Interviewee: Aris Tillman
Interviewer: Joe Allinder
Date: May/June 1982
A: Tell me your full name and when you were born and where.
T: All right. My full name when I was born I was named Ilene Aris Tillman and I
was born May 23, 1888. I was born on a farm where my parents had lived since
soon after they were married and they were married, I think that they were about
twenty-two years old when they married, twenty or twenty-two, and I have a
record but it is a little trouble to get to and they homesteaded a place in Citrus
County, Florida about six miles southwest of Inverness, Florida and it was about
three miles southwest from Floral City and it is about a mile and a quarter I think
they called it from the public road that went from inverness to Floral City.
A: Is that where you were born?
T: That is where I was born, on that farm.
A: On a farm in Citrus County.
T: In Citrus County.
A: In 1888?
A: May 23?
A: Where did your parents, where did they come from before they lived in Florida?
T: My father was born in South Carolina and came to Florida with his parents when
he was three years old. He was the youngest in that family and they came by
boat to Jacksonville and there they, their slaves and all their furniture and stuff
came by covered wagon and met them and they all came on to Ocala.
A: Did his parents have a farm in South Carolina?
A: And on the farm did they actually have slaves or were they just servants?
T: They had slaves.
A: Slaves. And the slaves brought the furniture down by wagon?
T: By wagon.
A: Your dad and his parents come from?
T: Jacksonville to Ocala in their wagon with their slaves and they settled in Ocala.
The house they settled in Ocala had had, as far as I know has always been the
county seat of Marion County and it was laid down in city blocks, the courthouse
was just two blocks from where my grandfather's home was, that is where he
lived. Now he had a farm at which became known as Fellowship out from
Ocala. I do not know exactly the direction, the place is there yet and they still
farm there but of course, he has not. They owned the farm until after my
A: Your dad lived in Ocala until he and your mother got married?
T: Well, practically that. They lived there until after the Civil War anyway and
during the Civil War he was only fifteen years old.
A: That is a good point there. When was your dad born?
T: 1847, July 27. And my mother was born in the same year in March before that,
the first day of March and she was born in Florida.
A: Whereabouts in Florida? Do you know?
T: Not too far from Lake City. It was in that county.
A: In Columbia County?
T: Columbia County, that is it. And her parents were also farmers but they came,
in fact her mother was a child, I mean she was born in Florida but her
grandparents came earlier probably than my father's parents, I do not know.
A: About what year did your father's parents come to Florida, do you know?
T: Let us see, he was born in 1847, it seems to me that he was only three years old.
A: Well, then about 1850 then when they came to Florida?
T: Yes. Of course they all had orange groves. After they came to Florida it was
the first thing planted, I think. But they still, because they did not find cotton,
they made gin __ and the slaves were freed even before that. Now, I never
heard my mother speak, but one woman that was a house
A: House servant?
T: House servant. That as a slave I never heard her speak too much because
most, I never saw any of my grandparents, they have all gone, but her father was
still living after I, that is, I do not remember. I may have seen him. He was still
living but he was
A: When you was born in Citrus County, your dad and mother, they got married in
Ocala and moved to Citrus County later or?
T: I think they met probably, my father was a messenger boy doing very well. He
rode a horse and carried messages to General Dickerson. He never left Florida
and he was only fifteen but he was used as a messenger boy during the war and
as far as I know, he never went back to stay in Ocala. He just liked to hunt and
he liked to fish and he just fooled around until after he married my mother and
she was an only child. I never knew but one of his sisters and one brother and
they were both older than he was. In fact they, the sister was fifteen years older
and the brother was ten or twelve years older. There was quite a distance in
their ages and my dad was, I imagine he was kind of a happy go lucky, never did
anything until after he married my mother. She was a go getter. They
homesteaded the land and they built the house. he builded the house. I think
first they had a log house, the neighbors helped, you know, build those things
and then I do not remember any of that. There was a log barn on the place that
might have been part of the house.
A: Do you remember living there in Citrus County?
T: Oh, yes.
A: How long did you live there?
T: I lived in Citrus County till I was eleven years old but I lived on the farm until I
A: Was any there any part in that period in Citrus County that you went to school?
T: Yes. I went to school. I remember the first day of school that I went to.
A: How old were you your first day of school?
T: I was five and it was in the fall before I would be six in May so I was just five and
I was so, I wanted to go to school all my life there. See, all my brothers and
sisters that lived to be grown were, the youngest of the ones that lived was eight
years older than I was, the youngest one, the reset of them were older and they
were grown. I cannot remember any of them that lived to be grown and married
people. All of them married in their lifetime. There were not any of them
married too young but them being older and had __ and you had story books
and they were made of cloth, not paper.
A: The covers or the pages?
T: The pages, all of it.
A: All of it was made of cloth?
T: I wish I had saved one. And I had all their ABC books and so on. And I guess I
drove them wild because they would stop and teach me and I could read every
one of their story books, that is I knew it by heart. I did not, I could not, but I
knew my letters and I could count to ten and and I wanted to go to school. The
girls that I grew up with and the only one I had to play with because we did not
live too far, too close to each other. She lived about three or four miles. We
could not walk to each other's house, we had to be carried, but we were together
at school and she was going to start school and there were two boys in the
neighborhood that I knew of. They were older, all of them were older than I was
and they were all starting at school and I was having a fit because I could not go
to school. The teacher was a woman that had been raised right there in the
neighborhood. I knew her and she taught me in Sunday School and so on and I
just knew I should go to school. It was a little one teacher school and it was to
the side of the main road between Inverness and Floral City, a mile and a quarter
from the home. My older brothers and sisters that had not, well I think all but the
two oldest were going to school and they were much bigger than I was. There
was the one next to me was four years older than me and she was going to
school at the time but she died about a year later. My parents pitched in to go
and buy Christmas at a store that had opened in Hernando which was not too
much further than Inverness and it was called The Racket Store. It was about
like what we had called Five and Ten later, and they wanted to go there to get
Christmas and I was too big to go and watch them trade. My eyes was too gig
too. My youngest brother was living, he lived to be nineteen years old and he
was three younger than I. They could take him but I was five and they could not
take me so I had to go to school with the girls, there were three going to school,
Edna, Nell and Margaret, Margaret is the younger. So the only way to do was
for me to go to school with the kids that day and the three that I had wanted to go
so bad because they were going were having lessons and she had a chart up
there and I could read it and on that chart I learned my letters and I could count.
I was with them all say in class because I wanted to be and she let me come to
class and that afternoon when I went home I carried a note to my mother to let
me come to school, not to keep me back because I was only five. So that was
my first day of school and I went on.
A: How many kids was in school that?
T: From what I can remember it was a small building. I can never remember it
being full. We never had but one teacher and that teacher did not teach but that
year because she got married for one thing and she had about four that were
nearly grown. They would have been high school students. The county runs
the schools, the county paid the teachers but they had three trustees for a school
and they chose the teacher. They had a school superintendent and he visited
the schools regularly. He used to come to our place and spend the night.
A: Do you know what his name was?
T: And he was superintendent of Citrus County Schools. The next teacher was a
teacher with a better certificate. I do not suppose there was a dozen teachers.
I know there was not in Citrus County, there was nothing but __ They had a
certificate above a second grade, something like that. You see, we did not have
colleges in Florida. There was not one in Florida that I know of. The first one
that I did know of was the military college in Lake City. I did not know about it
when I started school. That is because it never had registered in my mind but it
did later. Now the schools, as I said, were run and paid by the county but each
community had these trustees and they, as I said, the superintendent visited the
schools. They would come out there and stay all day and eat dinner. Usually
we all spread our lunch when the superintendent come and eat together. Other
times we had our own little bucket and usually a family had a basket of some
kind for each fellow, I know my family did. I went to that school until I was about
nine years old when the freeze came you know when. First in 1895 then in
1897and finished things up and that freeze that I remember very well, the 1897
freeze that finished things.
A: When you were going to school there, was the farm that you were living on that
your dad had, was it also a citrus farm like the one your granddaddy had?
T: Yes, he had his own orange groves.
A: And did he have, slaves were pretty much out by then.
T: Oh, I never saw a slave.
A: Okay, but did you have Negro servants, black servants?
T: No, we did not have any servants, we had a big family. The family took care of
everything. Occasionally my daddy would have a colored man to come and cut
the oaks in the spring.
A: When he had people come to gather the oranges did he have?
T: The family usually did that.
A: The family did that.
T: See, they had five boys but the two older boys died before I was born. There
was Mel and Paul and Claude and my daddy worked the four of them. Claude
did not, he was too little. He was younger than I was, but somehow we always
managed. Occasionally he had somebody else come in that planted, cleared
land, did some extra planting and I know that he always had and old colored man
cut the oaks. He cut them with a
A: Sickle. When you were talking about going to the store to buy Christmas
presents, did they trade for the Christmas presents or had they sold the crop?
T: They sold the crop. They hunted bargains like everybody else, I guess and they
thought that was the place to go to buy the Christmas presents that year, to
Hernando and it gave me a change to go to school and that is when I started
A: You went to school there about four years?
T: Yes, I was nine when my dad give up trying to grow an orange grove. He
worked at that and kind of a hopeless thing but he kept at it until, well, when I
was nine years old, Citrus County was a young county that had been king of, I do
not rightly remember, I might have been born when it was formed. But all I
remember is them talking about a big celebration they had when a county,
seemed like Pasco but it was cut in three counties--Citrus, Hernando and Pasco
were the three. Citrus County itself was a small county and I do not reckon the
freeze had hurt it same as it had everything else. As I remember, Inverness was
a, of course I made trips to Ocala all through my life but they were made in a
horse and wagon or a horse and buggy from our farm to Ocala.
A: About how long did you live in Citrus County, until you were about nine?
T: I lived there until I was eleven.
T: We lived but my daddy was hired to take care of the roads in Citrus County.
Road overseer he was called.
A: Road overseer?
T: Yes and he had bought a tent and he had a crew of men that went with him and
all the kind of roads were so muddy and horse and wagon roads and they were
just put up through the woods and they had public roads they bragged about.
They had one to Homosassa. I know that we used to drive on them and they
had a road to Ocala and there was bike paths and they were worse. Limbs fell
across them; they were not even graded. He made what he called causeways.
I remember that because he explained it to me. I was a question box and they
put where there was a muddy place where I know __ I remember going to
Homosassa with my daddy with __ as far as I remember once a year he took
his family to the salt water usually Homosassa or Bayport. They were
both on the __ sea coat and the salt water and camped from one to two
weeks. My mother seemed to like it but my older sisters and brothers rebelled
and and I remember the last trip they went. They did not want to go, they
did not like camping but my dad, as I said, he was a happy-go-lucky and he liked
hunting and he went and he used to fish for mullet and cooked down on a barrel
that was a half, what you call a half barrel, held half as much as a big one and
they called them half barrels, of fish, salt mullet and brought them home. They
were in the smoke house and every once in a while we go out there and get one
and soak it all night and have sigh the next day, that salt mullet.
T: Salt mullet.
T: Well he did that, of course we killed hogs salted bacon down. We lived at home
really and, but when he got that road, my two older brothers both of them, they
gotten jobs for themselves. He was not going to farm. They were kind
of disgusted with the farming anyway. They began to work. One of them
worked at a phosphate mine. I do not know what he did. Seems to me he
guarded convicts over that were digging that phosphate which was dug out, no
machinery whatever. they, that they used __ said he was a phosphate
hound and they loaded __ and had it shipped out of Florida. In fact, I think
history says Florida was the only place they could get phosphate.
A: You say shipped out? Now are you talking about boat?
A: Boat. Now the oranges my daddy grew were shipped. We lived on, well about
as far as here to Billy's from a, from the lake, a big lake and people lived
around that lake. We used to cross. They used boats to go to see each other
and nearly everybody, well there are about three families that went to school that
did not live on that lake and the lake came close up to the school house and it
was the name of the school was Fort Cooper School because during the Civil
War there had been a fort on that lake.
A: That was the name of the school that you went, the name of the first school you
went to was Fort Cooper?
A: What was the building? Was it a building used for more than one thing or just
strictly for a school?
T: Church and public school and
A: Was that a community church where each ...?
T: It was not, it was community. Sometimes there Methodist--
[End of the tape]
T: ... they stayed at our house. I think my daddy knew them and they stayed
there and held a revival and I know that Methodist preacher. My dad's father
was mostly Baptist but he went to any church and any preacher that came there;
A: People were not really Methodist or Baptist, everybody went to the same church.
Was not sort of the way it was?
T: Yes. We all went there and there was Sunday School nearly the year round and
Mr. __ Boswell, it was his daughter that I played with. They lived about three
miles from us and on the other side we lived about three miles from the
school on the other side of the school.
A: Did the school have town meetings in it too or was it just for?
T: There was not any town, it was just a community. There was not stores or post
office. We got our mail at Inverness or Floral City. Of course we went to one
about as much as the other and we went there, oh, usually once a week to get
the mail and I do not remember having a newspaper until after we left the farm.
Not many, yes we had magazines that used to come.
A: Do you remember any of the names of them?
T: Comfort was one of--
T: The name was Comfort and it had all sorts of recipes, stories and some of them
had continuing stories.
A: Various soap operas in them.
T: Let us see, there was, I think there was, I remember I was packing that
magazine. As far as I know, there was not any really daily papers but three
times a week, the Inverness Chronicle came out. That was, now we moved
from, my dad took that job with the county and my mother went to work. My
older sister had, was working in Ocala with my aunt. She had a dressmaking
establishment and my sister had been with her. Well she went there when she, I
think my mother said twenty-tow. I did not know she was so much older than I.
She was there and so left my mother with just the youngest brother and me and
the two and my next two sisters were teenagers. They were only two years
apart but they were eight years. The youngest one was eight years older than I
was and both of them took jobs clerking in the stores in Inverness and my daddy
moved us into Inverness into a rented house and I would know the house if I saw
A: How big was the place you all moved from? Were your mother and dad
homesteaded? How big was the place? Did it cover acreage and that sort of
thing? Do you remember?
T: I do not remember the acreage. It seems like I remember him saying that he
had thirty acres in oranges but all I remember too much about, I know where the
grove was. I remember the grove and that it was gone and I remember the, but
right around the place we
A: The main reason you all moved from the farm to town was because most of the
T: We did not have any money crops.
A: That was after the freeze came that the money crop had
T: We had chickens and eggs and we had--
[Interrupted by music]
A: The freeze came in 1897, somewhere around there?
T: Well, the last one was in 1897.
A: Was that when you all moved or did you all move after the first one?
[Interrupted by music]
T: ... and I really was up but we drank and as far as I was concerned it tasted
all right but it does not today. It does not taste good to me now but I got the
other water but of course we got our water out of the well. My daddy dug the
A: The well had been dug, right?
T: Sometimes you had a hand pump.
A: Just a pump?
T: But I do not think we had one. I do not remember us having. We always_
for the water. We had another one, we had a lever that let the water up. You
did not have to pull it up, the lever would pull it up but we did not have that
always, the thing was too much trouble and but when we moved to Inverness
and I went to school in Inverness for two years. It was a three teacher school
and it was a big high school which was county.
A: So it was a high school?
T: It was supposed to be a high school.
A: Did it have elementary school or did it have such a thing then.
T: It had three rooms high school, middle grades and permanent and three teachers
and the teacher that was principal taught their high school.
A: One teacher was a principal and a teacher, carried two jobs.
T: Right. I do not think, as well as I remember I was learning algebra and Latin.
A: Was what?
T: Algebra and Latin conversation, something like that, about as far as would carry.
A: You say they taught Latin in high school?
T: A little, if the teacher could teach it. In Inverness they did teach it to me.
A: You had been in what?
T: I had been about seventh or eighth grade.
A: That would be middle grade.
A: What kind of subjects did they teach then? Do you remember what king of
classes you had?
T: Yes. I had reading, spelling, arithmetic, geography and history.
A: Reading, spelling arithmetic, history.
T: And geography.
A: Geography. That is basically all they taught in the middle grades.
T: Yes, and United States History and a little about Florida history mixed in.
A: Before we get too far, what kind do you remember? I know it is an early time in
your childhood but do you remember what they taught you in the school at Fort
Cooper, what kind of subjects?
T: I started off with numbers they called it. But I went up as far, I remember very
well that, and she remembers visiting one day, and I was adding fractions on the
board and he asked me what I was doing and I said working arithmetic and he
said yes, but what kind of arithmetic, what are you doing. I am adding fractions, I
am working fractions, that is what I said because we had just started in fractions
and he asked me what I was doing with the fractions. Then I said well, I was
A: And you said the teachers in the Fort Cooper School, how far had they gotten,
what a second grade education, the ones that are teaching you.
T: Well, at that time the superintendent's niece was our teacher, __ Harrison, and
he had brought her there, the first teacher after, Jessie Russell was the first
teacher, that was one of the neighborhood girls. Then we had the second
teacher, we had Miss Beulah Birch and she had a better certificate but she was
mad the superintendent brought his niece.
A: What educational level were they as far as in school? Had they finished high
T: They had finished high school and they had Florida certificates and now I do not
know whether you know about certificates or not.
A: I want to cover that too, about certificates.
T: Well, until Florida, any school that I ever went to was, now Inverness was the
only one I went to that was a Florida high school. We moved from there when I
was eleven years old.
A: You moved from Inverness when you were eleven?
T: And we moved to Desoto County to the Zolfo.
A: Zolfo. And that is in Desoto County.
T: Desoto County and Arcadia, it was a big county. Arcadia was the county seat at
that time. It was about twenty miles from Zolfo where we moved to.
A: You all moved from Inverness now to
T: Zolfo in Desoto County.
A: Zolfo. Any particular reason why you all moved from?
T: Well, my daddy did not like that road job and he decided that if he would get to
south Florida he could grow another orange grove. So he went there with that in
his mind and he drove a horse, him and another man drove a horse and wagon,
and the camping outfit. He had that camping outfit that he had used with road
work and he took that and went and was about a month or so before he made it
as far as that and decided that is where he was going to stay. The orange
groves look nice and that he had a job there. He had gotten in with a man that
was a blacksmith and my dad had been his own blacksmith and I have seen him
put a rim on a wheel and all such things as that and shoed his own horses such
as that. So he went to work in that blacksmith shop and he sent for us.
A: He went down before you all did and sort of got settled in?
T: Then he sent for his family but the family was pretty well scattered. The girls
working in the stores in Inverness, both of them. They both came down there
pretty soon after we did. We left them in Inverness but they did not stay, they
A: How many of you all went down? You and your mother and?
T: And my youngest brother and my youngest sister, the sister next to me, Annie,
so there were four of us.
A: Four of you, your mother and three sisters.
T: My mother and my youngest brother and my sister and me and when we got
there there was not any schools, any stores.
A: No schools around you?
T: No school in Wachula or four miles north of us was the only school in the station
and we went there I think, seems to me we went there in January of 1900.
A: You went to the Wachula school or to Zolfo?
T: No. I stayed at home but my mother, I had lessons for every day of the world
because she did not let us stop school. She just went in there and she found
out Claude and me would not be going to school.
A: You said though you went somewhere in 1900?
T: Not to school. We moved to Desoto County in 1900.
A: Okay. But at that time, when you moved there you did not go to school, the first
time not into a school building?
T: Not until the next, there was not any school nearer than Wachula and it was four
miles away so my mother just said you will have school. There was not anybody
else going around us there. There was a little school three miles south of us in
Rosco Friendship and there was the lost children's school. Well, I think next
year there was a school about two miles from where we lived and just a little, it
was more or less like the school at Fort Cooper. There was a one teacher
school and she had had a third grade certificate.
A: What does that mean now, a third grade certificate?
T: That means the lowest certificate she taught.
A: Does that mean she could only teach up to the third grade?
T: Oh, no. That meant just as far as she had been herself but she could her pay
came according to her certificate.
A: Oh, and third grade certificate, like third grade or second grade, that depended
on the pay scale of that?
A: Okay. I was wondering if it had to do with the amount of education.
T: Well, in a way it was. The was people got to teach, they had three times a years
the state of Florida, twice, twice a year, June and September, they gave teachers
examinations in the county seat of the county. Now I do not believe they did in
Citrus County. I think they had to go to Ocala to take the examination. As well
as I remember, I was not taking it then so I do not know but I remember the
teachers and their grades they taught, I mean what the salary depended upon
what kind of grade.
A: Did you happen to know any of their salaries when you was in that younger
T: I do not know if I can guess the rest or not, I do not suppose it was over
twenty-five that I started on. Then Beulah Birch came and somebody said, I
believe I was told she had a first grade certificate. I know she taught, there was
three or four pupils that were studying Latin and algebra, but then I did not do
anything but look at the board. She put algebra on the board and I wondered
why did "x" mean equal in algebra and I could not get that across my mind but I
know she taught algebra to three pupils in school, my sister was one. That was
Beulah Birch and when the superintendent's niece came the next year and she
stayed until we moved into Inverness, I had her and then when we got Inverness,
she was still my teacher at the time, Inverness, she taught my grade and was still
Then in Desoto County, they kept seem to be run the same way and the
second year, the first year after I got there, we had this little school in it. It only
lasted three months.
A: The school that was was about two miles away only lasted three month?
T: But I went to school.
A: Why did it last only three months? Just not enough participation or something?
T: I do not know. Maybe they did not have enough money or just the county paid
the teachers, you know. So and they usually paid the one with the higher
certificate the more money they got. eight or ten dollars difference in their
salaries. I do not believe that niece, Mamian MacAlare was her name, a niece
of Mr. Harrison's who was the superintendent and she taught me in, I think she
got thirty-five and then she got thirty-five when she taught at Fort Cooper the last
year and I think she got the same thing in Inverness.
A: Thirty five dollars, for how long?
T: A month.
A: Thirty-five dollars a month?
T: Yes. And it never mattered higher. I knew any of them gets and they for
me. I do not know what, I knew what she got, all of us got the same pay and my
dad kept on saying this, I do not know whether he was a trustee or not, I know he
had a lot of say about it. Anyway, another superintendent would stay at our
house at night. He would come there in the afternoons, spend the night, go to
school with us the next day. I wish they all did But he usually stayed all
day and in Desoto County, I never saw a superintendent, I just saw this teacher
and she this somewhere. I know that I was the best of any of them in my
school. I knew more than anybody else there thought I was not the oldest of the
A: Now, sort of summing up some of the schools you went to, were there more girls
or more boys or equal number or from the time you was at Fort Cooper till the
time you was in Desoto County.
T: It was about the same, I guess, until we went to Lee County. We saved memory
notes, I mean in Zolfo. I guess we stayed there about three years because it
was the school in Zolfo that left.
A: That you left.
T: The next year after I went to that level, three months of school in Zolfo.
A: That would make you about fifteen when you left Zolfo?
T: Yes. And I went to school that last year there then my Annie had married and
her husband had belonged to Sanibel. She met him there at Zolfo, married him,
and from that fire burned Jacksonville come his history. He went there to work
and then that did not last very long __ and he came back and he went to
Sanibel Island to grow __ Everybody was talking about the mild climate and
nothing got killed. We had the covered beans and so on __ price of beans on
a sale and probably broccoli. And then this son-in-law went to
Sanibel and they were gone about two months. They made good money
on tomatoes. __ and they had to get it off and they came to ask me
about the move to Sanibel Island
A: What was the name, Sanibel? Sanibel Island, was it an island?
T: It is an island. Now it is a famous tourist resort.
A: What is it called now, the same thing?
T: Same thing, Sanibel Island.
A: Is this in Lee County?
T: It is in Lee County. It is in the gulf up from Lee County.
A: It is part of Lee County even though it is.
T: Part of Lee County.
A: And you was about fifteen when you moved here?
T: I was sixteen when we left Sanibel.
A: You were sixteen when you left?
T: We lived there about eighteen months and then we moved up to Alva still in
A: And you moved back to Desoto?
T: I mean Lee County.
A: You went from Sanibel to Alva still in Lee County?
T: Yes, in Lee County. Sanibel is supposed to be in Lee County and they are a
mature Alva. It was
A: In the schools, did they allow any black people in school?
T: Oh, no.
A: No blacks went to school.
T: Well, blacks had a school of their own where there was enough of them. They
had a school in Inverness.
A: They had a school in Inverness?
T: Yes. There was one beside the railroad that had been settled by slaves.
A: Settled by slaves?
T: They were not slaves, they were freed.
A: They had once been slaves but?
T: There was one side of the railroad which was mostly nigger houses.
A: Do you know who taught them? Was it a black teacher or a white teacher?
T: It was usually a black teacher.
A: A woman or a male?
A: The northern black person come down here and taught?
T: Them. And then went on when, marriage went out for eighteen. I just went one
year the hell of it. Married the principal of my school.
A: Married a principal?
T: Yes and the first year we were married I, when we married, his father was ill and
had been. That is the reason I quit teaching, to come home and take care of his
dad and he never had farms. He had been teaching since he was seventeen
A: He was a teacher and principal, was not he?
A: That is Mr. Tillman.
A: What was, Oscar?
[End of side Al]
T: The first two years I __ at that time it might have been the same year or maybe
A: How long did the school year last when you were still in school?
T: Never over five months and I think that when we went for a of five month
school, that was considered one of the best
A: How about discipline, was there any discipline in the classroom in the school
when children misbehaved or were all good?
T: They told me, the teachers that I had, all of them were women teachers until I
went to Zolfo and I cannot remember that they ever. Occasionally they were
kept in for misbehaving but not much. Does not seem to me there was very
much discipline had to be done. The ones that went to school, there was a lot of
kids that never went to school back in those days. They were not forced to go.
A: School was not enforced here then?
T: No. It never was enforced in classes until I started they had to go to
A: The kids you went to school with, were there parents farmers, were they
T: Nearly all of them were farmers. __ Desoto County where I had
A: And were most of the parents, I do not want to say rich but were they mostly kids
that had families sort of, not well to do but they were not in poverty or poor.
T: Middle income.
A: Middle income?
A: I see.
T: I do not think that I ever went through anybody I considered, well a lot of had
more money than my daddy had because we never had much. We were poor
people all our lives __ We even finally had to __ I was too young to
know too much about it, I heard them talk about it but they had money to spend
and they their own.
A: Was there many, this is now before you get married, why was the reason the kids
did not go to school and it was there and most of the time I suppose the school
was built somewhere close to where people were living.
T: I turned out as a poor fibber. I cannot remember anybody that did not come to
school that lived around there. They all went to school but even when we went
to Inverness there was kids running around the streets that did not go to school.
A: You do not have any idea why they did not other than they just did not have to
T: Did not have to go, did not go and some there I found that someone might go
three days a week and did not care and they usually
A: __ they wanted to.
T: Right and they found out about __ and so they would come back next year in
the same grade __ and my youngest brother_ because he did not
understand the reason and I had just--
[Portion of tape inaudible]
A: We were talking about_ things and __ a while ago. The superintendents
of the local schools were trustees of the schools and the trustees sort of selected
T: They select about, sometimes __ because they did not know. I know at Fort
A: Did they have the superintendent, do you know sort of what his job was. If he
was superintendent in the local community and they were just regular people,
what was the job of the county superintendent?
T: That is over all the schools and he had to find a at that time.
A: And he had to know where the money came from.
T: Out of the county.
A: Now that would be from county taxes or regular county taxes.
T: Well, I think we had a special school class in Citrus County and I did not hear too
much about that in the photo time because I believe that he owned
[Portion of tape inaudible]
T: I felt like I was in prison on the farm because the little old school we had was only
a three month school and I needed somebody to teach me-
[Portion of tape inaudible]
T: The problem was, how many acres are there in a square tract of land that
contains a __ as well as boards on the fence. The fence is four boards high
and the boards are eleven feet wide. Now you tell me __ I have not ever
gotten __ the square root and I think the two sections that were written out,
she covered it out they took that problem out of it for a good reason. I
taught that book, no I did not, no. I am not sure if I did. There are two
arithmetics. One for the first six grades and one for the higher grades and when
we had that drill on the arithmetic and I have never seen that work and it was
moved out of the arithmetic. I never saw another arithmetic that had it in it. It
had another problem that I finally worked but it was an interest problem and you
had to __ and I could not get the answer to that but I worked it and I finally got
A: What kind of entertainment was in the communities you lived in? What did
people do in their spare time when they were not working?
T: Well, they would have parties where you played games or events where__ I
went to those Now on Sanibel we had a couple play a fiddle, one could
play a fiddle, the other guitar and they just made music for us and we had parties
only at a home.
A: The parties were always home?
T: Somebody's home. My mother had __ five or six girls, not that many boys
A: How about church activity during that time?
T: When we were in Sanibel, we had church where a preacher could finally come
over from Fort Myers to preach which may be once every three months.
A: Do you remember any of those preachers names or anything like that you can
T: One was named Shand and he was
A: How about Cuckoos, were any of the Cuckoos ever ministers where you went?
T: No, __ There had been one in Fort Cooper but it was before my time. I
heard __ and he was the one who went around. He did not have one place
and stay there. The other people said_
A: Would you say that you and your family and that most people in the community
made the church the life of their activities?
T: Everybody went to church when we had church. Nobody stayed out on
Never had a church; it was at the school house.
A: The school house was known as the church.
T: There was no church there. I worked because I had no trade skills.
A: How about when you were in Zolfo?
T: We had school in the church.
A: Had school in the church?
T: The church was in the Bethany Church and it was built for a church and the
church was there and then we moved it. That was in five miles from Zolfo.
Sbut we lived a mile from Zolfo, we did not live right in the town and this
church was built in the town but the church was there when we left there. That
church was built the year I went to that three month school out there from where
we lived between and
A: Was that church a Methodist church, at that time was there a Methodist
church and a Which one did that happen to be ?
T: Well, I would not know enough about, well we did not have church but once a
A: And the school that you went to, they sort of had two purposes, they were the
school house and a church. Was these in any sizable community?
T: Inverness was the largest one I have here.
A: And the school and the church was still in the same building?
T: No. They had two churches. They had Christian church which was a form of a
Baptist church. They used to call it__ because a man by the name of Camel
had founded this church and it was a And because of the people who
belonged to that church called themselves the Christian church and that is what
my parents belonged to but they did not have church but once a month.
A: Did they have two buildings separate?
T: The school building was separate. It had three separate rooms.
A: __ the biggest community you lived in?
T: Yes. Except for Alva. Now, when I went to Alva there was a Baptist church,
Methodist church and a school building.
A: How long did you go to school in Alva?
T: Just one year.
A: One year. When you were about seventeen going on eighteen then.
T: Seventeen I was. I was eighteen in May and got married in July.
A: How about in these early years, do you know who did they have a school
superintendent here in our town.
T: I do not believe they did. And the town was not that big. He could not handle it,
it was connected by boat.
A: The county school system came in with election?
T: Yes. And the county clerk and the county judge had a county school
superintendent and a county Let us see now, he was called Clerk of the
A: How many, you may not know this, do you have any idea on how many schools
were in town?
T: I have heard how many there was in Citrus County because __ was
always and my mother was interested in school.
A: Did it seem like from where you lived, did there seem like a lot of schools?
T: No. Not too many. Let us see, I I believe in Citrus County, right on the
edge of us-
[Interview largely inaudible.]