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Interview with Willie Lyons at the Alachua County Jail, May 24, 1971. Inteviewers
are Reynard White, Donnie Batie, and Joe Brannan. Donnie Batie is doing the actual
B: Where were you born?
L: Jeffersonville, Georgia.
B: What city did you grow up it?
L: Jacksonville, Florida.
B: What kind of activity did you do like what kind of games did you play?
B: What position did you play in baseball?
L: Well, I was called a shortstop. I played the shortstop all the time.
B; Do you see any difference in baseball today then back the/
B: Did you like playing baseball?
L: Yes and I still like baseball.
B: How old were you when you played baseball?
L: I was playing baseball anywhere between fifteen and/wenty-five.
B: When did you start school?
L: I started school in 1918.
B: Did you graduate?
L: No, I did not graduate.
B: Why did you drop out?
L: Why did I drop out of school? I just wanted too.
B: What grade?
B: Did you start working?
B: What type of a job did you have?
L: Automobile work, mechanical work.
B: What was it like? Did you like it?
B: What did you do with your money?
L: I used it for whatever purpose that I needed.
B: Did you have to help support a family or did you just spend it?
L: Some of it was to support a family.
B: When did you leave home?
L: Well, I am not sure when I left home because I have been leaving home back
and forth. I call Jacksonville home. After I was grown, I was liable to be
there for four years and then I would go some where and stay for three years
and then come back. I left Jacksonville and made Orlando my home in 1961.
B: Back when you first started traveling, what kind of transportation did you use?
L: Had cars or vehicles.
B: How were the roads?
L: The roads were pretty rugged at that time.
B: Tell me something about your life after you were grown and left your father's
L: Well, that is kind of like a history. I left home on my own. I was a man
and I went to supporting myself and I support my family.
B: How old were you when you left home?
B: What kind of work were you doing.
L: I was doing hotel work, bus-boy.
B: Did you like it?
L: Yes, it was pretty good work.
B: How were the customers?
L: They were normal.
B: How were the hotel facilities?
L: Well, the hotel facilities then were not near as great as they have them now.
At that time it was convienent for that time just like it is these days.
B: When the Depression came, did it affect you much?
L: No, not at first.
L: I just happen to be one of those lucky kinds. I had a good job and it did not
B: What was your job?
L: I was doing hotel work at that time.
B: Did they have diswashers.
B: It was done by hand.
L: Yes, all hand work.
B: How did the clothes look back then?
L: Just like they look now near about it, bell-bottom styles, double-breasted
suits. Right now what has come back that was the style in those days.
B: How long did you work in hotel work?
L: I do not know, five or six years, something like that.
B: What did you do after this?
L: I quit and went into mechanical work.
Bi Are the cars very different then they are today?
L: Yes, there is a great difference. You have seen the pictures of the cars of
1931 and 1932 and you can see there is a lot of difference then the ones today.
B: About how fast did they go?
L: 50 miles an hour, some 75.
B: Were they harder to service?
B: What kind of work did you do during the war?
L: .;Doing mechanical work, I was running a business.
L: In Jacksonville doing paint and body work. In 1941, I was doing paint and
body work and that was during the war.
B: Did you have many cars to service during that time?
L: Yes, people had to take care of their cars because they were not making
any and you were making plenty of money to keep them up.
B: Did you feel any strains of the war on your job?
L: In one instant I did because there were things that I needed that I could
not get. I could get them before the war but I could not get after the
war. THings such as parts and things for automobiles. We would have
to make them instead of buying them. You made them. Just like if you
needed a fender you would make it if you could not buy one. You would get
a piece of steel of some sort and cut it out and make a fender.
B: Did you have to do this a lot.
L: Yes a lot. A car would get wrecked and you could not get a fender for it
then you would have to make one.
B: How did you accomplish making parts of the cars?
L: I had to buy metal, sheet metal. NOw they can buy them from the factory
where they make them with machines but then they were not selling them.
So, the people in business, we had to get our metal and make them ourselves.
It is just like making a pair of pants our of a piece of square cloth.
B: During WWII was there any times that you were short on the neccessities of life.
L: No, I never was.
B: It did not affect you like that?
L: No, it did not affect me like that.
B: You always had money?
L: I always had money and I always had a way to survive. I was just fortunate
at that time. I had stamps that were issued to me and if I wanted to use
them I did and if I wanted to give them to someone then I did. Gas stamps,
food stamps, sugar stamps and all of them kind of stamps. You had to go and
get those stamps to get stuff with. I was fortunate that I had plenty.
B: During this time were you not interested in any young ladies?
B: What was the dress like?
L: They did not have nay like they do now. You can remember when these mini-
skirts first came out. Back in those times the women always wore their dresses
just below their knees or about even with their knees. THey did not wear
the dresses down to their shoes that was back in 1910 or somewhere along in
B: Were you ever married?
B: Can you describe one of your normal meals?
L: Well, I never did care much for breakfast. If I felt like eating a breakfast,
I would eat toast, egg, coffee.
B: What would you eat now. What would you consider a holiday dinner?
L: Well, I would say that with some people would want a big dinner and it would
not mean anything to me. I would rather have roast pork, a nice roast pork,
potato salad, cucumbers, tomatoes, beets and that would be a big dinner for
me. THere are people that want turkey.
B: Just before you got married did you date many women?
L: Yes, quite a few.
B: Were the dates like they are now like money?
L: Yes, they always have liked money.
B: About how much did you make each year when you owned you own business?
L: I could not say. I can not remember. It was just up and down but I have made
a $100,000 in one year.
B: How much would you make in a week.
L: That depends, some weeks you would make a thousand and other weeks you would
make three thousand, and some weeks you would only make three hundred.
B: When was business the best?
L: In my business the best time of business was year around.
B: Could you tell me about a normal day of work and how would you start it off.
L: I was always on the job at seven-thirty. My doors were always opened at
seven-thirty and this same place was opened sometimes day and night. My
time was seven-thirty when I would be there.
B: How long did you work?
L: Sometimes five and sometimes seven and sometimes 12. It was just according
to how my work went.
B: How were race relations back then?
L: Race relations were like they were back in -------How far back can you remember?
B: About 1960.
L: Well, it was in pretty good shape then in 1960. I say that in 1955 relations
started to break off when civil rights began to come in. People began to
understand that a man was a man. What you were qualified for if you were
that then you were that.
B: Did you have many white customers?
L: In fact, I had more white then I had colored. My place was right downtown.
I was the only colored man who had a place of business in Jacksonville downtown.
My place was at Church and HOgan Street. I had a great big place. THey
parked cars there day and night. My paint and body shop was tight in there too.
B: How did your customers treat you.
L: They treated me fine.
B: Where did you get money to start a shop?
L: I rented the building and a lot of the equipment was in it and I rented it with
it. Ihad money to buy the other. As my business would grow then I would
add to it. If I needed a jack that cost a thousand dollars and Idid not have
it. The next week if I had the money then I would buy it.
B: How much money didou start off with?
L: About seven thousand dollars.
B: How did you raise this money.
L: I saved it.
End of interview