This Oral History is copyrighted by the Interviewee
and Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of
Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
All rights, reserved.
This oral history may be used for research,
instruction, and private study under the provisions
of Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of United States
Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section
107) which allows limited use of copyrighted
materials under certain conditions.
Fair use limits the amount of materials that may be
For all other permissions and requests, contacat the
SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
Interview with Mr. Cecil B. Simmons conducted by Lou Ann Simmons, May 29, 1971.
L: Where was the first house that you lived in in Gainesville?
S: The first house that I lived in in Gainesville was on North East Ninth
Street. At that time it was called Evans Street and the house is still
L: HOw long did you live there?
S: I lived there for 37 years.
L: What was the house like? What kind of appliances did you have?
S: The house was a big two-story wooden house. In the early days, appliances
were hardly known and it was later when I was about 13 or 14 years old that
we started to get any appliances that amounted to anything. At one time, we
did not have electricity. We had lamps. THe first appliance to amount to any-
thing was the toaster and then we had a waffle iron. Instead of having the
old irons that you heat in the fire, we finally got an electric iron. Appliances
that you have today were unknown in those days.
L: Did you have a refrigerator?
S: No, we had an ice-box but we did not have an electric refrigerator for years.
L: Did you have a car?
S: Yes, we had cars. The first car that I can remember was a 1919 Buick. I remember
one vaguely before that. I remember the day that the 1919 Buick was brought
home. I was out in the street when my dad drove up with it.
E: Did you ever drive the car yourself?
S: I started driving a car when I was about eleven years old. I could go anywhere
that I wanted to by the time that I was eleven or twelve years old.
L: YOu did not have to have a driver's license then?
S: No driver's license were required then.
L: Did you have any chores around the house.
S: Mainly, the chores that I had was raking the yard. In those days, very few
people had lawns like they have today. Most of them had sand yards and mainly
leaves that we had to rake off of them. I was in my teens before we ever got
a lawn and that was typical of many Gainesville houses in the early days.
L: What was your school like? Did you go to school.
S: The first school that I went to is known today as Kirby-Smith. At one time it
was an entire school system there with Gainesville High School and all of the
grade schools there. They built Gainesville High School on University Avenue
which is now Santa Fe Junior College. When they built the high-school there,
then they kept the first through the eight grade at Kitby-Smith. THen they
built an addition to Gainesville High School and when they did that they
moved the seventh and eight grade over to the addition. I went through the
sixth grade at what is now Kirby-Smith and then went over to the new junior
high-school building the following year.
L: What was the classroom like?
S: Well, it is hard to say exactly to say what it was like. The teacher had
absolute authority in the classroom. If anyone misbehaved they would either
send him to the office or paddle him. They would punish you themselves and
they did not take anything off of you. Most of the teachers were not overly
strict but some of them were. MOst of them were good sound teachers.
L: Vere there any blacks in the schools.
S: No, that was long before the time of integration.
L: What did you do for entertainment?
S: During the school year, there was not much to do for entertainment. A lot of
times after we would get out of school, I would go over and yWXKXNXXXKKXX
watch them practise football. They used the lot on the east side of Kirby-
Smith at one time. I remember them playing a game and I went down there and
watched them beat High Springs 126 to 0. I saw a number of games there on
that east side field. Then when I got a little older I would go out and watch
the University practise. In the summertime, they would organize baseball just
like they have it now. It started at the ages of 13 and 14. They had a very
strong American Legion team for the older boys too at 16 and 17.
L: Did you go swimming during the summer? Did they have any place to go swimming?
S: The only place around was Glenn Springs and a place known as Pinkerson Springs.
It has since been done away with. Glenn Springs is now known as Elks Springs.
L: Where did you go when you went on dates. When did you start dating?
S: When I was in high-school the kids did not date like they do today. It was
not nearly as prevelent. THey were well up in high-school before they
started dating and most of dates then was going to the picture show.
L: What were the picture shows like? How much did it cost to get in?
S: Well, the earliest show that I remember seeing was at the old Lyric Theatre.
It was down near the old post office. The Lyric Theatre would run, I remember
the silent days there and you could get in for $.10 for children and $.20 for
adults. Later on, I believe in 1928 or 1929 the Florida Theatre opened. THe
Lyric Theatre closed for a while and then it reopened and ran a lot of western
shows with serials. The Florida Theatre in the early days when they first
opened they had mostly talking and singing pictures. It was a combination of
singing and silent movies. Then they went strictly into talking movies.
There were a lot of musical comedies in the early days.
L: How much did it cost? Do you remember?
S: I think that it was $.35 as I recall. That was the admission price to start
with for adults.
L: Where did you get your first job?
S: I did odd jobs around a little bit. My first job that amounted to anything was
at the University after my freshman year at the University. Language Hall at
that time housed the bookstore and it also had a soda fountain and a lunch
counter in there. I worked at the lunch counter and soda fountain for a
L: What were the prices like then?
S: The hourly pay scale that I started to work for was $.25 an hour.THe prices of
sandwiches and drinks and things like that were chocolate milk was 50 and you
could get chocolate milk with a scoop of chocolate ice cream in it for 8c.
They had special milk shakes, jumbo milk shakes that were 10 and then I think
that they wentcto 15. Every Saturday night they would have a free show for
the students down at Florida Theatre. After the show, they would run a special
on bannana splits with three scoops of ice cream and three flavors on it for
L: What was your next job?
S: After that I went back to school.
L: Was this during the Depression?
S: It was during the Depressions: I went back to school but my father had a heart
attack. I saw that it was necessary that 'I should get a job and go to
work. I started surveying and I surveyed around the state for about a year and
a half to two years. K XXX ;aeyXIi K3WXX I came back home and I hhve
been here ever since except for the time that I was in the Army.
L: Did you not work for the fire department at one time?
S: When I came back home from surveying, I decided to go to work at anything that
I could. Because we were still in the tail end of the Depression.
L: How did the Depression affect Gainesville?
S: Many people in Gainesville had difficult times getting jobs. I think that
mainly the affect on Gainesville was the fact that the WPA was organized by
the government and quite a few people were able to live because of the fact
that they were able to get jobs through the WPA.
L: Was that the time that you went to work at the Fire Department?
S: Well, it was shortly after that. I think that the WPA had come to an end by
then but the towns were not booming yet and the jobs were still pretty hard
to get. THe techincal era that we are in today had not developed then. It was
more of an education era and they put more emphasis on college degrees and so
forth. Today you have much more opportunity in techincal fields and getting
jobs then you had those days. A young man who did not have some training in
a professional job would take almost any job that he could find. When I came
back to town from surveying, I took the first job that I could and I worked
for about three months for the laundry in town. Then I went to work with the
Fire Department. At that time, my beginning pay with;:the Fire Department
was $125.00 a month. That sounded like big money then.
B: What was the Fire Department itself like?
S: Well, the fire department operated more or less on a twenty-four hours on and
twenty-four hours off. When you were on duty at night, you had to sleep at
the fire department and if calls came in at night we had special clothes that
we could jump into our boots and pull up our clothes over us and go out to
the fire. It did not take 30 seconds to get out of there. Many a time we
would have to go outin the middle of the night in freezing cold weather to
L: Were you working with the fire department when they had the second fire down-
S: Yes, I had just come hack from the Army when they had that second fire. I had
not been working but about two or three weeks. It was the later part of 1945.
The fire started as a result of in the corner of the cab company a man had a
paint shop in there. I think that the paint exploded and the fire started in
L: How much of the downtown was burned?
S: A good bit of what is now Woolworth's and the ten-cent store that they call
Kristo.'s, and right on down through another drugstore at the time called
Bennett's and a good part of that was burned. Most of the block there that
now houses Woolworth was damaged by the fire.
L: What was downtown Gainesville like when you first remember it?
S: Well, in the early days of downtown Gainesville the streets were paved with
brick. THe Atlantic Coastline Railroad went right through town down Main
Street. THe depot was what is now the First National Bank on that location.
I can remember in my early days that horsepand wagons were not uncommon at
all especiallywhat is not Southwest First Avenue. There were livery stables
downtown and blacksmith shops closdto town. The pavement on West University
Avenue ended where the Florida Bank is now. On East University Avenue it ended
at Evans Street which is now Northeast Ninth Street. That was the street that
I lived on. At that time, there was a big horse watering trough at the
corner. I remember as a kid the people would stop to water their horses there
at the horse-watering trough.
L: Do you remember much about the courthouse?
S: Yes, I remember very much about it. My father was Superintendent of Schools
for sixteen years and many a day I was at the courthouse playing all over the
grounds and going into the buildings and courtrooms and things like that. There
was nothing fancy about it. It had adequate rooms that served the purpose.
They were big and airy but there were no fancy offices at the time, and air-
conditioning was unheard of at that time. It would get pretty hot in the
L: What did phe square look like then?
S: Well, the courthouse was not as big as the downtown square. As a result, they
had more lawn space then they have now around the courthouse. A statue of a
Confederate soldier was on the lawn.
L: Is that the same one that they have now?
S: I imagine that it is the same one. I do not think that they have changed it.
It was just a smaller building and a different type of building. It was not
a modern building. I do not know the name of the type of architecture. But I
Have seen quite a few pictures of courthouses around the country that looked
just like it.
L: Do you remember much about the campus and what it was like when you went to
S: My recollection of the campus goes back to a football game when they were
playing of Fleming Field. That was back before the stadium was built and
they would practise on Fleming Field and also play their games there. I
remember going out to see a game when I was aboutl0 years old. I can remember
that the final score was 3 to 0. Someone kicked a field goal and defeated
Florida and Florida was suppose to win'the game and everyone was quite upset
about it. I think that it was in 1930 that they built the stadium. They
built it to seat 21,000 people. Many of the newer buildings have been added
since then. THe designations and names of the buildings have been changed
since I was there and some of the names that were used when I was there are
no longer in use. It is kind of hard to say just what the difference is now.
THey built nne Student Union Building in 1935 and outgrew it and then they
added the Reitz Union Building at a later date.
L: What kind of shopping areas were there around town?
S: There were no shopping areas at all around town, except for the downtown
square. It was the only place. You had little neighborhood grocery systems
that would strictly cater to people in the neighborhood. THere were no such
things as shopping areas as such. THe first major company to break off from
the downtown area was Piggly-Wiggly. THey had been on the east side of the
square for many years. They built out on Northwest Thirteenth Street and
stayed there for many years and sold out to Food Fair and I bel' /e now that
one of the ABC liquor lounges is where it was first built.
L: What about the growth of downtown?
S: The downtown section at one time practically all of your business ended there
where the Florida National bank is. THe block where the Florida Theatre is
I can remember nothing on that lot at all. In fact that entire block through
there except for a big house sitting back under some huge oak trees. I think
that it was in 1928 that they tore the house down and built some of the
buildings that are in that block today. THe Florida Theatre being oneof the
first ones to go in there. THen on further west, there was a dirt street on
out. In 1923, the Baptist Church bought the property and built what is now the
First Baptist Church. Since then a couple of additions have been added to it.
About that time, I do not remember the exact date that Gainesville High School
bought the property where Santa Fe Junior College is now and built a high
school there. On further west, there was nothing until you got out opposite
the University. There at the time they had the forerunner of what is now the
College Inn. I do not recall the exact name of it. It has been known as the
College Inn for many years. There was very little business along University
Avenue at all. Now what is Thirteenth Street was a dirt street and it has not
been too many years ago that it was paved. They put the highway through there
and it was probably fifteen years ago that it was four-laned or maybe less
then that. Thirteenth Street which is 441 now did not become a business center
of town until after they four-laned that highway.
L: What were the hospitals facilities like in Gainesville?
S: At one time the only hospital that we had in town was a private hospital. IT
was operated by a Mrs. Williams who has a son living in Gainesville now,
Dick Williams and he is married to Mason Tyson's daughter.
L: Where was that hospital?
S: That hospital was a two-story wooden building at the corner of what is now
Northeast Seventh Street and Fourth Avenue. They lived in the downstairs
part and operated the hospital part in the upstairs part. The county finally
floated a bond issue to build Alachua General Hospital. It was called Alachua
County Hospital at the time. SInce then it has been added to two or three
L: Do you remember anything else about your early days?
S: THe earliest recollection that I have of anything at all was the night that
World War I ended. I remember, I was a little over three years old at the time
about three and a half I guess, I remember that my folks got me up and took
me to the door and they were shooting fireworks and celebrating more or less.
I remember at the time that we were standing at the door a fire engine drove
by the house and they had a paper Kaiseron it and they set fire to that paper
Kaiser as they went passed the front door. They tell me that the driver of
that car was nne of the AAron's boys. I do not know whether it was George or
not but the AAron's family is still living in Gainesville today.
L: Do you remember anything else abbut the real early times in Gainesville or -any
of the early families?
S: Yes, there is quite a few of the families that were here at that time whose
families are still living here today. SOme of them are very successful in
business. I remember one family that lived directly behind us the Mahcycle
family. They had several boys and all of them were excellent athletes. Their
daddy was a photographer, and he had a studio in town. Dale was the first All-
American that Florida had in football and he was an outstanding high-school
athlete, and went on to the University and played on the 1928 football team.
At one time, that was considered the best team that Florida ever had. IN the
last few years they have developed teams that probably were better. THis team
had an outstanding record for many years and had some great football players
on it. Dale was on that team. Dale was also a four letter man in high-school
in football, baseball, basketball, aid track. He has a brother living in
GAinesville todaystill. Then there the Parrish family, M.M. Parrish. HIs
father and grandfather were both here in the early days. As early as I can
recall, Wade Hampton was a City Judge. Covenington Johnson is an attory here
in Gainesville and his family was here at a very early date. They moved in
after I was up a fairly good age but these others were here about as early as
I can remember. There is the Waldo family, Celdon Waldo was a very successful
attorney in Gainesville and was in my class at school, but Celdon unfortunately
died at an early age but some of his family is still here. It is rather unusual
in that my class from high-school there was 69 in the class. Although our
average age would be 55 or 56 there is quite a few of the people that died at
an early age. It is rather strange that it has happened to the class. I
would say that probably 20 or 25% of that class is still living here in
L: Did you not work at one time for the Post Office?
S: Yes, I went to work for the Post Office in 1949, either in 1948 or 1949. Mr.
Jess Davis was the Postmaster. Mr. Davis is generally regarded as the person
in Gainesville or Alachaa County that knows more about the history of this
county. He is noted for his historical writings on Alachua County. THe
earliest that I can remember of Mr. Davis was in regards to the organized
baseball that they had in the county. Mr. Davis was a very active Legionnaire.
When I was about 13 years old, he was in charge of the Legionnaire baseball
program. That was the first time that I remember ever seeing Mr. Davis was
coming out to the baseball games and getting involved there at the time. There
are a lot of things going on now at the Post Office that did not then and there
have been many changes inti it. I have been out of the Post OFfice now for
ten years. It is kind of hard to say what the difference is today then it was
at that time.
L: Where was the old Post Office.
S: The old Post Office was at the end of Southeast First Street about three
blocks off of University Avenue.
End of the interview.