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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
INTERVIEWEE: Jessie Aaron
INTERVIEWER: Glenn Thrift
DATE: October 27, 1971
A: About forty-two years, something like that.
T: How old are you?
A: I'll be eighty-five the tenth of June.
T: They say you were a son of a slave. Could you explain?
A: My grandmother and my mother were slaves. My mother was a small
child as a slave. She was just big enough to wash dishes. I
was born in 1887.
T: Do you remember much about Gainesville, how it looked back then?
A: Sure, plenty.
T: Can you tell us what it looked like?
A: Well, all through here were woods. Even where I'm living on
Seventh Avenue were woods with just a house here and yonder.
The streets weren't paved when I came here to Gainesville. You
used to hitch horses around the courthouse square on Saturday's.
T: How did the town and the people look?
A: Well, it was very small.
T: When did you get started into sculpturing wood?
A: The fifth day of July, 1968, at three in the morning.
T: Why did you pick three in the morning?
A: It's a gift from God.
T: Did you get this feeling during the day or just did it come on. .
A: At night. At three in the morning I got up and started to work.
T: What kind of tools do you use on this?
A: A chisel, knife, razor bit, and a saw.
T: How do you make these? Do you just get the chisel and everything
and just chop it off or. .
A: I have to see it before I start. I can walk out in the woods and
see a tree and know what I'm going to get out of it before I
put my hands on it. I see faces still. Self-created.
T: Self-created. You say you are eighty-five years old ?
A: I will be in June.
T: Are you married?
A: Oh, yeah.
T: What is your wife's name?
T: Does she live in Gainesville, too?
A: Yes. We were married in 1912.
T: Do you remember anything about the wars? Were you in the wars?
A: In World War I, I registered to go when they made you register
for war. I was the first one down there because I really wanted
to go. But I didn't pass the examination. I had an infected
kidney at the time and I finally had to have that kidney taken
out and I never did go to war, but I wanted to go.
T: Have you won any awards for your sculpture?
A: Yeah, I've won four ribbons.
T: Where did you win these?
A: I won one at Newberry, one at Ocala, one at the Gainesville Recreation
Center,and I forget where I won the other one. I'm forgetful. Also,
I hold lifetime membership cards to the Art and Craftsmen Associations.
Look down there, you can see them.
T: They say you have a nursery of your own.
A: I used to.
T: What were the flowers that you grew in it?
A: Well, my flowers were calla lillies, gladiolas, and tube roses--
T: Did you grow the flowers here at your house in Gainesville?
A: Partly, and then I bought some land in east Gainesville. I grew
most of them out there.
T: How did the town look back then compared to today?
A: Well, it was dirt toads, horsed, and wagons. There weren't
T: Were there may stores in Gainesville?
A: Down on the square mostly.
T: Do you get enjoyment out of teaching them?
A: I don't teach.
T: You just sit up here and talk. Would you like to give classes
A: No. I'll tell you why. It's a gift from God and that would be
putting somebody between you and God. It would look like I'm
speculating, see? I go down with a normal price and try to cover
my expenses and make ends meet, while keeping everybody happy by
giving them a lot to make other people happy. That's why I'm
getting out so much.
T: It said in the article that your wife went blind several years
ago. Could you tell me when?
A. She went blind and was blind for seven years. That's why I'm into
this. I gave away my nursery to wait on her. My children's all
married and gone. So I wait on her. After I got rid of everything
she had her eyes operated on and she could see again. After she
could see she took the household and put me out of a job, see? I
wasn't able to buy the nursery back and I wasn't able to get out
and work for wages so I prayed to God to give me a job and I
talked to him day and night, just like I'm talking to you. I
told' him I wanted the job that nobody in Gainesville had and one
morning at three some voice said carve wood. I didn't understand
exactly, but I got up and got me a big old block and went to
work on it and within the next two or three days I finished it.
I still got it in the yard. People pass, look at it, some of them
make fun of it. I keep it because God gave me this wood.
So finally Mr. Purser, Stuart Purser, come by and saw a piece he
liked. He bought it and then he told me I really didn't know
what I was into. I couldn't see. Light hadn't come over to what
I was into over the summer.
He was an art teacher. He said, "You have a good thing going here
and you're very smart. I'll tell you what I want you to do. I
want you to go on your own. Don't take nobody's advice. Don't
take my advice. I want to see how far you can go on your own."
So I allow nobody to tell me what to do or what not to do. See,
that's for the Lord to tell me.
T: Did your wife regain back her sight after a while?
A: Yes. That's the reason I'm into this. After she gained back
her sight, she took the house over. She put me out of a job.
I was praying for a job and this is what the Lord gave me. I
sold the first piece I made.