Title: Interview with Mrs. Mary C. Debose (May 13, 1971)
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00007731/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with Mrs. Mary C. Debose (May 13, 1971)
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publication Date: May 13, 1971
Subject: Gainesville High School
Spatial Coverage: 12001
Funding: This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00007731
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location: This interview is part of the 'Gainesville High School' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: GHS 30

Table of Contents
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        Page 12
        Page 13
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        Page 17
        Page 18
Full Text

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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,
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page 1

GHS 30A jc



I: Today is May 13, 1971 and I'm here interviewing Mrs. Mary C. DeBose

of 1514 S.E. Hawthorne Road. And she has been a resident of Alachua County

for most of her life and she knows a lot about it, so we're going to ask

her a few questions about it.

How are you Mrs. DeBose?

D: Mmm?

I: How are you today?

D: I'm feeling very good today.

I: Oh, that's good. Well, I think I'll start with your family life.

Um, where did you live actually when you first came to Gainesville?

D: I was born in Alachua County.

I: Oh, where were you...I mean, where?

D: Hmm?

I: Where did you live?

D: At first, about 14 miles from here.

I: Uh, what ?

D: We called it Atlas

I: Atlas. Oh, it was a rural area.

D: Uh huh, a rural area.

I: Uh, was it a farm?

D: A farm, yes, a big farm.

I: Oh yes, what was it like on the farm?

D: Huh?

I: What was it like on the farm?

D: On the farm? What was it like? How d'you mean; was it good or bad

page 2

qH 3q0&

or what?

I: Uh, was the work hard, or what all did you have to do?

D: No, the work wasn't hard; just a ; it was very easy,
because the children working,/just was fun to be together, with

your brothers and your sisters there working.

I: Well, how many brothers and sisters did you have?

D: I had 8 sisters and 4 brothers.

I: Boy, that's a lot. Um, what kind of house did you live in; how

was it built?

D: The house that we lived in at first was a pole house, made out of pine


I: Oh.

D: Then after that then they built another house made out of planks

you know, something like this, a plank house.

I: Oh, interesting.

D: It was comfortable. We had plenty of wood and we built a fire place

with the wood would be just long to put on ___a back log, and we'd be back

there, the heat all back in there. It was comfortable and we enjoyed it.

I: Oh.

D: Plenty of something to eat.

I: That's good.

D: Plenty of syrup, stop the cane in December we had

to stop for Christmas and finish. up after Christmas, and so much cane, and

f killing holes the same way, potatoes the same way.

I: Mentioning Christmas, how did you and your family usually celebrate


R: For Christmas?

page 3


I: ...what did you do?

D: Well to celebrate...something like we do now. Well they fooled

us, they told us that Santa Claus came out of the chimney, and putting the

gifts in our stockings and in our bags and things like that. But I was so...

knowing so much, and so you couldn't fool me; I didn't believe it.

I: You didn't?

D: I didn't believe it, and so uh, one Christmas they wouldn't give

me nothing because I said there wasn't no Santa Claus.

I: (Laugh). Oh really?

D: (laugh). Yea, 'cause if I said momma and papa was the Santa Claus

or I said that's Santa Claus, and I said...they didn't, but they

I: mmm.

D: And they thought that was going to make me cry, and I was just as

happy as I could be.

I: Oh, you were? Oh, um, your family is very religious.

D: Oh yes, very religious. The church out there, what you call

Atlas, church now? It was in my mother's


I: Oh.

D: And then she give the first to build that church, and

we up on the bushover out there where you see that stone

church is now?

I: A bushover, what's that?

D: My brothers cut sticks and put them in the ground, then they

lined it with bushes all over; that's a bushover, that we could have church

in that until they built a church.

page 4


I: Oh, so you and your family founded the church out there.

D: Yes, sure, we founded the church.

I: Oh, that's good.

D: I've been a Methodist all my life.

I: Oh. How long was the Sunday services usually, y'know, how long

did it, they last?

D: Last? We had service every Sunday. We had Sunday school

we had 11 o-'clock service then right back to 3 o'clock again, then

right back to night service, night service.

I: Mmm, that's a lot of church.

D: Huh hmm, yes, we had that. And, and then, in fact, they used

to have it here til the churches city, right here. They cut

out about 20 years ago, having 3 o'clock service, but lots of churches still

have it. Right on, because I know around 8th Avenue, around...that Baptist

church...what's the name of that Baptist church in front of my ?

A third person: ...in front of Temple...Spring Hill...Spring...

what's the name of that church?

D: It's a Baptist church...uh, Day Spring, that's the name of it.

They have 3 o'clock service now.

I: Oh.

D: And then the Sanctified churches on 8th Avenue, they have 3 o'clock


I: Why did the Methodist churches stop having 3 o'clock service?

D: They all, the Baptist people cross town stopped it, the

stopped it, stopped.

I' Why did they stop it, because the people...?

page 5


D: They said that it was such a, a hard burden on the people...right

there to Sunday school Sunday school,

then right out of Sunday school into service, right out of service home

and sometime you couldn't hardly swallow, right back to the church at

3 o'clock, and then you get home, right back at night to league meeting,

me being president, until I was wore completely out.

I: Oh.

D: And so it was good they stopped it, you know, and so but those

folks out home yonder they have 3 o'clock now, lots of them. Lots of 'em.

I: Oh, well now we know how your Sundays went. Um, what did you do

on Saturday, entertainment with your family, what kind of games and


D: Yes ma'am, everybody had a job on Saturday.

I: Saturday, you had a job?

D: That's right, everybody had a job on Saturday (laugh).

I: What about Saturday night?

D: Into bed.

I: Into bed? (laugh) So you worked all day Saturday, and then slept

Saturday night?

D: Yes, everybody had a job. Tbe boys they had a job to get the wood

on Saturday and so no one had to cut none on Sundays, and um the girls they

had to clean the house. You know we don't clean no house, now we clean

But they clean house like that/I'll tell you. All them doors washed, and

scrubbed all the chairs scrubbed, and everybody had a job on Saturday, and

after you get through with that then you take your bath, and get ready for


I: Oh. Oh, what did you do for entertainment, did you ever go out or

page 6



B: Yes, for the SUnday school, for the church entertainment,

Sunday school had entertainment, we would go...yes, and that's all

the far we'd go (laugh).

I: TUat's all? (laugh.

D: Because I'll tell you, at the time, there was no moving picture show.

The only movies that we show was the scenery in the church. And you know

how much it was to go in to see? Ten cent.

I: Ten cents to go to church. (laugh)

D: Bu that church would be packed, we packed. Only ten cents a

seat; and they'd show Bible pictures you know, more like that, and then

of course now they had a place like that called Juke, but we didn't bother

with that you know. Now, that one of the turpentine store with them rough

people. Well you see that didn't fare with us.

I: Uh, the turpentine store, what was that?

D: Turpentine store; well I'll tell you. If I be with you sometime

in a car ; we get the turpentine out of pine trees and

it pour in boxes, we'd ship the box, and most people they call them

tar heels.

I: Oh. Um, what type of people worked out there; did many black people

work out there?

D: What? That was all working out there...

I: Oh.

D: ...the black people.

I: How were they treated, you know, by the white people?

D: Oh, well they got their pay; they made their pay days, and they

got paid once a month. And they were,,,and the boss, man, the white man,

page 7


he'd be in the commisary with the st and he'd be in there,

then they'd have a white man wood, see how they

get along with them boxes on the pine trees; they cut a box and, then,

put a streak on that pine tree, something about that long and got a sharp

thing and that ten times, that rosin would run down in that little

box what they cut in that tree; then when they get it enough, in all those

trees that run down, then the man go 'round and dip it out, and

in a bucket and towed it, put it in barrels, and then those

barrels are sent off, that turpentine in 'em, loaded to go to Jacksonville,

and going then this made the spirits, the spirits

what we buy now.

I: Oh, well, going back to entertainment.

D: Mmmhmm.

I: Did you ever date?

D: Date?

I: Yes.

D: Oh yes.

I: What did you do on a date?

D: Sit down and talk.

I: Sit down and talk?

D: Mama sitting over there and sitting here, and sitting

there. Yea, and she sat back there like this, and (pause)... y'know,

mmhmm. ..

I: Oh.

D: And then, before I was large enough, when my sisters when

they, company would to come to pick 'em up/ take them out to Christmas trees

or anything like that, they couldn't go if I couldn't go. I had to go, they...

page 9

qHS 30QA

two down near Ocala. Then they got another down to another

big camp. And I want to tell you children this, I went there, to Raiford,

I was treated real nice, four of us went from Gainesville, it was treated

real nice. Oh, they have a large auditorium there for service, and it was

more white women in the gang than was colored.

I: Oh yea?

D: Fine looking women, and what got me I met when I was in there,

he was teachers, one of the teachers in Sunday school; I looked up,

and he came he was so glad to see me. He says (whisper) I'm so glad to

see you, but I just hate for you to see me in here. You know what put

him there?

I: No.

D: He had plenty sense, he had too much, and all

put him right there for five years. And he died since you all been here, and

I, the choir came up to his funeral.

And bless God some of the members that choir, Z, Z

members. And uh, so I told him I says well it's too bad, so I says

well what you doing? Beated a woman out of 500 dollars,

And she gave him such a length of time to pay her money back, and he

didn't do it, so she had, had him arrested, so they gave him five years.

Very intelligent man, used to be a in our church, oh, Lord, so fine.

You see, if the Lord help you to get this learning, you must put it to good

use, and not go the way to doing slick tricks and things; that don't pay;

it'll catch up with you. Slickness don't get you no where.

I: Yea. You must use this education.


page 8


I: (laugh).

D: Yes, and they better not mistreat me either; if they did, they got

a beating when I, when they got home, and now if I, if I went they could

I: Oh, the whole family/on a date.

D: And so uh, so uh, if he just put his hand over like that, I knowed

it. Yea. So uh, I tell you, in those days, you didn't need no Raiford

out there, was no Raiford out there, when I was coming out, was no

Raiford. questions on a crime here, you know they

just don't know; Montgomery, Alabama is Atlanta, because the people, some

of 'em, you know, they were so honest and true, and so they didn't have

sense enough to write a check and forge it on you. Mmmhmmm. Do you see

what I'm talking about?

I: Yes.

D: So they more education they got, the more wiser they got, and

the very thing that they were taught not to do, that's the very thing they

did. So (there) was so many of us going td Atlanta, and Montgomery, Alabama

to the mine, until they built a four room house out there to Raiford,

and um they got so num erous at this stealing and

and forging notes and things and killing people, breaking

in your house and kill you, and think it's right, until they had to build

this place time out there, you never been there either, have


I: No.

D; I been out there to the church there. Sunday school and all and taught
in Sunday school. Until/that's is so full of that, til they got one on along

side of the road, a camp. On along side of the road. And they got

page 10


D: You have, oh yes a very proper, very proper.

I: Um, well how was your school, when you went to school?

D: My school? We had some of the best teachers and we had some

of the sorriest ones. But we had one out there slept all the time, and

there were, I had to take charge of a low class, 'cause she'd be asleep.

See she'd wake up, Mary would you take charge of that class, I feel so bad.

And I'd take charge of the little, in the low class, you know and all that

there. And I'd call her sometimes, say Miss Ida, wake up, and so the other,

the man would come out of his part where he teaching the boys, he'd look

at her, he says well you all sure learning something. But we had some

goodlteachers, but she was a very fine woman, but she just slept, and she

jist slept, slept, slept, and the more she got, the more she slept, and

of uh, we had some good teachers, now my uncle was teacher out there once.

I: What was your school called?

D: Hmm?

I: What was the name of your school?

D: Jerusalem...

I: Jerusalem.

D: school.

I: How many grades were in the school? How, how um...

D: Now if you get to the 5th grade there, they sent you here to Gainesville.

I: To Gainesville, and went to school in Gainesville.

D: Um, yea, the school right...see tore down, that's right when

you were born, they tore it down, uh

I: What is...Union Academy?

D: Yes, Old academy, we called it M'academy, because that's just it.

So then uh, well you come here then, they, they would finish up in 8th. Then

page 11


you could teach.

I: You could teach when you finished 8th grade?

D: 8th grade...you'd be able...when you got through with that 8th grade, bok...

you think this books which you all study now is hard...you think they're hard...

but when you got through with them, you, you can say thank God. 'Cause they

was nothing...l, our reader was harder than some of your books.

I: Oh yea.

D: Yea, and that's .And uh, you all didn't do the diagram


I: Diagram way?

D: Hmmhmm, the other day, and thought about the

entences I had to diagram...

I: Oh yea...

D: ...and I drawed it on paper,just like it was and everything, and I,

I always remember this, cats and dogs fight, and we had to diagram that sentence.

I: How long ago was that?

D: Oh, Lord have mercy, you know I was a small child, I was, I was

about 14.

I: Mmm. you remember it. It's good you remember.

D: Yea. I remember whole of my things I went through then.

I: Uh, what is, okay, in a school, what would the teachers do if the

students did something wrong? How did they...?

D: Teacher did something wrong?

I: Yea,

D: Well, I hadn't known anyone to do anything wrong when I was at school.

_outside of Miss Ida Williams, she slept all the time.

I: I mean the students.

page 12


D: Oh, the students? Well the students is very kinda nice only sometimes

they, the principal and the get into it, you know, like that.

'Cause my brother sat Professor on the heater.

I: Why?

D: Well, he whipped his, our baby brother unmerciful. And he told

him no hit him no more, and uh, he hit him again, and that's what he's going

to do about it, he says, if you hit him again, you sit on

heater, you know

the heater's about this long, and about that high, burnt his hand, tried

to hold his head up, and burnt him back there.

I: (laugh) What did they do to your brother?

D: Done nothing to my brother.

I: Oh.

D: Well of course they expelled him from school for two or three weeks,

but he sure burning. (laugh)

I: Oh. Oh, well back to the more pleasant things. (laugh)

Uh, what type of songs and things did you learn in school?

D: Hmm?

I: Did you learn any songs in school...?

D: Oh yes.

I: Do you remember any of them?

D: I think I can, I think I can sing one of the songs, forgot it altogether.

We had one about the cricket and we had one about the cat. (Sings):

Oh, little kitty, oh poor kitty, sad and so cold there, close by the fire;

then them dogs --I forgot the

other part-- la, la, la, fast as I can put on my hat, I'll try to save the

old black cat. Poor little kitty, oh poor kitty, sad and so cold there,

close by the fire.

page 13


I: Oh, that's good. You remember it.

D: This was a solo of mine.

I: That was a solo.

D: No, no, I say this was a solo of mine, I I ain't forgot

that song. It's about the angels are calling our darling. (Sings): The

angels are calling our darlin', I won't/ want little Nellie so fair, her

sunlight, the sunlight is feeding while softly she

her prayer, and still with us... pleading, she for

the sad pleading oh bury me under the roses, where my

little sister lies.

I: Oh, where did you sing it.

D: Sing it on the stage.

I: Oh, at school.

D: Yes.

I: Oh.

D: We had a program every Friday evening.

I: Fine.

D: mmhmm.

I: Um, it just for the entertainment of the students?

D: For the...then we'd the ,invite the parents

to come out to hear the children, and they'd come out.

I: It was sort of like chapel program. Where did they have the programs

in the school Did you have an auditorium?

D: No, ma'am, We had no auditorium, they school's the auditorium.

I: Oh, how was the school built?

page 14


D: It is plenty...it is built large school, yea large school.
I: About how many rooms? I mean, y'know, about how many rooms/in the

school, do you know?

D: Women?

I: Rooms.

D: Rooms, oh yes, now the girls was in a big room, you know, and then

the boys was in their big room.

I: Two big rooms, one for the girls and one for the boys.

D: mmhmm. And then, uh, they had a dividing line, boys stay on their

side to play, they girls stay on their side to play.

I: Why was it like that?

D: Hmm?

I: Why were the boys and girls...?

D: Oh, they didn't allow the boys to play with the girls at school,

when I was going to school.

I: Oh, that's something.

D: Sure didn't. That's right. And uh, but on Thanksgiving Day, and

New Year's day, that was a jolly time; everybody out there working; setting

up trees and things over to the school house yard, you know, putting flowers

inside the school in little pots and things like that. Everybody had a job.

I: Hmm.

D: And uh, just before Christmas Eve, they had the Christmas tree.

Everybody exchanged gifts, with the different ones, you know. Very nice, very


I: Oh, the schools were segregated then, weren't they; the black schools

and the white schools.

D: Oh yes, and there was no white persons over there; children over there

page 15


and no Negroes with the whites. But before that happened, now ,

your Uncle Charlie, I'll just call him your Uncle Charlie, because that's what

the children all call him, Uncle Charlie. He went to the white school, uh,

what's the name of that place, Jacksonville

And it's him and his brother. I can't think of the name of that place now, but

he went, he went there 6 months. For I reckon they went to

take up some subjects there, but out home, the white folks school went this a'way,

and our go this a'way, and at the crossroad, and um then I

got into it.

I: What happened?

D: Mmm?

I: What happened?

D: kill that boy.

I: Tell me about it.

D: Played in our yard with us, now, and everything, and laugh and talk

and sat at our table and eat and so that evening, he's a little proud of

their children, you know, and we got to the crossroads

Nigger stinks! I runned him down, and got me a lot of knocks.

His daddy had to come home to see mama then, cause I beat him

to death.

I: Did they do anything to you?

D: No. Did nothing to me.

I: That didn't cause any problems for your parents?

D: No, caused nothing. Mr. come there. He told mama

don't whip me. Said I almost done killed and don't whip me,

'cause I might finish him. So I told him how it happened, what they played

in our yard, child, and eat our table thing, and git sometime all out there

on the porch and go to sleep, and he showed off that evening, 'cause

page 16


did it
wasn't none of my brothers/with me and my sisters with myself, and I sure

beat him, But since he growed up come in town

here, you know he's a rich farmer out there, and he'd bring me beans and

butter milk and all like that right here in town for me to eat, and wood;

we all growed up together, but he didn't do that no more.

I: No, I guess not. Uh, generally, how were the black people treated

in Alachua County?

D: Well as far as I know, I was a myself, well they was
treated all right. They ,/as long as they didn't

bother 'em; they wouldn't bother them, but if they bothered 'em, why it

would be tit for tat.

I: Oh, the blacks would fight back?

D: Oh yea.

I: Do you remember any instances where the Ku Klux Klan had any

dealingsand things in ...?

D: No, I heard of it when I lived over town, behind our church,

but for me to see, to know, I don't know that. But I've heard of

accidents happen, to a man that uh was very...I don't know why, why did he do

that, but I said, someone said his wife was the cause of it, talking so much,

and they took tht man out and did him up terrible. That's what I heard,

they said his wife was the cause of it, by talking so much in the kitchen

where she working at, you know.

I: Oh.

D: You know some other people don't have no secrets, especially from

white people. They tell everything, and sometimes they tell the wrong thing

and cause trouble in their own home.

I: Oh. But you didn't actually ever see anything.

page 17


D: No, I didn't see anything like that.

I: Uh, what kind of jobs did most, did the black people have.

D: Had? Past, years that's passed?

I: Yea.

D: In Alachua County? Well, on the white man's farm working,

and then there's at the saw mill,working at the saw mill, then in the

woods sawing down trees, you know to make lumber out of it, that's what

they had and lots of them didn't have a place of their own, they would

rent land from the white man and plant and raise they produce

and he'd get half of it, and he'd get the other half. See because he

didn't have any home of his own. So uh...

I: What other kinds of jobs, you know, what other kinds of jobs

did the black people have, not on the farm.

D: course you don't know what that is. Uh, this

come out of the earth, and his did the mans go down

there and dig it, and they have things that runs down in that pit, and

they load that upon that and they gets that and they it, and they

tells me it makes uh, out of it.

I: Do you know how much money they usually made, what was the salary?

D: On the job?

I: Yes.

D: Well, I heard them say $.75 a day, and some $.50 a day. (laugh)

I: How did they live off of that?

D; Well, they didn't weigh nothing then.

I: They didn't weigh anything?

D: They didn't weigh nothing, no. They would take, if you wanted a

quarter's worth of meal, they would dip you a quarter's worth, put it in

page 18


a paper sack, see. And, but now they weigh everything, even.now weigh

greens. Yes, they been doing that in New York, 12-1/2q a pound,you get

2 pounds for a quarter; you did then do that in New York, and I guess

they're going to start that here. Now just listen, the people back then,

you could get a half a barrel of flour for 2 dollars and a half. But

you can't do it now. To order a little bag of grits like this,

32, and it's about that big, got one like that today. And then you

ever knowed chickens to be as high as they is, and when I was

you couldn't sell a chicken.

I: You couldn't?

D: Because everybody had chickens. And them that didn't have 'em,

they'd come to your house. Lord, I want a chicken. Well go out there

and catch a'one, catch a'one, give it to sister so and so andso. And, and

the biggest price uh, for a hen was 12-1/2 C a pound. And uh, if that

didn't do, you could get it cheaper than that. Things was cheap then,

you could take five dollars a family, and go to the store, and get enough

groceries to last them and all those children a whole week and when

Saturday come, you'll have some left. Could you do it now?

I: No.

D: No, you can't do it now. Shoesnow from fifteen and twenty and

all like that dollars, for a pair of shoes. I mean you got a pair of

shoes back then for 2 dollars, you had you some shoes. That's true,

honey, for two dollars. And the nicest material, you could get, wouldn't

go no higher than 35C/yard. People lived and they had aplenty, because

you know why? Most of the folks, they raised their meat, they raised

their they raised their rice we had a big rice ...


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