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 Interview






DARK ITEM
Donald W. Smith
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Table of Contents
    Cover
        Cover
    Interview
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Full Text
DIVISION OF FLORIDA HIGHWAY PATROL
50TH ANNIVERSARY ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Interview with Donald W. Smith
Employed with FHP December 22, 1952 March 31, 1986
Interviewed by Betty Terrell
Date Interviewed February 2, 1989





BT: Today is Thursday, February 2, 1989, I am interviewing
Donald W. Smith. My name is Betty Terrell. We are at
the Florida Highway Patrol Station in Bradenton, the
time is 1:00 p.m. This interview is for the FHP oral
history project. As you know the FHP will observe it's
50th anniversary this year 1989. This interview will
establish your knowledge of and your input into the past
history of the patrol. Please give me your name for our
files.
DUS: Donald Wayne Smith.
BT: What date did you start with the FHP?
DWS: December 22, 1952.
BT: What was your position at the time of your retirement?
DWS: Duty Officer Supervisor.
BT: When did you retire from the FHP?
DWS: Actually, March 31, 1986.
BT: Don, how many years did you have with the FHP?
DWS: 33 years and three months.
BT: When were you born?
DWS: February 3, 1929.
BT: Where were you born?
DWS: Ft. Myers, Florida.
BT: What did you do for a living prior to becoming a member
of the FHP Division?
DWS: I worked as a dispatcher for a taxi cab company.
BT: Where did you go to elementary school?
DWS: Ft. Myers, Florida.
BT: What was the name of the school?
DWS: Edgewood.
BT: Where did you attend high school?
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DWS: Ft. Myers, Florida.
BT: And what was the name of that school?
DWS: Ft. Myers high school.
BT: Did you go to college?
DWS: No
BT: After high school, what did you do?
DWS: I worked at the cab company, I had started there when I
was about thirteen years old and it was just a
continuation.
BT: What were your reasons for becoming a radio dispatcher?
DWS: Uh, I had a physical handicap and I talked with the
Florida Rehabilitation people, they were trying to get
me into some kind of employment, gainful employment
other than what I was in and this thing came up about
the Florida Highway Patrol, and I applied to the Florida
Highway Patrol on December 20, 1951, and made
application and was accepted for employment on December
20, 1952, and actually got on the payroll on December
22nd.
BT: Approximately what was the starting salary at the time
you entered the FHP Division?
DWS: The starting salary for radio operators was $200.00 per
month and they deducted 25% of that the first month for
what they called training expense, meaning they figured
it cost them 25% of your pay to train you so the first
month I worked on the basis of $160.00.
BT: What was your ending salary?
DWS: $1651.00, $1651.44 to be exact, I don't remember, it was
in that area.
BT: Tell me some more about the starting salary?
DWS: Okay, the starting salary was $200.00 and the 1953
legislature voted us a $25.00 across the board pay raise
which carried it to $225.00. We got $10.00 per year pay
raise up until, we were suppose to go to $275.00, I went
up $225.00 and I went to $235.00, $245.00, $255.00 and
then I went to $265.00 in 1956 and 1957 was when I went
to $265.00 and 1957 I went to $265.00 and 1957 we got a
across the board pay raise that gave us $50.00 across
the board plus they wanted to bring everybody up to July
2





1st, they said they had some starting off in January,
February, all those anniversaries dates and they wanted
everybody anniversary date to be July 1st. So they gave
us all July 1, 1957, anniversary date which meant I got
a $53.33 pay raise, that carried me to $318.33 and I
will never forget it. Then we got a $15.00 pay raise
each year and I went up to $350.00, where you maxed
out. My last pay raise was a $1.67 to carry me from
$348.33 up to 350.00, then the next pay raise we got
carried us up to $387.00. We got a $37.00 pay raise and
I stayed there for a year and then we went up, finally I
got in ten years, at the end of ten years I was still
drawing $387.00 and I got a $25.00 across the board pay
raise. Incidentally on that there were only two people
in the Ft. Myers district that when they come out with
that type of pay raise there were only two people in the
Ft. Myers district, Lieutenant John Conroy and myself
that had enough time on to get that pay raise. Then we
went up to the $50.00, when you had in fifteen years you
got $50.00 pay raises and the pay just never did come up
it dragged and they even got into the problem of where
they made a mistake one month, they were suppose to give
you like a $20.00 pay raise and you only got ten. The
next month they would give you the twenty but they did
not make it retroactive. They never knew about
making...
BT: In those days they did not make it retroactive?
DWS: No they did not make it retroactive, if they made a
mistake they took advantage of it and that was it and it
changed your anniversary date at their leisure and
however they wanted to and to conform with their
system. I changed anniversary dates quite a few times.
BT: How is the salary of a dispatcher today compared to the
years back?
DWS: The airport police department has shown us that they are
paying more than anybody, just about all the
applications go to the airport police department, he was
telling us the other day, I happen to know the Sergeant
out there and he was telling us that several people from
the other agencies that had applied to him for jobs
because they are paying more, much more than the other
agencies. The Florida Highway Patrol is really, while
the salary has gone up the cost of living, so the base,
the gap between the two are about the same as they were
even say back when I started, the cost of living and the
cost of the uh, or the salary rather is just about the
same, percentage wise. They are still not paying up to
pot like they should, it is just not, that is why they,
one of the reasons they are having troubles, they have
had troubles getting quality radio operators, because
3





they can go out anywhere and make more money and they
can operate and it was just one of the things that
Colonel Kirkman going back that far, apparently he had a
soft spot somewhere in his heart toward handicap people
because most of your radio operators, or not most but
alot of your radio operators were handicapped, either
missing a limb or had a problem somewhere or another, we
had under Kirkman and continuing on through the rest but
particularly under Kirkman we had alot of handicapped
people working, I myself being handicapped and John
Green in Bradenton had only one leg and several others
that uh, I can think of that had a handicap of some kind
and that was the only reason for them to be able,
physically able to get out and get a job that they would
not have worked for the low salary which incidentally I
will go into another thing here, we worked twenty four
hours on and twenty four hours off for this $200.00 and
that was seven days a week and you did not get a kelly
day like some of the other organizations do. You work
two weeks and you get an extra day off. We just did not
get it. We worked twenty four hours on and twenty four
hours off, we had fourteen days, twelve days vacation
one day a month vacation and then your two days off gave
you fourteen days and then you had six compensatory days
and you take three of those with your vacation and then
you took three more sometime during the fall or winter
months. You could take three compensatory days and one
regular day and give you four days off, if you were
lucky. But that goes back to another thing to, sick
leave, you did not even have a sick leave program when I
came on the patrol there was not one. If you were sick,
you stayed home and when you came back to work whoever
had worked for you and worked your shift you owed them
that much time and you made it up. We did not have a
sick leave program until July 1, 1957, it was the first
official sick leave program and they gave us all a
bonus, everybody that had been there, they gave you
twelve days plus two days for every year you had been on
the patrol. And they gave me credit for five so I
started off with twenty two days sick leave, and I wound
up with something like almost three thousand hours of
sick leave. I wound up with enough that I would have
had seventy eight, I could have taken seventy eight
weeks off in sick leave time and they couldn't have
touched me, so I was one of the fortunate ones in sick
leave. But that sick leave was an interesting thing.
BT: Don how did you get the job as a dispatcher?
DWS: The Florida Rehabilitation people, I was attending
sessions with them, working through a man by the last
name of Payne and he suggested that since I was in radio
or worked on radio that I might be interested in talking
with the Florida Highway Patrol, that they did hire
4





physically handicapped people. So I went out and talked
to Captain or to the then Lieutenant Britt, uh
Lieutenant Mack Britt and uh, of course he tried to
discourage me based on telling me that I would be sent
or could be sent anywhere in the State of Florida and
this and that and but anyway I got an application, and
sent it in and Major J. Wallace Smith sent me back a
letter that my application had been received and would
be on file at such time as an opening occurred, and
incidently I never heard from application from that day
on, finally Lieutenant Simmons, Lieutenant H. Lee
Simmons saw the application and when -Frank Cline
resigned he had only one applicant and I was it.
BT: Frank Cline was he a dispatcher there?
DWS: I'm sorry he was a dispatcher and uh, Frank resigned to
go with the Ft. Myers Police Department and he called me
and said that Lieutenant Simmons had called and told him
that if I wanted the job I had it. This was one year to
the day from the day that I made the application. I
made the application on December 20, 1951 and this was
on December 20, 1952, if I wanted the job I had it, to
come on out and I went out that night and worked and was
put on the payroll effective the following Monday
morning, that was Saturday and I was put on the payroll
on Monday.
BT: How many dispatchers did they have in Ft. Myers?
DWS: They had two, Jimmy Hutches and Frank Cline. I replaced
Frank Cline and Jimmy Hutches stayed on until about a
year and a half later and he went on the road as a
trooper and from day on I was the senior operator, from
that day till the day I retired.
BT: Where was the first FHP station in Ft. Myers?
DWS: It was on Cleveland Avenue at the corner of Cleveland
and Edison. It was a very small building which
incidentally was built by, as I understood it, by
convict labor and it was a very secure building in that
they were not going anywhere and did not have anything
to do so they just slapped mud on that building and that
little old building there is an interesting story there,
we put in air conditioners, we did not have air
conditioners when I first went there and in about 56 or
57 we put in a wall air conditioner. The men had to
hire black labor to get up there and chisel the wall
out, he could not cut it out with a regular concrete
cutting saw, he had to chisel that wall out with a
chisel and a hammer and it took about a day to do it
because of the construction of the wall. Then in 1960
when hurricane donna passed through I sat that out, I
5





rode that out in that station and that little station
did not move at all, there was no problem with that
station, it stayed there.
BT: You said it was built by convicts?
DWS: That the way I understand it, in those days they were
allowed to work the convicts and we had a prison camp in
North Ft. Myers and the prisoners actually, I believe it
was in 1939 or 1941 rather, that they built the station
and it was actually, I don't know who the supervisor,
I'm sure they had proper supervision but it was actually
built by the prisoners and such, and some of the
troopers.
BT: Don did your disability have any hindrance in you
operating the teletype machines back in those days when
you first began with the patrol?
DWS:. No because I had learned to type when I was in the
hospital, received a typewriter as a gift from my mother
and I learned to type so I did not have any problem.
Actually I had three goals in my life as far as I'm
concerned, number one I wanted to learn to tie my shoes,
number two I wanted to graduate from high school and
number three I wanted a job that did not have to be
created for me. Number one, I learned to tie my shoe
when I was sixteen years old. Number two, I graduated
from high school in June of 1950, three months after I
was 21 years old in February of fifty. Number three,
the job that I had I don't think had to be created for
me based on the fact that I have seen people that have
actually attended college or had degrees and had worked
in various things, I have seen then walk off the job
saying, hey it is to hard for me and that reminds me of
a good story told by Julius Surgnier. Julius tells this
one that the boy came into Miami and the Captain walked
in and introduced him to Julius Surgnier (unk) and said
Julius I want you to make a radio operator out of this
boy and so the boy sat there and watched Julius work all
morning until noon and Julius told him, said boy, you
and go on and get your lunch now and so he looked at
Julius and he said now wait a minute, now you mean that
you only get paid $150.00 dollars a month, this was back
probably in fifty because the pay went up in fifty one
and Julius said yeah, that is all we get $150.00 a
month. He said that boy left and did not come back, he
did not even come back from his lunch break, because the
Miami station even at this time and this was probably in
the later part of the 1950's was very very busy. It was
a very busy station and probably the busiest station in
the State of Florida even today, but in those days even
then it was busy and that is just an example of how they
pay.
6





BT; Julius Surgnier was a radio operator?
DWS: Radio operator -right, I'm sorry in Miami, he had been a
radio operator in Miami later he was a radio operator in
Bradenton.
BT: Were their uniforms issued when you became a dispatcher?
DWS: No, we wore civilian clothes, we wore our own civillian
clothes until 1955, I was told in May of 1955, that I
would get a uniform. They were suppose to be a second
hand uniform, used uniforms and John Green working in
Bradenton which was our troop headquarters then, had
already gone over to Lakeland and gotten some uniforms.
I was told about it as I say in March of 1955. I wore
my first uniform in March of 1956. We got winter
uniforms, we were still in winter uniforms in March of
56, or April of 56 and I wore my first one, then when we
went into our summer uniforms we did not have summer
uniforms yet so I had to go back to civilian clothes
until the following fall whenever they went into winter
uniforms again. They issued, I was just telling them in
there about the badges. They issued four badges to
Troop F which there were two operators in Bradenton and
two in Ft. Myers. They came out with 27, 28, 29, and
30, of course Bradenton kept 27 and 28 and the 29 and 30
came to Ft. Myers so naturally I got 29 being the oldest
operator, and then in 1965 we went to the tan uniform
and went to the suntan uniform and the reason for this
was that we had a bunch of young, very young radio
operators at that time and some of the boys were only
seventeen and eighteen years old as I was told and they
were actually doing some bad things, on there way home
they would go 10-50 on cars because they had on their
uniforms like the patrol and it was creating a problem
so they changed us into the tan uniform in 1965 and at
that time they issued badges according to seniority and
I got badge number ten at that time, I said well, I may
not be the best but I'm in the top ten and the chief
operator badges went out, there was only one that I know
of that went out at that time, John Green got it. It
was number one and of course it stayed in Bradenton and
today it is still in Bradenton. Then whenever I made
chief or made chief dispatcher in 1969 I got number
seventeen which I wound up with, number seventeen.
Chief operator number seventeen.
BT: The first two badges that went to Ft. Myers you said was
twenty nine and thirty, who got number 30?
DWS: John Morris, he was a young man, he did not last too
long with us but.....
7





BT: There was still just two of you at that time?
DWS: There was just- two of us up until, we did not get, we
did not start staying open twenty four hours a day until
August of 1956. I think we finally got up to four
operators then and we hired two more and Dean Surgnier
was one of them and I can't think of the other, (unk),
because (unk) had the night shift and there was three of
us rotating around him. We did not grow that much.
BT: You said when they first started issuing uniforms you
heard about it in March of 55?
DWS: Fifty five.
BT: March of fifty five and you did not get yours until
March of fifty six. Why did it take you a year to get
your uniforms if the other dispatcher had already gotten
one?
DWS: They issued us a badge, the first thing they issued us
was a badge and the collar brass and then the next
couple of months they came around and they had trousers
I think, I got new trousers because I was so small in
the waist, I was only about twenty eight in the waist
and they had to order them so I did not get them until,
it was just one of those slowed down things that the
department did not move all that fast in those days, you
did not have that many people and you had a corporal out
of Bradenton that was acting as the supply sergeant in
addition to doing all his road work and keeping up with
his road people so what was his name, Frank, I can't
think of his name.
BT: Parcinsky?
DWS: Parcinsky, Frank Parcinsky was the corporal up here and
he was also the supply sergeant and a little bit of
everything and so I am pretty sure it was Frank that was
up here at that time. Anyway, they did the best they
could based on their man power and their availability
they did the best they could. As I said the first
school the radio operators ever had was in March of 1955
instead of May because that was the first time we ever
saw it snow, it snowed for us in Tallahassee and Captain
Jay Lee Hall taught the school and we had two one week
sessions up there, had everything, we had to draw a map
we had to do all of that, we had a good time but we had
to draw a map and it was very interesting school.but,
and one thing the size of the Department in those days,
there was only twenty three stations so I think we had
thirty people up there. I still have a picture of that
bunch. Julius Surgnier was in that picture and quite a
few of them.
8





BT; What did they give you in this school other than drawing
the map?
DIS: Well, they tried to give us communication procedures and
they went through the manual and we had a tour of the
Kirkman Building.because it had been built just prior to
that.Harry Davidson was the engineer. Davidson was the
engineer, the Chief Engineer and he came over and talked
to us and told us how, what we should do and what we
should not do and what the procedures were on the
radio. They took five full days with it and we had the
map making and we had talks by the various, people, note
taking was taught by the then Captain Karl Adams or
Lieutenant Karl Adams I believe it was, just people like
that.
BT: Okay going back to the uniform, they went into tan
uniforms, how long were the dispatchers in the tan
uniform before they went back to the trooper color?
DWS: Uh they went back to the trooper color or were going
back to the trooper colors here again was a process
thing, it took so long, they started it in eighty six.
They started it probably in January of eighty six, I
never did get back into it. I had not ordered enough to
when I retired, well actually my last working day,
physical working day was February but I was on the
payroll until March because of vacation and I think some
of the people uh maybe one of the lady operators that
had just come in, she started in September with us and
she went into the new uniforms, she was one of the first
ones to go back into the trooper color uniform and now I
think they are all back into them, I think the tan has
been done away with completely.
BT: Starting from the beginning, tell me about some of the
things that you remember occurred while you were
employed by the FHP.
DUS: Of course it is the first night, the one that I always
remember, I guess I will remember it all my life,
however long I live, and that was the first night, Frank
Cline the dispatcher called me at my other job and told
me this was Saturday night December 20, 1952 (blank spot
in tape) He had just gotten a call from the then
Lieutenant H.L. Simmons in Sebring and told him to call
me and tell me that I had the job if I wanted it to come
on down. So by the time I got off my job at 7:00 and
had dinner and gotten to the station it was probably
about 8:00 and Frank told me, he said well you have had
a little experience operating a radio you might as well
go ahead and just sit here and operator the radio and I
will be over in the bedroom clearing out my things and
9





if you need any help. So I took a few 10-10's and a few
10-8's and I thought boy this is a job to have if you
get paid for i-t. The then Sergeant W.R. Kaufman, Bill
Kaufman called me and told me I should get up a little
closer to the mike, it was a sensitive mike. It was not
but just a few minutes before one of my units, and in
those days we called from instead of to so he says Ft.
Myers from one thirty six (unk) and I said go ahead. He
took a check for wanted (10-29) on a vehicle that had a
six digit tag in the body it was 1-123456 like that and
I looked it up in the flex system, we did not have any
modern equipment that we have today, the computerized
stuff, we had an old flexline system that we had the
numbers filed on, the year and make of the car and the
message number so I looked on the flexline system and
there set the numbers big as all outdoors, I jumped up
and ran over to the bedroom, what do I do now Frank,
what do I do. Frank said well it is wanted it is a
signal 10, tell him so. So I told him, I said 10-4
signal 10 it is on a thrity nine Oldsmobile and it was
out of Miami. He was about two miles or three miles
south of the station northbound on US-41 on a two lane
road. Two lane undivided road, he pulled out and turned
on his lights and blew his siren. Well the car took off
on him and come on up and there was a turn right at the
north end of the station and he took that turn, the car
turned and just as he turned the trooper (unk) being
left handed fired two shots into the air. Warning
shots, they were not directed at the car because the car
was in the process of making the turn, and the car went
about a block or two blocks down the side street and
tried to turn back and at the high speed, he rolled the
car over in a mans front yard. The first thing he
called for was send me dogs, send me deputy's, send me
an ambulance and send me a fire truck. He called for
all those things. He wanted a deputy, ambulance and
fire truck and dog. So I called the prison camp and got
the dogs coming, I got the police cars coming, I got the
fire truck rolling and the funny thing, just as he fired
those two shots, Frank Cline went out the back door and
went over to the scene of the accident, and left me by
myself to work the radio which I did that night and the
other car, I won't tell on you Les, but anyway about
that time, the other trooper, we only had two troopers
in Lee County 10-8 at that time.
BT: Les who?
DWS: Les Sutton, and the off duty radio operator called on
the radio and said Ft. Myers from 108, go ahead 108, we
just ran out of gas up here in North Ft. Myers, would
you get us some gas. Sutton grabbed the mike real quick
and said Ft. Myers do that when you can, in other words
he was telling me not to make it a priority thing and
10





get him gas. So I did, I got one of the truck stops to
carry him some gas and he came on down to the scene.
Frank Cline, the radio operator, and Jimmy Hutches the
off duty radio operator riding with Sutton chased the
suspect and they chased him about six blocks I guess,
they found him in a bush of hibiscus and they flushed
him out and caught him and he was a sixteen year old
kid. It later came out that he was wanted for several
charges in Miami, Dade County, and Trooper Travis
Lilinscomb had a field day writing citations. You had
to write a citation on every charge so he had a field
day writing citations.
BT: Approximately how many citations?
DWS: Uh well, they got him for driving a stolen car, and for
no drivers license, he must have had six or seven
citations on him all total. On September 4, 1954, at
about seven thirty or so in the evening, Trooper Garris,
Russell B. Garris came by the station and he had only
been in Lee County four days. He had transferred in
from Highlands County and replaced Trooper Linscomb, he
and Trooper Linscomb had switched places. We were
standing there when we got a call that there was an
accident at, it is now Miners Plaza, I don't remember
the name of it then, it was at the corner of McGregor
and San Carlos and so he started out to it. I told him
how to get there and he headed out for the accident and
he had been gone for a few minutes and I got a call back
from the Sheriff's Office to cancel on the accident,
that there was not anything there. They had checked the
scene and there was not anything there. I called Garris
and told him to disregard the accident but he went on to
the scene of the accident anyway and he turned on the
side road, Gladiolus Drive and he went down Gladiolus to
A&W and he turned up A&W and come back to McGregor
Boulevard and when he got back to McGregor Boulevard he
got confused and turned the wrong way. Instead of
turning to his right and come back to town he turned to
his left and went right back to where he had come from.
Well, he met a car with one headlight, he said well, I
have not got a correction card today, he had done
drivers license, he had been a drivers license examiner
from one till four that afternoon so he did not have
correction cards written so he said I will go and get me
a correction card, so he turns around on this car and
follows it back, he turns on his light and pulls him
over and right on what we call rainbow curve on McGregor
Boulevard and as he got out of the car he walked up and
he got right about even with his front tire he heard an
explosion. He thought his tire had blown out. He
looked down at the tire and at the same time he realized
he had been hit. The man in front of him in the car,
the driver of the car he had just stopped fired a shot
11





at him and hit him in the leg, in the thigh and so
Garris being left handed again, we are talking left
handed and at -that time the troopers were all wearing
their guns on their left hip. He had to take his,
correction card book in one hand and his flashlight in
his left so he had to throw his correction card book
down and move his flashlight to his right hand, get his
revolver out and he returned fire. He fired six shots
and the guy had gotten out of the car in the mean time
and was coming toward, he hit him once in the head in
the temple and once in the chest above the heart, but
anyway the man turned and ran away from him out in front
of the car and fell and Garris came back to the patrol
car and he sat down and he reloaded his gun, they did
not have speed loaders in those days, and so he reloaded
and he said now I have got to think what to tell Smith
so he does not get excited on the radio and mess up
everything. He picked up the radio and he calls in, he
says Ft. Myers from 133, says I have just been shot and
I shot a man and need an ambulance, send an ambulance
and then he told me where he was, he said I don't know
exactly where I am, he said I see a sign that says RBK
Farms, well RBK Farms I knew where he was, so I called
the ambulance and I called the only supervisor I had,
Sergeant Kaufman was in Pensacola in a school, Anyway it
was Kauffmans day off but I called him at home and told
him I said Garris has just been shot and told him where
he was, he said okay I'm on my way, and he ran out the
door, he says he had on a pair of walking shorts and
just grabbed his gun belt and ran out the door and got
in his patrol car and went out to the scene. There was,
all this going on nobody would stop, finally this black
person stopped and Russell said just before the black
person stopped, he said he saw a head bobbing around in
the back of the car and so he said you up there in the
car throw out anything you have in your hand and come
out with your hands up. So he threw a pistol out the
right window and he came out of the car and he walked
back there to Garris and Garris told him to turn around
and he put the handcuffs on him, then he put him in the
back seat and so when, there was a black man stopped and
asked him said, boss can I help you in anyway? Russell
said would you stay here with me until some help gets
here, I would appreciate it. Kauffman got to the scene
apparently before the ambulance did because he checked
Garris out and made sure that he was alright and was not
hurt to bad so he went to find the other man who had
been shot. He turned to this black man, and said now if
this kid in the back seat tries to get out you take this
flashlight and hit him over the head with it. So the
black guy drew that flashlight back and said yes sir I
sure will. Kauffman walked on off into the headlights
of the other car, or to the one headlight of the other
car and he saw the man laying on the side of the road
12





and about that time of course the ambulance got there.
Incidentally the Sheriff and one of his deputies were
attending a drive-in movie and they had heard the sirens
and so they decided they better turn on the radio and
see what was going on, so when they found out of course
they went over to the scene and we had the Sheriff and
the Chief Deputy and another deputy at the scene at
least, and they carried this sixteen year old into the
jail and put him into the holding cell there.. They were
busy, incidentally the Sheriff's Department had had a
fire on the beach just prior to this and they were all,
they had had a couple of people burned up in the fire so
they were upset about that and finally this kid said
hey, talking to the Chief Deputy, said hey, come here a
minute I have something I want to tell you, he said boy
I don't have time be bothered by you, I have got other
things to do, no he said we killed two people, I have
got to tell you about it. He said you did what, and so
then the boy made a confession to the Chief Deputy that
they had been involved in this, in the fire. Apparently
they had broken into this house and the owners had come
home and they shot and killed them and to cover up their
tracks they set the house on fire and left. Garris had
no knowledge what so ever of this at the time he had
stopped the car. There was absolutely no knowledge what
so ever that this had ever occurred and Captain Britt
was out Troop Commander, I remember because Kauffman
asked me if I had told Bradenton anything, I said no
sir, I'm waiting on you, right on the radio I said, no
sir, I'm waiting on you. So he came in and called
Bradenton, he went by the house and put his uniform on
and got ready to go. Of course he kidded me down
through the years, he said you called me on my day off,
I said well I had to call somebody, I had to have
somebody. iWe had quite a time about that one.
BT: Who was the Sheriff at that time?
DWS: Flanders G. "Snag" Thompson.
BT: Do you remember who the Chief Deputy was?
DWS: Howard Greer and Bobby Rogers was the Deputy who was out
with Snag that night at the movie, they were at the
drive-in movie, cause I remember Bobby said they put the
wives, Snag had his wife and Bobby had his wife and they
put the wives in one car and they got in the other car
and took off to the scene to see what was going on.
BT: These two men in the car that night, were they escapes
or....
13





DUS: Let me go a little further into this story, we in those
days did not have the communications system we have now,
we had the car, it had a Kentucky tag on it and we sent
to Kentucky for a registration and they did not tell us
anything, they did not tell us the car was stolen, we
did not even find out the car was stolen until the man,
the owner of the car showed up to claim his car then
when we found out the car was stolen, apparently this
man was an escapee or something from a prison and he had
picked up this kid hitchhiking. The kid had run away
from home and was hitchiking in Kentucky, he picked him
up and they come down the east coast of Florida, they
robbed a lady in a motel over in Jacksonville, she
testified in the trial that he was the person that had
robbed her and so forth and they went all the way down
to Miami and come back up the west coast, they were
traveling up the west coast of Florida at the time of
the incident. That is my recollection of it.
BT: You were talking about you found out that the car was
stolen in Kentucky, was the teletype system in those
days connected with other states?
DWS: No we had to send to Tallahassee, seems to me that we
had to send to Tallahassee and they had to actually
authorize a phone call or something to get the
registration, we never got a response from Kentucky
until the man came down. It was very slow,
communications were just nothing compared to what they
are today.
BT: Don you said Captain Garris had worked that day, given
drivers license exams, Troopers gave the exams?
DWS: Our exam program at Ft. Myers was on I think Tuesday and
Friday. We gave exams from 1:00 till 4:00 and the
Trooper working the, we had two troopers, one worked the
1:00 pm till 10:00 p.m. shift and the other worked the
3:00 p.m. till 12:00 p.m. shift and the one working one
til ten gave the exams. That was in Ft. Myers then of
course the outlining counties like the Evergaldes for
example in Collier County they gave them one hour a week
down there, I think on Friday afternoon 3:00 p.m. till
4:00 p.m. or something like that and Naples and Punta
Gorada, Arcadia and uh, the troopers worked prior to my
coming on, I think it was September the first 1952 that
they changed, or they were working the 12 hour shift,
five days a week and a 14 hour shift one day a week,
making a total of 74 hours, that is up until September
1, 1952. As of September 1, 1952, they started working
a nine hour day, five days a week and a 12 hour day one
day a week for a total of 57 hours, and then later on
they come down and did away with, I don't recall the
14





exact date, but they did away with the 12 hour Saturdays
and made them nine hours so they were working nine six
hour shifts, or six nine hour shifts.
BT: The twelve hour shift was worked on weekends, Saturdays
and Sunday?
DWS: It was on Saturday only. You worked a twelve hour shift
on Saturday. The one to ten trooper worked from one to
one and the three twelve trooper backed up and worked
from two till two cause we closed the station down at
two o'clock on Sunday morning and there would not be a
station opened after two o'clock unless we had to get
out and work a wreck and if we had to get out of bed and
work a wreck we would do that. We only had one phone
line in those days coming into that station and we had
to use it for outgoing and incoming calls, one phone
line was it. I remember one night we had an incident in
Labelle where we had a bad wreck, lady called me long
distance to tell me they had a bad wreck at Felda, they
needed an ambulance real bad. The closest ambulance to
Felda was sitting there in Ft. Myers and I had to, so
when I hung up the phone, I could not break my
connection to get the ambulance to roll and I was having
quite a time trying to break that connection, the woman
called me back again, she was telling me how bad the
accident was and they still needed the ambulance. I
must have taken what seemed like ages, but probably did
not take over five minutes, but it seemed like an
eternity to me to try to get that ambulance rolling
cause I knew that the closest ambulance was in Ft.
Myers. In fact, the closest ambulance when we were
working right on up till the mid fifties before we had
an ambulance in Naples.
BT: Felda, was that a community?
DWS: Right.
BT: What was it near?
DWS: It was about twenty miles south of Labelle on State Road
29, which meant the" ambulance had probably fifty or
fifty five miles to run to get to the accident. We had
the same thing in Collier County, the closest ambulance
to Everglade City which was some seventy miles away was
sitting in Ft. Myers or Miami and I recall one afternoon
an ambulance come out of Miami and the trooper called me
by phone, he could not get to. me by the radio so he
called me by phone and told me, said they sent an old
ambulance out said you better check (unk) and make sure
he gets back to Miami with the injured, so I had to call
Miami to make sure that ambulance got back with the
injured.
15





BT: The examiners worked on Saturday?
DWS: Right they worked, well I don't think he gave tests on
Saturday, well they did in some places, he had to
because, I know they did in Naples, the roving examiner
had to in Naples and Burkett I think he either roved or
he had to work and do as they say clean the floors and
clean the office up and get it ready for the coming week
and they did uh, they did not have full time examiners,
I mean a full time examination station in Naples and
Punta Gorda, Arcadia and places like that for quite some
time, it was only the larger places that got them.
BT: You referred a couple of times to the bedroom at the Ft.
Myers station, did the radio operators stay there on
these 24 hour shifts?
DWS: Well we worked 24 on and 24 off. We went to work at six
o'clock in the afternoon and at twelve o'clock at night
we could sign the station out if the summary, we had a
summary in those days that started at twelve o'clock at
12:01 a.m. at Pahokee and went all the way to Panama
city and back. If it got back before twelve ten, you
could sign out anytime it got back, it cleared, you
could sign out and go to bed. If it did not come back
by 12:10 you could sign out your station anyway and go
to bed. You closed up your station and locked it up
tight and turned off all the lights and went to bed. If
nothing happened, if you didn't get a phone call during
the night about a wreck or somebody wanting to know if
it was raining in Miami, this brings up a funny
incident, if it was raining in Miami or something you
could sleep all night and you got up the next morning
and showered and shaved and was ready to go at 8:30, the
secretary came in at 8:30 and she would stay in the
station and put your station on the air for you at 9:00
and then you would get back at 9:30, you got one hour
for breakfast, and then you worked from 9:30 until
1:00. The secretary would come in at 1:00 to relieve
you from 1:00 till 2:00 forlunch and then you would come
back at 2:00 and worked till 6:00 that afternoon and you
were off till 6:00 the next afternoon. And
incidentally, this is a funny one that happened, Captain
J.W. Hagen came over, he was my Troop Commander, he came
over one night and he said Smith I will spend the night,
we had twin beds back there, if you tell me there is not
much going on, if that phone don't ring all night, I
said no sir Captain it won't ring. I said no sir, it
hardly ever rings, so he said okay I will stay. That
night somebody got stuck on a sand bar in Naples, and
they kept me out there almost all night and that phone
would ring every time I hit that bed, it must have rang
16





a half dozen times.. Captain said I thought you said it
didn't ring. I said I did Captain, but it is an
exception to the rule tonight.
BT: You were talking about the secretary signing the station
on for you every morning, do you recall who the first
secretary or, was it secretaries at that time?
DWS: That is what they called her.
BT: Okay.
DWS: I think the term clerk came in later, but we called her
secretary. Inez Tiner, love her.
BT: How do you spell her last name?
DWS: Tiner, Inez Tiner and she was one of the finest people,
she was little, Kauffman called her Iney Tiney, she was
a little person, real small lady and she, well she was
just super, she could do work as a radio operator, she
would come in there and pinch it for us as a radio
operator and do anything we needed and of course she had
daily reports in those days as opposed to weekly reports
which we have come out with now, but we had a daily
report to do and she had to keep up with her reports.
The characteristic of her was she was a pack rat, she
did not believe in throwing away anything, I think Doris
Hagerman came over from Miami and showed her a system
where by she could rotate her reports out after ninty
days. That way she would only have about ninety days
worth of reports on file at any one given time.. So what
did she do she took and hid all the old reports under
the bed in the bedroom so that they would not get lost.
We had reports, when we finally threw reports away, we
had reports going back to 1946 in there.
BT: Who was your Troop Commander at that time that had been
your District Commander?
DWS: Murray Thomas, F. Murray Thomas, Frederick Murray
Thomas.
BT: Yeah.
DWS: Fine people.
BT: Were you working the night that Corporal Joe Bertrand
was killed in Ft. Myers?
DWS: No, I was off duty but they called me in, the operator
called me in and I only lived about two miles from the
station, so it did not take me too long to get to the
station. I came into the station that night and I met,
17





that is the one night that Bob Delany tells the story
that very rarely did he ever go out in a hurry, but he
said that was -the one night that he left his driveway
with his siren and red light on and I met Bob on the way
to the station. I was coming from the north and he was
coming from the south. I got to the station and the
operator filled me in very briefly as to what was
happening and first thing I knew the operator backed out
on me and I got into the situation in a hurry and had
everything coming to me, had cars coming from as far
away as Bradenton, I recall one of them in the incident
he called me, he had never been to Ft. Myers before and
he said how do I get there? I said tell me where you
are, he said I'm on the bridge coming across the river,
I said, make an illegal U-turn when you get to the
bottom of it to your left, he said I'm there where do I
go? I said go to the next stop sign and take a right,
he said I'm there where do I go? I said go to the next
stop sign and take a left. He said I'm there where do I
go, he kept doing this to me until I got him out on
eighty headed out to the scene and what had actually
happened from the pieces and bits we got, Corporal
Bertrand was going east on eighty and he met this car
that apparently had come over the center line at him, a
drunk driver, he turned to proceed the car when,
Bertrand was westbound on eighty, I'm sorry, he was
westbound on eighty instead of east, so he turned around
and went back eastbound on eighty after the car, when he
got the car stopped, as he got out of the car the
subject came out of the car and fired a shot, hit
Bertrand, he never even got his gun out of the holster,
incidentally Bertrand had said just a few days before
the incident, in all my years that I've been on the
Highway Patrol I've never un-holstered my gun in anger,
and that night he did not get a chance to un-holster it,
he was shot before he ever even got out of the car good
and we had cars coming from Bradenton, our cars coming
from all over. Charlie Humphries came from Lake Placid
and brought a crew, Mike Lowman and ex-sergeant in the
Ft. Myers District came in from Pahokee and brought a
crew and we were telling them to set up and all and this
black person apparently being intoxicated or in a close
state of intoxication he was stumbling around in the
area and so as the story goes, now this story I can't
confirm but it was told. There was a jailer sitting at
the jail in Immokalee and he said when he was hearing
all of this they apparently had a scanner on and they
were hearing all this and he said, If I get up there and
catch that black (blah, blah, balh) said he would be
gone, he said I would blow him away, said I will show
18





you. About that time we called for assistance from the
Collier County Sheriff's Office and asked them if they
had any deputies and this particular deputy happened to
be one of them that came and of course we had law men
from all over the area, Jack Bent, he was the then
Sheriff of Charlotte County, he was down there and I
can't remember how many others but there were many, but
Jack Bent I do remember. So they were all down there
and this black guy staggered right into the arms of this
deputy from Immokalee and so of course they apprehended
the guy and handcuffed him and read him his rights and
everything and carried him to jail. So anyway the story
goes that he got back to Immokalee and somebody said
well wait a minute I thought you said you were going to
do so and so and so, if you got to that guy? He said I
will tell you, it is one thing to say what you are going
to do, sitting on the jail steps and it is another thing
up there in front of a bunch of witnesses, to say what
your going to do. The story, Jack Bent, and somebody
else, I don't remember who it was, but they say that
they were the two that intervened in that thing and kept
them from actually killing that man that night. This
would have been a bad thing for us, because he was not,
at that point he was not guilty of anything that we knew
about, until later and, but, they did carry him in and
he was charged and convicted and as far as I know to
this day he is still in prison because they said he was
a bad actor in prison and he is still there.
BT: Jack Bent, wasn't he a former trooper?
DWS: Right, I'm sorry, that is the reason I mentioned his
name, he was a former trooper that was appointed Sheriff
of Charlotte County. There was somebody else in there,
I can't recall who it was, Bob Delaney was in there.
BT: Bob Delaney, is he still with FHP?
DUS: No, Bob resigned from the FHP to run for Sheriff of Lee
County in 1972 and he was defeated and died in 1986.
BT: Is the present FHP Station in Ft. Myers still a the same
location?
DWS: No we moved on June 6, 1967, to a newly constructed
station on US 41 South, immediately south of the Lee
County airport. The strange thing about the new station
is that the Legislature appropriated $70,000.00 for the
construction of that station and the installation of all
the equipment and I think they asked for an addition to
the station, a 5,000 square foot addition to the station
which went many many times over, I think it went
something like a half a million dollars or more just for
the addition. As far as I know it has never been
19





approved. It is not even in the works anymore that I
know of, but anyway, the original station, the new
station as we call it and even though built and occupied
in 1967 John Conroy, Lieutenant, was the commanding
officer that opened it. E. R. "Mike" Lowman was the
District Sergeant at that time and we opened it in June
of 1967.
ET: Now how many dispatchers did you have?
DWS: We carried four of us, I'm sure there is still only four
and we wound up when I finished the Patrol, had myself
and five, I had five operators, dispatchers working for
me. I was the supervisor.
BT: Describe how the radio equipment changed through the
years.
DWS: When I started we had two frequencies, we had the main
channel which was on 4506 and an auxiliary receiver
which was on 4490. Most of the patrol cars could
transmit on the 4506 only and a few cars, we had one in
Everglade City and one in Naples that could transmit on
the 4490, which was channel 2 we could receive on that
only.. Then we had so much trouble receiving the car in
Everglades that they put up a repeater tower down there
which he fed his signal to the repeater and he would
feed it in at the 4490 and it would come to us on a
higher frequency at 150 something frequency and this
helped but it was not the answer. We worked with it for
a long time, they did not do that until about 1960, I
know during hurricane Donna the repeater tower was blown
over and we had quite a bit of trouble with it but it
was the only lines of communication we had down there at
that time. Everglades was very hard hit during that
hurricane. Gradually we increased or improved the
equipment, all of the units got the two frequencies so
that they had a channel one and channel two but they
still could not talk car to car more than a short
distance and only on channel one so, car to car
operations were restricted. Finally probably in 1980 we
came up with a new or the present equipment design that
they had, using the microwave and the whole bit which is
a big step in the right direction and with new equipment
they can talk car to car now from Clewiston to Ft. Myers
and anywhere in the area. They still have a few bad
spots, weak spots back of the antenna, what we call back
of the antenna but generally it is, the old saying that
it is as much an advance over the horse and wagon as a
jet airplane is, over the horse and wagon so the
communications has just advanced tremendously and the
telecommunications over the teletype and all that,
computers are just unreal, I know we had one, the first
20





computer operation we had was in 1953, was in May of
1953, there was an old sluggish thing doing about
thirty-five words a minute, you could actually over type
it if you were a good typist and today they have, or
when I left they had some of the most modern equipment.
They had almost world wide, well they did have world
wide communications. One of my thoughts on that is
Florida drivers license, I came in one Saturday night
and to tell you how slow it was in those days, this was
probably in, well this was at the new station so it
would have been in 1968 or 1970. le had a fatal out on
State Road 80 and I needed drivers license status from
Florida and Ohio. I sent to Florida for my complete
driver printout for my homicide investigator about two
o'clock in the morning and at the same time I sent to
Ohio for the Ohio printout at about two o'clock in the
morning. At six o'clock in the morning I had a printout
from Ohio that you would not believe. They could tell
you just about anything that you wanted to know about
that person, they told us everything. They told us the
complete driving history the whole bit. We did not get
our printout from Florida back until late Tuesday
afternoon by our slow teletype system. Of course it has
improved since then but this would be nineteen years ago
so it has certainly improved, today you can do just
about as good with Florida as I did with Ohio that day,
and just about as fast.
BT: Who among your fellow troopers and supervisors made the
greatest impression upon you?
DWS: Probably the man that hired me, H. Lee Simmons, he was
just, he was, I don't know how to describe him, and I
don't know that he ever had an enemy, if he did I don't
know any person that ever disliked the man, he was just
one of the finest men to work for and work around, he
could just talk to you in a language that you could
understand, for example, I have a joke on that. His
hand writing was not all the greatest so when he would
give you an order, he would write it down and hand it to
you, and say now you read that and let me know if you
understand it. If you understood it, and accepted it,
it was yours and you better know what was on there. If
you didn't you said, No sir Lieutenant I don't
understand this, and he would read it to you and tell
you what it said and then it was yours and you better
know it. Probably one or two of the troopers that
probably I remember, I don't know why, but Les Sutton
21





and Russell Garris, I guess it was just they were close
friends and they were personal friends and good people.
Of course there is Bill Kauffman, you start naming
people, I could sit here and name thirty- three years
worth and still miss somebody. You will miss somebody
that meant so much to you that, oh we had a few of the
other kind but I always remember the fine ones. You had
Bob Delaney who got me into masonry which I respect and
have all kinds of admiration for and as I say Les Sutton
and Russell Garris they were two of the first ones.
There was Haywood, there was Tommy Kehoe and Jim
Dickens, you could, I could sit here and rattle off as
many names as you could probably from people that I
knew, that I worked with Whitey Knutsen was one of them,
we may not have always seen eye to eye but he was fine
people and we did get along real well. There were so
many of them, you would have to leave out more than you
named.
BT: Don, you mentioned Jimmy Dickens and Tommy Kehoe,
weren't they supervisors in charge of the Ft. Myers
Station at one time?
DWS: Jimmy Dickens was, Jimmy came in, he was the First
Sergeant at Bradenton and then Murry Thomas died on June
3, 1958 or when Murry Thomas, back that up, he replaced
Murry Thomas as District Supervisor, he was the
Lieutenant and Tommy Kehoe was the District Sergeant,
Dickens had already been there before, he came there
July 1, 1957, actually he and I were roommates until his
wife got down. She transferred down from Panama, or
from Bradenton, she transferred in from Bradenton and he
and I had a room together until that time. He and Tommy
and I all had roomed together.
BT: Lieutenant Dickens was the First Sergeant in Bradenton?
DWS: Right, and then transferred to Ft. Myers as the District
Commander. Tommy Kehoe was the Sergeant in charge,
District Sergeant and his home was in Naples. His wife
would not move from Naples so he would stay in Ft. Myers
about three or four nights a week and then go home to
Naples about one or two nights a week. He commuted
mostly, we called him the commuting Sergeant.
BT: What do you see as the greatest differences in the FHP
as it was during your time and'as it is today?
22





DVWS: The leave program is one of the biggest changes that I
have seen, as I said, when I started you had an annual
leave of twelve days, you got a day a month and now it
is up to, they promoted it to where if you, for service
they give you extra time off and the length of service.
Also when I started they did not have a sick leave
program, which they instituted in July of 1957 and you
have just seen so many changes like the uniform, the
advent of the uniform. When I started you did not have
a uniform, the operators are all now dressed in uniform
and they, also along the line the operator had to stay
there three months before they even got a uniform, now
they want the uniform on them by the time they start,
just like they do the troopers, they talk about
certifying the operators today as opposed to in the old
days, just anybody could operate the radio, walk in
there and operate it, now you have to have certification
on the computers in order to work the radio, the
troopers have changed so much, we have seen so many
changes, not so much in their uniforms but we have seen,
oh it has just grown in numbers, I think that is the
biggest thing. We had two troopers in Lee County when I
started, the Lieutenant the Sergeant and two troopers
and I think today they have got probably about
twenty-five troopers in Lee County or close to it in
that vicinity, of course that is the population growth
but still they could probably use twenty-five more. The
Captain down there would probably not object if you get
him twenty-five more. The biggest, it has just been
changes caused by growth, I would say caused by growth,
that the Department has grown. I remember when they
changed cars back in 1959, when they went primarily from
the Ford to the Plymouth and then Dodge and all the
things that happened with that. Now they are using the
little mustangs and all, which is, the changes and the
troopers just increased in number and of course we have
had the advent of the female troopers and the, that is
another thing when I started, I think almost all, there
were only maybe a half a dozen or less, female operators
throughout the state in the twenty-three stations and
today I think we have forty-one stations and the biggest
percentage of them are females and minorities, which we
did not have when I started. There was just not that
many.
BT: Generally tell me how you look upon your career with the
Patrol?
23





DWS: I don't really know, I enjoyed it, enjoyed it, every
minute of it. There were times that as Jimmy Dickens
used to say, I- did not know enough to be scared and my
hair stood up on the back of my neck and I did not
realize when I was in trouble until it was all over
with, what I had really been through, just like that
first night, I did not know enough to know how serious
and just what all the implications could have been.
Then later on some of the other instances that I got
into, I can tell one on myself. One night I did not
know, the word garb, I'd never seen the word or did not
realize what it was and I used some other word and Bill
Kauffman was coming down US 27 when he heard me use it.
I was telling about an escaped prisoner in prison garb
or something and Bill Kauffman said he was laughing so
hard he almost ran off the road laughing at me about
it. One night one of the incidents, I was with Sutton
when he arrested one. The FBI had called us that
afternoon and told us this guy was in the area and was
very dangerous and the Ft. Myers Police Department had
him under surveillance and the FBI was in the area
looking for him and everything and so Les and I went up
on the north end and we spotted him parked up against a
fence, he was laying down in the front seat of the car
almost asleep. Les got out of the car and had him in
custody and he told me to watch him.. I said uh, cause I
was suppose to have a gun and I did not have one on me
being an unarmed off duty radio operator. But those
were the things, we had a good time about that one, that
particular incident, we had alot of fun. Generally I
loved the Patrol, it was my life. Everybody on it, all
the people from the janitors, we had some fine people
who worked for us. We had some wonderful clerks, we had
some wonderful people to work with, they were just good
people and you just enjoyed them, I made friendships,
acquaintances. In 1986, I don't think I could have
honestly gone into a Patrol Station in the State of
Florida where I would have been a total stranger.
Somebody in there would have known me or I would have
known somebody. They are just fine people and it was a
wonderful career, I would not have changed it for
anything. I just loved it.
BT: Don are you working now?
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DWS: I'm working for the Lee County Sheriff's Office as a
communications clerk. That is the title they give
them. It is basically the same thing as a small patrol
station only I work in the sub-stations. I'm right now
what we call the relief shift, I work the relief shift
five days a week and have for the last two years almost,
worked for the Lee County Sheriff's Department.
BT: Don, I want to thank you for taking the time to come to
Bradenton today and give us this interview for the FHP
oral history. I'm sure that all the information that
you have shared with us will be beneficial to us and
also I want to thank you for the thirty-three years that
you have given to the Florida Highway Patrol.
25





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