probably all you need to say. Okay, so you
said you were married five years to your first wife, Irene
E: Did you have children in that marriage?
S: No, we had no children.
E: Then you left St. Augustine?
S: We left St. Augustine and went back to New York. That is
when I went to work for Twenty-One Brands.
E: Where you father had worked?
S: That is right, exactly. Then the separation/divorce came.
E: You said you father was a chauffeur at some time.
S: He was butler/chauffeur.
E: What did you do for Twenty-One Brands when you started
working for them?
S: I was a caterer and a caretaker for a summer estate that
E: How did you learn the catering business?
S: I learned the catering business right here in St. Augustine
from my mother and my father.
E: All right.
S: I have been in the kitchen ever since I could reach the top
of the sink. I got to New York and got the job at Twenty-
One taking care of summer parties and winter parties in the
city, and in the summer they went to South Hampton, Long
Island, all the way down on the island. They had a big
mansion down there. Every weekend they had at least 150
people for a party.
E: What was the family's name that you worked for? You said
the company was Twenty-One Brands.
S: The company was Twenty-One Brands, Inc. The family was
Francis Townsend Hunter. Back in the 1920s Hunter and Bill
Tilden won the Davis Cup, so at one time he was someone
other than just president of Twenty-One Brands. They did
have a Twenty-One Club in New York, which started out in the
1920s. It was a speakeasy. After they got themselves
together they just kept the name Twenty-One Club. The owner
went into importing liquor--Ballantine Scotch and twenty-one
other different brands.
E: So that is what that name means. I wondered what they were.
S: That is it. Twenty-One Brands, that is right. Twenty-one
brands they imported.
E: So they were like a distributer to the clubs and so on?
S: They were the sole distributor in the United States of
Ballantine Scotch, Boca Chica Rum--which they could not get
anymore because of what is going on down there with Castro--
and twenty-one other different wines and champagnes. In
1969 they went on the stock market, and that sort of
dissolved the whole company.
E: Describe one of those parties.
S: I think the best one that I can describe, one that meant a
lot to me, was one where I met Jacqueline Kennedy when her
husband was president. The reason Jacqueline Kennedy was at
this particular party was because the chief of protocol to
President Kennedy was, at that time, Angie Biddle Duke.
Angie Biddle Duke's mother, Cordelia Biddle Duke Robertston,
lived down in South Hampton, and she was a very good friend
of Frank Hunter's. So that is how Jacqueline Kennedy
happened to be there. Also, Vice-President Johnson was
there. I also had a chance to meet the Gabors; all the
Gabor sisters were there.
E: At the same party?
S: At the same party, but they had a home there, too. So I did
not see them at this party only. I saw them every weekend.
Gary Cooper also had a summer home there. Dan Topping, one
of the original owners of the [New York] Yankees, had a home
there. I am just name dropping!
E: Well, that is kind of fun. I have not lived there, so I do
not know what it would be like.
S: The house was large, but the parties had to be given on the
lawn because of the number of people.
E: So you would set up big tables with food and drink and so
S: Oh, yes. Big tables, tents, umbrellas, and they would have
to hire at least fifteen to twenty caterers.
E: So you would be in charge of getting everything done and
sort of subcontracting the other jobs and so on?
S: Exactly. Everything was left up to me.
E: That could cause ulcers, could it not?
S: It was a headache, really.
E: I bet it was.
S: It was a headache, but I enjoyed it.
E: What was your hardest party, or the one that made you the
S: The hardest party--and the one that made me the most
nervous--was when one of the guests of a party was down for
the weekend, Colonel Ben Finney. He made a Brunswick stew.
That is a famous dish from Georgia. He made the Brunswick
stew, and he put it in large pots. The pots were so large
they could not fit into the refrigerator space, so we took
it into the cellar--the house had a cellar where they
thought it was cool. There were another 200 people coming
the next day for this Brunswick stew. He cooked it the day
before because it took a lot of time. Well, the next
morning when we went down to look at it--it was nice and
cool as far as we were concerned--and it was bubbling. The
stew was spoiled. This was nine or ten o'clock in the
morning, and I had to get food ready for 250 people that
were coming around one o'clock!
E: What did you do?
S: Barbecue. We turned it into a barbecue. It was a mad
house, but everything turned out beautiful.
E: So the guests never knew that there was this potential
S: Oh, yes, they knew it was going to be a Brunswick stew
party, and we had to dump all this Brunswick stew. That was
the most exciting.
E: So were you single during these years that you were working
there in South Hampton?
S: No. When I was there I was married. I skipped a part
there; I skipped a wife. I was married to my third wife,
the wife that I am married to now, Rae.
E: So she was with you there?
S: No, she was not with me there. She was in New York. She
had her own job. She was, is, and always has been a career
E: So you were married to your second wife when you were
describing working for Twenty-One Brands? What was her
S: My second wife was Idelle Butler. We had two girls.
E: I had not heard about the girls. I knew you had children,
but I was trying to figure out where they came from. So are
they here in St. Augustine?
S: No, no. Carmena is in New York. She is a lawyer. She is
married, and they has a daughter. Kenya is also in New
York. Did I say two? I meant three.
E: You said two.
S: Three. Carmena is not the oldest. Linda is the oldest, and
she is in New York.
E: The three kids are from your second marriage?
E: And all three are in New York? They do not ever come back
to St. Augustine?
S: Oh, yes, once in a while. We had the family reunion the
year before last, and they came down.
E: Now, was Idelle Butler from St. Augustine?
S: No, no. New York. Her mother was from St. Augustine.
E: I know the Butlers here.
S: No, no, she married a Butler. She was in the Martin family
here. Her mother is from the Martin family.
E: Mae Martin, that bunch of Martins?
S: That is right, yes.
E: Oh, so which one of the Martins was her mother?
S: Dorothy, but she left here years ago.
E: Not Dorothy Thornton but Dorothy Martin.
S: No, no. As I said, she left here a few years ago.
E: OK. And that marriage broke up?
S: That marriage broke up in the late 1960s. I married Rae in
1970 and have been married to Rae ever since.
E: You met her in New York?
S: I met her in New York, yes. And I knew her fourteen years
before I married her.
E: Oh, so you knew what you were doing by that time! When did
you come back to St. Augustine and why?
S: I got really tired of the hustle and bustle of New York. I
brought Rae down on a couple of occasions, and she saw St.
Augustine and liked it. One day I just said, "I think I
will go home next year." And she said OK. The next week I
said, "I think I will go home tomorrow," and she said OK.
So we packed up and left. Fortunately enough we had our
homestead to come to.
E: Who had been looking after it all the time you were away?
Were some family members still living in it?
S: No, it was rented--and actually demolished.
E: That is the house on Kings Ferry, right?
S: That is the house on Kings Ferry Way, and it actually was
demolished when I came down here. It was fortunate that I
could do most of the work myself.
E: I knew that you did that kind of work, too, and I meant to
ask you how you learned to do that, because that is not like
catering, cooking, What else can you do? I know you
are a musician. We are going to get to that later.
S: I forgot to tell you that I was a linotype operator for
seven years in New York, also.
E: Oh, really. That takes special skills. You have to learn
to do that too, right?
E: How did you learn that?
S: As an apprentice.
E: With a printing company or a newspaper?
S: A newspaper with the Gannet chain in Westchester County. I
was with them seven years.
E: So you did that after the Brands?
S: That was after the Brands, yes.
E: So you thought that might be a little more peaceful, that
S: I thought that would be, but my real intention was to get
downtown into Manhattan with one of the large newspapers.
Then they began to fold so fast, and I found that the
waiting lists were so long, not even to get into the
newspaper but into the union. The previous workers had
their sons and nephews on the list, you see. To get into
the union you have to have a job.
E: Right. But do you have to be a union member to get the job?
S: You can join the union before you get the job, but the main
thing was to get the job and then go to the union.
E: So you were a linotype operator from approximately what year
to what year?
S: 1964, the same year the World's Fair was in New York. I
worked as a linotype operator and also at the World's Fair.
I was an operator all day and worked at the World's Fair at
E: Maybe you should tell me a little bit about the World's
Fair, too, then, while we are on it.
S: I was with a cleaning concern before I went to the World's
Fair, shampooing rugs and waxing floors. So when the
World's Fair opened, I went out and got a job in the General
Motors Building. Three thousand feet were walking across
the tile floor every day. That floor had to be stripped and
waxed every night, all 750 square feet.
E: That is quite a job. And you did that?
S: Not by myself.
E: Your crew. I would not assume you did it all by yourself.
S I got to be lead man. Therefore, I was just directing,
really, after I had done it for about two or three months.
The fair was only open about six months a year. They closed
in the winter, up there they did. That was two years that I
did that. But that was very interesting, too.
E: Do you remember any particular incidents or experiences
about the World's Fair? What makes you say it was
S: It was interesting to learn the trade, because that is where
I really learned the trade of stripping, waxing, and
shampooing rugs. That is what was interesting. When I came
back here, this last time, that is what I was doing. I
opened my own business.
E: So you did not have any trouble starting your own business
because you already knew the trade.
S: As you were asking before, you were this, you were that, you
were the other and that is how these things came about. I
apprenticed with the newspaper as a linotype operator and
apprenticed when I worked the World's Fair with shampooing
rugs and doing floors. I was an apprentice with catering
from childhood in my mother's kitchen. Well, one thing just
led to another.
E: So you did not have a grand plan when you started, but you
did pretty well with what you had.
S: Then I got to the point where I just told people I was a
jack of all trades, master of none.
E: But at least you got to direct your crews.
S: Well, I must say that everything I have touched I have sort
of excelled in. Most people say it is because I am a
likable person, that everyone likes me.
E: Well, I wanted to ask you, since you mention this excelling,
about your singing. Tell me about your music.
S: I did not excel in that because I had the idea as a
youngster that if I could not be a Nat King Cole or a Sammy
Davis, Jr., the next day, I did not want to bother with it.
I did not want to go through what they went through to get
E: No discipline and all that?
E: You just did not want it bad enough?
S: No, I did not want it bad enough. I was singing on 52d
Street once at Twenty-One Club, and someone from CBS
recording gave me his card and asked me to come down and
make a demo, but I was not interested in that.
E: So you did not do that?
E: Why did you decide you were not interested?
S: I guess it is because I was never interested in a singing
career. I love to sing, but I love to sing like I have been
E: How many of your relatives were actually musicians? Your
grandfather Alex was, right?
S: Grandfather, Aunt Katurah, Aunt Alice, Aunt Edna, then those
Desmores. As a matter of fact, we still have Desmores that
are musicians. Herbert Desmore, one of the oldest Desmores
still living in St. Augustine, and almost the only one,
still plays, but only for church. He has played with bands
right around St. Augustine here and up and down the road.
Then his cousin's son, who is a descendent of a Desmore,
like I am, Frederick Thompson, is with Jazz Unlimited here
E: So the family name is still going in the music.
S: It is still going, and the music is still there. All I do
is just sing.
E: Well, I understand that you sing magnificently. Mrs.
McGuiness told me that you sang at--was it Richard Twine's
funeral? She said it was one of the Twine brothers, so I
was not sure whether it was Richard Twine's or not.
S: It had to have been Richard's.
E: How did that come about that you were the soloist for the
S: Well, they brought him home to bury him, and I just happened
to be here at that time. I was close to the Twine family
because, you see, my mother grew up with the Twine family.
E: Was she close to some of the brothers and sisters?
S: Yes, Bessie Twine and Jessie Twine, because both of them
were godmothers of one of my mother's children. That is how
close [they were]. You figure when someone wants someone to
be a child's godparent that the parents are close. At least
that is the way it was around here.
E: Did they go to school together, too, your mother and both
S: That is right, they went to school together. And they also
were in McGirt's Band.
E: Oh, they were? Jessie and Bessie were?
S: Yes, Jessie and Bessie. I do not know what instruments they
played. One of them played the piano, but I cannot remember
now which one. One of them was a pianist, and the other one
played some other instrument.
E: Tell me about that band. We will back up a little bit more
for the band.
S: I can only tell you what I heard, because my grandfather was
gone before I even arrived. When I was a boy, there was a
house on Lincoln Street [where one of the band members
lived]. After the band was dissolved, all the instruments
were kept underneath this house of another member of the
band. As a child we could go look at them, but we could not
touch them. They were just under the house on the ground.
And there were clarinets .
E: Why were they kept there?
S: That is the only place we had to store them, I guess. The
band was gone, but naturally we were not allowed to touch
them, yet they were just sitting there deteriorating.
E: I wonder what happened to them.
S: I do not know whatever happened to them.
E: What made the band dissolve? Do you know?
S: No. I assume it was because of my grandfather's death.
E: So he was sort of the band leader?
S: He was the originator. Now, someone did take that band up
after that, Papino. Papino carried on for quite a while.
E: Which Papino was that?
S: Lawrence? I do not know the elderly Papino's first name.
E: But your father played in the parades, did he not?
S: He originated that band. He played in the parades. It was
the only black band in town.
E: How many members were in that band?
S: Now,that I could not tell you.
E: I have heard huge numbers, like there were a hundred people
in that band. That is why I asked. Maybe I could get a
better figure than a hundred.
S: There could have been.
E: So your grandfather was a musician.
S: He was.
E: What about his son?
S: Elliot was a musician. Elliot played the flute and the
clarinet. As a matter of fact, I still have two flutes of
E: Now, how did you learn music? Were there music teachers, or
did you just sort of pick it up from your parents?
S: My grandfather taught music. He taught piano and every
E: How do you suppose he learned it? Did he teach himself?
S: That I do not know. As a matter of fact, we are trying to
trace my grandfather's background, and we do not even know
if he was born in St. Augustine or not. That is why we went
down to the cathedral, because there are some records there.
They say they are on some tape or something.
S: Microfilm, yes. And they told us to go to the Catholic
Center halfway between here and Jacksonville. Then we found
out that you have those tapes here.
E: You have to go through all those census records and the
Catholic Church records.
S: Exactly. My wife intends to make an appointment and come
over some time to go through that.
E: You have to have patience and good eyesight to do that.
Well, tell me a bit more about the Twines, then. What sort
of family were they? How many kids were in it?
S: Very religious. As far as I can remember there were three
girls and three boys.
E: Who was the oldest girl in the family?
S: Mae was the oldest, and she lived the longest. She lived to
E: I traced her through the directories, and she did not die
until the 1960s or something.
S: No, no, the 1970s.
E: Wait. No, she died in 1982, I think.
S: Yes, that is right, it was in the 1980s, because I know I
came back in 1974, and she was in the home. The other two
had died sooner. I do not know which was the oldest out of
Guy Twine, Anthony Twine, Richard Twine, Bessie Twine,
Jessie Twine, and me. That is only five [Twines]; I thought
it was six. [I thought there were] three boys and three
E: We will figure that out.
S: No, three girls, three boys. It had to be six.
E: I think there was one child of the Twine's who died young.
S: That could have been. That I did not know about.
E: But you would have been way too young to know about that
anyway. Either Bessie or Jessie, I have heard, worked in
S: Let me get them straight now. Jessie worked in the rectory.
E: Do you remember what years or with which priest she worked?
S: Father Blazes, who came after Father [Edward] Knight. It
must have been Blazes, because I can remember a housekeeper,
Crowley. Crowley was Estelle Granger. There are two old
ladies you never hear anything about--the Sessions sisters
[Ida and Minnie].
S: You never came across the Sessions sisters?
S: They lived on Kings Ferry, also. They were a Catholic
family, but there were only two of them. Their mother and
father were deceased. They had a brother [Frank] who had
moved away. But the Sessions sisters stayed to themselves.
They lived like nuns; they really did.
E: So they never married or anything?
S: No, no.
E: And the Twine sisters, Bessie and Jessie, did not, either.
Is that right?
S: That is right. They never married. They lived on the same
street with the Sessions sisters, not too far apart.
E: Well, I do not know if they called them old maids then, but
S: Ida and Minnie were their names. Ida and Minnie Sessions.
E: Your mother knew them from school, you said. You once
described to me that you saw a film that Richard Twine made
that you were actually in as a toddler.
S: That is right. The film was made on the bay front. During
that time my father was working for Georgie Y. McClennan.
She was from Europe. As a matter of fact, she is the one
who got my father started into domestic work. She met him
at the Ponce de Leon [Hotel]. He was a bellhop at the Ponce
de Leon. She bought this house on the bay front and asked
him if he would like to be her butler. He told her that he
did not know anything about being a butler. She said, "Come
and I will teach you." So she took him in and taught him,
and he was with her, I would say, ten years. As a matter of
fact, he was with her when he and mother married.
E: So that was about what year?
S: I forgot the year they married. It was 1915 or 1916.
E: So from about 1915 or 1916 until 1920-something he worked
S: Not 1928, up to my time, because in 1928 he was with
Flagler. She had passed.
E: Oh, but you said the film was made at her house.
S: The film was made at her house, yes.
E: How would he have done that?
S: My father played the part of a lawyer. There was another
lady in town, Fanny Gaston, who played the part of his wife
or something. I was the baby that came into this picture.
I have tried to get the reel from his niece down in Miami,
but she said she did not see anything left of any [value].
E: Yes, I wondered what she did with his papers or films,
because you would not think he would throw them away. She
said to me that she did not know he ever made films.
S: He did not throw these away that were found, but she did not
know about them. She said, "What! I'll be darned."
E: That is what she told me.
S: She knew he was a photographer. I mean reels.
E: But then she is a niece. Think how much a niece that much
younger would know about your life.
S: Exactly. I think I know more about him than she does,
because after he went to Miami to live, everytime we would
go to Miami I would actually stay with him.
E: In the 1950s.
S: Exactly. I went down and stayed with him.
E: What was he doing then, in the 1950s?
S: He was not doing anything then. He was retired.
E: He was retired in the 1950s?
S: Yes. Richard, in the 1950s, must have been sixty-some-odd
E: Yes, I guess he would. He was born in 1896.
S: As a matter of fact, Richard and the other two brothers had
a hotel on Second Avenue.
E: Did you ever see the hotel?
E: What was it like?
S: As a matter of fact, it is still standing. Mary Elizabeth
was one of the big black hotels down there, and it was right
next to that. It was more of a rooming house than a hotel.
Then the home that he lived in was also a rooming house. He
had the whole downstairs, and all upstairs were rooms that
he rented out. So that was his business for his income.
And I said he was doing nothing!
E: He was doing that?
E: Did the sisters help him sometime? Did Jessie or Bessie
come down and work?
S: Jessie left here and went down there and lived with him a
while. As a matter of fact, I think she died down there and
was shipped back home. Jessie went down and helped.
E: Since he was so artistic, do you think that he would have
lived the rest of his life without doing any photography or
film making or anything?
S: I think when he gave it up he gave it up. I can remember
going down in the 1950s and even after that. [Inaudible]
always wanted to come outside, and we would take a picture.
But it was always in the house. We always wanted to go
outside and take a picture. If he was still interested, it
looks like he would have brought his camera out and taken
E: You would think so. He did not?
S: That was gone.
E: So you never saw him take a picture or make another movie or
do anything else [with photography] in later years?
S: No. That reel that he took of me could have been his last
motion picture. And I was a babe-in-arms then, so we are
going back to 1928 or 1929.
E: So he must have just decided that it did not pay and he
would not do it.
E: Who were his friends? He would have been bored just running
a rooming house.
S: He was away from here, and he had friends, but he had
friends down there, too. I did not know them.
E: So you did not meet them while you were down there visiting?
E: So you met him in the 1950s when you went down there to
S: Oh, I knew him before that. As a matter of fact, he was
about the only person in Miami that we knew at that time,
and I am going back from the 1940s. Then he would come to
St. Augustine. So I have always known or been in contact
with him. Then after I went with Twenty-One Brands, every
winter I was in Florida and in Miami, and that is when I
would see him.
E: Oh, even when you worked for that company, you wintered in
S: Oh, yes.
E: Still working for the company?
S: Oh, yes, still working for the company. I was just
following the president around.
E: Oh, so you would see Twine.
S: You see, the company had a yacht, and the yacht would come
to Florida, so I would have to arrange parties on this
yacht. I had a beautiful life, I must say!
E: A complicated life, I think.
S: I had a beautiful life. I enjoyed it.
E: It sounds like it might have been fun a lot of the time.
S: Yes, it was fun; it was nice. When you can spend your
summers in New York and your winters in Florida, that is
E: That suited you fine.
S: That is right. At no expense.
E: Well, I had originally asked you about your singing, which
was how we got on Twine's funeral. Tell me about your
singing and then also a bit about the funeral.
S: Well, the sisters of St. Joseph realized the quality, I
guess I would say, of my voice.
E: You do not have to be modest. I have heard about your
voice, so go ahead!
S: They are the ones that inspired me. As a matter of fact, it
was just about the time for me to become an altar boy. I
wanted to be an altar boy. "No," they said, "you are going
to sing in the choir," and that was it. They taught me most
of what I know, and I guess I have a lot of thanks to give
them, because I have been called on to do funerals,
E: You still do that now that you are back in St. Augustine?
You still sing for those?
S: Yes. This last Friday I sang at the Jacksonville Hotel. It
was for a private occasion, but I sang over there. And I
sing every Sunday in St. Benedicts.
E: Oh, you do?
S: That is right. And every year [I sing] for the Martin
Luther King celebration in the basilica. I sing whenever I
am asked, but mostly for funerals.
E: Well, Mrs. McGuiness said you gave Twine a real send- off
with "When the Saints Go Marching In," I think. You must
have just come back to St. Augustine.
S: Yes, I had just come back to St. Augustine then.
E: That was 1974.
S: That is right. That was my first year back.
E: So was it a big funeral?
S: Not very many [people were there] because most of the people
who knew Twine were deceased. The youngsters would not even
remember him. Even some of those my age would not remember
him because he was not here then. I went to see him; he did
not always come to me.
E: He did not come to St. Augustine that much before he died?
S: No, no. I do not think he had been back to St. Augustine
E: Who else took part in the funeral? Who were his
pallbearers? You sang.
S: I cannot even remember. I assume his sisters, those that
were left, were his pallbearers. There must have been
someone like the Starks family. That would have been an old
family. There were two boys in that family that would have
remembered him. I am trying to think of someone in church.
There are not very many old- timers in St. Benedicts now.
They are all gone. But then, in 1974, there were quite a
few living. You asked who were some of his pallbearers, but
I cannot remember who they were. I am quite sure they were
some of his old friends that were still here.
E: And that was handled by the Chase Funeral Home.
S: That was handled by Chase, yes.
E: I know you told me you have to go. [Before you do, there
is] one topic we did not touch on that I wanted you to tell
me about, and that is St. Benedicts. Earlier you had told
me that your parents were responsible for rose window and so
on, so maybe in your next session you can tell me about your
involvement with the church, because we just sort of touched
S: I will have that together for you.
E: OK, good. Thank you very much.