SOUTHEASTERN INDIAN ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
In cooperation with The Seminole Tribe of Florida
INTERVIEWEE: MRS. CLYDE McCROCKLIN
INTERVIEWER: DR. SAMUEL PROCTOR
DATE: SEPTEMBER 1, 1971
Arts and Crafts, 5-6, 20
Alligator Alley, 18
Big Cypress Reservation, 1, 5, 10, 12, 18
Billie, Dorothy, 17
Boehmer, William, 4-5, 7, 9, 11-12, 15-16, 19
Bowers, Mr. and Mrs., 20, 24
Bowlegs, Billy, 25
Brighton Indian Reservation, 1, 2, 5, 20
Bureau of Indian Affairs, 5, 10
Christmas, 1963, 14, 24-25
Clewiston, 1, 7, 17, 19, 23
Clothing, 20, 24-25
Cobra, Jack, 14
Conditions of school, 4, 6-7, 16
Food and Nutrition, 6-7, 11, 14
Frank, Bobby, 5-6, 8, 19, 24
Frank, Nancy, 5-9, 12-13, 15, 19-20, 22-24
Glades County, 2, 4
Government aid, 7, 12, 16
Harper, Leona, 18, 20
Hollywood, Florida, 5
Humor, 13, 24-25
Jumper, Frances, 17
Creek [Muskogee], 8, 10
English, 7-8, 22
interpreters, 8, 19
Miccosukee, 8, 19
Manners and respect
attitudes towards outsiders, 9, 22
discipline, 9, 10
hospitality, 11, 22
sharing, 9, 22
trust, 10, 12, 22
Mexico City, 15-16
Moore Haven, 4
Okeechobee, 1, 2, 5, 12, 16, 19-20
Osceola, Billy, 12, 14-15
Osceola, Don, 5, 7, 10, 19
Osceola, Joe Dan, 19-20, 24
Tampa, Florida, 15
Head Start program, 1, 12, 15-16
reading and writing, 8-9
summer programs, 1, 5
Thomas, Addie, 17
Wilson, Mrs., 14
P: We're taping an oral history interview for our Seminole Indian
project. This is September 1, [1971.] We are taping this
interview in the library of the Okeechobee High School. The
interview is with Mrs. Clyde McCrocklin [Avilla Shultz McCrocklin.]
How long have you lived here in Okeechobee?
M: We've been here about ten years.
P: And you moved from...?
M: Akron, Ohio.
P: What brought you to Florida?
M: My husband had retired, and I was just going to substitute
[teach]. I wanted to substitute where they had a golf
course, so he could play golf. So I took a map of Florida,
turned it over, stuck pins through, ten pins. And every
place a pin came through, I wrote to the superintendent of
that county. One pin came right through the middle of Lake
Okeechobee. I wrote to the superintendent of schools here
[Okeechobee County], and he called me immediately and asked
me to come down and teach full time. I had no idea of teaching
full time, but I've done it and have enjoyed every day.
P: I know that you have worked with the Seminoles at the Brighton
Reservation for some years, and I would like to talk a little
bit about that. That's our primary interest here. Tell me
what your connection was with the Seminoles.
M: Well, this is the Big Cypress Reservation below Clewiston, where
P: Rather than Brighton...? [Big Cypress Seminole Reservation is
in the Big Cypress Swamp forty miles south-west of Clewiston;
Brighton Reservation is about thirty miles south-west of Okeechobee.]
M: Right. Three summer programs I had there. In 1963, it was
remedial. I was supposed to have twenty or thirty students,
and some days, I would have fifty or sixty. The next year I
worked down there, in 1965, we had the Head Start program,
and I did have twenty all that summer. Then again in 1967,
I worked on their remedial work--on the eight week summer
P: Let's start back with 1963. Was this your first contact with
M: On the reservation, yes.
P: Had there been Indians in your classes?
M: Yes. That's why I was really interested; I mean I was intrigued
to see if I could teach them, and I wanted to.
P: You had already taught Indians, though?
M: Just in my class in first grade in Okeechobee. That was my
first contact with the Seminoles--was in [the] Okeechobee
P: Can you tell us about your first contact--how you reacted to
M: I loved them. First time I saw them was in the laundromat here
in Okeechobee. I had this bright-eyed little boy, James Gopher.
Never dreamed I'd have him in my classroom, and he was so active,
and so quick and so free, and I just fell in love with him.
Then I had him in my classroom that year, and had the fun of
teaching him to read. During the year, I went down to Brighton
to visit his family, and made friends with them.
P: You ran into him at the laundromat?
M: I had gone to the laundromat to do our laundry. Then, we didn't
have a home. James's mother had come up there with their laundry
from the reservation, which was a new experience for her, and
a new experience for me.
P: How far is the reservation?
M: It's about thirty-four miles from Okeechobee. At that time, all
the Indians on Brighton came here to Okeechobee schools. They
were in Glades County, but they were brought here by bus. Thirty-
four miles, early in the morning.
P: Why were they not going to school in Glades County?
M: Well, for different reasons; but then they were transferred to
Glades later. They were all brought up here on the early school
buses. The little ones would have to get up real early to
get here in time for 8:00 classes.
P: Jimmy Gopher, then, was your first Indian student.
M: Right, and I'll never forget that family. They had quite a large
family. Mr. Gopher came to me later on in the year, after we'd
made friends, and wanted me to show him on a map how he could
get to Oklahoma where his son was in boarding school. They were
starting to Oklahoma in the car, and his only way of finding
directions was to ask the first grade teacher how you would get
there. I only had a map of the United States like you would
have in the classroom; I didn't have any road maps like you'd get
at the gas station. I explained to him that he could get one at
the gas station, and then bring it over, and we'd start him up
through Florida, and on up through Alabama and on out toward
Oklahoma. He really didn't know how to get started to Oklahoma,
and yet he took his family out there to see his son, who was in
boarding school. I was interested in that, or concerned about
it--them coming from the reservation, and then going so far
away from home to go to boarding school all year. You know, to
be taken from their families...and staying out there the entire
P: Jimmy was your first student. Did you have any others? This
was in 1960?
M: This was in 1961. That's right.
P: Did you have any other Indians in the school that year?
M: James was the only Seminole I had. I had another little boy who
had a Seminole mother and a white father.
P: How did James learn? Was he...
M: Very well.
P: As well as the white children?
M: Yes. I'd say he was a good average student, and very easy to
manage. He was as eager as they were, but he didn't show it
like the other children did.
P: Was he unusually shy?
M: Right. In fact, I made up a little poem about James. I couldn't
keep from doing it. About the second day I had him...I'm
always writing little rhymes, and I wrote this about James, my
first little Seminole: I said,
"He stands at my door in his brown bare feet
A shy little boy, and he looked so sweet,
Pencil and book (and something like that...)
He's too shy to return my affectionate squeeze.
James gets up early to ride thirty-four miles,
He...(something about his smiles...)
And I'm awed at the teacher's role
Because James is a challenge--he's a Seminole."
And he was a challenge, but he was so sweet, so well behaved--
I'll never forget the first day or two of school, how he would
keep going into the bathroom, which was inside our room. It
was a self-contained room, and he'd keep going in there and
flushing the commode. He'd just constantly do it, and so
I told Mr. Boehmer [William Boehmer], who'd worked with the
Indians about thirty-four years, about James doing that. He
said he imagined James thought he'd just found a spring; he'd
just discovered a spring that no one knew about, because he could
go in there and flush that, and all the water would just come
gushing out. That just fascinated James, being able to flush
the commode, because of course, no one on the reservation had
inside toilets. That was a new experience for James.
P: How did James get along with the other kids in class?
M: Very well. He was shy, but a lot of first graders are. Actually,
a first grade teacher appreciates a shy one once in awhile. James
was lovable, completely lovable.
P: What's happened to James?
M: I think he's a junior now in Moore Haven.
P: The next year, did you have any other Indian children?
M: No, I don't remember any.
P: That would be in 1962.
M: I don't remember any. I guess James made more of an impression
on me. I really don't remember any except in fifth grade.
I had Patty Johns, who lived on the Brighton Reservation. It
wasn't too long after that, I've forgotten just how many years,
till they started taking them to Moore Haven to school--to
P: As you remember it, were there any integration problems in
the early '60s, such as the kind that you would have had with
blacks coming to a white school?
M: No. They had been coming here before, but it was my first
experience with having one. I think when they brought them here
there were no problems--not that I ever heard about.
P: How did it happen that you got started in 1963 with this remedial
M: Mr. Boehmer, who had worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs
for about thirty years, told me about the summer program, and
asked me if I'd like it. I told him if I could persuade my
husband to let me go down there, I would love it.
P: How did you meet up with Mr. Boehmer?
M: Through the church. He was the choir director in the Methodist
Church that we joined when we came here.
P: Mr. Boehmer lived in Okeechobee then?
M: Yes. He still has a home in Okeechobee, but he lives in Hollywood
[Florida] now. He still comes back here quite often.
P: He had an official connection...?
M: He [and his wife] worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs for about
thirty-six years. He started the first school for the Seminoles
on the reservation at Brighton. He had Big Cypress and Brighton
and Dania [now Hollywood]. He was connected with all of them
as the director of the Seminoles of Florida [education program],
so he was concerned with getting a summer program at the Big
P: What was your responsibility in this summer program of 1963?
M: It was mainly remedial; it was mostly in the language arts,
helping them with their reading, spelling, writing, and then
in the afternoon we had an arts and crafts program. I was
the only teacher, as such; that is, a certified teacher.
But Nancy Frank was a helper, and Don Osceola was a helper, and
Bobby Frank, Nancy's brother.
P: Don Osceola?
M: Don Osceola, who later joined the Marines. Don was the first
Seminole from Big Cypress--the first boy--to graduate from
high school, and Nancy was the first girl. They had just
graduated from high school in June when I went down there,
about the next week. In June of 1963.
P: How many people did you have in this remedial class?
M: We were supposed to have just a small group, about twenty,
but many times there'd be thirty or forty. They'd come, and
they were supposed to stay half a day, then another group was
supposed to come for the arts and crafts in the afternoon. We
really enjoyed it, and many of them stayed all day, so we had
as many as fifty.
P: How old were they?
M: I'd say the oldest one was about eighteen--about that. They
were supposed to be six years old and up. We had no age limit...
I'd say about eighteen.
P: What kind of facilities did you have?
M: A lot of it was improvised. We had some books, but we didn't
rely too much on the books. We used the summer Weekly Reader
program like they used up north in the schools. When I'd come
home on weekends, I'd think of something I thought they could do
that they would enjoy. We had a lot of records and we played
games, but Nancy would give directions. I would tell her, and
then she would tell them, to make sure they understoodwhat
we wanted them to do. We had a program and invited all the
parents; and I was surprised how many came in the evening, at
the end of the school. The summer program was really rewarding.
P: What kind of school building did you have?
M: That first year, it was just a converted chickee. It was just
one big room.
P: Open to the elements?
M: No. It had been closed in, been converted. It'd been re-
furbished, closed in, but it was just one big room. Then, of
course, we had the outside toilet--the outside water, you know,
go out to wash your hands before we eat.
We did furnish a lunch. Everyone had lunch. Mr. Boehmer
told me...we had all this powdered milk, and he said they didn't
like milk. He didn't think they would use the milk. We did have
a refrigerator, so we got the big cans of Hershey's chocolate
syrup, and we fixed chocolate milk--with a lot of the powdered
milk--and it was really nourishing. To get them to drink it, I
did just like I did my own children at home. I had Bobby Frank,
who was a great big handsome boy, to show them his muscles, and
how big he was, and show them how much of the chocolate milk
he would drink. We'd give them a small cup of milk, but they
could have as many seconds or thirds as they wanted. The line
would go on and around and around the circle. They really drank
a lot of milk that summer.
P: When you say, "we furnished them lunch....."
M: Uncle Sam furnished it, but we prepared it. It was there for
P: Now, that meant the government sent in raw food. Did you
prepare a hot lunch?
M: Yes. We had two hot dishes. Mr. Boehmer would bring the
cans down; it was all canned. We'd have fresh meat and fresh
vegetables when we could get it, but now this was forty miles
below Clewiston. We'd use the fresh things on Monday and
Tuesday. Then on Thursday, Friday, the last of the week, we
have to just use the canned vegetables and fruit. But they
had a balanced....
P: You had to help prepare the lunch?
M: I did. I mean, I kind of supervised; I really didn't have to...
they were very good. Everyone helped; everyone did what they
were supposed to do. It was a rewarding summer.
P: Where did you live?
M: I lived in a little house; I guess they called it the dispensary.
It was where the nurse's quarters were, and she would come
down once a week .for whatever help we needed from her. I
lived in the little house that was there on the reservation.
It was on the school ground, actually; kind of the edge of
the school ground.
P: Was it comfortable?
M: Well, it was adequate.
P: Inside toilet facilities?
M: We had an inside bathroom that year.
P: Let's talk a little bit about the problems that you had in
teaching the children and in getting them to understand you.
First of all, did they speak and understand English?
M: They understood. The younger ones, of course, spoke English;
the older ones didn't speak English. They understood me; at
least Nancy told me they did. First, I felt like they didn't
accept me--that they weren't going to welcome me. I asked Nancy
if they really understood me, and she said, "Yes, they do. Just
go right ahead talking." But they didn't talk to me. In fact,
that whole summer, very few of the older ones broke down enough
to talk to me. They're not very vocal, or verbose; they're just
more reserved than I am. Nancy talked, that's why Mr. Boehmer
picked her--said she was very outgoing, and she was.
P: Which dialect did they use? Creek or Miccosukee?
P: And Nancy and Bobby, of course, both spoke English, since they
went to high school. And they obviously both spoke Miccosukee.
M: And Don Osceola, of course. All of my helpers could read and
write English, you know.
P: Now did this really hurt the program--the fact that you had to
work through a translator?
M: No, because they could understand English. Sometimes I'd say
to Nancy, "You tell them." Maybe there'd be one that'd seem
more shy than the others, and I thought maybe if they heard it
the way their mother would tell them, they could understand it--
they could follow directions better. But on the whole, I would
just take over as a regular teacher; and then in smaller groups....
Maybe Nancy would take a group that I thought would respond more
to her than they would to me; we'd sort of break it down into
P: Your basic responsibility was to teach these Indians how to read?
M: Reading, writing. Some of them would make up poems. We would
encourage them to just put down whatever they wanted; it didn't
have to rhyme, it could just be what they thought about something.
Just trying to get them to talk.
P: Were you attempting to get them to reach a particular educational
M: No. Like in my reading classes, the reason for reading was
actually raising one grade level or two grade levels. We gave
them tests, but I don't believe in giving group tests like
that at all. If the students are having problems in reading,
you can never rely on a group test as a real measure. It's
more their attitude and their desire to read, and reasons
for learning it that we were.... The skills, too; not that we
didn't have any....
P: How creative were these children?
M: They were creative. We had beautiful art work, and we had some
poems. I still have some copies of some of them someplace.
P: What were they writing about?
M: They would write anything--just whatever they wanted to write
about. They would be short. Maybe you would think they're not
worthwhile, but to me anything they wrote was worthwhile. It
might be something they had done, something they had eaten,
or what they liked about the school--anything at all that they
wanted to write. They're not as outgoing, and they don't write
as freely as I expected them to. With any group you have to know
your group, and then your aims are adjusted to the abilities in
P: Did you have any special discipline problems?
M: None. You wouldn't believe it. I told Mr. Boehmer I couldn't
believe it. I didn't have a single instance of, "Me first,"
or "He got my place," or "That's mine." In fact, when we take
down new things that we did every week.... Mr. Boehmer would
come down with something; maybe one child had picked out some-
thing they really liked, maybe the only one in the whole box
of things, and he'd have it. Another child would reach out for
it; he would give it to him, and take something else. I never
saw any child the entire three years I went down there jerk it
back, or put it behind him, or refuse. Never one behavior
problem at all. I couldn't believe it. Their mothers had
certainly trained them to share--I don't know how they had
done it, but I wish the rest of us could learn their secret, be-
cause I had no behavior problems at all.
P: What about their attitude toward you as an outsider and a
M: They accepted me. Nancy did. From then on, Nancy and I spent
a lot of time together. Every afternoon after school, we'd
get cleaned up and the things sorted, and our materials for
the next day. We'd go for a walk, and we'd talk, and she'd
eat with me. I'd walk up to her house to get water, because
they had better water than they did where I was staying, and
I'd go up there and get a jug of water and carry it down the
road. The walkie-talkie went off at five o'clock, and they
had no phone down there. We were just completely isolated
on the reservation after five o'clock.
P: So you had no children who were sassy?
M: Never anything like that.
P: Any who answered back?
M: No, never.
P: Did they obey you when you told them to sit up,or stand up, or
sit down, or whatever it was?
M: Yes. It was just a wonderful experience. If I had been younger,
I'd be down there right now. My husband wouldn't agree to it.
I loved every minute of it.
P: How did you relate to the parents that first summer? Did you
have to communicate with the parents?
M: No. I would to some extent, but the parents didn't come. The
students were picked up by a woman that worked for the Bureau
[Bureau of Indian Affairs]. She would pick up the smaller
ones in the school, or the parents would bring them to school.
When the parents did, I would go out and speak to them. There
wasn't too much two-way talking. I went to their church when
they'd have a meeting in the evening; I would go to their church
and enjoy their singing. I believe that summer the program, the
church was all in their language. The last summer I was down
there, they had a minister that would speak English, and then he'd
speak Miccosukee. They had changed that much.
P: This was the Baptist Church?
P: How religious are these Indians?
M: I would say extremely religious--those that have accepted Christian
belief are much more devout, much more zealous than any of my
Christian friends are. Don Osceola was an example. Don and I
corresponded after he left the reservation and joined the Marines,
and Don didn't write a single letter that the heading didn't say,
"In the year of our Lord." I've never in my life experienced
anyone who put that on the heading--"19 and 69 in the year of
our Lord." Yes, extremely religious, those that have been con-
verted to Christian beliefs. They're very religious people regardless
of what god they worship; they certainly can set an example
for the rest of us. When I first went to Big Cypress there was
not even a lock on a door down there, excpet on the door to the
school and to the nurse's quarters, and to one government building
where they kept their equipment. Other than that, I'm sure there
wasn't a lock on the reservation.
P: You had no fear of living there by yourself?
P: Were you a lone white woman on the...?
M: Yes. I was the only white woman on the reservation.
P: And that didn't bother you?
M: Oh, no. Never any fear.
P: There was no police force--no problems along these lines?
M: No. I stayed by my...well, my husband came down a few nights
the second week I went down there. But other than that, I was....
P: How did you adapt to the food?
M: I fixed my own food. It wasn't for any particular reason, ex-
cept that that spring before I went down there I was in the
hospital, and I didn't eat just everything that year. I kept
my own food in the little kitchen at the school. There was no
refrigerator where I slept. I ate what we fixed at lunch time,
if it was a vegetable we were eating. I fixed my own breakfast
P: Were you entertained at all by any of the Indian families that
M: In their homes?
P: In their homes.
M: No. They had a recreation center, and I would go up there when
they'd have a party or something in the evening; they had a
youth director. Don Osceola was the one in charge of recreation.
I would go to those things. I went to their homes; I went to
Nancy's home, and Lucy Tiger. We had a turtle at school, and
I had given it to Lucy to take home with her for the weekend so
it wouldn't die during the week. Then she didn't come to school
Monday, and I was a little bit worried--maybe I'd offended
them, giving her this little turtle. So I went to her home and
visited with them a little bit.
P: Were they hospitable, gracious people?
M: They weren't as outgoing as I am, or you. Yes, I would say
they were friendly.
P: You were paid by the federal government?
P: You had been employed by Mr. Boehmer, so he was your boss?
M: Right, and that was my key word--Mr. Boehmer. "Mr. Boehmer's
gonna be surprised; Mr. Boehmer's gonna be pleased; Mr. Boehmer's
gonna like this; let's get this finished so Mr. Boehmer can see
what we've been doing." That was my key word--that was my wedge,
shall we say. They knew Mr. Boehmer and Mrs. Boehmer, and they
wanted to please.
P: They respected the Boehmers?
M: They respected them, and
a better word than any.
trusted me equally. I'm
one of them.
they trusted them. I think "trust" is
I'm sure at the end of the summer they
sure they did. I know I loved every
P: Who was the Indian in charge of Big Cypress at the time? Was
there an Indian in charge?
M: Nancy Frank's father, I believe, was on the council. I guess
Billy Osceola was. I know he came to the Christmas part we had
that year, and mentioned that they'd like to have me for a
teacher. I think he's a minister, too.
P: You worked there June and July of 1963?
M: Yes, and August, 1963. And then the Headstart program was
P: During that first summer, were you ever a participant or
a spectator of any of the Indian ceremonials? The dances--
anything like that?
M: No, they didn't have them on the reservation. Their Corn Dance,
they hold up here near Okeechobee. No, there was nothing
that I saw.
P: Tell me about Nancy Frank. I know she's a long-time friend of
M: She is the greatest. She was
uated from high school; first
to graduate from high school.
She had a good sense of humor,
she met me more than half-way.
the first Seminole to have grad-
Seminole girl in Big Cypress
She's just a real good friend.
she's very attractive, and
I admire Nancy a lot.
P: All of the Indians, I hear, have really a good sense of humor,
if you get to know them.
P: Are they fun-loving people?
M: Yes. We've enjoyed games, and....
P: Are they practical jokesters among themselves? Did you find
that true with your children?
M: An incidence of a practical joke that comes to my mind is
when I bought a little Karmann Ghia [A volkswagen sports coupe ],
because it's quite a ways down there. The first night I drove
it to church, when I came out to get in my car, I thought, "Well
that's funny. Such big head lights on it." It was turned a
different way. Later on I found out that Stanford Jumper
and another boy had just literally picked it up and turned it com-
pletely around. Right inside of the church, right outside the
window; and-that was their idea. When I saw if, I was puzzled,
and I thought, "How absent-minded could I get?" you know, have
the car facing a different way. That was Stanford.
Another time I was taking them for a walk. We came to a
rock pit where they'd been used to swimming. All my kids
had on their regular clothes, and the first thing I knew, half
of them were in that rock pit swimming; and I was petrified, be-
cause I don't swim, and they swam just like fish-- just as at
home as they could be. I said, "Oh, Nancy, blow your whistle!
Get them out of the water."
"Well, they'll be all right."
I said, "No, I'm responsible for them."
And she said, "Listen, when school's out, they'll all be
over here swimming."
I said, "When school's over it's different. Right now, I'm
with you. Get them out of the water."
So she did. We got them all out, and then she told them
that I was afraid. We were going back to the school, and
one of the boys, just to be funny, found an old piece of rubber
there--an old piece of tube or tire or something--so he threw it
out in the bushes right in front of us, and naturally I thought
it was a black snake, and shrieked enough to make him think it
was worthwhile, I guess. So that's their--they just joke
P: Just like everybody else?
M: That's right. I doubt if they would have done it on the first
day. They would probably have been afraid of the old school teacher,
but I have a good sense of humor, too, so it didn't....
P: You mentioned that Billy Osceola came to your Christmas party.
What was the Christmas party?
M: The winter after we were down there, I wanted to see them again.
I kept in touch with them.
P; This was the winter of 1963?
P: Christmas of 1963.
M: That winter we had a party for everybody on the reservation. My
husband and I didn't give any gifts to each other that Christmas--
we spent it for this party. We borrowed a truck from Jack Cobra
here in town, and I loaded it with baked beans and hot dogs and
Christmas cookies and Christmas candies, and I dyed two sheets
greet' so we could cover the tables. And we wrote invitations--
everyone on the reservation was invited to a Christmas dinner and
a party. We had games and sang. Nancy helped me that year.
My son, Stanley, came down, and we all went to the reservation.
When they got out of church--they were all at church in the
morning--they came across the road from church over to the re-
creation hall, and I guess that was the best Christmas we ever
had. I think we had two hundred and seventy-seven plates that
we served. They could come back for seconds, too. I'm a great
one for seconds.
P: You brought all that food?
M: All in a truck. And I did it all myself, because it was my
party. Different ones said they'd help me ice cookies; I said,
"No, it's my party." I got suit boxes--these real big flat
suit boxes--and I put layers of cookies in there. I just quit
counting the cookies that I iced. I bought the cookies and then
iced them myself. Mrs. Wilson sent candy down.
P: Who is Mrs. Wilson?
M: She's the nurse that is on the reservation. I assume she's
still there. I haven't been down in the last year, but I'm
sure she's still there. She's been there for several years--
twenty, I would say. Maybe longer.
P: How did the Indians enjoy their Christmas thing?
M: They loved it. The whole day we just had a wonderful time.
We went down there that morning, had everything set up, with
the Christmas tree, little knick-knacks for the children--not
too expensive, but just something we could....
P: How did they respond after you left? Did they write you, or
you just knew they enjoyed it?
M: I knew they enjoyed it. That's right. That was my only thanks--
the enjoyment that they had. Nancy wrote me once when I was
sick. She said, "I thought of a get-well card, but," she said,
"I thought if I were sick, I'd rather have a note." And I thought
how very understanding she was. She wrote me a little personal
note, a "get-well" note. Of course, writing a letter to them
is kind of a....
P: Big thing?
M: That's right.
P: Billy Osceola asked you if you would come back?
M: Yes. We were going in the building, and I was just making con-
versation with the ones in the line, and thanking them for coming--
you know, "What a nice day it was," you know. He said something
about would I like to be the schoolteacher all the time. I said,
"Well, you ask my husband. Over there." My husband thought I
P: Now, 1964, you did not go back?
M: Not 1964. I went to school in Mexico City.
P: And in 1965 you came back?
M: For the Headstart program. I think that was the most wonderful
year of my life.
P: How did you become involved in that?
M: Well, I knew they were going to start Headstart, and I went to
Tampa for this two weeks training program. I am a certified
kindergarten teacher, and I taught Sunday School to six year olds
for about twenty years. So Headstart...I really took my pay under
false pretenses; I mean, it was just pure pleasure. I got paid
for doing a thing I really enjoyed doing. That was a wonderful
year. The little ones really responded. Their parents brought
them conscientiously --clean, eager....
P: Who appointed you in charge of the Headstart program?
M: Mr. Boehmer.
P: You let him know that you were interested?
M: Well, he knew that I was. I could have gone there in 1964 again
as a teacher, it I hadn't already.... I mean, I didn't know
they were going to have the program, and I signed up to go to
Mexico City. In 1965, then, I went back down there.
P: How did the Headstart program work on an Indian reservation?
How was it set up, and what was your responsibility?
M: It was just like if I was having a kindergarten someplace, really.
It was getting them ready for first grade was what I really tried
P: So it was four to six-year-old children?
M: Five. I don't think we had any four-year-olds--we might have
had. We didn't look at their birth dates that closely. But
it was supposed to be, I think, five and six. I know Mr.
Boehmer said he visited the school that fall, I think around
Thanksgiving, and he said he could spot everyone who had been
in the Headstart program. They did gain confidence and learned
a little bit about the routine of school. It was completely
enjoyable. I took boxes and boxes of dress-up clothes down
there--high heels and furs and gloves and hats and golf caps of
every place where my husband ever played golf, and we have
a wealth of pictures. That was the most wonderful year. They
learned the little finger plays that I had just made up or had
known forever. We had a program that was an all day program.
P: This started in September?
M: No. The school year started in September, but I'm speaking now
of the Headstart program...just in the summer.
P: Oh, it was just a summer thing?
M: Yes, then I came back to Okeechobee.
P: I thought it might have been a free kindergarten program.
M: No. It was just a Headstart program. But as I say, I had that
in mind, getting them ready for first grade. They had no
kindergarten down there. I had a wealth of materials, you know;
Uncle Sam is generous with agencies like that, as far as toys and
games and puzzles and paper and crayons.
P: Did you use the same facility, the converted chickee?
M: Yes. I was still in the converted chickee. It was still the
most wonderful summer, even though it was humid and hot, and we
only had a ceiling fan that didn't always work. It really was
wonderful. We had a little cot for each one, and a little terry-
cloth towel with their sheet. We took those to Clewiston to the
laundromat one time to wash, and that was a big experience for
them. We took them every place in the county that you could think
of where they hadn't been: to the bank--the banker welcomed
us--we took them to the Clewiston Inn so they could see a motel
room and the dining room there; and we took them to the post office,
P: How'd you transport all these little kids?
M: We had a great big Ford station wagon and a driver.
P: You didn't drive it?
M: No. We had a driver. Addie was the driver. A real nice woman.
P: Who didy-u have assisting you that year?
M: Frances Jumper and her sister; and Dorothy Billie was our cook.
We gave them a complete hot meal that year. The day before we
were going to take them on a field trip, we had to have their
parents sign a slip. Of course, a lot of them signed with an X.
Since I couldn't talk with them very well, I sent Dorothy and
Addie and Frances Jumper--that was the three--around to the
different houses to get their permission slips signed. I thought,
one of them would take this area, and another would take that
area, and they'd be right back. Instead of that, they all stayed
together. Canvassed, you know, to get all the signatures. There
I was with all my children, and it was getting lunch time; they
were so dependable, though, and so good, that I went in the kitchen,
prepared their lunch, fixed all the trays, and we were eating
when they came back. Now, that was twenty little five and six-
year-olds, and me an old grey-haired grandmother, but we just had
a wonderful time.
P: So the discipline had not deteriorated?
M: I've never seen anything like it--that was the beauty of it. Ab-
solutely no discipline problems. Of course, I'm a very easy-
going person; my husband will tell you. I'm not real stern or
strict. They knew everything was free and easy, but no one got
hurt. That was my fear--that someone would get hurt. They'd
climb up in these trees, and race--you know, they're fast--
but no problems at all. After lunch, they'd wash their hands,
and I'd sing. I'd walk around the different beds and sing--
you know, make up little songs about...well, maybe I'd say,
"Virginia Tiger, so very nice/And you're all as sweet as sugar
and spice." Then they'd go off to sleep on their little cots.
We never did wake anybody up. This is how considerate they were:
We told them whenever they wake up to tiptoe outside, and we'd
play outside while the others were still getting :their naps.
Some of them would sleep maybe two or three hours, and then
they wouldn't go home'til five-thirty. They'd be there all
day long. But it was a completely enjoyable situation.
P: And you lived again in the nurse's...?
M: I lived again up there. That year they had a remedial program.
Mrs. Harper, Leona Harper, who is dead now, was down there for
it, and she was in the new school. They had a new school built
by then, which was air-conditioned and a beautiful school. It's
equal to this one. It was just real modern. That's the one
that I was in then in 1967.
P: So you went back in 1967?
M: Yes. But 1965 was the year that just stands out of my whole
teaching career. I've been teaching twenty years, and I never
had anything that was as rewarding as that, because those
children were precious.
P: Now, 1967, what? What was the program?
M: It was remedial reading and English, and whatever we could....
P: How old were your children at that time?
M: They were the same age as...six to....
M: Yeah. Whoever wanted to come. Now, the older ones didn't come
as much that year. I don't know whether they maybe had summer
jobs. I think they are getting jobs now more than they were
then, because the transportation is better now. The road
is better. When I first went down there, the road ended at
Big Cypress. That was the end of the line. Even that summer
they were planning the Alligator Alley [S.R. 84, Naples to Ft.
Lauderdale], which crosses Florida. That has been completed
now, so they can get away from the reservation, and get out
and get jobs. I guess in 1967, more of the older ones were
P: Did you find a difference in the educational level of the
children between 1963 and 1967? [Had] the four years made
much of a change in them?
M: I guess in some it had. I didn't have all that I had had
before. The group was much smaller. Their attendance was not
as good as it was in 1963. We just didn't have the big classes,
and they didn't stay all day, like they did in 1963. In 1963
we had Nancy and Don and Bobby Frank--you know, the ones that
they knew there. Whereas in 1967, we had a coach from Clewiston
who came there as the recreation director. I really think that
made a difference.
P: You had no Indian interpreters in 1967?
M: We really didn't need the interpreters, because the children
were.... At that time, all that we had had been to Clewiston
P: They understood you?
M: Right. They understood me. But I think just knowing Bobby Frank
and Don Osceola made them more eager to come and be in things.
To me it did.
P: I think you told me you knew Joe Dan Osceola.
P: What was his connection with your getting this informant?
M: Not any then. You see, Joe Dan is younger. He's just now,
in the last few years, since....
P: So, in every case it was Mr. Boehmer who was responsible.
M: Yes. That's right.
P: Is Mr. Boehmer still in charge of the program?
M: No, he has retired completely.
P: Who is in charge of it now?
M: The school program down there? I assume the school principal
would be in charge now. I guess in 1967 maybe I didn't get
it through Mr. Boehmer...the principal down there, maybe through
him. I'm not sure, really. I guess Mr. Boehmer was the one
that was in charge of it, but I was really working for the
principal. He left that summer to go to school himself. I
can't think of his name right now.
P: Were you able in 1967 to get all the supplies, the equipment that
you needed...that was never a problem?
M: Never a problem down there.
P: Have you maintained contact with any of these children?
M: No. I'm sorry that I haven't. I see them at the Field Days,
but as for going back and forth, you see, I haven't been down
there on the reservation for two years. I only see them at the
Field Day at Brighton, and then this year I missed it because we
had to go back to Ohio. I saw a lot of them a year ago at
Brighton. One of them--Genesis, I believe, who was outgoing--
came up and hugged me, which was a surprise, you know. Then,
of course, I always see Nancy and Joe Dan at the Brighton Field
P: Do any of them, when they come into Okeechobee, come by your
house to visit?
M: Joe Dan and his wife have spent the night there, and then Mr.
Bowers from Brighton and Rachel Bowers.
P: Who are they?
M: They're just friends I've met at Brighton. See, I worked at
Brighton for two weeks one year when Mrs. Harper took her va-
cation. It wasn't with the Headstart--it was just a day nursery.
I made friends there. Of course now, when I see them at the
laundromat again, or wherever I see them, they speak.
P: You're their teacher; they come to see you?
M: That's right. And I wear my beautiful Seminole clothes just
about every place I go. To me, the handiwork on the Seminole
clothes is just outstanding.
P: You have on earrings now. Where did they come from?
M: These are just some that I made. I just ordered these. I
have a few beaded things, but not very many. It's becoming
a lost art. Now, like the skirts that I have all have the
banding on them.
P: Iham really interested in getting your image of the Indians
themselves; particularly the young Indians.
M: At Brighton, Artie Johns helped me. The way she would get
the children to sleep after lunch was...I've never seen any-
thing like it. They would lie down, and then she would take
her fingers and just softly, tenderly caress their foreheads;
they'd just drift off to sleep. I have never seen a mother shake
a child, or spank a child, or slap their hand. Whether they
can say "no" or anything like that, I don't know, but I've
never seen that.
We had a party on the last day of school, the first year
I was down there. The mothers came to that. All of a sudden,
here they were, you know. We were getting the food ready, and
all of a sudden here were many of the older ones; we didn't know
for sure they were coming. They had been invited, because the
children had taken _.handwritten notes home inviting them to the
party; here they came.
Everyone is just so considerate. So different from a
gathering that you and I would go to with our offspring or
nieces and nephews--it's "When do we eat?" and "I'm hot," or
"I'm thirsty, and I'm tired." But they're so patient, they're
so stoical, they're just so sweet. You wouldn't have minded if
somebody would've bopped somebody over the head, or shoved
them, or grabbed a piece. I mean really, that would have been
what you'd expect, but they're just wonderful. And the mothers
do it so easily--I've never seen any outward demonstration
of force with them at all. Of course, they're not the monsters
like you and I are with their affection, too. Now, I'm a very
outgoing person. I just squeeze those little ones to death. You
love, and you just show your love through this as well as your
actions. They're more reserved, but they certainly do get
good behavior. Good human relations.
P: How about the mothers relating to each other at a party like
M: They talk, but I don't think I've ever been to one where they
talk in English. They always just talk to themselves. That's
what worried me when I first went down there. They would talk,
and if you don't understand what I'm saying to another person,
you have a feeling they're talking about you, maybe...but
they're not. That's what Nancy said. She said, "Oh, no, they
were just talking because they could communicate in their own
You said awhile ago, was I entertained. I really wasn't,
but I would go into their homes to see about getting some of the
sewing done, and I would go where they would be sewing, and
they would offer me maybe a couple of tomatoes, or if I'd say,
"Gee, isn't that a pretty gourd?" then, one of them would say
to her child, and her child would say, "Take it,"--just two or
three words. I would say they were outgoing for them. There
was never any gushiness, or "Come in; my house is yours," or
anything like that, but it was a good relationship. Just
P: You felt that they trusted you as a friend?
M: Right. I know they did. It was unusual. The last year I
was down there, this little boy was up on the parallel
bars, and he fell and cut.... It just happened that quickly.
It could happen, I could stumble coming out here, but it cut
deep. We had to take him to Clewiston to the hospital, and so they
tood him to a dentist there. The coach took him. When they
got there, they found out they would have to take stitches, and
they couldn't do that without the parent's permission. We
sent one of the cooks down to the house to get the mother, and
she came back to the school to tell him on the phone, but she
would not use the phone. She wouldn't talk on the phone--she
was afraid. That was my experience when we first had the toy
phone put in down there. They didn't have a phone on the re-
servation, so we took a toy phone down there that really worked
on a battery. And they wouldn't talk on that. And when they
did talk, they'd talk in their language. So I had Nancy have
them talk in English. But anyhow, this day when the little boy
fell, my legs just turned to water when I saw him, because I
was afraid it was serious. When they called for his mother
to give her consent on the phone, she wouldn't do it. So
then we finally got her sister, who wasn't afraid or timid, and
her sister told the dentist over the phone that the mother is
right here, and we were all there as witnesses. She said, "You
have her permission to take stitches, whatever you need to
do on the little boy's chin, and on the outside." It was
quite a bad cut. But the mother, you see, was still too
afraid of that phone to talk.
P: I have always understood that the fathers don't have very
much to do.
M: That's right. The father's brother really has more authority.
P: Or the mother's brother, I thought.
M: No, I think it's the father's brother. I know that it's an
uncle that has more authority. I got this from Nancy. I think
too that tradition is disappearing. I really don't know, but
I believe they do consult the mother. I know at that time, and
even now, more women drive the cars than do the men.
P: The men have the responsibility for producing the children, and
feeding the family?
M: They may have changed this culture, but Mr. Boehmer said that
the father would eat first, then the older ones would eat, and
the smaller ones would eat last. The culture was that the older
ones had to go out and get the food, you know. Whereas in our
family, we feed the smallest ones first so that we can relax
and enjoy our meal. We feed the baby first; then we eat. Theirs
is just different.
P: Just the opposite.
M: Today was the first day of school, and I am really aflutter
with all the things that have happened today, but thinking back,
I say we'll do this again, maybe, and break down some instances.
In fact, my notebook that I kept--some of the things that I
see in there would remind me of something that happened. Like
you were saying about their sense of humor...I know one day I was
cleaning up the playground, Nancy and I were. All of a sudden
I felt something plop. I thought it was a ball that someone
had bounced over there...and here it was a snake was in the
top of the tree waiting for a bird. The bird was up there
eating berries, and this snake has plopped right down. Nancy
said that the snake thought that my grey hair was Spanish moss,
and it was jumping at my hair and had missed me. They thought
that was just hilarious. I was just panicky inside, this
snake plopping down that close to my head. They thought that
was really funny.
P: You didn't share that sense of humor, did you?
M: No, I didn't. I'm sure there were other instances. I do
have contact with Bobby Frank--they send me Christmas cards.
Their little girl, Corinna, they brought to school one day.
She had on this darling little dress, regular little Seminole
dress, and I was admiring it. So then, about four or five later--
'cause Joe Dan was in Viet Nam then--I went down there on Easter
Sunday, and took a big gardenia plant in a pot. I took it to
the church to honor Joe Dan, because Don Osceola wasn't there.
They were having a party and Easter egg hunt, just like we have,
at Nancy's home, and everybody was invited there. I stayed
down there for the egg hunt and party. When I was getting
ready to leave, Bobby Frank's wife said, "You know the little
dress Corinna had that you wanted?" I was just amazed, and
she said, "Here, you take it." She gave it to me to keep,
and it just fits a doll. And they gave me potholders at the
Christmas party, and a beautiful apron that I still have that
one of them had made and brought to the party for me [as]
a Christmas present. That was 1963. I had completely for-
gotten. They were as gracious and kind as could be, really; I
don't have any memories of anything being apprehensive or any-
thing; they were just wonderful to me. Summer, Arnie helped
me; I was only there two weeks, but I became real good friends
with her. And of course, the Bowers family. At that time,
Arnie was living in a chickee.
1963, my first year down there, was the first time I'd
seen Billy Bowlegs. He didn't know me, but I was all dressed in
this beautiful white Seminole outfit that I still have, and I
was dying to have my picture taken with Billy Bowlegs so I
could send it up north to my friends, showing that Mrs. McCroklin
was really down here with the Seminoles. I walked up to Billy
Bowlegs, and I had Virginia Tiger with me, one of my little
students, and I said, "Now, Billy, you are an old Indian, and
Virginia is a young Indian,'and I'm a new Indian."
He said, "Are you an Indian?"
I said, "Well, sure." I pulled out my full skirt and I
had a bottle of Squirt in my hand, and I said, "See my squaw
Billy looked at me and I could tell he saw the silliness of
what I said, and he says, "You drink'um Squirt? Me drink'um
Coca-Cola." He held his bottle of Coke up. They really have
a good sense of humor.